Being an entrepreneur is at turns exhilarating and exhausting. Additionally, it’s isolating. If you work by yourself . . . you work by yourself. Especially if you work from home regularly, without anyone to spin your ideas off of, it’s very easy to live and remain in your own head; and, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to work as many hours as possible each week, even as another life potentially swirls around you. Exacerbating this problem is that lawyers are trained to bill and think in hours, not in terms of the value attached to specific products or services. Setting rates by the hour means that every hour is worth the same thing — when, in reality, that’s not the case at all; concentrating on value allows for differentiation: some of your work is more than valuable than some of your other work. That allows you to make triage-based decisions on what you do, rather than feeling like you’re wading through an unending pile of the same, old muck.
There’s this current line of thinking that entrepreneurs, including small law firm owners, should automate and outsource everything they can. And oftentimes, that even extends to household chores. As your income begins to increase, it becomes easier to hire someone to mow your lawn. Or, to clean your house. Or, to polish your Arabian horses’ saddles. (Maybe that last one is just me.). But, while all of this does tend to increase your efficiency — or, rather: your potential to be efficient — it does not represent a purely humane, or wholesome, lifestyle.
Truly effective business people tend to be less caricature and more genuine person. Coming off as a real person, which effect is buttressed by actually being a real human in your personal life, is essential to business pursuits, at a number of levels. In the first instance, people tend to be more likely to do business with, to send referrals to, other people they like. If you’re not a droid sent to this plant to work constantly, to the exclusion of most everything else, you stand a far better chance of fitting that bill. This will also allow you to better connect with your existing clients, who, in many cases, will work less than you do, and will have little idea what it actually entails to ‘be a lawyer’. Since lawyers are advocates, it is important for you to be able to understand and leverage the emotional impact of your client’s story. A brief is a piece of paper, but you make it resonate by fully engaging the human impact of what you’re writing. You don’t garner skills in the realm of emotional intelligence by staring at a computer screen all day.
It’s easy to feel abnormal as a small law firm business manager, to feel like you’re missing out on the time and space that everyone else seems to have. So, do something about it. Schedule time to work out. Shut off your phone. Watch television for a half hour in a vegetative state. Take a nap. Fold the laundry. Mow the damn lawn.
Realize that there is more to life than running your business, and stop making excuses for why you can’t take a weekend off, or go on vacation. Nobody’s that busy. What you may be surprised to learn, when you get back, is that you didn’t actually miss all that much work, and that the world did not stop spinning just because you stepped away from your desk. And, perhaps, that’s what lawyers are afraid to discover: that their own self-importance may be derived from their view of the world, and not the world’s view of them. Think, however, of the freedom that the truth of that statement might afford you.
Let’s talk about the true value of doing real things . . .
Tell ‘em, Van.
Now, for a quick quiz – if you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions, you’ve been working too hard:
-Did you eat lunch less than three times this week?
-Is the average time you shower after 10:30 am?
-Has your child asked you if you’re listening to him today?
-Do you have a headache right now?
-Is the ass-print on the couch yours?