Our Seventh Day of Christmas suggestion is an easy and fun one. Too often, in the end of the year rush, we miss one of the most powerful opportunities to get the most energy, confidence and motivation from the things you did all year and let them fuel you into hitting the ground running in 2010. Trust us, give it 30 minutes and a cup of Joe and see what happens.
1. Pick a day – don’t schedule it or plan it, just pick an afternoon when the majority of your team is in the office and call an impromptu “Coffee Clutch”. (For those of you who don’t know what a Coffee Clutch is, it’s that impromptu gathering that occurs as people drink their coffee and linger for some social interaction and chit chat.) Now, ordinarily impromptu “meetings” and Coffee Clutches aren’t something we would necessarily recommend. However, use this natural tendency for socialization and a 3pm caffeine jolt to your advantage.
2. Call the team together. Grab some cookies, doughnuts, chocolates – something to snack on – and if you are lucky to have a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts within a block from you (like most of America) splurge on a latte for everyone. If not, have a fresh pot of coffee made. Now here is the trick – take control! Don’t let it become a 45 minute ordering process. Be a drill sergeant, get the order, send someone to pick up the order and tell everyone to be in your office in 10 minutes – no excuses!
3. When your team assembles, relax, enjoy your coffee and have each person share two things.
First, have each person share what they are excited about doing for the Holiday. This is a great opportunity to relate to each other and begin to build trust and team relationships by sharing what’s important to each other.
Second, have each person share what they are excited about professionally for 2010. What new skill are they learning, project are they tackling, etc. This allows your team to begin to respect each other professionally as they share what they want to accomplish in 2010 and step away from the long to-do list for a moment. The funny thing about sharing is once you say it, it starts to happen.
This seems simple and unnecessary, but it’s SO, SO powerful. All teams will face tough times, problems and disappointments. It’s your respect for each other and relationship with the team, as a whole, that will make people stick it out and see things through. This simple gathering can begin to build that team respect and team loyalty. Loyalty and commitment to the team, as a whole, is very different and much more powerful than loyalty and friendship between individual team members.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
To your team’s continued success,
Molly and Laney
Many of us make annual contributions from our businesses at the end of the year to charities we support. Our Eighth Day of Christmas idea is to engage your clients to participate in this cause that is important to you, not as a donor, but by helping you choose. This idea is something attorney George Constant, of Massachusetts, has done for years and enjoyed his clients’ response. (Thank you George for allowing us to share your great idea.)
It works like this:
Narrow down the charities you support to a few. Use your December newsletter, e-zine or email alerts to allow your clients to vote on which charity your firm will make its annual donation to. This is a great way to let clients be a part of something you already do anyways. It can be a great relationship strengthener to let your clients be a part of the causes your law firm supports.
By using email, it may not be too late to take advantage of this idea this year. Or put a reminder on your calendar now for November of 2010 to add this feature to your December newsletter.
To your continued success,
Molly and Laney
It’s common for many law offices to send out Holiday cards. It’s even more common for law firms to scramble every year to get together their mailing list, order their cards and get them out on time. How it is that Christmas sneaks up on us each year and catches us unprepared, wherein we “reinvent the Holiday card wheel” year after year. Our Ninth Day of Christmas suggestion is to stop now, while it’s fresh in your head, and clean up your Holiday card process. If you put it aside “until you have time”, it will be Christmas again before you know it!
Helpful Hints for Crazy Card Clean Up
1. Use your database management system to organize your mailing list. Most database management systems, such as Time Matters, Goldmine, Abacus, etc., allow you to create Codes. Simply create a code for “Holiday Card list” and code the people you send cards out to. This will let you easily sort, merge and print labels or address lists. It also lets you get an accurate, current count so you don’t over order cards. Note that some programs limit the number of “codes” a person you enter can have. If this is a concern for you, instead use one of your available fields as your “Holiday Card field” and standardize the answer to either a checkbox or YES/NO. If you don’t standardize the answer, it will be filled in inconsistently and mess up your report and mailing list. As always with data entry, garbage in – garbage out.
2. Go basic, use Excel. If you don’t have a database management program or don’t know how to customize and use your codes or custom features, go basic and use Excel. An Excel spreadsheet can more than accommodate your need to track your mailing list. You can also mail merge labels or envelopes directly from Excel.
3. Create an EASY system for keeping your list current. Creating your Holiday card list is only half the battle. Keeping it updated is the other half. Create an easy system for adding people to the list throughout there year so come December, its ready to go. Here are some suggestions:
- Literally write a code (CARD) on a person’s business card, evaluation, or whatever piece of paper lists a person’s information. Hand to your receptionist, assistant, scan in and email to your VA – do whatever you need to do to immediately hand this OFF to someone else who will add this person to the list. In fact, in the law firm I worked in, our attorney had no idea what happened to the information after he wrote “CARD” on it and left it in the receptionist’s Inbox. He just knew the system worked. Since the receptionist was the person who usually sent out the cards, we let her create the tracking system. (Just make sure whoever creates the system types up instructions and adds it to your Office Operations Manual.) Point is, this doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, a “hands on” project for the attorney.
