Working on a Roller Coaster

After well over 20 years in the trial consulting business, I hoped the work load would smooth out and there would not be a constant peak and valley cycle of business. Alas, it appears we’re on a perpetual roller coaster. The cycle is such that there are times we are slammed with what seems like too much work in a short time period, with lots of tight deadlines. Then, that work ends and there is nothing scheduled for weeks. It is a vicious cycle and it creates many business management challenges. Cash flow is obviously a big issue, but the other issues include scaling up our marketing, finding other tasks to focus on during the down time, and ensuring everyone stays sharp and ready to go when the peak comes again. Over the years we have spoken with our attorney clients who tell us their lives are like this also. Thus, given that we are “down the food chain” from them, I now know that we will never get off the roller coaster as long as we are in business. I’m not even one to like actual roller coasters that much anymore, so this is a difficult lifestyle! We know our attorney clients are often at the mercy of their clients, and more important, the judges who control the trial schedules. As such, they have little control, but it leaves us, as people who like to take control and make things happen, very frustrated sometimes with the constant changes. All of this is said not to complain, but to say there are obviously many lines of work with tremendous swings in work flow. Any type of consulting business probably experiences the swings. The only way to manage it is to expect it, be ready, have a plan of what to do, and persevere. It is going to happen!

For the most part, living life on the roller coaster has become easier for me with the passage of time. There used to be a time when, after weeks or months of not having any work to do, I would become convinced we would never work again. Then, just as I had given up all hope, several cases would present themselves, including deadlines that seemed impossible to meet. The “feast or famine” roller coaster has never stopped, but my reaction to it has changed. David is the partner at Magnus who is responsible for the business functions, including ensuring we have enough cash flow to pay employees, overhead, and other expenses, but this doesn’t mean I am unconcerned or uninvolved with these realities of the entrepreneurial way of life. Worrying about cash flow, case loads, and meeting deadlines imposed by multiple clients does little to change anything; in fact, worrying can be a tiresome distraction from getting the work completed or searching for the next client who will retain us. So, instead of constant worrying, I now try to worry less and re-focus my attention on other things. These other things have included taking an impromptu vacation when a client cancels long planned work; attending to household repairs; and, one of my favorite activities, going to the beach. I can always find things to do, without looking too hard for them, and it usually works out that, when I least expect it, another big case comes our way.

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