Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - E is for Education

Nobody would condone someone practicing law without a degree and practical experience in their area of expertise.  The years spent in law school and early days as a clerk or associate are important to setting the ground work for a body of knowledge that is needed to be a successful lawyer.  But most would agree that the educational process does not stop once they receive their JD or complete the first few years of practicing law. 

The countless number of laws and statutes can be complicated and confusing.  Additionally there are constant changes that are always happening and new precedents being created in our complex world.  Attorneys are required by their State Bar Associations to continue their learning throughout their careers.  States have required Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours that must be completed each year to maintain a license to practice law.  

Education is important and paramount to success.  Yet this attention to detail in gathering knowledge should not stop at the edge of the law.  To run a successful business (and a legal practice is a business regardless of if the attorney works inside a firm or hangs their own shingle) a lawyer must know more than what is admissible in a court of law. 

Administration/management, accounting, HR, customer service, purchasing, sales and marketing are all necessary pieces of operating a business, but too many attorneys have never taken the time to learn how these operations positively impact their firm's success.  Properly learning about the functions and execution of these areas is just as important for a lawyer as is their legal education.  

Without marketing and sales, there is no business.  It takes money in the door to pay salaries, rent, professional fees, and other necessary expenses.  This basic fact should make the study of business development, marketing and sales a top priority for lawyers, but too many look the other way and hope it will all come together if they simply do good work.  

No lawyer would tell a corporate client to fire all their sales and marketing people (after all, these folks are paid well and do not have JD's), and then get their senior executives to take over these functions when they have time, if they feel like it, and regardless of if they have experience.  Yet this is how many law firms approach their marketing.

Most large firms have marketing and business development teams (in house or consultants) while smaller firms do not have the ability to hire professionals to assist in these efforts.  However, everyone who provides professional services must take personal responsibility for their own client development.  You cannot outsource your brand and reputation.  

The most successful firms of all sizes take this seriously.  They invest in educating their partners and associates on the business skills needed to grow a company/firm.  Sometimes partners scoff at training associates, as they fear they will take the knowledge and join other firms (or start their own).  But this is short sighted.  Yes, some will move on, but without proper business education those who stay and become partners are under-prepared to add to the growth of the firm.

Embrace education (for yourself and your team) beyond legal skills and you will find you will have more victories in building a long-term legal practice.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at www.ThomSinger.com.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - D is for Destination Firm

Marketing your firm goes beyond establishing a positive reputation with clients, prospects and referral sources.   How you position the image of the firm, and the actions taken by individual lawyers, toward other attorneys makes a difference in the long run business success of the firm.  While many who practice law take pride in their "rough and tough" personalities, lawyers are still people.... and people do business with those they know, like and trust.

Being a bulldog in court and knowing how to win for clients is a good thing, but being an asshole in life is something different.  When you treat other lawyers with disrespect you are not helping the long-term goal of growing your practice or the firm.  Too many in management turn a blind eye to the way some of their team behave because these lawyers have great skills or control a large book of business.  However those who have toxic personalities are hurting the long run of opportunities.

Many attorneys receive business leads from referrals from other lawyers.  In all practice areas some of the most successful lawyers have strong networks that include peers across their city, state, country and internationally.  Those who do not share a specific expertise or are conflicted from representing a specific client will very often steer the business to someone they know can handle the matter correctly.  There are many choices of where to refer business, and if you desire having inbound business from others you need to make sure than nobody on your team is poisoning the well by how they behave toward other lawyers.

Hurting your brand can happen when on opposite sides of case, or in how you engage with others in the legal and business communities.  A lawyer who disrespects opposing counsel will not only harm their own reputation, but can get their whole firm removed from the opportunity to be referred cases.  It happens all the time that when deciding where to refer a piece of good business that the decision is made based on personal feelings.

Beyond referrals you also want to be positioned as a "Destination Firm" for lawyers on the move.  It is not uncommon for lawyers with strong books of business to seek a new firm at some point.  If your office is seen as a dynamic and growth oriented place that supports its lawyers, others will seek you out as a possible new home.  On the flip side, nobody wants to intentionally work with difficult people.  If you are rumored to be dysfunctional or have attorneys that are well known jerks, these laterally moving individuals or practice groups will go somewhere else to practice law, taking their business with them.

Being a "Destination Firm" means that you have to educate your team on how to talk about the firm in legal circles.  Anyone can have a bad day, but if your partners and associates bad-mouth the firm in any way, even to their friends, then people will have questionable ideas about life on the inside.  Venting may make a person feel better, but it paints a negative picture that could influence the decision of an important lateral hire (even years down the line).

