The 20-Mile March for Lawyers

A few weeks ago, my best friend emailed me a bit of simple but great business advice.  Her note simply said, “Inspirational article for owning our own business.”  And she included a link to an excerpt from Jim Collins’ newest book, Great by Choice.

What made Collins’ advice particularly interesting was the fact that he didn’t provide readers with marketing advice, management tips, investment strategies, or business development plans.  Instead, he took a look at the over 20,000 companies and pulled from that a list that he called “10X.”  The seven companies that made the 10X list were given this moniker because all of these companies had one thing in common: Every 10X company beat its industry index by at least 10 times, even during worldwide economic challenges and recessions.

What made these 10Xers successful, however, might surprise you.

These businesses did not have some unique edge in the way they ran their businesses or advertised services.  Instead, the thing that made these businesses survive and strive in often uncertain times was their unique ability to impose stability in spite of disorder.  Collins refers to this as the 20-mile march, comparing 10Xers (i.e. successful businesses) to hikers embarking on a 3000-mile walk. In this analogy, the key to success is pace. While it might seem like a good idea to speed up on a nice sunny day and set up camp to rest in bad weather, successful hikers have learned that slow-and-steady wins the race.

If this idea sounds familiar to you, it’s because you learned this lesson the first time you heard Aesop’s Fables in kindergarten. Unfortunately, in a world where web startups and marketing businesses seem to blossom and boom overnight, we often forget that the tortoise won the race.  This is particularly true for attorneys right now, as our industry is currently changing and can often feel like a less-than-stable place to be.

Instead of hopping on the next new marketing trend or trying to incorporate every single new business model into your daily schedule, do this instead: Pick a goal for your business.  Decide what actions it will take to get you to that goal. Divide those actions up into manageable steps, pick a pace that will allow you to move one step closer to your goal each week, and stick to that pace no matter what happens.  In other words, move 20 miles every day, no more, no less.  When you have a great month that makes work seem easy, don’t take that as a cue to add more cases to your workload. Similarly, don’t slack off when things get tough.  And most importantly, put your blinders on and ignore your colleagues. If you stick to your plan and keep a steady pace, chances are you’ll be one of the first to reach the finish line and you’ll still have the energy to make a few victory laps.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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