It is all about why, not just how

Back in my college days, I was told that “If you know how you will always have a job but if you know why you will be the boss.” That advice has stood the test of time. Often I will meet someone new on the job making a long list of notes reminding them how to do a task. Often there is a complete process document available that describes all the steps, which is ignored. My granddaughter would say: what is going on here?

When you are new to a job or task, it is understandable that you want to understand all the steps. I even understand the creating of lots of notes. What I never understood is why many people never attempt to understand why they are doing something.

The problem with reams of notes documenting how to do something is if one step changes or something is added you have to start over. I would see people getting frustrated on the job because a step no longer works. They are lost. Not all the time, but depending on the complexity this can happen. Some combination of the two approaches seems to me to be the best solution.

The missing element to understanding why is an understanding of the big picture. Let’s say that you have been hired as a legal secretary at a law firm. Your assignment is to send out a letter to the client. You have a case management system that reminds you to send the letter, and in most cases, that same system will generate a letter for you. Built into this process are many steps that include pulling up a template, gathering information from the case file, sending a file to a printer, and mailing the letter. But what happens if a step fails? The template is missing, the case management file was not populated, the printer is offline, etc.

That legal secretary will have a job, but someone that understands the big picture will be the boss. Now, I am not the boss, but many times I will get called in when something does not work. I arrive on the scene, and after a few minutes, I say something like, turn the printer on. Everyone looks on in amazement. That was oversimplified, but not by much.

You want to be the team leader or the boss; you need to know more than just how to do the job.

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Let’s do a Strategic Plan

Lately, I have started to see more focus on strategic planning and tools like the Balanced Scorecard when we talk about Law Firms. We started focusing on strategic plans about ten years ago when we started working with our first law firm. We have not found a lot of law firms that have a strategic plan they are following. The idea of a balanced scorecard frequently goes hand and hand with strategic planning, and it is still difficult to find that idea implemented. If these two ideas have become almost universally accepted why is it so difficult for a law firm to implement? Or, perhaps the real question is, do these ideas apply to a law firm?

Based on the law firms that we have worked with and the success we have seen, these two ideas apply. So, it is not that these concepts are difficult to implement or don’t apply that they are not being used. I believe the problem is that most law firm owners do not understand the value of the concepts. But even that is a bit of a stretch. When I look a little deeper, I find several reasons.

  1. By far the first reason on my list is that law firm owners have trouble defining their business objectives. It sounds crazy when you hear this, but I have found that most law firm owners cannot tell me what their vision is. In fact, even crazier, they cannot tell me why they are in business. OK, they can say “I want to make money” but why baffles them. The whole idea of having a well-defined vision for the business is the foundation of strategic planning.
  2. Strategic planning is all about defining the vision and then creating a roadmap to realize that vision. This is a top-down process. Since the “leader” generally does not know what the vision is, this is turned into a group effort. The resulting statement was sufficiently vague and so fragmented that it was doomed from the start.
  3. When the group finally starts writing the plan, there is a tendency to move or skip right to execution. Immediately jumping to an action plan without going through the process of clarifying the strategy sometimes has you going down the wrong path.
  4. I find that nobody is identified as the owner of the plan or the person accountable for the implementation. Everyone wants to contribute their ideas, but they are not the owner of the plan.   In fact, it should be the law firm owner that is accountable for the plan. This is a new concept for a lawyer/owner because they see themselves as a professional whose only responsibility is to their clients. They frequently separate themselves from the business.

These concepts have been around for many years in Corporate America but only for a few with law firms, so there is not a long history of success to point to as evidence of value. Where we have implemented these concepts, we see success. Often it has been between one and two years before we see measured success in the law firms we have worked with. The first year is all about planning and the second is gathering data from the balanced scorecard.

