2013 Year in Review: Lessons Learned
Shane Jay Hayes is the Director of Operations for the Mascia Law Firm. He brings with him an extensive background in operations, management, development and internet presence.
2013 held unique challenges for small businesses around the world. As a modern company trying to create an edge in the local market Mascia Law Firm had to think outside the box and reevaluate our current services and vendors throughout 2013. Early on in the year we realized that the classic idea of a “large office” might look great on the eyes but it was severely lacking on paper. With over five thousand square feet and a large portion of it empty it no longer made financial sense to keep such a large space just for presentation sake. One of the very first things we considered was moving to a largely remote work force. We knew however that there would be severe limitations with our current services and technologies and that is when the homework began. Before we could even think about remote work we had to make sure that our team members could effectively communicate with the outside world. At the time we were using a premise based phone system. Setting up a phone at a remote location was expensive, as it required the use of an IT provider. The remote phones were also notoriously unreliable as even the slightest connection hiccup could cause the entire system to go down. We knew there was no way that we could maintain our industry defining client care if we could not respond to our clients in a timely and consistent manner. Our CRM solution, file management solution, email solution and everything else had been moved to completely cloud based back in 2012 so remote access to our data wasn’t an issue. We had to find a phone, messaging and communication solution that would match the reliability and ease of use our other systems had.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
We read numerous reviews and spent time playing with all kinds of software options. We considered everything from Skype to Cisco and in the end found Shoretel Sky to be the solution that appeared to best meet our needs. Shoretel was an “all in one” communications solution for us and allowed us to save additional money we had been wasting on secondary services. Shoretel leased us Cisco phones that were quite literally “plug and play” for our staff. They simply plugged the phone into their internet connection at home, plugged it into the power source and then logged in. Up and running in a matter of moments. Since the Shoretel phones ran on any internet connection we were able to drop the expensive T1 line at our main office and use a standard 70mbps cable connection. One year later and we have yet to have quality degradation or a phone system loss even though we no longer have the expensive T1. Shoretel support is what really closed the deal for us. In the past we had used a third party IT provider to service our phones and tend to the little things. Now that we had Shoretel we no longer needed a third party IT company to handle the phones and their support. So the switch to Shoretel allowed us to cancel our T1 and our IT contract.
REFOCUS AND DO IT YOURSELF
Sometimes as business grows and contracts you have to reexamine where you are as a company and what resources you have at your disposal. In order to stay healthy we had to cut our workforce to match the current foreclosure defense market that continues to contract. Another thing we had to do was look at the hats each person was wearing.
Do I have my best person doing the job they are really BEST at? Am I wasting talented people on things they could do in their sleep?
It turns out that the smartest person in the company is indeed never the CEO, it’s always the people they hire specifically for the purpose of being the smartest at that particular subject. We had people just “negotiating” short sales when they could be doing so much more. During our examination, over the course of a year, we slowly began to refocus our efforts based on the talents we had in front of us. With this refocus came growth, new avenues of business opened up. Who knew we had so many quality bilingual team members who could provide the same level of service but in Spanish? We know that now and we have grown our Spanish practice by 400% in the last 6 months. We took a long term employee who was doing the same short sale processing job for years and we actually created a whole new company, job and opportunity specifically for her. Now that she is back to “what she loves” she is thriving and so is the company we created for her. Sure we created a lot of work for ourselves but it was work that each team member enjoyed doing. We picked up our own SEO, our own social media management and more just because it was easier to do it in house with the talented people we already had. This allowed us to keep our long-term staff and assist them with growing their skill sets and experience.
CHANGE SUCKS, BUT ONLY FOR A MOMENT
As we move into 2014 it is important to remember that change is progression. Sometimes we need the wildfire to come along and burn the weeds out from under us, it allows us to refocus and grow with all new vigor and opportunity. Any small business that intends to stick around and grow through 2014 had to embrace change, no matter how much it sucks sometimes, and focus on the opportunity it presents. Our goal this year is to increase our local market share and to open new streams of revenue by providing essential legal services at an industry leading level. We expect change and we welcome it.