Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!

The subject of this blog post is a great quote from Oscar Wilde. And it rings true because it is better to be an honest version of yourself than a fake version of someone else. Everyone has heard the saying “fake it till you make it,” but being yourself from the start will get you farther in life.

Many people in our society have people they want to emulate, many times only seeing the public image and knowing nothing about the person. It could be a musician, an actress, a politician, or someone else in the public eye. But it also could be a professional or an entrepreneur. It can be about something specific or superficial, like how someone dresses, the type of car they drive or how their hair looks. It also can be bigger picture or innate qualities people are drawn to, like attitude, dealing with others or how you carry yourself.

Instead of trying to be exactly like someone you look up to, find qualities in others that you like or are drawn to and try incorporate them into your life. It may or may not work because it may or may not be who you are. And that is the goal, to discover and be the best you. This is what will give you the best chance at success personally and professionally.

A good way to do this is to find a good mentor to help you be a better you. By this, I mean you can seek guidance that will help you to carve out your own style or way of doing things. People will remember you if you do things your own way, well, along with your positive unique characteristics. If you are similar to someone else in my world there is a good chance I will remember that person before you. If you are your own unique self it is more likely I, and other people, will remember you.

This may or may not matter to you in your personal life, but it does for most of us in our business life. You know “out of sight, out of mind.” You will be more successful if you dance to your own drummer and are someone who comes to mind. So embrace your similarities and differences to other, including what you are passionate about, and be yourself!

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The 2015 version of why it is time for an annual “checkup” for you and your company

Last year, many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I received last year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Other said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Most of you were busy with the holidays and all that it entails, and probably ignored my advice. To be honest, any of these responses is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where the risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes, i.e. to find out whether my wife sand I need to send the IRS a check before the end of the year.

This year I had a reminder of a different kind. My wife and I are having an issue with a vendor related to our home. In speaking with a client earlier this week who is in the same business, I learned that we have been over-charged for the last few years and likely will be able to lower the cost for the service in question. With the time constraints of life, it is sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup to things like home vendors, but it actually all is the same. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world,  it expands the question of who to check in with at year end to possibly include shopping rates for vendors for your home or business too.

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying the cleaning service at your office or your lawn guy for your home too much? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely!

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it last year, here is my blog post from last year on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

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Don’t Let Your Communication be an Illusion; Communicate to be Understood!

Communication is a singular important matter in all contacts between people. But it does not always happen in a way leading to understanding on the same level between the participants in the conversation. This is high-lighted by a quote that I like:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw

Do the people you communicate with understand what you are trying to convey? If you think so, how do you know? Odds are the communications are not as clear as you think.

That is because it takes more than just you speaking. It also takes the other person listening fully. And it takes the other person understanding what you said.

Think about yourself. When someone is speaking with you, are you listening or thinking about what you are going to say next. If you are thinking about what to say next, you are not listening fully. If so, it is likely you will miss something the other person wants you to know and understand.

Listening fully is challenging whether in person or on the phone. In person you may be able to tell someone is not understanding or listening to you based on their responses (or lack of responses!) and body language. How can you tell on the phone? Maybe by the response. Or do you hear typing or mouse clicks, signaling the person on the other end of the line is focused on something on their computer, not what you are saying.

So actual communication where both people listen and understand each other is hard. This is true in business and at home. You can ask questions to make sure the other person understands what you are saying. Or at home, you can ask your child to stop texting while the two of you talk! And, you should look at how you listen in live conversations or over the phone to make sure you are not missing anything.

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Treat your clients’ money as if it were your own

So my firm has a unique culture, as do all businesses. But the difference at my firm is that we have captured the essence of our firm in 21 fundamentals we call The JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). These are the foundation of our business and inform how we operate from how we deal with clients to who we hire, whether attorneys or staff.

Today I am focusing on one fundamental: Treat clients’ money as if it were your own. Yes, I know this makes sense, but doing it is not always the obvious choice. The easiest example of this in my world involves litigation. A partner of mine is known to say: We can ride to court in a Honda or a Cadillac. In some situations a client may only be able to afford the Honda. Of course this means having difficult conversation at the front end to determine what your client or customer can afford and how that relates to what they want to do.

