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People go into business for a number of reasons, either they are fed up with being an employee and want to be the employer, they have the desire to take control of their lives to build wealth or they know that they can deliver something better than what is already being offered.
Whatever the reason, there are certain things which are critical to understand when going into business:
1). That the profitability of the business depends on how well the employees consistently perform the critical activities.
Let’s break this down…Do you know what the critical activities are in your business? Do you know how well your employees are performing, and do you measure the consistency?
2). Employees perform best when their performance affects the bottom line and when their performance is measured.
Are you often telling yourself “I know I need to tell my team more’’ and “I know I need to share what’s in my head”.
Going from a one man / woman company, where only you needed to know the plans and goals can be a challenge for some business owners. But trust me, if you don’t share what is in your head and involve the team on the business goals, there will be chaos within the business. Building a winning team is part of the mastery of gaining leverage as part of the 6 steps to building a better business.
Remember: Your team are not mind readers – don’t keep them in the dark!
3). Small changes in the critical areas can have a great impact on the bottom line.
Do you know your margins? Your breakeven points? Do you know your conversion rate?
If you know these numbers and really know them, you will understand that by making a small % increase in one area will dramatically impact your profit.
4). What gets measured, gets done and what gets rewarded gets done again.
‘I know that my team are working as hard as they can”
“I know that they are hitting targets”
Do you? How are you measuring your performance, your team’s performance, individual performance?
Do you have reward and bonus structures in place for your team? Rewards don’t always need to be monetary, if you are having regular reviews and performance meetings with your team, you should know any personal goals they may have – can you reward their achievements by contributing to their personal goals.
Remember: The act of recognition is far greater than the reward!
So now ask yourself… did you know these things? If yes, are you actioning them? and if no... well now you do, so get doing!
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Do you set goals but don’t allocate the time to achieve them?
Well, you need to look no further – here are the five steps I use with all my clients for achieving goals.
- MAKE THE GOAL – SMT NOT SMART
Something I notice when goals are set is that they are not SMART. Well here is something controversial, they don’t need to be SMART but simply SMT.
SPECIFIC (S) – The goal is clearly defined and connected to the achievement of a bigger goal or vision, whether that be business or personal.
MEASURABLE (M) – the goal can be quantified, understanding where you are starting from and what the end point looks like – usually associated with a unit of measurement (months, years, currency).
TIME BOUND (T) – The goal has a time frame or limit for when the goal needs to be achieved- this must be part of this process. Otherwise, the goal is merely a thought, rather than clearly defined.
In summary – understand the goal that needs to be achieved (S), what unit of measurement is associated to the goal to measure success (M) and the date that the goal must be completed by (T).
- PUT EMOTION INTO THE GOAL ITSELF
In my experience putting emotion into understanding why you want to achieve the goal makes it far more important to you. It will encourage a greater desire to TAKE ACTION! Dig deep to understand how you will feel when you achieve it.
- BREAK THE GOAL DOWN
Goals are great, but I regularly see them set with no understanding of how they will be achieved through activity. An example being – I need ten new clients this month but don’t know how to accomplish this, sometimes this can be down to a lack of knowledge. Look at what excuses you might be making!
Ok, so go ahead and develop your SMT goals and consider what the activity looks like to achieve the goal. Break the goal down into parts – I must do x, y, z or hire this person, delegate that task to achieve the goal.
- NOW GET THE GOAL IN TO YOUR F**KING DIARY
Now it is clear what needs to be done to achieve the goal, we MUST diarise that s**t!
There is absolutely no point creating the goal and working out what needs to be done to achieve it, if we don’t put the tasks or the milestones to achieve the goals, into our diary. Whether it be a google calendar, diary spreadsheet or paper diary, there is no excuse, just get it in your diary.
Some of my clients do a one-page plan for the quarter, which allows them to visually see the goal broken down into its constituent parts. But they still must add the tasks in to their diaries as well, so they allocate the time to focus on them.
- GET TO WORK
What are you still reading this for? Go get to work and start doing steps 1-4. Oh, and don’t forget to regularly review your progress towards them too.
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This week Thornton Legal team up with Luke from ActionCOACH again. Luke provides his 5 top tips to keep on track and to avoid making excuses in business.
