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Melissa Shanahan

#191: Unleashing Your Potential: A Conversation with Mastery Group Member Soulmaz Taghavi

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What potential are you sitting on that you need a little help to bring to the surface? Melissa’s guest this week started her own practice during the height of the pandemic; she was bringing in clients and revenue, but lacked the direction that would allow her to serve sustainably. That’s when she found Melissa.

Soulmaz Taghavi is an immigration attorney and an amazing example of what Velocity Work does for law firm owners. Soulmaz was building a successful firm, but at the expense of herself, perpetually exhausted, unable to even find time for a bathroom break. But after just one year in Mastery Group, she’s been able to implement the kinds of policies and structures she needs to really take care of herself, her clients, and the future of her firm.

Tune in this week to start finding your direction and unleashing the potential you’re sitting on. Soulmaz built a structure that allowed her to serve her clients and herself on a new level, slowing down so she could speed up and get her house in order, and she’s here to share everything that went into that process.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. The doors for Mastery Group are opening tomorrow, February 8th 2023. If you’re listening the day this episode releases, you can still join the waitlist. However, if you’re listening after, you have until February 17th to sign up!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

Why immigration lawyers are flying by the seat of their pants

How generating revenue with no goals in mind leaves you burned out.

The value Soulmaz found in focusing on The Wee Things and the small goals she decided to work towards.

How to find the triggers that will allow your objectives come to life.

The revenue Soulmaz sacrificed in 2022 and how it’s setting her firm up for success in 2023.

Why, as you grow your firm, you need to slow down in order to speed up.

The goal Soulmaz has set for her firm in 2023 and how she’s going to make it happen.

How you can use social media to bring in the kinds of cases you want, as well as to serve your existing clients.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

Join Mastery Group

• Taghavi Immigration Law: Website | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | LinkedIn

monday.com Project Manager Software

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast, Episode #191.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast, powered by Velocity Work. For owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going, take planning seriously, and honor your plan  a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Melissa Shanahan: Everyone, welcome to this week's podcast. The doors for Mastery Group open tomorrow. We always do an enrollment period of a week per quarter, and this is the week. February 8, which, if you're listening in real-time, is tomorrow to the waitlist only. And then after that, if there's still space that we open up to the rest of the world. If you would  to be on the waitlist, go to velocitywork.com/join, and you will see a way to do that if we aren't in an enrollment period. If it is enrollment period, when you go to that URL, you'll be able to join Mastery Group.

I gotta say today's conversation with Soulmaz Taghavi is such a great example of what the work does for people. So, I think the last two weeks have been such a great example, and this is different, but the same. You get to hear how these people apply what they learn and what happens for them inside of their firms and for themselves.

Without further ado, we're going to get to today's brilliant conversation with Mastery Group member Soulmaz Taghavi. And hopefully, for those of you who the sounds  this could be up your alley, I get to work with you very soon. Soulmaz, welcome to the show.

Soulmaz Taghavi: Thank you, Melissa. Thanks for having me.

Melissa: I am so thrilled that you're here. Do you want to tell everybody  who you are, your practice area, where you are, and all that good stuff?

Soulmaz: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Soulmaz Taghavi. I am going on my ninth year as an immigration attorney. I do all things immigration. That's what we focus on. That's what I've always practiced throughout my career. I have Taghavi Immigration Law, which is my law firm, my baby, which is based out of Richmond, Virginia. We also serve the “DMV,” DC northern Virginia area. And we have an office in Scottsdale, Arizona. But we can serve anyone around the country and around the world.

Melissa: In fact, where do you live right now?

Soulmaz: Right now, I am in New Orleans with my family.

Melissa: Which is pretty cool.

Soulmaz: Which is pretty cool. I actually spent two weeks in Florence, Italy, in December. And I'm going to be spending the whole month of March there, as well.

Melissa: Oh, my gosh, congratulations.

Soulmaz: Thank you. I’m a true virtual worker.

Melissa: And, okay, we didn't talk about that before the recording. But we did talk about, which we'll get into, some of the freedoms that you have now that you didn't have before. I didn't even know about that one. Because you couldn't have done that when I first met you, I don't think.

Soulmaz: No, absolutely not. I couldn't even drink enough water or use the bathroom or take a lunch break when I met you. And specifically, on the day that I met you. So yeah, I think I've come a long way. This is my first year working with Velocity Work. And it was a year of transformation, both professionally and personally, for the better.

