Book Review: Don’t Be A Yes Chick!

As an entrepreneur (sometimes defined as "a person who will jump out of an airplane with the idea that he or she will build a parachute on the way down") I have always been very aware of my need for calm, organized, talented people who can help me make my wild dreams a reality, and somehow bridge the gap between my visionary/artistic/insanity-loving/creative self and the real world of consistency, results, practicality, human beings — the art of the possible. 

Cover Now along come Molly Hall and Laney Chavis with their new book "Don't Be A Yes Chick!" which shows me what that partnership looks like from the other side, and instructs their target readers (administrators, assistants, COOs, VPs, and all who work for an entrepreneur) in how to work with an entrepreneur in a way that allows both parties to flourish and succeed. 

The book, which you can purchase here, is chock-full of good advice, some very practical tools, and a formula for success. Working in an entrepreneurial office is very different than working in a corporate structure, as the authors point out. One is like being in the regular army. The other is like guerilla warfare. In the entrepreneurial office, everyone does everything, and everyone does whatever it takes. There is no room, they say, for the entitlement mentality, no room for negative attitude, and no way you go to your boss with a problem unless you are also bringing a proposed solution. 

Although I think the primary value of the book is for anyone who is working, or wants to work for, an entrepreneur (identified by the authors as "intrapreneurs"), there is much of value for the entrepreneur as well. I know I felt myself cringing at times, when I recognized some of my own behavior (like introducing one of my key employees as "the person who does all the work"). I learned from "Don't Be A Yes Chick!" and I think most people who work in small businesses would, as well. 

I have some questions, too — questions I hope to ask when I interview the authors for the SmartTalk podcast this month. Among my questions: Why are the overwhelming majority of these entrepreneur/intrapreneur relationships also older male/younger female relationships? Is that why the clever theme of "chicks" throughout the book? Were they worried that some women would be offended by that? Is there some sort of romantic undertone or tension in the relationship between older man and younger female assistant? How does this assistant (or the entrepreneur for that matter) deal with it, if it crops up? How would most intrapreneurs like to be titled? Or paid? What do they find special about working for an entrepreneur? In what ways is it better than working for a "manager" in a corporation? And so on…

Clearly, then, I found this book worth my time. You should be able to read it in an evening, and I think both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs will find it valuable. Its insights are presented with wit and a sense of fun (the "chick" theme indicating that none of us can afford to take ourselves too seriously), and it includes some very valuable tools and techniques. Buy it here

Thanks For Ten Years Together

I tend to value loyalty, perhaps for no better reason than, in terms of temperament and makeup, I am that way myself. My best friend has been my best friend for 33 years. I have two employees who this year will celebrate 10 years with SmartMarketing. I have others who are 5-plus years. And I have clients who have been with me for many years, as well: five years, seven years….which brings me to the subject of today's blog post. Our clients Joe Strazzeri and Steve Mancini of Strazzeri Mancini LLP, an estate planning law firm in San Diego, have been our clients 10 years this month.

Joe_Steve2[1] Our association began in May 2001 when I attended a conference of estate planning attorneys in San Diego. I had a marketing firm and was eyeing the legal market, but as yet had no clients in that field. I didn't have much at the conference, either. A tri-fold brochure and some business cards (both awful, in retrospect). My strategy was two-fold. First, since I had nothing to hand out, and not a whole lot to say, either, I had hired a gorgeous model from a San Diego agency to stand at my booth for two days. This seemed to be an effective strategy in a roomful of middle aged white guys. The second part of my strategy was to find a "center of influence." This was not too difficult as there was this guy in the middle of the conference floor who always seemed to have a crowd around him, and whom everyone seemed to know. That was Joe. I don't recall exactly how I wormed my way into his inner circle. Probably just barged in and introduced myself. But before long we had a deal: Joe, I will do a great job on your marketing for cheap, and in return you let your wide circle of friends and colleagues know that it was my firm that did it for you. And that's just the way it happened. Before long I had the  attorney clients that formed the base of the business I have today. It all starts with one client, as they say. I used to joke to Joe, "I lost thirty thousand on you, but I made three hundred thousand."

