Progress is what we all drive for, but achieving it can be tricky. Without proper processes in place, you could be headed down a bumpy road filled and unseen dangers. But if you could boil this journey down to a few simple tenets, then you can soar beyond what you originally thought was possible. Today we sit with Doug LaLone, who is a partner and patent attorney at Fishman Stewart, a premier specialty law firm dedicated to the practice of intellectual property law. In this episode, Doug shares the genesis of his balance scorecard practices and unpacks the top metrics to focus on. He first touches on the metrics you’re most in control of, like reaching into new areas, generating a referral network, and identifying new targets. After going into detail about each metric, Doug reveals five additional metrics, like retaining clients, fees collected, and personal income, and more. Later in the show, Doug peels back his process to show listeners what the balanced scorecard looks like. By using visual cues, users are able to quickly identify their weaknesses, strong points, and areas that need refinement. As host Alex Drost puts it, scorecards give you a chance to allocate time and energy into the right spaces. To hear more on how balance scorecards can help you progress in business, be sure to join us today.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Doug introduces the concept of balanced scorecards.
- How balanced scorecards can help optimize the result of your efforts.
- Doug shares how he boiled this complex process down into a simple business formula.
- Some of the metrics which can be measured on balance scorecards.
- How Doug uses IP snapshots to help target new clients.
- Doug breaks down an example of a balanced scorecard for viewers.
- Why the visual aspect of balanced scorecards is so beneficial.
- Doug touches on why balanced scorecards can be versatile tools for its users.
- The value of having coaches walk beside you.
- Host Alex Drost’s challenge to listeners.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builder’s podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:22] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today’s guest is Doug LaLone, partner and patent attorney at Fishman Stewart, a premier specialty law firm dedicated to the practice of intellectual property law. Doug shares his approach to a personal bounce scorecard to help him keep on track and meet his personal and professional goals. I hope you all enjoy.
[00:00:43] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.
[00:00:50] AD: Doug, welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. Excited to have you on here today.
[00:00:54] DL: Thanks so much for having me today, Alex. It’s exciting to be onboard with you today. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
[00:00:59] AD: Awesome. Thank you. Doug, you and I were talking a few weeks ago, and you had mentioned to me that you have put in place a personal balanced scorecard. I thought this was a really fascinating way to look at and measure your performance. Where I’d love to start our conversation today is can you one, share what this is and what some of your thoughts around it, why you put it in place?
[00:01:22] DL: Yeah, love to do that. Thanks for the great question. What is a balanced scorecard? Give you a little bit of background about me, I’m an engineer by trade, a Purdue engineering grad. Then went to law school. I’ve been practicing patent law. Be 30 years this coming August here in the Metro Detroit area. The engineering side of me likes the analytical components of how do we measure things? It takes me back to my statistical process control days working in a foundry as a young engineer, where they use this thing called a balanced scorecard, which is how they measured processes in a factory.
You may say, well, why did they measure processes? Well, if you look at the Toyota style of process management, their gurus are measuring success, measuring processes within a factory. If you want to know why they make such great cars at Toyota and Lexus, it’s because they use a balanced scorecard. I thought, that’s interesting. It came as a result of trying to measure the legal process. I’m a patent attorney. I thought, how could I use these statistical methods that I learned years ago, over 30 years ago, as a young engineer? How could I correlate these statistical methods and put them into the practice of law setting? That’s what drove the conversation and the thought of doing this.
[00:02:39] AD: Doug, let me recap in that a little bit. You have an analytical thought process. You understand that a balanced scorecard has helped Toyota and anyone who has an MBA, or has had some level of business education, usually, we come across the balanced scorecard and how it can help a company be effective. You as a person, as a professional, as a lawyer, wanted to apply that. Now, let’s dig into where that can be difficult and how you ultimately were able to successfully do that. You’re obviously not a corporation. You’re a person. You have a different set of daily activities than a corporation, or than a large organization. How were you able to boil down some of the basic fundamental principles and apply it to yourself as a professional?
[00:03:23] DL: Well, I reached out to two experts. One is a personal coach I have. I’m a strong fan of personal coaches. I’ve been using one for over a year now, which is one of your expertise as I know. I reached out to my coach on figuring out how can I better measure my success, or failures. I also reached out to a friend of mine who actually studied under Dr. Deming, who is one of the experts and pioneers in process controls and measuring processes in factories. He obviously, my friend actually worked at Toyota and learned the Toyota style.
