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Be the have-it-all hero: Achieve Personal Freedom, Great Wealth, and Enviable Happiness as a Law Firm Owner
Live a prosperous purpose-driven life that inspires your family, your employees, and your community to do better and be better... All while spending more time with family, massively growing your financial resources, and ultimately living a life according to your personal plan and desires
Being a hero isn’t easy. It’s not easy to live up to the shiny-eyed expectations of your children, who look to you for guidance and support. Or your spouse, who trusts you to keep the business profitable (and hopefully growing) – and keeps wanting you to find a way to spend more time at home instead of caged in the office. Let’s not forget your employees and clients, who look to you for support and guidance, whether spoken by them or not. It’s a lot of eyes on you, looking at what you will do next.
It’s a life of responsibility and accountability. It’s a life of responsibility and accountability.
That’s the life you and I chose.
It is far more rewarding than the drudgery of living by the schedule someone else creates for you or the pay structure established by a senior partner. We can establish real autonomy and earn money far beyond what most people will ever imagine possible.
I recently spoke with a Great Legal Marketing member who brought home $350,000 out the $1.1 million in revenue his firm made in the year. A happy return on his investment in starting his business by most measures. But it wasn’t the money that made him happiest. Instead, he talked about his Bahamas vacation with his wife – 10 days away in paradise! He shared photos of him and his oldest daughter hiking local trails while she was home from college, which he has been able to pay for without any problems. His son has one more year of high school left, and this lawyer expected to be able to see every single one of his varsity soccer games. (By the way, telling of his overall mindset was the book this lawyer was reading at the time, his fourth time going through his personally notated and heavily highlighted copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.)
That is what I call being a Hero to Your Family, and it’s one of the greatest values I believe any lawyer can have – providing for both the financial and emotional security of your family.
Heroes make the impossible seem effortless.
It is the mom or dad who comes home from a long day at the office and drops the stress at the door to help their kids have a fun and productive evening. There is no “taking it out” on the family, because the hero trains to shed the work environment when arriving home.
It is the law firm owner who shoulders the biggest amount of responsibility and quietly handles the toughest decisions so that employees take home a paycheck and clients’ needs are met. No one knows about the juggling act you handle to keep marketing, operations, and finances all running smoothly... or at least as close to smooth as can realistically be the case when you are in growth mode. (Let’s be honest. There is stress in growing a law firm. Even the best plans encounter obstacles. It is in those moments that the real work of an entrepreneur like you is done – the risk is taken, the plan is followed through with, and you clear the path for success.)
In society at large, we usually talk about heroes as the people who do a surprising one-off task in a heroic manner – the reactive hero. It’s the proverbial chasing down of the thief who took grandma’s purse.
What About the Heroes Who Will Likely Never Receive Recognition?
I am talking about small business owners – especially those who operate as true entrepreneurs, eagerly growing businesses that provide jobs and services for the community. Dan Sullivan would call these proactive heroes.
I know, I know. It sounds trite to some. How believable can it be when I’m about ask you to attend a $2,000 conference? But those who know me get it. These are my heroes. The small business owners more so than the entrepreneurs who have greater name recognition. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Sara Blakely, Mark Zuckerberg. We can and should celebrate the empires they built, but ignoring the massive percentage of jobs created in the United States by small business owners, like law firms, is folly. I think the people who are more likely to be quoted in the local newspaper than show up in national news are who should be named as heroes.
Law firms represent a large segment of those local businesses.
And an underappreciated segment, at that.
Our profession is regularly misrepresented in the news and popular culture. We are shown to be high-power executives cruising around in the fanciest cars with all of us living in multi-million dollar homes. Or we are the scheming consigliere hellbent on getting an obviously evil corporate client through the legal system safely. Or, even worse, we are shown as an impoverished public employee who hustles for clients but is so lost in the job that there is no identity for us outside the work itself. Why can’t we be moms and dads who put the home first, the business second, and the clients third, yet serve each one with passion and dedication? And how about we make a good deal of money in the process? From my position, that seems like a reasonable and worthwhile pursuit. Shame we don’t see that image more often.
I think it’s time to recognize the HERO STATUS of the owners of these firms – people like you.
And here are three ways for you to build your life as a HERO to your family...
3 Success Planning Models
Success isn’t stumbled upon. It is planned for, schemed up, and grabbed by the ear, leading it to your law firm, sometimes kicking and screaming.
Weirdly, planning is often more difficult than we would assume. Well, the activity of planning is easy. We can all sit around and make plans. However, the choosing a path and actually walking down it is much harder.
