Everything begins with Corporate Culture

May 22nd, 2009

Right now I’m listening to the laughter and banter that runs wild through Total Attorneys come Friday at 4 PM. People truly enjoying each other’s company and celebrating the weeks accomplishments.

From day one I have spent a great deal of time focusing on the culture of my company. At first it was just me and if I was smiling then all was good.

When I started hiring my first employees I focused on making sure that they were happy to come to work every day. This was done be keeping the work fast paced, challenging, innovative and fun. Often it was little things, like bring a case of beer in when we launched a project. Everyone could sense I was doing all I could to make our company better than every other place you could work.

As we have now grown to over 200 people we are now scaling the culture. People who start working here quickly identify that this is an amazing place. One that is so different than where they have worked before. People are happy. People enjoy being around each other. People are nice.

Everything will build off of your culture. Branding, client satisfaction, employee retention, vendor relations…the list could go on and on. Think of it as the heart of your company.

Yes, our success has come from an innovative approach to delivering services and software to lawyers. Yes, we are doing cutting edge stuff at an incredibly face pace. Yes, our revenue continues to grow while other business is slowing. But, if you ask me how all the above can happen and I will respond in one word without hesitation. Culture.

Using Agile to Run your entire company

April 21st, 2009

Do you feel that innovation and speed are important to your company’s growth? Then agile software development principles should be applied to running your entire business.

Creating detailed tactical plans for months (and sometimes years) worth of work and then handing them off to your group of ‘doer’s’ is a sure way to stagnate and crush the innovative opportunities of your company.

Spending time on the vision of where to take your organization and engaging your employees in the creation of it is a very good use of time. Planning every step of the way is a waste of time.

At Total Attorneys we have created small teams in every department of our organization; we task them with high-level business objectives (that they often help shape) and give them the ability self-organize the execution of the work. These teams break down work into short time frames–never longer than a few weeks–and focus on results through iteration. Teams evaluate and then plan out the next few weeks of work.

The saying goes, ‘How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” We now have agile principles applied to HR, Sales, Call Center, Product Development, Accounting, Finance, and IT.

By working in short bursts and being agile we are able to:

• Focus on what is important now

• Adapt new product deployment in real time with our customers

• Enable employees to be creative and innovate, which results in attracting and retaining top talent

• Never head in the wrong direction for more than a few weeks

• Frequently evaluate and re-evaluate everything we do

• Change directions without organizational resistance or confusion, because we do this all the time

• Not get overwhelmed with our aggressive product role out and growth plans

• Move faster and have more fun than everyone else : )

Traditionally you need multi-year planning to keep your organization in lock-toe step with one another. Now technology has enabled organizational agility through collaboration and transparency. We have recently launched Jive Software’s SBS, formerly called Clearspace, to allow us scale our agility. Check out a great Fast Company interview with Cisco’s John Chambers on how the multi-billion dollar company is doing the same.

If you want to move faster than your competition and engage your work force in innovation, go agile.

Your CEO Should Twitter

April 7th, 2009

This video post was recorded from the balcony of the Oberi Amarvilss in Agra India.
If you have the opportunity to stay a night, I suggest you do.

CEO’s can find great value in using twitter.

Twitter allows CEO’s to connect with employees, potential employees, clients, vendors, competitors, in a very efficient manner.

Using twitter, CEO’s become more approachable. People can send a message informally and give suggestions, comment, complain, or ask a question. Three people recently interviewing with Total Attorneys mentioned that seeing the CEO on twitter helped positively shape their perception of our organization. Your approachability has an impact on your brand.

Listening to the conversation on twitter can provide you insight into your customers, your employees your brand and your market.

Twitter provides a platform to engaging in informal conversation that previously was not available. These conversations can help CEO’s vet ideas, shape their vision, or just show that your company cares enough to engage.

Many tools make this easy.

TweepBeep –Tweetbeep allows you to monitor keywords, like a brand, industry terms, a twitter name, competitors, vendors, etc. TweetBeep delivers you summary email so you can quickly scan the information, much like Google Alerts.

Tweetdeck – Create groups of your ‘friends’ to see, for example, customers or employees tweets very easily. Tweekdeck allows you to watch the real time flow of search words you are interested in, and see the ‘tweetscape’. For example I always watch the keywords ‘Legal Services’ and ‘Legal SaaS’.

Topify – Provides an efficient way to see who has decided to follow you and gives enough information to quickly decide if you want to follow back.

ExecTweets - See what other CEO’s are already are twitter. Watch what they are saying and see how they use it all in one place.

What tools to you think are effective?

Do you agree that CEO’s should twitter?

Listening = Growth, Success & Satisfaction

April 1st, 2009

Listening is something we should all be working on. It is one of the most important things you can do in business.

Listening to you employees, customers, vendors and competitors (or anybody for that matter) makes you more effective.

When you are passionate about what you do it is very easy to get caught up in meetings and talk the whole time.

When you are really busy it is easy to not hear what your employees are telling you, through not only their words but also their actions and faces.

When you are focused on developing and delivering products or services for your customers it is way to easy not to take them time to listen to what they need.

What do you do to be an effective listener?

Transparency for business

March 3rd, 2009

Save everyone time and operate your business by taking off all your clothes and encouraging your employees to do the same.

