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Melissa Shanahan

#164: The Vision Deck: The Cheat Sheet for Your Quarter

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A new quarter is on the horizon, which signals a great time for making headway on the things you need to think through as you grow. Even if you regularly take a step back from your business to line yourself up with what success means to you and to execute the plans you’ve dictated, it’s so easy to stray off-course and forget why we even feel motivated to deliver on those goals.

The truth is you’re going to have difficult quarters, or hard moments in seemingly easy quarters. When things feel like a brick wall in front of you, or you feel fear and doubt creeping in, what you need is a clear reminder of what drives you. The Vision Deck is a one-sheeter cheat sheet we offer our clients that summarizes the key elements that they need to keep top of mind, and Melissa is sharing the nuts and bolts of it with you in this episode.

Join Melissa this week to discover how you can create your own customizable Vision Deck cheat sheet for your quarter. You’ll hear how having it in your toolkit can be an absolute life-saver for you and your business, and how it’ll help you stay above the fray, even when things get crazy as you try to execute your plans.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with me. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. The enrollment window for Mastery Group is open right now, so click here to join us!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• Why it’s so easy to get distracted from the things we’ve set out to do.

• How having a one-sheeter that summarizes your key plans and why they’re your priority is so valuable.

• The nuts and bolts of The Vision Deck we give our clients to help them stay on track with their plans.

• How to create your own customized one-sheeter Vision Deck.

• Why The Vision Deck anticipates fear, doubt, and frustration, even in an easy quarter of your business.

• The strategies Melissa implements in her own life to remind herself of the bigger picture goals she’s shooting for.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode 164.

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 like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week's episode. Happy August. If you are listening in real time, it is August. Here we are. Over here, I am jumping back in, diving back in, with my clients this month. July was away from clients mostly, I had a couple calls I needed to take, a couple of things I needed to do.

But generally speaking, I was not client facing in the month of July, which gave me some great space to really think about bigger picture things. And, make some headway, from a brain perspective, on things we need to think through as we grow.

I highly recommend this to all of my members and clients, and all of you as listeners; taking space, giving your brain space to think forward for the business, and making sure that it's all lining up with what you really want, and with what you had envisioned. That's important.

Otherwise, we can get easily swept up into things. Before we know it, a bunch of time has passed, we created a bunch of results that didn't really get us closer to our definition of success. It's really good to stay in tune with that as you grow.

Now typically, the only time that this is really going to happen is if you've planned ahead of time for it. You have something on the schedule on your calendar that says, hey, you're going to take some space, over the next three to four days, or whatever it might be for you. Maybe it's just one day, which is enough. Oftentimes, it's enough.

Just giving yourself some space to evaluate how things are going: What you're really pleased with. What you need to start doing. What you need to stop doing. Looking for things that you can tweak, so that it is really in alignment with what you want to build and what you want to create, and the culture and the vibe, all of that. But you have to carve out the space for it.

I think, as owners, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of things, and in the growth, and in, at times, what can feel like a grind. And, keep thinking; yeah, yeah, we're gonna do that. We need to do that. We need to do that, and not really ever giving yourself the space to do it.

I hope that, if nothing else, this episode can be a reminder that that's very important. You've got to carve out the space for it. Our members and our clients, they get that space because it's carved out for them. They show up to what we host and we facilitate, so that they make sure they're staying in alignment with where they really want to go.

If you join us, then that will be a part of what you do, too. If you're on your own and you prefer to be on your own with this, then just make sure to calendar time so that you do give yourself the space. You can reflect, and evaluate, and make some plans moving forward that get you closer and closer to the direct route, as direct as possible, to what you define as success.

Now, today's podcast is about a topic that can be really useful to help you stay on the route that you dictated, when you were making your plans. You know, when you take a step back, and you evaluate, and you find ways to line yourself up even more so with what success means for you, that's all great and good, and it's important. But then we get into the real world.

Even if we calendar like a pro, and we honor our calendar, sometimes it feels easy to get off course, the ship gets off course by one degree, because we forget why we're supposed to be doing what we're doing, the meaning behind all of it. We forget exactly what we're shooting for. We forget that the things that we said were key priorities, or for instance, Rocks every quarter, we forget what those were.

They aren't in front of our face all of the time. We are busy, we're working on things, we're making headway. So, it's not that things aren't going well, but it is easy to forget, even over the course of just 90 days, what it is that you said was the most important stuff to shoot for and to remember over the course of the quarter.