Are you making excuses in business? At the beginning of each year you probably felt enthusiastic for the year ahead. You [hopefully] set some goals for your business, communicated these with your team, and got ready to start actioning those tasks to reach your goals.
However, the momentum can begin to dwindle and before you know it you’re back to making the same excuses of “I haven’t got time” and “I haven’t looked at my plan in weeks”.
Here are 5 ways to keep on track and to avoid making excuses in business:
1. Manage and allocate your time
You haven’t gained or lost any time since the year began. You have the same hours in a day now that you had when you were full of enthusiasm for the year ahead, but something has changed. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day of running the business, and those tasks to achieve your business goals take a back seat and you begin to feel there’s just not enough hours in the day.
The solution? Manage and allocate your time! It sounds simple yet few of us do this well. Block out 2 hours a week in your calendar every week. Allocate one of those hours to reviewing your goals; where are you with your action points? what needs to be prioritised to achieve those goals? Now, the second hour is your team meeting, communicate with them and make sure you are delegating and managing efficiently.
2. Communicate with your team
There are many benefits to communicating with your team. A team that feel valued and involved in the company will perform better. They have targets and goals to meet, which you set them, and if your lack of communication is the reason they haven’t completed their task, you may find your staff frustrated and feeling undervalued.
As suggested in point 1, allocate an hour a week to a team meeting. This will have two main benefits:
- They will feel involved and valued, which gives them motivation and drive.
- It keeps you all on track and working towards the same target. Sharing all the information in your head is a step towards success.
3. Set achievable tasks and milestones
We would all love to see a 50% increase in sales and double the profit at the end of 2018, and this isn’t to say that is impossible, but you need to be realistic when setting your goals and planning your tasks. In point 1 we touched on time not being an excuse, but it is a factor and if you set task deadlines unrealistically then you could be setting yourself up to fail or be adding unnecessary stress. It’s good to encourage and push, but don’t break!
Work out you and your team’s time, current workload and strengths. Then set tasks and milestones that are realistic and achievable within those factors. Each completed task is a win and another step closer to achieving your business goals.
4. Celebrate small milestones along the way
Our business goals can require a fair amount of work before we achieve them. Not being able to see the end in sight can cause our energy for a project to subside. By setting milestones along the way we create mini targets that we can celebrate once we’ve achieved them, a celebration as simple as buying your team a round of pizzas for lunch in the office. This little boost will set you up to work towards the next mini target, and that step closer to your final business goal.
Be careful not to make the rewards turn into self-sabotage though, don’t spend the monthly budget on celebrations when there’s still a way to go, for example, if you successfully lose the weight you’ve been trying to shed you don’t eat a whole bag of donuts to reward yourself!
5. Ask for help when needed
Progress isn’t always straight forward, and you are bound to face hurdles along the way. These hurdles can come in many forms; time, money, customers, staffing, you! There’s nothing wrong in asking for help, whether it be to talk ideas over with a team member, delegate some of the workload, get external unbiased help from a business coach, and outsource work where needed.
You may also have to deal with the harsh reality that the hurdle is you! Many business owners can cause a bottleneck within a business as they feel everything must pass by them. It’s great to keep track of things but don’t be afraid to share the load, communicate and keep your business running as a well-oiled machine.
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Thornton legal is teaming up with businesses to provide you with recruitment, legal, business and marketing advice/news.
This week it’s the turn of Legal Marketing Works and their insight on ‘why law firms should be cross selling’.
Legal Marketing Works is a company owned by Paul Coombes, providing outsourced marketing services to solicitors to help them win more direct work through effective marketing activity.
Think about the last time you sat in front of a client. Did you make the most of that opportunity to promote at least one related service to them? If the answer is no you’re not alone.
In 14 years of legal marketing I have only met one Partner who did not want his firm to be better at cross selling. Most firms recognise that this is a key channel to growing a practice and increasing client ‘stickiness’.
I call this the loyalty ladder.
If a client has used you once they are on the bottom rung and may or may not return to you based on a wide range of factors. If a client has instructed your practice numerous times, dealing with multiple people and departments the chances are you are their firm and it will take a great deal of effort or a significant client service issue for them to look elsewhere.