Melissa: I think I met you it was the fall, I want to say. Or, October maybe, of 2021. It was so good to meet you, and  hearing the potential that you had and what you were sitting on was amazing. And then you enrolled in December; you popped in at some point. And then I really got to start working with you and get to know you. What a joy it's been to get to know you. Do you want to share with everyone what your life was , work and life, in that first meeting I had with you?  to paint a picture of the before.

Soulmaz: Yeah, so I started my career as an associate attorney at an immigration law firm. And then, I had a partnership for about three years with a criminal defense attorney. And from both of those experiences, I learned what not to do. And then, I started my own true solo practice during COVID, in June of 2020.

As you said, I didn't know what I was sitting on. I was bringing in the revenue; I had a ton of clients. But it was also in the whirlwind of the Trump administration, and that had crazy ramifications for immigration attorneys. In general, immigration law is constantly changing with all these policies,  memos, and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) priorities.

And so, I was  flying by the seat of my pants for years, and at the expense of myself. So, the day that we met was a very crazy day. I think I had flown from Arizona to Norfolk, Virginia, for an interview with the government to represent my client before USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

I was video chatting with you, with no headphones, in the middle of a hotel restaurant, so it was kind of a nightmare. I was working really hard for my clients, but I didn't realize until I met you that I needed to slow down in order to speed up. And to really get things in order within my firm, get policies and structure in order and take care of myself.

Melissa: Well, I think it sounds  you're comfortable sharing. If you don't mind sharing, will you tell everybody what your revenue was? You weren't positive on that call, but you knew you had a hunch on what you had made already that year. So, do you want to share with them kind of what that was prior to working with us?

Soulmaz: Right. Actually, I didn't know. I remember, in the call I was pulling up my taxes and trying to give you the numbers and understand. But I was between 800-100,000. So, I was very close to making a million in revenue when we spoke. But I had no direction or no goals; why did I want to make that kind of money? What was I going to do with that kind of money?

And, obviously, the revenue doesn't mean that's your take home, because there are a ton of expenses. And having a handle and understanding of how those expenses should actually be. , 1/3 of your practice should be on staff. I was pushing 40% and 50% on staff. So, I had the numbers, but I didn't know what they meant or what to do with that number.

Melissa: Yeah. Okay. At the time, we were joking before, but really, it was true that you were, what'd you say, you're perpetually exhausted.  you didn't have time to go to the bathroom. You never had lunch. Basically, you had hustled your way to making almost a million dollars. And I think, well, I'll let you answer. Why did you reach out to me? What were you hoping to find with me or with someone else, or whatever? But what were you hoping to get out of a conversation?

Soulmaz: I wanted direction. I wasn't very concerned with myself or my well-being, but I knew that if I'm working 10-hour days and I’m bringing in these clients, bringing in this money, at what expense? For what exactly? And where do I go from here? How do I plan better for the future?

And then I remember that day that we had our call, and I mentioned things are very busy. I had been listening to your podcasts, too, I think, for about six months beforehand. And I was really inspired and celebrity-struck when we finally met. So, I was hoping to get direction with my business. I got that, but I also got caring about myself and the person leading the practice, in order to be able to lead the practice.

Melissa: Yeah, what's interesting is, I bet people think that a lot; that’s the assumption. They come because they want direction on the business, in some sort of way. But the only way you're going to get where you want to get, it's  impossible to not address how you're doing. So, you have to focus on both sides. So yeah, that's great.

Soulmaz: I wanted to talk about the “wee” thing. So, in Velocity Work, each quarter, we have our goals, and then we have our Rocks in order to meet our goals. And then we have the wee things, which are something small, and if you listen to your podcasts, you'll know what it is. But something small that you're going to decide to do for the quarter; that's not big, right? Something itty bitty, that will be a little game changer. And those wee things actually were super helpful for me.

I remember, throughout last year, it was drinking water. Wake up in the morning, drink water. In the middle of the day, drink water. Before I go to bed, drink water. Because I was getting these tension headaches from dehydration.  you said, exhaustion. I would sleep, but I would wake up perpetually exhausted, and I had no energy.

One of the second wee things was going to bed on time. And when I mentioned that wee thing, you're , “Okay, well, are you going to say it, or are you going to have something specific that is going to make you go to bed on time? Then, I set up my alarm. At 10:30, it goes off, and that's when I start to get ready for bed. So, I've started sleeping earlier, having better quality sleep; the wee things, the small things to take care of yourself.