As Steven Covey detailed in Habit #2 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you must Begin With the End in Mind.
Here are three methods that can help you create THE BIG PLAN to move you forward:
#1: Begin from Your Purpose
To jumpstart this concept, let me share my personal purpose with you. It’s simple: “To provide for the financial and emotional security of my family.” Steal that one if you want to, as long as it is true to you. Don’t use those words if they are merely hollow placeholders before you find what really resonates with you.
Definiteness of purpose is the beginning of all achievement.
- W. Clement Stone
My law firm also has its own purpose statement: “To build a business where people can thrive.”
(Not everyone on my team liked that purpose when we started to settle on those words. It seemed to go against the grain of helping the client. I believe the opposite is true. Our clients thrive when we succeed and vice versa.)
If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily.
- Jack Canfield
In my humble opinion, your purpose should free you to achieve what you really want most in life. It shouldn’t be a limiting statement that becomes an encumbrance or is wielded against you when you make a decision some think is “greedy.” Honor your present and your future by setting a purpose that aligns with what you really want from this one-way journey we have together and the practice you decided to create in the middle of it all. I want a fantastic business that creates opportunities for me, my family, my employees, my clients, and my community. Each group has a different need from the firm, and all are worthwhile.
#2: Begin from Your “Number”
How much money do you want to make?
That’s an honest question. And I’m not going to accept the first thing you say. Why that amount? Why not more?
How are you going to make that money?
Do you want your law firm to operate as a passive financial asset?
And then... how does that number become reality?
The hardest part about deciding on your number is knowing it and never doubting it. This number must be a mental fixed point. You should know it and not waver.
Of course, your personal income number needs to be supported by other numbers, such as revenue of your law firm, broken out into the profit/owner’s share* and passive income from non-law firm sources such as real estate.
*There are different ways people like to examine this number. Some refer to profit as the profit after the owner’s salary. Others include the owner’s salary in there – that’s common when discussing profit margins of professional practices. I’m not here to give you accounting advice.
Then, as Dan Kennedy would say, we just have a math problem.
If you want to make $300,000 per year from a 30% profit on a million-dollar practice, you now need $83,333 per month in revenue. That’s our starting point. How many settled cases, fees generated, and/or hours billed does it take to get there? Multiply that by however much you want as your number.
Money is attracted to those who want it and who will pursue it with clarity – there is no waiting for it to show up.
#3: Begin from Your Lifestyle Design
This has just as much to do with the life you want to live as it does with the business you want to run. As a law firm owner, those things are intertwined.
You need to know not just what you want to do today but what you want your life to look like, 1, 3, 5, and 10 years from now.
At a mastermind meeting in January with the TITANS Mastermind group Charley and I participate in, Yanik Silver asked a question of the group. It was part of what he referred to as his cosmic alarm clock. Here’s what the question was:
“Would you want to be doing from 10 years from now what you are doing today?”
For YOU, I am confident the answer is NO.
Your goals are bigger than putting in the exact same hustle for the exact same dollars for a full decade. You wouldn’t be drawn to Great Legal Marketing if that was the case.
For the last 12 months and continuing through this year, I am scheming up how to take myself even farther out of the law firm. My caseload in the personal injury practice group is next to nothing. I only handle one or two of the highest level, most interesting cases. And that’s going to end fairly soon. More work is required by me in the ERISA long-term disability practice group, but we are working on finding a lawyer to take over the work that technically only a lawyer can do. (The group is run by a senior paralegal who simply can’t do certain things that require a law license.)
Here’s a dirty little secret... and I probably should have told you this up front.
You will use ALL THREE MODELS. As a matter of fact, you must use all three models, because they feed each other. If your number is too low to support the lifestyle you want, then we have a mismatch, and our “end” cannot be achieved.
How to Achieve Your End Goals...
When you know the end you desire, we can go to work building the vehicle to achieve it. Ultimately, your success will come down to a known cycle in business. These rhythms are unavoidable, and growth is dependent on moving through all of them.
Here is what you must master:
Marketing generates clients which bring in revenue.
The revenue is used to fund the operations which delivers on the services promised in the marketing.
And financial information is used to determine the profitability of the operations – a number influenced by the quality and quantity of clients brought in by the marketing.
Law firms can experience this pattern to the extreme, especially when the marketing and operations sections seem to outrun each other at times.
These are the two most common financial models used by law firms. There are inherent problems with them for owners not paying careful attention to them.
