Richard Branson Can Teach Lawyers a Thing or Five

Richard Branson recently authored an article published on Entrepreneur.com giving advice to startups about how to build a successful business.  I’m a big fan of Mr. Branson and have read most of his books.  Mr. Branson should know a thing or two about starting and building successful businesses.  He’s also quick to point out in his book Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur that he’s got a good deal of experience in businesses that fail.

Mr. Branson is responding to the frequent inquiry that goes like this, “Have you found a secret to building successful businesses?”  Surely during all these years he’s uncovered the secret.  After all, it seems now that everything he touches turns to gold.

His 5 Tips can teach lawyers something about building our law businesses.

Branson’s Tip No. 1: Enjoy What You Are Doing.

Are you?  I mean enjoying what you do.  I recently read an article that said that 55% of all people do not enjoy their job.  Assuming that is the case, is it any wonder that we generally receive such poor customer service?

When someone asks you, “Do you enjoy being a lawyer?”  What is your honest response?

You spend an enormous amount of your waking hours doing the doing of a lawyer.  If you don’t enjoy it, be assured you’ll wake up one morning and ask yourself, “Why, Why, Why have I continued for so long?”  Are there parts of being a lawyer that you enjoy?  Perhaps you might want to see what you could do to expand the amount of time you spend doing that part of the business.

If there is absolutely nothing you enjoy about being a lawyer, perhaps its time to reconsider professions.  The training we each received in law school equips us to contribute to a number of businesses.  Just don’t assume because you are a lawyer now, that you’ve got to continue.  That’s the beauty of being trained to think critically, it equips us for lots of other things.

Branson’s Tip No. 2: Create Something That Stands Out.

Does the representation you provide “stand out” when compared to others?  Are you always better prepared, better equipped than the competition?

One of the surprises to me over the last 27 years is that the clients of my competitors evaluate me in the same way that the client paying me does.  The really cool part of this is that you are absolutely in control of this.  You can decide to be the very best you can be or you can abdicate the decision and just roll with the wind.  Branson says if you are going to make your mark, then be remarkable.

Are you?

Branson’s Tip No. 3: Create Something That Everybody Who Works for You is Really Proud of.

Do your employees understand the value that you provide to the lives of your clients?  Sometimes we are transactional, mechanical if you will, and just look at resolving this particular problem.  However the impact we have in our clients lives (and often their businesses).  Bring your employees into the inner circle of influence with your clients.  Educate them on the very important role they play in the lives of your clients, in the success of your business, and the future of their career.  I’m absolutely confident that when you empower your employees with the knowledge of the impact of their role then you get better performance and greater employee satisfaction.

Branson’s Tip No. 4: Be a Good Leader.

It really doesn’t matter whether you are a solo, in a small firm or in one of the mega firms if your law business is going to be successful you must pick up the mantle of leadership.

Be a leader in the way you treat your employees.

Be a leader in the way that you treat other lawyers both inside and outside the firm.

Be a leader in the way you interact with your adversaries.

A leader sets the pace.  A leader raises the bar.  A leader elevates what those around the leader expect of themselves.

Branson’s Tip No. 5: Be Visible.

Branson says, “A good leader does not get stuck behind a desk.”  What he’s really saying here is that you can learn more about how to improve your business (and perhaps the quality of your service) by insuring that you are not isolated from new ideas and even from criticism.

Often when you are in the “thick of the battle” it’s hard to see how things can be improved.  One of the toughest parts about Branson’s recommendation is that you might get exposed to criticism that may damage your ego.  Ask yourself this question “Is it worth a little ding to your ego in order to improve the quality of your client’s experiences with your firm?”  The answer is obvious.

So there we have it.  Richard Branson’s 5 Tips for Business Success.  We can each apply these 5 in our respective businesses.

By the way, I really recommend Branson’s book “Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur.”

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