Today on the Stride 2 Freedom podcast, we sat down with Krista Mitzel, founder, and managing partner at The Mitzel Group, who happens to be a dynamo, a business-savvy employment defense attorney, and a master networker. Let’s not forget her group leadership role at Provisors, a national networking group, and her position as the Membership Recruitment Chairman for the Women Presidents’ Organization. With over 18 years of experience, one of Krista’s superpowers is providing counsel to companies both proactively and reactively to mitigate risks in the workplace. In the world we live in today, businesses are vulnerable if they don’t stay on top of their HR-related exposure. While employment law might sound a little like an office visit to the dentist on the outside, Krista knows how to make it a fascinating topic with her invaluable insights!
Krista explains how her natural curiosity and knack (and desire) for getting to know people, turned into a career of working in employment law. Wondering how that translates? Well, take this example: When a business manages its employees and treats them well, implements a great company culture, and uses this to create an awesome workforce… well, they inevitably reduce their risk. Employees are happier. Organizations are better run. Results tend to improve. Yes, issues will always arise, but employers that value getting to know people and create the right environment for them to thrive will mitigate hazards.
Now more than ever it’s important for businesses to embrace change. With 6 generations now in the workforce, there are a lot of different needs on the table that need to be handled by business owners and managers. This requires organization leaders to continually evolve their strategies and how they engage with their workforce–whether it’s adapting to employees’ interest in social media, working differently, social justice, culture, or simply how to connect with others. The workforce has changed drastically in the last 10, even 5 years, and it’s paramount for businesses to move with the progressive flow. You definitely don’t want to miss this episode!
Who should I interview next? Please let me know by clicking here.
In this Freedom Speaker Series episode with Krista Mitzel, you will learn:
- Why it’s of utmost importance to adapt and move forward in employee/employer relations
- How ignoring modernizing your business and workforce is no longer acceptable
- Why you need to stay in the know when it comes to the evolution of laws and changes not only in your state but across the country
- How to adapt your thinking in employee productivity in a changing world
We are fortunate to have Krista available to spend time with us on this edition of Stride 2 Freedom. If there is a speaker you’d like us to interview, click here and let us know. Stay well. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Show Notes and Links From Episode:
Krista Mitzel LinkedIn
The Mitzel Group
Russell Benaroya: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Stride 2 Freedom Podcast. My name is Russell Benaroya, and I’m the co-founder of Stride Services, a virtual back office, bookkeeping, and accounting firm serving hundreds of clients around the United States.
This podcast is designed to help small business owners focus on growth and innovation. In other words, focus on those things that inspired you to start your business in the first place. We call it your genius zone.
We do our job on this podcast when business owners feel like they have the trust and confidence to build the right team of partners around them that will help them grow. Thanks for joining. Let’s go.
Welcome, everybody, to the Stride 2 Freedom Podcast. I’m so excited to connect with Krista Mitzel today. Hi, Krista.
Krista Mitzel: Hey, how are you, Russell? Nice to see you.
Russell Benaroya: Great. So great to have you on. Krista is both an entrepreneur and, dare I say, taking a headline from her LinkedIn, a business-savvy employment defense attorney. So we’re going to dive into both areas of Krista’s life.
A little bit of background. Krista is the founding and managing partner at The Mitzel Group. She is super strong at providing counsel to companies both on a proactive and reactive basis to mitigate risk. So we all know the world we live in today creates big vulnerabilities for companies that aren’t on top of HR-related exposure.
Krista is also so much more than an attorney though. First of all, she’s a total dynamo and brings great energy to her interactions. She’s a group leader and role model on Provisors, which is a national networking group. She’s also the Membership Recruitment Chairman for the Women Presidents’ Organization.
Oh, my gosh, I’m exhausted. How do you do all this stuff? I wanted to bring Krista on to help guide business owners to understand where the majority of HR employment-related risks are coming from, and how to be proactive about them. I also want to talk to Krista today about networking because Krista, listen, you’re a total rock star. So shall we rock and roll?
Krista Mitzel: Great. Sounds good.
Russell Benaroya: I’m really interested in all of the areas of law that you could endeavor into, you chose this particular area of law. Why was it interesting to you? How did you fall into it? How do you sustain the energy and passion to stick with it?
Krista Mitzel: Well, employment law is really important because it affects everyone. I think there’s a lot of job security there. As long as there are people, there will be some sort of challenge going on. From a personal standpoint, I really enjoy understanding how people engage and interact, and how to make those interactions more positive, just in my life in general.
It was great that it translated into a job. If companies manage their employees and have a great culture and really create an awesome workforce, it really does reduce their risk. So if you take those preventative steps upfront to train your managers properly, to get everyone engaging, and to have everyone really clear about what’s expected of them… We’re human beings; there’s always going to be some issue that comes up.