Your branding with other lawyers is often overlooked.  They are seen as the competition, and the enemy.  However, the most successful attorneys and firms see beyond the short term and realize that how they are viewed within the legal community can positively or negatively impact their bottom line over time.  Make sure that the actions of all your team set you up as a "Destination Firm" for referrals and lateral hires!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at www.ThomSinger.com.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - C is for Contact List

Managing your contacts is one of the most important things that a lawyer can do to ensure long-term growth in their career.  Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network, it makes them someone whom you have met once.  There is a big difference between a single meeting and cultivating a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

Simply adding someone to LinkedIn or your database and them randomly sending them newsletters or other SPAM will not endear you into their hearts.  Each person is unique, and every relationship you have is different.  

The influx of technology over the past twenty years have lead many people to try to systematize their business relationships.  Many who think that simply sending out a scheduled client alert means they are staying top of mind with clients, prospects and referral sources are underwhelmed with their results.  Some consultants have convinced lawyers that they can outsource the function of relationship management, and while this makes a lot of money for the consultant, the individual lawyer or firm that is relying on others are not really coming up with stronger connections.

The first step to managing your contact list is to have a one.  This is more than just a digital version of the old Roledex that held names, addresses and phone numbers.  You must embrace the best technology you can to be able to categorize and customize your lists.  Not every connection should get every email blast, and you need to have a way to differentiate clients, prospects, referral sources, vendors, community members and others.  Additionally you need a way to record all your touch points so that you can track your action and see evidence of results (or lack there of).

There are many software programs that lawyers can utilize for their Customer Relationship Management (CRM), but they should be using something.  There are simple and sophisticated options, but to have no platform in place is a mistake.  Each email, phone call, mailing, correspondence, face-to-face meeting, conversation, etc... needs to be recorded.

In addition to all contacts, a lawyer must create a priority system for whom they need to focus on for strengthening their relationships for future business development.  Most people will have hundreds or thousands of contacts, but that is too many to keep in intentional and individual contact with every quarter.  I suggest a list of the top 50 people you would like to move into your "sphere of influence".  

While you already have some people who are very close with that refer you business (and you also mutually refer opportunities, I hope), there needs to be new people coming into your life whom you work to get to know better.  Without a list of whom you want to cultivate stronger relationships, I guarantee that your busy schedule and other life responsibilities will keep you from taking the necessary actions.

Your list of 50 is a living document that will change all the time.  Some people will become close allies, and others will fall off with no real value in the connection.  Always be adding and removing people to your focused relationship development, but be patient.  It can take years to forge the types of friendships that lead to more business.

If you contact list, and how you manage it, has not been a priority then you may not be seeing the type of results you desire in new business.  All opportunities come from people, and when you make others a priority and build real relationships, you will discover why they call practicing law a "referral business".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at www.ThomSinger.com.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Erik Lehmann - Game Changers

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend Erik Lehmann has always been a huge believer in dreams and living into purpose. When the Sandy Hook shootings took place, he and his partner thought; "We wonder if events like these would happen if all youth knew that someone believed in them and their dreams?" In trying to answer that question, he realized that something big could be in the way of our children finding access to their purpose or dreams.

Erik was troubled to learn that many kids are spending upward of 80 hours a week playing violent video games. The time spent playing these games is getting in the way of kids relationships with their family members, their community members, and most importantly....their purpose!

Thus he founded Game Changers and is creating experiences and building communities by encouraging youth to trade in a violent video game as they “RePURPOSE our HEARTdrives”! Kids hear the words ‘don’t’ and ‘No’ many times over their lives. Game Changers is aiming to create more “Yes” opportunities, as they introduce kids to Game Changers from all walks of life.

In the next six months, the Game Changers Movement will host several events that they call, "Game Changers Experiences". On November 15, 2013, in Ithaca, NY they are curating an event where attendees will trade in a violent video game as their ticket price, and then together they will transform the video games itself into art! Participants learn how to turn violence into works of art as they "play" with these video games-- literally turning them into art supplies.

On March 21st, Erik's Dream Catalyst organization will present a Game Changers Experience as the Grand Prize of a nationwide contest, where the school who trades in the most violent video games will have a Game Changers Experience presented on their campus. Byron Chamberlain, a former Pro Bowl Tight End for the Denver Broncos will be helping to present an athletic training camp for the students and faculty at the winning school. Kids will be able to get off the couch and connect with real Game Changers and have personal interactions with people who serve as heroes and role models to the next generation. They will also offer art workshops and have a concert in the evening to cap off the festivities.