It’s estimated that it costs 5-15 times more to attract a new client than it does to retain one. Cross selling is a low cost, highly effectively form of marketing. If it’s so valuable why do most Partners tell me their firms aren’t great at it?
The Sales Stigma
The reason that one Partner didn’t want his firm to be better at cross selling was that he simply didn’t like the idea of selling to clients. “I’m a Solicitor, not a salesman Paul.”
Lack of Measurement
The effectiveness of cross selling (or lack of) is more difficult to measure than winning new clients. If it doesn’t get measured it doesn’t get done. Simple.
Lack of Incentives
What’s in it for me? We can tell staff they should be cross selling but if we’re not measuring it and not providing an incentive, financial or otherwise, do we really think that will be top of their agenda?
Your staff and Partners will have been through hundreds of hours of training on their specialist areas of law, but have you ever given them the tools to effectively cross sell your services? Confidence can work both ways, are your staff confident in their colleagues to deliver the service or will cross selling risk them losing their client?
Quite simply, does everyone know enough about the areas of law you offer? They don’t need to be experts, but a commercial property solicitor telling his client about a recent change in employment law before making a referral will be far stronger than simply saying you ‘do employment’. A conveyancer telling a client about the new residential nil rate band (RNRB) before referring them to the private client department will have a far better success rate.
It’s not all bad news though as some simple steps can make a big difference.
The starting point is to ensure that cross selling is a strategic part of your plans and an agenda item at each Partners' meeting. You must create a system to measure the activity and incentivise staff, but before you tell everyone what to do make sure you invest in training, so they know how to do it. It won’t be a one off either, you’ll need to regularly review the process and ensure that recognition is given to those who are performing whilst taking appropriate action where people are struggling.
Finally, coming back to the sales stigma, I still believe this to be the greatest barrier and when training firms I suggest that we stop calling it cross selling altogether.
Cross selling should be considered a form of proactive client care and part of your professional duty. It’s unlikely to go as far as a claim but if you’re buying a property for a wealthy client shouldn’t you be telling them about the RNRB? Or if you are dealing with an injury claim for someone on benefits surely you should be advising them to set up a PI trust?
When we start thinking about cross selling as a benefit to all parties, the barriers come down and the instructions go up.
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Thornton legal are teaming up with businesses to provide you with recruitment, legal, business and marketing advice/news.
This week we team up with Luke, Managing Director at ActionCOACH. Luke is a business coach scaling businesses in Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire. His blog this week, provides business advice on the importance of setting goals, instead of focusing on what you don’t want to have.
I saw something on LinkedIn the other day that was talking about business owners who are ‘Playing Not to Lose’ rather than ‘Playing to Win’? Let’s just look at that again… they are playing ‘Not’ to lose rather than ‘to’ win. This mindset reminded me off the dreaded ‘Wooden Spoon’.
There is a ‘Kay’ family tradition which takes place at Christmas time involving family and friends and we compete in a golf tournament. It began as a ‘little’ competition many years ago, but now involves around fifty golfers from across the local area competing to be the winner of the ‘Little Mick’ trophy. However, whoever comes last in the competition takes home the ‘Wooden Spoon’.
Fear of the Spoon
Over the years it has become apparent that the men and women competing in the competition are more concerned and worried of being awarded the wooden spoon. They are not playing to win the Little Mick trophy, but they are playing not to lose because they don’t want the wooden spoon. So, what happens….? They focus on not wanting to lose which impacts their game and the worse they play; before long, the players’ rounds begin to crumble due to the fear of getting the spoon.
The Wooden Spoon in Business
So, what has this got to do with business and why is it relevant? If you think for a moment that you are ‘playing’ the game of business and that if your business fails, then you lose the game and you are awarded the wooden spoon.
Are you going to be more focused on trying not to ‘lose’ the game and the effect it may have e.g going bust / losing clients?
Are you going to panic at the thought of the ‘wooden spoon’ and spend most your energy and focus on what may not happen? Because we all know what will happen don’t we? Where you focus your energy is generally what will come to light.
So, what do we need to change? What can we do to make winning the game of business more exciting?
Setting Towards Goals in Business
One of the key aspects when goal setting is, setting towards goals and not away from goals.
