Expert Columns Category

Relentless and Obsessed

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

TonyScelzoEd

Someone once told me I was relentless and obsessed. I took it as a negative personality flaw. It made me feel like I needed balance. Over the years I learned to like my obsessive characteristics. If I focused on the right things this could be a positive thing. About a week ago I started reading a book called Relentless, “From Good to Great to Unstoppable” by Tim S. Grover.

Grover trains the best athletes in the world on recovery, getting stronger and mental toughness. You may have heard of Michael Jordan, one of the best athletes he trained..

The characteristics he finds in his best athletes is their sellout commitment to outwork their opponents. These athletes own their space on their field or court and in their sport.

Think about the toughest competitor you have competed with in business, life, health or even spirituality.

Were you willingly committed and relentless to win at all expenses of time, energy, and money?

Just think about how scary it is to face someone who is willing to die to get better.

Jordan was the most relentless, obsessed, and focused individual in the game. There were many that matched and exceeded his physical stature, but it was his steely eyed determination, and relentless obsession to be better than the rest of the league that separated him from the good. It didn’t stop there, it made him the best.

It is unreasonable to be relentless and obsessed. Jordan, Jobs, Gates, Picasso, and Hemingway were so unreasonable in their pursuits they became the best.

Tony Scelzo
Gear Marketing
tony@gearbfd.com

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Value Based Pricing for Professional Services

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Way in the back of the room, a young man in a crisp blue suit, raised his hand.

“Do you know how we make money?” he asked.

I was in the middle of one of my favorite topics, teaching attorneys how to increase their productivity by more effectively managing their time.

The crowd got real quiet because he was addressing the pink elephant in the room.

I responded with – “Thanks for having the courage to ask the question everyone in the room wants answered. Why would anyone want to get more work done in less time when most are incentived to bill for as much time as possible?”

This is an extremely important question – with no easy answer. However, we’ll discuss how to make this happen.

The Current State

Today, the majority of legal and accounting firms (referred to as “professionals” for the remainder of this piece) follow the same business model.

Get a new client, provide them with a billable rate, bill them as many hours as possible, and if they complain about your invoice, write down a portion of the charges.

Truth be told, no one likes this model.

Clients hate the idea of engaging with a $350 an hour professional who indicates that the fee will be “however long it takes.” In addition, these same clients are well aware that most professional’s compensation is tied directly to the amount of hours they bill.

NOTE: I’ve worked with hundreds of professionals over the years. To my knowledge, not one of them has intentionally delivered work in an inefficient manner just to increase their fees. However, this doesn’t mean that the current model is the most effective method for delivering these services.

Many professional services firms are frustrated by the fact that there are only two ways to grow revenue – Increase the amount of hours worked or the billable rate.

In 2015, the problem for these firms is made worse by 2 unrelated factors.

First, younger professionals (millennials) don’t typically have the same career goals as previous generations. They are very interested in work/life balance and are more likely to walk away from the big payday if it means a 70 hour work week.

Second, technology is commoditizing most professional service industries. By that I mean, it’s easier than ever to understand who delivers the exact service needed, compare prices and pit providers against one another in a bidding war. This competition depresses the average hourly rate and will only get worse as low cost providers (typically in foreign countries) get better at delivering their services in the US.

Shifting Paradigm

Maybe, it’s time to consider a different approach?

Instead of putting up with the status quo, I’d challenge you to consider the following question – What if I could charge for the value I create, rather than the number of hours I work?

I know what you’re thinking – Thanks for pointing out the obvious. What are you going to talk about next – how to eat whatever I want and lose weight?

In understand that charging for value instead of hours has been an elusive pipe dream for years.

However, the demographic/technological changes are forcing the industry to move beyond dreaming about value based pricing and work towards making it happen.

It’s Not Going to Be Easy

Let me state the obvious – this is not going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be one of the biggest challenges your firm will face.

I’ve heard many of the standard objections…

It’s impossible to know how many hours a project will take. What if I guess low and end up losing a ton?
My clients haven’t even mentioned this idea. Why would I want to risk introducing a controversial new concept to a stable relationship?
Accountants/attorneys have been keeping track of their time in 6 minute increments for thousands of years – getting them to change behavior would be impossible.
What if my competition points out all that could go wrong with this approach and my clients agrees.
If I were running a large firm, I would look at these legitimate doubts and be very tempted to declare – “This challenge is simply too big.”

Your peers within the firm will push back the hardest. Next, many of your clients will be skeptical assuming this is simply another attempt to line your pockets.

As I mentioned, it’s not going to be easy.

Walk Before You Run

Because the challenge is so significant, I recommend you take a very careful and slow approach that follows these key fundamentals.

Customer First – If your motivation behind making this change is simply to increase the bottom line, you‘ll struggle. The goal of this (and just about any) effort should be to bring more value to the customer. This focus will ensure you have the right conversations both internally and externally.
Understand the Data – Before you do anything, take the time to carefully detail the services that are a good fit for value based pricing (e.g. – simple contract reviews) and those that aren’t (e.g. – complex M & A transaction). In addition, put together a list of the clients who would be a good or bad fit for the initial conversations about this new approach. Keep in mind some clients (those that use you sporadically for small projects) may never be a candidate for this change.
Be the Leader – In the professional services industry, you’re either a commoditized vendor sitting and waiting for the next “project” or a trusted advisor. Assuming the latter role will allow you to have meaningful conversations about a change in your approach. You can then advise the client that considering value based pricing could help them effectively budget for legal services and efficiently utilize resources.

Start Small – Pick a small project and see how it goes.
Reflect and Adjust – Once the project is completed analyze the effort to understand the profit margin, the effectiveness of your team and most importantly – the satisfaction of the client.

I am fully aware that there are thousands of details left to be addressed before you do anything.

