In this video, Family Lawyer Magazine Publisher Dan Couvrette interviews business growth advisor and CFO Katina Peters about running a business – your family law firm – while actively practicing family law.
Dan Couvrette: My name is Dan Couvrette, and I’m the publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. Family Lawyer Magazine offers a print and digital magazine, website, and newsletter that helps family lawyers. Visit www.FamilyLawyerMagazine.com to find resources and information that can help you in your practice.
Divorce Marketing Group is a full-service marketing agency that’s 100% focused on helping family lawyers and family law firms attract and secure clients. We do it by building websites for them and optimizing those websites for search engines. We do Google pay-per-click advertising campaigns, videos, podcasts, newsletters, divorce guides, social media, marketing, and more. If you’re looking for information about Divorce Marketing Group, please visit www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com.
Today my guest is Katina Peters. We are going to be talking about running a business. Katina is a virtual CFO and business growth and profitability advisor who has a passion for helping her clients achieve their dreams. She works with service-based businesses focusing our expertise on law firms and construction contractors. She utilizes her credentials, her education, and 20 plus years of experience as a certified public accountant and a chartered global management accountant to provide clients with insights into their businesses. She also acts as a business partner and strategic planning coach to help clients with the execution of the strategic plan that she works with them to create. Today, Katina and I are going to be talking about how running a business well is more than being a great family lawyer. Katina, thank you for joining me today.
Katina Peters: Thank you for having me, Dan – it’s great to be here.
What is the most important quality that you think any lawyer needs to be successful as a business owner?
I think the most important quality that anybody can have is an entrepreneurial mindset, which is different from being a lawyer. What does that mean, though? If someone owns their own business, they must be entrepreneurial, right? Most lawyers start a law practice because they love what they do. Maybe they worked for a law firm and decided they wanted to do it themselves, but they may not have the business background and the entrepreneurial mindset that goes with starting a business. What an entrepreneur mindset does is take you out of the space of just being the professional and puts you in the seat of somebody who’s just running a business, who is purely an entrepreneur. They’re looking and asking themselves, “how do I run an efficient, successful business that is worth my investment of time and money?” You still have to be good at what you do, but it’s really being that business owner and stepping back and stepping away from the passion that’s involved in the business.
You want to have that passion, but you want to step away from that and look at it critically and have that mindset of making sure that you’re structuring things correctly. It’s also important to not be attached to doing things the old way just because you’ve always done them that way. You’re opening your mind up to what else is possible, and having that entrepreneurial mindset when you’re looking at your business. How is it structured? Is it a good investment?
We work with a lot of solo practitioners and family lawyers; do you think it’s possible that they could be effective lawyers while just running a business on their own?
There are a lot of choices in business. It just depends on how much you want to scale. If you’re just happy being a solo entrepreneur and staying at that level, it still takes that entrepreneur mindset to run the business. One of the things that we see a lot with business owners is that they are getting overwhelmed and overworked and missing out on life. One of our passions is to help people get balance back in their lives, because a lot of times when people start a business, they work like crazy to get it up and running. They stay on that hamster wheel and they never get off. It’s hard when you want to make money on one hand, but you don’t want to work as much on the other hand. How do you balance that out? Regardless of the size of your business, you want to step back from it and make sure that you are achieving the goals that you want for the business and for your life – all while keeping that balance. If you’re stepping back and doing that, you will see things that you’re not going to see when you’re constantly running, because you’re not taking the time to critically look at it, step back, and realize that maybe you could be doing things in a different way to fulfill the goals that you have. Sometimes this means saying no to certain jobs, limiting hours, changing rates, there are a lot of things that can happen. I think that strategic planning still needs to happen in any size of business. You still need to step back and take a look at things.
It doesn’t sound to me like this is a typical role of the CPA. Your company has taken a consultative approach more than just looking at the numbers. I’m sure you’re looking at the numbers as well, but it’s in a consulting manner. Is that how you would describe your services?
Absolutely. We work as virtual CFOs or as business advisors or consultants. That’s our core service, and we do have the CPA background. We’re very good at looking at numbers, and we have experience in taxes and things like that, but our goal is to help people set up their businesses and set up their structuring so that they’re achieving the goals and the lifestyle that they want. That’s our passion and priority, so that’s what we lead with. We do tax work and bookkeeping for the clients that may need it, but we don’t necessarily have to do that. We work with their internal teams, and we work with external CPAs that they’ve been working with. It’s a different type of CPA firm than most that are out there.
I’ve been working with family lawyers for 25 years. I can’t speak for all lawyers, but there’s this tension between wanting to be a business owner on one side and wanting to be a family lawyer on the other side, and you help them bridge that. They have to go to court, they have to return their clients’ phone calls, and they have to run the business. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you help them manage that?
It is a tricky balance. There are different options, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur. If you have other people working for you, it’s about structuring delegation wisely. If you’re running a business solo, I think a lot of it has to do with stepping back and focusing on certain areas that you really want to work on. It’s important that they are also things you enjoy working on. Sometimes that’s just niching down to certain things and letting other things go and being focused on what you’re doing, so that you can do both things. You also have to ask yourself, how much more successful can I be if I stop running the business? If you just spend too much time, on certain things like going to court or answering phone calls, sometimes you go way down that path and you lose what you wanted in the first place. We want to bring that back. It takes time and maintenance upfront but if you take the time, it becomes much more systemized.
Sometimes with clients that we work with, we’ll build a website for them, and it might take a year to build it when it should take two months. This usually means that they haven’t fully defined the business part of their practice, and they haven’t put the time aside to manage their business. They’re 100% focused on dealing with their clients and putting out fires on the other side. Do you help them create that balance and a framework to work with? Do you stay on top of them by monitoring the projects that they’re working on?
We help them set up systemization, which monitors things for them on their key performance indicators, their financial statements, their performance measures, things like that. We do require at a minimum monthly meetings with us, because we can’t be effective otherwise. We do require that they’re going to be committed to coming to those meetings and having those important discussions, because that’s what changes the trajectory and gets things under control.
Is there anything else that you can think of that you want to share about how a family lawyer can be more successful?
It’s just a matter of having and working on that mindset, taking the time to sit down and remember why you started your practice, what you want to achieve, and how you want your life to look. When you get to the end of your life, what do you want to look back at, and how do you want to celebrate that? Are you going to feel like you missed out on stuff, or that you didn’t spend enough time with your kids or your family? It’s important to fix that now. You’re not going to be able to fix it when you get to the end of your life. I really just like to point out to people that yes, it takes some time, and for some people, it seems insurmountable, but when you get in and start doing it, it goes by pretty quickly. I think you’ll feel a lot better about where you’re going with your family law firm if you take the time to do that.
Dan Couvrette: I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. For people who would like to learn more about Katina and her firm, I recommend that you go to their website, it’s www.PJSCPAS.com. To find more interviews and find more information that can help you and your family law firm, I highly recommend www.FamilyLawyerMagazine.com. There are thousands of articles. If you’re looking for help with marketing for your own family law firm, please visit www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com Thank you again, Katina, for joining me today – and thank you, folks, for watching or listening to this interview.
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