One of my other ones was being on time. I was perpetually late to every Zoom meeting, one after another. And that was stressful.

That was something that I didn't intend on seeking out from the membership, but definitely, it was very necessary that I gained.

Melissa: That's so cool. I'm thinking, too, it's really easy for someone listening to this to be , “Okay, you guys focus on drinking water,” and whatever. But I'm very set on being comprehensive with the planning. All of us set big plans. We all have big dreams. And we all want to go to bed earlier, we all want to wake up earlier, we all want to do all these things. But how do we actually do that? How do we make it happen? And that looks different for everybody, right?

But getting clear for yourself on what specifically is the trigger that will make that dream come true, or that objective come to life,  going to bed earlier, the trigger for you, was you decided to set an alarm at 10:30 to wind down, and you did it. And you honored that.

So, for anyone listening, these are essentially the small, little success factor things that people name so that they can be on track for all the plans that they just made for their business. It does start and stop with you, even if you have a team. You have a team, and so do a lot of other members. But if the owner, and the person who is putting that vision and the business plans forth, is kind of a shell of themselves, this is not going to go where anybody wants it to go.

It's cool that you're talking about that because other people haven't really brought that up, but it is a part of it. Yeah. You mentioned that you wanted to bring this up, so when it comes to setting Rocks, which are the priorities that will help take you to your goals, there was one you kept trying to set. I want you to share about that experience.

Soulmaz: Yeah, I was in the habit of hitting the gas, before I met you and for years before, and probably generally, that's my personality. I kept wanting to make marketing a Rock of mine. So, I think I brought it up at least two quarters, maybe three quarters. And we always talk about our Rocks, deconstruct them and decide; are we naming them correctly? Are they realistic?

And you kept debunking that. You're like, “No, stop marketing. That's should not be something that you need to focus on.” In reality, I had a ton of clients, so bringing in more clients was not going to fix my problem.

I needed to go under the hood, so to speak. And have employment agreements, have training links. So, when I onboard staff, they can watch training videos. They can read the HB, the employee handbook. Having a case management system using technology like Calendly. Taking online payments.

So, I had to knock it off with wanting to hit the gas and go, go, go, without having the systems in place to really have a normal life. But also, to create a normal, healthy work environment for my staff. And for my clients to have success working with us.

Melissa: Will you share what you ended at the end of 2022?

Soulmaz: In 2022, I was probably about 100,000 less than the year before, in revenue. I was probably at about 750,000, right under 800,000.

Melissa: And at face value, I could see people being like, “Oh, she went down.” But can we talk about it for a minute? You name some of the things, but I just want to make sure people understand, you got to work. In 2022 you did a ton of work that made it so that when you put your foot on the gas, your company has the capacity for it.

And before, it would have imploded you. That's why, for everybody listening, that's what I was saying, “Do not have a marketing Rock, right now. Get your house in order.” You did a really good job with that. You took it super seriously and built systems inside a client management system. The one you have built now took a ton of effort and time to get into place, and it sounds like it's serving you really well now. Is that true?

Soulmaz: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

Melissa: That was huge. And then also, you mentioned to me earlier, you touched on it just a minute ago about the training portal; essentially, for when somebody comes on new. I mean, all these things make your life so much smoother and easier. For not just you, but for your team, and like you said, your clients.

I'm just so proud of… Not in a weird mom way. But I'm really proud of you for the work that you put in because it wasn't easy for you to slow down in that way. And you did it because it was the right thing to do.

And now I'm wondering, what do you see now that you couldn't see a year ago?

Soulmaz: Structure and technology. I think I just focused on doing the legal work, which most attorneys are like that. They always say they don't teach you how to run a business in law school. You focus on being a good attorney, being a good litigator, serving your clients, and being compassionate.

But in order to do that, you need a business structure. You need an employee portal where they can onboard effortlessly without taking a wrench out of the owner’s schedule. You need an accountability chart, which shows the function to ensure that there's no… I love when you said, “You can pass the ball. You can ask for help. But you can't drop the ball.” Without an accountability chart, who knows what balls you are supposed to be holding?

So, structure is something that I didn't see from the partner that I worked with before. I didn't see that at all when I was an associate; it just wasn't a thing. And I think, generally speaking, it's not a thing. I look at the other immigration practices in central Virginia, and structure and technology are not a thing for them. I think those two go hand-in-hand.

Technology, since COVID, we are completely electronic; all of our files are scanned. We have systems through Monday.com where cases move to certain sections, and it will send automated emails. Billing is automated. We don't have to have someone sitting there calling and requesting money.

