Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Collective Link on Business Networking

The blog linked here does not give an immediate clue as to the author but he/she liked what I had to say about starting a conversation at a business networking event. After taking a look at the blog I liked that the author was collecting and offering great tips on business networking. Have a look for yourself.

Is It All for One or One for All?

For a couple of generations the attorneys at my firm have gone to market individually. As individuals they were each smart, savvy, and darn good at lawyering... So in time the firm boasted many outstanding clients, each linked to mostly a single attorney. The firm, under this generational influence of all-for-one, did flourish. (I can hear it so softly in the background... tick, tick, tick goes the clock of change that can surprise us all.) All-for-one means "everything I do I do for me."

An indicator of "the way things are" is the partner-associate ratio which sits at one-to-one (50-50). That means the partners are doing most of their own work. If they can't handle the load they are more often choosing not to take on additional work. Interesting.

With regard to the marketing of the firm this influence has led to the support of scores of small charities, events, and associations that are beneficial to one but less desirable as a means of promoting "the firm".

My proposed 2006 marketing budget, in support of the brand refurbishment I've been working on for six months, goes in an entirely new direction. And, to be honest, I do know that I am proposing not only to rock the boat, but to turn it keel side up, permanently. Do you think there might be a little chaffing going on? I suspect there are those that would like to use the keel of their boat to drag me across....

But I DO believe that one-for-all is the way of the future (one-for-all means "everything I do I do for us.") The numbers indicate that in my market we may still be the gorilla but we are not feared or competitively respected. My new plan is to focus on reasserting ourselves as the undisputed leader. But that means big picture messages and support spent on opportunities for many; Not one. It means giving up personal favorites (with regard to spending) and supporting what may be better for all.

The budget meeting (number two) is in 10 days. Given the results and murmurs from the the last one I still have a lot of work to do in building a business case for change. If you have experienced this cultural change and were successful I would sure love to hear how you turned the corner.
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Add Jeff Black to the Blogsphere

Jeff finally (insert knowing sigh here) put up a blog (here) for publishing his thoughts and observations about business relationships and network/client development. I have posted many of his articles titled "A Relationship Story". As a consultant with Orange County's standout executive search firm, McDermott & Bull Jeff spends every day immersed in building personal relationships in business on both sides of every deal.

Be a pal would ya; go knock on his blog door and welcome him to the club.

Friday, December 23, 2005

How to Have a Great Conversation

On my Google homepage I track WikiHow, a repository of how-to knowledge on everything and anything imaginable. Today one of the featured contributions is "How to Have a Great Conversation" initiated by Lillian Angelovic. Her advise is remarkably simple and sound. Read for yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Law Firm Holiday Card Update

I am happy to report that the Holiday Card we sent out this year has been quite the success. I've actually had partners stop by my office to report that clients have called to compliment the card (a first for them), and, I have recieved requests for original-sized prints of the art for framing and display in homes and offices. To that end I am having a limited run printed, numbered by the artist, and sold. Imagine that, holiday cards that will directly earn their keep.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Thinking Reborn

I have lamented in the past that our current society no longer possesses a class of great thinkers in the ilk of Plato, Epicuris, Dewey or Rand. With so much to do and little time to do it the great minds of our time remain undiscovered for lack of time to ponder and explore. BUT...

Blogging has rekindled thinking as an art. A few days ago, the father of the internet, Sir Timothy "Tim" John Berners-Lee, joined the blogsphere. Totally cool. We get to "listen" to the mind of Sir Tim. Countless others that have proven their genius are blogging as well; Personal journals that reveal latest thoughts, new ideas, and philosophical imagination. Totally, wonderfully, cool.

What can this mean to a law firm? Everything! I believe a law firm blog can be more than a traditional legal newsletter chopped into little bite-sized posts. It can be a place where new thinking is revealed and the authors (attorneys) explore what might be less than traditional.

Posting on a blog is about thinking out loud. A new law goes in effect or a decision is passed down. An attorney can explore the ripple of such things, and maybe even suggest new directions; new ideas.

I like blogs because people are thinking out loud. Something that has not happened all too well in this generation. I have hopes that the legal blog my firm is about to roll out will add to the "thinking" we are only just rediscovering.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Relationship Story Survey Results

In November I posted an article by Jeff Black of McDermott & Bull Executive Search in which he challenged his readers to answer one question on honesty in business. Today I am happy to post the results of what Jeff learned from his readers. Enough said by me... Read on.