They are also creating ongoing relationships with communities all over the country with plans to install murals and mosaics, composed of rePURPOSED violent video games as the artistic media for transformative creation in conjunction with artist LilyYeh.

You,too, can join the Game Changers Movement and help show kids how their dreams matter.  One child at a time, the world can change for the better.

There are several ways to support this movemet: You can add your reach to the Thunderclap campaign or you can contribute to the crowdfunding campaign (I did).  If you wish to support the Game Changers Movement, please contact Erik Lehmann directly at erik@dream-catalyst.org.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Buy Your Copy of "The ABC's of Entrepreneurs" Today

"The ABC's of Entrepreneurs" is now available for purchase on Amazon.com.

This is the 4th book in the ABC's series.  This book, along with "The ABC's of Networking", "The ABC's of Speaking", and "The ABC's of Conferences", is a compilation of tips and ideas that are meant to educate and inspire.  They are all fast to read - you can read each of these books in the time it takes to fly from New York City to Washington DC (or Austin to Dallas!), and are great to share with friends and co-workers.

My co-author for this book is my friend Bryan Menell, who is a serial entrepreneur, and has started, built and sold several companies (including taking one public in 1999).  I have known Bryan since we were in 7th grade in Southern California.  Working with a life-long friend on this project, especially one with such a wide range of experiences on the topic, was a lot of fun.

Both Bryan and I are available to speak to groups on this topic (together or individually).  

We hope you enjoy the book.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing - B is for Brand

Attorneys prefer to imagine that their brand is only related to their work product.  That if they do good work, their reputation will grow, and this will translate into more business over time.  But there is more to cultivating a life long legal career than just doing the work.  The most successful attorneys have many moving parts to their practice that add up to creating a "Brand".

The reality is doing good work as a lawyer is the ticket to the party.  Your competition is doing good work, too.  Clients expect those who represent them in legal matters to be experienced, attentive and ethical.  The expectation of doing good work is the bottom rung of the latter.  Legal skills alone will not allow you to achieve the highest levels of career success.

A brand is your promise for how you will act in all situations. While there are examples of jerks, who are great lawyers, that succeed to the highest levels (this happens in all industries, by the way), in most cases people prefer to do business with those they know, like and trust.  When you are known and respected beyond the work is when you create the best long-term career experience.

Large companies have dozens of people with the job title "brand manager" whose full-time jobs are to protect and promote the image of the company.  While companies make this a priority, event the largest law firms, and certainly not small or solo firms, could employ an army of people to manage the brands of each lawyer.  Thus the responsibility for brand management lies with the individual.

The pay-offs from staying visible in your community are hard to quantify, but when you examine those who have done well at building their brands, you discover lawyers with solid books of business, a pipeline of clients, and a variety of career options.

Relying on others in your firm to find the business is short-sighted.  In the highly competitive marketplace of legal services many who thought they could just show up and do the work found themselves out of their firms.  Meanwhile those with strong brands in their communities were either well compensated or able to move to other firms on their own terms.

If you have never thought about your "brand" before, you still have one.  People are always watching and making judgments.  If you are the "best kept secret" in the legal community, the odds are that you are not always billing to your capacity.

The only way to understand your own brand is to ask others how you are viewed.  You cannot assume anything when it comes to your reputation, as too often we receive any valuable feedback from our clients, referral sources, co-workers or friends.

Hope is not a good strategy when it comes to growing a practice.  To establish and cultivate a brand you must take a series of ongoing actions to raise your visibility with those who can hire you or refer you to business.  If your firm is large enough to have a marketing or business development staff I encourage you to work closely with them in understanding where you are, and creating a plan to get you to where you want to go with your practice.

I am amazed by how many lawyers in big firms have never had conversations with their legal marketing and business development teams.  These internal employees, or external consultants, are in place to grow the brand of the firm, but are often able to work closely with individual lawyers that are committed to their personal and professional brands.  If you have not had lunch with your marketing manager lately, set up a time to get to know them better and allow them to understand your goals for your own practice.  If your firm is too small to employ a marketing team, then you must take immediate ownership and create an action plan by yourself.

Start by taking a look successful lawyers who have the most clients in your area of expertise (inside or outside your firm).  Why are these attorneys the "Go To Lawyers" in your community?  In many cases their career efforts go beyond the legal work, as they are committed to business development, supporting causes in the community, and have established a reputation with intention.  Top tier careers rarely happen by accident.

