Growing Pains

about this episode

"Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it." – Michael Jordan

episode transcribed

Todd Burnham 0:00
Hi, this is Todd Burnham. I am a licensed practicing attorney. But just because you're listening to me doesn't mean that I represent you. This is for informational purposes only if you're good with that, then let's roll.

Chris Braden 0:23
What do you do when you move to a new state during a recession with no contacts, no job, no money, little experience and a family to support you lean on what you know you continue to learn grind every day and you keep getting better. Join Todd Burnham as he outlines how he started, Burnham Law in his basement grew to seven offices relying only on his experiences and inspirations from being a college athlete. His unique style of motivation and raw sense of humor are a welcome change from the business advice you're used to hearing. Whether you're a new or seasoned attorney trying to grow your practice or an entrepreneur in any service industry, Todd's story is sure to inspire you to take action and follow your instincts. This is Deep Bench with Todd Burnham.

Hey, Todd, how's it going, buddy?

Todd Burnham 1:12
Good, man. How are you?

Chris Braden 1:13
Good. So we've grown this thing from one office. And now we have six offices. We have multiple practice areas. I'm sure this wasn't all smooth sailing.

Todd Burnham 1:24
Oh, it's just totally smooth. That's what we're gonna talk about. It's really easy. So easy, right?

Chris Braden 1:28
Is that right?

Todd Burnham 1:29
Yeah, no man. So for me, I've had many, many opportunities to grow. And whenever these things happen, any situation when you're going when you're pushing, you're not necessarily always waiting for the processes, the peopl.

Chris Braden 1:46

Todd Burnham 1:46
So you're gonna have growing pains, if you do it like this, which is what I did, I would, you know, ready fire aim. And when you aim big, you miss big. And so like, for an example, our practice management software, I learned about that, because I was simply getting I was doing billing on an Excel spreadsheet, I was keeping track of stuff when I was in the basement. And as you get going, you're gonna have these hiccups. We're like, ah, everything grinds to a stop, because you didn't have X setup. And what I've learned is that you've got to get your mind right with these bottlenecks. Because they're bottlenecks for a reason that they're meant to be fixed. And so what I've found in my quest for maximum efficiency, it's just not good enough. I want to be awesome at processes. And if you talk to anybody, including Stephanie, they're going to tell you that it's my one of the areas that I'm most frustrated about. And I have the least input in because I'm not good at that. Tell me what you can do, not what you can't do.

Chris Braden 2:53

Todd Burnham 2:53
So you find people and you start hiring all these different people. And every single one of them tells you, Oh, you're growing, it's a growing pain. It's a growing pain. And we can fix that. And remember the last episode, we talked about the car dealers, the marketing companies, all these people that are here to make your job easier, they're not the only way to experience it and get better at this is to experience it is to go through it, you're not going to get it right all the time. And so your people on the phones are not going to live up to your expectations of what it should be, or how they should be communicating. And you have to train that takes time, it's a bottleneck. If you don't have the right person on something, you have to make decisions about that that's a poor hire, that's a bottleneck. These are all things that are controlled by you, and that you apparently suck it. And so the key is to get better. It's the common theme. So for us, it's, we go from one software platform for running the law firm to another one that's supposed to be better. That's another one. Because as you're getting bigger, your problems get a little bigger, or they're more there's larger ramifications for the problems. It's not that the problem is bigger, right? It's just that it affects more people. So then you start getting into software, you start getting into things that make your job easier, and you invest in things that are better. And if you do those things, and you stay keen eye towards value and not just what someone sells you on it's the answer to everything to the point now that instead of having all these other companies we have in house human resources instead of marketing and having multiple vendors doing different things for it. We have a dedicated employee that does all the it for all of our offices, in house makes sense. Not initially because you don't know where you're at. If you bring someone in too early for it, they're not gonna have enough work and they're just dragging you down your salary or your payroll. If you bring them in too late. It's who wants to come in and join this dumpster fire, right? And so even with HR like we've been keep getting better. And so the person that we just brought in Charlotte. Charlotte Warren's great, and she's the right mentality for it, she's educating and having compassion and some sympathy for us at different times, because we're just doing things wrong or something to that effect. But if you have those people, the end result is in house bottlenecks lead to efficiency. Efficiency leads to in house, it always should, I think, except with certain things from an SEO perspective and marketing perspective. I just think I, Sarah and I can do this stuff better than most people, but I don't know the code. And I'm not learning it. So you've got to get

Chris Braden 5:39
Well, you'll always need specialist in particular, exactly like you hired an amazing photographer you just didn't have when your employees go take the pictures, even though they might have done a good job.

