Showing posts with label Turning Pro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turning Pro. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Your online presence. How much sharing is too much?

I mix personal and business information regularly, and I always cringe a little, wondering if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Sometimes I look back at something I wrote, thinking I was clever, and find, on reflection,  that nope, not at all.  Can you relate?

Whew.  According to Gary Vaynerchuk, in a little book called "Crush It"- that's just fine.  It's who I am, and if I lose some prospects because of it, that's  just the way it is.  Not a good thing to lose prospects, but not a bad thing either.  Inevitable. I'm never going to worry about that again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Question: How do you prevent tire-kickers?

Lots of lawyers talking about paid vs. free consult calls these days.  Listen in to some comments from solo listserves:

From Gina Bongiovi:

For what it's worth, I am finding a much higher close rate now that I'm charging for the consult...It seems that people who are willing to invest in the initial meeting are more willing to sign on for a service.

From Jami Ferrell:

I used to have a big problem with clients not showing up and it's a real pain...I used to offer free consults...I would have up to 18 or so appointments per week, with sometimes half of those not showing up, even after confirming... 3/4 of the others were usually tire kickers or didn't have the funds to hire me.  

But three months ago I got fed up and started charging a small $150 "...assessment" fee to secure the appointment. It was the best thing I ever did. Dropped to about 3-4 meetings per week, but almost all of them hired me and I get paid even when  they don't show, which rarely earnings have been higher than ever and I have more free time since I implemented this.

Learn from these examples.  If you're seeing a lot of no-shows, try charging for your consultations.  I want you to make your target income.  Revenue is where it starts.  Take a look at your marketing process, the systems you use.  Plan when, where and how you ask for the business.  Track your results.  Make changes, use what works.

Don't see these ideas as big decisions that you have to be sure of, then implement perfectly and stick with them for a calendar year!  One of my favorite things about working with solo and small firms is that you can make decisions and act quickly.  More importantly, that means you can impact results in a short cycle time. 

Think about it.  You could decide to quote a consultation fee for the very next person who calls.  (or a new fee level, for that matter)

See what happens.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coaching and all that other bullpucky.

You know by now that I'm a big Seth fan.  So I was understandably verklempt yesterday when I read his blog post: Self-directed effort is the best kind.  

...hire a trainer or a coach or a boss and give up our freedom and our upside for someone to whip us into shape... There's an entire system organized around the idea that we're too weak to deliver effort without external rewards and punishment.

Wait- I'm a coach.  That's not how I see my role.  I don't think that's what my clients would say I do.  But I was booked and had a dinner with clients to run to, so I didn't get a chance to talk to you about it.  Which is good, because today Seth's post is:  Who is making you uncomfortable?

Who looks you in the eye and says, "given your skills, you could do better..."..."Could you set aside the fear and go faster?" "I know you're holding back..."

Holy Moly, Rocky!  That's what I do.  It's my job as your coach to help you get to the point where you do believe as strongly in yourself as I do.  To help you create the life you want to have- faster and with much more ease than if you did it all on your own.  Your success is my success only in that if you aren't successful, I can't be.  I do some consulting, sure, in areas you might need expertise, but you do all the work.

I've said it before. I don't kick ass or whip people into shape.  You set your goals, I gently explain that 98% of the time you've set them way to low, and once you figure out what your real (often top-secret because you think they're outrageous) goals are,  then my job is to help you reach them.  Making sure that you're enjoying every day along the way, because my tagline is true: Life is short. Struggle is optional. 

Question MarkMy first coaching website, 100 years ago, before lawyers showed up as my ideal clients, opened with a big question mark and the words:  "Are you having fun yet?"  I meant it as a challenge and it's still the heart of why I became a coach.  Yup.  My clients pay me money to challenge and support them.  I don't think that means they are weak or giving up freedom. They understand their success is entirely their own, though I surely do like getting kudos!  (ego, it's such a damn nuisance)

It bothers me that Seth seems to think the profession I love is not worthy.  It's disappointing.  That doesn't change the fact that he has a lot of important things to say to you.  Keep reading.