I reached out to him and I said, “Alan, I’m a lawyer and I’ve been in the patent business for 30 years. How can a guy like me providing professional services, measure things, like you statisticians have been doing for decades in the manufacturing setting?” I reached out to those two people and that started the conversation.
[00:04:15] AD: You start the conversation. You start peeling into it. Why don’t we go into what are the things that you measure? What are the metrics that you measure? Then let’s talk about where some of them are difficult and where they might be helpful for you as well.
[00:04:25] DL: Right. After spending several months with my coaches, I call them, they really dug into, “Well, Doug, in your profession, what is it about your profession that makes you successful or not? Let’s peel away the layer of the onion of the things that make you successful.” They started with the end in mind. That is well, from a personal standpoint, my wife Kathy and I, what defines success to us from a financial goal standpoint? We set some metrics around that, like a hustled budget, but also a financial goal budget that hopefully, families do together as a couple.
Well, then we work backwards. I thought, once I realized and putting this real term, this is my goal number eight, you ask for what the goals are. Goal number eight on my scorecard is what are our financial goals professionally at the end of the year? What’s on my 1099? Okay. Then once I realized what that number is, I work backwards, because to be personally, retirement, which someday retire, retirement is a number that you’ve achieved. It’s not necessarily an age. It’s not an age. Once I retire, I realized, for us personally working backwards, what is our goal as far as retirement, as far as what money we need to have?
You as an investment banker can understand that. What’s their number? What’s their nugget at age 50, or 60, whatever it is, we work backwards? Once I got my N number, that is what I need to make per year to meet my financial goals, I work backwards and figure out, well, what are the things in the law practice that then allows me to reach those goals, those metrics? Would you like to hear what they are?
[00:06:02] AD: Absolutely. To be clear, we start with – Start with the end in mind. You sat back and said, “Okay, and I think as a professional, looking at what is your targeted income,” especially as many professionals know there is flexibility in your income based on your hours, how you bill, the projects you work on, and can’t control all those variables. It’s no different than having a revenue goal as an organization. At some level, you’re setting yourself a realistic expectation of what you’re striving to achieve from an earnings standpoint in this calendar year, right? Because that final metric. I like how you said, that’s your last of your metrics, because now you back into what drives towards that. Let’s go ahead and start digging into that event.
[00:06:42] DL: All right. One of the things I thought about, well, what do I need to do as a partner in a law firm to drive revenue? In a revenue sharing type situation at a law firm, I get a piece of the pie and the house gets a piece of the pie, just like in investment banking firm, where you came from. You get a piece of the pie and the firm gets a piece of the pie with your partner, so on and so forth. I thought, what are the things I need to do to keep building the revenue, keep getting new opportunities for new clients, new targets, and then how can I put some numbers to that?
The first metric is doing things just like this. Conducting a certain number of webinars and presentations and podcasts, thanks to you. You’re helping me meet my February 2021 podcast requirement. I’m happy to be doing that. I actually set a metric of doing at least two webinars, or presentations, or podcasts per month, okay. In doing that, I want to reach out to new prospects, new opportunities, new areas, as well as it could be to providing presentations to a current engineering company, where I’m providing them some information on current improvements in the law on patent law, or trademark law. Just providing them some updates via webinars. That would constitute a presentation. That’s my first metric, and that is webinars, presentations, and podcasts, providing a certain number of those per month.
[00:08:03] AD: Great. Okay.
[00:08:04] DL: The second one is then, in our business, just like in accounting businesses and consulting businesses, we have a referral network we need to keep building. That referral network is called trusted advisors. For example, Alex, you could be a trusted advisor. You could be working with a group that you’re consulting, providing your coaching services, and you could become a trusted advisor.
I have a personal goal of expanding my trusted advisor network. I have a goal of at least one new trusted advisor per month, and trying to get a referral from them. I upped the ante of not just making a new trusted advisor by bringing them into my network, but actually getting an actual referral to them. That requires me to reach out to my trusted network on a routine basis, and stay in touch with them, find out what they’re working on and say, “Hey, by the way, I think that company you’re consulting, have you thought about this IP issue that maybe is relevant to them?” Expanding the trusted advisor network is bullet point number two.
