“There is a myth in this country — I call it the E-Myth — which says that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs risking capital to make a profit. This is simply not so. The real reasons people start businesses have little to do with entrepreneurship. In fact, this belief in the Entrepreneurial Myth is the most important factor in the devastating rate of small business failure today. Understanding the E-Myth, and applying that understanding to the creation and development of a small business, can be the secret to any business’s success.” Michael E. Gerber, The E Myth Revisited (1995).
Gerber’s book has become a staple of the business world and is a remarkable analysis of why some businesses succeed and others fail — and what you can do to make sure your own business is in the former category and not the latter. While his book discusses concepts applicable to any business, some of them may require a small amount of tweaking to better fit the business of lawyering but they do fit.
If you have not read The E Myth Revisited, then you should because it’s well worth the small cost. Learning its lessons can make you money and save you money in your law practice. One of his points is that you need a business development plan. True.
A good business development process emphasizes “development.” The long-term goal of every business owner is to build their business up to the point where they can step down from it, either by sale or semi-retirement, etc. That takes long-term thinking about how to build the business.
Merely showing up and doing the work will only get you from the beginning of each day to its end. That is only working “in” your business and not working “on” your business. And merely showing up to do the work has nothing to do with developing your business, no matter what the business is about.
You have to plan on developing your business, increasing your client base, and refining your business processes if you want to increase your income stream while decreasing the work effort needed to produce the income stream.
That takes planning and systemization of all your law firm processes so that the practice can run itself with less of your daily involvement in the processes themselves. If you systemize everything then you systemize for your eventual success. But you have to know what you are aiming for if you expect to hit your target.
You can not succeed in any business if you don’t know what the primary aim is for your business. That’s true in all types of businesses.
What is the most important thing that you want others to know about your business? Note that we did not say “about you” because that is not what matters. Your law firm is you. That is why your law firm’s primary aim is all that matters.
Correctly phrased, the question is “what is the most important thing that you want others to know about your law firm?” Whatever it is, that should be the primary aim of your law business. Figure it out and let others in your law business know what it is.
Figuring it out involves asking some fundamental questions:
- what kind of law do you want to practice?
- how many hours a day do you want to work? How many days a week?
- what do you want your life to look like right now or in the coming years?
- what do you want to do on a day to day basis?
- what do you want other people to think about you?
- what do you want to be doing two years from now? Five years?
- where do you want to live? How do you want to live?
- how much money do you need to do those things?
- how much money will you need when you stop doing those things?
Just as in archery, you have to know where your target is if you expect to hit it. But always recognize that your primary aim can change over time. And that was never truer than in these difficult economic times.
Plan for your business and you plan for your success. Determine what you want people to say about your law firm and you know your firm's primary aim. Then focus on it for even more success.
And somewhere along the way, get a copy of Gerber's book and read it. Then figure out how to apply it to your daily practice.