Are you having fun yet?   Are you looking for someone to make you feel uncomfortable?  Consider a coach.  Coaching is not bullpucky.  It works.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What to Do When Too Much of "The Force" is With You

Was it just me or did you have a lot of people wishing you "Happy Star Wars Day" today? (May the 4th be with you)  Fun!  But when I thought about it, I realized I've exceeded my daily/weekly/monthly capacity for The Force. In fact, I need to clear my head.

Have you ever felt overstuffed?  Overwhelmed by ideas, information, and options?   As if there are a million things you should be doing?  Out of a billion you could be doing?  (That everyone else is surely already doing?)   Doesn't feel good.

When you get there- and you will, if you're curious, and you have goals, and you are interested in changing things- here's what you do next:
Nothing.  Change gears.  Distract yourself with something else.  Do something physical.  Let what's in your brain incubate.
Yup.  I'm usually an advocate of "GO".   Action.  Sometimes, though, you need time to let things incubate.   Did you know that incubation is a proven step in the innovation process?  A famous mathmatician, Henri PoincarĂ©,  developed a four-stage model of innovation, based on his analysis of his own mathmatical breakthrough in 1881.  PoincarĂ©'s four-stage model - conscious thought, unconscious thought (or incubation), illumination and verification continues to be studied and refined.  Einstein discussed his creative process in similar terms.

Ever been in the shower when all of a sudden, you come up with a brilliant solution to the problem you wrestled with every day the past week?   As a coach, I see it happen to clients all the time.   At some point between two sessions, something gets radically "unstuck".  Great progress is made when there was none the week before.  (remember, coaches don't do any work, our clients do all the work)

So, with thanks to Lynne, who reminded me where great action comes from, I resolve to let things incubate.  Not to worry.  To remember that I've felt this way before, right before I made a big leap forward.

How about you?  Too much on your mind?  You know what to do next.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Good Question: Do you assume risk is a bad thing?

A friend, someone I've worked with, recently posted she was "ready to take some risks" and my reaction was:

 "Whoo-Hoo, NOW WE'RE TALKIN!" 

 When I think of risk, I think of reward. Possibility. In short, I think of the upside.  It isn't because I've never failed, that's for sure.  I've taken risks that did NOT pay off if you look at them in isolation. However- I'm closer to where I want to be than I would be if I hadn't taken those risks. I failed forward.


Superboy!Don't get me wrong, you have to choose when to leap and when to linger.  But don't overestimate the downside and don't underestimate the up side.

Perhaps there's a lot more possibility in your life than you see.


How about you?  What's your tolerance for risk?  If you made room for a bit more failure in your life- could you open more space for possibility?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't Settle for "Maybe", Baby!

When you're talking to someone who is able to buy your services, and you ask her if she's ready to move forward- don't settle for anything but a definitive answer.

If the answer is yes, collect a fee at that time to seal the deal.  Take a check or if you're on the phone, take a credit card. On the spot. At yes. Create a client. Send the paperwork out afterwards.

  1. Energy and time spent on 'getting to yes' is a sunk cost to both parties. As with all expense, it's best to minimize it!
  2. Decisive people are often easier to work with.
  3. If you're determined to get to an answer, you'll do the prep work around ensuring that the value of working with you is clear, that you have an answer for any possible objections, and that you're making the ask.
  4. If you get a no, then you can get on to the next yes without distraction.
If you're generating quality inquiries, the people who reach the point of saying yes or no to hiring you are ready to make a decision, even if they think they're only looking for more information. Make it as easy as possible for them to choose you, so that you can start solving their problems as soon as possible. Win/win.

Take a look at the conversations you're having; do you make it easy for prospects to choose you?  Create scripts to improve your confidence. Keep track of your results, make changes, find what works for your style and your prospects.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do you know when to say no?

I just found Christopher Penn's blog- Awaken Your SuperheroAwaken is a theme with Penn. I love that. 