If you make your brand a second tier priority you will have second tier results.  If you ignore your brand, all bets are off on what opportunities will find you in the future.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at www.ThomSinger.com.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy 99th Birthday

Happy Birthday to my dad who turns 99-years-old today.  

Take a minute to ponder what the world was like in 1914 (besides the fact there was no internet).  Thinking about technology alone is mind-boggling.  

Dad was born 11 years after the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.  These days we think nothing of jumping on a plane to go around the world.

We take so much for granted, and yet in one lifetime so much has changed.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Jan Goss-Gibson and Richard Gibson Release Online Program for Dating Success

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friends Jan Goss-Gibson and Richard Gibson have released their new online program, "Find Love in 5: First Impression Advantage for Dating", for those who are starting to date again.  Their mission is to show people how to connect with confidence and in making a great first impression. They are the First Impression Advantage experts!!

There is a lot of talk in the business world about the importance of a first impression, and they take this powerful topic to the world of dating. The program transforms how those who are dating again will look at the process by teaching them to be more conscious of their first impression and how to become comfortable in showing the world their real self. 

I have come to know Jan and Richard through my involvement in the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association.  They are very caring people who take a strong interest in the success of others.  Jan has been an successful speaker and trainer for many years, and after finding love again with Richard, they realized that there was a need to help people overcome fears and trepidation about dating.  

Their program costs less than one date night ($97).  

They are a cool couple (and so nice)... and I predict that they will have great success with this new program.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After The Conference - Remember to Follow-Up

Following up with the people you meet after a conference is the key to lasting value from your participation.  Too often we leave an event after the closing sessions, say our good-byes, and turn our attention back to the daily routine of life.  The people we met are too quickly forgotten.

As we exit an event we need to create a game plan for how to reach out to those who had an impact on our time at the conference.  This dose not mean we need to follow up with everyone we encountered, but instead just a few select contacts that are worth cultivating an ongoing relationship.

Follow up is more than adding them to your database or sending them a LinkedIn invitation.  To have meaning, the other person must sense that you made an effort and they must feel that they are unique (not just part of a blind cc group follow up).

Three tips to following up:

1.  Identify two or three people that stood out from the crowd.  If you attempt to follow up with everyone you will be overwhelmed and most likely follow up with nobody.

2.  Send them a personalized email, or better ... a handwritten note!!!  If you make the other person feel they are significant, they are more likely to remember you in the future.

3.  Make a note in your calendar to reach out to them again in a few months, as out of sight is out of mind.  It takes multiple interactions to establish a meaningful relationship.

All opportunities come from people, and those you encounter at business events are the ones who can have a direct effect on your future.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How To Stand Out

My recent blog, "You Do NOT Need To Be Like Everyone Else" prompted a few people to ask me to go farther with the concept of not being seen as a commodity.  While they agreed that being unique was a good idea, they wanted me to talk in more depth about how one can stand out from the crowd, without alienating too many by being viewed as weird.  This was a fair request, as the post had a good point, but no steps on what should be done.

First of all, you cannot please everyone.  If you worry about those who will be turned off by who you are, then you are constantly going to be working to please everyone.  It wont work.  There will always be those who seek to be critical.  You cannot be all things to all people, and worrying too much about how you are being judged can become a full-time obsession.

The answer being authentic to yourself.  If you try to play a role, you can never be the true you.  This is harder than it sounds as we learn to conform early in life. To use politics as an example, I know people who pretend to be either more liberal or more conservative than they really are fit in with the crowd they associate.  They are disconnected between their words and actions in regards to their souls. Those who are putting on an act are never fully comfortable.  They never are real.

One can be different and stand out without being on the fringe or pushing others way.  To be unique you do not have to be weird.  Joe Calloway's classic book, "Becoming a Category of One", does a wonderful job of showing how you can differentiate from the competition in a world full of sameness.  While the book is written from a corporate point of view, it translates well to individuals.  It is not about slogans or buzzwords.  A logo is not your brand. And edgy or silly are not necessarily the answer (unless it is authentic) in finding your point of differentiation.  

Sometimes a differentiation is not really even that different.  How you position yourself and the words you use are often enough to make yourself "pop".  Did you know that there is no difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?  They are simply called different things in various parts of the world (a "tropical cyclone" is also the same).  What is it that you do that you can rename and claim for yourself?

Many people struggle with finding the pieces of their uniqueness that helps them shine.  Too many end up hosting a life long "skit" by differentiating with the wrong things.  Others just fit in to the sea of normal and then admire others who climb out of the box.

Here are five tips to finding your unique traits.

