I had the pleasure of being in New York this past weekend. While there I saw the six Tony Award Winning Broadway production, Kinky Boots. The play itself was very entertaining, which I expected. But, I also came away with many business tips, listing here the top five.
Before embarking on the five lessons, a backdrop of the story is helpful. The premise is that Mr. Price expects his son, Charlie, to take over the family shoe business. Charlie has different ideals in mind, but when his father dies unexpectedly, Charlie inherits and takes over the failing business. To keep from closing down the factory and laying off friends and workers of over 30 years, Charlie has to do something dramatically different.
Without spoiling the show for you, yet still be able to share the lessons…
1. Find a niche market. Price & Sons had always sold quality men’s shoes that were pricey. The market was demanding less expensive shoes with newer styles. The business suffered because it continued to do the same as it had always done until Mr. Price died and his son took over. To survive, Charlie discovered an underserved market - -men wearing women’s shoes that were not only harmful to their feet, but uncomfortable.
Thus, Charlie made women style shoes to bear the weight of men and catered to an entirely new market – drag queens. When I started my elder law firm in 2002, the definition of elder law was “Medicaid Planning.” Of course I did that, but I also discovered a market not being served – Wartime Veterans who could benefit from receiving the pension with aid and attendance benefits. There were other law firms quietly helping veterans in their communities, but no one was truly serving the market until lawyers realized the need, which was in 2008 when I began national conferences to train the lawyers. Other niche markets within elder law now include special needs planning and fiduciary litigation, among others. What niche can you create in your community?
2. It takes the entire team. Whether you are a sole practitioner who performs every role in your office, or if you have many other lawyers, paralegals, legal administrators, etc., everyone must buy in to what you are doing and selling. Everyone must respect and accept the vulnerabilities and strengths we each have. When Charlie was at the end of his rope and desperate, he began to yell at his employees and make very poor decisions which led to him alienating himself from everyone. Had the employees not looked beyond the temporary stress, they all would have lost everything, to include their jobs. The team pulled through together, for the good of all, and they were then successful.
3. The New Kid on the Block Can Stand Out. Cyndi Lauper is extremely talented and has won awards for her musical abilities before; however, she had never even composed or written music for a theatre production. Kinky Boots was her debut and she knocked it out of the park winning Best Score and becoming the first woman to win the composing category solo. I began my practice in 2002. By 2006 I was being recognized as someone who knew something about Veterans Benefits. By 2008 I was the national expert on VA pension with aid and attendance. Since then, I am the recipient of the highest award the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys provides, called Fellow of the Academy, and I have been appointed by my state Governor to sit on an advisory board that reports to his office.
You do not have to have decades of experience to be the best at your trade or to be recognized. You do; however, have to put yourself out there and have confidence in yourself.
4. Be yourself. Charlie, and the other lead role, Lola the drag queen, were always trying to please everyone else, especially their individual fathers. Working hard to please others only drains your energy. You can serve and assist others, but work to please yourself by being authentic. Clients and professional referral sources only want to work with people they feel they can trust. Being true to yourself is the best way to show authenticity.
5. Find and have a mentor to help you achieve greater success. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the play Kinky Boots. Mr. Fierstein has a long list of accolades for his work, to include other Tony Awards. Cyndi Lauper was brilliant to team up with Mr. Fierstein for her debut musical.
This is a picture of me and my mentor, William Hammond, who I invited to see Kinky Boots with. A great mentor supports your efforts to succeed and often becomes a dear friend as well.
Lawyers With Purpose, LLC as a community has served as mentor to new and experienced members of estate planning and elder law firms. If you are looking for a community or mentor, Lawyers With Purpose may be the organization for you. Come see what we are all about. Join us September 12-13 in Phoenix AZ, for our Asset Protection, Medicaid and VA Summit. Register early and take advantage of our early bird pricing.
Victoria L. Collier, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Co-Founder, Lawyers with Purpose, LLC, Veteran of the U.S.A.F. and author of 47 Secret Veterans’ Benefits for Seniors…Benefits You Have Earned but Don’t Know About.