A Relationship Story: Honesty and Success – Poll Results

Thanks friends for taking time to offer your thoughts. I received 100+ responses, and I definitely consider that a representative sample of our community and a real reflection of our version of "Conventional Wisdom". As a reminder, the question was:

On a 0% - 100% scale, from dishonest (0%) to honest (100%), what is the average % for successful people? (If you missed the November story that posed the question, just email me and I'll send it).

Now I knew this had the potential to be a trick question, and a lot of people commented on the lack of clarity. But that’s really part of the learning process here, as you’ll see. I did not know what nugget of wisdom was going to come from this exercise when I asked the question, but I just knew it would be very interesting, and sure enough it was.

The first reassuring result was that 92% of the answers were above 50%, and 70% were at 75% or above. So we know that the vast majority have a positive view of the correlation between honesty and success. Whew, our hopes for society are not lost! But then it got interesting.

After reviewing the results and the comments, I discovered the "trick" in the question, and that is what I found most intriguing. "Success" had not been defined, so it was left up to everyone’s interpretation, thus giving us a glimpse into the prevailing Conventional Wisdom about people’s perception of success. Some mentioned that their answer would differ based on the definition of success, for instance, the number would be lower if only considering financial success. This is not a surprise to anyone, I’m sure.

However, what I found most compelling was that 10% of the respondents unequivocally answered 100% to the question. Their definition of success required that a person must be honest. Any level of dishonesty was a disqualifier. Now forgive me if you think I was being tricky, but I didn’t plan this or know what would come from it (I'm clearly not that smart). I did, however, find that this single aspect of the data taught me more than anything else.

It means is that our Conventional Wisdom, at a 90% rate, accepts some level of dishonesty in the definition of success. In our Machiavellian world, I expect that is also not too much of a surprise, and in fact I’m afraid my own answer was similarly affected by convention. However, the message that I take away is that there is a higher standard that can be applied when viewing others (and ourselves), and it differs from the Conventional Wisdom of our times. I ask you, what’s wrong with us joining the 10% who just don’t accept dishonesty?

I hope you’ll all accept these thoughts as my gift for the holiday season. I hope it can become part of your New Year’s resolutions, as I plan for it to be part of my own.

In the words of Epictetus, the ancient stoic philosopher who is the ultimate anti-Machiavellian: "The only prosperous life is the virtuous life". Words to live by. I welcome your thoughts and comments. Thanks!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all.

Book Recommendation: The Art of Living by Epictetus

Note from Bruce: Jeff Black is a respected member of the Southern California business community and a successful search professional for McDermott & Bull, Inc. a retained executive search firm based in Irvine, California. M&B specializes in recruiting difficult-to-find and critical talent for its clients and is the fastest growing executive search firm in Southern California.
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I am a Marketing Genius

I took the marketing IQ test (link provided by Harry Joiner via Larry Bodine to Copernicus Marketing) at was ranked as a "Marketing Genius" (test results below). G0 figure! I did get one wrong so my perfection balloon does have a git of a tear in it. What struck me about the questions was that they were worded in a such a way as to challenge common marketing knowledge. I leave it up to you to you to take the test and let me know what you think.
You scored 95% (19 out of 20 correct).
Your IQ: 152
You ARE: A marketing genius
150-160: A marketing genius
130-149: A guru, a maven
110-129: An up-and-coming consultant
90-109: A seasoned professional
70-89: A typical marketer
50-69: A death-wish marketer
30-49: An incompetent
11-29: Dangerous to your company
0-11: Guilty of malpractice

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Law and Strategic Advantage

Think "law firm client enhancement" and "working WITH your clients". Read this.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Law Firm Marketing and the Fireplace Mantel

Lessons come in many ways if we but pause to learn. Today I built a fireplace mantel from scratch for a friend that turned out quite well. Better than well... It looked great. I had only the idea in my head of how I would make all of the parts (not the best way to build anything); How I would attach each part to the growing mantel; How to make the curves work and help the seams disappear. It is not completely done yet. It needs another coat of stain to deepen the color and then two coats of satin finish, but it is built and I am proud. My friend is beside herself at the beauty of it and, it is exactly what she wants to fit the look and feel of the room it will be mounted in.

So what is the lesson you ask? The lesson is being fulfilled to use what I know to accomplish what is perfect for someone else. If it were my mantel it would have looked quite different. But the goal was not to build "my" mantel. It was to build hers.

