Most online entrepreneurs struggle to install the business systems needed in their companies. Allison Williams—attorney, business coach, and visionary leader—shares how systems helped turn her startup into a multi-million dollar business in 3.5 years. PLUS, she’s revealing how you can do this, too!
Today’s guest, Allison Williams is here to help you systemize your operations and grow your revenue, so you can have more time to focus on what you love and finally become the visionary leader in your business!
BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING, YOU’LL WALK AWAY WITH:
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Courtney Elmer 0:00
Welcome back to the System's Made Simple™ Podcast. This is episode 134. And you're gonna love this business systems packed conversation that I have with my special guest today, who's here to reveal the reason that most entrepreneurs struggle to install business systems within their business because it's a very real struggle. She's also going to show you what business systems you need to get in place ASAP, no matter what stage of business you're in, so that you can start firing yourself from those day to day tasks and leading your business as the visionary leader.
Courtney Elmer 2:52
Today, I am joined by Allison Williams, who is an attorney and a business systems coach who took her practice from startup to multimillion dollar business in three and a half years. And now she teaches other lawyers how to do the same thing by, you guessed it systematizing their operations and growing their revenue so that they can have more free time to focus on the things they love the most. So you can already see that Alison and I we are in sync we see eye to eye on so many things. And this is why I asked her on the show because I wanted her to share with you the exact steps she took to scale her business.
Because while you and I both know that there's no such thing as an overnight success, it is possible to grow quickly when you have the right business systems and the right structure and the right support in place in your business. Allison, welcome! I'm so excited you are here today to talk business systems.
Allison Williams 5:18
I am so excited to be here to Courtney Elmer, I know we're gonna have a great conversation because business systems is one of my favorite topics.
Courtney Elmer 5:23
Oh, yes. And I am excited to dig in with you. Because I, first of all, for our listeners who are listening who might not know you, maybe they haven't heard of you before. I want them to get a sense of who they are listening to hear because you have some incredible accomplishments under your belt. And first of all, you started a business that you took to a multimillion dollar practice in what was it three and a half years? Yeah, it's amazing. And from that growth started a second business where you now teach other lawyers how to do the same with their businesses.
And that led you to being named one of the top 25 leading women entrepreneurs, and also ranked number 14 In fastest growing law firms in the US. I was reading your bio and getting to know you, and it's amazing to me, first of all, to see women doing this kind of incredible stuff in business, because I feel like, gosh, it's our time. I'm excited to tap into your wisdom today and for our listeners to hear from you. And so that's where I'd love to start like, how did you do it? What was your secret?
Allison Williams 6:41
Well Courtney Elmer, business systems really were my claim to fame, I started my law firm, and it very quickly grew. I was already at the stage of growing my my individual practice within someone else's business when I decided to start my own, and very quickly realized that there's a lot more to running a business than being good at the thing that you're selling, right. So if you're a service provider, being good at your service has very little to do with being good in business.
And that was a hard concept for me to get. Once I understood it, I said, Well, I don't really know then how I can handle all of this other stuff. I intellectually understand, that I need to, I need to hire people, I need to make payroll, I need to organize my finances, I need to make sure that I'm marketing us effectively. But I don't know how to do all of that. So the first step was really knowing what you don't know and seeking help. And started working with business coaches very quickly learned what I didn't know.
But the one thing that I found was missing from every coach that I worked with, Courtney Elmer. I had a I had an exceptional experience through coaching, it really helped to evolve me as a person and as a business leader. It's the way that I think and approach everything, the way that I think and approach things as a lawyer is the same way that I think and approach things in life, which is you have to have a system for everything. So that you can get your mind on autopilot for the stuff that helps you to do the thing that is your your zone of genius.
So if you're a coach or a consultant, or a professional, whatever you're selling, you're already good at that thing, right Courtney Elmer? So you need to create structure and organization around that. And around the things that will support that being the center of your business systems, so that you're not pushed and pulled between all of the different pieces of marketing and selling and hiring and terminating. I essentially created business systems around everything, everything that I learned how to do, I learned how to market I created a marketing business system, Courtney Elmer.