When the strategic plan is used to develop action plans, and the balanced scorecard is used to measure the results that can be used to improve the plan, we typically see a clear picture of the law firm. The four areas that are measured in our balanced score card are;

  1. Finances – those measures that measure financial success. This is everyone’s favorite because it is what they are used to. How much money did I make? How big is my bonus this year? This is real to everyone.
  2. Client Service – those measures that capture how well the firm served their clients. Law firms frequently focus on client service but never measure it. So, this is something all law firms want. The problem is leadership has trouble relating this measure to success or failure. If I improve client service by 10% what happens?
  3. Growth – those measures that capture how well the firm is doing to improve. This is the measure that will tell you if you will still be in business in a few years as the market changes. It is a measure of how effective the firm uses the human resources (staff). One of the problems here is that frequently staff is viewed as only a resource instead of being a key element of the business process. How do you relate training your paralegal to an improvement in the bottom line?
  4. Internal Processes – those measures that capture how efficient and effective the business process is. How are the tools, like the case management system, used? Do you have the right mix of skills, tools, workspace, and supplies? Frequently many steps in the process are skipped or ignored, so it is not easy to show how a quality review of a few process steps is beneficial. Most of the law firms I have worked with view their business as being skill based and not process based when, in fact, a high percentage of the business is process based.

Before we get to the execution phase, we need to have a good understanding of what we want to build and how we are going to measure success. Without this, we will be fighting fires every day and depending on brute force to make it through the day. Very little business improvements or refinements are going on. Is the law firm a business with business processes that react to the best business practices of the day? In the competitive environment we are in today, those law firms that are viewed as a business have a better chance of being here tomorrow.

One of my favorite stories I remember from our years working with law firms was a firm that was celebrating a million-dollar settlement. I, being the ole auditor that I used to be, started asking questions, like what was your return on investment. I got a lot of blank stares. With a little research, I could see that the “business” lost money. That peaked my interest, so the next question was, what was the vision of the “business?” I wanted to find out if they expected to make money. Well, more blank stares. We could dig deeper into this hole all day. Dare I ask to see the strategic plan for the business? Maybe tomorrow, I am getting some cake and coffee.

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What about financial metrics for my Firm

I was asked to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) for a law firm. Return on investment is the “return” from an action, divided by the cost of that action. The first time I saw this metric, it was used to determine the effectiveness of a marketing program. The “ROI” for a law firm is not so obvious. My first thought was that it would be the total revenue generated minus the total expenses divided by the expenses. One problem with most law firms is that they make the lawyer’s earnings equal to any leftover profit. This was a problem because it makes the expenses equal to the revenue. My next idea was to assume a zero cost for the lawyer, and that gave me a false view of true cost. The compromise I came up with was to assign a base salary and make leftover revenue after expenses be a bonus. This provided an ROI I could use for trending.

I could see a problem developing. It is relatively easy to discover the revenue, but what was the dollar amount of the investment that created that revenue? One idea for getting the expense number is to eliminate any expense that did not directly contribute to generating the revenue. This is often referred to as overhead or indirect cost. For example, the cost of a building does not directly contribute to making revenue, so it is an indirect cost. Does that mean it is part of the investment or not? This can quickly turn into an interesting discussion.

Or, you can make the case that all expenses are part of the investment. I have found that it does not make much difference as long as you know where the numbers come from, and they are consistent.

But getting back to ROI. Once you get a clean number for the investment, the formula is ROI = (earnings – investment) / investment. Return on investment is, by definition the gain from the investment minus the cost of that investment and then divided by the cost of that investment. I have found that the number, by itself, is not very meaningful. I can play with the numbers and create any result you want. The best we can do is create a trend using an ROI measure and see if we are doing better. So is it a good metric or not? I think the trend can be a good indicator.

By “trend”, I mean calculating the ROI every month or quarter to see if it is going up or down. As long as the definition of the numbers is consistent you can develop a trend. I like to use a rolling average over a span of two years.

The exercise to determine expenses is also a good exercise. Remember that expense category we called overhead? Overhead describes all of the costs a business incurs that do not directly produce output. Overhead would be office rent, liability insurance, membership fees, firm vehicles, business taxes, office equipment and most administrative costs. Well, another good indicator is the percentage of total expenses that is overhead. You would want to keep this low and make sure that the trend is not going up. The tricky part is to agree to what you consider to be overhead. As long as you keep your definitions consistent you can create a good trend for this number.

