Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to Ask for Referrals for Lawyers

SlawTips
Today’s tip is simple and focused. How should lawyers ask for referrals?

I asked lawyers, accountants and consultants to share how they go about it. They shared their tips generously and, as you will see, everyone has a slightly different approach.

In Part 1, we hear from lawyers and accountants. 

In Part 2, we hear from consultants.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Future of Video: 5 Predictions for 2017 [whitepaper]

5 video predictions for 2017 - For lawyers, accountants and architects

The future of video - whitepaper
It used to be that hanging a shingle over your door was the marketing plan for lawyers, accountants and architects. Those days are long gone. Marketing has been edging in since the 1990’s. Today, not only has marketing become an integral part of the professional landscape, but the pace of change is dizzying. On top of the widely accepted vehicles - websites, brochures and events - there are the more recent arrivals - blogs, social media, podcasts and video. And every other day it seems, there’s another new “thing” that you could be doing to build your practice.

So, how do you decide which option to bet on to win? Or, do you need to do a bit of everything?

Recent trends offer some insight. Of late, there’s really only been one medium experiencing an undeniable surge in growth with both consumers and business executives.

That’s video.

To be clear, we’re not expecting video to do away with the foundation of a professional marketing plan. But, we are expecting that those who jump on it first - with videos strategically aligned with their practices - will build advantage for the life of their firms.

Download whitepaper: The future of video, for five predictions that take into consideration professional sensibilities, the services buyer’s behaviour, trends in the professional sector and our own first-hand consulting experience.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Easy, never fail almond yogurt recipe



We're going off topic today! After many, failed experiments, I wanted to share my perfected recipe for almond yogurt with some friends. So, I figured I should post it here for our readers as well! Seriously, I kid you not about the many failed experiments. It's challenging to replicate some of our favourite dairy foods without dairy (I make fermented nut cheese too... but that's for another day!). 

I tried many times to make a soy yogurt from homemade soy milk and not once did it work. I feel a bit sick about all the ingredients that wound up in the garbage or went down the sink. So, now that this one works consistently, obviously I'm excited to share it!

The video above was actually my inspiration. But I still had to finesse the recipe a bit for it to work well for me. Here is what I do and some of the tips I learned along the way...

Easy, never fail almond yogurt recipe:

Step 1:
Don't start with almond milk, but rather with raw almonds. Almond milk often contains preservatives, which will deter your culture. And, don't go substituting with just any other nuts or seeds. Some work some don't. Walnuts definitely go rancid! Tried that! I read that macadamia and hazelnuts work, though I haven't tried.

So, the first step is to soak your almonds. Craig gives a terrific tip in this video. Soak them for 24 hours. Sprouting would be way less. But for yogurt, this allows the almonds to absorb more water allowing for a smoother blend.

Use a lot of water. It should look like the water more than doubled the volume in your bowl.

Be sure to use filtered water here. If you don't, you will inadvertently kill off that lovely culture you are trying to encourage with the chlorine from the water. Yes, I learned the hard way!


Step 2:
Rinse the almonds well and discard the water the almonds soaked in. There are difficult to digest materials in that water. It's done.


Step 3:
Now you need to blend the almonds with water. Again, use filtered. The amount depends on the consistency you're looking for. If you like it a bit watery, go for one to one almonds to water. A bit thicker works for me.

Now, I tried doing this part in a blender or food processor and ran into issues. The food processor drips liquid all over the place and both only got the almonds as far as a crumb state. But with a high speed blender I was able to get a really fine grind. Honestly, the difference is so key that the final product didn't really taste like yogurt and was a bit like eating a drink with crumbs in it. Not enjoyable at all. If you don't have a high speed blender, make your yogurt with a friend that does! Worth it.

I use the smoothie cycle on the Vitamix and get a good result. But I find that it helps to start with a small amount of almonds and a lot of water. Go one round and then add the rest. This way you have a starter liquid which facilitates the blending process.


Step 4:
My favourite thing about this recipe is the fact that it actually works!!  My second favourite thing was totally inspired by Craig in the video above.  This recipe literally only uses 3 ingredients - almonds, water and probiotics. Also, there's no waste. We use the whole almond, No cheesecloth. No mess. And you don't have to go to the trouble of scouring the city for vegan yogurt starter. They exist. But they are hard to find. Yes, I did that too! And I have found I get a better result with a probiotic supplement.

