Posts tagged - law

Meeting expectations shows clients you care

I previously have mentioned that my firm has 21 fundamentals that are the foundation of our culture. We call it the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). JW Way #3 is Be Passionate About the Client Experience. Without clients or customers none of us would have a job.

We all have them. Whoever you work for is your “client.” For me, I have clients. You may have customers. If you work at a company and report to an internal higher up, that is your client – if this is you, you may be thinking “Manager Jones isn’t my customer or client,” but if that is who oversees what you do and provides feedback on whether you have met required goals or expectations, they are your “client.”

I am big on meeting or exceeding my client’s expectations. I do this a number of ways, with the focus always being on delivering outstanding legal advice, which happens to be JW Way #1. The day to day situations where expectations come in for me is on deliverables, such as draft letters, agreements or pleadings. If I tell a client I will have a draft letter for their review on Wednesday and I email it on Wednesday, I meet the expectation I set for them. If I send it on Tuesday, I have exceeded the expectation. But if I get it there on Thursday or Friday, I have failed. I would much rather under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Even if you under-promise to make sure you can meet a deadline or expectation, it doesn’t mean you always will be able to do so. When that happens, you know in advance you need more time. So pick up the phone, let your client know and set a new deadline you believe you can meet. Things happen. Of course, if you reset deadlines all of the time, the client will think you either over-promise consistently, don’t manage your time well, always move this client’s work to the bottom of the pile or all of the above. If you do this often to enough clients, you won’t have to worry about time because you likely will be working for fewer clients.

Meeting expectations is an important facet of being passionate about the client experience. When you do this, it shows you care about what you do and your clients. This is the image you should want to project. And, if you are honest with yourself, you know it is what you expect when you are the customer.

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The Facts Matter

A fact is defined as a thing that is indisputably the case or a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article. This is why it is important to know the facts or check facts you hear before relying on them or passing them; don’t simply take them as true.

We live in a world where most people blindly believe what they read on the Internet or hear on television. But facts and truth matter, whether in the news or for you. In my world the facts, and the details related to the facts, make differences as to whether my clients have a chance of success or not in disputes and lawsuits. If I make an unsupported statement in a legal pleading or in court, in addition to not helping my client, I hurt my credibility generally and specifically – judges are smart and remember attorneys who do not support their positions well, let alone make outright misrepresentations in an effort to win for their client.

The idea that facts matters hit home for me recently when ESPN reported that my alma mater’s basketball coach was implicated in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. The story was based on facts that ESPN failed to check, which included alleged wire tapped conversations and what was supposedly discussed in those conversations. But ESPN did not confirm the accuracy of what they were reporting, or its source, before repeating the story over and over again. Instead, less than forty eight hours after the initial report, it is clear that no one at ESPN (or any other news outlet) has heard the tapes and that the “facts” they reported and how they interpreted those facts do not make sense if a simple time line is done. Importantly and interstingly, ESPN has generally been radio silent on allegations since twenty-four hours after they first reported them.

Now, this does not mean the coach did or didn’t do anything improper or illegal, but the damage is done. The University of Arizona has already lost one high-level basketball recruit. It is in a no win situation with the coach because his reputation has been significantly damaged, and therefore so has his ability to recruit top high school players. He may not be able to coach again. If he did something wrong then that is a good result. If he didn’t, his life has been ruined by people reporting hearsay information in a rush to be the first to report the story. How would you feel if happened to you or someone your know?

The point is that you need to make sure you have the facts straight in all situations. Each of our reputations relies on people believing us and relying on what we say. If you have the facts wrong, or don’t take the time to confirm you have them right, you are doing a disservice to the people you are dealing with, whether paying customers or clients, or friends or family. People will question what you say if you ignore the facts, or in some cases, the lack of facts. So always do your best to get the facts straight.

 

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Organization is important

  • Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. ~ A.A. Milne

 

Yes, I just quoted the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. And he is right, which is both obvious and apparent, especially to those of us trying to stay organized. Let’s be honest, it is a constant struggle. You have your business life and your personal life. Some people keep separate calendars for each. Others are like me and keep one calendar for everything lest they miss anything.

And what works for me to stay organized and focused may not work for you, and vice versa. At home, I am having this challenge with my perpetually disorganized twelve year old daughter. At this point in time she fits the old saying “she would lose her head if it wasn’t attached.” In trying to advise her on organization, I have been speaking with her about what I do, and what others have told me they do, because I do not know what will work for her.

So, if you are not naturally organized, do you have a system? For instance, I use calendar reminders that are synced across my work and personal computers and devices, as well as using hand-written “to do” lists or lists I email to myself. What about you? Do you use a different method or combination of methods? Maybe certain software or an app?