Soon I was making frequent visits to Joe's office and got to know his partner Steve, who is a great guy and who will always be one month older to me. I began bringing my young son with me on trips to San Diego, because he loved LegoLand and the San Diego Zoo. Steve and his wife Carol became like second parents to him. There is no need here to recount our many triumphs and setbacks in the never-ending quest to market the Strazzeri-Mancini firm, the Southern California Institute, the Laureate Program, and other events and enterprises. Joe and Steve and their team have invited me and my son and several members of my staff to Hawaii (at their expense). They have visited us in Florida. The SmartMarketing staff love them, not least because periodically they receive large boxes of See's Chocolates, and hand-written thank-you notes.

We've watched each other's kids grow up. Joe's son Sal, who had just been born when we met, is now 10. My own son, who visited LegoLand, the San Diego Zoo, and Hawaii, beginning when he was eight, is now 18 and beginning college in the fall. 

In the words of Jerry Garcia, what a long, strange trip it's been. But here we are, still working together, going to Hawaii next month, still having fun. Time to say thanks. Thanks Joe and Steve. Thanks for ten years together. Thanks for your loyalty. Thanks for your financial support. Thanks for gifts and trips. Thanks for saying thanks. We could not have been more fortunate in our first attorney-clients.

Ten Ways To Generate Revenue For Your Law Practice

This is a Webinar that I did on April 28 for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). You can follow the slides here:  Download NAELA_Presentation 2011. And you can listen here: 

2011-04-28 11.00 Top Ten Things You Can Do to Generate Revenue in Your Elder and Special Needs Law Planning Practice

SmartTalk, Episode 15

Welcome to SmartTalk , episode 15, in which Victor and Mark discuss how Video Killed The Radio Star; bulls eyes vs. quadrants; how Mark hired his first assistant; why Victor can make better copies than his assistant; whether employees are a profit center or an expense; Mark’s three rules for having great employees; how you can break even but still come out ahead; autonomy vs. pay as an employee motivator; drilling holes above the waterline; how to differentiate your firm; and the screw-up as opportunity. 

SmartTalk – Ep 15


Pay Me My Money Down

Good advice for all my clients and readers from Bruce Springsteen. (Hat tip to Todd Holzman, Supervising Senior Editor, Digital News, National Public Radio.) 



You Can’t Take It With You

Some years ago, I was talking to one of my clients about marketing her estate planning law practice. "We run all these ads about taxes," she said, "but when people come into my office, that's not what they talk about." When I inquired what they did talk about, she replied, "They talk about their drunken son-in-law whom they don't trust." That comment inspired me to do a series Screen shot 2011-03-14 at 1.56.40 PM of ads on the theme of "Reasons To Do An Estate Plan" — an example of which you can see here (click to enlarge).

    A recent article in Time magazine, entitled "I Can't Take It With Me", by a young married man named Joel Stein, reminded me of my own ads, and made me laugh, but it also contains more than a little truth.

So What?

I love this post by Robert Bruce of Copyblogger. It's about writing, but it could be about anything. It's entitled Everything Will Conspire To Stop You…So What?

SmartTalk, Episode 14

In which Victor and Mark perform the Herculean feat of making the "One Space or Two After a Period" debate Mb fun and interesting. Special guest Matthew Butterick of Typography for Lawyers indulges Victor's adoration and Mark's toleration of typography principles, as well as performing expert analysis of Victor's old Download Old Letterhead and new  Download Letterhead Example letterhead — not to mention pretending to be interested in Mark's memories of working in the newspaper business in the days of lead type. 


SmartTalk – Ep 14


Your Mom Hates My Blog Post

They say that if you are a hammer, everything in world looks like a nail —which might explain why I tend to watch television commercials the way other people watch the programs in between. And every now and then I come across one that is so brilliant, and yet so simple, that I bang my forehead against the door jamb as punishment for not thinking of it first. Such a commercial is “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2” and if you haven’t seen it, here’s your chance. Most great marketing, in my experience, rests on some sort of psychological principle or insight — in this case, the idea that parental disapproval is catnip to teenage boys. 


You can also see the behind-the-scenes story:


A fatherly tip of the hat to my son, Max. 

SmartTalk, Episode 13

Welcome to SmartTalk, episode 13, in which Victor and Mark slap their foreheads after hearing a presentation at an ABA conference, discuss the Art Of Not Returning Phone Calls, whether or not to take the crazy client, technicians having entrepreneurial seizures, giving up the thing you love best, rising to your level of incompetence, to grow or not to grow, building low expectations into your retainer, what lawyers can learn from hospitals, going narrow and deep, niches for riches, the law of supply and demand, driving around the block to work at your home office, and how to outsource your own job.

SmartTalk – Ep 13