The question at first seemed simple enough. A business owner asked the executive officers of Infusionsoft (one of the fastest growing American success stories that started from scratch in 2002), “What separates those who succeed from those who fail?”
Infusionsoft’s Chief Technology Officer quickly responded in a matter-of-fact way, “That’s easy. Those who schedule firm dates for quarterly strategic meetings right now will succeed—everyone else will struggle.”
The executive leaders of Infusionsoft nodded in unison. It’s almost as if the executive team at Infusionsoft was surprised the question was even asked…and I’m convinced that I’ve just discovered the holy grail for the success of my law firm. It sounds simple and pretty basic—you’d think all lawyers have strategic planning days with their staff or leadership team at least once in a while, right?
The hard truth is that virtually no lawyers plan their future with strategic planning that is scheduled in advance. 98% of lawyers run around putting fires out and doing the “lawyer work” that we must all do --depositions, paperwork and trials. Maybe you set aside a day every once in a while to discuss your big plans for your law firm. But how many of you plan your future with quarterly meetings with your staff? Well, let’s be straight—pretty close to no lawyers do this (yes, including you!)
Alignment of Your Team around a Specific Goal
Do you think the great American companies like Infusionsoft just run around from one task to the next without a clear vision of where they’re going? Of course not! And just like great companies, the successful law firms have a plan for their future and their quarterly planning gives them clear goals and get everyone on the same page.
“Unless a company has the ability to determine where it is today and project where it’s going to be this week, this month, this quarter, and this year, it’s not on a trajectory for growth. It might not even be on track for survival.” -- Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Your quarterly theme might focus on shortening the time that it takes to get a new case to trial. You should track the time that it takes to serve discovery responses, complete depositions and the time between the filing of the lawsuit and the trial. Now, you’re tracking every step of a lawsuit and discovering why some of your “A” cases are getting bogged down (not a shabby quarterly priority, right?)
With strategic quarterly planning, you’re identifying what works and what doesn’t—and you’re fixing them. But you’re not just fixing the glitches in the systems of your law firm—you’re communicating with your key staff members and making sure they’re “buying in” to the solutions.
Focus on the #1 Thing that Needs to be Fixed
Okay, great, you say, but you’re really busy and there’s a ton of stuff you need to fix with your firm. You’ve got loads of things that need fixing--maybe your lawsuits are not getting to trial, your website isn’t bring new cases or your clients aren’t happy—forget all of this stuff!
You’ll go nuts if you worry about everything that needs to be fixed, so concentrate on just one thing during your strategic planning. Take one step at a time by focusing on a specific goal—set a 90-day finish line and get your team zeroed in on a specific task. It’s okay to have more than one quarterly theme, but you always want to have one overriding goal for every quarter.
“Quarterly themes are powerful goal motivators. They focus the entire workforce on that single, overriding quarterly target in a way that people can not only understand, but get excited about.” -- Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
This is the power of a focused strategy. Your team isn’t worrying about 10 things—there’s just one thing that must be fixed and you have a specific 90-day deadline to fix it. You probably already have a good idea about something at your law firm that you want to fix, but your staff might know better than you. You should always ask your team leaders, “What should we start, stop or keep doing?”
1The One-Page Strategic Plan
You want to make your strategy so simple that you can write it on the back of a napkin. The one-page strategic plan pinpoints exactly what you need to accomplish. Now, you and your team know what you are going to be doing and you and your staff have alignment to a single goal.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get a hundred people all working on just 1 priority, instead of 27.” -- Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
But don’t just write your quarterly goal on a napkin—put it on a poster board in the middle of your conference room. Better yet, print the quarterly priority on a laminated 8.5 x 11 sheet and put it on the desk of each staff member. Your strategic priority should be big and bold and reinforced at your weekly staff meeting. Now, it’s time to write down who is going to be responsible for specific tasks.
2Your Accountability Chart
It’s great to have a plan, but it’s worthless if there’s no accountability. You need to establish which members of your staff will be responsible for specific tasks. At your quarterly meeting, record a log of who said what they would do and when.
Let’s say your strategic goal for the next 90 days is a content creation plan for your website. You want to name the persons responsible for each task:
- Your paralegal will write two new blogs posts a week.
- Your receptionist will add two updates to Facebook once a week.
- A lawyer will add three new FAQ’s and articles to the website every week.
Now you’ve got a plan for 30 new pieces of content for your website every month (which should be the goal for your website) and everyone on your staff has specific tasks. It’s great when everyone knows what everyone else is doing and they are aligned to a common goal.
3Measure Your Success
Okay, your staff is aligned to a common goal and they know what they are responsible for. It’s time to measure your success! Let’s say your quarterly goal is to build the next great lawyer website. Using Google Analytics, the metrics (your “Key Performance Indicators”) for your quarterly priority might be:
- # of new website visitors per month.
- # of website visitors who contacted your law firm via the intake form, email or phone (make sure they have options to contact you).
- # of website visitors added to your nurturing campaigns via your customer relationship management (CRM) software.
- # of website visitors converted into clients.
Next, you should take your quarterly theme and align it with a specific goal -- the one key measurable that you want your team to focus upon. Perhaps you want to increase the number of visitors to your website to 7,000 per month—okay, now, you’ve got your critical number—a number that you and your team can focus on.
An Easy Homework Assignment for You
I know, I know—you’re crazy busy and you’ve got a lot of stuff on your plate. You don’t have time for an off-site quarterly strategic meeting with your full schedule of depositions and trials. But keep in mind the lesson from one of the most amazing success stories: quarterly strategic planning is the reason that Infusionsoft went from two guys working in a garage to one of the top 500 companies in America in less than 10 years.
So here’s my challenge for you: today (not next week or next month), schedule four dates in granite for an off-site strategic planning meeting for the key staff members of your law firm. That’s it—there’s no need to pick an agenda—it’s better to have your staff pick the agenda and let them decide the #1 priority for your law firm. It will only take a few minutes to schedule the quarterly strategic meeting.
And once you’ve locked in four dates in the next 12 months for your strategic planning day, you’ll already be miles ahead of every other law firm in your town…and just maybe on the road to becoming the next Infusionsoft of law firms.