I think, generally, I had this habit of go, go, go, but that's not necessarily going to get you to where you want to go. And if you don't stop and think about it and have the structure in place to take you there, then it's like, what is this all for anyways?

Melissa: Right. One question, because I want to back up for a second. You mentioned people cost is supposed to be 33%. That is a golden guide, we’ll call it. Maybe not a golden standard. And so, it's interesting to me that you said that because I do find that for immigration firms, it's so hard to be there. And actually, maybe not the healthiest to be there.

So, what have you found? Where do you think you are? Or, where are you right now with people cost? Are you there at a third or not?

Soulmaz: Not yet. I kind of had some staff issues the last year. We kind of talked about it at the end of the year, when we reflected on the year. It's that I have this habit of keeping people around when I've already seen the red flags, out of compassion, or because I like them as a person. I know I'm a high empath, and I've seen myself make those mistakes, both in my personal life and professional life.

I had an employee that went part-time and went back to school, and we gave her tuition reimbursement. We gave her the position of firm manager. But being part-time in a supervisory position is very difficult, especially when things move very quickly, like in the immigration world.

So, she would say she could do things, and she'd dropped the ball. And I would basically pick it up for her. Basically, “Oh, don't worry, I'll take care of it.” But then at the end of the year, it was like, I suffer because I'm paying them. I'm losing that money, but I'm not getting what I'm paying for.

Melissa: So, that's not a good investment.

Soulmaz: It's not a good investment. Yeah, it's an emotional investment. So, facts, not feelings. I'm sure people will hear that on the podcast, but it's so true. And we're humans, right? We want to help people, and I want her to go forward in her career, but I can't do that at the expense of myself and my business and my clients, and the other staff members.

I had a similar issue with my executive assistant. She would drop the ball on some crazy things, like CLEs. I almost lost my license because of some things that were given to her that she didn't finish. I kept not addressing it and brushing it under the rug. So, that was one issue.

And then, in regard to immigration law, we have to do a lot of hand-holding. And the systems that I've been working on this past year with Monday.com has all these crazy automations with emails. So, for example, if their case is pending, and sometimes their case will be pending for years. Every month, they will get an automated email, if they are in a certain section that says, “Hey, your case is pending. There's nothing for you to do at this time.” Basically, reaching out to them.

Where in the past, I used to, every six months, call every single client, and that took days. Our call volume went down. We were getting almost 300 existing client calls per month. And I was like, “We’ve got to get this number down. We have to get ahead of the communication, and send these automated emails.” So, the use of technology.

I'm hoping now that this is all put into place. The call volume is going down each quarter. But that should help with getting closer to that 33%. But I'm not there yet. I'm hoping, at the end of this quarter, I will be.

Melissa: That's really interesting because I didn't necessarily think about that. The reason I bring it up is because, in my experience with working with immigration firms, it seems to be the hardest to get to that third. The rule of thirds, where a third of the revenue goes to people cost.

And so, that's interesting. I’m wondering if you can get it to a third and still feel healthy. Because there was a firm I was working with that worked so hard to get to that third, and there were real consequences to that. Because then they didn't quite have the capacity to handle the workload that was there, and it just killed them.

And finally, they were like, “Screw this.” We talked about it together. It was like, “No way. There's no reason to sit here; everybody is suffering. And the truth is, your firm doesn't look like an estate planning firm down the road.” This is very, very different. And so, they kind of found their golden rule, so to speak, for themselves, which was closer to 40. But everything is really healthy for them.

Now, listening to you talk about if there are ways to infuse technology even deeper so that they can reduce that more, who knows? That's always an evolving thing. But that's partially why, when I talked to you, what I shared with you about slowing down to speed up was partially because if you keep going, even if you're implementing systems along the way, you will likely be bloated as you grow.

Because if you really don't slow down to speed up, then sure, you can implement here this technology, along the way, and then this technology along the way. But along the way, having to hire people because you don't have that stuff implemented yet. And then if you do get that stuff implemented, then you have to cut the people that you had doing those. It's a wonky way to go. It's totally possible and doable.

But the way that you've set things up for yourself this year... And that's why I beam when I'm listening to you talk about it, is that you really did slow down, and you were so intentional with getting your house in order. And you took a year to do that. And, it took a year.

I'm sure there are always tweaks and improvements you can make. But it took a year for you to get this stuff rock solid, in a way where you don't feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants anymore.