So, step 4 is just to open and pour contents of a few capsules of probiotics into your blended concoction. Mix well with a wooden or stainless steel spoon.  I have been using 1 capsule to 1 cup of almonds and it's been working. The supplement I use, CYTO-MATRIX, Multi Strain II, is from my naturopath, so I'm not sure if this is easily available at retail. If not, I would suggest starting with a recommended brand for a quality strain of probiotics.

I use a pyrex or glass bowl. It must be very clean. Remember you're culturing a bacteria here. Avoid metal and plastic at this stage. And leave it uncovered in the oven. Yes, I tried both and uncovered is better!

If you want it sweet, adding honey or sugar should be fine at this stage. I make mine plain so I can go savory or sweet as I wish when I want to eat some. Plus that's the other benefit to making this homemade. Plain dairy-free yogurt is harder to find at retail.

But don't add any other ingredients at this stage, as they may interfere with the culturing process. I read somewhere that adding salt (even sea salt) can interfere. When I stopped adding it the results improved.


Step 5:
Culture the yogurt. So, the instructions on the starter packages all say that 108 degrees Fahrenheit is the magic temperature for yogurt to culture. But I have found that it really depends on your oven. I consistently killed my culture dead at 108 (sad but true). So, I experimented a bunch of times (told you!) at different temperatures and finally landed on 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the interesting finding was that, with my oven, it worked much better if I left the convection on (which, honestly was a total accident!). I leave the yogurt to culture overnight. Try not to leave it longer than 8 or 9 hours, as it may 'overcook' which changes its nature.

I actually tried culturing on the counter, as opposed to in the oven, as Craig does in the video. It just didn't do much.

Of course, if you have a yogurt maker, you can avoid all this guess work! Just use that!


Step 6:
Wake up with anticipation! You will literally smell your yogurt before you even open the over door!!

Give it a good mix, as the water tends to separate, and taste! Then refrigerate.

You will notice that your yogurt has a natural, pleasing thickness to it. It's really a food and not a thin liquid like some of the other dairy-free yogurts out there. This is because we used the whole almond and its natural fiber content has created a thickening effect without the need for other ingredients.

Your yogurt will continue to ferment as it sits in the fridge. I've kept it a while, just to see how long it would last. After about two weeks, it tasted a bit more like sour cream. But unlike the packaged yogurts, there was no mold growing on it. 


Step 7:
Yes, there's a step 7! Now that you've successfully made almond yogurt, you can use your yogurt as a starter for your next batch. I haven't done this for more than one or two rounds. But I have read that three might be the limit. I save about a cup for 3 cups of almonds and it's worked. 

Since the yogurt continues to culture as it sits in the fridge, I am careful about never introducing any other ingredients or elements into the yogurt bowl. But I have repackaged it into Tupperware when I refrigerated it and it seemed fine.


Enjoy!! And please feel free to share your pictures and success stories!  


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Work from home programs far from concession

Professional practice tips
It really is time for business to acknowledge that providing employees with the option to work from home isn't a concession to save costs on office space. Rather, it's a smart and modern approach to recruiting and productivity. With the right employees (it doesn't work for everyone) and a strategy to allow for face time for meetings, it can be a win win. There is a body of research out there today that confirms work from home programs boost productivity, among many other benefits. 

That said, I did used to say that I would take a pay cut to work in running shoes... True!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Use the 80/20 rule to improve profit

Professional practice tips
The 80/20 rule usually proves to be true. Applying it to professional practice, when I deliver speaking engagements and ask the audience if 20% of their clients represent 80% of their profit, guess what? There are a lot of heads nodding! So, today's quick tip? Start thinking about how you can generate more of those clients. A good first step would be to take the time to identify those clients, how they came to you, why they're loyal and how your firm handles their requirements differently from others. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Perfectionism isn't profitable

Professional practice tips
Professionals often admit to being guilty of striving for perfectionism. While it's great to aim for quality when it comes to your business and marketing plans, striving for perfection can lead to extensive delays allowing for inertia to set in. You're better off to move forward with a plan that's 80% there and tweak as you move forward, than to stall and risk abandoning it entirely.  

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Use LinkedIn to create common ground

Professional practice tips
Last week, I spoke with Ian Hu from LawPRO for the first time. We're both writers for SlawTips and have already had some familiarity with each other through our articles and social media postings.

But that wasn't enough for Ian. He handled our call like a networking warrior! While on the phone, he scrolled through my LinkedIn profile with total ease.  In doing so, he demonstrated interest in my history and created common ground between us - from the cities I've lived in to the various twists and turns in my career. 

