Well, August is finally here – this gal loves the cooler temps of the fall, pumpkin spiced lattes, sweaters, and falling leaves, so August is not my favorite month. But it’s a good one to take advantage of. A LOT of people take their vacations in August – and for those of us with a lot of European clients, August can be a pretty quiet month if you’re stuck sitting at your desk.
So now is the time to tackle anything that may fall to the wayside once September hits and things pick up again. And that’s where this week’s Two for Tuesdays comes in.
Tip One: Make a Change
August is a good time to look around you and see what may not be working so well, and this can take a number of different tacks…
Business Development & Networking
Review your business development plan – are there things in there that just haven’t been working for you? Maybe you’ve gone to several events at a local organization you’re involved with, and you haven’t felt comfortable, or you haven’t really met anyone. Change it up – if you’re sure that the organization is the right one for you to be a part of, see how you can be more active. Get on a committee for the fall, or offer to get involved with organizing and hosting an event. It will change who you’ve been interacting with, and help broaden your involvement in the organization.
If you feel you’ve been meeting the right people, but just not connecting, grab their contact information and find other ways to get to know each other. Perhaps you’re a golfer, and you can invite them to join you for a few holes (or even just at the driving range). Maybe you’re a fisherman, and you can take a day out on the water. Grab lunch at a new hot spot in town. If you’re nervous about whether they’ll like the same things, do a little research on social media to see where there is some crossover, and invite away!
If the organization isn’t the right fit, do some research now to see what might be better for you. Perhaps there’s something that is more in line with your practice area, or perhaps you see an organization in an industry that you’d like to get more clients from. Give that a try instead – line up your calendar for the remainder of the year with a few events you’d like to attend, so you don’t have to scramble come September to adjust your schedule.
If you’re not a natural in-person networker, start somewhere else. Find some new LinkedIn groups to join, or check out Twitter. Maybe you’re more comfortable speaking or writing – put together a portfolio of presentations or articles that you can share with a few key publications or organizations that showcase who you are. See if you can line up an article submission or presentation for September with a group you’ve never been involved with.
The key here is to shake things up a little bit. Some of what you’ve been doing will be working well, and you should keep doing those things. But if something doesn’t feel right, or it hasn’t been working for you, that just tells you that you don’t need to focus your energy there. So shift your focus elsewhere!
Around the Office
August is also a good time to see what is and isn’t working at the office. Pretend that you’re a client one day (or get someone you’re meeting with to help you out with this). With fresh eyes, see how the receptionist treats you, how the office looks, where they put you to wait, how your assistant handles the interaction. Review how incoming phone calls and emails are handled, and whether you have processes in place for thank yous.
You may find that everything works very smoothly, and the client experience is positive from the moment they step through your doors. Or you may find that there needs to be some adjustment. August is a great time to tweak what’s not working, so that come September, anyone walking through that door has a completely professional welcome experience.
Take a look at your individual office management as well – is there something that can be improved? Are there files you’ve been meaning to deal with that you’re not working on any more, or shelves where you could make room for more necessary items? I know a few attorneys who thrive on clutter, and know where everything is around them – so I’m certainly not suggesting that you clean your office!
But it may be valuable to consider what isn’t serving you well anymore and just move it somewhere else. Take a few minutes to consider some kind of visual change too – hang a new picture, or bring in a bright plant. Move your desk to a different part of the room. Sometimes, a change in our environment can give us an unexpected fresh look at everything else around us as well.
Yes, I know, the dreaded "m" word. But marketing, to me, is an essential support system for the business development that you’ll be doing. And August is a good time to take a look at your own personal marketing materials to make sure you’re communicating the right message.
Start with your website bio – is it up-to-date? Does it include any recent changes to your practice areas, new articles you’ve written, speaking engagements you’ve had, etc. Is your headshot from within the last 18 months, or is it the same one you’ve been using for ten years? Consider how you might refresh it a little, so that anyone taking a look at your firm’s website before meeting with you is getting the best impression of you.
Use that time to do a little social media housekeeping as well. Check LinkedIn, and any other sites you may be using, to make sure that your email address is the most current, your photo is recent, and any information that needs updating has been changed. Review the groups you’re in and remove any that may no longer make sense, and add those that do. See if you have any connections you can add. Get yourself ready for lots of engagement once the fall comes!
Take a look at your paper materials too. We’ve moved away from these in the last few years (whew!), but they are still around. We all still carry business cards – are yours as updated as they could be? Has the firm moved to a different card, but you’re still carrying your old ones around? Do you have social media links that you could include? Maybe you want to add your mobile phone number to the card. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, but pretend that you’re seeing this card for the first time, and make sure that it represents the type of lawyer and person you want to communicate to those you give it to.
Same goes for any other materials you may have on hand – many of us are no longer using typical brochures, but make sure your e-brochure is up-to-date, or any individual sheets that you include in a brochure-like folder have the most recent information and showcase you and your firm appropriately.
Tip Two: Start Something New
August is also a good month to start something new. Remember that business development plan we talked about? Review it again, and see what tactics you HAVEN’T been using. Have you been avoiding networking events? Rethink that for the fall.
Schedule one or two things for September – maybe one is a full-on networking function for an organization. You can ease into it by starting with social media – look for ways to connect with people attending the same function in advance, so that you don’t feel as if you’re walking into a room where you don’t know anyone. Maybe another scheduled event is coffee with a potential client, or a new client. If you schedule them now, it will be harder to convince yourself that you’re too busy to do them once September rolls around. Do it.
Maybe you’ve been considering expanding the type of work you do. Start your research now. Look at LinkedIn to see what companies in that space are up to, and start following some of the clients you’d like to have. Put their industry events on your calendar as you see them. Identify and highlight the work that you’ve done in this space already on your social profiles and your firm bio.
Sign yourself up for RSS feeds for the top blogs and news publications in that industry, and start commenting when you have something valuable to add. August is a good time to start building.
August is also the perfect time to start a new habit. It has been said that you need 21 days of doing something to make it a habit, so if you start today (or tomorrow), you’ll be ready by the time September rolls around!
- Start taking the train to the office instead of driving, and use this time to read industry news.
- Force yourself to take a coffee break each morning away from your desk (it doesn’t have to be away from the office). Read a blog post as you sip your coffee.
- Change scenery each afternoon for ten or fifteen minutes – maybe take a walk around the office, or around the block. Get some fresh air. Do something that will break the afternoon slump, so you’ll come back to your desk refreshed.
- Tell yourself you’re going to check LinkedIn first thing in the morning for five minutes, and engage with two or three people in some way each day.
- Find one new person on Twitter to have a conversation with each day.
- Start "crazy tie Tuesday" – yes, that sounds silly, but it will be a conversation starter, and you may even get to know people in your office you rarely talk to. They may even give you work someday.
- Make yourself take a younger partner to lunch every Friday. It can be the same younger partner, or a different one. Do it to remind yourself what it was like when you were starting out, and to be a mentor to someone.
- Do an ice cream run – one of my favorite ILN attorneys (now retired) always loved ice cream, and would check around the office each afternoon in the summer to find out if anyone wanted some. He’d then do an ice cream run. It’s a great way to meet people you may not usually talk to, and to take a break. If you don’t have the time to do all of that, arrange for ice cream to be available in the conference room if the temperature rises above a certain point (a firm I presented at once does this). You can then chat for a few minutes in the conference room while getting your scoop!
By doing these things, we’ll be ready to rock and roll by the time September rolls around with its "back to school" mentality. It will freshen our outlook and mindset, brush away the summer cobwebs, and give us the reboot we need!
What are some of your August tips?