In this video interview, Family Lawyer Magazine publisher Dan Couvrette speaks with business growth advisor Katina Peters about strategic planning for family lawyers during COVID-19.
Dan Couvrette: My name is Dan Couvrette, and I’m the publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. I have Katina Peters with me today, and she’s going to be talking about strategies to help your family law practice during COVID-19. But first, I just want to tell you a little bit about Divorce Marketing Group. We’re a full-service marketing agency. At Divorce Marketing Group, we work exclusively with family lawyers to help them market their practices. We do everything from building websites to search engine optimization; we offer customized Divorce Guides and e-newsletters. We also own www.DivorceMag.com, www.DivorceMoms.com, and www.FamilyLawyerMagazine.com, which receive over 4 million visitors a year. Family Lawyer Magazine brings information and resources to family lawyers that will help them with their practice.
Let me tell you a little bit about Katrina. She’s a virtual CFO and business growth and profitability advisor with a passion for helping clients achieve their dreams. She works with service-based businesses and focuses her expertise on law firms and construction contractors. She uses her credentials, education, and 20 plus years of experience as a certified public accountant and chartered global management accountant to provide clients with insights into their businesses. She acts as a partner in a strategic planning and execution role. Today Katina and I are going to be talking about strategic planning for family lawyers during COVID-19. This interview is being taped on July the 29th, so we’re deep into COVID-19. Thank you very much for joining me today.
Katina Peters: Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to shed some light on this topic. It’s been a turbulent year for a lot of people, just everything that’s going on, so it’s nice to be able to come on and discuss some things that can actively be done to help your business.
In the past five months, a lot of my family law clients, as well as other businesses, are waiting to see how things turn out. What would you recommend for family law practices now?
I think it is important to take some time to step back and make a plan, and to document that plan. Just as an additional resource, we do have a strategic plan series on our podcast, “Cultivating Business Growth”. It is a 10-part series that will help them get a bigger picture as to what they need to do and go through.
We really need to step back and take a look at what our plans are for this year. They’ve obviously changed since the beginning of the year. What are our plans for our business? Where do we want to end the year? What can we expect revenue-wise? What can we expect production-wise based on these new challenges that we’re facing while working from home and with the courts being shut down and having virtual meetings? What kinds of alternative ways can we go about producing income in the business that maybe we hadn’t thought of before? What kind of expenditures can we afford? What do we need to cut back on? We may need to change our plans a little bit.
We need to have these strategies in a documented plan, from a budgeting perspective and from a sales and marketing perspective. What is our new strategy for sales and marketing? What kinds of things are we going to do? In working through all those things, we also have to look at cash flow. Do we need additional cash flow? Maybe you’ve already applied for a PPP loan, if not, maybe consider the favorable loan terms that are being offered by the SBA right now to be able to bridge the cash flow gap if you have one. It’s always good to have a plan.
Typically we do the annual plans and break it into quarterly circumstances. Right now we’re recommending people make a plan for at least 3 to six months. Things are shifting very rapidly right now, so having a plan for the rest of the year is a good idea. You can also look at it quarter by quarter. Just going through that process helps you know where you’re headed. It’s important to have intention behind what you’re doing and not just reacting to everything. You have to proactively move things forward in your business. That really helps keep things moving in the right direction. We also find that it helps the business owners with their level of stress when they are trying to make decisions, because now they have a plan. They know what direction they’re going, and that takes a lot of the stress and burden off their shoulders. It does take a little time to step back and set aside the time to actually make that plan and put that in place, but we find that once that happens, people feel much more optimistic about where things are headed and how they’re going to get there. They’re not as stressed out wondering if they’re going to make the next payroll and what they’re going to do about it.
Once you create this plan and you put it into a document, you’ve got something to look at. You’ve got your expenses in there, your projected expenses, your projected revenue, and maybe you’re going to do some marketing. Maybe you’re going to do some email blasts out to people who know you, things like that. Do you also build in a “what if” scenario into that as well?
Yes, especially right now, I think it’s always good to have cash reserves planned out. It’s good to say, okay, this is what our plan is, and this is what we want to do, and we’re going to put certain milestones e and check-ins in place, and if we don’t hit a revenue goal, what does that change about what’s going to happen with the business? Do we then have to look at doing layoffs? What do we need to look at in that contingency situation? What that helps us with is knowing what path we’re going to take. It’s always more of a challenge when you end up in a contingency and don’t have a plan for it, and then you have to scramble to figure out what to do. That can be very stressful. It’s good to have one or two contingency models. You can’t foresee everything. You also want to make the plan valuable. We typically recommend having those plans in place.
As a business owner, when COVID-19 started, I asked myself, what’s the worst-case scenario? What’s the next-best scenario? Once I laid it out, I actually felt better just by getting it on paper and getting it down. As it’s turned out, our marketing business is actually up about 50% over last year. I wouldn’t have imagined that at the beginning. I was prepared for the worst, so I understand what you’re talking about. There will be constant change. How do you stay on top of that constant change with your clients?
Yeah, I think we always want to have this strategic view of things. Normally that would be broken into quarterly and then into monthly goals. Right now, we’re just more heavily involved in looking at it on a monthly basis. So you want to have your budgets and be really tight about watching what’s going on with the business. Are you meeting the goals that you were planning on? Is your plan playing out the way that you wanted it to? Do you need to make quick changes to it and pivot in a different direction if something’s not working the way that you thought it would? It’s an important thing to have in the health of your business, especially right now. Things are changing really quickly, and a lot of companies are operating in a completely different way than they had in the past, so there are a lot of things to be pivoting on, on a regular basis. We definitely recommend looking at more of a strategic view on a monthly basis at this time. Clients are weekly meetings with their teams, and if we’re operating at the CFO level, we’ll have those weekly meetings with the teams too because even at a weekly granular level, there are things that get monitored and can be adjusted as well. It’s really just making sure that you’re diligent about doing it. Everyone is busy, and that’s understandable too, but when you step back and look at the health of your business, you just really have to plan for it and monitor it. You should set up good systems for monitoring what is going on in the business, the key performance indicators, revenues, expenses, and what the marketplace is doing on a regular basis. These are going to be the key to finding your way through this.
You work with other lawyers and you bring different perspectives from their practices, different types of law, into the conversation. Does it calm your clients down and give them some confidence that the world is not going to end tomorrow or a month from now?
Definitely. When we don’t have the knowledge of what’s going on, and when we feel in the dark about things, it’s much more scary. When we have the knowledge and the information, we can control our actions and do it in a way that’s not a panicked reaction. Like you said with your analysis of your business, we did similar things with our business and our clients too. Just having the knowledge of that instead of guessing brings more of that calm, and you’re able to step back and look at the business as a whole and know that you have a workable plan. The fact that we work with multiple attorneys also helps because that brings other dynamics and things that are going on in different areas that could be helpful for other clients, so that does help. It allows us to have an industry overview of what’s going on and how things are being handled. That can help lend additional information which does give you a little more control and comfort.
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 practice, 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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