I’ve worked with thousands of attorneys in my career and nearly without exception, all have said that the hardest part about running a law firm is retaining an engaged team. Weird? Well, not really when you consider that lawyers are trained to practice law, not maximize employee retention and engagement. And even less weird when you further consider that the skills needed to navigate law school are almost the opposite of those needed to run a business.
Often, scholastic success is in direct proportion to how much you can achieve in how little time. It’s about harder, better, faster. Business success, on the other hand, requires a different orientation. While efficiency is important, it means nothing without process and, last time I checked, a course on instituting processes that empower your team wasn’t a part of the law school curriculum.
You know as well as I do, however, that telling an attorney to do things differently isn’t easy. Hubris is real. Anyone who has experienced success has fallen into the trap of thinking they know best. This is natural and yet, often, counterproductive. To see why, look no further than your local Starbucks.
Going Grande: Over caffeinated Growth and a Cautionary Tale of Hubris
Starbucks is good. Really good. And that is its biggest problem. Customers get to walk in, dream up their ideal drink, order, and have it in-hand before a real Italian barista would have even acknowledged their existence. It’s bespoke service at a fast-food pace. A golden ticket in a world where efficiency and individuality are commanding values. And yet, this winning combo has hindered the coffee franchise’s continued growth.
Custom drinks are harder to make than a simple cup of joe. Every half-caf, hazelnut, oat milk latte demands individualized attention, which means a team of baristas can only make so many, so fast. You can’t scale up when you’re already courting the limits of efficiency, and this has proven to be a big problem.
Nonetheless, when you’ve achieved Starbucks-level success, you’re especially susceptible to thinking you know what’s best. Founder Howard Schultz acknowledged this when admitting “a disease entered the company in 2008, and it was hubris. It was hubris in which the company was chasing, measuring, and rewarding the wrong things […] And Starbucks lost its way.”
Unsurprisingly, the solution wasn’t simply doing what has worked before harder, better, and faster. Schultz’ team didn’t need to step up their game; instead, the company needed to step up its basic processes. Starting with a new blender, Schultz revolutionized the way that the company made their frozen drinks, and this allowed Starbucks employees to meet increasing demand without increased strain.
For entrepreneurial attorneys, the lesson here is that you need to upgrade employee resources if want your team to remain engaged, empowered, and productive. Everyone from baristas to barristers need the right tools if they are to do their best work, and providing these tools is your—the entrepreneur’s— responsibility. This is easier said than done, however.
What has worked in the past isn’t necessarily what will work in the present, and this is especially true as operations grow. Running a coffee shop is not the same as running a multinational behemoth; likewise, getting a small firm off the ground is not the same as running a thriving, fast-paced operation. Progress means continually updating your processes, and doing this means seeking expert advice.
To learn more, don’t hesitate to book yourself into my calendar today! I have sat in both seats: the entrepreneur’s and the employee’s. I know what you need, I know what your team needs, and I know how to bridge that gap so that your firm can turn around its people, processes, productivity, and productivity.