If you do those things, and you guide companies in that way, you can reduce how many frictional reactions come and then end up in the court system. That was what really interested me. I was always that person that, I’d be sitting on a bus and everyone would start telling me their life story. So engaging in something a little more personal and helping to guide companies in a positive way really appealed to me.
I feel like I can get in and help them scale and grow in a positive way. We do help when things go south, but it’s nice to feel like you’re part of the solution and not always just coming in to clean up a problem.
Russell Benaroya: Why did you decide to break out and start your own law firm? It’s not super common to do that and you’ve built something that looks like it’s thriving.
Krista Mitzel: It’s great. We have 10 lawyers now and two staff and it’s been 11 years. I can’t believe it. I really enjoyed being a lawyer and I liked working at the large firms—I got great training. There was always something inside of me that had an idea of, what about this? Or what if we did it this way?
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and folks who thought outside the box a little bit. So when that feeling kept coming up over and over again, and I got to a point at the big firm when I was like, “Maybe I don’t love this environment as much as I should.” I took some time to really explore that and clients started calling. That was in October of 2009, and by January or February, I had something like 30 or 40 clients.
I remember having a conversation with my then-husband about, “Well, you have a job now.” I loved figuring out how to serve the clients better and how to create the back office. I enjoyed the running of a law firm as much as I enjoyed being a lawyer.
So it was a natural fit and then it’s kind of blossomed from there, working with my partner. We both have different skill sets. Then just feeling like you’re building something in a way that’s really helpful for the market.
Most big firms are all focused on litigation, like what happens when you’ve already been in a bad situation? I really wanted to focus on how we can try to keep you out of that situation. At the time, that was a really niche new angle for lawyers. It was fun to figure out how to reframe the profession and reframe how to work and make an impact in that way. I love running on the beam.
Russell Benaroya: What are some of the big challenges that employers are facing today? We’re in a period of time, with COVID, but I’m sure there were some trends emerging even before COVID that you were guiding employers on. What are hot topics today? I want to frame it in the small to midsize business arena.
Krista Mitzel: I think that the hot topic is always going to be how do companies remain relevant and modernized for the evolution of an employee. What we see nowadays is that you have almost six generations working in the workforce. You have a lot of different needs, a lot of different levers that you have to handle as a business owner and a manager.
I think that that’s hard for people—change is hard for people. Adapting to all of the new things that are going on right now, including employees’ interest in social media, working differently, social justice, culture, how to connect with people, it is not the workforce that we had 10 years ago, even five years ago. Things are different now.
So that requires leaders to constantly be evolving their strategies and evolving how they engage their workforces. The companies that thrive and succeed have a much more keen eye to how I keep people motivated, involved, and relevant in what’s going on? You have to be compliant, and you have to be on top of pay equity, and you have to be on top of all the social issues that are going on. You have to really put a lot of time and effort into managing and creating programs that keep people engaged and focused.
There are so many distractions these days, even managing our workforces, especially with COVID, remotely. I don’t think we’re ever going back to the same workplaces that we had prior. It’s been really interesting to see which CEOs get on board with the use of technology and with how to manage differently. The old butts and seats mentality doesn’t work anymore.
All those managers that are like, “I really like seeing in your desk.” Well, first of all, that never meant people were productive anyway but it made them just feel good, right?
Russell Benaroya: Yeah.
Krista Mitzel: If people don’t get on board with modernizing their systems, modernizing their technologies, changing the way they’re thinking about things, they’re going to lose great employees and their businesses are going to suffer. You can’t dinosaur out. Everyone really needs to stay fresh and new. That’s the main thing I’m seeing that’s affecting people.
The second issue is that we have a constant evolution of laws and changes in California especially, but across the country. Localities are taking on issues, states are taking on issues, the federal government is sort of letting people go, but also trying to do some collective elevation of some of these employment policies and procedures. Staying on top of those is hard. You really have to build out your infrastructure to make sure you’re doing that.
So we help a lot with that as well—making sure people are up to date, being trained, and really digesting the laws. It’s also another sneaky tool for engagement. You can have someone do online training and that might be okay, but it’s much better to then follow that up with a conversation of, what did you take from that?
Or what can we do to change our practices? Or to talk about sexual harassment so you can really figure out the nuances of all the things that are going on here with collective issues, and with male subconscious biases, all those things that are affecting our workforces.
So it’s just been a really interesting time and the litigation that’s coming from that is crazy. People are really finding a lot of differences in things these days that we didn’t use to see.
Russell Benaroya: I love that your son’s probably somewhere near you right now, which is so cool. It’s like this is it. This is what we’re doing.
