Have you started planning for success in 2019? For most firms, the strategic planning process should begin during fourth quarter, so if you have not yet started, now’s the time. Many people cringe at the mention of strategic planning, but it is helpful to set your firm on the path to long-term success.
What do you need for a solid strategic plan?
- A GAP analysis to determine the firm’s weaknesses.
- Document the vision to define your goal(s).
- Identify resources needed (based on the GAP and the vision) to achieve your goals.
- Define key success measures and how you will track progress.
All four elements are needed to create a complete strategic plan—don’t skip one step because you are intimidated or uncertain. If your strategic plan is incomplete, you are less likely to implement it.
Skip the strategic plan (or any one of the four elements), and you are doomed before you begin. To have a plan that produces a positive return on investment you have to design it, implement it, and measure the results. This should be a long range plan with a useful and valid set of defined goals and measurements. There is nothing wrong with refining the plan as new information is generated, but don’t waste time creating a notebook that will never be opened. Need help? Give us a call!
We often have clients ask us if law firm retreats are valuable. Our answer? A resounding “yes”! A law firm retreat allows you to set aside dedicated time and space once a year (or more often) to focus on the vision and goals for the firm and develop a plan to support meeting these goals. This dedicated time – without interruptions – allows your brain to let go of day-to-day matters and really think about vision and planning.
How do we plan a retreat?
Here are a few suggestions to make your law firm retreat successful:
- Do not hold it at your office! It’s important to focus on planning and not be easily available to interrupt. I prefer an out-of-town retreat but a local hotel is fine.
- Decide who will attend the retreat. If you are worried about sharing certain details or plans with the staff, you may want to do a full-day retreat with the partners and invite the remaining staff members to come for several hours at the end. If all team members will attend, either change your voice mail and out of office email responders to indicate you are out for the day or hire a temp to answer the phones. Know this: If your people buy into your vision they will help you go forward.
- Put together an agenda to keep the retreat on track. Define the purpose of your retreat and what objectives you are committed to meet by the end of the session. At the end of the session, you should have goals and a task list to work toward. Good firms hold retreats every year with a theme based upon their past year plus the vision down the road.
- Hire an independent facilitator. While it is possible to run the retreat with in-house staff, an objective third-party can help you keep on task and focused on the longer-term vision.
- Don’t have money? Trust me if you have a good retreat you will make up the cost of the retreat in an increase in the firm’s revenue next year. Forward motion…any change for that matter…almost always results in increased revenue.
Now is the time of year to plan your retreat. Do not let another year go by! And if you are the sole practitioner, then go off by yourself for 2 days and dream, believe, dare and remember the most important part…make sure you ‘do’ that which you plan! For more information or just to ask a question, email Cheryl.
Attorney Rebecca Britton has a great article on her website titled, The Importance of an Exit Plan for Business Owners. Whether you are planning on retiring and selling the firm, or transferring ownership to a partner, there are a number of things you must consider. Read the article.
One of the popular questions we get at our seminars is; why do I run out of time each week? They will tell us how they set up goals and priorities but still run out of time. The simple answer is, you must factor in the standard list of priorities (basic needs and relationships).
Many things take longer than you anticipate. You may have a one hour doctor’s appointment, but do not take into account filling out the new patient paperwork in advance, driving to and from the appointment, and the quick stop for gas on the way there. Your one hour appointment just turned into a two and a half hour period away from the office. And when you have to rely on another person to get things done (in this case the doctor), their delay may impact your priority list.
It’s normal to occasionally miss your goals, but when it becomes a regular thing, it’s time to take a new look at how you allocate your time. When you set your daily and weekly goals and priorities, make sure you leave time for those standard things that must be done. This will ensure you have a much more realistic chance of completing your personal and professional goals.
If you want to build a successful law firm practice, stop looking so hard at ways to bring in new cases and start looking at defining and leading by your values. Today’s consumers can spot a fake a mile away. They want businesses that are authentic and share their values. The internal workings and values of the firm will bring in new business. Are you prepared to lead your staff or firm based on your values?
Defining Your Core Values
Your core values are your principles—what you stand for, and things that you won’t budge on. Here’s an exercise to help you identify those principles:
- Make a list of 20 values you believe define you.
- Start prioritizing. Look at the first and second values. Which is more important? Keep that one and scratch off the second.
- Once you have narrowed the list to 10, review those values you eliminated. Are there any you would bring back to replace one still on the list?
- Review your final list of 10 core values and ask yourself if you would be willing to compromise on any of them. If so, remove them.
- Now you’ve got your final list.
Now, take that list and next to each core value, write down one way you will carry that value through in your firm. It can be harder than you think. And feel free to email us if you want help.