People don't take that time. People are too attached to, “Well, I don't want to dip $100,000 in revenue.” Yeah, but delayed gratification here. I mean, you have the ability, with what you've done this year, to put your foot on the gas and make a lot of money now in the firm, and your firm can handle it. It's totally fine. Before, it would have killed you.

Soulmaz: Yeah, it was killing me.

Melissa: I just can't give you kudos enough. You mentioned, with the wee things, that wee things are really helpful. And before we pushed the record button, you said it goes hand-in-hand with Monday Map. So, will you share a little bit about what you mean by that?

Because a lot of people that get exposed to us, they get their hands on the Monday Map PDF, the guide. But a lot of people don't stick with the practice. And if they do, it changes everything. And you really have. So, I want to hear a bit about that. But then also, with your team. Because you work Monday Map with your team, as well.

Soulmaz: Yeah, absolutely. So, Monday Map, there were levels to my, I guess, understanding and use of Monday Map. But when it was first entered reduced to me, I was like, “Wow, this is brilliant.” I, every day, make a to-do list. And at some unknown date or time, I'm supposed to finish these to-do lists. Probably over the weekend or at night, because I'm not actually plugging in those things into my work day.

If I want to have boundaries and control over my work hours, these things that I need to do need to be prioritized, broken down, the amount of time put next to them and plugged into my calendar. So, I teach Monday Map,  “teach” Monday Map, or the practice of Monday Map, to all my staff.

Your PDF is on a training section and my HR portal. And I have right now, a paralegal who is amazing. She's our head paralegal. And when she came in, I noticed by her calendar that she is doing Monday Map. So, if she needs to assemble an asylum package, she will block out two hours on her calendar.

But then I would see her adding the same thing the next week, the same client, and the same blocked-out time. And then, I would see her instantly replying to Slack messages, instantly replying to client emails. And I was able to give her feedback in our review, “Hey, you are doing the Monday Map. And I'm sure the Friday Wrap. But you are not honoring your plan.”

And it was true. I can see when people come through the door, we have to ring, so she would drop things and kind of blow with the wind. Which is very common in immigration. Because people think everything is an emergency. And it could be something totally unrelated to immigration law, like their driver's license or their passport.

So, I was able to give her feedback about honoring her plan. And I had the same kind of revelation. I was doing Monday Map. And I think we actually had a Mastery Group meeting about distractions and like, why don't you? Why don't you actually get things done? And you kind of went into the science behind it.

Our brain wants to go to the easy thing like checking your email or checking Slack. And that was next level for me. That probably happened six months into the year, when I had to cut out distractions, put away my phone, closed my email, and put Slack alerts on ice. And if I need to pump out a brief, I need to be only doing that, and that's it.

It's hard. And sometimes, I fall off the wagon. There have been two weeks where I'm not doing Monday Map, and then I have to work the weekend. And then sometimes, I'll set aside time on the weekend to do the work. And I'm like, “Wait a minute, I'm just going to map this into next week. I'm not going to sit here all day. I'm going to map it into next week and the week after and try to stick to it.” So, it's a game changer, I would say.

Melissa: I really love the way that you've chosen to work with your team, that it's a part of onboarding, and that you're able to see, you can tell when they are allowing distractions. Because you can see them instantaneously responding. And really, they're supposed to be working on putting together the asylum package or whatever. And being able to say why. Why are you responding to this when you're supposed to be working on that?

And I think that is probably really helpful for your team because it gives them permission that they don't have to respond immediately. A lot of team members probably think, for a lot of firms, probably think that they need to respond to the boss as soon as the boss posts.

But if you are giving them permission to focus, and you see their map, if there's something messed up with their map and you want them to change it, you'll have them change it. But it seems like there's a lot of peace of mind for you because you know what they're getting done.

And then, the way that you're communicating it, there's a lot of peace of mind for them because they know they have the permission to actually drop in and be focused and not worry about if you're pinging them or if someone else is or whatever. It seems like a really healthy way to implement it with your team.

Soulmaz: To take it to another level. This head paralegal, we had trouble with her legal assistant. The legal assistant will prepare the package for the head paralegal to review. And I had a conversation with all of them about Monday Map. So, the head paralegal was doing Monday Map / Friday Wrap with that legal assistant every Monday and every Friday, to kind of help her figure out her issues.

Ultimately it did not work out with that legal assistant, but at least I had some sort of direction to kind of point them towards that I know worked for me and was even a struggle for me. So yeah, I think it's a great way to ensure you're evaluating their work and, and all that. And giving them structure.

