The other day, I saw that someone said that August feels like the Sunday of the year. This feels really true. And bearing that in mind, it can be a good time to use this “Sunday” to prepare for the remaining months of the year – if you’re a preparer-type. With just about two weeks left in the month and a lot of clients and colleagues out on vacation, you may want to take a look around your physical or home office and identify what is working well or where the challenges are, in three different areas, to set yourself up for a successful September.
Business Development & Networking
We’re going to assume here that either at the end of 2020 or early in 2021, you put together a business development plan for this year (if not, why not put together one for the remainder of the year?). Review that plan now and identify what isn’t working for you – 2021 certainly has been bumpy, and you may have assumed you’d be able to return to in-person events by the end of this year, and some of those are being cancelled again.
So change things up. If you’re involved in an organization, but not feeling connected, see how you can be more active. Get on a committee for the fall, or get involved with hosting a virtual event (or if you’re able to host a small in-person one, find out if that’s an option, as long as it’s safe and healthy to do so). 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. In some cases, small, vaccinated get-togethers are still okay when held outdoors, so see if you can organize something to connect. If that doesn’t suit, try hosting a virtual cocktail hour or a cooking class. 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 get creative – I’ve done virtual yoga with friends, meditations, watched movies together, and even had dance parties!
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 (in-person or virtual) you’d like to attend, so you don’t have to scramble come September to adjust your schedule.
If you’re not a natural 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. If you’re new to speaking, remember that some organizations are allowing for presentations to be pre-recorded, so this may be a good opportunity to practice your skills!
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/Home Office
August is also a good time to see what is and isn’t working at the office. Many of us thought we’d be back in person by now, and some of us already are. Some of us are going to be in a hybrid situation for the long term. If you are going to have a home office permanently, really consider what your home office is like – do you enjoy being in there for long hours? What is the lighting like? Is your chair comfortable for long periods? Is the height of your desk sufficient? Do you even have a desk, or have you cobbled together a different solution? Were you used to working with multiple monitors, and now you’re making do with a laptop? Do you have a printer at the office, but not at home? Make a list of what your dream home office would look like and feel like – you may not be able to put it together this year, but reasonably consider what your firm or company can supply you with, what you can do yourself, and take some time to adjust your space. It will make a bigger difference than you think.
In terms of your in-person 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.
I know client interactions in the office are VERY limited these days, but we will have some meetings. Consider the availability of masks, hand sanitizer, how comfortable everyone looks given new or current guidelines. What has changed since you were last in the office? What do your conference rooms look like now? How can you make visitors feel welcome when you are still trying to maintain social distancing?
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 anymore, 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! Some of you may have already gone through this process in early quarantine when many of us were forced to go paperless far sooner than we wanted to! But if not, now is the time to consider the physical situation that paper creates, and what that may mean should we be forced back into another lockdown.
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. This is also true for home office warriors who will be continuing to work from home – although I have been working from home for almost 18 years, I moved my desk across the room at the beginning of quarantine, and it made a huge difference!
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 (even virtually) is getting the best impression of you. The last 20 months have been an absolute whirlwind and you may not have had the time to consider the work that you’ve done and the skills that you’ve added.
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 (well, mostly) 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.
The 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.
September is one of my favorite months, because even though I’m not in school anymore, it always feels like a fresh start to a new year. Help get yourself ready to start fresh in a couple of weeks by reviewing and updating your business development, office/home office, and marketing so that you’ll be set for September success!