One of the keys to all of this is a good financial system that can keep track of expense and revenue categories. Once you have that you can drop those numbers into a “bucket”, like overhead. I pull numbers from the financial system into an Excel spreadsheet and calculate any of the metrics I want. What metrics do you like?

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Law Firm Leadership

Law firms are businesses!  OK, but are you the business or are you building a business? This is a question that will set the focus of your business strategy.  We suspect that many professionals start out believing that the business is themselves, and any staff they hire are support, or a replaceable resource, with their focus on management of resources. At some point the case load or the case complexity grows, and the focus changes to a more team oriented approach.  Tasks are delegated, and staff becomes more than just a resource.  Once the staff becomes part of the team and receives training, it is much more costly to replace them.  Firm associates begin to understand that their leadership involves creating a pro-active team that drives the delivery of legal services with a strong return on investment for the firm. The lawyer alone is not the business. Focus shifts from management of resources to leadership of people.

This is the beginnings of a high-performance organization.  There are many elements of this type of organization, including a move from management to leadership principles.  One of those principles is an idea we first saw expressed in Tom Peters’ first book. He introduced us to the new concept of Management By Wandering Around (MBWA), which we have referred to as Management By Walking Around. I think that MBWA was developed by executives at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s and popularized by Tom Peters in the early 1980s. The concept involves getting out from behind your desk and interacting with your staff; find out what they are frustrated about and celebrate their successes.

MBWA works best when you are genuinely interested in your staff and their work and when they see you as being ready to listen. There is nothing more insightful than seeing what is going on in the real world; client’s concerns, the interaction of your employees with your clients, and the functioning of your law firm.  You will have a much better idea of your staff’s problems and perceptions, as well a better view of the skill of individual employees. The benefit of MBWA is you can communicate your expectations in daily informal meetings with your staff. This idea works if your focus is on building trust, delegating responsibility, and developing staff.  This does not work if your goal is to find someone making a mistake.

More is gained by watching, observing, talking, and listening than will ever be by placing this duty on others.  However, what if the Firm owner or senior partners do not want a management or leadership role?  We find this a lot.  If this is the way it is, hire a Firm Administrator to take on that role. Our approach for law firms is to implement high-performance teams.

We propose a challenge.  Take the next thirty days and make it a practice to walk through the firm and talk to people within the firm.   Listen to what they say, find out how things are going, and ask questions.  At the end of the thirty days, do you see a difference in attitude? More importantly, did you learn anything that makes you change your mind about the people on your team?  We suspect you will.

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By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

Any successful long existing business has a story. Moreover, from the story is usually some great lessons on how to be successful. This is our story from my point of view.

I had worked for IBM for 32 years, in management, when I discovered I had some health issues during my yearly physical. Being in management I was aware of the early retirement programs being offered, so I signed up for the last program. With my health issues in mind, I figured I would take all that buyout money and conquer the world. Of course as all good plans go, it did not turn out exactly as I had envisioned. It was not that bad either. I was doing some contract consulting work for Blue Cross at the dreaded turn of the century. In the technology world, everyone just called it the Y2K project. It was December of 1999.

One day I got a call from Cheryl asking questions about technology in a small law firm located in a small town somewhere off route 95. As the conversations became longer, I decided to travel down to visit her after my project with Blue Cross completed. I have lots of interesting stories about how this big city guy met this little southern town and southern woman, but that is another story.

Here I am with Cheryl, who is doing a consulting contract with a law firm owner who wants to grow. She is telling me that she needs help getting this law firm under control, business wise, so they can expand. I say, “no problem, business is business so let’s look at the burden rates, return on investment trends and the process being followed.” Silence in the room after that now infamous speech was made. The next month or so was spent with Cheryl and I teaching each other enough to find common ground. We finally reached a compromise position and presented a plan to the senior partner of the Firm.

To grow rapidly, we determined that we needed to apply known business theory and practices. This was not the norm for small law firms of the day. They relied on professional skills, not tools or processes. We could see what was needed but could not convince a professional skill-based staff to change. The expense side of the business was growing as the additional skilled staff were brought in to handle increased client loads. The profit margins were going down, and we felt lost. Classes we had put together to address soft skills and process were not well received. OK, so this was a learning experience. We had to develop a total solution instead of pieces.