If that is the case, you then have to figure out whether it is possible to provide outstanding legal advice and service that will meet your client’s expectations going to court in the Honda. If not, or if a potential client is looking for a luxury ride they cannot afford, the best thing I can do is decline the representation because odds are I cannot realistically meet their expectations.

For me, when a client is on a litigation budget, that means thinking about overall costs for a representation and what can be done to try and work within a given client’s budget or financial limitations. For example, it could mean taking a close look at larger litigation expenses such as depositions and only taking some, but not all possible, depositions. Or, on smaller expenses it may mean sending a demand by snail mail and email, but not having it hand delivered or served.

I am sure there are ways in your business to shave both smaller and larger amounts from what you are doing for your clients or customers on a specific deal or project. Or maybe it is looking at administrative expense and overhead in your business. Maybe there is a bigger picture change you can make that will result in savings you can pass on.

The fact is that by treating our clients’ money as if it were our own, as well as following the other fundamentals of The JW Way for a number of years, it has lead my firm to great overall business decisions and great hiring decisions regarding people who fit into our culture, as well great and continuing success. This in turn has resulted in my firm being able to meet and exceed the goals of our clients and avoid sending invoices that provide sticker shock; Your client doesn’t want the invoice for the Cadillac if you discussed the Honda.

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Why you need to learn about BYOD

Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “What is BYOD and why do I need to learn about it?” The answer is because it is 2015 and each of us is carrying around a computer in the form of a phone in our pocket or purse, not to mention all of the iPads, Surfaces, laptops, etc. So what exactly is BYOD?

BYOD is the acronym for “bring your own device”, which refers to employees who bring their own computing devices into their workplace. This is an issue for a lot of reasons, and is important to both employers and employees. The issues include whether personal devices can connect to an employer’s secure network, an employer’s confidential information or trade secrets leaving the workplace on a device or whether employees’ devices are subject to search by the employer, let alone being remotely wiped (erased) to prevent sensitive information from potentially being lost or used improperly. If you are an employer, do you know what type of devices your employees bring to work and how they are using them? If you are an employee, do you know whether your employer has a BYOD policy, what it says and what your rights and obligations are under that policy?

Because of these issues, BYOD policies by employers are becoming quite common. Employers need to decide whether to implement a BYOD policy and their options in setting the terms of such a policy. Employees need to understand their rights and the rights of their employer under those policies. The options on how to deal with these issues vary, and what makes sense depends on the type and size of a business.

If you haven’t heard of BYOD before now, you will continue to hear about it in the future. And you will want to know about it no matter what side of the equation you are on to understand your rights, responsibilities and obligations.

So, for the first time in this blog, I have what I will refer to as a shameless self-promotion: My partner Laura Rogal and I will be speaking on BYOD issues at the Apple Store, Biltmore (https://www.apple.com/retail/biltmore/) at 8:00 a.m. on October 28, 2015. And please feel free to forward this invitation (BYOD Event 10-28-15) to anyone you think may be interested.

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You must take action to expand your network and control your destiny

So my question to you is are you green and growing or ripe and rotting? No, you are not a vegetable or a piece of fruit, but you either are taking action to improve yourself and your business or you are not. The difference is like that between talk and action. Knowing what to do and doing it are not the same.

You also need to think about whether whatever your doing is achieving your desired results. If not, why do you keep doing it?

If all I can do is write about what to do, but not do it, that is to my detriment. Sure, I like writing on these type of topics, which is why you are reading this today. But my goal is not to be a writer, but an attorney who is constantly trying to expand his network and develop meaningful relationships with the people I deal with. By doing so I have better control over my professional path and create opportunities.

One of the things I like best about what I do is meeting and working with all different types of people including other attorneys (really), accountants and other professionals, business owners, and many others. The diversity in the people I deal with keeps me engaged, interested and energized to keep networking. It keeps me trying new things in my effort to expand my network and develop interesting work for me and my colleagues. I always say if we were all the same the world would be a boring place, which I truly believe.