1.  Observe others.  We often think that everyone else has all the answers, but many struggle with finding their own way.  When you can be clear about what you admire in those who stand out from the crowd you can better understand your own quest to be unique. Do not copy them, but see what it is they do to be unique.

2.  Get clear about your goals.  Being different for the sake of being different is useless.  What are you trying to accomplish in your personal and professional life that makes it important for you to shine.  If you know where you are going it makes it easier to make decisions.

3.  Identify what makes you unique or what you can re-position.  We all have things in our experiences and personalities that we can draw upon to differentiate.  Nobody has lived the same life, etc...  Get clear about what makes you special (and we all have these things).  

4.  Ask yourself "do others claim the same thing?"  It is common for people (and companies) to claim something as theirs, only to have it be overly common. (Banks all claim their differentiation is that they are a "relationship bank".... but if they all are, it is not unique).  If everyone can say the same thing it is not unique.

5.  Do not hide.  Let yourself, and your uniqueness, become known in your community. There is risk involved when you put yourself out there into the world, but all great rewards involve risk.  The only way to discover if you will stand out is to be participating in the crowd.

One last point, being unique does not mean (in most cases) being shocking or hurtful.  There are example of people who stand out by intentionally offending others.  If you are looking to impact those from a more traditional background by being in their face, and you know your actions are intended to cause them discomfort, you may just be a jerk.  Rarely is being mean-spirited a positive way to make an impression.  While not everyone will like you for being you, throwing your differentiation in their face is not what I am suggesting (there are exceptions to this, but these are rare).  Your uniqueness will serve you best when it purposed for the greater good.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, October 11, 2013

The ABC's of Legal Marketing and Business Development - A is for Analytics

Gone are the days where time and money could be thrown at marketing without examining the return on investment.  Years ago lawyers simply copied what their competitors did to promote their brand, assuming that the other firms had made wise choices to buy a table at a charity event, purchase an ad in a program, or sponsor a conference.  For decades legal marketing was similar to watching young children play soccer: someone kicked the ball to the left, and everyone on the field ran left.  The ball went right, and the herd followed. 

Today the role of marketing in a successful legal business has changed and is expanding faster than ever before. To get results from marketing and business development efforts we must be monitoring our actions and recording the results.  Without knowing the results, many resources can be wasted.  Today there are practices and technologies that can be enable law firms to evaluate the success of their investments.  

Tracking information from across the channels where you and your firm participate is necessary.  This can be done manually or through technology, but it is important that you are recording and reviewing all activity on a regular basis.  Simply placing an ad or sponsoring a luncheon has no value if you are unsure if it created any tangible business leads or valuable referral relationships.

When we think of analytics many only think about web traffic, as Google Analytics is a commonly used tool for gathering online information.  But not everything that happens is online.  Of course your firm should be tracking all inbound web traffic and understand where visitors come from, what are the most visited pages, etc....  But analyzing marketing data is about more than clicks and views, as legal marketing is a human-to-human endeavor.   A law firm, and the individual practices inside a law firm, should be run like a business.  Law is a business. And never forget that this is a relationships business.  

Too often lawyers just want to do great work, and they lose site of the softer side of dealing with people. Tracking the intangibles can be difficult, but not impossible.  Often lawyers hope analytics is something that they can outsource and that they can ignore the process.  The reality is that all the key stakeholders must be involved in the input, output and dissection of the information.

All inbound prospects should be asked how they found out about your services.  This requires the lawyer to inquire and track the information.  Over time this will show you what is having the largest impact on your bottom line. Your database should be set up so that you can record more than just contact information, as anyone you meet can eventually lead you to more business.  You need to have a way to cultivate and nurture relationships over the long run, as there are few shortcuts to building a successful book of business.

When you properly review the past and study the present you will be more prepared to predict your future results.  If you are unsure where your current business is coming from, then you have no way to know if your marketing and business development is working.  The more you know about clients, prospects, and competitors (and yourself), the better prepared you will be to make smart decisions to engage those in your business community.

Marketing in law firms is no longer a reactionary function.  Firms of all sizes need to empower their marketing staff to be proactive and allow them to be involved in the whole process of client development.  As this role of marketing changes, the access to research and other information becomes more important, and thus your marketing and business development staff becomes more important.

Small firms and solo-lawyers are at a disadvantage if they do not have anyone on their team whom can be empowered to manage their marketing efforts, but that does not mean they should ignore the power of marketing analytics.  The small firm lawyer has to take on the role themselves, or find a trusted outsourced option.

