Operating a small business is not for the faint of heart. Though some say, “its just business,” I can say it is still personal. There is a saying, life is full of disappointments. And, running a business is full of them. By definition, because an entrepreneur is taking risks, seeking business, etc., hearing “no” is not uncommon. And, easy come is not easy go. I am referring to getting business. In our world this means cases for mock juries, focus groups, and more. A case intake is exciting. I never know when the phone will ring, an email will show up, or even, still these days, a letter will arrive in the mail regarding a new case. From there, I complete an intake form we designed long ago, conduct a conflict check, and talk with the potential client. Because our model of trial consulting work is individualized and customized, I need information in order to prepare a proposal. This requires an investment of my time. Writing the proposal, likewise, takes my time, and some money. In sending a proposal to a client, there are real, however minor perhaps, costs. The paper, the packaging, shipping, a copy of our brochure, and a presentation folder are used in the proposal process. So, by the time I have finished the initial intake, prepared a proposal, and sent it to the potential client, all at no cost to them, I am invested in the client, and the case. I do my follow up calls and emails afterward and do everything reasonable to speak with the client to walk them through the proposal – things are not always self explanatory. The client has to check with his/her client, and do many things unbeknownst to me to seek the end client’s approval. Occasionally, I am a part of those conversations with the end client, but this is not common. The process is time consuming. Despite often being rushed by the client to prepare the proposal, the decisions can take weeks or months (sometimes years) during which time other follow up communications are routine. Ultimately a decision is made and, hopefully, it is to proceed. But, more often that I would like, it is no go. There were competing bids, and for a number of reasons, ours is not always a fit for the client. So hours, and dollars, are spent for nothing. But, given my personal investment, it is always a disappointment. I guess it comes with the territory, but it is never easy or pain free. It, unfortunately, is just a part of business – one I’ll never enjoy. I can only wait on the next one!
I share David’s frustration over the ratio of proposals sent to clients versus cases for which we are retained. In fact, I have contemplated charging potential clients for their proposals, particularly those who repeatedly contact us about their cases and rarely or never retain us. However, as much as I would like to be able to charge for everything we do to obtain business, it isn’t practical to do so. I have learned not to become involved until Magnus is retained because, all too often, an attorney will spend my time describing complex case facts, only to decide not to retain us. David’s job is different from mine, such that he is the person at Magnus whose efforts in obtaining business largely go unrewarded. We have debated over the years, in a good natured manner, about which of us has the more difficult job, David, who handles a large volume of potential clients’ proposals and other logistics, or me, who works with the clients who decide to pay for our services. I long ago decided that, despite what other people may believe about our partnership and business model, it is David who has the most difficult job at Magnus. The experience of rejection, sometimes on a frequent basis, is difficult for everyone, and small business owners such as David and me are no exception. Because it is David who is told “No, I have decided not to hire you,” for whatever reason, the direct impact of this rejection takes its toll on him far more than on me. Just as David’s grandmother used to say, “Growing old is not for sissies,” I will add, “Owning and operating a small business is not for those who have thin skin.” Everyone’s job has stressors, but it never gets any easier to work hard for something, only to see it never come to fruition. But, to keep on keeping on, we always hope for better luck next time!
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