What we do for clients and members is we give them a one-sheeter that they fill out. It summarizes all of the really key elements, the important information that they need to keep top-of-mind as they move in the direction of their path over the quarter. But it's very easy to forget. I don't expect any of my clients to remember the handful of things that they said was so important. They need reminders.

It's almost like we expect our brains to do too much. We expect so much of our brains to just always keep front-of-mind, why we're doing what we're doing, and what exactly we're shooting for, and how we need to operate in terms of getting there. Having a one-sheeter that gives you the ability... It just keeps it in front of your face.

I have clients hang it at their desk or post it somewhere they're always going to see it. I keep mine, I'll talk to you about what I do with mine, but I do keep one at my desk. Then, I have something additional that I do that I can share more about.

A one-sheeter summarizing what your plans are and why those are your plans, is extremely valuable on your path over the next 90 days. I'm going to tell you about the one-sheeter that we give to members and clients, and you come up with your own. Hopefully this inspires something, a great starting place for you.

If you do join Mastery Group, you will absolutely have this at your fingertips. We're actually making improvements to it right now, so it's even more useful, which is great. But don't not have something. Quarter over quarter… Even if you're new or your firm is newer, and a quarter is a little long to plan...  if you're not even doing 100k yet, in your firm, you probably need to plan more like month-to-month, or break your quarters in half. Something that's a little more short-term because much can happen in a very short amount of time that really affects the business.

As you get more stable, quarter-by-quarter is a really fantastic way to plan. As you all know, that's what we do here; quarterly strategic planning, with accountability and coaching in between. Once you do any sort of planning, and you're going to set it on your journey, you're going to embark on the execution, the road of action, to make those plans become a reality in your world, having a one-sheeter in front of you can be really useful.

Ours, the one that we give out right now, at the top it gives room for you to put the name of the firm. Then there's a space for you to put what is your compelling reason. Why are you doing this? What would represent… There's just one line for this. Though I lead people through exercises to really get them clear on their own ‘why,’ what motivates them, there's a space for one line because I want them to be able to put something on that line that represents success for them.

We had a woman last year, a law firm owner in Mastery Group, and she got so clear on what would represent success for her, that she's in line with; with everything she's ever wanted, and why she's building what she's building. It was to take her entire extended family on an all-expenses paid cruise. She had the cruise in her mind; I mean, she knew all the details. In her line, up at the top, it was “Cruise with extended family, all expenses paid.”

That was representative of why she's doing what she's doing. It symbolized success for her. Other people have other things, right? But I have people, at the top, put why are they shooting for everything that they're shooting for? Why are they making these plans? Why are they going to work hard to get there? Why is all this action necessary? What are we doing here?

Getting clear on what drives you, what motivates you. Your compelling reason for showing up, and building and growing your firm. The ways that you want to build and grow it is important, because in the middle of the quarter, as you get to work, stuff gets hard. You're going to have hard quarters. You're going to have hard moments in easy quarters. It's a part of the deal.

When things get really hard, you can move through it in a much more streamlined way, if you can remember the big picture. Which is not a cakewalk to remember the big picture when you're really frustrated, when you have a bunch of fear and doubt, when you feel deflated. Those moments are going to happen.

When something happens in the business that you did not plan for, that sucks, by all accounts, okay. That stuff is going to happen. Why keep going? Why get back up again? Why make sure that you are delivering on these plans that you've made? You need to know your ‘why.’

I will have people put at the top what their ‘why’ is. Then, we get into the nuts and bolts. Underneath that small section at the top, I have a space for them to break down their numbers. Another way to say this is, their goals.

A goal has to be a number. If I ask you what your goal is, and you do not say something that is a number, then it's not a goal. It may be a wish. It may be an objective that you'd like to create. But you're going to need to hit certain milestones to get there; what are those numbers?

For instance, revenue. For sure, that's a goal, for most firms that are trying to grow. It's not the end-all-be-all, but it's a very important number. Sometimes profit margin is there. Sometimes number of cases open is there. Sometimes conversion rate is there, listed.

But I give space for people to have up to five number goals. Most don't have that many, and I actually really encourage people to stick with one; one is great. Even if the only goal is a revenue goal. If the only goal is a profit margin goal because they're not trying to grow their revenue, so there's no sense to have a goal there. But they are trying to increase their profit margin let's say, then have that as a goal.