Current and potential customers can feel comfortable that your organization is hiding nothing. If you are providing services and/or software as a service (SaaS), transparency will speed up the timeline of trust. Today and even more so tomorrow trust will be critical to success.

Your ability to innovate is directly related to you attracting and retaining the very best people. Brands like Google and Cisco will always get top resumes. The way the rest of us do is by showing those leading job speakers what is really going on under the hood. Anyone that can help you get to the next level will do their homework. The more videos, blogs, and twitter’ers (etc.) they can find the better. If you are doing cool stuff they will be able to figure it out and will apply for your positions.

You ability to maximize relationships with partners, vendors, and investors, whether current or potential will substantially increase by showing them what is truly going on inside.

I would even argue that having your competition see this transparency is also to your benefit. You might find that by being so open with what you are doing your competitors are more comfortable in working with you. You both probably have something that you are better at than the other. Figure out how to leverage each other’s strengths so that you can both grow.

I’d love to hear what you think about being transparent. Benefits AND drawbacks.

Link to Total Attorneys Videos on Vimeo

What Ultra Collaborative Intranet Platform is best for Total Attorneys?

February 3rd, 2009

We are evaluating which platform to build the Total Attorneys ultra-collaborative intranet on.

We know that an internal community mashup /collaboration environment is needed to support our collaboration needs as we continue to grow as an organization.

Our company currently is 170 super talented people, from software development, sales, customer support, accounting, HR, IT, marketing, call center, legal process outsourcing to yours truly.

Here are some of the features we feel we need. We are willing to write some custom code to accomplish our needs. However, we do not want to build the platform from scratch. We want the ability to setup a platform and enable everyone to build on it.

Personalized homepage for each employee. (Facebook like)

• Allow employees to express themselves and get to know each other
• Mashup of all feeds, blog, twitter, videos, content created/edited on intranet

RSS Aggregator

• Internal blogs and videos – show most viewed, most commented (this month, this year, today, etc.) Comments obviously only to be seen from within as these are internal only blogs and videos.
• External blogs and videos – show most viewed internally, most commented internally, (this month, this year, today, etc.) Keep comments contained only within our intranet.
• Internal tagging system (tag videos, blog posts)

Ability to blast messages to entire company (Yammer like)

• Reduce all company blast emails

Ability to create Polls/Surveys and track results (Survey Monkey like)

• Query our people, pick their brains.
• Take votes, enable democracy.

Document Repository for HR/Corporate

• Employee Manual, HR, 401k Info, Benefits, etc.

Internal Email/Messaging Capabilities

• Communication amongst teams
• Discussion boards
• Internal classifieds (looking to sale your car?, need nanny?)

Collaborative Workspace

• Google Docs/Spreadsheet like
• BaseCamp & Writeboard like

Allow Users to Form their own Groups/Communities (Social)

• Think Tanks
• Knitting Clubs
• Green Team

Department Resources

• Department wikis and blogs
• Document sharing

Company Updates

• New TA products
• Events and outings calendar

So far we have looked at MindTouch, SocialText, Confluence, Intranet Dashboard, Hyper Office, InstaIntranet and eKtron. At this point in our evaluation I’m told that SocialText appears to be the strongest candidate.

What is the best platform for us to build our intranet on and why?

Are you feeling emotional this Inauguration Day?

January 20th, 2009

This might be the most historic day in modern American history. Regardless of political beliefs, it is a wonderful day to be an American.

I started volunteering at the national headquarters of Obama for America on April 11, 2007. (Here is a post from my first day – wish I had kept blogging about it!) Winning the primary, let alone the election, was beyond a long shot. However, the energy in the office was palpable.

Senator Obama wanted a phone number Americans could call and talk to a real person. I became one of the people who answered. Often three-days a week I would leave my office for a three-hour shift. The call center started out as 4 phones; by election night rooms were filled with people on the phone.

In a few short hours, as he takes the oath of office, the Obama honeymoon will be over. While we are all still enjoying it, I thought I’d share my very small part in this very large day.

I would love to hear how you are feeling today.

Infra-Strategy becomes Total Attorneys in 2009

December 30th, 2008

In an all company meeting on snowy Dec. 19th, I announced that Infra-Strategy would be rebranded as Total Attorneys.

The Infra-Strategy name means a lot to those who work here. However, the culture we have created and the manner in which we serve our customers is what makes us appreciate coming to work everyday.

Having a consistent name internally and externally is required for us to continue our rapid growth in the legal space.

Do you check email on vacation?

December 14th, 2008

I’m trying to figure out the best way to go on a vacation. Do you stay connected and check email throughout your trip or completely disconnect?

Stay connected and you do not let your mind completely rest. If disconnect then you have 1000+ emails to welcome you home from your trip.

I think you need at least a week a year that you “get off the grid.” If you are able to stay on top of things while on vacation, then perhaps you can take more vacations?

(On a side note, I have not received work email on my phone for 3 years. This has been a huge boost for my sanity. A topic for another post.)

Managing a new generation of workers

December 4th, 2008

In the video: Managing employees (I hate that word) today is very different than 10-20 years ago. The new generation (which I’m a member) of workforce insists on being treated as individuals. While employee handbooks can be wonderful tools for both the employer and employee, the new generation expects to have their circumstances and needs dealt with on an individual basis.

Good news. If done properly, this can benefit your company more than you know!