I learned how to sell I created selling business systems, I learned how to hire I created hiring business systems, and then very quickly created a culture around business systems in my business so that other people were not doing the work of their jobs. But they were also doing the work of systematizing their jobs and systematizing everything that they did. So nothing in my business runs by instinct, by happenstance, by by cultural idioms, or by years of passing down knowledge, Courtney Elmer. Any human being that walks in here walks in here with a manual and a structure for how to do what they're doing. And if anyone wants to change something, Courtney Elmer, I love it. But you got to come to me with a proposed change of business system. And then we have a whole process for how we onboard new business systems so that we're all doing the same things in the same way.
Courtney Elmer 9:26
First of all, I feel like we see eye to eye on so many things, especially when it comes to business systems. What you made such an important distinction there about business owners who are excellent at their craft, but not so excellent at the business systems of running a business. And, I talk to business owners all the time who struggle with this and almost feel ashamed in some ways because they're like you got into business to do the thing that I love. And here I am behind the scenes, wearing all the hats doing all the things and very little of my time is spent doing When I got into business for in the first place, and so they're hard on themselves because most of us in business are those type A overachievers, we tend to be hard on ourselves in general.
But knowing how to put that in place can really be a hang up for most, most people, at least in my experience, and maybe in your experience as well. So I'm really curious to hear Allison, in your experience, what do you think is the reason for that? Why do entrepreneurs generally struggle with systematization and business systems?
Allison Williams 10:53
Well, I think there are lots of reasons for it. So like you said, Courtney Elmer, we tend to be typing, we tend to be people that are dedicated to getting the work done, there are very few lazy people that are indifferent to their craft that go into business. So you already have a certain mindset, that mindset usually includes the idea that you have to do it yourself. There was probably a great deal of reward that came along for you as a as a as a child first in your in your home and your primary development, then as a young professional in whatever area you went into, that every time you did something, you got the A for effort.
So a lot of us we seek the A for effort, Courtney Elmer. We were always seeking to get the attaboy kind of intuitively from achieving something. And it's very challenging to separate your ego from your personhood. So I know I'm I'm exceptional at certain things in the law. But I also know there are things in the law that I'm not exceptional at. If somebody says, my background is that I'm a family law attorney. So I help people in various aspects of divorce, custody, domestic violence, child abuse. And if I'm fighting the state of New Jersey, for your child, I don't want to negotiate. I don't want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, I don't want to like strike deals, I don't want to spend hours in the cafeteria, writing up the different terms that we might agree to all to have it fall apart, that really is frustrating for me Courtney Elmer.
I'm the person who people hire when it's time to go fight in a courtroom. And I had brilliant people that I've always worked alongside me who hate going into a courtroom, who think that the fundamentally best way of doing this is sitting down and hammering it out and dealing with a negotiation. And there's a place for both of those. But I had to realize that Courtney Elmer in order to be great at my craft, in order to sharpen the iron at what I do, it's the same thing in a business. The fact that you can answer your own phones does not mean that you should, the fact that you can order your own supplies does not mean that you should.
If you adopt a mindset that says everything that is done in the business needs to be done by the most qualified and least expensive person in the business, then you start to fire yourself from a lot of the things that you have been doing that you've learned how to do very fast and quick, Courtney Elmer. But that are not your zone of genius, and that ultimately are costing you money. So the very first thing I always tell any coaching client of law firm mentor, is listen, you got to separate out what is making you money, figure that out. And then you need to figure out the way to make the most of that, and do the least of the things that are not making you money. And almost invariably, as soon as you give them that framework Courtney Elmer, they can say, oh, yeah, so I probably shouldn't be on the weekend stuffing envelopes, I probably shouldn't be having a sales conversation. If I'm not great at selling. I probably shouldn't be the person who is writing my email, copy and revising content on my website.
Courtney Elmer 14:30
And you did such a great job to fill of those categorizing, where people tend to fall. It's not going to get done if it's not getting done by me, and that kind of mentality which keeps us working and hustling on the weekends and that's why I left corporate job. I'm curious than with your own business, when you were starting to realize that you needed business systems? What were some of the first business systems that you put into place? In fact, what was the first business systems area that you focused on?
Allison Williams 16:18
So Courtney Elmer, when I first started my law firm, I knew instinct intuitively that there were things of course, in the practice of law that you have to have a business system for really to reduce risk, right, every business should have a risk mitigation process. But for lawyers in particular, you want to avoid having a grievance filed by a client and you want to be you want to avoid being sued for malpractice Courtney Elmer. So I really focus the first place that most professionals will focus which is on the delivery of the service in a way that will keep my license secure.
