Friday, December 9, 2016

Year End Planning: Bouncing Back from a Setback

The Harvard Business Review has an article out today from Neal J. Roese on "5 Steps to Help Yourself Recover from a Setback" that focuses on counterfactual thinking and how it can be applied to help you rebound from a business or other setback.

Mr. Roese explores a different way of thinking, leading yourself through five questions about your recent setback that you can use to stimulate counterfactual thinking, which will hopefully "ease the pain of the setback and position you to do better next time."

The five steps, which Mr. Roese explains in more depth in the article, are
  1. Imagine a better outcome, Part 1
  2. Imagine a better outcome, Part 2
  3. Imagine a different path leading to the same outcome
  4. Imagine the same path leading to a different outcome
  5. Imagine a worse outcome
Using these steps allows you to avoid bias and self-blame when looking at your setback. They also allow you to look at what Mr. Roese explains is "an enlarged, nuanced picture of the failure" to allow you to see what the true causes were of the setback. In using these steps, you are given a way to plan for future occurrences and use this experience to improve your future performance.

As many of the businesses I represent prepare for year end reviews and 2017 planning, examining the setbacks they encountered throughout the year can be one of the most useful ways to grow your business and prepare for the future. Utilizing these five steps, businesses can use counterfactual thinking to add more depth to their review of 2016 and planning for the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Bullet Journal: A New Notebook for Productivity

In a seemingly never-ending quest to find more ways to be productive, I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal as a way to organize your life and keep track of all kinds of minutiae as they arise. Rather than attempt to explain the system, it's easiest if you watch the intro video from the creator of the journal:

It's probably most helpful to watch it a few times to get a feel for what is going on and how to do a Bullet Journal (I know it took me about 3 watchings before I really got the hang of it). And once you've seen that video as a foundation for the system, you can find all kinds of websites with videos and hacks that you can use to adapt the journal to your personal style.

When I view the other videos, I'm immediately struck at how much more artistic, creative and beautiful the journals are by others. Mine so far has been pretty basic and boring (Note: Mine is full of privileged information and other non-public info, so there's no real way for me to share meaningful photos of it here).

It seems a rite of passage that whoever blogs about the bullet journal has to describe their tools and hardware, so for me:

I apologize for my lack of creativity, but then again, I'm new at this and maybe a year from now my set up will be completely different...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Here Comes 2017... Wait, Where Did 2016 Go?

The final mad dash to the end of the year is upon us, with one set of holidays remaining and the year 2017 staring us down a mere 34 days from now. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, most of my clients gear up for this final dash in two ways: (1) wind down the year 2016 and (2) prepare for the year 2017.

As you are preparing to wind down for the year, take some time and look back and see how far we’ve come and all that you’ve accomplished in the past 11 months. It seems like just yesterday that the calendar was turning to 2016 and a whole year lay before you. How did you spend that time? Did you get married? Did you have a child? Did you start a business? Did you reconnect with an old friend?

Coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday also helps us look back and see what we are thankful for over the past 11 months. Have you spent more time volunteering? Maybe you helped out the community in some other way? There can be many ways that you impacted the world in 2016.

Before spending too much time looking back, now is also the time to look forward to 2017. Do you have plans to open up a business? Get married? Are you having a child? Are you planning a big vacation? Having a big birthday? All of these, and many more, possibilities lie in front of you in 2017 and the best way to get the year off on the right foot is to start that planning now. Even if it’s something as far off as next Thanksgiving, it’s never too early to start your planning. 2017 will be here before you know it!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Podcast Listening: Note to Self's "Digging Into Facebook's File on You"

Working my way through my weekly backlog of podcasts and I finally got to one of my favorite's, WNYC's Note to Self. This week's podcast focuses on Facebook's algorithm and what Facebook really knows about us (maybe even more than we know about ourselves).

With all of the information that runs through Facebook, they are literally sitting on a gold mine of customer information and data about our habits and everyday life. As a business, this allows you to be extremely precise when marketing to a particular segment of Facebook users, including people who got married last week or people who bought a car in the last 90 days. This ability to hyper-target users is almost unheard of in the context of the true marketing power at our fingertips these days.

