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Episode 146: Stop Making These 10 Common Business Growth Mistakes

by Heather Moulder | Life & Law Podcast

​Does growing your business feel hard? Does it sometimes feel like you’re never going to be able to grow your business the way you want? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re likely making some common business growth mistakes.

Which is why today we’re covering the 10 most common business growth mistakes most lawyers make when trying to grow their business and how to effectively address each one. Many of these mistakes will surprise you (even go against conventional wisdom).

Here’s what we get into today:

  • The 3 most common mindset traps.
  • Common beliefs that lead to business growth mistakes.
  • How to best support yourself and your business as you grow.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:48] Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Life & Law podcast. This is your host, Heather Moulder, and today we are going to be talking about ten common business growth mistakes that I want you to stop making. We’re going to talk about what these are and why they are mistakes – because some of these might actually surprise you. In fact, I’m pretty sure a couple of them will surprise you. And then what to do instead.

So let’s just get right into it…

Business Growth Mistake #1: always going after what’s called the low hanging fruit.

Now, this is going to sound surprising to you, right? We often talk about the easiest place to get started is with what we call the low hanging fruit. When we are trying to grow our business, we want to go after the clients we already have. And sometimes that absolutely is a really great strategy, but not always. It’s not always the best place to start. So here’s something to think about.

If it doesn’t go well, it’s really hard mentally.

[00:01:48] Really hard mentally.

[00:01:50] And so it’s going to somewhat depend on:

  • what your so called low hanging fruit is,
  • what you think about that client to begin with,
  • the kind of work that you already do for them,
  • the kind of work that you think you could grow into, and
  • being realistic about where you are with them and what you think is truly attainable with them.

Because sometimes we just go all in on “Well, this is already a client, therefore it should be easy to grow.” That’s not always the case. Okay, sometimes it definitely is the case. But there’s a little bit more thought and analysis that needs to go behind that before even considering them “Low hanging fruit”. And here’s what happens mentally. And I said this before, but I want to make this really clear.

[00:02:31] If it goes south, if it doesn’t work out as you expected, it’s hard to deal with mentally. And it’s really easy to get down on yourself and think nothing’s going to work and then to just give up completely. And that’s where you go wrong.

[00:02:47] Sometimes doing what feels harder, going after new clients, trying to draw in some new people, can actually be really successful because you have lower expectations.

[00:03:02] So, you’re going after somebody that feels harder and there is a little more “hard work” involved because they’re new.

[00:03:10] But when you bring that in, it can really build your confidence more quickly and make you better at it moving forward. So it’s just something to think about. Don’t assume the “low hanging fruit” is necessarily the best place to start or the only way to start. That’s where I think a lot of people mess up the most. That’s kind of their main strategy initially, maybe it needs to be twofold.

And also really question, is this truly low hanging fruit?

That’s another mistake I see within this kind of top level mistake. Okay, so there’s two analysis that you need to go through.

[00:03:49] So that’s number one.

Mistake #2: I have to follow this set strategy.

[00:03:59] Now, this comes up in two ways.

It’s worked for others in your industry and therefore you feel like you need to be the one doing it (yet it’s not a strategy you’re fully comfortable with).

It doesn’t really utilize your strengths and your skills in the best way possible. It doesn’t really fit your personality. Don’t do it if it doesn’t do those things. You want to utilize strategies that fit your personality, that feel good to you, that make you feel confident. You’re going to show up much, much better that way.

You also want to utilize your own strengths. So if you’re not a strong writer, maybe you don’t write. There’s a lot of ways to market, network, a lot of places to network, many ways to do it. I guarantee you can do it in a way that feels good to you and leverages your own strengths where you’re going to be much more successful at it. That’s what you want to go with.

Don’t follow a set strategy just because it’s what others do.

The other way that this comes up is you have a set strategy and you feel like you have to stick with it forever.

What works now may not be what will work best for you in the future. That can change based on circumstances, based on how your practice changes, based on how you grow and what you feel comfortable with.