At any rate, check out his post about when to say no. He offers a simple, elegant approach to knowing when to say no, with a dead clear graphic.   Do read it; it's a terrific post.  I'll give you the three factors he lays out:

  • Value. Is the opportunity valuable?

  • Scarcity. How often does the opportunity or one like it come by?

  • Commitment. How much commitment does the opportunity require?

Penn offers a scoring method that will help you deal with an opportunity that is very tempting-  however- you have some feeling that you "shouldn't" take it. If  your dilemma is simpler, perhaps a quick and dirty assessment of the three factors will do. 

Valuable information. Great post. If you're someone who is struggling with multiple juicy opportunities, feeling like you have to do them all at once,  the post might be epic for you! [constant reminder: you can do it all, you can't do it all at once]

We spend a lot of time talking about how to say no, but first, be sure you have a good handle on when to say no.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Time to ditch the albatross?

References to the 'albatross' are "sometimes used metaphorically to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse". You might remember The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Colerige. In that one, the albatross was definitely a curse. This is an albatross:
He might weigh up to 25 pounds, and his wingspan might be as much as 9 feet plus. Not something you want around your neck, for many reasons.

If you are attached to an albatross, something you just can't seem to get off your shoulders, your mind, your to-do list, now is exactly the right time to ditch it. Deal with it. Do it. Delete it. Ready or not. (especially that)

Once you lose the albatross, something really special might just show up. Good news. You'll have the time and energy first to recognize it, and second, to act on it.

Life is short. Struggle is optional. Ditch the big bird. Be available for new possibilities.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grownups get to choose!

Recently the cartoon site xkcd had a terrific time management cartoon- which a few people shared with me. Thank you! Great find. I love the site, but here's MY favorite cartoon!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Cartoon of the point "adults can decide what to do". Grownups Get to Choose![/caption]

Yup. You are the boss of you. You get to choose.  It's your life. My Friday advice is just that:  think about it- what are you choosing?  Are your choices making you happy?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good Question: Were you better today than yesterday?

This one is from Dan Pink, via his book, Drive.  The question is a tool to use to keep yourself motivated. Ask yourself if you did more, if you did well, if you followed through as planned.  Pink suggests looking for small measures of improvement and reminding yourself that you don't have to reach mastery in one giant step.

As a coach, it's my job to support people and help them stay motivated.  To be honest, I find very few people who are truly self-motivated. Viewing it as a learnable skill and seeking out techniques to use improve your ability to motivate yourself is a terrific first step to revving up your own "drive". Pink's book is a great resource. So, as he suggests- tonight, at day's end, ask yourself: Was I better today than yesterday?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Good Habit: Keep Your Big Picture "Whois" Data Up-to-Date

If you have a domain name registered, you know that periodically you're asked to verify the associated "whois" data.  If nothing has changed, you need take no action, but you must review the accuracy and make any updates needed. Why not make it a habit to review your big-picture "whois" data quarterly as well?

Here's the information you need to update:

  1. Your financial picture- assets, liabilities, cash flow

  2. Your business life - how much time you spend working, what kind of work you're attracting, who you're working with, who you're partnering with

  3. Your life outside of work - how you use your free time, what kinds of activities and hobbies you're pursuing and with whom, vacations planned, etc.

  4. Your health - how healthy you are, how much energy you have. Are you up to date with check-ups, etc.? Are you taking extremely good care of your body?

  5. Your relationships- are they everything you want them to be? How would you rate the quality of your relationships with family and friends? How are you nurturing them?

  6. Your personal development- are there classes you want to take? Do you give yourself down time and time to think?

  7. Contribution and community - are you satisfied with the contribution you are to your community, locally and globally?

Some of us look at our "whois" data on a regular basis, using it as a checkpoint to be sure we're spending our lives the way we choose.  Others might be starting your "whois" review process for the first time. If that's you, then you'll find that the simple act of review is going to begin a more complex next step, which is deciding what you want. When you take a systematic look at the fact of your current life, you're going to see where you want to change it. 

