Many of you have been a part of our story at Equinox Business Law Group for years – some of you since we started with a different name 10 years ago. We have grown over the years and maintained our core mission, but I feel this core mission hasn’t been visible in how we talk about ourselves. Maybe this is why Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” resonated so deeply with me. As the founder, I knew our “why”, but didn’t have the words (or possibly the courage) to put it out there bluntly and clearly. Over the past year, we have worked as a team with some outside advisors to clarify our “why”, to find the words that resonate not only with me and within our organization, but outside it as well. I know many of you are working on similar branding, story telling and “why” efforts, so I thought I’d share a bit about our experience in pinpointing our “why”.
If we go back to the beginning when I started Small Business Legal Services (the predecessor of Equinox), I had a vision for serving businesses differently. Here’s some language from my initial business plan: “Small business owners need a business-focused attorney with experience in business operations to assist them in understanding the key legal formalities required for their business as well as the risks associated with their specific industry and business practices as the company grows…Many of these business owners are intimidated by lawyers and fear the costs associated with engaging an attorney. [Our company] will address both these concerns for small business owners.”
Three years after our inception in 2009, we embarked on a rebranding effort because we believed our name was limiting our potential audience and didn’t describe all that we do. Some language from our website following the rebranding shares some insight: “Equinox Business Law Group PLLC is a law firm that uniquely combines legal advice with real-world business experience, enabling business owners to make decisions that balance opportunity and risk. We give clients the advantages of a big firm and the responsiveness of a local partner at a predictable cost. And because we are as committed to your needs and goals as you are, you never have to worry about missing an important business opportunity.” This message is consistent with our mission but focuses on the “how” rather than the “why”. It talks about our unique model that ensures our lawyers have real-world business experience to help us be more effective advisors to our clients – an essential part of who we are but not why we get up and do this work every day.
As part of the re-branding effort, we launched our General Counsel Services – an all-inclusive, fixed monthly fee for legal services. Again, our goal was to break down the barriers that keep business owners from leveraging attorneys to help them make business decisions. The General Counsel services removes the unpredictable, high costs of hiring a lawyer and helps build a deeper relationship because there’s more regular interaction and discussion. We still believe this solution is ideal for so many businesses and always have a handful of clients leveraging the benefits of it for their businesses (some have been using it for over 2 years) – but this is a “how” that exemplifies our “why”. So we continued to struggle with getting the message out there that a relationship with a lawyer is important – critical, even – to success and it doesn’t need to be difficult, expensive or complicated?
In 2013, I read “Start With Why” and Wow! I knew this was what we were looking for. Using this methodology, Dawn and I worked to build a good description of our “why”. The result is reflected in our current website – “What if your law firm could: be a legal partner, empower you with information, provide less complexity, commit to a predictable cost, provide an alternative to the traditional model.” It felt like we got there – it wasn’t perfect, but it was right. In looking at it now, however, it still really hits on many of our “how” differentiators, not the emotional, passionate “why”.
Over the past two years, I’ve thought again and again that Equinox is incredibly unique, yet few really know it or understand it. We don’t speak passionately about who we are and why we offer an exceptional solution for businesses. In fact, we don’t really have the words in place to share it. The core of our “why” was not documented clearly anywhere; so as our team grew, it was muddled or even eliminated from our vocabulary. The 2013 language that describes what we care about still focused on the “how”. We have some very relevant tenets in this language; but not the emotional, passionate “why”.
So, we began again. In February, I decided we needed to be bold in this. I shared (in a bit of a Jerry Maguire fashion), what I believe about this firm, why we are a unique and exceptional solution for businesses. Following that, we had 4th Avenue Media come in to share with the team the importance of this concept and how to get started. In a single session, we made some good progress and agreed as a group as to who we are and our core values – but it was not enough to get to our “why”. So I dug deeper and engaged the team in an effort to take what we know and find language for our “why”. A challenge was the discomfort in being bold, in using the words we know are important but might not resonate with everyone. However, this boldness, this courage, is why the “why” is so important. It’s not made to resonate with everyone. It’s made to resonate with “those who believe what you believe” – to quote Mr. Sinek.
And we are looking for people who believe what we believe. And what do we believe exactly?
We believe businesses need and deserve a legal partner they trust to help them solve business problems, to balance risks and opportunities – a lawyer who speaks their language and can stand in their shoes. They are put off by the high costs, slow response times, complexity, and risk-focus associated with lawyers; so they never find that critical partner to help make business decisions. We know there’s a better way to work with businesses.
Funny enough, this statement of what we believe is not far off from the original business plan language stated above. I probably should have started there… but I do find it interesting that we found our way back to it.
So if you know companies looking for a different kind of lawyer, one who makes it simple to work together and offers pragmatic, business-focused solutions, we’re their kind of law firm.