Todd Burnham 5:49
And it's only because in the past, I've had people do that. So when you're talking about growing pains, I've heard that throughout my tenure, doing this, oh, it's just these growing pains, man. No, that's just an opportunity to get efficient. And if you look at it that way, these things aren't going to bog you down, they'll bog you down, if you have a number of opportunities to grow all hitting you at the same time. That sucks. But you've got to be able to compartmentalize, prioritize, and hammer things quickly and efficiently. And growing pains are going to happen when you're growing something, you just have to be able to catch up to the growth quick.

Chris Braden 6:25
How proficient Have you got at noticing those bottlenecks quicker now that you've been in the game for a long time?

Todd Burnham 6:32
Exponentially better, we have reports regularly, we have people that are are inherently good at this job. And so it's not like if I realized that the firm isn't doing something as efficient, it doesn't mean that the person that was doing those jobs doesn't have a place here, it just means that they need training, that they need to be assigned to something that because they've established if they're here that they work hard, right, and they want to get better. So if that person wants to work hard, and they want to get better, but they're just not good at this, then let's see what they can do, right? And so then you're going to learn how to hire people better. These bottlenecks are usually related to poor hiring, or not using some efficiency software.

Chris Braden 7:15
And it seems like the solution is people because as a business owner, you want to be working on the business, not necessarily in it.

Todd Burnham 7:23
I have people that are better than me in the business, because that's where their time is the things you spent time on the things that you practice, are the things that you're going to become an expert on. So I'm now practicing getting the message out about the people here who are experts at their crafts.

Chris Braden 7:43

Todd Burnham 7:44
I'm not talking about me being an expert in the best at analyzing Child and Family investigations. And looking at those reports, the people here are the best at that. So I don't see it anymore as a, if I get out of the way of a bottleneck and just attack the problem, then inherently it's from not having some software that can make our jobs easier, not having the right person in the right spot, or not developing and creating the answer ourselves. And that's where my mind's at now with a lot of things. Like we'll talk about innovation later. I think that necessity leads to that. And if I think we need something and it's not out there, then why wouldn't I just hire a developer to build it for bertambah. That's the way that I think about this. Now, it's not about well, that's going to cost too much. No, man, if my attention is undivided, and true about trying to become the best at whatever we are doing, that I'm going to do whatever it takes to get better, and to put people in a position to succeed. That's kind of like what a coach does.

Chris Braden 8:52

Todd Burnham 8:53
Give me the right plays. Men don't play small ball when we're playing seven footers. So I think it's, it's an evolution of leading as well.

Chris Braden 9:01
So you've been really transparent on all these episodes. And if we take it back to like sports franchises, there going to be growing pains, for example, maybe you make a bad draft pick or you make a horrible free agent signing, or maybe sometimes you're trying to get a new stadium and you're trying to maximize revenues. And there's a lot of different kind of growing pains that sports franchises go through. And you've been really transparent. What are some of the most painful growing pains that you've gone through?

Todd Burnham 9:29
I have some now with our practice management software. We're better than this. There's nothing out there. And I've looked into doing our own, like practice management software. It's an ultimate bottleneck because I've got people on the other hand that don't understand what the importance of the term services

Chris Braden 9:46

Todd Burnham 9:47
We talked about this

Chris Braden 9:48
sorry that when you're dealing with an app or software, they love email.

Todd Burnham 9:52
Of course! So with that, I think with me the bottlenecks when I look back, it's not realizing that my weaknesses had to do with organization. Sure. I'm a big picture thinker. Stephen even mentioned it that I'm not in the weeds with this stuff.

Chris Braden 10:08
You didn't get caught in the minutiae.

Todd Burnham 10:09
I just need that stuff to be fixed.