[00:05:09] So don’t assume that because you started with something two years ago, that’s what you have to continue doing, especially if you’re feeling a little bit of resistance towards it now, okay? You change, you grow, and I guarantee you have more than one strength. So you may have gone with what made most sense two years ago, but utilize your strengths in a different way.

Maybe you want to bring in a different one, or you want to utilize it in a different way. Okay? So you do not have to follow a set strategy. There is no one size fits all, and there is no one size fits forever. Okay?


Business Growth Mistake #3: It’s A Mindset Trap.

And that trap is this… Well, hard work will lead to success. As though it is inevitable.

I’m really sorry to break this news to you, but that’s not necessarily true.

[00:05:56] We have this viewpoint, us high achievers especially, we like to work really hard. We like to see the fruits of our labor. And yes, working hard can often bring success. But working the hardest does not always mean you are the winner.

[00:06:13] Let me say that again. Working the hardest does not mean you will be the winner.

[00:06:18] There’s a lot of other things that go into it. Number one, maybe others just get lucky. Maybe others have different relationships.

Maybe you’re doing the wrong hard work.

This could go back to the strategies. Are you really utilizing the best strategies for you? Still hard work. Still working hard. Still doing your best in it. But maybe you’re not showing up in the right way. So just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean it’s the right hard work. What hard are you doing? Is it the right kind of work?


Are you giving yourself breaks so that you can think creatively, problem solve better?

[00:06:56] You don’t want to go, go, go all the time either. There is this point where we work hard, we work hard, we see results, but we reach a point where we have diminishing returns. And then after that, you reach another point where you fall off a cliff and go into burnout mode. And not only do you not get, you’re not even getting diminishing returns, you’re getting no returns, you’re getting negatives, right?

[00:07:20] So you’ve got to keep that in mind, because we lawyers, we tend to have this push harder, work harder, try harder. That’s not always what’s called for. Even in our business development efforts, hard work does not always inevitably lead to success. And you’ve got to remember that. You want to check in, you want to measure. This is why with my clients, we don’t just set goals. We don’t just stay accountable and take action. Yeah, we do those things, but we have metrics we’re measuring, and we check in every so often so that we can look back and go, okay, what is the Roi? Could it be better?

[00:08:00] Is there not enough? Does this make sense for us? You want to be doing that. You want to measure it, you want to look back, and you want to be honest with yourself, and then you want to tweak and course correct as necessary, because pushing harder in the wrong direction, not always the best thing. Right?

[00:08:20] All right…

Business Growth Mistake #4: Another Mindset Trap.

[00:08:25] The belief that you’ve got to be trained, educated first. And this typically shows up when it comes to finance/accounting – for those of us who own our own firms or trying to grow our own firms. Marketing, and then sometimes sales as well.

No, you do not have to be trained and educated in those things to be good at it.

[00:08:50] And what I mean, trained and educated, yes, you need to learn them. Yes, you need to get knowledge. But it doesn’t mean you have to have an accounting or a finance degree. It doesn’t mean you have to go to some fancy marketing school. You can learn these things, and you can put people around you to help you learn and also to do for you. People that you trust, people that can do a lot of this stuff.

[00:09:15] Thinking in this way is merely a procrastination tactic that your brain loves to use. Because, number one, it’s hard. It feels difficult, it feels vulnerable because you’re going in an area you don’t know as well, and we don’t like that.

And because also, there’s no guarantee. You know there’s no guarantee rationally, right? You may work really hard to build this big book of business, and you not get there in the time period that you’ve set for yourself. That doesn’t feel good. So our brain takes over and says, well, I don’t know enough about selling. I don’t know about marketing in this area. Oh, I’m not good in the finance piece, in the business of law, and you don’t do it enough as a result. That’s what’s actually getting in your way, not the lack of knowledge because you can learn that. You’re smart.

Just think about the number of people who start businesses in this country and who are super successful at it, who haven’t even been to college. You can learn it. You can do it, too. I promise.

[00:10:14] Support yourself with the right people.