- Create standards on who gets a card. For instance, all referral sources that send us a client who hires us or all new estate planning clients. As this person is added to your database, the team member entering their data can add them to your list. This removes the “having to stop and think about it” from the attorney’s mind.
- Make the “Holiday card” field required in your database system. Many database management programs will let you with the click of a button make a field ‘required’. This means that it has to be filled in before you can Save and Exit the screen. If you make “Holiday card” a required field it forces people to stop, consider, and answer this question while the person is fresh in their mind. This lets you avoid the “who is that?” question at the end of the year. Another great ‘required field’ is “Referred By” – this is SO critical to track it should literally be required.
4. Delegate it and get out of the way. Your team probably knows your database management system, how to mail merge and what it takes to send out your cards as well as, if not better than you. Define what you ideally want your Holiday card system to be and then get out of the way and let them create it! Then you can focus back on your revenue producing activities and know your team’s got this one handled for you.
5. Schedule time now to create a custom card. If you are going to spend the time and money on sending out cards – do something unique that will stand out. Most graphic companies can also take your team’s photographs and Photoshop them into a holiday scene. The years we did this we received allot of client compliments. We even found cards stuck inside our clients’ estate planning binders so they could use it as a reference when they called us to see who they were talking to.
A few hints:
- Ask your graphic person or photographer for suggestions – they do this all the time and can help you.
- Choose your scene and discuss with your photographer ahead of time. You want to have everything you need to get it done in one shot.
- Be crystal clear with your team on attire. I mean crystal clear! Things like one person having open toed shoes or shirts tucked in or out can make a big difference in how professional your picture turns out.
- It’s sometimes easier to choose an image that allows each person to have their picture individually taken and Photo shopped into together. It’s harder to get one shot with everyone smiling and their eyes open!
- Stick with a “feel” that represents what clients love about you. If they love your humor, be funny. If they love your compassion, be sentimental. Be you! Clients will love it.
To your continued success,
Molly and Laney
With ten days to go until the office is closed for the Christmas holiday, it’s the perfect time to check in so you can check out. To get the most from your time off, you really have to be able to “unplug” for at least a day or two. If you don’t, you might as well drag the Christmas tree into the office and keep working – you aren’t going to enjoy your time off and rejuvenate anyways! Now, with about a week to go until Christmas, proactively check in so that when you leave for the holiday, you can truly check out and recharge your batteries.
Checking in is really simple – it goes like this:
1. Write down any loose “to do” running around in your head. Don’t over think it – just jot what immediately comes to mind that “you absolutely have to do”. Don’t worry about how to solve it, just capture it on paper.
2. Scan your calendar for the first three weeks of January. Write down any appointments you have that requires you to prepare something for it.
3. Think of any major projects you are partnering in – these might be other attorneys or organizations you are collaborating with, boards you serve on, etc. – write them down.
4. Write down anything you routinely provide content for – columns, articles, blogs, etc.
5. Write down the name of your biggest clients.
6. Write down the name of each employee you have.
7. Write down the name of each person in your family.
8. Go over your calendar and find available time and block it off as “white time”. This is time to finish these items up and complete the things that will fall out of your “checking in”. Don’t panic! You aren’t creating work to do; you are simply identifying things you already promised and making sure you fulfill them! Better to plan on finding the time now, than realize you missed something on the way out the door Christmas Eve and stay up until midnight trying to finish it up.
Now, for any person or organization you wrote down – simply “check in”. Send a quick email or phone call and ask them “is there anything you need from me before January 1″? Note, this doesn’t mean you are giving them permission to come up with new things for you to do. It is simply checking in to make sure you are on the same page regarding promised items or commitments you have made. No one can have a fun, relaxing vacation if they wake up at 2 a.m. panicking that they just totally dropped the ball on a colleague. If new things come up, capture them and schedule time to talk after the New Year regarding new projects. Remember, this includes family! Check in with them to see what they need from you to make it a great holiday.
For projects or content you’ve promised people, use your “white time” to complete these items before you “check out” for the holiday.
This simple, proactive step not only allows you to check out without feeling guilty or panicked, but shows your commitment and accountability to those you work with.
To a relaxing, rejuvenating holiday,
Molly and Laney
On the “Twelfth day of Christmas” blog, we shared how to clear up some “messes” so you can start 2010 with a clean slate and with energy and focus. Today on the “Eleventh day of Christmas”, we will share a quick and easy recipe for creating a great client experience.