[00:09:02] AD: Doug, before we dig further, I want to point out the trend that I’m seeing. For our listeners, Doug and I have talked about this some, but Doug and I have not gone through this in detail, so I honestly cannot tell you what number the rest of these are going to be as we go. What I want to highlight here, so far, none of these are directly client related. The first one is sharing some level of thought leadership, some presentation. That could obviously lead to a client, but it’s not talking with a direct prospect necessarily.
Expanding your trusted advisor, again, not a client, not a prospect, but your centers of influence, your referral network and trying to build referrals out of that. It’s interesting, because I think often when again, we said our very last goal that we’re starting with was revenue, the immediate correlation is well, that’s all about clients and prospects, which yes, it is, but there are other steps along the way that help build there. Just an interesting observation that I see so far.
[00:10:00] DL: Yup. Well, you’re absolutely right. I get into those other metrics, and I will do so shortly. This is specifically talking about expanding my trusted advisor network and it has nothing to do with a client, or prospect client. As a trusted advisor network, could be our friends at ACG Detroit. It could be past president Chris Letts saying, “Hey, Doug. If you have a financial client, they just came up with some great inventions. Can you talk with about this?” This is about planting seeds. I’m a gardener. I’m a fisher and a hunter also, so I like to hunt and fish. This is about planting lots of seeds outside your garden in different new areas.
[00:10:36] AD: Absolutely. Since Chris, let’s get a big shout out. Anyone who is listening, who hasn’t listened to Chris Letts’ episode, go back, I believe it’s Episode 12 or 13. Chris was one of the early guests in the show. If you get a chance, go back and check that out. Sorry. Anyway, Doug, onto metric number three.
[00:10:51] DL: Okay. Identify new targets. Now, you may be saying, “What does that mean? It’s just exactly that.” I have a goal of identifying five new targets per month. That’s a pretty lofty goal. My marketing approach is a little different than most patent attorneys. When I started practicing patent law 30 years ago, when I came into work, which is not that far from where I’m at here in Troy, Michigan. When I came to work, they would slide the files under the door on your desk, and you just sat there and grind all day long. Just do the work that was handed to you.
Well, I wasn’t identifying targets, because my client was the partner down the hallway, because I was a service partner. Now, I’m actually a partner that’s actually doing the handing out. I have changed my thought process on identifying new targets. How do I do that? Well, ACG is a good example. ACG has a constituency of private equity firms, investment banking firms. For example, the space that you came out of recently. In a private equity setting, if you think about it, a private equity firm does what? They own lots of portfolio companies. What do I do? I like to target private equity firms who focus in the manufacturing and industrial space, because I as an engineer, and as a patent attorney, I want to help manufacturing companies to identify secure and leverage their intellectual property assets.
Those are patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, whatever happens to be, whatever’s in our IP bucket, or whoever we call it, or tackle box, we call it here at Fishman. Stewart. Whatever’s in the tackle box, we want to identify targets, relevant targets in that space. What I do is I target a couple different PE firms per month. We do something called an IP snapshot, something I innovated in the last few years with our team here.
When we conduct an IP snapshot, we can look at the entire portfolio by PE firm and identify in a one document called an IP snapshot, a list of the IP that is owned by every member of that PE firm, by every portfolio company. By doing that, I have a one snapshot for XYZ PE firm, let’s say. Then from that, I can identify a whole series of companies they own. Then by that, I can identify one, two or three targets. Every time I look at a PE firm, every time I find a shortfall in their management or their IP, so now I can then contact my colleague who runs the PE firm, the managing director, or directors and say, “By the way, Joe. I took a look at your portfolio companies. Did you know that three out of five year companies are red?” What do they mean? “Well, I have a scorecard system. They’re green, yellow, or red. If they’re red, that means they’re not taking care of their fundable IP issues. How do you think your shareholders, or your limited partners are going to think about that?”
They go, “Doug, tell me more. How can we fix this?” That allows me to start a conversation, which leads into metric three, and that is identifying new targets. Identifying five new targets per month, actually, is a fairly easy task for us to do.
