New year, new habits: how good business practices can deliver long term business success
We’re all familiar with our bad habits, and will often resolve to break them in January, with a renewed focus at the start of a new year. Often, bad habits are personal, such as wanting to cut down on caffeine, or to stop smoking, but how often do we think about breaking bad business habits?
Businesses can often be unaware of their internal bad habits. Daily processes become so engrained in the business that they remain unchallenged; it’s the way things have always been done and, over time, it’s hard to recognise the good habits from the bad.
This is particularly damaging to a business in the long term when the world around us evolves, yet our beliefs, systems and processes remain the same. Working in the legal tech sector, I’m acutely aware that when it comes to law firms, client expectations have changed dramatically over the past few years – they expect seamless communication and prompt response times to queries – yet some firms haven’t upgraded their systems or invested in automating their operations to meet this expectation. Failure to consider change within your firm, despite recognising that certain processes are holding you back, is likely to mean that you’re locked into some bad habits that are potentially damaging from a commercial perspective.
Small changes can deliver long term success
I recently read James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Clear talks about how, when combined, the most miniscule changes can have a significant impact upon business success and emphasises that the only way to meet your goals is to create an environment that sets you up for success.
Clear’s book got me thinking about how these simple steps and atomic improvements could have a profound and positive effect on a law firm’s success in the long term. Clear highlighted to me why lawyers should care about implementing good business habits and legal technology to help them succeed. Whilst improving client service and growing profitability are clearly important, without good business habits and digital foundations in place, lawyers are inflicting unnecessary restrictions on themselves.
Technology facilitates the implementation of good habits to achieve a streamlined operation – and when these become the norm, you’ll reduce errors, over-head costs and the cost of being complaint. You’ll also increase employee happiness, sales opportunities, enhance client service, and importantly, achieve your goals quicker.
Digital solutions help firms to build good habits in the present that enable them to meet their future goals. As well as reaping initial gains from automating processes, increasing efficiencies, and improving productivity, technology enables firms to easily manage the day to day running their business, so that resource can be refocused on driving growth, achieving goals, and maximising potential.
The importance of good habits for your law firm
Building good business habits helps you establish a foundation of seamless and effective processes for maximum output using as little resource as possible. When standardised effective processes are agreed upon and implemented, those actions can be performed seamlessly, therefore freeing up resource to focus on the bigger picture. They provide freedom from the daily tasks to focus on the activities that will impact future success such as marketing strategies, business development or client relationships for the longer term.
Good habits for your law firm could include agreeing on a standardised client care letter that can be easily completed and sent to a client, or ensuring all data and documents are stored centrally so everyone has access to the same information or scheduling timely follow-ups to enquiries, meaning opportunities are never missed. When the fundamentals of efficient operations are standardised, it means resource isn’t wasted and time is freed up for building marketing strategies, working on your pipeline, or building client relationships.
Clear explains, “habits are the backbone for any pursuit of excellence’. The biggest impacts and powerful outcomes come from small beginnings and incremental improvements. The best results are delayed and require patience. That’s why even the atomic habits of your firm will determine the success of the business. In 2003, the Performance Director of the British cycling team, Dave Brailsford, focused on 1% marginal gains and the results were phenomenal. Leaving no stone unturned, Brailsford looked to optimise performance across every area of the teams’ activities and after years of dedication the team went on to dominate world cycling from 2008, breaking Olympic and world records.
Building good habits in the present enables you to meet your future goals. Similarly, though, continuing with inefficient, bad habits now will accumulate to bigger challenges in time.
How to implement good habits
It’s only by proactively reviewing and analysing processes that you realise what could be improved; it’s the key to identifying your opportunity, potential and growth.
The best place to start is with an implementation plan that outlines the goals and objectives of your firm. Be specific with what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve them. As these should be firm-wide goals and habits, it’s important to involve your team in the plan to reduce friction and improve buy-in.
The next stage is to take note of your firm’s habits, good and bad. Review your current processes and daily activities and decide what is serving you today and whether they will continue to in the long-term. The first step to changing bad habits is to notice them and then small changes and improvements puts you on the right path towards change.
Start small, aim big
Continuous improvements help you achieve a return on your investments, whether that’s applied to your people, clients, or software solutions. Always look for ways to better utilise employees’ time, skills, and feedback. Be open to discovering new software or technology features, take training, and consider adapting processes to maximise technology. These regular reviews of your processes will help your firm achieve more with the same resource and put you on the path towards excellence.
Start small when building new habits, be consistent and open to change and you’ll make big impacts on the success of your firm.