For the majority, what is happening to us at this moment in our history is a story that we will tell over and over as we discuss job losses, foreclosures, bankruptcies, inflated food costs, health care and more as we watch the impact of a schizophrenic ‘economy’ happening to our neighbors and friends and maybe even ourselves.
The stories abound about the uber-rich and the destruction of the middle class; an economy in recovery yet an economy on the brink of failing. It’s like being tossed on a violent ocean in a dinghy. One minute you’re holding on for your life right side up, the next you are flipped over and under water.
How do you gain control? The only way the story will change for us personally is if we change our approach to what we are doing. And what most of my readers are doing is creating a business, a solo practice, in extraordinary times. We can’t wait for ‘them’ to right this boat. Our survival is no one else’s job. It’s ours. While law students may be instituting class actions against their schools, very few of us will be able to put food on our tables waiting to see if we can join the class action. What do you do? Very few will be able to close shop and ‘get a job’ simply because we don’t want to put in the effort required to succeed. And what the employment numbers don’t tell you is that most jobs being created are part time. Very few of us will have other options. This economy is telling us to get creative, to get entrepreneurial and just make it work. So, if failure is not an option, then you must succeed. The question then becomes, ‘how?’
When a small (or ‘micro’ ) business succeeds it is because of the smarts, creativity and sweat equity of the entrepreneur. A solo practitioner generally qualifies as a micro-business because they are a business of one. And it is a business that creates a service, one that serves a very specific purpose. It improves the client’s life in a tangible way and/or helps ‘facilitate’ the client’s business.
The responsible solo practitioner has an affirmative obligation to think strategically and for the long term. They must create business solutions (for themselves) capable of withstanding the next decade or so which will be brutal. Listening to pie in the sky and ‘delusional’ statements like ‘there is no recession’ or ‘American’s are just whiners’ will only help you to meander down a path of inaction and distraction, or worse, take you in a completely wrong direction when it comes to your professional career.
Being positive is critical. But most importantly you must be positive based upon reality. Reality, rather than wishful thinking, should be driving your business plan.
You must be willing to create a business plan based upon today’s sketchy conditions and implement it with full faith it will succeed, being prepared to make changes as new challenges present themselves. This is a time when we must reactivate our long dormant survival gene and not rely on a ‘hope and a prayer.’
Solo practitioners must focus on the following: (in no particular order)
- Cash Flow: Do you have adequate cash flow for a defined period of time? (how long a time is personal)
- Which of your current clients will more likely then not be unable to meet their obligations to you and what strategy or office procedures do you have in place to deal with this challenge?
- Are you aggressively building a cash reserve for both your firm and yourself?
- Is your marketing strategy to attract new clients effective in this economy/market?
- Do you have adequate credit to withstand a shortfall in your income?
- What can you do to increase loyalty from existing clients?
- What do you need to understand about the economy and how it might impact your business that you don’t have a good handle on now?
- What cost cutting can you do today to take home more of each dollar you earn?
- Who should you really be studying and listening to in order to maximize your opportunity and grow your business in this economy? There are way too many talking heads pitching products and services.
- What are you doing to differentiate yourself in this competitive marketplace for legal services?
- What are you doing to strengthen your ‘brand’ and introducing it to your target clients?
- Is your current marketing/advertising bringing in the desired ROI (Return on Investment) even if it is ‘time’ on social media sites?
- Are you embracing and learning new technologies and digital media that will allow you to extend and amplify your message specifically where your target audience is?
- What can you do to get more more visible in the maddening crowd?
- What dialogue can you create regarding this economy which will resonate with your clients?
- How can you improve your client’s experience making it unforgettable?
Now is the time for solo practitioners to go back to the basics of ‘good’ business planning and practice which must include great client service. Be positive after you’ve taken the time to fully understand what is happening in our economy. Be positive there is opportunity but understanding there is no shortcut and no handouts. You have to be creative and hard-working to find and then cultivate those opportunities. The landscape is changing and so must the solo practitioner’s approach to creating and building their business.
What steps have you taken to address the changing economic climate. Please share.