[00:13:52] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders Podcast.
[00:14:01] AD: I’m glad you walked us through that, because the five per month that makes a lot more sense as you described that, because it does seem ambitious at first hearing it. As you explain, I understand where you get to that scale. It’s a very smart approach to the market. What I find really interesting about this is you’re uncovering problems that people don’t necessarily know that exist. You’re being intentional and proactive about going in the marketplace and saying, “Okay, I can identify some issues. I can put together a small report, or an analysis that says here’s some of the weaknesses and potential risks I see in your portfolio. If there’s any way it can be helpful, I’d love to be helpful around it.”
Versus, you’re not pitching the client, you’re not sending a here’s the work we do and here’s what we charge. You’re sending a here’s some opportunity I see. Because the reality is, again, you’re identifying a problem, you’re identifying risk, you’re coming up with a place where you can provide a solution, but you’re not pitching them. You’re highlighting these challenges. Again, top to bottom, number one, you are doing events out in the marketplace; some presentation, some webinar, or podcast in this case.
Metric number two, you are looking to expand your trusted advisor network. Again, neither of those are directly client-facing. Now, the metric number three is identifying new targets, five new targets a month. As you just described, this is not necessarily identifying five new clients that you’re going after, but rather, opportunities where you can add value and then going to your relationships that you have in demonstrating and sharing, here’s where we think we can add value. Where does that move is for metric number four?
[00:15:46] DL: Number four is the result of one through three. That is newly retained clients. That’s what starts putting the money on the table. I have a personal goal of two new clients per month. Luckily, here we are March 24th and I just landed my second new client of the month. Now, here’s how I define a new retain client, they actually sign a retainer agreement, pay us money. It’s not a prospect. It’s actually a fish in the boat. That’s a task.
[00:16:10] AD: Real revenue.
[00:16:11] DL: It’s real revenue. We got to retainer. That’s a metric we can measure. Real revenue. Number four is pretty simple. It’s aggressive, but it’s a very simple metric we can measure.
[00:16:22] AD: Let me talk on this just for a minute. I want to share some of my thoughts around this and I’d like your reaction to this, Doug. Remembering, we’re calling this a balanced scorecard. We’ve used the word goals and scorecard. They’re very much mixed together. I don’t want to – there’s a lot of different ways to look at how to set goals, or how to set metrics for yourself. One thing that I’m always a big believer in is being careful of setting goals for yourself that you can’t influence, that you can’t actually decide the outcome from, right?
Clients, you can’t control how many clients actually sign up for you. You can do as you said, number one through three. You have total control over how you do that. That’s in your power. You control and influence that. Number four is a byproduct of that. The reason I highlight is because I think tracking, I think having a target behind it and using this on a balanced scorecard is a phenomenal idea.
For our listeners, if you’re putting something like this together for yourself, just be cautious that if you miss that goal, for example, if this month, you did not hit your target metric, there’s nothing you can directly do to affect that. Whereas, number one through three, if it is the 24th of the month, and you’re sitting here saying, “Hey, I’ve got a week left. I need to get my metrics completed.” You have the ability to influence the time and energy you put into those. That’s where again, just putting some bifurcation between the goals that you have, the power to truly drive and steer, versus the metrics that you have a target for that you track to understand your performance, but knowing that at the end of the day, you don’t make that final decision of what that metric looks like.
[00:18:03] DL: Speaking of what something looks like, I’m going to show you, because you have a visual of me. Unfortunately, our audience does not. I have a cartoonish, actual balanced scorecard. For each month, for example, for point number four, new retained clients, each month, I’ve had it broken down to four quarters, actually. For January, February, March, I actually have a visual, a dot. If it’s a red dot, that means hey, I didn’t secure my two clients. If it’s green, that means, guess what? I met my metric.
I have a visual that I fill out on the first Monday of each following month, where I go back and say, on these eight things that I’m measuring, how am I looking visually? Because my friend, Alan, who’s my Harley buddy. We ride Harleys together. Whose was a statistician that studied under Deming for six years and studied at Toyota and worked at American Axle and Harley and has worked in some really big companies around the world, putting together balanced scorecards relevant to them. I shared this with him. He said, “Doug, you’re missing the visual.”
