Michael Mogill, CEO and founder of Crisp Video Group, discusses business growth during COVID-19 with Dan Couvrette, the publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and CEO of Divorce Marketing Group.
Business Growth During COVID-19
Dan Couvrette: I’m Dan Couvrette, the publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. Today, which is May 7/20, I have the pleasure of speaking with Michael Mogill. Michael is the CEO, and founder of Crisp Video Group. He’s the author of The Game Changing Attorney and host of The Game Changing Attorney podcast. He’s helped thousands of attorneys from solo and small law firms to large practices differentiate themselves from competitors and earn millions in new revenue. Crisp has been named to the Inc 500 List of America’s fastest-growing companies and has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work.
Michael often presents at national conferences on innovative ways to create exponential business growth. His advice has been featured in publications such as Forbes, the ABA Journal, The Trial Attorney, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. I’m pleased to have him here today because this is part of an article I’m writing for Family Lawyer Magazine that will include Michael and a couple of other marketing professionals about growing your business. Michael, thank you for joining me.
Michael Mogill: Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. So tell us a little bit about your company and explain the different areas of your company as well.
As you mentioned, I own company called Crisp Video Group, and as the name suggests, when we started the company, we were producing videos – and solely videos – and we realized when we were working with firms that you could have a great video, but if you didn’t know how to get it out there and get it in front of your ideal client, the utility of that video was lacking. So we actually started the placement of it. That included video marketing primarily on digital and social media and so on, and we evolved over the years. Then we realized that you could be a great marketing law firm – so you could have great content that’s getting out to many people, but ultimately, the return and the growth that you would see in your business would be a function of how good the business itself was, how well the phones are answered, how strong the leadership is, and how aligned the team is. So then we also evolved into a coaching business. Each was an extension of essentially providing more support for our clients, and what used to be a video company became a video marketing company. And now we’d like to say it’s more of a law firm growth company.
Given that we’re going through COVID-19 are you recommending to your clients to pull back and weather this out or stay the course?
That’s an interesting question in the sense that you always have to be mindful of the audience because you don’t want to ever come across as insensitive. We work with a cross-section of firms across the nation, meaning firms across all practice areas and all types of markets, both rural and urban. We can see the ones that are the most successful and growing as well as the ones that may not be as successful, and you start to notice trends – and it’s not just trends amongst law firms. If you look back in history, you see the same things. Generally, the challenge of the idea of the ‘survive, stop the bleeding, and pullback’ is that it’s very much focused around the preservation of what you have now. And historically, what usually happens is that businesses are not successful coming out of downturns as a result. So laying off half your team, pulling back on marketing investments, closing down offices, and things like that may help you have a lifeline in the short term, but ultimately, when the smoke clears, businesses plan to rehire all the people and re-ramp the business back up so we’re not suggesting to pull back, and being in the growth business, our goal is to always help our firms to continue maintaining stability and then also continue to grow their practice. Any firm that we deal with has a long-term vision that they’re committed to, and when you hit a point of adversity, no matter what that is, you can adjust the steps that you take to get there because the conditions change, but we don’t recommend adjusting the targets.
If your vision is one that you’re committed to, perhaps when something bad happens, if you’re truly committed to it, you’ll still find a way – you just have to go around it a different way. We’re actually recommending that, during this time, it’s a great opportunity to lead. It’s a great opportunity for innovation. We’ve talked to many firms who have had their best months in the history of their firm across the past two months independent of the practice area – everything from family law, criminal defense, personal injury. It’s fascinating because what happens is you really have two perspectives. I had a call the other day with two firm owners back to back. They were in the same practice area in the same type of market. One person believes the sky is falling doom and gloom. They are packing it in. They believe that this will be the worst year in the history of their firm. The other firm is optimistic. They’ve now hired, expanded their team, they’ve hired a lot of team members and attorneys from their competitors who have laid off those team members, they’ve expanded their marketing, they just came off their best month. It’s just fascinating because looking at the two perspectives, they’re both right. It’s just you decide which one you have.
You and I are completely aligned with the fact that there’s an opportunity now – and the truth is, there’s probably an opportunity anytime – but I think particularly now, there’s an opportunity for the leaders to lead and to take more market share. But let’s just talk for a minute about mindset and discuss what lawyers need to do to look at their mindset and change their mindset if necessary so they’re more growth-oriented. Do you have any advice for them?