So are you the ripening banana looking better day by day or the old one on the counter no one wants to touch? It may only be a  metaphor, but it is true that you either are improving yourself or not. If you do not do so you are destined to the life of the worker bee, which is not necessarily a bad place to be. But if you want to be higher up the food chain, no matter if it is in your profession, your company, or your industry, start by expanding your network and see where it can take you.

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You must have substance because reputation matters in the long run

You might be able to baffle people with you know what initially, but it won’t last if you are all flash and no substance.  If you make a sale by saying the right things, but don’t have the employees or equipment to correctly and timely get the job done, it will be the last time you work for that customer, or anyone that customer tells of your failure. You likely will lose business you will never know you lost. That is how reputation works.

Substance comes a number of ways. It can be through experience, or learning, or building on past successes. But every step you take forward will be lost if you are all smoke and mirrors. The point is not to mislead people about what you can do or your experience.  You may get away with it once in a while, but it will hurt you in the long run.

And therefore you will hurt your reputation. Once your reputation is tarnished, it will follow you for a long time.

So respect yourself. Respect the hard work it takes to become a person of substance. If you do, you are heading in the right direction, and have or are building substance.

 

 

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What will be done eventually should be done immediately. Organize yourself!

Don’t be a sloth! Delay rarely helps in any situation. We know disorganization leads to disaster. It not only can make you late on your commitments, it can adversely affect your business and personal life.

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world that demands that expectations not just to be met, but exceeded. You can do this by setting expectations you know you can meet and hopefully exceed, because you are the one in charge of setting the expectations. Don’t meet them and your clients, co-workers, your boss, will see it as a negative. Why isn’t it done yet? What did you not get to because of your delay on one project?

So how do you do this? It depends on you. Will lists and calendaring items keep you on track to meet or exceed expectations? Do you need another person, an accountability partner, to help keep you on track? There are many tools to better organize and keep on task. You have to know yourself well enough to know what will and won’t work for you. Of course, you then have to put what will work in motion and commit to it.

So what can you do today, this week, this month, to better organize yourself and set yourself up for success on meeting and, hopefully, exceeding expectations? Answer this question, work it and see how it benefits you in business and generally.

If you are not sure where to start, I suggest you find someone you know who is successful and organized and see if they will formally or informally serve as a mentor for you. For insight on mentoring, I suggest you review my recent blog post “Why Mentoring Matters?” http://businesslawguy.com/2015/08/26/why-mentoring-matters/

 

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Why Mentoring Matters

Most of us had a formal or informal mentor, or maybe even more than one, over the years, who helped us along the way. What you learned may have related to your professional life, or to more general life issues, or both. But either way, the importance of a good mentor mentee relationship cannot be ignored.

The basis of the mentor mentee relationship is support and trust. It is an exercise in listening for the mentor because a mentor is more of a facilitator or guide, not simply an instructor. And it is not only the mentee who benefits from the relationship. This relationship helps both parties with their own self-awareness and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. By participating in such a relationship, you evolve in many ways that benefit both parties in the long run.

So, depending on where you are professionally or in life, seek out a mentoring relationship now. It will help you grow as a person and, whether you are the mentor or mentee, allow you to play an important role in another’s story.

If you are not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to me.

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Why commitment matters

You have to do what you say you are going to do. Period. If you don’t, people you deal with will not trust what you say and probably not bring you their business or deal with you in the future.

Part of commitment is trust. Are you overselling just to get the job? What are the odds that if you do, you have any chance to succeed? The answer is simple, slim to none. And once you lose someone’s trust, all is lost.

This doesn’t mean you always will be able to meet your commitments. Once you know you may have a problem meeting a commitment, Let the other party know right away. Things happen. Reset expectations. It really is a situation where honesty is the best policy. It will earn you respect even if the other party doesn’t like the change in schedule or expectations. They will know you are a straight shooter.

But try not to let it happen often, or you run the risk of having the people you deal with doubt the commitments you make.

An example is that I committed, when I started this blog, not to overwhelm your inbox with emails posts. I believe I have stuck to that.

This is my first blog post in a few months. In Arizona, everything seems to slow down during the summer until early to mid-August, when school starts. By then, a lot of people are back from vacation, focused and ready for a good run to the end of the year.

I hope you have had a great summer! Here is to a productive Fall 2015!

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