I actually was in his office one time when he was at American Axle. He had his big whiteboard, statistics guys like whiteboards. I’ve never stat statistics from college at Purdue. It can be a complex subject, but when you break it down to a simple little visual, you could walk up and see, how is this division doing today? How’s this business unit doing today? How is sales and marketing doing today? How is accounting doing today? He was measuring accounting. He was measuring every facet. That’s something he put into place at Chrysler, when he worked under Lee Iacocca. He put in an all systems-wide process, where they were measuring everything, just not widgets coming off the plant floor, just not cars coming down the line.
He said, “Doug, you have to have a visual, so you can look at every month to see how you’re doing.” That has a cathartic feeling. Allows you to see, “Oh, I ran all these numbers. I fill in all these dots, but how does it look like?” Then, you can actually show this to your team. I can show this to my team. My coach, when I meet with my coach every other month, he says, “Doug, how is your scorecard doing?” I show it to him. He goes, “You’re red. Doug, why is that red? Let’s talk about that.”
Your coach can help you with why were you red last month? Then your coaching session is talking about, well, why did you not have your quota of webinars that month? Tell me about that. What can we do to get that back on track? That’s the importance of having a coach. Something a guy like that, you do for a profession.
[00:20:25] AD: Well, and Doug, what I really enjoy that you’re saying there to our listeners, the visualization aspect of this is helping you understand what’s going well and what’s not, what needs attention to what doesn’t, right? If it’s green, it doesn’t need attention. If it’s green, I know it’s working. I know I’m hitting my goals. I can quickly glance at it. I know where things are. If it’s yellow, okay, I need to pay a little more attention. If it’s red, I know something needs to be addressed.
The important part of all of this, and I think sometimes this is where goals can go awry, or scorecards, or anytime we start getting metrics involved, is recognizing that the purpose of tracking it is to help us understand where we are, where we’re going and if we’re on track. Because at the end of the day, if I get to the end of the quarter, let’s just use your example here. You get to the end of the quarter, I’m meeting with you. If I’m in the position of a coach, you come to me. We’re looking at your scorecard and you have all green on there, then that’s a great place to have a conversation, ask, well, what’s going well? Where are the challenges? It looks like everything’s going well here.
The reality is, most of the time, it’s not going to all be green, right? There’s going to be some yellow, there’s going to be some red. Then that allows that conversation to be very well, Doug, everything’s green, except for this. What’s going on here? What’s going on when it comes to your expanding your trusted advisor? You’re meeting every other goal, but you just seem to be falling short on that.
The point is, it’s not as much about the fact that you’re actually not meeting the goal, as it is about opening up the discussion around what’s getting in the way of getting to that goal, right? What’s causing you to not be able to accomplish that? If you aren’t tracking that, if you’re not putting it down, if you’re not putting yourself in a place where you can see and understand that in a relevant way, then ultimately, it doesn’t do anything. You have no ability to know if you’re on track, if you’re making progress and where the potential holes are.
[00:22:13] DL: Well, Deming had an interesting saying. That was, if you’re not measuring it, how do you know how well you’re doing?
[00:22:19] AD: Absolutely.
[00:22:19] DL: In other words, if you’re not measuring, you don’t know if you’re doing good, or bad, or indifferent. In the legal profession, here’s how we’re typically measured in a legal profession, is probably similar to accounting and other types of hourly-based type businesses that we’re in. We get measured based upon our number of hours per year. Did we hit our budget?
[00:22:36] AD: Billables.
[00:22:37] DL: Our quota, our billable hours? Then, how many dollars did we bring in the door?
[00:22:41] AD: What was the actual revenue the firm brought in based on your work?
[00:22:44] DL: Yeah. Yeah. Then the firm has a realization numbers, are we at 98%, or 75%? Oh, what’s going on? Why you have such poor realization? Whatever. There are very few metrics, law firms actually go by from that standpoint. There are a lot of things accounting guys crank out and measure. From a personal standpoint and I’m talking about personal measurement of my performance. Typically, it’s not that granular. When you peel away the layers of onions here and looking at, oh, I’m measuring 8 different things for a law practice for me personally, not for the firm, I can actually look at and see how I’m doing. It’s not to make you feel guilty. If you’re red this month, or green next month.
[00:23:22] AD: Awareness.