As a legal marketer I sometimes take too much ownership of the programs and ideas I bring to life as if it was only for me. It is not. At my firm there are scores and scores of attorneys that need to feel that what is said and done represents them. A suit they can wear.

I need to remember I am a craftsman capable of creating great marketing stuff even when it is not exactly what I would make for myself. My joy comes in creating things that work and run seamlessly; created in the knowledge that it took me to do it.

A lot of disharmony for marketers in law firms is created by thinking, "I know better, why won't they listen?" I know that results mean a lot, but pride in craftmanship means something too.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

If You Can Hear the Sound of My Voice...

At a business social last night the hosts and sponsors ran up against a very common problem when it was time for them to say a few words and announce the winners of the silent auction they were running. No one was listening. Giant clusters of people all over the ballroom just kept on talking; the din loud enough that even with a sound system the emcee was barely heard.

It happens time and time again at networking events. All talk, no listening.

Four years ago I witnessed an emcee that knew what to do. He stepped to the mic, smiled at the blissfully buzzing audience of several hundred, and said, "If you can hear the sound of my voice please turn to the person next to you and say shhhhh." He repeated it two more times. Each time I could hear the decibel level plummet until after the third time he said it every eye in room was on him and every mouth was silent. Simply amazing! He'd engaged the audience in a polite moment of policing themselves.

I tried it myself a few years later as I stood before a loud and unfocused audience. Same wonderful result. These days it is standard emcee procedure for me.

Word of warning: Once you have the full attention of every person in the room they will want to hear something worth paying attention to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Replace Chachkas with Moments

I inherited a two closets full of trinkets and useless giveaways when I joined this firm. It would seem that prior marketing people and partners never saw a spring-loaded calculator or key ring that didn’t call out their name. OOOF! Of all the junk I’ve collected over the years at events and conventions not a single plastic neon pen, combo letter opener/toothpick/scissor, put your picture in here mouse pad, golf ball or notepad holder ever survived much longer than the trip home. If an object was safe it became goodies for the kiddies. Obviously, I am not a fan of chachkas.

But I do believe in creating moments. Small ticks of time that are unexpected and welcome in an otherwise similar event experience. Here are a few that have worked for me or that I hope to use in the future:
  • At a Linux conference a company rented a 20x20 booth and filled it with giant beanbag chairs and offered bottled water to any who took a break from trudging up and down the aisles. I still remember the company, 7 years later.
  • At a mortgage banking conference a bank set up a “beat the expert” checkers tournament. They hired seven crack checkers players and anyone could walk up and take them on. Towards the end of the conference they had a playoff with anyone that had beat their ringers. To one side they had erected a miniature grandstand so that friends and others could cheer on the amateurs.
  • An idea I’d like to try is filling a booth with small desks and chairs and running a proposal editing contest (Would be great for "C" levels and GC's). Attendees would be invited to sit at a desk, given a three page “proposal”, and then given three minutes to find all the errors. In the end a champion could be crowned.
  • Another idea would be a takeoff of the beanbag idea. Fill the booth with massage chairs like at the gadget stores.
I like the idea of creating moments that engage the senses of my audience. After they’ve tossed or lost the last logo-marked trinket many will still remember the brief moment I helped create.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

2005 Law Firm Holiday Card

It's odd that I am posting a first look at my holiday card for this year, when it was in fact, holiday cards that kind of got me started as a blogger in '02. I'd been reading a stream of posts on the lawmarketing listserv and was feeling frustrated that the longest and most discussed topic was holiday cards... at the same time there were great posts on strategy, sales, managing teams, etc. I thought, at the time, "Is THIS the most important thing on your plate!?"

Well, in truth, sometimes it is. Right about this time of year as a matter of fact.

As the new guy handling cards for the first time at this firm I believe I came up with a great card... at the perfect price (which was; considerably less than they had ever paid).

I commissioned a local artist from Newport Beach (Andrea Tarman) to paint an oil depicting the Newport Coast in winter. For a firm based in Southern California it makes no sense to have cards with snowflakes or northern scenes. We work in the land of eternal summer and have a green holiday season every year.

What she created is striking, beautiful, full of color, and very "OC". And on the back of every card; "© Rutan & Tucker, LLP." The painting (that the firm now owns) will be on display in our main reception area through the end of the year and our clients and friends recieve a warm and beautiful card.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...