For example, many hourly billing firms will wait to “unlock” segments of their operations until the marketing creates a massive demand and hiring another lawyer becomes a surefire win. You end up leaving revenue on the table out of fear of the spending for operations. (You can, as a temporary substitute, raise your rates. I strongly advise you to do this.)
Contingency fee practices have a strange cycle of revenue. Your marketing brings in clients today, but the revenue from those clients could take 6-24 months (or more) to come in. In the meantime, you must have operations capable of handling the work. You may need to hire more people to handle the influx of clients, creating additional overhead while waiting for the resolution of cases to actually pay for those operations costs. It’s a strange cycle, and you must know your finances well in order to project and pay for the needed staff and systems.
Once you know your finances, such as the average value of a client and cost of operations, you can ramp up your marketing even faster, which then creates the operations issue. And then we’re back at the finances segment.
Law firms (and businesses of all types) naturally go through these rhythms.
Of course, the first problem to solve for is MARKETING.
That has remained true from the first days I opened Great Legal Marketing.
Frankly, without marketing, there is nothing else to do. Of course, the operations department will argue the marketing can’t happen without something to deliver. And finance people will say you can’t just spend willy-nilly on marketing and operations – you need control mechanisms.
But I know the root of growing a law firm is the marketing. No question about it.
Now, once you improve your marketing enough, you can focus on the equations to amplify your law firm. It becomes a question of how quickly you can put money back into the marketing and operations to fill your coffers even more.
Again, this all seems so simple...
Then why isn’t owning a business easier?
The fact is that you and I are still human beings. We are deeply flawed, and we often let imaginary obstacles get in our way. We want to know exactly how to do something before we do it. We tell ourselves, “I’m going to wait for when the timing is right.” Or, “I’ll do it right after I...” And then never get around to it.
You and I are rhetorically gifted. It’s how we survived law school and thrived as lawyers.
This gift is also how we can capably dismantle our own aspirations. We can find every problem and cross-examine every opportunity until it seems worthless.
It’s why you need to set aside time to focus ON the business.
I know the concept of working “ON the business instead of IN the business” has been retread by innumerable thought leaders, but that should be telling. You need to hear it time and time again, because it’s easy to get trapped back in the practice. Doing the thing instead of figuring out how to get others to do the thing and free you to build the business.
Even then, the Marketing-Operations-Finance cycle isn’t everything required to grow your law firm. There is one more part of the equation...
The Missing Concept: Working On... Working In... What About You?
While The E-Myth may be exalted for putting the emphasis on growing your business instead of working in it, the book misses a huge opportunity.
Everything keeps focusing on the business. IN the business versus ON the business.
Just as critical to success in your law firm is working ON You. You are the engine of your law firm, and you can get worn out if every bit of your effort is put into just muscling the firm forward. Your mind needs time to relax and consume rather than just create.
People underestimate how much energy you expend as a business owner.
For you and me, there is no clocking out. It’s clocked in, all the time. How about something as simple as the dollars spent for the air conditioning or heating running overnight? It is slowly coming from our coffers, while we sleep.
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”
- Roy Ash
This constantly ON state of mind wears us down.
Some entrepreneurs see this as admirable – almost an end goal itself. The struggle is what makes it all worthwhile. An addiction to burdens. (Often coupled with constant expressions of how weary one is without searching for an answer to the problem.)
You probably don’t operate that way – especially not if you are a member of Great Legal Marketing. You know it’s important to provide relief to your on-the-job mind.
However, it’s not just about rest and relief.
There is a need to train, to develop, to grow. Your mind is like your body.
To care for the mind, you need to do three things: put it to use, rest it as needed, and challenge it to encourage growth – like a muscle.
You can’t create mental growth from going through the same entrepreneurial rigamarole every day, as mentally challenging as it may be. That exhaustion is just an accumulation of fatigue, not a marker of progress. Just like improving your physical capacity, you must stretch yourself past the current working conditions. To lift heavy weights, you must continually lift heavier weight. To run faster, you must push yourself to run faster. Simple to understand, hard to actually do.
To think bigger, you must be pushed to think bigger.
In physical and mental pursuits, it helps to have a trainer encouraging you. Telling you to take one more step, to seek the answer to one more question. And you need resources to maximize the growth, the same way you seek out information and assistance in physical growth. What are all those tubs of whey protein and Vitamin D supplements for, after all?
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
- John A. Shedd
We’ve put all the training and resources in one place for law firm owners who want to work ON both their businesses and themselves...