Blocking out time to review your "whois" data on a monthly or quarterly basis will make you much more likely to achieve your goals. Use your calendar, make time to complete the exercise. Knowing who you are today and making sure you're in alignment with what you want for your life is a very good habit to create!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thinking about failure? Think BIG!

Hanna somehow managed to catch the entire season of Project Runway on demand over spring break. I'm not sure when she watched it, must have been the three days I worked. She updated me about the excitement related to a contestant that dropped out and the one brought back to fill the open slot.

Apparently, Anthony, the designer who got the second chance, went from being a loser one week to coming back and winning a challenge the next week. Gotta love it!

Inspiration can come from anywhere; this is a great "failing forward" story.  Take it and use it to help you decide to try again. Maybe you need to change your thinking about "failure".  Are you thinking small? Are you giving up too soon? Could be.

Take marketing, for example. Depending on the research du jour, it takes 7-11 quality contacts to turn a prospect into a client. You can view every connection up to the one that lands the client as a failure, or as a milestone to success. You can feel like a failure or you can feel terrific about staying on course. Your choice.

If your thinking is getting in the way of taking action, get over it. Failure happens. Everything can change, in a day, in a week- if you just show up and keep trying. As Tim Gunn would say, "Make it Work!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good question: What's your emergency plan?

A new client was in a car accident with her grandson recently. Everyone's OK, but the car was totaled. If you look at the crumpled car, it's hard to believe no one was hurt. Truly a blessing. After the accident, she was thinking that if something had happened to her and her husband- there was really no way for anyone to quickly connect the child to his parents.

As a result, she's made some laminated cards with information and tucked one in the carseat. I told her she should blog about it, but she doesn't yet blog, so there 'tis. A lesson you can learn and share without going through the car accident part. A reminder that none of us are immune. I don't know if car seat instructions include this advice, if they do, I wonder how many people take it.

Perhaps you're thinking about home fire drills or teaching your kids to use 911. However, "emergency planning" applies to all kinds of emergencies. It relates to the notion of always having a reserve or a backup plan. It's carrying an energy bar if you're going to a conference, or blocking an afternoon off after a morning you know is going to be stressful. (& scheduling a massage, if you can!) Backing up your data is an emergency plan.

Plan some time to create and update your emergency plans over the next week. And please, spread the word about ensuring there is contact information in the car seat!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Afraid to face your financials?

Fear of the facts is something that puts you in good company! Two weeks before she was slated to ski in the 2010 Olympics, Lindsey Vonn injured her shin.  In an interview that aired during the opening coverage, Lindsey admitted that she avoided having the injury diagnosed. She didn’t want an MRI. She didn’t want an x-ray. She knew her dream was in danger and she didn’t want to face it. She didn’t want to be taken out of the games.
Many of my clients feel the same way about their financial results. However, just as Lindsey found, “not facing” is different than “not knowing”. She didn’t have the details, but she did know that she had a serious issue.  Eventually, Lindsey needed to have her injury diagnosed in order to treat it most effectively. Similarly, you need to understand your financial situation and real prospects in order to make the best decisions for your practice.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When grief upsets your work/life balance equation.

I wrote this post in January, never sure if I'd publish it. Yesterday, I learned that someone special in the world died, unexpectedly. As another friend described, it was "devastating".  Just as in my post below, I'm freshly thrown off track. So I decided to post after all. Hopefully someone will find it valuable. Here tis. Too long, as usual.
If you've worked with me, you've heard me rail against anger as a "waste of time and energy". Grief, and the sadness that comes with it, is different. Right now, grief is part of my story. Recently I connected the dots and realized that grief is a time management issue. Grief is a time bandit!
Without a lot of background, a relative has at last been give a year's timeframe to live. He has had a tragic life, the choices he made brought him to this point, and yes- by many criteria, it is a "blessing".  His quality of life is poor. Still, there is grief and sadness as I go through this time.
I need to choose how to be with this grief over time. I know that because I did a lot of spinning in November and December, before I acknowledged grief as an extra variable to consider in my work/life balance equation. I was energized by a great autumn, had a lot of plans for 2010, and I was determined that this wouldn't impact my plans. Right. Instead, I basically shut down. I've been gone. Didn't follow up with leads, missed appointments, etc.
A coaching conversation finally woke me up. I was talking with someone who had to revise goals to account for an unexpected illness and recovery. I made the point that recovery takes time, that it's appropriate to be realistic and account for that, even though it meant delaying the action that defined "success" to my client. Sometimes "success" is about being as healthy as possible, and doing what you can and want to, not what you "should". Turns out, I'm in the same boat!