Lawyers and other professionals have come to accept LinkedIn as a place to post a professional profile and company page, to share the odd article and connect with people in their network. 

But how many are actually using it - in real time - to create common ground? Give it a try the next time you're speaking with someone for the first time and see how much more easily the conversation flows! 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Proper delegation builds partnerships

Proper delegation builds partnerships was previously published in The Bottom Line, Education for Accountants, Mid-May 2016.

There are many different ways to delegate, some just barely get the job done and others are the foundation on which successful firms were built. A few of the prototypically, less effective methods:

  • Dropping a file on someone’s desk and telling them that it’s due Tuesday at 9am sharp, without further explanation as you breeze through the door.
  • Completing someone’s in progress assignment without further collaboration or credit.
  • Asking someone to take on a new assignment, but without the actual authority to make any meaningful decisions on their own.

Whether they’ve had first hand experience with these scenarios or not, most accountants know that the old style of delegating alienates, rather than strengthens, teams. It gets the item off the ‘to do’ list, at least in the interim. But in the process it can demotivate and frustrate, not the best predictors of successful delegation.

If the old style of delegation is on its way out of accounting firms and other professional practices, what is it being replaced by? And what should it be replaced by?  Being polite? While not a bad habit to get into, it’s not actually a delegation strategy.

On the other hand, partnership is.

Good delegation builds partnership between delegator and delegatee.  It pulls people up through the ranks, building bench strength for the firm throughout the process.  It is the source from which new leadership emerges.

So, to keep a task off their to do list through to completion, rather than bouncing right back every time an obstacle is encountered, accountants need to think about how, not only to get the delegatee to care about what they’ve taken on, but also how to change their own role in the process. In practical terms how can accountants delegate better? They need to delegate with HEART – Honesty, Engagement, Accountability, Respect and Trust:

HONESTY. 

Before delegating a thing, it can be helpful to recognize that one of the obstacles to the process is risk (the work won’t get done on time, it won’t be good enough, it will have to be redone at the 11th hour and so on). 

In a transparent manner, minimize exposure by building quality control into the process. 

Assign authority along with responsibility (decision-making, client contact, financial administration). But build quality control steps into the process. Hands off. Not eyes off.  Follow through. Plan to meet as often as is needed to maintain an eye on the progress of the assignment and not lose the opportunity to provide timely feedback along the way. 

Don’t hold back if things aren’t meeting the firm’s standard for quality. Be clear and provide references to illustrate the desired end result, rather than accepting something substandard or redoing the work. 

ENGAGEMENT. 

Individualize delegation, for best results. 

Assess the situation. First decide, is the task at hand appropriate for delegation, as opposed to directives? Is the individual sufficiently skilled (would it be considered a stretch or jumping into something completely new)? Does time allow for any necessary coaching along the way? 

Assess the individual. Is this person the right individual for the task at hand? Or just convenient and available? Have they indicated an interest in this type or work or in the advancement that it would eventually lead to? 

Assess how much development will be needed to get the task done on time and properly. Communicate effectively. Take the time to consider how to best communicate with each individual. Everyone communicates differently. If the person is introverted, the delegator may need to be prepared for lengthy pauses in coaching conversations while the delegatee processes their ideas. On the other hand, if the person is extroverted, the delegator may need to be prepared for immediate, unformed responses as the delegatee organizes their ideas out loud. 

Either way, to maximize engagement, don’t interrupt and don’t micromanage. Allow the delegatees’ ideas and interest to emerge, at their own pace.

ACCOUNTABILITY. 

Coach for ownership and accountability. Don’t just manage for results. Identify the issue. What really needs to be done? Is it obvious? Is the task being delegated because it needs to be done or because that’s the way it’s always been done? Is there a better way? Identifying objectives, with the delegate, establishes buy in, clarity and efficiency. 

Problem solve, together. True coaching doesn’t mean babysitting or paint by numbers. It means enabling the delegatee to think for themselves. Ask non-leading questions and share past experiences, to open up their thinking about how they might take on this new task. Stay open to new ways of doing things. Establish a plan. 

Agree on everything: next steps, milestones and deliverables. But don’t set the pace. Allow the delegatee to create the plan and change it as they move ahead. This will breed ownership, interest and creativity.

RESPECT. 

Invest in skill development and firm infrastructure. Consider the long term.  Where development is needed, develop effectively. There is no one size fits all. For some, an itemized description of a new process will be all they’ll ever need. Others will need to talk it through. Yet others will need to observe how new tasks are undertaken firsthand, before jumping in themselves. 

