As we approach the New Year, now is the time to ask yourself whether you and your law firm are ready to meet challenges and seize opportunities. Are you prepared with a strong marketing foundation -- one that covers the Essentials, positions you well in the marketplace, and has built-in flexibility allowing you to respond to changes as they occur?
Success -- especially in this precarious and changing estate tax environment -- depends upon establishing this strong foundation, keeping your cool, and doing the right things right -- consistently.
I learned this from my horses, who constantly get me into precarious and challenging situations!
For example, we brought two new horses home to the farm last week. It's always a bit of an adventure bringing new horses into an established herd -- as they squable and spat and jockey for "position" in the herd heirarchy. While we take those "school yard antics" in stride, there are some types of behavior we cannot tolerate. One of our new horses arrived with very poor ground manners -- he would barge into our personal space, refuse to be caught and haltered, throw his head up in the air, and generally behave poorly on the ground.
We cannot tolerate bad ground manners in any of our horses. It's a matter of our personal safety. Even our smallest horses weigh at least 1,000 lbs each, so we don't want any of them stepping, kicking, or barging into us! Every horse on the property has to submit quickly and easily to being haltered (and blanketed if necessary) in the field, must walk politely and calmly on the lead, lower his head for the bridle or halter, stand calmly at the gate, wait his turn, respect my personal space, and w-a-l-k calmly into his own stall at dinner time (no racing your buddies in the barn!).
Our newest little Arabian broke all of these rules, which surprised me because he is a calm, unflappable little dear under saddle. I came to the conclusion that he simply had not been taught proper etiquette, so that became our first order of business with him.
Interestingly, I consulted a few other horsey-type folks for their insights, as I was truly surprised that the easy-going little Arab was so ill-mannered. The advice I received was equally surprising. I was given everything from a complex explanation of left-brain, right-brain, introvert / extrovert horse "personalities," to advice to sell my "dangerous" animal!
Well, here is what I did: I went back to basics with the little Arab. I calmly, consistently and clearly showed him what I expected, and what I would not tolerate, in terms of ground behavior. I raised neither my voice nor my hand to him -- not once. I went about making it easy for him to do the right thing, and hard to do the wrong one. I rewarded and praised him lavishly when he backed up from the gate when asked, or lowered his head for the halter, or waited calmly at the gate.
Our little Arabian has been on the property for 10 days -- less than two weeks. He is now an absolute picture of politeness. He knows the rules, and is perfectly happy to live by them. He is a joy to have around, and even my three-year-old grand-daughter could handle him safely.
I tell this story because it clearly illustrates that extraordinary measures are seldom required to achieve your goals. Instead, achieving your goals is really a matter of following some very systematic Essential basics -- be prepared, stay calm, and consistently do the right things right.
We were prepared for the unexpected -- an ill-mannered horse -- with the proper foundations. We have a well-designed barn and paddock system, consistent routines, proper equipment, and years of experience ... along with a small herd of well-behaved horses who did not escalate our difficulties! With these Essentials in place, we had the flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to the unexpected.
Establish the Essentials in your estate planning or elder law firm marketing plan now -- with a well-designed, optimized website; a relevant, robust blog, active social media, and supportive drip marketing through newsletters and e-newsletters. Get a solid marketing foundation, and you will be ready to seize opportunities and meet whatever challenges 2011 throws at you!