Great Legal Marketing's Heroes and Icons
October 2 – 4, 2020
Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel
2800 S Potomac Ave, Arlington, VA 22202
Where HEROES Like You Train for Wealth and Success
Lining the walls of the training center at GLM headquarters – and documented in a dozen other places – are stories from real lawyers who found their Hero status.
With remarkable regularity, many of them begin, “After going to the GLM conference...” (event names and dates may vary, but there is no denying a conference has a powerful ability to kickstart new, novel, and innovative thinking, so big transformation often begins there). From there, you will see tales of incomes tripling, firms hitting their first million-dollar year, quadrupling of revenue within 24 months, the ability to hire family members at the practice, vacations finally taken after years of toiling away at a desk, new employees hired, and innumerable lives transformed for the better.
“Having attended [the] Great Legal Marketing conference recently, I know from experience that the things Ben recommends work. And I think the main reason is that Ben Glass is an authentic trial lawyer and understands the unique demands of representing people and running a law firm. Again, I know this from experience. Several years ago, I asked Ben to serve as co-counsel in a significant medical malpractice case in Fairfax, Virginia. We settled with one defendant, tried the case against another and lost. Unlike other local counsel, who seem to specialize in attending status conference; settling trial fates and other light duty assignments, Ben was eager to appeal - writing the brief, arguing the case and ultimately winning on appeal. Every speaker had this same Can-do attitude, so the GLM conference teaches not just the fundamentals of marketing, although there is plenty of that, but a new way of looking at things as well. GLM style marketing and management is different than most of us have seen or used before, but they give you tools to grow your practice as long as you’re willing to put in the work (and they are upfront about this - it is a lot of work). But it’s well worth the investment, as you can tell from the number of repeat attendees.”
- Frank Kearney (Washington, DC / Worker’s Compensation)
“It may seem crazy to fly all the way from Seattle to DC for a two-day conference that I’ve been to before and you don’t even get CLE credits for. But the truth is, I wouldn’t miss a GLM event. I always leave with a fresh action plan for things to implement to grow my firm.”
- Jason Epstein (Seattle, WA / Personal Injury)
“I have moved from a 600 sq ft office... to now a 1,650 sq ft office. Business has exploded, growing from $155,000 to $575,000 last year. We are on track to do over $800,000 for this year.”
- Lee Berlin (Tulsa, OK / Criminal Defense)
“My wife and I have financial security and are planning to purchase a vacation home in the next two years. Since 2014, my gross revenues have more than tripled! I am an entrepreneur lawyer running my own firm, controlling my own destiny, and we are flourishing.”
- Max Meyers (Kirkland, WA / Personal Injury)
“Revenue increased 60% while working less than ever before!”
- Wayne Holcomb (Yorktown, VA / Family Law, Criminal Defense)
“Implementing GLM principles has provided a lot of opportunities for my family. I take time off whenever I want to go do things with my kids; I never miss important school events; and I am always home for family dinner. In fact, I just booked our family vacation for this summer: a 7-night Caribbean cruise!”
- Stacey Barrus (San Antonio, TX / Personal Injury)
“My year-to-date revenue went up 41% over the previous year!”
- Joel Beck (Lawrenceville, GA / Business Law, Estate Planning)
Every one of those lawyers is a CURRENT MEMBER of Great Legal Marketing. Some have been with us for up to 10 years.
All of them share the same growth mindset. And they have all been to one or more of our primary annual conferences.
Those men and women are heroes.
Each one, I’m sure, would testify to being “ordinary.” It’s a testament to their character – being humble in victory is admirable.
However, each one of these entrepreneurs has a willingness to undertake what others won’t:
You’ve heard the line from Uncle Ben to Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” However, that’s just one side of the equation. The other side is for those who haven’t been bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s for those of us whose great power is great responsibility.
Your ability to take responsibility is what sets you apart. It is an underestimated character trait.
You have bigger shoulders than the average person. You have to in order to bear the weight of running a law firm. That is your superpower. But like all great powers, it is a double-edged sword.
It gets tiring to carry those burdens all the time.
It’s why superheroes inevitably team up. They need not just the physical support but moral support of one another. After all, heroes deal with different problems than the average person. You, too, have issues that most people (including most lawyers) don’t understand. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to make payroll for 10 employees until you’ve actually done it. You can’t quite get the pressure of trying to attract more clients, build the operations systems, and monitor the finances until you’ve been there, done that.
To refresh and open your mind to new ways of operating, you have to get away from the day-to-day burdens of your law firm.
HEROES and ICONS is the place to escape the routine and plan your next big move.
More than ever, this will be where you will not only get ideas but build the actual plan and system to achieve those ideas when you get home.