Instead of using negative words such as: don’t, can’t, won’t, less - we need to use the positive and assertive words. For example:
If we are in panic mode about getting the wooden spoon in the golf tournament we may be telling ourselves “Don’t go in the bunker, don’t go in the bunker… “And what is then likely to happen? The ball ends in the bunker and we go over the par for the hole. This is because our brain does not hear ‘don’t’.
We must begin to programme ourselves with the intention of what exactly we want to do.
Make our Goals Emotional
Put a ‘have’ around the goals from a personal perspective and make it something we really want… or better still what our family want because it is much easier to let ourselves down than our family.
So, the moral of the story of Little Mick?
Focus on what you want to have in life and in business and not what you don’t want to have.’’
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The success of Thornton Legal is built on the number of placements we make, the more the merrier!
Having said that, our aim is to give good advice rather than chase quick fees, so we always ask candidates if they have let their current firm know their concerns. Before such a big decision as moving jobs is made, it’s important to have those internal conversations first and only then can a fully informed decision be made.
So why do law firms lose good staff, often to a direct competitor? These are some of the common complaints that we hear:
New recruits should be set up for success from day one. This is a non-negotiable. A blog on the onboarding process coming soon.
Lack of training is one of the most commonly heard reasons for someone wanting to move firms. Often promises are made but not delivered on. It’s no surprise that employees get fed up and contact recruiters.
Creating a positive culture is a must, our thoughts are that the right culture comes above salary in most cases. Who wants to come to work everyday into negative working environment? The culture of a firm comes from the top and it need to be worked at. Partners and Directors take note.
Work life balance
Law firms not offering some degree of flexible working will loose out in the war for legal talent. Click here for a previous blog on this topic.
Every firm should give employees the opportunity for advancement, whether that’s up the career ladder or additional training so their day to day job becomes more varied and interesting. No-one wants to do they same job day in day out for years on end!
The legal sector is going through a turbulent time, with mergers and acquisition happening on a regular basis. The recent transfer of Hill Dickinson’s insurance business to Keoghs bring a very recent example. How these events are communicated internally go a long way to ensuring that employees don’t decide to more on to a more ‘stable’ environment.
Retaining employees is particularly important given the skills gap in the legal sector. It has been reported recently that the cost of recruitment is an eye watering £30,000 on average! (a blog on this subject coming soon) so please do your best to keep your employees happy, at least the ones you don’t want to lose.
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As a legal recruiter, I meet my fair share of clients and candidates and company benefits are often discussed with flexible working policies being a hot topic.
For example, recently I went for lunch with the HR Director of a large commercial law firm who was at the latter stages of rolling out their flexible working benefits and the following day I met a solicitor employed by a firm with 100% flexible working, if transparent targets are achieved.
Regardless of the individual policy on offer it’s essential that it’s bought into and encouraged by management. The major obstacle to flexible working going the distance is the employers trusting their staff not to take advantage of the policy. If it’s not ingrained into the culture (which takes time and effort) then there is a strong possibility it will be mothballed.
Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School says “managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires in front of them. It's totally about trust, and the incompetence of managers who don't know how to manage people remotely."
There needs to be a shift in focus to the end result, rather than the process of getting there, which can change from employee to employee. After all, delivery is what it’s all about and what does it matter if the work to get there is done from the office or at home?
To back this up Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK states "the fear factor for many managers is 'if I can't see you how do I know you are working?' Managers need training on how to assess a home-worker on their output, not their input."
From a practical perspective, businesses need to have the technology in place that allows employees to work to their full potential at home. There are numerous cloud-based working and video conferencing options available, so there really is no excuse for home working not to 100% reflect what is possible from the office.
At Thornton Legal, flexible working is a fundamental part of the business.
We hope to have a policy that will allow employees to work from home occasionally, safe in the knowledge that they have the full trust of the Directors. Everything that can be accessed in the office can be accessed from their home and it’s a brilliant system (we would say that of course!). Full flexible working won’t be on the table from day one as, in the early days, we will need to spend time together as a team, but we hope it will come into play sooner rather than later.
Recruitment is a results-based business and, as long as fees are coming in, we don’t give two hoots where the work is being done. If the fees aren’t coming in then, well…. that’s a story for another day….
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