lamb roastLast week, we discussed how my morning commute was plagued with problems similar to what a small business owner experiences everyday – marginal losses, corners being cut – and it all adding up to something significant. That’s the key – you don’t really see it until the damage is done. I realized one day that if I went out to eat just one less time per week I’d save $2,000 over the course of a year. Over a decade that’s $20,000, over a lifetime it’s $100,000 – and that’s without interest and ROI.

We all know there are things we can be doing better in our lives and yet, despite knowing this, we rarely make those changes. I guess this is turning into an intervention… Hi, my name is [insert your name here], and I have a problem. I know improvements can be made, but I’m nervous about actually making them.

I’ve found if a law firm doesn’t want to make changes, the typical culprit is that the firm fears changing the status quo – changing “business as usual”. Well, I was reading a book recommended by a peer called, “Increasing Cashflow” by Bradley Sugars that came up with a smart way of looking at things. Sugars is a serial entrepreneur from Australia. Here’s his rationale for questioning the status quo:

One night at dinner, a young man asked his wife, ‘Why do you cut the ends off the lamb roast?’ Her reply, ‘I’m not sure. My mother used to do it.’ A week went by and they visited her mother for dinner, and you guessed, lamb roast for dinner. So he asked, ‘Why do you cut the ends off the lamb roast?’ Her reply, ‘I’m not sure. My mother always did it.’ So he made a phone call to his wife’s grandmother and asked, ‘Why do you cut the ends off the lamb roast?’ Her reply, ‘Well, I’ve only got a small baking tray.”

Most of us don’t even know where the status quo came from. We just know the math behind it produces results, and thus we go through life without questioning whether or not the results could be better. I’m not here to tell you that the product isn’t good – on the contrary – you indeed run a profitable firm. But can’t you improve just about, well, anything? So where do we start?

Maybe we should start focusing on encouraging innovation internally:

  • How about paying a commission on an idea that saves the firm money? If your firm saves $5,000 in a year because of a good idea, don’t feel bad about giving $1,000 of it back.
  • What about setting a specific firm goal for new profitability – and then paying a generous commission if achieved? You only pay the commission once but retain the clients for years.
  • Perhaps think about creating an anonymous tip-line of some sort where all employees – janitors to partners – can communicate with the office manager about the good and bad things at the office. This means good ideas, even if coming from someone with little weight, float to the top and aren’t chopped down before meaningful consideration. And constructive criticism can be given without fear of resentment – allowing your existing mechanisms to dissolve tension rather than sweeping it under the rug.

Want more innovative ideas? How about calling a professional in and getting their opinion? Have them evaluate your current systems and workflows and decide if improvements could be made.