But with all that data comes the questions of what is being done with it, who's using it and how it can actually influence our lives. To analyze this all, ProPublica has created a Black Box Data Project as an extension to Google Chrome. This extension will allow you to see what data Facebook has about you and whether it really matches up to who you are.

With all of this data out there, it's really interesting to see what the data says about you and whether it's truly accurate...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Importance of Customer Service

For a variety of reasons, I have spent a good portion of my non-legal research time today on the phone with a variety of customer service departments. Each one handles things a little differently, which made a big difference in the way I reacted to the calls.

One of the departments fed me through an automated phone tree for an entire call. While it was the shortest of the three calls, it was also the one that left me the least confident that my issue had really been resolved. While it resulted in an automated voice giving me a confirmation number at the end of the call, I will have to watch the mail for a few days to see if it was truly resolved.

The second call seemed rather straightforward from my end, but somehow ended in a dead end. The customer service representative could not figure out exactly how to solve my problem, gave it her best guess, and then gave me another telephone number to call to hammer it out (which ended up being the wrong number).

The final call seemed to hit all the right notes. The customer service representative took down my number for a possible call back if we got disconnected, went through her system as best she could, and when she hit the wall on her end, put me on hold to speak to someone else. When she came back on the line, she re-directed me to a website that could hopefully solve my issue. Instead of just hanging up, she stayed on the phone until I had completed the process to ensure that it was all taken care of and showed up on her end as well. It wasn't the longest of the three calls, but it was definitely the most thorough and dedicated to ensure my issue was solved.

When approaching your clients, it is important to remember that your business exists to serve your clients and each interaction you have with them has to begin with that thought in mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Estate Planning for Young Couples with Kids

It's back to school time, which means a whole new set of parents to meet at the various welcome functions that September brings. After the usual pleasantries about what class is your child in, the next question that arises is, what do you do for a living? 

The other night I was talking to another father (a financial planner of all things) when the topic of what we do for a living came up. He told me how he is a financial planner and manages assets for people with significant portfolios. We continued to talk and agreed on the importance of people like his clients having a well thought out estate plan.

The conversation turned a bit at this point when I asked him if he had an estate plan. His response, based on his advice to his own clients, surprised me. He didn't have an estate plan because he and his wife were a young married couple with two kids and didn't need to have one yet. Based on what we had just talked about, I was floored that he didn't think he needed an estate plan. 

Here is a young couple, they own a house together, they have other assets, they have children, and if they were to be hit and killed in a car accident on the way home, they would have no say in what happened to their children or their assets. The only thing standing in their way was a surprising and mistaken belief that they didn't need an estate plan yet.

As we wrapped up our event, the other father made sure to pull me aside before we left and get my card. He and his wife are very wisely coming in next week to get started on their estate plan.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Even Though It's Late August, You Still Need to Pay Your Child Support...

I was shocked when I arrived that the Court had such a short calendar today. As I was talking with the court officer, he told me that it's late summer and the Judge is trying to keep a shorter calendar for the last two weeks before Labor Day. A noble endeavor if I've ever heard one.

When I told him what case I was appearing on, his eyebrow raised and he gave me the look, which translates into "Oh, you're on THAT case." So I had a seat and waited for the inevitable fireworks to begin.

This was the third time we're before this Judge in the past two weeks because there is always something going on with the other side. Either the litigant doesn't show up, or the attorney doesn't show up, or the litigant shows up and is arrested in the court room. Each time it was something different - today the attorney didn't show again.

Despite his protestations about his attorney not being there (apparently, the attorney was on vacation and chose not to send someone to cover the appearance), the Judge decided to get some things done on the case, not the least of which was to address more than a year's worth of child support arrears. As an offering, the other party had a check for about 60% of one monthly payment, to which the Judge quickly inquired, "What about the other 15 months worth of payments?"

His attempts to argue fell on deaf ears as subpoenas have turned up a lot of money being spent on everything else in the world except his children - not the best strategy. So after some more fireworks, we were on our way into the warm August day (and a nice little award of counsel fees for me).