For court reporting & other legal support firm owners
Yong Lee’s top tips for business success this year:
I wanted to give you my top three tips for ensuring your business will survive and thrive in 2010.
Last year was a tough one for many court reporting firms. It was the worst I’ve seen my clients experience in my 25 years of developing software and services for managing and marketing legal support businesses.
While the overall economy is slowly improving, I foresee continued tough times for your industry. The legal industry is experiencing stagnant business growth so cost containment is one area they are focusing on, leading many firms to drop longtime vendors in the hopes of lowering their outside costs.
At the same time, they are also more open than ever to new ways of doing business and using technology to save money and improve their own services. So in spite of the disturbing trend of disappearing loyalty, there is still business for you out there, but only if you do everything you can to cut costs, maximize efficiency, provide relevant services and communicate effectively.
I believe you can be successful in 2010, and to help you hold onto your clients, win new clients and improve your business, I offer you my top tips for 2010 and best wishes for a prosperous year.
Yong Lee, President & CEO
OMTI, developers of ReporterBase
#1. Is your office getting in the way of your business? Get rid of it.
You could save thousands a year in overhead by eliminating costly office space. Before you dismiss this as too radical, remember: Extreme business conditions require you to re-think everything.
Question the amount and kind of space you need:
- Can you and your staff work from home? You don’t need expensive commercial space if you can all work remotely.
- If your reporters turn in their work online, and you offer direct deposit pay as well as online pay statements, they don’t need to come to the office anymore.
- Eliminate the need for file cabinets by scanning everything into a central system that also automatically maintains electronic copies of all work products, job/client/resource/location info, invoices and statements, etc. Then give clients and reporters online and wireless access to their information in your system automatically.
- Save even more space — and the need for tech services — by using data farms for your electronic storage infrastructure instead of maintaining your own servers.
With a ReporterBase (RB) system, you can do all of the above. Plus you can automatically access job, client and reporter info on the road via your BlackBerry so you can maximize your own effectiveness. No telephone tag, no unnecessary trips back to the office — it even has Google Maps so you won’t get lost driving to a new client’s location.
#2. Who’s afraid of lawyers? Become their partner in cost containment & technology solutions.
Before you get that dreaded “We’re switching to someone cheaper” call, make your firm the most cost-effective, attractive solution to your clients’ problems — and tell them about it.
You can compete on price, as long as you educate your clients on what that means:
- Tell them you don’t charge for word indexes, cover pages and other filler. Other firms attract your clients with lower per-page costs, then pad their invoices with extra pages. While their per-page cost looks better, help your clients compare total costs for services to see that you are the best value.
- Offer online repositories for their pre-trial discovery period, during the trial and beyond at a low monthly cost. Add no-cost-to-them benefits like online and wireless access to their depo calendars and invoices, plus e-commerce for instantly downloadable transcripts, and you are lowering their costs even further by saving them time and not adding to their overhead.
- Provide nationwide services by being a member of a court reporting network so they don’t have to narrow their choices to only the big national firms for large cases. Negotiate competitive rates within your network so your clients see they’ll save money by relying on you for all their depos and other legal service needs.
- Establish your reporters’ superior credentials. Agencies that are undercutting other firms’ prices are not paying top dollar for reporters. It stands to reason that their reporters are less qualified. Your experienced reporters produce top quality transcripts meaning your clients don’t waste time deciphering shoddy work.
You can do all of this with an RB system — even providing the best reporters. Not only does it allow you to easily keep track of your reporters’ credentials, but it also helps you attract and retain the best reporters with valuable perks like:
- Direct deposit pay — eliminating trips to the bank.
- Online pay reports — so they always know their future and past pay amounts with details.
- Online turn-in — saving them a trip to the office.
- Job notification via automatic text messaging — so they instantly know when they have an upcoming job without the interruption of a phone call. Plus they can instantly text you their acknowledgement.
- Online access to job files (like shared dictionaries), their schedule and more — giving quick, convenient answers to their questions 24/7.
Un-level the playing field in your favor without resorting to unethical behavior or getting into a pricing war by using all the tools in the RB arsenal to manage expenses and clients.
#3. It’s never too late to get a jump on the competition.
Since everything I’ve described is in RB already, you don’t have to start from scratch finding and adding the latest technology and offering the best services. So even if you feel like you’ve lost ground in the marketplace, you can come out ahead by incorporating RB into your business now.
And if you are hesitating to make such an investment in a down economy, think again:
- We’ve been developing this system for 25 years, so you’ll have better tools than the big national firms’ proprietary systems.
- You can rent the system instead of buying it, so you can get $10M software for as little as $125/mo.
- If you don’t like it, you can cancel it at any time — you’re not stuck if it doesn’t work for you.
- You can add all the web and mobile features with RB Web for a flat $199/mo. for all of your clients. And if you have only one client who needs an online repository for one case, you can add RB Web to meet their needs. Then when they don’t need it anymore, you can cancel the online services.
Keep your clients and win new clients by offering cutting-edge online services and competitive prices for all of your services with the help of powerful RB tools.
Move your business forward in 2010
While you might have spent 2009 in business survival mode, 2010 should be different.
Be pro-active and talk to your clients now about what you can do to help them control costs and take advantage of the benefits of new technology. Don’t let your clients forget you or wait until they drop you before you contact them about how you can work together to succeed in a difficult business environment.
And as we have for the past 25 years, OMTI is here to help you control your own costs and provide valuable services that lawyers want. We understand your industry and new technology, and actively work with our clients to continue to develop RB to meet the ever-changing needs of court reporting and other legal support firms.
[Excerpted from OMTI’s brochure for the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, February 3-5, 2010, Orlando, Florida.]