“I was dealing with issues with team dynamics, HR, processes not being where they should be and constantly fire-fighting and dealing with major exhaustion.”
This is what Vanessa Challess, the owner and founder of Tiger Law a firm that provides M&A, commercial property and conveyancing services said she was dealing with before we met and started working together.
At the time though Vanessa was a 20-year qualified lawyer with years of experience in commercial and corporate litigation plus her years of non-contentious work in her own business, she was working over 80 hours each week and whenever she went on holiday she had to take her laptop and work exhaustingly long hours as usual.
Alongside growing her Tiger Law business Vanessa was also trying to grow 3 other businesses. One is called Pixie Moves which also provides conveyancing, Tiger Bytez which provides technology to enable law firms and property professionals to work more efficiently together and Electra HR which provides HR advice, policy recommendations and amendments.
After 12 months of working with me, Vanessa broke free of exhaustion, went from working over 80 to only 30 hours per week, now being a mix of management and client work, and now all her four businesses are successful while her Tiger Law businesses monthly revenue grew to whole new levels while her time was made free for her to focus on leadership rather than firefighting which is a real transformation from the previous years.
Not only this but Vanessa is now able to go on long holidays and enjoy fully relaxing with her family all while her businesses continue to run effectively and profitably without her input.
How exactly did Vanessa achieve all this especially when she didn’t have circumstances in her favour?
Since having children not only has she always been a high-in-demand mum, and whilst always being the only breadwinner in her family, but many of her staff were performing ineffectively. As she was constantly firefighting and repairing relationships with clients, she wasn’t able to continue her fee-earning work or monitor her business accounts, collections or management of the office.
This resulted in her main business Tiger Law billing some months as low as 13K at its lowest ever point even though it had a team of more than 12 employees in the business.
By this stage, we’d already been working together for a month and in one of our weekly one-on-one calls, I asked her questions that guided Vanessa to become aware that her firm was only as successful as it was before because she was the one doing most of the fee-earning work.
Vanessa realised that to succeed in building a highly successful company commercial and conveyancing business she needed a reliable team around her doing to the majority if not all the billing work to give her free time to focus on solving all the other breakdowns she was experiencing in her Tiger Law business such as ineffective workflows, low performing staff and sporadic business development.
With this new awareness, we got to work.
First, Vanessa put in place a weekly one-on-one call with each of her key fee-earners and she used this time to practice making clear, bold requests of each of them including agreeing on a time frame to complete each request and documenting each promise made.
Each week Vanessa and I would speak to check that her requests were clear, that she was holding each team member to account whilst being objective and that she’d cut out all unclear communication that didn’t forward her towards fulfilling her business ambitions.
What Vanessa learned in this process was that to make a clear request, she had to first be clear about what she wanted to be done by each team member which enabled her to become clear on what roles she needed each team member to carry out to fulfil the business’s workflows.
Vanessa also used her one-on-one time with each of her key employees to co-review completed work and provide training where needed so that each member would recognising and avoid repeating mistakes.
Within 2 months of us working together some of her team members began operating at much greater levels of performance and were billing much better hours each.
At this stage, we could see that Vanessa’s leadership was now firmly in place and because she was tracking all the promises made and whether they had been fulfilled on each of her one-on-one calls with her employees, she became aware of which employee was operating at particularly low levels of performance and so had clear grounds to place each of these team members on a period of review while she started to recruit and interview candidates.
Vanessa soon found ideal team members, employed them and delegated away to them the corporate work she previously felt she had to do.
Because she implemented the same regular one-on-one call structures with each new employee along with making clear requests and holding each of them to account, the hours Vanessa needed to input to keep the business operating profitably began to radically drop which in turn gave her free time to focus on what mattered to her.
In between Vanessa’s weekly one-on-one calls where she tracked each of her team’s performance and continually empowered them she used the newly created free time to recruit new team members and employ technology specialists to build the conveyancing technology machine she was dreaming of.
Today Vanessa can confidently boast that Tiger Law can complete property sales within only 28 days from start to finish and this is all because of the technology that Vanessa focused her time on building.
At the end of the year of our working together, Vanessa showed me a detailed screenshot of historic, current and predicted monthly turnover where her Tiger Law team is now on target to greatly supersede all previous cashflow predictions all while she’s no longer required to do much if any of the fee-earning work.
Not only this but Vanessa was also recently nominated for a Great British Entrepreneur award and recently shared the stage with me at The ActionStep 2023 conference to share with the audience how she achieved all this in just one year by implementing the leadership strategies I showed her.
If you are a legal business owner who wants to truly succeed, the main message to gain from Vanessa’s story is that the most important thing for you to focus on is learning how to profitably delegate away your fee-earning work then using the newly created free time for business development, recruiting and elevating the performance of all your team members.
Dan Warburton: Freeing up law firm partners’ time & unleashing their teams’ potential to greatly elevate profits in less than one year with profitable delegation strategies. To find out more go to www.danwarburton.com