To be successful at marketing a legal practice the lawyers must understand that marketing is a legitimate mix of creativity and science.  The connections between marketing and IT have never been more important, as to succeed we need a mix of people, process and technology.  It can be overwhelming for an attorney who has spent decades focused on doing the legal work to accept that the future of his or her career is connected to how they connect to people, market their reputation, and research pertinent information.  Without data, they are lost.

Marketing may seem like you are throwing spaghetti at the wall, and waiting to see what sticks (and sometimes that is the truth), but there is lots of information that backs up what the most successful firms are doing.  It is not a coincidence that the fastest growing law firms are often the ones that are the most committed to the analysis of their marketing.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development.  He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales.  He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success.  More information at www.ThomSinger.com.

Cool Things My Friends Do: 15-Year-Old Author Releases Eighth Book

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

Paris Morris just released her eighth book in the "My Friend Paris" series.  "My Twins First Halloween" hits the book shelves just in time for the holiday and continues the adventures of her young characters and the antics of the little twins.

Eight books is a great accomplishment.... but did I mention she is 15-years-old?   She has created a business empire that includes books, appeal, and consumable products....and she does not yet have a drivers licence.

Paris wrote her first book, "I'm Having Twins", when she was nine years old, telling the stories of a little girl whose life is changed when her parents introduce twins into their family.  She knew this topic well, as when she was five her sisters were born.  The moral of the story is that twins can shake up your world, but in the end they make life better!

She has followed it up with several stories including a few books that have been created with co-authors.  Her sister Liberty wrote "Paris goes to San Francisco", her cousin Jenna wrote "Paris goes to Los Angeles", and her friend Jackie (my daughter) wrote "My Twins First Christmas".  All of the illustrated books have fun stories and positive messages for young readers.

Congratulations to Paris on her all her books.  This is so cool.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Austin Lunch Time Conversation - November 6, 2013 - Does Social Media Create Better Connections?

Networking Revisited: 10 years of Social Media... 
Are we better connected?

Join the Austin Business Journal for a spirited discussion with three of Austin's best known experts on the topic of "Networking". Thom Singer, Patti DeNucci and Marny Lifshen will lead a conversation about how Social Media has impacted how people make, keep and grow their business relationships over the past decade.

LinkedIn and MySpace first appeared on the scene in 2003, and were soon followed by Facebook (2004), Twitter (2005), YouTube (2006) and countless other social tools. The iPhone arrived in 2007 and the addition of mobile accessibility changed the whole thing.

While we are only one "like", "link", "follow" or "share" away from connecting to anyone on the planet, are we better connected? Does the average person have deeper relationships? While there are many examples of those who have harnessed the social media wave, there are also many who feel the whole thing is still confusing.

Do not miss the opportunity to be part of this interactive social media review. Sign up today (space is limited).

Thom Singer, author of The ABC's of Networking

Patti DeNucci, author of The Intentional Networker

Marny Lifshen, author of Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women

Seminar details:

Wednesday, November 6
11:30 am – 12:00 pm - Registration & Networking
12:00 pm -1:00 pm - Seminar
504 Lavaca St. Ste. 1008
Austin, TX 78701

Lunch will be provided.

REGISTER TODAY (Space is limited)

Parking is available directly across the street from the ABJ offices in the old post office building at 510 Guadalupe St.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

You Do Not Need To Be Like Everyone Else

You do not have to be like everyone else.  In fact, you are better off if you are NOT like everyone else.

As a small business person and "solo-preneur" there is a lot of time spent on marketing, and the more one tends to resemble others, the harder it is to get noticed.  I have found that it is easy for people to categorize (it makes life easy), and once you are seen as a commodity it is hard as hell to claw you way out.

The meetings industry struggles with this issue of conformity vs unique in planning and organizing conferences. There is much talk about wanting fresh meeting formats, audience-focused learning experiences, interactive speakers, etc....  but too often you see each meeting being a cookie cutter product patterned off the last event.  

It is hard to stand out as it involves talking risks. In any industry trying new things means the possibility of failure.  People are always watching and judging.  Nobody wants to flop, so they make their product similar to other offerings.  But the "same-old/same-old" is never a breakout success.

Those who speak at meetings find the same issues.  While brainstorming career ideas with a new speaker I found that all his concepts were just Tony Robbins Lite.  His "clever" ideas sounded like they came from a manual called "Motivational Speaker 101" (if there was such a thing). I kept asking him why HE was unique and what HE brought to his topic that nobody else could provide.  It was hard for him to discover a voice that was truly his own. 