Changing the way you value and bill for your services is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a firm. It

To paraphrase a former president – I feel your pain.

Before you push this conversation to next year’s partner meeting, remember that it’s not 1995.

Today, the marketplace evolves at a pace we couldn’t have even imagined 20 years ago. The organizations that grow will be those that embrace innovation in its many different forms.

Get out in front and lead.

Help your clients perceive your firm as a valuable provider of services that help you to grow.

C.J. McClanahan
317-576-8492
cj@cjmcclanahan.com

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Why Owners Choose Not To Sell

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Presented by T. Ray Phillips

Some owners make a choice not to sell their companies for very legitimate reasons. Among them are:

They still have enough fire in the belly to fuel their investment of time and energy in the business. They are grooming interested family members or employees to one day assume the reins.

Some owners, however, have businesses that are prepared for sale, but hesitate. Why? These owners typically don’t sell when they should because: 1) they procrastinate; 2) they fear the unknown; or 3) they fear losing the known.

Procrastination
Procrastination on the part of an owner is not uncommon and has many causes.

First, some owners just don’t know where or how to start planning an exit. If you are one of those owners, then reading the remainder of this article is a good start. The next step is to contact our offices to begin the process of creating an Exit Plan that allows you to cash out of your business and leave in style when you are ready to do so.

Second, some owners think that they can always sell later. These owners overlook the demographic evidence indicating that when most Boomers reach retirement age, the glut of companies in the marketplace may drive prices down. Other owners in this group understand that the level of activity in the Mergers & Acquisition market can have a huge affect on the sale price of a company and their strategy is to wait until the market recovers.

In the third group of procrastinating owners are those who believe that because they have “good” businesses, their exits require no significant planning. When they think about selling, they assume that there isn’t much for them to do because when the time is right, the right buyers will appear and pay them great prices for their companies.It does happen, albeit quite rarely, that the right buyer appears and pays a great price for a great company. However, it makes more sense to prepare for the biggest financial transaction of your life than to entrust the success of your business exit to Lady Luck.

Fear of the Unknown
Owners who suffer from the fear of the unknown usually hold one (or more) of the following opinions:

I don’t think the business is worth enough to satisfy my financial needs and objectives.
If the employees discover I’m trying to sell, they will all quit.
Because I’m indispensable to the company, I’ll be required to work years for a new owner and I don’t like working for anyone!
The sale process will take too long and cost too much.

Fear of Losing the Known
On the other hand, the fear of losing the known is usually based on the following:

The business has been my life—or at least it has given my life a great deal of meaning and focus; without it I may feel lost.
The government will take too much in taxes. It is easier, less risky and more lucrative to stay, enjoy the cash flow and then leave getting paid over time.

What will I do after I sell and leave the business? I don’t know what my life will look like if I leave.

If one (or more) of these concerns resonates with you, let’s meet to assess them.

Disclosure:
The information contained in this article is general in nature and is not legal, tax or financial advice. For information regarding your particular situation, contact an attorney or a tax or financial advisor.

The information in this newsletter is provided with the understanding that it does not render legal, accounting, tax or financial advice. In specific cases, clients should consult their legal, accounting, tax or financial advisor. This article is not intended to give advice or to represent our firm as being qualified to give advice in all areas of professional services. Exit Planning is a discipline that typically requires the collaboration of multiple professional advisors. To the extent that our firm does not have the expertise required on a particular matter, we will always work closely with you to help you gain access to the resources and professional advice that you need.

This is an opt-in newsletter published by Business Enterprise Institute, Inc., and presented to you by our firm. We appreciate your interest.

Any examples provided are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only. Examples include fictitious names and do not represent any particular person or entity.

Securities, investment advisory and financial planning services offered through MML Investors Services, LLC 317-469-9999 Member SIPC Supervisory offices: 900 E. 96th St, Ste 300, Indianapolis, IN 46240. The Family Business Legacy Company, LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of MML Investors Services, LLC.

Copyright © 2016 Business Enterprise Institute, Inc., All rights reserved.

T. Ray Phillips, CFBS, AEP, ChFC
trphillips@financialguide.com

The Family Business Legacy Co, LLC
900 E 96th Street
Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46240
http://www.familybusinesslegacies.com
317-208-6312

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Tony Scelzo’s Thought Crucible I

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

TonyScelzoEd

FOCUS ON THE OPPORTUNITIES

Every day—every moment—we get to make a choice about what we’re going to focus on. Are we going to focus on the “bad” things that have happened to us, the people who have hurt us, the wrongs that we think make us victims? Or are we going to stand up and get to work on the unlimited and wonderful possibilities that await us?

Let me answer that question for you. You are a victor. You are meant for greatness. Seize the opportunity provided to you on this day. Go get it.

FANNING THE FLAME OF TEAM EXCELLENCE?

As managers and leaders we are always focusing on, agonizing over, and addressing problems. Because we do this so often it tends to be all we see. We become blind to the fire that keeps us warm: the people who drive our business, keep it going, and create results and activities that we DON’T have to deal with as a manager.

As leaders, we must “Fan the Flame” with positive affirmations of what is going right and what our team is doing well.

CLEAR EYES, FULL HEART, CAN’T LOSE

“Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose”—the television show Friday Night Lights has made this quote very powerful, and I’ve been talking to my daughters about what it means. In my house, it means we are not allowed to say “I can’t.”

Think about the power of those six words and how many live they have changed. To me, this phrase is one I use to teach my girls the difference between winning and losing, between being perfect for yourself and true to yourself. Be careful of the words you choose to put into your head. They have power over your actions.

Tony Scelzo, President
Stringcan
http://stringcan.com
(317) 662-2126
Indianapolis Office (Main)
7208 North Dobson Street
Indianapolis, IN 46268

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