We spent a year looking at case management systems, business theory white papers, and financial analysis of the law firm as it started to expand. We identified common steps in everyday work that could be handled by a process. We determined the need for soft skills and found business theory and a case management system that could be tailored for this law firm. We developed processes that would support the case management system. We found a financial management system that would work with our case management software and allow for trend analysis. We worked out a balanced scorecard approach for the tracking numbers instead of a singular focus on money.

All of this was done over a year with trial and error. There were false starts and a lot of frustration as we attempted to change the day to day routine. Gradually we gained some acceptance. With each step, we refined our solution.

One of the early discoveries for us was the inclusion of lifetime goals as well as business goals for the business owners. That soon expanded to include all of the staff and became integrated into our business solution. The second breakthrough was the new focus on soft skills. Along with professional skills, we included classes on communications, self-mastery, client interaction and even a class on how to answer the phone with a smile.

After several attempts to move the firm into a process based system, we hit that aha moment. We developed a hybrid system that incorporated process and skill-based areas. After several months of designing and research, we developed a law firm that relied on a case management system that was supported by both professional skills and process workers. We created profit centers with a more realistic bonus system. Classes on soft skills were tailored to law firm’s needs.

The key to any business solution is discovering what the end goal is. We developed a formal process for a small law firm to define the values, mission and vision for a law firm. With this insight, we developed a strategic planning process tailored for a small law firm. Incorporated with all of this is the concept of a merger of life and job goals that became the “Triangle for Success”. The key to the strategic solution was the definition of profit centers, need for soft skills, processes, and a balanced scorecard way of measuring success.

Did it work? After the unveiling of the new system, the Firm expanded rapidly and soon had headquarters in the big city. The legal professionals worked alongside the resource center. Other Firms were asking about how we did it. Software developers were looking at how we implemented and integrated their products. And today the owner is doing exactly what he wants to do with his life (on the beach). Cheryl and I became business partners as well as lifetime partners, and our calendar was filling with speaking engagements. Catalyst the business was born. That was fourteen years ago.

Today Catalyst stands as a successful small mentoring company. Our client base is driven by personal referrals, and we pick and choose our clients knowing that they will become lifelong relationships. As mentors, we are getting to see other people attain their dreams, and we feel ownership in their success. And on any given day you can find us sitting on our back deck with a client or two who will fly or drive in just to tell us their dreams. The advice is free and they are not allowed to discuss hiring us. This is our way of helping others find their dream.

We have on-going clients we enjoy daily. We have a pay it forward policy at Catalyst (called Catalyst Connect).  We go to the beach to restore our souls. And we go to Disney (Club Floor of course) to restore our childlike attitude about life. Our family and friends are in and out of our home doing what family and friends do.   Our days are filled with doing what we were meant to do. We believe the good life is simply this: Living in a place you like; with the people you love, doing the right work; all on purpose.

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Time Management

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlYour life is a sequence of big and small choices and decisions. Successful people know what they want, and they focus on how to get it. So, knowing what you want would seem to be important to time management. Goal setting is hard because you have to be able to see what you want. You have to see where you want to be in 6 months or a year from now. The problem is, life gets in the way.  You can develop this beautiful vision of the future and a set of goals to realize that vision only to discover life.  Life is not static and sometimes everything can change in seconds.

Making decisions is no picnic either. Almost any decision involves some conflicts. The difficult part is to pick one solution where the positive will outweigh the negative. Avoiding decisions often seems easier, and I see many people that have made that choice. Making decisions and accepting the consequences is the only way to stay in control of your time, your success, and your life.

OK, how can you do better in time management when it is so difficult? First of all I recommend being honest. Not being honest about what you want raises so many conflicts. For example, you decide that you want to spend time with your child after work but you run out of time doing work. Your goal was not to spend time with your child, it was to be successful at work.  Now you waste time rationalizing why you chose to work.  Alternatively, worse than that, you do not take any responsibility and say I “HAD” to work.  Not making any decision or not taking responsibility for those you do make puts the blame on others.  As long as it is not your responsibility you will never solve this problem.