But soon after that, Courtney Elmer, when we started talking about money, the very first thing I did was I was terrified of all the money that I had access to. Because even though I was a high earner, when I was employed by someone, I was a high generator of revenue, I finally found out the way to market myself to get a lot of clients and get referred a lot of business. And so I knew all that money was going to come to me, but I had never had to write a check for taxes before. I mean, other than, , as I got a little bit higher in the in the earning strategy, every once in awhile, I'd have a tax bill due at the end of the year.
But, Courtney Elmer, I had saved enough that I could write the check and be done right, this was very different having to pay quarterly taxes. And so I talked to an accountant who set up my QuickBooks, that was the very first thing I did. So I can't go into business and have to, like figure out all these numbers. So the very first thing we did was set up a pop up business systems. Now I did have help with a with this from my accountant. And I highly recommend everyone Courtney Elmer, as soon as you start making any any sort of money beyond what you're customarily used to getting a paycheck, you have to have a bookkeeper. And you have to have business systems around that.
But my accountant set me up and said, okay, don't pay a bill when it comes in. Don't get excited that you have money coming in, and then, immediately throw it out again. You need to be thinking about when is it going to come in, and then what's going to ultimately come out. So let's put you on a schedule. So I started every Friday. I went to court in the morning, and the only thing that I would do in the afternoon was was deal with the business systems. And that was really dealing with the finances, Courtney Elmer , the structure of looking at all the bills, adding up what was coming in. So I could see the total amount that would be going out, look at my bank account, and start the process of figuring out am I paying everything now?
Am I paying this on a schedule? Do I need to have a diary date when I'm going to pay certain bills, and then I got into a habit of what get paid what what gets paid when. And that started to alleviate a lot of that. It doesn't matter that I sold someone a $15,000 service. And the bill that came in was $200. Courtney Elmer, I'd be like, Oh my god, the money's going out there would be like a feeling like water was seeping out of my boat, And I'm, I'm drowning.
And it really was, Courtney Elemr, that lack mindset, that fear of not having enough not making enough not knowing where the next dollar was coming from. And when I started creating business systems around the marketing, and really looking at on average, how many clients are coming in each month? On average, what am I charging those clients? Then I started saying, Okay, this is how much money I'm making every month. And I would say okay, we can't spend more than a certain percentage of that. What are the bills? And are the bills within that same percentage? And if not, what do I need to cut? Or how much more do I need to make? And over the course of time, I evolved that into great, I want to spend some money, I need to go make some more money instead of trying to ex post facto reduce my way into saving more I really grew into the idea of making more through selling more. And that then became the mantra and how we grew so quickly Courtney Elmer.
Courtney Elmer 19:54
What I find fascinating about what you described is the order in which you approached it. And most people when they get into business, and they recognize that they need some business systems still have a tendency to focus on marketing, and sales. And those are really the front end business systems. And while they are necessary for business, you the analogy you use about the water seeping out of the boat is so accurate, because if you don't have the back end business systems in place, it doesn't matter how good you are at marketing, it doesn't matter how much money you're bringing in, if it's leaking out on the back end. And so you will always kind of stay within that mindset of oh my goodness, , I can never get ahead, because we were marketing more, we're selling more. But we still don't have any money at the end of the month.And so your approach, reverse engineering, that business systems process is an excellent way to look at it.
You've got a goldmine if you learn how to deliver it well. And then the operations piece, and this is something that I know many people struggle with is the financial side of business systems. Because again, most of us got into business to do the thing we love doing, and it usually isn't financial, and all other things. But having that in place gives you almost this peace of mind, I would imagine, , and especially you can maybe speak to this a bit, but knowing that stuff's not seeping out the waters not seeping out of the boat, , , things are okay. And then that confidence and that peace of mind allows you then to go out and market well, and sell well, because you're not worried about losing it.
Allison Williams 22:30
Yeah Courtney Elmer, stress management is really one of those things that comes from having a certain level of knowledge of your business and business systems. Almost invariably, Courtney Elmer, when I talk to business owners that haven't really started the process of thinking of their business systems as a business, they think of it as kind of like, here's the thing that I love, and there's money associated with it that I use to feed myself, right. There's not the idea that you have an ecosystem that's separate from yourself. And when people look at it, and they see themselves in the center of that ecosystem, it becomes very overwhelming. So I always try to look at what is causing the most distress for the person.