Carol Dweck is basically the foremost thought leader on this. She wrote a book by the name of Mindset. It talks about fixed mindset and growth mindset. Fixed mindset being that you believe that you were born with the hand that you were dealt, and that is what you were destined to be, and your skills and capabilities cannot evolve, versus with a growth mindset where you are capable of improving those skills and capabilities. You’re capable of becoming more intelligent, more capable, and so on. It’s a function of perspective. And mindset is one of those things where if you’re someone who’s struggling – let’s say you have a fixed mindset, the reality is, the way in which you think about things and your outlook towards things is oftentimes going to dictate the outcomes as well. If you believe that there are no opportunities for you to be successful in your existing situation, then chances are that you’re not going to attempt new things, innovate, or be creative. By nature, you will not be successful, versus if you do believe that we’re all dealing with a period of adversity, COVID-19 is affecting pretty much every law firm across America, our courts are closed, people are quarantined, but there are more opportunities. This is because now the majority of firms are pulling back and for the first time in probably decades, you have solo and small firms that have the capability of gaining market share, so long as they’re willing to be creative and innovative and to invest. So really, the mindset conversation is really the question: how do you go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset if you don’t already have a growth mindset.
I believe it’s always a function of the environment and the people that you surround yourself with. If you’re around other lawyers who are also talking about the doom and gloom, the sky is falling, and that there’s nothing that they can do, then chances are, you might adopt that mindset. But if you’re constantly in an environment where you’re surrounding yourself with people who are optimistic, and they’re sharing their wins and talking about the things that they can do, well, then perhaps you’ll start to view things in terms of opportunities that exist. So I think the first step is to make sure you’re in an environment that’s conducive to your growth
It’s also good to set goals. What do you do in terms of coaching to help lawyers set and achieve the goals?
To increase the probability of achieving a goal, the first step is to actually have a clear target. Usually, if you put a number on a goal, I find that really helps in having clarity, and instead of saying ‘we want to grow our firm,’ you could say, ‘we want to bring in X number of new cases, we want to increase our average case value to specific amount, or we have a revenue target,’ whatever that might be. So if you have a number target, and if you’re actually making that commitment publicly to other people, then you instill more accountability. And finally, if you’re tracking this goal, you’re reporting it, and there’s public accountability, that likelihood of achieving the goal just improves exponentially. The biggest thing is accountability. We find that highly accountable people who are truly committed like that accountability, and people who tend to be more half-hearted than say ‘I have this particular goal’, but then when you ask them about it then they feel like you’re bothering them or what have you. The thing about this is oftentimes that perhaps if someone feels that way, then maybe they set the wrong goal for themselves.
So just because another firm has some ambitious goal of dominating America, it doesn’t mean that needs to be your goal if that’s not something you’re excited about. I think it really starts with having a clear vision and a clear target of what you want, and that it’s very important to you, your team, and your family. That way, if you’re excited about it, then you’re probably going to be much more committed to it. But you’re absolutely right about how people are spending their time right now. Because we all have time. We were joking the other day, we were saying that people are going to come out of this, both literally and figuratively, some will come in with a beer gut, others will come out with six pack abs. You can use this time to learn new things, increase capabilities, improve your practice, your team, all these different things that when the smoke clears, you can get a running start coming off the starting line, versus the majority of law firms who will start returning to work after the smoke clears, kind of like climbing out of the bunker. So you can really gain an edge right now.
Let’s talk about you personally for a minute. What are the things you’ve always done or that you’re doing now to keep yourself at the top of your game?
Michael: I have a personal routine, I’ve been practicing The Miracle Morning for well over a year now. If you’re curious as to what that is, it’s a book by Hal Elrod titled The Miracle Morning. It’s about having a clear morning routine that includes journaling, meditation, etc. There’s a whole routine that you follow that helps you to really set the day properly. The other thing is, I’ve always planned out every single month, and then every week at the end of each week, my assistant and I lay out the targets for the upcoming week as well as the priorities. Then going even more micro, at the end of each day, we’re setting the top three priorities for the upcoming day. I’m a big believer in the Pareto principle – the fact that 80% of the results are going to come from 20% of your efforts. So focusing on the right things is critical. I’m also a big believer that in order for your mental fitness to be consistently productive you need to make a commitment to physical fitness as well. As a result I’m an avid Peloton cyclist. I’m on that thing almost every single day. And it’s not always because I enjoy it, it’s because I know that remaining active and staying active especially during a time like this helps you remain consistent and in a peak state. And I can’t overstate the importance of leading yourself first before you can really lead anybody else.
Tell us about the Game-Changing Attorney podcasts. Tell us about the type of people on the podcasts and the subjects covered.
