2017 is in the bag, folks! Let’s pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Round of applause and pop the champagne.
It’s time get ready for a brand-spanking-new 2018. We at Rocket Matter are big planners, and here’s how we suggest you achieve greatness in the new year.
1. Have an Offsite Meeting with your Strategic Thinkers
In order to gain the proper understanding of your business (and your law firm IS a business), you have to see it from outside, not from within. Leaving the office for a day or two is like climbing a mountain and surveying the view. You gain a perspective you don’t normally have when you’re consumed with the day-to-day struggles of your office.
You can employ tools like a SWOT analysis to help you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. An annual offsite is also the ideal time to set revenue goals, evaluate your collection effectiveness, and identify star performers and weak links on your staff.
For more information on how to conduct an offsite planning meeting, please take a look at our previous posts, “Leadership for Lawyers: How to Conduct a Strategic Planning Meeting”, “Why an Offsite Retreat is Incredible for your Law Firm” or listen to our companion podcast episode.
✔ DO: Keep in mind the year will fly by!
✔ DO: Have structured exercises for extracting goals and information.
X DON’T: Be aggressive but not overly ambitious with your goal setting, especially if you’re new to this.
2. Put Your Strategic Plans into Actionable Goals with Quarterly Rocks
People love generating ideas, but when it comes to executing them, the glamour quickly fizzles. It’s important therefore to translate your brainstorm generated by your valuable time investment into actionable items.
First, for all minor takeaways, make a list of who will do what when. It’s important not just to list your to-do’s but to assign ownership and a timeframe for them as well.
For the larger items, you need “Rocks.”
Rocket Matter employs a quarterly set of Rocks, popularized by business coach Verne Harnish in his books Scaling Up and Mastering The Rockefeller Habits (Scaling Up is the rebooted version of Rockefeller Habits and we highly recommend it if you’re having trouble with execution.)
Quarter-by-quarter, starting with the first one coming out of your annual planning, identify three to five goals that will move you toward your annual priorities. The top (number one) rock is sacred: it should be achieved at all costs. Post your rocks around your office so that they’re always top of mind.
Then, on a quarterly basis, come up three to five more Rocks, also ideally at an offsite meeting, and repeat the process.
Here’s an example of one of our Rock posters from 2015. As you can see, we like to have our graphic designer have fun with a theme for the quarter.
✔ DO: Make sure your quarterly goals steer you towards your annual initiatives.
X DON’T: Commit to more than five quarterly goals. You only have 13 weeks to achieve them.
3. Identify Waste in Your Office and Make Plans to Eliminate It
Every quarter, we recommend identifying what practitioners of Lean call muda, or operational waste (shameless plug: my book on The Lean Law Firm will be published by the ABA in March). It’s important to identify which of your processes is wasting time or other resources. Some places to start:
- Are you paperless? If you’re still retrieving paper files and printing things out, this is not only a huge waste of time but limits your ability to work remotely. (For help on going paperless, please see our recent webinar recording.)
- Have you embraced electronic invoices or are you still printing, folding, stuffing, stamping and sending your bills?
- When you create a new pleading or other legal form, are you finding an example file and “find and replacing” the text you need, or have you embraced document automation?
- Are you able to perform most of your administrative work from your iPhone or Android?
- Do you have to manually create every deadline for a new matter or are you using an automated court rules program?
- What is the ROI (return on investment) for the different marketing channels you’re spending your money on? Should you reallocate your spend to the higher performing ones and drop the bad ones?
✔ DO: Start noticing wasteful processes as you go about your day-to-day activities.
X DON’T: Allow stubborn employees to dictate what you’re going to make more efficient. Sometimes they are defending their own jobs or importance at your firm.
4. Consider Firing Your Worst Clients
We love our customers, and we’re sure you do as well. However, it is common to find yourself spending extra resources on one bad apple, whether it is your time, money, or mental well being that offsets the benefits of working with him or her.
Your quality of life can greatly improve and your time can be freed up by getting rid of bad clients. They might be verbally abusive. They might demand services for little or no money. They might not heed your advice and cause major headaches for you. They might not respect your schedule and make unreasonable demands at 11pm on a Tuesday.
You can fire a client outright, or you can set new expectations that may cause them to leave on their own. One way of doing this is to raise your rates or to start charging for services your bad client is used to receiving for free. Either the situation will become more equitable or your client will find the door themselves.
✔ DO: Realize that your life and business can be better without certain clients.
If you can look forward to a 2018 devoid of your worst clients, with an actionable strategy and an iterative approach to reducing your inefficiencies, we think you’re going to have a great year indeed.