As many of you know, our coaching process includes much more than just evaluating your law firm operation. Many attorneys have participated in a Backyard Dreaming session with us. We don’t start by talking about the practice, but by delving deeper into the reason we’re on the porch chatting at all.
In many cases, the attorneys who have come are stuck and not sure how to move forward. Even when a practice is financially successful, there can still be something missing. Life is about balance. We want everyone to be happy and satisfied not only with their law firm practice, but with their life. If you cannot answer the question, “Are you happy?” with a resounding yes, maybe it’s time to talk with us and find out how you can change that.
Our favorite way to describe the good life for our clients is simply this:
Living in the place you like
With the people you love
Doing the right work
All with purpose
If this description does not resonate with you as accurate, it’s time to review your core values, vision and dreams. Catalyst believes everyone deserves to live their best life. The art of vision making requires the ability to expand one’s mind and believe that anything is possible. Creating a vision for a life well lived as a lawyer and as an individual takes skills and patience, but the reward in the end is a defined picture of where you want to be.
Clarity of vision is a crucial ingredient to building a high performance law firm. People will follow you if they know where you want to go and how you intend to get there. If you are ready to create the life you truly want, call us today to learn how we can help you build a successful law firm and personal life.
As we all continue to watch the damage from Florence unfold across the Carolinas, it reminds us what is important in our lives. We focus on family, friends, health, and faith. Everything else takes a back seat. If you made it through the storm without any problems, hug your spouse and kids, then see how you might help others. If you were impacted by the storm, ask for the help you need. Remember, the Catalyst team is here to help you get back on track.
As we sit here in Raleigh watching the news about Hurricane Florence (and several tropical disturbances behind her), we started to wonder how many law firms are prepared to deal with a potential large-scale emergency. All businesses should have disaster preparedness plans to accommodate small issues – like a server outage or water leak in the building – as well as larger scope problems like a hurricane, flooding, or wildfires.
Smaller issues can disrupt your business and cause inconvenience. A larger problem can leave you scrambling to operate your business for weeks or even months. A few high level thoughts as you review your emergency preparedness plans (or quickly write them!):
- People come first – make sure your team members and their families are safe.
- Communicate with your active clients ahead of time (if the potential issue is known) or as soon as possible afterwards.
- Make plans to support your clients – this may include having offsite backups of all case materials or cloud storage; if electricity is out at your offices for any period of time, you may need to secure offsite work facilities in another location.
- Keep contact information with you, including employee and client phone numbers, as well as your insurance agent’s information.
- Share the emergency plan with your team. Everyone should know exactly what to expect.
Many of our clients struggle to set realistic goals and attain them. Why? We believe it has, in part, become more challenging to focus when there are so many distractions around us. First and foremost, goals will never work if you don’t have a clear vision of where you are going. This is why we spend so much time on developing vision with values. Goals align with your vision, short term and long term. Values make the decisions for you.
We also tend to forget to review our goals relative to our plans to make sure they make sense. Then there’s the agreement factor: if you require input or assistance from others to achieve your goals, they must agree and prioritize the goals in the same fashion you do.
There are goals for personal and for professional. They need to align and there needs to be a buy-in not only by yourself but people critical to your success. Let’s use a real world example on a short term goal: We have a 3 day weekend. We have a client in distress. We have a four year old grand-daughter, Parker, we want time with every weekend. Our weekend goals were to write a blog, repair the deck rail and get the car washed. Down time was mandatory to reduce stress. An emergency arose within the family and extended family needed help. And the client needed to be seen.
We can’t do it all. We are clearly family first over business first but the loyalty we have to our clients clearly pushes our buttons. This requires compromise. The first “test” will be to determine which of these items align with our goals and toss out those that do not (or find more time). Next, prioritize. We ended up with a simple plan and each got what they wanted. Saturday morning was set aside to help the client. Saturday afternoon and night were Parker time. Sunday morning we had the client come to our home office. Sunday afternoon we helped the family member with a need. And Monday was a free day for both of us to do what we wanted, blogs, repairs, books. We let everyone know our needs and goals and they all jumped on board because they also knew our values (family first) and recognized our responsibility to our clients.
Aligning goals can require frank discussions. In our case, keeping family close is a lifetime goal as well as a priority. Loyalty and devotion to our clients drive us. As we review and prioritize the list for the weekend, the tasks that revolve around family come first. Next came the client. The rest can wait until another day. And to achieve this we involved family and the client to help us make this work.
- Be clear on your long term vision
- Define your top values
- Set your goals to meet the vision and the values
- Be public on vision values and goals
- Learn to compromise goals without compromising values and vision