Melissa: Well, this year, what are your Rocks? Or, a couple of main ones.

Soulmaz: One of my Rocks for this quarter, Q1, is to know and keep up with my KPIs and overall business numbers on a weekly basis to ensure if they're on track or off track.

Melissa: Wait, was that the Rock we finally decided on?

Soulmaz: Yeah.

Melissa: Because there's stuff that you have to do in there, to know, and that stuff to do are your Rocks, right? You want that, and so, if you want that, what are you going to have to do in order to get that? What are you going to do?

Soulmaz: Automate tracking. I'm working with a Monday specialist so they can pull those KPIs automatically. And we can see them visually in a chart, in a pie circle, whatever it is. But automate the KPI tracking.

I already have my accountability chart that has each team's KPIs and the goals for their KPIs. But it's just hard to look at them every week. So, when it's automated, it'll be easier to see them.

Fixing screening. I kind of worked on that today. I actually recorded a training video for intake screening. And increasing the number of people that are doing screenings. I already had a Calendly expert do a round-robin, so it can hit two people's calendars. Because we're booked out till March for screenings.

Consultation fix, same thing. I have an UpCounsel attorney, and we just fixed it up so we can be round-robin. She speaks Chinese and Korean. If you're doing Spanish or Farsi, then they will get bumped to me. But it's doubling up on screenings. Doubling up on consultations in order to speak to more people and have more clients potentially come in. In order to hit those numbers for the KPIs.

And then, I’ve had to take marketing out of it. Marketing was my other… I don't think for this quarter. I'm thinking of next quarter. And the marketing is not just going to be marketing. Because that's what I thought about early last year.

It's going to be, who is my avatar client that I love, and want to work with? And I want to pursue marketing to that clientele specifically.

Melissa: Yeah, totally. I'm sure, I know, you'll get really specific. For everybody listening, she's sharing what her focus is after the quarter. And when you submit the Rocks, you have to name them really specifically; what is the project?

And so basically, she's describing her projects that she's working on, which is cool. And those are all things that will help you further get your house in order. It's tweaking things now. It's a luxury to be able to get to this stuff because you have so much of the other stuff done. That's great.

Soulmaz: Yeah, it's fine-tuning right now. Because all of last year working with you, we know the numbers, we know the KPIs. But now it's, okay, let's be intentional, every single week about our numbers. So, if we have a quarterly goal, you have to keep breaking that down to not just looking at the end of the month, which I was doing last year, but at the end of the week, so you can make changes in live time.

Melissa: Yes, yes. That's so good. Yeah, so good. To be clear, not changes to the goal. She means changes... Because some people, they look every week at their numbers, and then they start to change the numbers because they get a little weirded out that they're not going to hit it or whatever. I always say, “Do not change your goal. But you can change your initiative.”

You can change the things that you decide maybe to do or not do to see if you can affect the numbers more. And you can only do that when you look at him more uptime. Yeah.

Soulmaz: And I have an example of that. So, when we first started, we suggested you paid consults, but then we started doing 15-minute free screenings. To make sure, do they have a case potentially? And do we even want to work with them? And so, when we started that, and we started the KPIs of how many leads, how many qualified leads, and the conversion rates, I found out with my intake specialist that there were two issues.

He was booked too far out, or there wasn't enough availability. And then, I was booked too far out. So, it was just too much time in between that people lose interest. You can't do a free screening today and then talk to the attorney two weeks later. That's not going to work. You're going to have a ton of cancellations. So, looking at that, week by week, we were like, “Oh, okay, this is a tiny scheduling change that we need to make.” But it wasn't like, “Oh, let's scrap everything.”

Melissa: Yeah, that's great. You use social; you’re active on social media, and out in the world on the web. You mentioned to me how helpful that is it. So, I'd like for you to share that nugget on how helpful that's been for you in getting more qualified leads. But then also, maybe tell everybody where they can find you. Because you do put a lot of work into that.

Soulmaz: Absolutely. So, we use Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook, and I'm even on LinkedIn. It's Taghavi_Immigration. And I use it to get qualified leads. Put out videos to the people that you want to attract. So, for example, I wanted fiancé visas. They were short processing times, and high chances of winning those cases. And the application packages are super simple. So, I did a ton of videos about the fiancé visa and the requirements.