In today’s world of online information, email communication and virtual relationships, anyone in the professional services world must capitalize on opportunities to create a client “experience” that will help build a relationship that is valued and unique in your client’s mind. Quality advice and service is a must, but it’s often the small, thoughtful things we do that resonate with our client and makes us distinct from our competition. Here is an easy, fun way to use the ingredients of the holiday season to put some warmth in your client relationship.
Create a Holiday Season Experience
1 Jug Apple Cider
1 Cider Seasoning Packet
Paper Cups or Coffee Mugs
A pinch of holiday cheer
Simply mix the cider and seasoning, warm it up and place in a thermos in your reception area. Place sugar cookies on a plate with napkins and mugs nearby. Print and hang a sign inviting clients to join you for some holiday cheer. Add a footer to all your emails inviting clients and referral sources to stop by and join in. If you send out newsletters or e-zines, add a short invitation. Not only will it fill your office with an inviting aroma of spiced cider, it will give clients an opportunity to stop in and interact with your team in a non-legal, more relationship way.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, an attorney can’t just eat cookies all day with drop-in clients! Of course not! This can be a “team” experience. Encouraging your clients and team to interact can be a powerful way to leverage the attorneys time by utilizing their friendly staff, and in the process, NOT having to be personally available for every client interaction. Most employees are already giddy with holiday cheer this time of year, put it to good use! Let them share it with your clients! This is an easy, in-expensive way to create a client experience. You may not get tons of clients coming through the first year, but it can be an easy tradition to start and let build.
1. If you are in a small office, or work solo, add “between the hours of ___ and ____” to your announcement. Make sure you are there during that time and the doors are open. This will limit the expectation that you are there and available all day, every day.
2. Don’t assume the attorney has to come and personally greet each client. If the attorney happens to be out and about in the office, that’s great, but don’t interrupt them each time a client stops by. The team can be your best “cheermeisters”.
3. Use small cups, it makes the cider last longer.
4. Acknowledge client comments, but don’t overreact. The first year we did this idea, we had one stern and serious business owner comment to our attorney that “he just needed to come get his legal documents signed, not be served cookies – that it was silly”. (Note, this didn’t stop him from having a cup of cider and a few cookies!) Certainly there will be a handful of clients who will care less about some of the ideas you implement. However, be sure to compare them to the numerous clients who like the idea. Quantify, before you knee-jerk react and pull the plug on something new. Usually, as was the case with this particular client, clients are still going to work with you even if they think an idea is silly. They aren’t going to be so offended you served them cookies they fire you…they are just expressing their opinion. If you are concerned about how a new idea is being received, have your team give you feedback – often they hear the compliments from the clients and you, as attorney, only hear the complaints!
5. Set boundaries and delegate it! This is an easy idea to set a few boundaries and delegate to someone on your team. The attorney doesn’t need to be “hands on” with this. Decide how much money the team can spend ($20 should be plenty!) and how much time they can spend on this idea (1 hour to buy supplies and set up is more than enough). With some clear boundaries to make sure you are on the same page, your team can definitely handle this one.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Tenth day of Christmas blog. Happy Holidays!
Molly and Laney
This blog will be dedicated to getting the most out of the twelve days of Christmas. Each day we will post a suggestion or idea for marketing, planning or otherwise preparing to end 2009 with a bang and start 2010 powerfully. Some ideas are ours. Some are being shared (with permission) by attorneys or teams we work with.
The remaining 11 ideas will ONLY be posted to our blog, Facebook Fan page and Twitter – so use the links below to connect with us so you don’t miss out!
The Twelfth Day of Christmas:
Often what steals most of our energy and focus in January are the lingering “messes” from the previous year. Today, pick the 12 messes that are driving you nuts and tackle one each day so you end the year with some mental space for new projects, instead of wasting your thoughts on old messes.
They don’t have to be major projects. Here are a few examples:
1. Get all team’s phone numbers programmed in my cell phone for easy access.
2. Get extension list on phone updated with current, accurate extensions for team.
3. Take home extra books on bookshelf that I no longer have room for and look messy.
4. Get all software put on one shelf with an inventory list so we stop buying new stuff because we can’t find anything.
5. Research cell phone plans for a better rate and upgrade my phone.
6. Have paint on doors touched up – the scuff marks are driving me crazy. (Close office at 3pm, order pizza and have the team paint from 3-5pm.)
1. Don’t be overly ambitious with your list. Even if you have 27 messes to clean up its far better to complete 12 than to spend an hour listing them all out and lose your momentum before you even finish your list!
2. Divide the twelve and split between you and your team. Even if your involvement is required in all 12, you can spread out the responsiblity of helping and reminding you.
3. Make it fun – treat yourself, or your team if they help, to something fun when they are complete. Nothing big – a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha…cake…some small but celebratory.
4. If business is a bit slow for you right now, schedule out half a day for you and your team to tackle the twelve messes and be done with it. Use the lull in business to clean up old messes.
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To your continued success,
Molly and Laney