When I was in law school, I met, worked and interviewed with dozens of attorneys and what shocked me was how few of them actually liked their profession (a main reason I never pursued the profession myself).
There was, however, one notable exception that sticks in my mind to this day. He was a sole practitioner with two assistants (paralegal and admin) operating out of a small office in a Phoenix suburb.
His practice was booming so he was desperately looking to bring on a young associate to help out.
What made this guy so interesting to me though was his “recipe for success,” as I now realize that it is a recipe that always works.
Here is the recipe:
- Community Involvement. This is the biggest factor of all behind his success, as competence (#7) alone rarely pushes people over the top. He had four kids and was heavily involved in their schools and sports (primarily coaching). He was very involved in his church too and was a member of the Rotary club. And finally, he had run for Mayor and won. Everyone in town knew him one way or another… and, equally important, everyone liked him.
- Charisma/Many Deep Relationships. Being heavily involved in everything is one thing, but being liked is quite another. This guy was very charismatic though with a warm smile and a willingness to form deep relationships with everyone. I learned so much about him (that I remember to this day) b/c of how engaging he was during my interview. He showed such a strong interest in me that I felt like we were best friends when I left.
- Living Successfully But Modestly. This is another often underappreciated factor. He drove a nice car and had a nice home – so he certainly looked successful. BUT, he lived well below his means and was not ostentatious at all, so nobody resented his success.
- Saving Money/Investing Wisely/Community Insights. He was a very careful saver and investor, relying heavily on all of the insider knowledge he gleaned from all of his clients and community involvement. He was in his early 40s when I met him and he had already accumulated a very impressive real estate portfolio that has probably grown to close to 9 figures today, given his discipline and the size of his portfolio in the late 1980s.
- Charitable Giving. I am not sure how this translates to success but it is something I see so often with highly successful individuals that I have to mention it. The attorney set aside a sizable % of his income every month, no matter what, for charitable giving.
- Highly Disciplined & Accountable. He was very fit, orderly, timely and disciplined. In order to test the mettle of his candidates, he had them interview at 4 AM. 😊
- Highly Competent/Honest. This should go without saying and applies to any profession, but he was a very skilled, honest and reputable attorney.
This blog could end right here as a great “recipe for success” reminder that I have seen work with hundreds of individuals over the years.
But, I am really sharing this story to illuminate how successful someone can be with a “small team” irrespective of their profession.
If I had accepted his job offer, I suspect that I would have found tremendous success myself, following his exact recipe.
I did not accept his offer (or any offers in the legal field) though b/c I so badly wanted to help build a business and law did not interest me at all.
And that leads to the topic of this blog: What is the best way to achieve the most success – Big Team, Small Team, or Solo?
It of course depends on how you define success – Doing what you love? Making lots of money? Having more time with family? Leaving a lasting legacy?
In any case, here a few considerations:
I. BIG TEAM
- Pros: (1) Build a lasting legacy; (2) Potential for more wealth if successful; (3) Can delegate things you don’t like to do; and (4) It is fun to build a business – the main reason I am a “big team” guy.
- Cons: (1) Huge overhead and risk – particularly during downturns; (2) Unexpected headaches, stress and surprises that come with any large team or business, e.g. management, turnover, budgets, accounting, CRMs, marketing, tech decisions in general, compliance, legal, compensation issues, etc.
II. SMALL TEAM
- Pros: (1) Can leverage yourself by having others do work on your behalf; (2) Very lucrative if done correctly; (3) Overhead remains relatively low; and (4) Less stressful than managing a big team.
- Cons: (1) Less of a legacy.
- Pros: (1) Minimal overhead.
- Cons: (1) Can’t leverage self – you’re always “on call” and you make less money when you have to do everything yourself.
For many years I had a small team with three assistants and I made far more money than I made during most of my “big team” era (the last ten years or so).
BUT, I enjoy the “big team” challenges and opportunities far more and would not trade them for the world.
If making a lot of money and having more free time are your only goals, then I highly recommend a small team along with the above recipe for success.
In regard to the solo route, I always recommend hiring at least one assistant and thus becoming a “small team” of sorts.
This is b/c I think many agents and loan officers underestimate how much more money they can make by leveraging themselves even just a little; b/c it is pretty inexpensive to hire an assistant and if you make compensation correlate to your success, it is even cheaper; and b/c having a valuable assistant means you won’t have to answer emails on the beach.
I welcome feedback though, as I am just writing about what I have seen over the last 30 years and I am sure there are many other perspectives.
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