My next recommendation is to make decisions based on what you want, not what someone else wants. To do that you have to have a good understanding of what your vision is, and you have to believe in it.  Many of the people I meet have no long term vision. Many people have no idea what they want to do for the day. They are totally interrupt driven and give up control.

My third recommendation is to be flexible enough to accept what life throws at you. You need to be realistic and sometimes the rules change.

All the theory is great, but I also know that we need to be practical about all this.  Over the years, I have learned that I do better when I set aside times for certain goals to limit the amount of conflict.  So I may decide that my time at the office is defined and during that time my goal is to be successful at work. I then define a period to be focused on my child.  Now I just need to decide if I am going to violate my defined times. Still a conflict at times however during the defined times I am focused.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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Just Ask Why

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlBack in my corporate days I learned to ask “Why” three to five times in order to discover the root cause of a problem.  As I recall, this technique was originally developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation during for their manufacturing division.  So, when a law firm said they had trouble with staff not getting mail out, I suggested they ask why.  In practice, you should ask why until you discover the failing process.

The first problem was a focus on who failed.  It is rarely a who that we are looking for; it is almost always a process or a policy.  So I introduced the idea that people do not fail; processes do.  That was amended to be process or policy.  Once we started to focus on processes, we started to make progress understanding the root cause. Here is an example of how it went.

Q: Why didn’t you get the contract mailed?

A: I did not get the contract printed on time.

Q: Why didn’t you get the contract printed on time?

A: The printer was out of paper.

Q: Why was the printer out of paper?

A: Nobody is assigned to load paper.

Q: Why was nobody assigned to load paper?

A: There is no job position or process to maintain the printer

Now we can have all kinds of discussions about who should have done what but the bottom line was that nobody was assigned the task.  As soon as the person sitting next to the printer was assigned the task to make sure the printer was working, the people upstairs got faster printing.

Sometimes what you discover is just common sense and the solution is simple.  Since we started the “just ask why” campaign many of the processes have been updated and improved.  Another interesting result was that finger pointing to individuals stopped.  Try it sometime the next time the results you get are not what you expected.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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Introduction to Strategic Planning

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

We toss around many terms, and before we get too deep into strategic planning it would be beneficial to let you know my definition of these terms.

  • Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action.
  • Value statements are grounded in values and define how people want to behave with each other and in the organization.
  • Vision is a statement of what the organization wants to become. The vision should resonate with all members of the organization and help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the organization’s capabilities and image of itself. It gives shape and direction to the organization’s future.
  • Mission/Purpose is a precise description of what an organization does. It should describe the business the organization is in. It is a definition of “why” the organization exists currently. Each member of an organization should be able to express this mission verbally.
  • Strategies are the broadly defined key approaches the organization will use to accomplish its mission and drive toward the vision.

A strategic plan defines and documents these terms for the organization. The purpose of a strategic plan is to gather your thoughts and put a stake in the ground.  From the strategic plan, we will develop the business, marketing, technology and other detailed plans needed to build the business.  The strategic plan also provides a starting point to build your work culture.

Without a strategic plan, there is a tendency to react to the problem of the day.  Over time, you get lost and discover you are not making any progress.  You tend to get spread too thin trying to react to everything.  A strategic plan serves to get you back on track and focused on your goal.

A good exercise we do to get back on your path is to figure out where you are now and do a SWOT analysis.  OK, another new term.  A SWOT is an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a business venture.  After the SWOT analysis, you have some idea of what you need to address and what you already have.  Now using your core values, vision and mission that you defined as guidelines, develop your strategies.  You now have a strategic plan.

None of these things have to be fancy, but you should have them documented.  Now you can write your detailed plans, and they will be aligned with a common strategic plan. Once you have the plan, don’t ignore it. I have walked into businesses where the business plan does not reflect the marketing plan, and neither are related to the strategic plan.  My father would say: the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing!