It made me wonder if I do enough to be unique.  I am a basic guy who spent much of my youth wanting to fit with the "in-crowd" (I never did, exactly).  It is a hard to stop the effort to be like others and forge your own way in the world. Switching directions is difficult, but worth it.  Having left the corporate world four years ago to work for myself I have discovered there is no one way to craft a successful life.  There were (and still are) many people who told me I could not make it as a solo-entrepreneur with a business of speaking, training, and consulting.  I have continued to move forward and lay out a career that is not like everyone else. I continue to seek ways to provide my clients with an experience they cannot get from anyone else (and that is rewarding and impactful!).

Those who are special stand out from the crowd and are remembered by others.  This does not necessarily mean being weird or on the fringe, it just means having offerings that cannot be obtained when a prospect selects another option.  To go with a different choice means they have to consciously forgo what you bring.  This does not mean that some will not make another selection, as many people will always go with the safest option.  If you are different then you are not safe!  But when you are picked, you will be cherished.

What makes you unique?  Are you embracing it or hiding it away from the world?  Let others view the whole YOU and give them the opportunity to choose what is special!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, October 07, 2013

Law Firm Associates and Business Skills Education

Law firms are complex organizations. However, no matter what happens, one thing is certain, the senior partners will move on, retire or die.  If a firm is to survive then the current associates will eventually step up into leadership and business development roles.  But are law firms taking the necessary steps to grow the talent of their associates beyond just billing hours?

The October 2013 issue of Mergers & Acquisitions Magazine has an interesting article on the attention that private equity firms are putting into educating the next generation of employees.  Investing in the future has become a priority for these and other professional services firms, but law firms still tend to want young associates fully focused on billing hours and doing good work until they close in on partner status.

Waiting until people are seven or eight years into their practice to hone their business skills does a dis-service to the associate and to the firm. The most successful lawyers operate as entrepreneurs, understanding all aspects of their growing business.  Having all attention on the legal and billing aspects of the business for so many years makes them vulnerable.  A well rounded lawyer who has control of their future thinks about business development, client management, presentation skills, networking and branding, finances, firm administration, project management, staffing, etc...  

Some firms invest in offering associate training, but the associates skip the classes as they think they are only responsible for their legal work.  The partners they work for directly do not get behind the firm's educational programs and let them assume it is optional.  For some lawyers business skills seem "uncool", as they do not realize that without this knowledge they are limiting their own future.  Yes, they are told that good work and meeting their hourly billing requirement is what matters, when partnership decisions are being made these other business skills are always discussed behind closed doors.  Existing partners do not want to add anyone to their ranks who will not contribute (but they failed to teach associates what this means).

Look around your law firm, someone who is a new associate at the starting line of his or her career will emerge in 20 years as one of the most valuable partners whose practice is the cornerstone of your firm's success.  The problem is that you cannot tell who it will be by looking at their early legal skills.  Many whom you identify as the ones who might lead will move on from your firm.  Not all lawyers, even great ones, are cut out for the life inside a firm.  Lives changes, practice areas morph due to outside influences, competitors offer better deals, people go in house with clients, etc...  Others, who you assume are marginal could surprise you and become the great leaders of the next generation if their careers are encouraged and cultivated.

Educating associates on the business skills needed to run a law firm is paramount to successful growth.  Too often firms put up walls between partners and associates and push the most talented lawyers into careers that have limits.  One partner at a big law firm told me he discourages associates from developing their own business skills, or building a network in the community, as that gives the associate power.  If he can make them beholden to the firm, without their own book of business too early, then they need him to provide the work.  OUCH.

To create a successful training plan it must not just come from the firm administrator or the human resources department.  The partners in the firm must be committed to holding the associates that report to them accountable for growing their business skills.  If they let them out of the training they are limiting the future of the individual and the firm.  A culture of business must be embraced and discussed.  Looking the other way or ignoring anyone who would undermine the educational efforts will have a negative impact on everyone.

Time marches on.  If the legacy of a firm is important to the current partners they will admit their retirements will eventually arrive and be excited to train the next generation.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Are you on Google+?

(This pic is the header photo on my Google+ profile)

Since it was released I have been intrigued by Google +.  I find it interesting, as it received a lot of "buzz" early in the days, but then it has been confusing for me to understand.  We do not hear as much lately, but this social media seems to be quietly becoming the place to connect.

The people who are HUGE fans of Google+ are militant sometimes about why it is great and they get upset when others question the power of their community. There is power in groups where cool people jump in and have meaningful conversations  But beware, as you will also find those who are just nasty and self important.  I had an exchange once where I questioned the usefulness of Google+ (I was trying to learn how people were getting benefit) and I was greeted by some nasty responses that almost turned me off to the social media site altogether.  But then I got private messages from those who saw the exchange (including a Google employee) who wanted to have positive a conversation and help me better understand (not to call me names). I was hooked on the force for good that existed on the site.