[00:10:18] Support yourself by seeking out that knowledge. Get a coach like me. I’m not the only one. If you don’t want to work with me, go work with somebody. There’s a lot of people. Get a fractional CFO to help you with your business. I know a great one I can recommend if you need that.

[00:10:33] All right.

Business Growth Mistake #5: the belief that achieving your goals means you’re going to end up having fewer problems.

We often have this false sense that, well, I have more money issues now.

[00:10:52] I’m not making enough yet. But when I grow my business and it gets there, it was the same thing about income. Right? We think money was going to solve everything. Well, we think also goal achievement is going to make us happier. We think hitting our metrics means everything’s going to get easier. We’ll be so much happier. It can make things easier, it can make you happier, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. You’ve got to actually work on that. Right.

[00:11:20] And yes, maybe more money makes certain problems go away, but others tend to come anew because growth often means hiring, which means management and leadership, which brings on harder work and sometimes more problems. Right.

[00:11:38] Here’s what I want you to do when it comes to this mindset, because I don’t want this to scare you away.

Embrace a growth mindset.

Embrace, there’s a bit of chaos in change, but it means you’re learning.

[00:11:52] It makes life interesting. It allows you to be more curious.

[00:11:57] Embrace that, and I promise you won’t see these problems as problems per se. They still will be issues you have to deal with. They still will be things you have to navigate, but they will be seen more as challenges that you want to get through.

[00:12:17] You want a challenge. It’s interesting.

[00:12:19] You’re learning something from it. It’s making you grow, okay? It’s building certain skills. That’s the mindset to take instead of, oh, I’m just going to have fewer problems and then you’re going to be bombarded with them because you’re always going to be thinking of them as problems.

Business Growth Mistake #6: over involvement.

[00:12:45] Look, you can’t do everything as you grow.

[00:12:49] You’ve got to be able to delegate. We’ve talked about delegation numerous times on this podcast. It just is what it is.

[00:12:56] Oftentimes we’re afraid to, we’re afraid of not getting good enough work. We’re afraid that sometimes we’re afraid that others will actually exceed us. That’s actually a good thing, by the way, when other people become even better than you at something let them take off with it and help grow your business.

[00:13:15] You have certain strengths and skills. They have certain strengths and skills. That’s totally okay if it’s about control, if it’s about it feels so hard and vulnerable to let go. And I’m worried about mistakes. Just note you can train others. Others are trainable.

[00:13:33] That’s your perfectionism showing up. That’s fear and worry and doubt showing up, which is natural in your mind. And yes, they will make mistakes. Yes, things won’t go as perfectly as you would like. It’s part of it. Expect it, be okay with it.

But also note that as part of your training, you can implement systems and processes. I had a whole podcast on implementation of systems and processes. I even have a handout, an opt in that you can sign up for and get in your email around how a framework for how to put together a system or process so that you can delegate more. That is the key to proper delegation, to effective delegation, to delegating and ensuring things get done right the way you want. Good work product, okay. Support yourself in that way.

[00:14:27] Start delegating more. You will never grow past a certain point because you are only one person. And only one person can only do so much business.

Business Growth Mistake #7: the belief that growth will be linear.

[00:14:44] Now look, deep down you probably know this not to be true. And yet you probably also get upset when you don’t progress year over year in the way that you would like to. Right? When you don’t double it every year, when you don’t at least consistently go up at a certain percentage, it’s going to depend on where you are at starting point. Because the bigger we get, usually the smaller the growth gets as a percentage. But it’s still good numbers, right? Circumstances are going to impact the work coming in, things you have zero control over.

[00:15:14] It’s not always going to be linear and you want to plan for that.

[00:15:19] Doesn’t mean you can’t still have growth, but you want to plan for it, you want to be prepared.

[00:15:26] Growth will not always be linear, be ready for that. Because what happens is when we have that expectation and it doesn’t happen, we beat up on ourselves without looking at the bigger picture of what’s really going on, and we don’t properly identify what’s going on and then we can’t address it.