[00:23:22] DL: It’s awareness. It’s called vulnerability, and being able to show your coach, or your partners down the hallway, “Man, I’m really stinking this month on this point. Can you help me out?” If I’m measuring it, I have a interesting little visual, it really can facilitate a conversation.
[00:23:39] AD: I could not agree with you more on that. Let’s get through the next couple here to round us up. We’ve got one through four, we’ve talked through so far. What about number five?
[00:23:48] DL: Number five is the rest of the story far as actual, a category called fees collected. That is, how much did I actually collect? I’m not going to give you my number, but I break it down per month. I have a goal of what I need to collect, and that’s based upon my clients. I have lots of clients and blessed to have a lot of great clients. I have a goal of X dollars per month I want to collect. We multiply that by 12 and that gives me my annual goal of fees collected based upon my clients, okay. That’s pretty simple. That’s relevant to an accountant, or whatever consulting firm you’re in. Fees collected is number five.
[00:24:24] AD: Perfect, perfect. Number six?
[00:24:26] DL: Number six is a little more granular. This is an old-fashioned metric, called personal hours build. I have X dollars per hour, X hours per month that I have a set for me to bill. You times 12 and that’s my goal per year.
[00:24:40] AD: Of true billable hours. Of billable hours.
[00:24:42] DL: True billable hours. Yeah. Five and six go hand in hand. My number of hours billed falls into number five, which is fees collected. Fees collected, because I have a lot of workout, includes revenue come in from other partners and associates working with me in collaboration with my clients and meeting their IP needs on a monthly basis.
[00:25:01] AD: Great. Awesome. Then number seven?
[00:25:04] DL: Number seven is just because I collect fees and I bill hours, I don’t get all of it. The house has to pay the lights. They have to pay for the Zoom call and all the overhead. Number seven is my personal income that I receive as a result of one through six above. It’s my personal. It’s my W2 income.
[00:25:23] AD: That is awesome. It builds you all the way through to what it trickles down to your actual take of that, right?
[00:25:30] DL: Right, right. Then number eight is the final one, which is my overall personal, not formulated, but for my personal investment goals, which of course, includes my firm income. I have a goal as far as investing it in my HAS, my IRA, my 401k. We also invest in alternative assets, VC things, companies, real estate. We do different types of things. We have metrics from a personal household standpoint, that of course, the firm money rolls into that metric.
[00:26:01] AD: Absolutely.
[00:26:01] DL: We have a large personal goal, which is number eight, investment financial goals.
[00:26:06] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle-market professionals.
[00:26:15] AD: Doug, it’s really interesting hearing this top to bottom and understanding the whole thing. I want to put a little bit of a recap on the structure you’ve used. You start with as you said, you start at the end with what do you want to achieve from an income and annual income standpoint? What are your goals that you need to grow? I think that is very important, especially when you’re looking at a professional-based balanced scorecard, where I believe we all have to have some form of an economic model. We all have goals that we’re seeking to achieve and places in life that we’re striving to accomplish.
You start with what do I need to accomplish that in this year? Then, now starting all the way back at the top, the first three metrics are the three metrics that you have the most influence over, that you can control what you’re doing. It is you’re putting in two events per month, whether that be presentations, or speaking, or webinars or a podcast. You’re finding two opportunities to share thought leadership per month.
Next, you’re looking to expand your trusted advisor network. You want to add one new trusted advisor with a referral into your network. Something that you have to go out, you have to be seeking those relationships, building those relationships. Again, neither of those are directly related to a client. They’re building relationships in the marketplace. Number three, identify five new targets in your case. Target for you is looking for ways that you as an IP attorney can add value in this specific example you use for a private equity firm, by identifying their portfolio companies that have IP that is not fully protected.
You spend the time. You create an analysis that you can share with those professionals that you’re demonstrating, “Hey, this is an area I see that I can add value that you might have some risk and that you can gain value by putting in the right protections in place. Here’s where I propose that we can add value.” It’s not client prospecting, necessarily, in the sense of trying to set up the pitch meeting to lay on the deal, as much as it is showing up with some challenges that maybe they didn’t know exist, and looking for ways to say, “Hey, here’s your challenge, here’s a solution that I have, that can help you with something that you didn’t even knew existed.”