Krista Mitzel: It is. A lot of friends will call me up and say, “Hey, I feel like this employee isn’t being as productive as they should be.” Then I say to them, “Explain more about this. Why do you think that?” “Well, they had to go sit with their son at school, or they had to do this or had to do that.” I say, “Did they get their work done? Did they produce the product you needed?”
There are some jobs that require people to be on, to be focused, and to be on the phone. I understand that. A majority of jobs, though, people can do on their own time. It’s just the perception of leadership that it has to be done in a certain way, at a certain metric, at a certain clip. If companies start focusing more on the achievement of goals and moving the ball forward in terms of how they do their business, and they let people do the work their way, that’s going to benefit across the board.
People communicate differently, they want to be communicated differently, they want to work differently. Some people do really great at home, some people don’t. Find ways to really engage your worker individually And you’re going to get better output from them regardless. So having some understanding and flexibility also goes a long way with people.
Russell Benaroya: I wrote an article that was published in Forbes a couple of months ago, that was something to the effect of butts in seats is a very lazy way to lead.
Krista Mitzel: That’s a lazy way to manage. It doesn’t work.
Russell Benaroya: Right. Systems, process, measurables, goals, transparency, there are so many ways to establish the standards that will give people autonomy and mastery over the work they’re doing that does not require them to be in their office.
Krista Mitzel: It just pisses them off because they feel micromanaged and then they’re, for sure, not going to be productive for you. So it also creates a lot of resentment. Guess what? The leaders and the managers who behave that way are the ones who always get sued.
Russell Benaroya: Right. Very important. As you’re talking, I’m thinking about this network of entrepreneurs that I know; knowing why they got into the business and this desire to make a mark and make an impact, whether they’re in marketing or in nonprofit, or in my case, in accounting, or law, manufacturing, or whatever. They probably had no idea of what they were exactly signing up for, that if they’re going to have people to support them on this journey, that there’s a lot of overhead. Not people overhead, but energy overhead to comply and accommodate.
I’m curious if I’m reading that correctly, and maybe more interesting is, how do you as an entrepreneur manage yourself and manage that with all of the things that you could be doing but there are all the things that you have to do right now? How do you help people prioritize?
Krista Mitzel: There are definitely trade-offs. Most growing businesses can’t do everything all the time. I can’t do everything all the time. We have 12 people, it’s not a huge number of people, but we have a decent amount of revenue. I am constantly talking to my business partner about what’s the priority.
So I think you do have to prioritize. Strong management is a different question than where do you prioritize your dollars. I think every CEO, C-level leader should be in some type of CEO leadership group. And it doesn’t matter. They’re informal groups out there. There are groups you can join and that’s where you learn.
There was a Gallup Poll, I think seven years ago or so that said that 1 in 10 people are natural managers, two can be trained. Seven people should never be in management. Yet, we have a lot of people in management who don’t enjoy it. They don’t like it, but they feel like, for their career path, they should be doing something like that.
I think that the best thing you can do is to get people’s support around how to be a better leader, and what does that mean for you? Then I also think that companies really have to figure out what kind of culture you want to have. Then your policies and procedures and where you spend your dollars, you have to put your money where your mouth is.
If you’re going to go out there and say, “We’re going to be a company that is cutting edge on technology, and on pay equity, and on how we treat our people,” well, then you better put some time and effort into leveling up your salaries and making sure you’re following through on that. You better make sure you have the newest best technology that allows people to work easily.
I see a lot of these talks and projecting like, “Dress for the job you want,” and then not following through on the back end, and not supporting their managers, and not training their employees in the proper way. So I think you really have to be consistent. You can always put more out there, but it’s hard to put a lot out there. If you don’t have the structure to back it, it’s difficult.
I think that by supporting leaders, training them, giving them opportunities to share and participate; people really like to be part of the solution. They like to be heard. They like to feel like there’s a way for them to grow professionally and personally and contribute. So the more companies can make those opportunities available, they create loyalty, they create better leaders, and they create a better workforce.
It also reduces your risk because you’ve got managers who follow through on the best practices. I think, as a baseline, you have to have the right policies and procedures. You have to update your handbook yearly. You have to do the proper things.
I think you need to train people on how to communicate during difficult situations. I think that’s one place where most companies don’t put any time and effort. So you just leave it to people to hopefully handle something difficult. If you don’t have a good employment counsel, you can call me. I will walk them through the talk and I will give them talking points because it comes naturally to me. It doesn’t come naturally to most people.
Most people are very conflict-avoidant. So if companies would slow down and take the time to help everyone have a graceful exit, if that’s what needs to happen, or to have really humanized, empathetic conversations about performance, you’re going to do so much better. People are going to perform better for you.
