For attorneys building their own law firms, one of the most important concepts to grasp is that business growth is almost never linear. While you can anticipate growth over time, that growth won’t happen on a consistent grade even if you’re doing everything right. To illustrate what I mean, consider the following scenario…
Let’s suppose you’ve set an aggressive goal to double the size of your law firm in 2020. You’re not just dreaming, either—you’ve got a solid marketing plan, a growth strategy and milestones in place to make that goal achievable. Now, conventional logic says to grow your business by 100 percent in a year, you should grow by 25 percent in Q1, 25 percent in Q2, and so on. So in the first quarter, you deploy all your strategies faithfully and monitor their results. By the end of Q1, you’ve indeed grown…by a modest five percent. You double down for Q2, and your growth by July is 18 percent.
By now, you’re dejected and despondent…so you either adjust your expectations to maybe 40 percent growth in 2020, or worse—you just give up, not realizing that had you continued your current trajectory, your Q3 results would have been 60 percent.
What went wrong? Nothing. The problem is that your expectation is linear growth when business growth in real life is non-linear. Your growth trajectory will not be a straight line upward. Real life just has too many variables in it.
If you plot the growth of almost any business (or specific business strategy), it will usually chart in one of two ways:
1. Sometimes it appears as a choppy, zig-zaggy line, with growth occurring in almost unpredictable fits and starts.
2. At other times, it appears as an exponential curve, where most of the input comes at the front end, and most of the payoff happens on the backend.
In either case, as long as the endpoint is higher than the beginning point, you’ve achieved growth over time. That’s why you mustn’t get discouraged with 5 percent growth in the first quarter—and why you can’t give up by Q3. You have to anticipate that you’ll be doing a lot of input with only modest results at the beginning of the process. As you gain momentum, you’ll see the needle move in more encouraging ways.
Don’t misunderstand—the metrics are important, and you should be tracking your progress against certain mile markers to see how things are going. Just keep the numbers in perspective. They may not appear consistent at first, but if you remain consistent by doing the right things for your law firm, those numbers will catch up over time.