Business management is more than just running a business, and the nuts and bolts of it. There are so many intangibles that affect our businesses and our clients each day. As small business owners, the stakes are even higher, because so often business management and life management are one and the same. Regardless of what we’re managing, we need tools to make good decisions. One of the toolboxes I work hard to educate my law firm bookkeeping clients about are financial tools: financial management best practices, understanding and using financial reports, making profitable decisions, and more. But, there’s another tool I’ve recently implemented in my bookkeeping practice that can have huge power in positive transformation for law firms also, and that’s the Word of the Year. It needs a catchier name, so please do propose one in the comments below, but we’ll just call it like it is for now. It’s another tool in my business and life management arsenal that I rely on each and every day to make great decisions for me, my business, my clients, and my life. And in 2020, the word is: Elevate.
A few months back, my business coach put forth the idea of trashing professional new year resolutions, and instead choosing an annual word. (Sidenote: Of course I work with a business coach. Studies are showing that humans are smarter in groups, and no small business owner should give themselves the disadvantage of not having valuable advisors to rely on, which is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about solo and small law firms hiring full-service bookkeepers. But, that could be its own topic in its entirety, and I digress.)
At first, the idea of an annual word sounded a bit odd, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. So, with some prodding, my coach and I arrived at the term “up-level” as a good place to start. It has since morphed into a term with even deeper meaning for me: Elevate.
I first came to regard the word Elevate when my six-year-old became addicted to cooking shows, specifically those of the Gordon Ramsey variety. No, not the ones where he’s throwing f-bombs at poor untrained fry cooks. I mean Master Chef Junior, where he inflicts compassionate yet tough love to help some amazing kid-chefs blossom into top-rated underage professionals. In that show, world-reknown chef Gordon Ramsey continually hammers on elevating the kids’ cooking. He explains how a gourmet chef and a fry cook can both put together a mean grilled cheese sandwich, but the difference between the two is that the gourmet chef will “elevate” the dish. The gourmet chef won’t just choose any bread and any cheese, but will select breads and cheeses specifically designed to enhance the depth of flavor in the dish. The gourmet chef will further elevate it by ensuring the bread and cheese both have precisely the correct ratios of crunchy and gooey textures. A gourmet chef will also pay close attention that the presentation of the dish is polished and professional – no greasy paper plates here. All of this provides elevation in many different aspects: it elevates the chef’s experience in making the dish with the challenge of problem-solving and navigating the complexity of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, and the pride of knowing that the end result is top-knotch; it elevates the dish itself, taking it off the menu at the local greasy spoon to the featured item in a posh downtown deli; it elevates the diner’s experience from a quick, choke-it-down meal to a completely delightful gastronomic experience. When the chef elevates his product, the elevation has a ripple effect that positively impacts others. And that’s what I consistently strive for, and what I’m now focusing on in 2020: Elevation.
Just like the chef, my own Elevation is having ripple effects that have just been a delight to see, and have improved almost every aspect of my life, my business, and even my clients’ businesses. My own Elevation comes in many different forms, all of which have been beyond gratifying to see when I focus on Elevation as my goal. In my business life, I have elevated my services to only provide full-service bookkeeping. This, in turn, has allowed me to elevate my service level to my clients. That has led to elevation in my clients’ firms, with direct results in improving things like collections, revenues, profits, and even attorney free time. I have elevated my client service and client response times. I have even elevated my clients’ profit, and my own firm’s profit, while elevating the quality of my personal life with more and higher-quality family and personal time.
There are other ways that I am implementing Elevation in my life this year. I elevating my attitude. Not that I typically have a bad attitude (I don’t think – I’m sure some opposing counsel I’ve dealt with might disagree), but I am also Elevating my attitude, by making a conscious decision to approach challenges and stressors positively. I also work hard and deliberately to elevate others; by referring others who need attorneys to my bookkeeping clients; by refraining from gossip be it professional or personal; and by recognizing others’ strengths, and maximizing those in a way that allows us to elevate one another. Whether it’s my clients or my husband or my kids, I’m taking them with me to the top – to Elevation.
This word has become the central theme of 2020, and has helped me to improve my business and my life more than I ever could have expected a single word could. When I face a difficult decision, or maybe just don’t feel like doing much that day, I go back to my word for inspiration. I am Elevating.
So, what’s your Word of the Year – your Guiding Principle – for 2020? How are you putting it into practice?