That's almost invariably where we start attacking business systems first, because some people are good with money, but they are horrible with putting themselves out there in front of people. So they would start with the visibility piece, They know that there's enough coming in, a lot of people they don't know that enough is coming in. So they don't spend what they have, and they hoard money. And that's also one of the worst things that can happen Courtney Elemr, because that tends to retract things such as investment for growth, that's the usual place where we have to tell people, listen, I understand that you say I only have x dollars, but you're always going to have X dollars or if that now is your financial setpoint.
And when I say always, Courtney Elmer, we know that the economy goes up and down. And we know that sales can change. But for the most part, if you've acclimated to earning $50,000 A year $50,000 A year is your floor, you're not going to get $100,000 a year because you cut out those lattes, Courtney Elmer, you're not going to save your way into suddenly having $200,000 a year, you have to grow. And you're not going to grow by simply putting out a message and hoping that somebody sees it somewhere. And hoping that eventually someone is moved by that message calls your office, they happen to have exactly the price that you want to charge, and they're thrilled. And then poof, they work with you. That doesn't happen over and over again, that happens through very specific things that you do through your marketing channels. And it happens through a very specific sales conversation. And so what I tell clients is you have to understand all of those moving pieces and know that one ripple effect over here is going to affect something over here. And you have to be prepared for that.
Courtney Elmer 24:58
For someone listening today who's like, oh my gosh, like you are speaking right to me right now, ,I am struggling with this and my business systems aren't my thing. I know I need them. Where do you recommend that they start?
Allison Williams 25:26
Yeah Courtney Elmer, so it's gonna vary depending on where a person is financially. The first thing we always have to do is make sure we can meet our own minimum basic needs, I think of it like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you don't have that lowest level, the basic physiological needs met, you're not going to get to self actualization at the top. So we have to know that you're taking care of financially, and that almost invariably means we're going to start with something that makes you money. Now, for a lot of people, it's very easy to immediately make more money, it's changing your pricing structure, it's changing the way that you deliver your service, it's changing the amount that you're charging for services.
And if you don't have enough, most people think, oh, I need to go out and buy more leads do I need to go out and start marketing? Yes, you need to market but marketing to the people who are already bought in on you, is the fastest, easiest way of making another sale. Courtney Elmer, I try to get our clients to go back to the well of their existing clients. Oftentimes, depending on what type of area they work in, they are under charging for their services, that also deals with self worth. So we start working on that as well.
So it really depends on where a person is, Courtney Elmer , I can't tell you there's a universal first place to start. But almost invariably, it's taking a look at where you have the greatest opportunity to make the most of the fastest financially, and then investing that in the place that's going to get you the most traction. So you can start actually having time to step away from doing the work and start installing people to do the work that is not your zone of genius.
Courtney Elmer 28:14
For you listening if you've been paying attention, part of being able to go back to your existing pool of clients, even if it's a small pool means providing a great service. So click confidence in that be excited about that the thing that you got into business for in the first place to do that you are good at own that learn to do it better deliver it well. And you will never run out of money because you will never run out of clients who have gotten a transformation from working through you gotten some kind of benefit have been helped.
And that has served us time and time again to even even in our business systems where we're looking to get to the next level of growth much like you described now now Allison and also in those slow seasons to where you're kind of getting a little antsy because you're like, okay, the phone's not ringing as much as it normally does. But for whatever reason right now, what's going on in the world that's causing that I have no idea, but that you always have that pool of existing business to go back to. Alison, where can people find you online and connect with you and learn from you?
Allison Williams 29:27
Well, Courtney Elmer, we are at lawfirmmentor.net. That's our website and law firm mentor is our handle on all of the major platforms. We're lots of different places where you can consume content and my personal favorite place is our podcasts. We're on all the major platforms there as well.
Courtney Elmer 29:48
Allison, thank you for being here today to talk about business systems. This was an awesome conversation and know for someone listening who's struggling their own business systems , the business systems insights that you shared here in these 25 minutes have been so valuable. So thank you!
Allison Williams 30:07
Well, thank you so much for having me, Courtney Elmer, it was a great business systems conversation.
Courtney Elmer 30:12
So if you learn something new about business systems from today's episode, I know that Allison would love to hear from you. You can find her on social media. If you hang out on Instagram, you can find her at law_firm_mentor. Now coming up next week on this show, we're talking about the rapid audience building formula that you can apply immediately to start generating a steady influx of qualified organic leads to your business. I'll see you back here next week. And until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.