Get organized. Is the firm’s hierarchy understood by all? Will the delegatee be expecting to receive assignments from the delegator? Are people familiar with their own job descriptions and the job descriptions that represent advancement in the firm? If people understand how certain tasks will make them more promotable, they may be more amenable to doing them.

TRUST. 

Don’t take it back. Though it will be tempting to answer questions about missing details with “I’ll get back to you on that” or edit requirements with “oh just leave that with me”, the delegator should be aware that doing so means the task will land right back on their to do list. Instead, consider how to empower the delegatee to keep hold of their task by offering examples, training tools, meetings to review questions or other additional resources.


Accountants that build their teams with HEART will be sure to be rewarded with a shrinking pile of work on their desks and less worries about the quality of what comes back from their teams.

The bonus will be the lift in confidence and morale as everyone starts to take on more, propelling both the individuals and the firm itself towards growth and success. 


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Professionals, it's time to start making some mistakes!

Professional practice tips
Planning is essential in achieving business goals. But, for most lawyers, accountants and architects, the obstacle it represents is usually about imagining that it's more involved than it really is. Our clients that have had the best success - whether with marketing plans, strategic plans or retreats - are the ones that started implementing before we even finished the plan. They began with an attitude of being open to course correcting along the way.

The point isn't to be perfect or remove all risk. But rather to be strategic and nimble, while you continuously build competitive edge. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lawyers, take a lesson from Cookie Monster...


Now that lawyers and other professionals are beginning to experiment with video to market their practices, I would suggest that it would be worthwhile to take a closer look at successful television commercials, like this one! 

What could possibly be the takeaway from a Cookie Monster ad you ask? Well, I will tell you...
  • Instead of itemizing all the cool things that the iPhone 6s can do, they show us Cookie Monster baking cookies with Siri's oh so very patient assistance! And they sneak in an added benefit. If you happen to have monster paws (or gloves on!), it works too.
  • Even though we're talking about a seriously sophisticated product here, they inject humour. I saw this at the gym for the first time last night and I will tell you that I was not the only one fixated and in stitches!!
  • They created positive connection. In this case, it was by way of the loving association with a childhood television character. But this lesson is transferable to other means.
A law firm video doesn't have to be a talking head telling the world how great your firm is and how many years of experience you have. Even if you don't have access to Cookie Monster and his friends like Apple did, there are a multitude of ways to communicate your valued difference in a way that creates human connection. After all, isn't that what works to your advantage when you meet clients for the first time?

If Cookie Monster can do it, so can you.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Leaders beware, trust is a two-way street

Humour me today, dear readers. A little anecdote sometimes makes the point better than any theory can...

I was speaking at a conference last week (more to come on that shortly!) at Exhibition Place. While on break, I decided to walk down to the water. While I was there, I did something I never do.  I handed my cell phone over to a stranger to take my photo (for a blog post... more to come on that soon too!). 

For those of you who don't relate, I make it a rule to not hand my cell phone off to strangers for photos, not as much for the monetary value, as for the confidential client contact details and related email and text messages.

But this time I did. Why was today different?

The woman handed me her phone first! She was running and needed photos for a fitness challenge she was doing (which looked very cool, by the way! so congrats my friend wherever you are).  Since I was already contemplating the need for a photo and wasn't exactly thrilled with my selfies, I handed my phone to her and asked her to reciprocate! 

It's human instinct to trust those that trust you. 

There's a lesson here. 

A common issue that comes up with lawyers, accountants and architects leading at various levels, is gaining trust from their teams. Well today, instead of thinking about what you could do to earn your team's trust, ask yourself a different question. Do you trust them? If not, why not? And how can you take your trust up a notch? If there are real professional, performance or accountability issues, what can you do to address them? They will feel the change, no matter how small a step you take. 

While there are many other aspects of trust in the workplace, following through on promises and such, this may just be one of the most honest ones. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Architects, advocacy is part of your brand

Professional practice tips
Architects that use their voice about what isn't working for them - in policy, in workplace equality and other aspects of our built environment - effect change. Every voice counts. 

Branding isn't just about a pretty logo (not that it hurts!). 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Should law firms REALLY be on social media? [Video, Blab Replay]




I 'blabbed' yesterday with Kim McLaughlin of Lyra Communications about whether or not law firms should REALLY be on social media. We're both grounded in strategic marketing. So, we agreed on many things. But not on all! It made for an interesting debate. The many considerations outlined in this video will be helpful for law firms deciding whether or not to make a bigger effort with their social media presence. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Lawyers, are you committed to your marketing plan?