The other goals that you do have, other than the one; there needs to be one mama goal. The other goals should feed into the mama goal. It's just sub-goals. It's indicative of hitting the mother goal, if you can hit these other sub-goals.

For instance, if people have a certain revenue goal, they can figure out, if they know their average revenue per matter, or per case, they can figure out how many cases they need through the door, in order to hit that revenue goal. Maybe they have a number of cases open.

Now, on top of that, maybe they have another sub-goal, where they do want that many cases open, but maybe they can turn more leads into cases open by improving their conversion rate. Maybe there is a conversion rate goal. If they improve the conversion rate, then their number of new cases goal can be hit more easily. And then, the revenue goal can be hit more easily. So, you can see how it's all tied to revenue. But there's some sub-goals.

I give space for people to list out, for the year, what number they're trying to hit for each of those goals. Then, once they have the 2022, or whatever year you're in, they have the yearly goal. For us, on our sheet, that's all the way over to the left part of the sheet.

Then, there's a section for ‘Okay, let's break that down: Quarter one, Quarter two, Quarter three, Quarter four.’ Next to each quarter, I have the month listed. So, it would be Quarter one goal, and then I'll have listed out January, February, March. Then, we go one block over to the right, there's Quarter two goal and there's April, May and June.

Then, one block over to the right Quarter three goal and there’s July, August, September. Then one block over to the right, the final block, this is bumping up against the edge of the paper, now. On the right side is the Quarter four goal, which is of course, October, November, December.

Let's say you're at the beginning of the year, then the only thing I have them put in is the quarterly goals, because you have your yearly goal. So, break that into quarters. Put the quarterly goal in each spot where you can put a quarterly goal. But the only place that you break down the goal by month, is the quarter in front of you. That's it.

So, you have your quarterly goals noted there, but then you have what your goals that you're shooting for just in the near quarter, month-over-month, you have a space to write those. Where you basically break down the Q1 goal into a monthly goal.

We give space for them to be able to map out in a broad view, one place; what it is they're shooting for, in terms of numbers, at the top of page. Why on earth they are really striving for this. Then, below the number section, we give them a space for other very important things to stay connected to, over the course of the quarter.

One of those things is Rocks, Quarterly Rocks. These are key priorities that you've identified. They are key projects, so to speak, initiatives, or efforts that you have said, “If these things don't happen, it will hold us back from hitting the goal.”

Another way to say this is, the things that will have the most impact on delivering us to those number goals, this is them. People pick anywhere from three to seven; seven is too high. I actually, very rarely, do I have someone have seven, and we don't talk about it and try to get it down to six. But it's okay, you don't have to have six to be considered good Rocks. It can be anywhere from three to six.

Every once in a while, when someone's new, maybe they get two. Or, if you're in a weird quarter where it just makes sense that you have… Less is more quarter. We have a client that's kind of in that right now, in Mastery Group. She's in a quarter where less is more. She's just trying to get her house in order, and so she has two, she's selected two. But they’re two very impactful things, in order to take her, to hit her quarterly goal. Which means she'll be on track for hitting her annual goal.

We give a space so you can list out each Rock of the things that you need to get done. The action, the effort that needs to be accomplished in the quarter in front of you. Then, we give a space for important reminders. What do you need to remember, in terms of maybe behavior modifications that you want to make?

Less is more here. If you want to go to bed by 10pm... We have members that are trying to get their sleep under control. So, maybe going to bed by 10pm is one of the things. There's a section that we give for behavior modifications, the ‘we’ things that you can shift that will have the biggest impact. It'll be a force multiplier, so to speak.

Maybe going to bed, maybe actually doing Monday Map/Friday Wrap every single week, which is a practice that we teach for calendaring and honoring your calendar. Whatever it is for them, right? We have people that drink eight glasses of water a day, or I don't know, people come up with some really cool things.

But having those reminders there, it's the thing that will support them. It's the thing that is sort of underlying, that will help them stay on track, that's easily forgotten, or brushed to the side, or doesn't feel important, doesn't make the cut. It's not something you would calendar, but it does need to be tended to. So, there's a box for those things to be noted.

Then, there's a box for strategies when fear, doubt, frustration hit, because it will. I think we don't anticipate barriers well enough, typically, as humans, but part of really good planning is anticipating what are the barriers that you anticipate hitting? How can you eliminate or lighten those?

One thing that you should anticipate, is moments that you didn't expect that throw you off internally. Even if you are cool as a cucumber, there's still going to be times where you're like, “Really? Really? I did not want to deal with this right now.” Or, it could be a client matter, it could be an internal team thing, it could be something in your personal life that's really thrown a curveball, and you still have a business to run, right?