Here's my approach, perhaps there's something you can use as well:
  • Take extremely good care of myself. Be healthy. Physical and mental health are a priority.
  • Ask for help. Support structures come in a lot of flavors: friends and family, therapy, a neighbor who walks my dog, on and on. Spend time with the people who give me energy.
  • Be clean and current in my relationships. Be there, but honest. Be aware of my own boundaries. Make sure that I have no regrets.
  • Be practical. Schedule white space. Leave days open. Outsource or delegate where I can.
  • Stay where the energy is. Don't do things if I don't have the energy for them. Be aware of "flow".
The most important thing is giving myself permission to move energy to the "life" side of the work/life balance equation. I'm kinder to myself. I feel relieved. I have permission to redefine success.

I'm fortunate to have the luxury of choosing to work less. Whether or not you have the wiggle room to take care of a crisis by working less, it's important to recognize the impact and account for it in the best possible way. Pay attention to what's really going on. You might not be able to take the same approach I did, but you can be clear in your intentions for dealing with whatever it is that might be knocking you off balance.  Make choices about what you do and don't handle. Do what serves you well.

I didn't face my facts. Sometimes, despite your best intentions- you might have to change your work/life balance. Give yourself permission. If the fact is that everything is not OK, do what you can to make your way through in the best way possible for you. Remember the airplane/oxygen mask instruction, and take care of yourself first. When it's time to rebalance, you'll be ready.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Afraid your fees are too high? For whom?

When I hear this, my first question is always “too high for whom?”  My general rule is that unless you are priced far above every other lawyer, then business lost on price is business you shouldn’t be taking anyway. If you didn’t have financial pressures, you wouldn’t miss those clients, so don’t spend your time or energy worrying about losing them. Work with clients who value you as much as you value yourself. Being slightly out of price reach is a way to build your positioning over time.
Here are some things to consider when you set your fees:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who do you want to be? (growing up not required)

It's impossible to avoid the notion of goals entirely at this time.  I'm big on goals, but I know they can have as negative an impact as they do positive- depending on how you think about them. Still, it's my first post of 2010, so you're getting something about goals. Inevitable.

There are three kinds of goals- being, doing, having. Most people focus on the second two, with action plans and milestones.  But, in fact- the "being" goals might be most important when it comes to achieving the "doing" and "having" goals. A goal of being confident supports the goal of doing marketing activities that will bring in high-value clients, which, in turn, supports the goal of having enough income to pay off debt.

The beauty of the "being" goals is that the only prerequisite is choice. If you choose to be more confident, you can start right now. If you choose to be someone who takes very good care of herself, you start right now.  You'll argue that it's not that simple, but how about giving it a try? Let it be that simple. Take confidence, you could spend a lot of time in therapy understanding why you lack confidence, but in fact, you could also just start where you are and choose to be confident. To act confident. There are resources that can help. Books about self-talk, for example, and you might use tactics like a "brag" book or fan club, but it starts with that clear intention of being confident.

Finally, we get to the title of this post. Who do you want to be?  Take a sheet of paper and write "I am a man/woman who" at the top. Then make a list of everything that comes to mind. Then, yes, you know what's coming. Action. Once you have a list you like, think about how you can start being that person right now. You don't have to write anything down on a calendar, you don't have to make an announcement. We aren't talking "resolutions". Just start being exactly who you want to be, in every small and large way possible.