Because even when circumstances outside of our control happen, we can address the problems that come from it. So when Covid hit and everything got shut down, there were those who freaked out and went inward and didn’t take advantage of some of the things that they could have taken advantage of. There were those who said, okay, heck, this is not good, but it brings some new challenges. Let’s deal with them. And then they saw some new opportunities within those challenges, and they were able to grow their business as a result. I had clients who did this. Don’t expect it to be linear. Understand there will be challenges. Understand there will be things outside of your control so that you can meet what happens head on and still grow, even if it’s not linear.

Business Growth Mistake #8: the assumption that growth is always a good thing.

I addressed this earlier. As you grow, you might have more headaches, more people, more management. Right. More leadership problems.

[00:16:43] And no, you can take on a growth mindset and not see them as problems all the time. But you also need to get really clear on what are your strengths, what’s your personality? How does that fit into the growth that you actually want?

[00:16:59] I think I’ve said this before, but back when I was practicing, I clearly didn’t want to go over the 202 and a half to 3 million mark. And really two and a half was kind of my area. I went over that a little bit one year, and I didn’t love it because it meant working more than I wanted to. I was very clear in what I wanted at that time.

[00:17:20] Be clear about your growth and what that means for not just your firm, but your practice and how you fit into it.

[00:17:30] Maybe you don’t want to go too big. Maybe that gets too unruly. Maybe you do. How do you support yourself in that? Don’t just assume growth is always good. You’ve got to get really intentional about what the growth you want and why and how to support yourself in it.

Business Growth Mistake #9 (and this is a big one): I can’t invest money until I’ve made a certain amount of money.

Now, look, if you have zero money, then that is a problem. Got to say. But most of us lawyers are really bad about investing on the right things.

[00:18:08] You need to look realistically about what you want to be doing. What is your vision for the future? What is your three to five year vision for your firm or your practice? There are technology and people along the way that will help you get that more efficiently, more effectively, more quickly, and in a manner that will make you much happier.

[00:18:30] That costs money. You need to be ready to invest in your business because you’re not likely to get to where you ultimately want to be. And you certainly won’t get there as quickly or as happily without that assistance. And yes, it can be from a coach like me, it could be from a consultant, it could be from investing in new employees more quickly. It could be tech. There’s a lot of ways, right? But you’re going to need to invest.

One of the biggest mistakes, I think I’ve said this before in one of my annual lessons that I made early on in starting this practice, because I was starting from scratch, was not hiring a coach, an online marketing coach earlier. Once I did, my business took off and it felt scary because she was not exactly cheap. She was a huge investment, especially given where I was in my business at the time from a monetary perspective. But I’m not an online marketer. Naturally I wasn’t. I’ve learned a lot. I’m really pretty good at it now. But I needed help with that and that was okay. I wasn’t expected to be that. That’s not what lawyers typically do, right? Now, some of that was my ego. So, check in with yourself.

[00:19:47] Make sure that’s not the problem. You will need to invest in yourself, your own growth and development, and the growth and development of your business in some way, shape or form for everybody. That’s different. Maybe it’s not an individual, maybe it’s tech, maybe it’s hiring somebody. Right? You need to look at that plan and you need to figure out what that is and figure out how to do it. And by the way, you can stairstep things, right.

[00:20:14] You don’t have to go all in on everything. And in fact, that’s going to get us to the next one because these are interrelated. They’re the flip side of the same coin.

Business Growth Mistake #10: that you have to spend money to make money.

Not necessarily in the way that you think about it. Sometimes we spend too much, sometimes we’re not strategic enough in our spending. So I am not suggesting to you that you just need to spend, spend. No, you want to be intentional and strategic about the money that you’re spending for your own growth and your own firm or practices growth. Be strategic, be intentional.

[00:20:52] Okay, hopefully we addressed a couple of things that you’re like, okay, yeah, I can see where I can make some changes today.

[00:21:02] If you are an attorney currently trying to grow your business and you’ve realized, you know what, I would love some help with this. I invite you to reach out. I am going to put a link in the show notes for how to reach out to me and have a conversation. We will just talk about where your business is and how I might be able to help you. That’s it for today. Bye for now.