Generating Business Isn’t Rocket Science. It Just Takes Work.

by Revision Legal

Revision Legal

Over the last five years, I have generated millions of dollars in business for our firm from a remote location in northern Michigan with a poor legal economy. This is not an exaggeration—I just ran the report through our internal accounting system. My ability to punch beyond my weight has afforded us the ability to add staff and attorneys and to take risks that we otherwise would not have been able to take without cross-subsidization. The clients that I have generated aren’t one-offs, either; they have allowed me to work on projects that are genuinely interesting. They have included foreign venture capital deals, specialized outsourced counsel for publicly traded companies, outsourced counsel for Silicon Valley companies, and litigation—a ton of litigation in federal courts around the country and, in some cases, in courts around the world.

Attorneys of all ages often remark to me, “You’ve done so much in such a small amount of time” or “I don’t think I could ever go on my own like you have.” But the process to generate business is very simple, and most people can’t do it because they really don’t want to work this hard. Generating business requires time, persistence, and patience. It requires long-term game plans that when analyzed closely appear to the outside observer to be a million baby steps. It requires sacrificing your time, money, and, often, privacy.

These are the four things that I can safely say have gotten me from taking new client calls on a burner cell phone in a friend’s back yard to here, whatever here is.

1. Be active and present

I have a deep secret. I would always rather be at home spending time with my wife and kid. I would like to spend time after work watching television. I would love to participate in Wednesday-night sail racing again. But, instead, I have committed to being active and present both inside and outside of my community so that I can continue to meet people, observe, and reflect on my observations.

It is incredibly important to be active in your community so that you can understand who has needs that can be met by your business and to ensure that those people understand that you are a competent and reasonable human being capable of solving those needs. And, when I say community, I don’t just mean your local community. For the purposes of our business, my community extends across the world and consists of local boards, national boards, trade groups, friend groups, and others.

Collaborating with others on meaningful projects within your community builds social bonds and creates deep friendships that will continue to be economically productive for you throughout your entire life. There is nothing better in the world than face time—it is my religion. I’ve flown across the world just so that I could get face time with people whose company I enjoy, and I make it a point to schedule my vacations in places where I can connect with people who will not only lead to more business for our firm, but who I find to be doing inherently interesting things.

It also helps to have a good relational memory so that you can provide value to your friends and associates outside of selling them whatever it is that you are selling. My mind works a bit like the combination of a Hogwarts sorting hat and LinkedIn, and my friends often make fun of me because I act like some sort of wheeling and dealing (no fee) business broker who knows everyone at every time. But, because I have a good relational memory, I know who can provide my friends and clients with the skills, capital, or services that they need to grow their businesses. Many of my small clients have become big clients because I have made the connections that they have needed to facilitate their growth, and they, in turn, have used our firm again for more complex and lucrative projects. So, while I’m not getting paid to be a business broker, I am getting paid (more) to make sure that my clients are successful.

2. Be communicative

No one will ever know that you are good at what you do unless you tell them about your successes. No one will ever believe that you are good at what you do unless you tell them about your failures. Yes, I love to talk about things that our firm is doing. Yes, I am extremely annoying on social media when I get excited and promote the good things that our firm is doing. But I don’t know of any other way to let people know that they should use us. If you are really good at what you do, people should know it. And, if they doubt your noise, support it with actual results.

A note: I have never cold called a client. Maybe that is a mistake, but I find it to be extremely cheesy. I even find the old, “Can I buy you a coffee” cheesy. I have a running list of clients that I would like to work with, so maybe I should try it, but I’ve always found that, if you are good at what you do, they will find you provided you are present and communicative.

3. Under promise and over deliver

There is a huge difference between marketing and performance, and I’ve always found that it is better to under promise and over deliver. There is nothing worse than being sucked in by some stupid, over-promised marketing pitch only to find that the delivered product is not what was advertised. In the case of services, and especially legal services, I’ve found that the way to under promise and over deliver is very simple: produce work that is more valuable to your client than what has been paid.

To further increase the feeling of value, I’ve also found that it pays to provide your clients with an experience that is unmatched by any other firm. Whether it is the communication methods that we use, the level of transparency that we provide, or the folders that we put our trademark registration certificates in when we mail them to our clients, I want the client to feel the same feeling of quality as they feel when they are unboxing a new MacBook Pro. We aren’t there yet, but that is the goal that we are trying to achieve when we build our internal processes and client-facing communications.

4. Be a decent person

I have a hard time with this. On the one hand, my wife thinks I’m an inherently decent person. On the other, I’m an attorney.

Really, it doesn’t take much to be a decent person to your clients. As a general rule, we bill our clients for things that provide them with objective value. We don’t bill for meaningless or short communications. When we are wrong, we tell them that we are wrong. When we’ve screwed up, we directly and clearly explain how and why. Open and honest communication goes a long way.

Being a decent person, and being in business in general, means that you may lose money sometimes. Two recent experiences come to mind.

We had a client that was pulled into frivolous litigation against its will. We quoted this client a flat fee for an aspect of the litigation because we knew that it was on a limited budget. The costs of litigation, as they often do, exceeded that flat fee by approximately $8,000. We could have pushed that cost onto the client—that ability was outlined in our legal services agreement. Instead, we wrote a check to cover the costs because the client’s belief, whether stated or unstated, was that it would not be subject to this additional cost. Did it hurt? Sure, we are a small business. But, whatever, that happens.

We had another client recently who needed some corporate work done. Unfortunately, a few days after this client came in, my mom passed away and I didn’t have a chance to put someone else onto the project. After two weeks of no communication, this client was obviously upset, so, because being in business means being a decent person, we refunded its money and provided the project for free. Sure, I could have given it an excuse (really, probably one of the better excuses that could be given), but no one wants to hear excuses. Sometimes, you just have to lose money to ensure that you retain goodwill.

It costs money to be a decent person, but that is OK.

This isn’t rocket science. These may not be the only things that you need to do to land, keep, and retain clients, but it is what I’ve done. It takes a lot of work, but everything worthwhile takes a lot of work. Stop reading this and get to work.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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