This is interesting because COVID-19 actually expedited the pace at which we got it out there, we were actually planning on launching later this year. But when COVID-19 hit we figured that there’s never been a better time to have the messaging from other growth-minded thinkers, other market leaders both in the legal industry and beyond. The goal of the podcast was to have it sound really good, meaning that it had to be very well produced and that it was a quality podcast. To the guests themselves, it had to be entertaining, and it had to be something that was an enjoyable listen. And then finally, there had to be a tremendous amount of value. Some of the past guests we’ve had include everyone from John Morgan, to Hal Elrod, to Chris Voss – a former FBI hostage negotiator, to Alexander Shunnarah, and several others that we have coming down the pipe, but it’s more about getting into the mindset of market leaders – both legal and outside of legal – and how they make decisions, and whether or not somebody actually agrees with those people or likes them. My goal was that by the end of listening to an episode they would at the very least understand their message.
So from your perspective the podcasts are part of putting the right people around you, getting the right information, and getting the right inspiration to help you keep going and achieve your goals. It’s helpful to have that type of input on a regular basis.
Absolutely, What’s interesting is, when all this started, we came out with this optimistic message. It brought me a good percentage of people that were messaging me and saying, ‘you’re delusional. How could you say this at a time like this.’ That was very fascinating to me. But what I found was that me and numerous “delusional” firm owners that would be talking about growth, ideas, and solutions, those firms ended up being the most successful over the past 60 days. Again, it was independent of the practice area. So at some point, it does become the reality and it was really because one firm looks at it for every solution and they see a problem, and another firm looks at just solutions and opportunities.
For growth-minded firms, my prediction was that they’re going to make three years progress in three months, meaning that this experience will be the catalyst behind them doing things to improve their practice. Everything from moving to cloud-based phone systems, to improving the workflows in their case management platforms, to auditing their intake, to training their team, to investing more in marketing, to really just building a better practice. Because at the fundamental core if you’re building a fundamentally good practice, meaning from the inside out, you have a great leadership team, you have a strong alignment within your culture, you have that entire infrastructure, essentially, the fundamentals of the business are strong. That, to me, is really the law firm of the future. But prior to this, you could theoretically not be a very good business or law firm, but have good marketing or bring in a few good cases and have this misconstrued belief that you were running a good practice. And what COVID did is, it essentially exposed firms and leaders, and the ones that perhaps had holes in the boat and did not have strong leadership now have the opportunity to improve in those areas.
Tell us about the Game Changers Summit and what people can expect if they attend?
I will say that with the conference, one area that we got lucky was at the end of last year, we decided to host it in November of this year. We’re very fortunate that it’s at the end of the year. Our plan is so long as it is publicly acceptable to have a large gathering of people, to continue to host a summit for the third year – the event itself is a growth conference. Two years ago, we had about 500 firms, last year we had 1000 and this year’s target is 1500. When we started the conference, I don’t think anybody was asking for another legal conference but we were attending and speaking at so many, and you go to them and you see people in the back on their laptops and on emails while someone is speaking – it’s just not very exciting and engaging.
We felt that we could improve on that experience and really focus it around an entrepreneurial growth mind conference for law firms. We were bringing in speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Vos, David Goggins, Hal Elrod, and so many others. This year we have Malcolm Gladwell and John Maxwell, so it’s essentially made it almost like a Tony Robbins event/rock concert/training on everything marketing, team culture, and leadership for law firms. My thought going into the first one was people were either going to love it, or they were going to walk out immediately. What we’re very grateful for over the past two years has been that people have loved it. We’ve got something that’s high energy where you’ve got great production, you’ve got loud sound, you’ve got great speakers, it actually helps in the retention of knowledge and information. That’s why we do it. It’s an enjoyable experience, but typically when people are engaged, they tend to remember content. They’re able to network with other firm owners, and for me it’s always about experience, which is actually one of the challenges around COVID when everyone goes virtual. I’ve seen a lot of virtual events and things like that, but experience is such an important component of an event. The experience you have and the camaraderie with other firm owners and things like that. As long as we are able to have it, it is taking place in the middle of November.
Can you recommend what you think are the four things that family lawyers should do now?
Michael: I’ll just think of the first four that come to mind. The first one before you really do anything is make a career decision in terms of how you are going to respond and in the sense of: are you going to be the type of person that’s more of a spectator who kind of waits it out and says ‘let’s see what happens’? As the situation develops, maybe a month from now or two months from now, you can approach it from a victim mindset and make excuses, blame others and say ‘the courts are closed, people are in quarantine,’ or you can be very proactive and growth-minded and can accept the reality of what this is, and then adapt, innovate, and take action.