Now, those three metrics, again, are ones that you can influence directly from a business development effort. Then what that trickles down to are your new clients retain per month and fees collected and knowing that new clients in again, the fees collected really are driven by your next metric being the hours billed. You do have some control, or a large amount of control over your hours billed. The fees collected you have, slightly less control over, some influence, but not direct control, same with the number of new clients, retained paying clients that you bring in. You don’t necessarily have that control, but you influence it through all these other efforts you’re doing.
Then that ultimately trickles down to what is your personal income from the firm for those efforts. What I find really interesting about how that again, that all plays out, I like the one, two and three, really were not about the direct work you’re doing, not about the clients and direct generating clients, as much as it was about being out in the marketplace, building relationships and demonstrating value to people and knowing that that will ultimately convert for you. Is that a good summary of the balanced scorecard process you’ve used?
[00:29:44] DL: Yeah. It’s a very good overview of what we put together here and what we achieved and what we’re doing. When I revisit the balanced scorecard this year, 2021, I looked back at my eight metrics, and I thought, “Do I want to change anything?” That’s the beauty of this process. A company creates a new budget every year, you as an individual can recreate your scorecard. Because you may find something that was relevant in 2020, or 2019, is not relevant in 2021. We had to pivot our firm and patent attorneys had to pivot, just like you did in 2020. Become more relevant.
You may find things you measure are going to be different as time goes on. For example, a new associate and accounting firm or law firm will have different metrics than a partner’s been practicing patent law for 30 years like me. That’s just natural. The beauty of the scorecard is you can while working with a coach, identify key relevant metrics that are personal to you. Measuring them as the same. It’s just a matter of coming up with realistic goals. In fact, you said something earlier about the scorecard could be red or green. I would say, if your scorecard is all green, maybe you didn’t push yourself enough. Maybe you were a little – not as difficult on yourself. Maybe you should have had some better metrics, or maybe a different metric, or a little more stronger metrics. Maybe you should add a little bit higher bar.
That’s the beauty of looking back at last year’s scorecard. I can say, “Was I tough enough on myself? Or was I too hard? Or was I unrealistic at trying to get two new clients a month, or whatever happens to be?” This is a fungible, a malleable system that allows you to tailor fit to no matter where you are in your organization.
[00:31:20] AD: Doug, the key point that I think I want listeners to make sure they take away from all this, the whole purpose is tracking what you’re doing, whatever the metrics may be. The metrics we talked about, I think are very well thought out smart metrics for you, in your stage of your career and for what your profession is. There are, I’m sure everyone listening here could you some derivative then for their own scorecard. They’re unique to you and that the value of creating the value of putting in the time to design, track and reflect on it is the reflecting, the knowing what’s working, what’s not, identifying the opportunities and keeping yourself on track. Because at the end of the day, what you’ve done is you’ve sat down, you’ve created a plan. My plan is to do X number of events per month, or again, whatever it might be. Those are my goals. Then you tracked it.
Then at the end of the period, you sit back down and look at it and say, “Did I accomplish what I had planned to do? Yes or no?” If the answer’s no, okay, why not? If you’d never do that to begin with, if you’ve never put that together and track that and give yourself that opportunity to find that space to look at that scorecard, or to look at whatever the metrics might be, you’re missing out on all those opportunities for growth and opportunities for improvement.
Your point around coaching and I’m biased for saying this, given some of the work that I do, but I do believe that there is a lot of power in having an executive coach, or professional coach engaged with you, that is helping you read and track and look at that and be like, “Okay, Doug. What happened here?” Because doing this stuff in a vacuum can be difficult. I recommend, no matter what people should be looking at doing this, if you’re in a position to have a coach help you through it, it makes it that much easier and that much more effective in the end. Ultimately, that process, the actual process of thinking about designing, tracking and then reflecting on the performance and the success is where all the value comes from, in my opinion.
[00:33:13] DL: Right. Yeah. I would be a little more blunt than that. I can be that, because I’m not a coach. I would say, if you want to be successful in your profession, one, you need to have some metrics to measure your success. Two, you need to have a coach walking side by side you on a routine basis. It helps you to find those metrics and helps you move your reds on your scorecard to greens, because they can talk you through that. You doing it by yourself, or on your own, you can easily talk yourself out of it and put it off. A coach holds you accountable in a polite way. They’re really a valuable resource to have in your side pocket.
[00:33:48] AD: I appreciate hearing that from you, Doug. I know the value of it. Again, I’m biased to what I’m saying. To our listeners, for anyone thinking about this and having a scorecard, having a metrics and using a coach for this, the value that really comes down to it is if we were able to do it, if we knew what we were supposed to do and we were going to be successful in it, we would be perfect and none of us are. There’s always opportunity for improvement. It’s too hard to see what – you can’t see it yourself. You’re too close to it.
You may be able to identify where some of the trouble spots are, but you’re going to miss something very simple. The power of the coach isn’t because the coach is some very intelligent person that sees everything. Now, despite you want someone that has the right experience and understands it. At the end of the day, what the coach is really doing is creating the form for you to be able to think through this stuff, and being that sounding board, being that other set of eyes and ears to talk you through it. Because if not, you’re doing it in a vacuum. Again, in a vacuum, you’re going to miss things. You’re not going to see stuff in that second perspective, that accountability, that outside accountability that really says, “Hey, what’s going on here?” Makes a big difference.
[00:34:51] DL: Yeah. Your coach is really your business partner. Like your spouse is your partner at home, your coach is your business partner that is helping you move through the process, so we are clear, hopefully, in a positive and enlightening way, in a better way, and a smarter way to be more successful for you personally, for your business, your firm and for your family, of course.
[00:35:11] AD: I could not agree more. Doug, I want to thank you for coming on here today. We just do a quick recap. I’m not going to go through the whole balanced scorecard again. Jump back about five minutes, if you want to hear the full summary. What I want to hit on is, Doug, you’ve taken the time to engage a coach to help you identify where there were challenges in your career and what metrics you could track to help you overcome those challenges and know if you are on track.
By doing that, you’ve created a balanced scorecard that has eight key metrics that really for you, are driving down to your personal economic goals and what you can do to influence and drive those, so you can keep an eye on your performance and how you’re doing that. The power of that has been having that outside accountability, that outside person that can keep you on track, that can be that extra set of eyes and ears and really make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to, but also helping you see some of the things that you might be too close to to fully see yourself. Anything else to add as a recap from the conversation today?
[00:36:11] DL: What I did mention is I have on a personal side, metrics also for the family, as your other areas. We just talked about from a business standpoint, this is a business balanced scorecard, which helps you in other aspects of your personal life at home and with your family, kids and etc. It’s really important to think about this in other areas of your life, too. Could be whether it’s spiritually, or it could be health, workout, whatever. This system, so to speak, can be used in lots of different aspects of one’s life.
[00:36:40] AD: It sounds like that was a trailer to a part two episode. To all of our listeners, keep an eye out. Doug, no, I completely agree with that. It’s a system. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of approaching things. You can use it in many aspects of your life. Obviously, what we talked about today was on the professional front in your career as a IP attorney. So many different applications.
To our listeners this week, I want to give a quick call to action here. What I would like everyone listening to do is some time over the next week, find 30 minutes to an hour of space to sit down and think to yourself, what is one metric that you can start tracking? One metric. Have it be some kind of a monthly-based metric. I think weekly metrics all too often can be difficult to manage, especially in the unpredictable nature of a professional services career. What is a monthly metric that you can measure for yourself, and then start writing that down. Create and start with one metric. Over time, you can continue to add to it, but just start with getting some kind of a metric for yourself to track. I think it will make a world of difference once you start tracking stuff.
Doug, to our listeners, how can they get a hold of you?
[00:37:46] DL: I could be found at our firm’s website, Fishman Stewart at fishmanstewart.com. IP boutique firm here in Troy, Michigan. Or of course on LinkedIn, you can look me up, Doug LaLone. L-A-L-O-N-E. I’d love to connect with you. Send me a note on LinkedIn, if you want and I’m happy to talk over this with any of you. I’m hopeful that you embrace this and use this as a new opportunity to improve yourself.
[00:38:08] AD: Awesome. Well, Doug. Thank you so much for coming on today. Really enjoyed the conversation and looking forward to talking again soon.
[00:38:13] DL: Thank you much. Appreciate your time.
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