And I did super short videos. And we brought in those case types, and it was awesome. So, you can use it to bring in the cases that you want. And also, you can use it for your existing clients. So, immigration attorneys have high existing client call volumes, because they're usually case processing for years on end. Because we kind of have a broken immigration system.

But when you put out a video that says, “Hey, if you're applying for work authorization, it's taking 11 months. So, there's nothing you can do for 11 months, because of COVID-19. This is how long it's going to take.” And that will reach your clients as you're plugging your social media, your email, and your interactions with them.

And it will kind of help reduce the call volume for those common questions. So, that's how we use social media. And for any other attorneys that want ideas, or feedback, or examples, check out our TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and follow us.

Melissa: Yeah. Cool. I didn't ask you, what goals did you set for yourself for 2023?

Soulmaz: Well, it's a number goal. Is that what you mean? I'm kind of wavering between 1.2 and 1.4. million. I feel like 1.4 may not be as realistic. But as I'm saying it out loud, I feel like anything is possible. But essentially, what I did was, I calculated how much take-home I want, for the life I want to live. I want to be able to potentially live abroad.

Maybe be in Europe, do some art classes during the day and work at nighttime. And then I put in, realistically, I'm going to have an UpCounsel attorney. I'm going to have these other staff members, and this is their income. How much expenses are, aside from people, overhead expenses. So that was the number that I came up with. I think I think it's  1.2 to make it work. But if I really wanted to push it further, it could be 1.4.

Melissa: Do you how many cases or certain case types you're going to need to make it happen?

Soulmaz: I know that I have to bring in, I think, about 30 to 35 cases per month. We haven't really hit that number before. We've been at 20 cases maximum per month. And, of course, it's been less, like, six cases. But it's a totally different machine right now. This year, my law firm is a different machine. So, I'm hoping that with this specific Rock of knowing the numbers and being intentional, and making these small tweaks along the way, I think it's, I mean, I don't think, it's possible. It is possible.

Melissa: Oh, it definitely is. So, that's what I was going to ask you. If you do 1.2 or 1.4, either one, do you have the capacity to handle it? It sounds like you do. And would you have to make another hire or two?

Soulmaz: Yeah. I did calculate potential… And I am interviewing just to have some resumes on hand. But yeah, I did calculate potentially having a full-time associate versus the UpCounsel person, and also potentially hiring another legal assistant.

Melissa: One more question. So, the 30 to 35 cases a month would have to come in. Did you, when you're planning out your quarters, did you ramp up so that there's less that you need in the front end of the year and then more in the back end of the year, or no, just did it evenly the four quarters?

Soulmaz: I did it evenly. But from last year, I realized that you can ramp up when needed. Because I was much lower in Q3, and I was kind of freaking out. And I was slightly depressed about it. But then I kicked it into gear in Q4. And obviously, I didn't hit my number from the year before, but I really bumped up and got close. So, it was the best quarter of the whole year.

But I also had a little bit less to work on earlier in the year. I had so much more to work through. So yeah, I'm keeping it even. But I do have confidence that if it's slow in the beginning, I can ramp up when the rubber meets the road.

Melissa: Right. It’s so interesting. Okay. I mean, I say go for it. Because here's the truth. The only reason I didn't say yeah, at the beginning is I had questions about how you came to that number. But I think people get too attached to the numbers. I think it's really good to set something like that. Because then you know, for instance, you know you need 30 to 35 cases through the door. You know you need to be intentional with your numbers.

It sort of force-functions all this really healthy behavior in the firm, so that you can meet the goal. But people tend to use their goal in a really unhealthy way against them. And that's not what you're doing. And I'm not a proponent of that at all. I really do believe that, yeah, you set a goal, so it informs how you need to show up in order to make that happen.

And that's exactly what you're using it for. So that sounds super healthy. Why not? Why not shoot for it? Go for it, man. You've got so much in place right now, that is going to support your growth. You know the hires you'd have to make in order for that growth to happen. Go for it. Because at the end of the year, let's just say, you do shoot for 1.4. And let's say you land at 1.1. Are you going to be pissed?

Soulmaz: No, I’ll be happy.

Melissa: No! It's the most amazing thing. And you'll hit 1.4 the next year, right? So, it doesn't matter. It's just about putting a stake in the ground, like, that's what we're going for. So, it lines you up well, and then where you land, you land. And then you figure it out again next time. You're a really strong example of what that can look like. That's really cool.