As you walk out of whoever it was that you were being before you decided who you want to be, you might make some misteps; you might think the shoes don't fit. Or- you might find that you're much more comfortable than you expected. Either way, you get to choose who you want to be every moment of every day. What an excellent way to start a new year- being just who you want to be!

Happiest of new years to you, dear reader.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's Your Word of the Year?

The New Oxford Dictionary announced "unfriend" as its word of the year for 2009. You can hear the NPR story online. It's worth listening- the very short discussion includes a list of words that didn't make the cut, including my favorite, "trampstamp".  (having to do with a tatoo in a particular location)

Enough about anyone else's word of the year, what I'm interested in is YOURS. If you had to choose one word for 2009, what would it be? The New Oxford Dictionary chooses their word "to reflect the ethos of the year...".  What word do you choose?

There are lots of definitions of ethos on the Web, the one I'll refer to here is "the distinctive spirit of a culture or an era", from a Princeton University resource.  What word reflects the distinctive spirit of 2009 as you experienced it?

Sometimes a bit of reflection lights an area you hadn't seen before. Sometimes it lights a bump in the road or a new path. Try it. If you find yourself with a bit of time for thought, invest it in thinking about your "word of the year" for 2009.

Of course, you know what's coming - can you see any candidates in the works for your "word of the year" for 2010?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Doing what's right AND still doing well for yourself!

Do you ever discount your fees if you think someone can't afford them? You know they need a good lawyer like you, but they just can't pay your full fee? First- thank you for your dedication. I'm blown away by your compassion. Second- I'd love to give you a way to continue to do what you think is right at the same time you do what's right for you.

I always say that work funds your life. Your law practice provides a return to you in the form of time and money. Think about that. You invest your time and your practice returns free time and income.  The choices you make about specialty, clients served, office space, pricing, leverage, etc., drive the amount of time you work or don't, and the amount of money you make.

The investment management world is where the return on investment conversation started. What if you think of your work time as an investment portfolio? You invest your time, expecting a certain return. That's your business plan. If you put pro bono or discounted fee work into perspective as a planned PART of your practice portfolio, then you can be very intentional about the amount you do and how it impacts the overall portfolio return.  Sticking with the investment analogy, you're going to fund your discounted work with the higher returns on your full-fee work. You manage the mix, or asset allocation, to make sure that the average rate of return meets your requirements. You feel fairly compensated for the amount of time you spend working.

Putting the notion into practice, you need to know how much of your work capacity is available at any time at a discounted price. If the amount of time you choose to invest in the discounted work is booked- then you either decline or delay the prospective client who can't pay full fee. When time available at a discount opens up, then you can take more work at the discounted rate. Otherwise, your focus remains making sure your full-fee capacity stays booked solid so that you can afford to fund that discounted work!

One of the reasons I love working with lawyers is that you are genuinely committed to service. What I want for you is to be able to be of service at the same time you make a good living. It's all about being intentional and at choice. If you choose to discount your work for worthy causes, that's fine. Just be sure that you manage your work capacity and the allocation of your efforts to  discounted versus full-fee work.

Once again, we're back to the airplane/oxygen mask approach. Follow instructions. Be sure to take good care of yourself first, so that you're around to take care of any others who may need your help.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Missing a "Fake" Deadline Can Have REAL Consequences

Have you ever postponed a deliverable or delayed a court date because you weren't ready? Even though you had plenty of lead time? I can't tell you how often I've heard lawyers talk about blowing through internal deadlines because they weren't "real". I'd like to ask for a shift on that perspective- any deadline you set in order to ensure that you complete a task is real. There's no such thing as a fake deadline.

If you have a deliverable with a beginning and an end, it's a candidate for "projectizing". What I mean by that is to break the final product into smaller chunks and establish milestones for completing these mini-deliverables. In addition to milestones, you need to block time on your calendar to get the work done.

The only way to be sure you'll deliver on time is to estimate what work needs to be completed, and when. Establish internal deadlines and manage to them if you want to meet your external deadlines. Take them seriously, the consequences of missing them are all too real!