When It Comes to A Business Plan, Get Logical About Logistics

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Every business, including a business of law, needs a plan — that much is obvious to most. Often not as clear, however, are the details of the planning process: who, where, when, why and how much.

You'll need to make decisions on some logistics before putting your all-important business plan into action.

  • Who

    Who should be involved? In small firms with more than one attorney, all lawyers, whether partners or associates, should be invited to participate in planning.

    In a solo practice, the answer to is easy: You're the planner, though you might want to consider including a spouse or significant other, an accountant and/or banker, a trusted peer who is also a successful solo practitioner, and/or a business coach.

    Another good question is whether to include non-attorney staff in the planning process. Staff members have a good idea of the practical day-to-day activities of the office, and by including them, it shows that you value their contributions.

    On the other hand, including staff means they'll have access to confidential information or sensitive financial data (one possible solution in that case is to convert all of the sensitive facts to percentages or averages).

    While the decision to include staff will vary, you should plan for a facilitator and a reporter in all cases.

    A facilitator encourages and helps with the flow of communications; consequently, he or she should not be the strongest partner or the most dominant person in the firm, who might impose opinions on the rest of the group.

    Consider hiring an outside facilitator — someone trained to direct the meeting efficiently and remain neutral in the decision-making process. Also, because you must pay the outside hire, the planners will take the process more seriously.

    A reporter documents all the discussions so that even apparently off-the-wall ideas don't get lost. The reporter also documents the group's decisions so that no one forgets what was accomplished.

    Upon the meeting's conclusion, the reporter also summarizes the decisions and action items into a plan for follow-up.

  • Where and when

    A planning meeting requires complete focus. Therefore, a weekend retreat or small series of offsite meetings are best for small firms, because you can get away from the daily interruptions of the office (in fact, it sometimes helps to get as far away as possible), and you can see your business in a different perspective.

    If you cannot go away on a retreat-type weekend, you can hold your planning meeting in a conference room, inside or outside your own building — but if you do, set a strict policy that no telephone calls, texting or other potential interruptions will be permitted.

  • Why

    The purpose of the meeting will be to come to a consensus that includes everyone's input; no single person or group of people should dominate. Strong partners may need to step back to allow others the chance to make contributions.

    The whole group should understand and practice a non-judgmental policy; putdowns and ridicule must be avoided if open communication is to be encouraged.

  • How much

    Consider the confidentiality of the information that will be given to the planners. Full disclosure is the best way to accurately discuss the direction of the firm, but care must be taken above all to protect client data.

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