Soulmaz: And it's not just the number; it’s the quality of life. Because throughout this experience, I'm able to choose the clients I want to work with. Clients that aren't exhausting your case management system or your staff. And don't make you miserable. And when I go into my office, when I go in person, I'm happy. I'm not stressed, I'm not dehydrated, or sleep deprived. There is an element to this, that is, not to sound cheesy, but priceless.

And there are just too many attorneys that are running themselves into the ground. This is not just about your number. In the beginning, we were like, what life do you want to live? What car do you want to drive? How many days off? Do you want to work only four days a week? I would love to work four days a week and be more creative with my other hobbies.

So, the number gets you to the quality of life that you want to live or the lifestyle you want to have. It's not, oh, money, money, money. I just need to hit these numbers. If I don't hit that number, it’s nothing.

It's, well, I lived a good life that year trying to get to my goal. And if it didn't work out, at least, I didn't run myself into the ground and age three times faster.

Melissa: Exactly. Exactly. And I think people do sometimes misconstrue, even though I feel  I say ad nauseam, people misconstrue when I talk about revenue goals, that that's what matters. You have to have one. I mean, if you don't have it, it's a business, for God's sake. If you don't have a revenue goal, what are we doing here?

And to your point, it's not all just about the money. I encouraged you to not have a growth goal last year. And that's really uncomfortable for a business owner sometimes. And it's not about the money. It's about just like you said. It's about having the company that you want to have and having a business that is thriving on all levels.

And that means for the owner, for the team, for the clients. It's all levels thriving, and you can't hustle your way to that. You just can't. It takes intense intentionality, and you're a really strong example of that.

And yeah, you're right. I guess to some people listening, it'd be like, “Geez, 1.1 to 1.4, that's a big jump. Why would you need to jump that big?” I mean, first of all, yes, all the things we've been talking about. But there is going to be a point where you can't really think of anything else you need money for it, right? But then it becomes, “Hmm, this feels really good as it is. And the thought of growth does not stress me out. Let's see what we're made of here. Let's see what's possible. Let's see what can we do with this?”

And that's a good enough reason to set a ridiculously high revenue goal, right? So, I think it's money hang-ups that people have that, if anybody listening to this says, “It's not about the money,” Yes and no. It's a business, so it is about the money. And then, at some point, do you think you're going to sit back and rest on your laurels?

The kind of people who are interested in this podcast, that's not the kind of people they are. They always are kind of seeing what's the potential. And anyway, you're a really beautiful living example of that with your firm. And so, thanks for sharing your story. Thanks for sharing some of the lessons you've learned. And it hasn't been an easy road. But you're at a place where I can tell how good you feel.

Soulmaz: Yeah, I'm about to spend a month in Italy. I'm really excited. And Melissa, thank you. Because I was physically and mentally drained, and I did not have direction. And I liked your vibe. I liked your podcasts. I was starstruck by your podcast. And it was a year of transformation for me, personally and professionally.

I super, super appreciate you and the energy that you bring to all our meetings and the advice. You're so direct, and you call it out as it is. And the world lacks that. Everyone wants to sugarcoat things, and they're worried about how they come off. But you're super direct. Like, “Hey, wait. That's not right. We need to fix that.” And I appreciate that. That's the way to get better.

Melissa: Thank you. Thank you so much. That means the world to me to hear. And it has been an honor and a privilege to get to watch your journey this year and get to work with you. Because I mean, you've been really engaged. And the more engaged members are, the more interaction I have with them. And so, I've really gotten to interact with you a lot this year.

And so, thank you, thank you for showing up the way you do. Because I feel like we have a good group. A lot of people do show up really well in our group. But it's been an honor. So, thank you, too.

Well, all right, everybody, hopefully, this is inspiring. Soulmaz’s story is so inspiring to me, and I know it will be inspiring to so many of you listening. If you want to join our group  this is the kind of stuff that that happens. And this is the result of the work that people do. And there isn't a blueprint. We have some frameworks we follow, but there's no blueprint.

I can't tell Soulmaz what she needs to do specifically inside of her business to make her business better. She knows, and when you kind of guide and facilitate, she came up with all her Rocks. I mean, I'm glad that you value the group. But don't lose sight of the fact that it is because you showed up and did the work. And the hard work of thinking about what your business needed in a way that I would never be able to tell you. You did it.

And that's what comes out of being in this space, this container. So anyway, listeners, if this feels like a draw, come and hang with us.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/ Friday Wrap. If you go to velocitywork.com, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So that, week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to velocitywork.com to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to velocitywork.com, where you can plug into Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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