Chris Braden 10:10

Todd Burnham 10:11
Yeah, someone that's really good at this, just go fix it, they'll fix that. And and so my lack of organization in my mind, and I'm, you know, looking at a big thinking and not seeing that, hey, the phones have to be answered by a company that will provide us with phones that work. The basic stuff. Yeah, like I'm not looking at that. If we're dealing with Voice over IP phones, like VoIP phones, versus or using Comcast or one of those other ones that they use. I know because we use Voice over. But here's the thing that I'm going to have bottlenecks when internet goes down, because Comcast might suck. That's what I deal with. So there's nothing out there that doesn't require landlines, which is antiquated and reliable internet connection.

Chris Braden 10:11

Todd Burnham 10:58
That's a bottleneck that I can't really control. I can control hiring someone that's supposed to be in charge of HR that has a poor attitude. That's a bottleneck that impacts so many people, and deals with culture, deals with competencies, deals with people's trust at being in a stable employment, and not one that's at the whim of someone who just wants to do power plays or something to that effect. bottlenecks are always learning experiences. And it's an opportunity to grow and to get better, as long as you were taking your ego out of it. And like, tell me, what's the problem? What's the real problem, it's not that this person isn't listening to XY and Z, it's that this person isn't a good fit. Now, one person told me long ago like pie in 2015, or 16, you have at the time, I took it really poorly. In my mind, I was this person said another law firm owner. She said he kind of like a revolving door at your law firm. And I was like, ew.

Chris Braden 11:58

Todd Burnham 11:59
And as I look back on, I'm like, Yeah, you don't. So that means that your hires, every single one of your hires was awesome. You think that's true? And it's not. And I can tell you that over the past two years, we know there's you don't fire people anymore. The people that are here, and there's going to be times when you hire someone doesn't work out or they quit their it's like some people are gonna have work ethic, some people are gonna, you don't know always what you're getting.

Chris Braden 12:27
Basic stuff, not really talent.

Todd Burnham 12:28
Exactly. And so when I look back, now, I am excited because I did have a revolving door. And it was the door that I was revolving, right. And I was learning. And bad hire is a sad fire. And the faster that you make quick decisions, know that something's not working. I think we talked about this before. That's the turning point, the bottleneck can be my decision making process of taking too long. And then bottleneck could be not utilizing this software or something like that, that's going to make us more efficient, and therefore provide better service to our clients. After that, you're going to if you kept the connection with service, all points because that's your core business is providing a service. If you are focused on that, then everything leads to that culture, being an expert marketing, building a team, studying tape, providing service, it all comes to a screeching halt. If you have a bottleneck that you're not aware of, and that you aren't unclogging.

Chris Braden 13:32
As you've grown as a firm and you've gotten all a player's as Stephanie said it, everybody here is excellent.

Todd Burnham 13:40
Yeah, I believe that.

Chris Braden 13:40
Do they recognize the bottleneck? Sometimes before you do?

Todd Burnham 13:45
If you're dealing with a nuanced area.

Chris Braden 13:47
Right, stuff you wouldn't look at every day.

Todd Burnham 13:49
No. So we do family law, criminal, defense, civil, and we do personal injury. And as part of family. Another area that most people don't know about is this qualified domestic relations practice where you're putting together these cue drops. And Eric Amat y Leon in the tech center does these in his past life, he would fly to different places and give seminars on this area. I'm not gonna know at all, if there's a bottleneck, unless Eric tells me that there's a bottleneck in that, but I have people that are experts at what they do telling me something and I'm not going to say, Hold on, let me think about this. I'm not sure if we should really do that. You know, it's not that it's like, holy cow. I don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Chris Braden 14:32

Todd Burnham 14:32
But you need it. We're gonna get it because I want us to be the best. If my thing was to just be good enough. Most of these lawyers would probably be gone, because they're wolves. I've got wolves.

Chris Braden 14:45

Todd Burnham 14:46
Who want to like be the best, and they're all wolves in a pack. And they work together. It's a team, you get a lone wolf. That person is not here long. The pack will bottleneck the hell out of that person.

Chris Braden 15:00
That's a good way of putting it. Yeah. So that all over the news they said there's wolves back here in Colorado and thriving. Are they all here at Burnham Law?

Todd Burnham 15:10
Every single one of them. Absolutely, man. There it is.

Chris Braden 15:14
Good stuff, Todd.

Todd Burnham 15:15
Right on. Hey, thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe and until next time, keep getting better.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai