Strawberry Pop-Tarts and Law Firm Data

  • Sumo

Back in March, I gave a presentation at LexThink called “What Strawberry Pop-Tarts and Your Law Firm Data Have in Common.” I still think it was a fluke, but I’m learning that flukes are a method employed by Fate for purposes yet to be determined. This is turning into a year of learning on a whole other level.

A number of people asked about the video, and I said I’d share it when it was posted. Well, it has been posted, so here it is:

The text, as it corresponds to slides, mostly, is as follows:

  1. We all strive to avoid being sucked down the whirlpool of irrelevance, including the ABA, but understand this is my analogy and mine alone.
  2. With that cleared up, let’s return to our regular programming: What Strawberry Pop-Tarts and your Law Firm Data have in Common.
  3. Walmart prides itself on efficiency. It recognized early on that in order to be efficient, it had to help its suppliers be efficient, so it built RetailLink. Suppliers can log in, see sales data and inventory across stores that carry their products.
  4. Walmart gave its suppliers a tool to look within, find patterns and adjust accordingly in order to steer clear of the whirlpool of irrelevance. Those who use the tool and look within for patterns continue to succeed.
  5. Take Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts. Popular breakfast food, when we were kids, throughout college and probably a favourite of your kids as well. Through RetailLink, Kelloggs’ found a pattern: When there was a hurricane, Pop-Tarts sold out.
  6. Perfect, right? With satellite imagery and weather tracking, Kellogg’s would know when a hurricane was approaching and be able to stock its shelves at Walmart with plenty of Pop-Tarts. But there was another pattern within the data.
  7. It wasn’t just Pop-Tarts that sold well, and not just before a hurricane. It was strawberry Pop-Tarts that sold well, before and after a hurricane.
  8. By looking for patterns within the data, Kellogg’s learned not only what sold well, but the specific type and when. Armed with that data they make sure their shelves are stocked with strawberry Pop-Tarts, making Walmart’s customers happy while making Kellogg’s’ profit.
  9. The pattern from data they already have tells them the return they can expect from strawberry Pop-Tarts before and after a hurricane.
  10. Patterns from the data. More specifically, patterns from data about its products. Finding those patterns helps Walmart and Kellogg’s continually avoid the whirlpool of irrelevance.
  11. Someone out there has this thought: Great, but I’m not Walmart. I have no product data. True. I don’t have product data either. I just have thoughts, and Evernote.
  12. I track thoughts, or Data Points, in Evernote, and as you can see, it has a number of categories that relate to specific Data Points. Books. Lyrics. New. Old. There are patterns within them.
  13. It was the Old thought patterns that caused a problem while playing softball. Watching everyone else at the plate, they hit better than me. Even the less experienced players hit better than me. That bothered me. If I can’t perform at the plate, I’m irrelevant to my team. I’m irrelevant to my team why am I even here?
  14. My hate-filled inner critic loved this. I was paying too much attention to everyone else, and paying no attention to myself. So I tried an experiment. Since my stats demonstrated I wasn’t performing, I wrote down every thought I had whenever I stood at the plate, wondering if there was a connection.
  15. Looking within myself, looking at the vile creature that is my hate-filled inner critic, I had to figure out how to shut it up. I needed to look deeper within to find my strawberry Pop-Tart.
  16. Data pointed to writing, the Pop-Tart. Looking at the types of writing I do, I found my Strawberry Pop-Tart: documentation. The act of documenting and performing specific steps to achieve a particular goal removed its critical fuel: emotion. At each game, I talked myself through getting ready to bat. Lining up door knocking knuckles on the bat. Lifting it to the shoulder, moving to the plate, lining feet, comfortable stance, sit a little, keep my eye on the ball.
  17. I repeated this every at bat, and one at bat at a time, I got better. As the season wore on, I was hitting how I wanted. Once I stopped looking at what everyone else was doing, and looked within, I found patterns, one to change and one that would help with the change. My strawberry Pop-Tart was repeating specific steps to myself.
  18. So my challenge to you, tonight, is to find your strawberry Pop-Tart. Block out all the chatter of innovation, change, and external factors. Instead, look within for patterns that work, and that need to change. Use your data as a guide to find your strawberry Pop-Tarts, and then work to make change.
  19. To get started tonight, write down who you think your top 10 profitable clients are. When you go up to your room, look them up and see. If they’re not, find the ones who are. Then dig deeper. See how much time you spend on them v. your least profitable. Is that time well spent? Start looking at your best referrers. Find what makes them your best referrers, and how to replicate that.
  20. If you take nothing else away tonight, just remember this: The answer to avoiding irrelevance lies within your practice. Only you can look within to find the patterns for success.

A big thanks to Matt Homann, JoAnna Forshee, Jobst Elster and the video crew of LexThink for putting the event together. And a special thanks to Dennis Kennedy and Will Hornsby for their advice in shaping my presentation.

Be sure to check out the other presentations.


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