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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It’s Just a Suggestion

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

You may have had this conversation with your kids.  This morning I was told that the speed limit was just a suggestion.  That peaked my interest.  So I said that the speed limit was the law that stated the maximum or minimum speed at which a motor vehicle may operate on public roads, and was not a suggestion. That resulted in a discussion of what a law was. Using my best corporate voice, I said a law is a binding custom or practice of a community:  a rule of conduct or action formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.  You can imagine how that was received. OK, so far.  They then asked, what is a suggestion?  Well in its literal sense, this word signifies to inform.  So that still does not preclude following the speed limit. So far, we have established that the speed limit is binding, and you have been informed of it.  Well, not really.  I may have established that, but I am not sure my audience bought it.

Ever wonder why they work so hard to justify not following a rule?  What kind of rules do you have in your business that may not be followed?  Do you have employees working hard to justify why they should not follow that rule or that process?  I visited a law firm and was told by a paralegal that this Firm was different.  When I asked what that meant, I was told that they were so unique that an arbitrary rule could not apply to them.   The particular offensive rule was that the settlement was to be put in a red folder so that the attorney could spot it when the client arrived. I was not sure why their uniqueness canceled this rule.

I found many examples like this. I created a new rule just for fun; all rules would be followed until such time that they were replaced, updated or canceled. In hindsight, I am not sure why I thought this rule would be received any differently than the existing rules. The next day was a little stressful as I attempted to enforce all documented rules. Once they figured out that there were no exceptions, things settled down.   Eventually, some of the rules and processes were improved and updated. Some were even removed.

What was missing, when I started this journey, was consistent enforcement of the processes and policies of the business? Once the staff determined that the rules were real, they followed them.  As the processes and rules were used more often, they were improved, kind of a win – win.

Now I do not know what to tell you about your kids.  First of all, my kid was 38 years old. I do know a little about business processes and just having the process or policy documented is not enough.  Your staff wants to see consistent enforcement of the rules before they will trust them.

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Is it a Need?

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlSomeone asks you, ‘is that a want or a need?’ Good question, but the answer may not be that simple. A need is something that is necessary, let’s say to live a healthy life. My question is, who decided that it was necessary? I would suggest that a need (other than water, food and basic shelter) is just a high priority want. Your needs will create wants, and your wants will create more needs. In order to identify true needs, you have to understand your purpose, vision or mission.

It does not make any difference if you are looking at your life or your business; you have to understand your purpose to understand your needs. We (Cheryl and I) were doing a seminar when she said that my desire for a motorhome was clearly a want and not a need. The only way she can make a statement like that is if she knows what my vision or purpose is. That is the problem with making judgments about the needs of others. If you do not have a clearly defined purpose, then you also have that problem.

As long as you have a strategic plan for your business that defines your vision (or purpose) you can define your needs. Here is an example: you define the vision for your law firm to be, “We provide legal services to our clients with compassion and pride.” If you are a small business, your vision might be, “We will provide over the top service to our customers.” Now you decide you need a new fancy building to realize that vision. Is this a want or a need? Well, based on your vision, this is probably a want.

This brings up an interesting thought – The vaguer your purpose is, the more difficult it is to identify if you have a want or a need. To better understand your needs you must have a detailed understanding of your vision. There are several ways to accomplish that detail for a business. For example, you can do a gap or SWOT analysis. This year we will talk a lot about both. Before you buy that fancy case management system, new building or a company car, do some strategic planning.

You can see how this may happen in a business. Look at your relationships, and you will see that the same thing can happen. If you do not agree on your purpose or vision, your partner or family will not buy into your stated needs. There is another way to look at this. Turn that analysis around and look at it. Let’s say that your partner is always bringing up something that you are convinced is a want, and even perhaps a low priority want. Why is your partner doing this? Well, it is likely that this is a true need for your partner based on their vision. The discrepancy is you do not understand or believe in the vision that is driving this need. This is a common cause for partnerships and businesses failing.

Whose ‘want’ and whose ‘need’ is based on whose vision? Yours or someone elses? When everyone is aligned with a vision, the question and its answer becomes amazingly simple.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc. He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls. Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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