As with most things, you should take time every so often to assess your state of organization….or lack thereof. Maybe you are reading this and realizing that your system or methods are failing you and you really are not as organized as you thought. If that is the case, you need to take action because disorganization leads to wasted time and lost money or opportunity. It could be forgetting to connect with the great lead you met last night at an event. Or it could be it causes you to have less time to spend with your family. Whatever it is in your life, disorganization is equivalent to loss.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take time to assess your level of organization. It might be working fine, or maybe it needs a tweak. Or maybe it needs an overhaul. If so, do it sooner than later because it will save you time and lead to time better spent personally and professionally.

And if you think you have a great system or method, please share it with me.

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Change Happens

What is hot tomorrow won’t be forever. Today’s styles and trends likely will have changed by this time next year, if not sooner. You can look no further than general music trends from the ’80’s through now.

Back then rock ruled. Think Queen, Led Zeppelin, etc. Then glam rock became big – think of Guns-n-Roses, Motley Crue and Poison – only to be kicked to the curb by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and grunge rock. After that there was the era of the boys bands, and now pop and rap rule the charts and airwaves. And what artists or bands are popular changes all the time. And always did.

The same happens in the fields we all are in. Change is constant. It may be because of technology, which generally impacts all of us. It may be like in law, where new cases are published by Courts all of the time changing or narrowing the law. Or maybe you are an accountant and deal with the ever-changing tax code. If you think about it and are honest with yourself, you probably can name what has changed in your business in the first half of 2017.

Change actually is what keeps things interesting. In our evolving world, either continually adapt or get out of the way of those of us who do.

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Teamwork is necessary

No one really makes it on their own. Everyone is part of a team, whether internally at their business or with partners at other businesses. Anyone who thinks their success is only attributable to their own actions is mistaken and myopic.

You need to know your colleagues. Does this mean you have to be best friends with everyone and know everything about them? Of course not. But it does mean you need to know more than their name and which office they are in.

For what I do, I need to know the practice areas of other attorneys at my firm. If not, how do I serve my clients and referrals generally and when they have needs outside of my practice area? I can’t, and then I lose and my firm loses, because I can miss valuable cross-marketing opportunities.

It sounds so simple: you need to know the services your business provides. It is easier in some businesses than others. In mine, it means I need to remember a lot of information or be organized enough to access it or know who to asks in a given situation. And when I need to ask, it is another time being on a team helps.

Internal teamwork also fosters trust and collaboration. Sometimes you are the quarterback running the offense and sometimes you are the receiver catching the ball from a leader or supervisor and running with it. If you do not have an effective team, there is a better chance the ball is dropped, which reflects badly on your business.

Of course teamwork can lead to situations where some people get more credit than others, even where other members of the team were necessary and did the actual legwork that resulted in the credit or accolades. Good leaders recognize those who lift them up and enable the recognition. Most of the time you see someone getting recognition or an award, there is a group of people behind him or her who are responsible. And without their teamwork, the project being recognized likely would have gone nowhere.

So remember that every member of your team is impactful and has a role to play because team work is the rule, not the exception.

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We all are salespeople

I wanted to go to law school, but knew for sure after an interview with Pitney Bowes. The interviewer asked me to sell him widgets. I never tried to close the deal, so you can imagine the result of the interview. In addition to thinking law was interesting, I thought I was going into a profession that didn’t require selling. I was wrong.

In law you can sell or not. But if you don’t, others will control your destiny, not you. It is the same in many professions and businesses. It is the difference between leaders and others.

I learned to sell through sheer force of will and the help of many great mentors. All these years in I continue to listen to others to try continuously learn how to do it better.

So set goals and takes steps if being better at selling will improve your career. If I can figure out, so can you.

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Be on time

Be on time. Yes, it is that simple. Everyone’s time is valuable. We all have one more thing we can do before walking down the hall for that scheduled meeting or leaving to make it on time to that lunch meeting. What this really boils down to is that we all need to honor our commitments.

When you show up late you are saying “what I was doing is more important than being on time for you.” If it is worth scheduling, it must be worth showing up on time, right? If not, then you need to question why you scheduled the meeting. Sometimes it is not your choice and those above you require you to attend yet another meeting you think is a waste of time.

If that is the case you should think about what you are saying to your superiors by showing up on time or not (or not paying attention such as checking your phone…). If you are not showing up on time you may on purpose or by mistake be sending a non-verbal message about what you think. And that may stick in the mind of your superior and will it affect your ability to move up through the ranks in the future? Do you want to take that chance?

Like him or loathe him, Woody Allen has a great quote on this: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Again, it is simple: be on time.

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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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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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