The experts say that a person or business presence on Google+ can be beneficial to internet search results, and I am sure since Google owns Google+ that it has some magic powers, but I am no expert, so I can't say for sure.

I recently upped my participation on Google+ and have found that those that use it, are excited about having others getting involved.  There is not the same level of interaction that one sees on Facebook or Twitter, but I am finding a stronger ability to engagement between those who do not know each other (Facebook is more of a network of existing friends, and Twitter is just Twitter).

What I like best about Google+ is the ability to put people into circles and then review the activities of those groups.  Where on LinkedIn and Facebook I hold true to my "Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule", Google+ allows me to follow all types of people and easily put them into a circle based on how I know them or the industry where they work.  I have circles for Austin, Speakers, Meeting Professionals, Law Firms, etc....    I find that when I want to see what is being said by those in any one circle I can quickly get past the "noise" that often clogs up my other social media places.

If you have not yet tried Google+, or if you joined but never went back, I suggest you poke around and see what you think about the way it is being used.  Let me know if you are there, as I would happily add you to a circle.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, October 04, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Grant's Marketplace in San Diego Celebrates 11 Years In Business

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friends Joe and Kim Grant are the owners of Grant's Marketplace in San Diego and this week they celebrate eleven years serving the South Park neighborhood in America's Finest City.

Joe was a school teacher who got bitten by the bug to be an entrepreneur.  One day he noticed a run down neighborhood convenience store on the corner of Beech and Date Streets (just a block from his home) was for sale, and he jumped at the chance to transform this little corner market into a gathering place for his neighbors.  

Over the decade this place has grown into a dynamic gathering place for locals.  Serving delicious coffee and breakfast selections in the morning and a deli counter with a variety of delicious offerings for lunch and dinner make this a place for everyone.  Need milk, wine, cheese,etc....???  Grant's is the place to go in South Park (and beyond).

Congratulations to Joe for taking his vision and creating a successful business.  If you are ever in the area, I suggest you stop by and see what a local entrepreneur can do when he is inspired to serve his neighborhood. 

Long before I created this weekly "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post, I wrote about Joe on this blog in August 2005 (the first year of my blogging adventure).  I knew it then, and it has been proven over the years,.... Joe, Kim and their market are cool (Kim is also one of the area's top architects and should be written up here in her own "Cool Things" post, too!) 

Congratulations on eleven years in business!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

(Photo of Joe and Kim from "Save Our Heritage Organization" website from an article about the market from 2004.  I hope they are cool with me using this photo!!!)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Networking Is The Key To Navigating ObamaCare

After being self-employed for four years I have learned that understanding healthcare options (even before ObamaCare) is complicated and it takes a lot of time to sort out the best plans to cover a family. We have changed plans twice since 2010 to get a plan that actually covered anything and that we could figure out. Each change in our insurance involved over 40 hours of my time (that I was not working on my business).

Thus my tip for those who need to understand their healthcare choices:

Networking is the key to understanding ObamaCare. 


The best definition of "Networking" is: "the creation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships where all involved succeed more because of the relationship than they would without the connections". This means that a network is comprised of people who help each other (it is a give and take relationship where people actively assist others and share).

Alas, talking with other people is the key to understanding ObamaCare.

Speak with your existing friends and business associates about how they are finding the right coverage for their families. Have discussion with everyone and seek those who have similar personal family situations to properly cover with insurance. Listen to what they have discovered and share with them what you have learned.

We learned the hard way that not all insurance plans are the same. Learn what different plans cover, what is not covered, what is a pain in the butt, what works well, etc..... Sharing, learning and listening (and helping) will make the crazy learning curve better.

Is my current insurance plan still the best coverage for my family? I do not know. However there is a good chance that the people in my network, and new people I will encounter, may have found the answers to what it all means.  The discussions are already proving to be interesting.

Yes- Networking can help with just about everything..... Including navigating ObamaCare. :-)

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Best Compliment for a Business Speaker or Corporate Trainer

It is affirming when a person in the class you are teaching says; "I wish I had learned this 20 years ago".  

While teaching a class on "Presentation Skills as your Secret Weapon for Business Development" to a group of lawyers I asked the participants what they liked about the class.  When one of the attorneys said the above about one of the tips I gave the class, it made my whole day.

What do you wish you had learned 20 years ago?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer