Learning By Failing

Certified Professional Coach

When I got my Certified Professional Coach credentials, I was encouraged to pick a very narrow market and focus on that market. That is the best way to establish a solid business.

I know, it seems counterintuitive. You want to coach everybody in the world. But it really is better to pick a narrow market or niche as it is called and just focus on that.

I looked around and thought, “What market do I know best? What group of individuals could I really help work through their roadblocks? Lawyers, of course.” I was one. I had built a fantastic practice from literally nothing. I could really help lawyers hit their stride.

One of the things that advisors will tell you is that it really helps to have a book. Write a book and it will establish you as an expert in the field.

What Did I Know About?

One of the things I know really well is how to build a law practice from nothing.

When I was in law school I was approached by a very successful attorney in Union, Missouri. We’ll call him Lee. He knew of a title company in Warrenton, Missouri that was owned by an aging attorney, who we’ll call Al. Al let it be known he was ready to sell and retire.

Lee and Al got together and it was agreed that Lee would buy the title company and I would move to Warrenton to run the company out of Al’s law office and basically take over Al’s practice. I would get equity in the title company through my labors. Lee would also pay me a small salary to help me get by while I was building my practice.

What a great deal for me. I would not have to go through that miserable ritual of on campus interviews with law firms. My future was secure.

Hold On There

Not so fast.

It seems that Lee and Al made this deal with a handshake. And it seems further that word got out in the Warrenton community about the deal.

So here is something you need to know. Lee was Jewish. He had a very Jewish sounding last name. My last name, although sounding Jewish is German. But because of my name many people believe this Roman Catholic boy is Jewish.

Well, it did not sit right that Al would sell his very prosperous title company to two Jews who weren’t even from the area.

During the course of this deal being put together I had been to Warrenton to meet with Al. He had shown me around the title company and law office. He showed me where my desk would be. There was no doubt that there was a deal in the working.

Was I Being Ghosted?

Around the time of my last final exam I noticed that communication with Al had dropped off. He had not returned my last few phone calls. Finally I left a message that I was almost ready to move and wanted to let him know.

He called me. It seems that Al suddenly remembered that he had promised a lawyer in Warrenton who had a competing title company that he would give this lawyer the right of first refusal if he ever was going to sell.

In one phone call my career went from secure to uncertain. There I stood with no job and no clients.

It was too late to interview with law firms. Those jobs were taken. Besides, I had already entered into an apartment lease in Warrenton. I did not want to start my legal career by defaulting on a lease. I had no choice. I moved to Warrenton to start my own practice.

No need to go into the details about what I did. Suffice it to say that I have built a practice that is the envy of many attorneys.

There Is A Book In All This

So, back to the book. When I became a coach I thought, “I’ll write a book about how to build a strong, sustainable law practice. I’ll share the story of my journey and use that book as an entrée for potential coaching clients. Lawyers who bought the book would be naturals for coaching.”

The name of the book, “No Clients, No Job, No Problem.”

I wrote it, published it and out it on Amazon. And it sold. It still sells. You can buy the Kindle version of the book for ninety-nine cents. I did not write it to make money from the royalties. I wrote it to help lawyers build their practices. I only assume that it is lawyers who are buying it. I mean I don’t see it having a following in the honey ham business.

Here is what I found about coaching attorneys. It isn’t that I can’t coach them. It is that it takes an awful lot of time trying to explain to them that having a coach is not a sign of weakness.

Fear Factor

Attorneys are fearful people. They are afraid of a lot. Think about what they do. They solve or prevent problems.

Each day they are confronted with what can, did or will go wrong. They want to feel confident, bold and knowledgeable. They convince themselves that they are the smartest people in the room. That, of course makes for very uncomfortable situations when you put more than one attorney in the room. Each one wants to believe they are the smartest while suffering from the insecurity that they aren’t. As a result, attorneys are not very open to revealing their inadequacies to a stranger. They are willing to buy a book that tells them how to build a practice because they can do so anonymously.

It turned out that attorneys were not the market for me. The few attorneys I did coach did quite well. When they were able to be vulnerable and tell me what it was they really wanted they were able to really work on the goal.

Protecting The Ego

Frequently what a person really needs is to be honest with themselves and admit what it is they really want. Then they can go after it with all their efforts. Sadly, too many attorneys have built a wall to protect themselves and their egos and end up shortchanging themselves.

I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. The attorneys I encountered were not at all interested in the topic of coaching. I was spending too much time trying to educate them on the benefit of coaching. It took a while until I decided to change focus. I’m glad I did.

Now I can add the title after dinner speaker to my list of accomplishments.

I learned a lot in that set of circumstances. Some people would call it a failure. To me it was a valuable learning experience.

After Dinner Speaker

Having an after dinner speaker at your event can add value and enjoyment. If you would be interested in a conversation about how I can help you make your next event special, contact me.