Whatever it is, anticipate when frustration hits, when doubt hits, when fear hits, when you feel deflated. What can you write down, in this box that we give you, that will help you recalibrate much more quickly, than if you didn't have these reminders in front of you? We tend to come back down, we tend to recalibrate, but sometimes it takes a bit. And it's longer, we leave some damage in our wake just trying to find our way back to center.

If you have these reminders, that are in front of you, every day you see them where it's like, “When shit hits the fan, these are the things that I can do that can quickly get me back in.” Sometimes I'll put really high-quality questions here, that I can ask myself in situations. Sometimes I will put things that I know help me push the reset button, as a human. It's just kind of my thing.

One of the strategies there for me is stand up and get outside for a short walk, just go get air. Because I can much more quickly get perspective etc. So, that's one of the things that I always know I can do for myself. One of the things that I like to put there is have a cut the shit conversation with yourself.

I will go in the bathroom, I will look at myself in the mirror and say, “Listen. Listen,” and whatever needs to be said, I'll say it. Like, “There's a wiser part of you here.” Sometimes, for some reason, looking at myself in the mirror helps that part of me come out, where it's like, “This the bigger picture. This doesn't matter. It feels like it matters right now. It doesn't. Take a breath. This is all fine. Let's go for a short walk. Let's sit down and brainstorm some strategies that maybe will help this become a smoother thing.”

Whatever it is, I just give myself, it's not even a pep talk, it's more get through the drama that is happening in my brain. That's why I call it a cut the shit conversation, because it just cuts through it. “No, no, we don't do that. We don't spin and drama here when something when we have doubt or we have fear about something, or we're really frustrated with someone or something. No, that's not what we're doing here.”

I just have on my reminder to go do that, in times like that. Because I don't always remember. When you're caught up in something that doesn't feel good, and you're mentally caught up in it, you're kind of spinning on it, it isn't going to happen automatically. Where your brain is like, “Oop. Oop. We're not feeling so good right now. We should just take a breath, let's have a better perspective.” No, you're in it. You are in it.

So, having this list of things next to you, that can say; hey, when you're in it, here's some things you need to do to really shift your whole vibe, your whole approach, now. These are things you can do that work right now. Or, that will give you what you need, in order to do what you need to do next. That's another box on the vision deck; we call it a vision deck, by the way. This one-sheeter is called the vision deck.

Those are things that are on our one-sheeter for clients. I would highly recommend you make your own one-sheeter. Something that has a snapshot of all the things that you are focused on, and working on, and why you're doing it. And, when things don't go as planned, how do you want to deal with that?

Also, what are the little supportive things that you need to keep top of mind because it will make everything so much easier, so much better if you do get the sleep that you need; or you do drink enough water, or you get a certain number of steps in a day, or you do call your mom once a week. I don't know, what it is for you, but what are the things that help you stay connected to yourself and teed up? What are those important reminders?

They could be thoughts that you know you want to be thinking on autopilot, but you're not quite there on autopilot yet. Really, a more productive or positive way of thinking. It could be a thought that you have written down, it could be a quote, it could be an action, or behavior modification. It's up to you; but what matters? What do you need to remember, so that you stay as focused as possible?

Make all the plans that you want to follow through on for the quarter, set yourself up to win at that game, have a cheat sheet. I call this a one-sheeter, but it's really a cheat sheet for your quarter. Make one for yourself.

If you join Mastery Group, which enrollment does open towards the end of this month, towards the end of August, then this will be a part of what you get, what you get in the mail. There are also digital copies that you can use to your advantage, to really help yourself stay above the fray. Even when things get crazy as you're trying to execute on your plans for the quarter.

If you are interested in joining Mastery Group, which gives you access to resources I’m covering today, plus, plus, plus, plus, then come and join us. You can go to to get all the information about the next enrollment window, and get yourself on the First to Know list. By putting your name there, you'll be notified when enrollment is actually open.

The end of August, if you're listening to this in real time, is when we're opening. Again, August 19 to the 26th enrollment window is open for people to come. That gives us space to get everyone ready for the Strategic Planning Retreat that's happening in September for members. Yeah, we'd love to have you, and love to share our resources with you and our vibrant community.

Alright, everyone, have a wonderful week. See you here next Tuesday.

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 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 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 where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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