Professional practice tips
Commitment is one of the best predictors for law firm marketing success. So, when making decisions about the firm's marketing plan, consider meeting lawyers where they're at, training and building a turnkey plan that takes practical account of resources.

It's also helpful to build the personal marketing plans according to the specific interests and talents of the team (i.e. are they natural writers, speakers, networkers...) and coaching them through the bumps along the way. 

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

How not to behave on social media marketing!

Professional practice tips
I like to compare social media to networking. If you wouldn't say it, do it or wear it at a professional networking event... then don't on social either! And same goes if you would.


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Architects, should you think about profit first?

Professional practice tips
There's a new column at Toronto Marketing Blog. In 'The quick tips corner', we will be sharing really short professional practice development tips inspired by conversations we've had on social media. 

So, for today's tip, we will begin with a question. 

Should architects and other professionals think about profit first? 

You won't be able to help anyone if you go bankrupt. So, if you care about helping them, think about your bottom line. And the less money worries you have, the more energy and attention you'll have to do what you do best... be an architect!!

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Video uploads double in 2014 - A “Video takes off” series




The number of videos uploaded to YouTube increased by 200%, from 2013 to 2014. The question explored on this video is why.

I will be speaking more about this with my colleague Roxanne Boutzis from SBR Network at the upcoming Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference. Learn more and register at the OAA website.

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Other videos from our "Video takes off" series:

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto based marketing videos and marketing services.

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Breathe life into your marketing programme with video



Today's practice tip is on improving the performance of your marketing plan with video. Here's an excerpt from my article at SlawTips:

t’s information overload out there. And many lawyers are seeing readership of their blogs, articles and newsletters dropping off. So, this week’s tip is to consider changing things up by adding video. How can you make that decision? Give some thought to the following questions...


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management



Small to mid-sized law firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, law firm marketing and legal business development services.


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's good for the goose...



What's good for the goose is definitely good for the gander! 

I just got back from a two-day retreat, strategic planning for my business. That's right. I don't just talk about this stuff. I actually do it. And have been doing so, religiously, since I started my business 10 years ago.

So, while it's still fresh for me, here's why this annual event is so vital to my consulting practice:
  • When I review my notes from the previous session, I realize I'd been focused on my priorities throughout the whole year. Consistently, most or all of my goals from the previous year have been met. 
  • During my advance preparation, I find surprising changes in my business. I would have noticed them eventually, but not until after the opportunity was long gone or the impact of an issue was seriously felt. With regular planning, I can act in a timely fashion.
  • At the actual event, I revisit everything about my business and I am prepared to change / scrap or add as needed to supports my goals. Have my objectives changed? What types of clients are most strategically aligned? What area of the business is most profitable? How's my work / life balance? What's in the pipeline? How should I be bolstering the marketing plan? Are any systems or work processes in need of refinement? What's new in the marketplace? And so the line of questioning continues...

Today, I'm back at my desk. But, I know that I have the seeds for an action plan and I've begun implementing it before even putting it to paper. It's all good for my business. And, given the additional charge I get from the process, it's good for me. 

Exactly like my clients. 

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Related articles: 


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based marketing and strategic planning services.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Video boosts email readership by 65% - A “Video takes off” series



Did you know that "video" in the subject line of an email boosts readership by 19%?  Watch as Roxanne Boutzis of SBR Network and I talk about this. Join us at the Ontario Association of Architects' annual conference for our session: Video: The 1.8 Million Word Promotion.

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Other videos from our "Video takes off" series:


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto based marketing videos and marketing services.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Senior executives prefer video over text - A “Video takes off” series




Should it be video or text?  Think twice before publishing that next post!  Check out these facts that compare recent stats for video relative to text.

I will be speaking more about this with my colleague Roxanne Boutzis from SBR Network at the upcoming Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference. Learn more and register at the OAA website.


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Other videos from our "Video takes off" series:

- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management

Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto based marketing videos and marketing services.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words - A “Video takes off” series



Is one minute of video really worth 1.8 million words?  In this one minute video, find out why professionals who want to promote their expertise should consider adding video to their marketing plan.

I will be speaking more about this with my colleague Roxanne Boutzis from SBR Network at the upcoming Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference. Learn more and register at the OAA website.

--

Other videos from our "Video takes off" series:


- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management


Small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, medical and other professional practices are invited to learn more about our Toronto based marketing videos and marketing services.

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