So first, you have to be clear on how you are going to respond then from there, you have the opportunity to really pivot. This starts with leading yourself before you lead anybody else. We have an expression that the Navy SEALs have used as well: calm is contagious. Your team is going to take cues from you. It’s important that you, as a leader, really have calm and clarity and that you take the time to manage yourself effectively, because that’s going to dictate how your team will respond during this time. And your team will certainly be much more productive and engaged, if you yourself are calm, as opposed to someone who’s frantic and panicky, and so on. It’s just going to perpetuate throughout the organization.
The third one is, once you make these decisions, it’s being able to pivot. One of the areas and one of the reasons we see firms that are really, really struggling right now is because there was something that they were doing for ten or 20 years. That was that they had almost fine tuned over those years that was working really well, that was bringing in new business very consistently, and COVID hits, and now whatever they were relying upon is no longer even an option. It’s not available, because the conditions and situation have changed. They’re looking at this and saying ‘well, what do we do now?’ What the answer is, really, is that now you have to develop a new capability. The conditions have changed, perhaps someone was relying upon, let’s say, live events or seminars or they were relying on in-person meetings or whatever it is. You now have to adapt. So to us, it’s always less about ‘will we get through this’ and more importantly about ‘how do we need to change as an organization in order to get through this.’
Then finally, it’s looking at the fact that in order to create demand, to actually get new business and get people reaching out to you – and this is true, you know, before COVID, during COVID, after COVID – is to create demand by building trust.
Generally, if you look at who people buy from and who consumers and engage with, it’s typically those that they know, like, and trust. In order for them to do business with your law firm, they need to know that your law firm exists. It also helps that they like you. Then finally, they also trust you. You can’t have one of three – you really need all three. Everything from the impact that you make in your community, to the way in which you can continue to communicate and support your clients, and then the stability and security that you provide for your team build these three things. That’s how you’re really building a brand. Your firm’s brand exists already, whether it’s by default or by design. But I can promise you that if you build trust, you will build demand. If you look at brands across the nation, – for example, even I’m wearing Apple EarPods – Apple does not have to convince anyone to buy these things. They do not have to reach out and say, ‘do you want to buy air pods?’ Of course, people want to buy them, and it’s because they have established strong brand equity and brand trust. With law firms, you look at people who are going to do business, say with family law firms. They’re going to come out with a number of options. It’s typically the ones that they like, that they trust, that has a strong presence in their community, that is providing support for their team and their clients. People are paying attention to the way in which you’re leading right now. When making decisions – this has helped me at least – it’s really thinking about how you want to be remembered when this is over.
I want to leave the people who are listening, watching, or reading this conversation with a little marketing tip.
Michael and I are having a Zoom interview and I want to let people know what Divorce Marketing Group will do with this Zoom interview so you can do what we do to get the maximum value out your marketing efforts. What Divorce Marketing Group is going to do with this Zoom video is: first, it will appear on FamilyLawyerMagazine.com, it will go into our Family Lawyer Magazine e-newsletter, we will have it up on iTunes as a podcast, we’ll put it up on YouTube, we will probably do an eblast about it out to family lawyers as well. Then we’ll also put it on our Family Lawyer Magazine Facebook page and use it in five other ways to make the information public and available. We’ll transcribe it, so that we have both the text version of this as well as the audio version, as well as the video version, on Family Lawyer Magazine. Michael will likely promote this interview as well because it’s an acknowledgment of his expertise.
Michael, thank you very much for spending time talking with me today.
Thank you and I agree 100% with everything. You just need to share it. This is one of the few times in history where you can get a participation trophy simply by just staying in the conversation and getting content out there. You can film it on your phone or do a Zoom meeting like we’re doing now. There’s this expression that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. And I think that couldn’t be more true, especially during a time like this. If your firm is not remaining top of mind, if people aren’t seeing your content, they don’t know that you exist and perhaps they may not even remember you, and maybe they’ll forget about you – all these different things. But you can remain in the conversation. What’s interesting about social media right now is that the barrier to entry is very low. You can shoot a video or create a podcast. There are free apps you can download that let you get content up on iTunes. You can do Zoom meetings. There are a lot of opportunities, even if you don’t have a whole lot of financial resources to get started, you can still be in the conversation.
Sounds great. Thanks very much again for your time, Michael. If people want to learn more about Michael’s company, go to www.crispvideo.com. You’ll find lots of great information there. I also highly recommend that you check out his podcasts and follow them. Great speakers, great energy, great information to keep you on top of your game. Thank you again, Michael – it was a pleasure talking with you.