Then there are some people out there that just can’t take the feedback. That’s not your problem, but at the same time, you want to handle it easily because that person could sue you. It might not be fair or right, but that’s the system we live in.
Russell Benaroya: So true. There’s the cynic in me that says business owners today are just very vulnerable. When an employee leaves employment, it’s not uncommon or out of the range of possibility that they could take some kind of action for an alleged variety of things. Should I be cynical? Recognizing that, as you said, this is the world we live in today, you can’t control all the variables for sure, but there are probably a few that you really can control and be thoughtful about to reduce the likelihood that that occurs. What are those?
Krista Mitzel: The thing that, I think, would save the most money for most people is to call your lawyer before you fire someone, especially if it’s going to be a sticky situation. So many companies try to handle it on their own and they just screw it up. There’s very little I can do after the fact. Whereas if you had called me before you did it, I could have, first of all, helped you make the right decision because sometimes it’s not the right decision to do that, and then I could have helped you do it in a way that would have reduced that risk.
Now, part of the problem is some leaders need to get burned a few times before they trust the system. Some people are cynical about that. They think, “I can do it myself.” I’m sure there’s a cost factor, like, I don’t want to call my lawyer to spend too much money, but I will tell you, a little bit spend upfront saves so much money in the long term.
I have these clients and they’ve come back, and they’ve told me, Krista, “You were right. I should have done it this way.” I’m like, “Okay, great. Well, let’s figure out how to do this.” I think that’s the first thing to do. I think right now, especially nowadays, with all of the stirring up about the why behind decisions, subconscious biases are really coming up.
I think people really need to check, why am I treating this person this way, that person the other way? And good HR people push back and they try to figure that out, but business people don’t like that. That’s why HR gets a bad rap because HR is always, “Well, why are we doing this for this person when this person did the exact same thing and you didn’t do it there?” So consistency is key with employees.
It’s like you have to treat all your children fairly. It’s really important to slow down on those decisions and also to figure out, what is your lens that you’re seeing this through? How can you elevate your leadership to make the situation different? And if you’ve tried everything, great.
I think that’d be the number one thing. Then the most expensive claims out there a lot of times are medical disability type claims. Those are very frustrating for companies. I think it’s very important to take the utmost care with those and to make sure that you’re dotting all your I’s and crossing your T’s. That’s another big area of risk that people need to get in front of.
Russell Benaroya: Do you provide guidance on a one-on-one basis with clients? Or do you lead groups, guide multiple clients at the same time? I can see so much benefit from group discussions.
Krista Mitzel: I do sometimes do training and seminars but it’s hard because so many people have one-on-one issues.
Russell Benaroya: What about this?
Krista Mitzel: We need to maintain attorney-client privilege in a very specific situation because then we can really have frank conversations, where my clients can be open and actually tell me what’s going on. That’s so much more helpful for me. I would rather them say the crappy thing to me than to get sued and to have that come out in an email or something. And stop putting all that stuff in email, people. Have we not learned this with social media?
Russell Benaroya: 100%?
Krista Mitzel: Don’t write those emails.
Russell Benaroya: You talked about policies and procedures for sure. What about insurance policies that are out there today? Are there different types of insurance that employers might want to think about that could help them in the event that the unexpected happens?
Krista Mitzel: Sure, of course. There are different products out there and you should always refer to your insurance broker because I’m not an expert in this. In terms of employment, specifically, employment practices liability insurance can be very helpful. Because of the evolution of the wage and hour claims—which are the claims for how you pay people—there have been a lot of exclusions for those claims because they’re so prevalent these days, and meal breaks, rest periods, and failure to pay overtime.
Oftentimes, the policies will limit coverage to, potentially, just harassment, discrimination, retaliation, those types of things, but it’s still helpful. If you have a growing business, and you have, potentially, high turnover or a lot more potential risk in your workforce, the target on your back is bigger. I assume everyone’s going to sue you.
So it’s always good to have insurance. It doesn’t always mean you can’t use your daily employment counsel. They have certain panels of lawyers you can pick from, but it is helpful depending on what kind of policy you have. I think it’s always good to look into it and to figure out what that looks like.
Some policies will cover wage an hour, which can be very costly, especially now with the private attorney general act that’s come out. It’s almost like a fake class action and allows
people to go after companies without having to jump through the traditional hoops of formal class action. Those are very prevalent and can be very expensive.
So it’s always good to look into insurance and to really get educated about how that will affect these potential risks. That does change the analysis.
Russell Benaroya: Do you approach your fee structure differently if somebody comes to you proactively, and says, “I want to put these pieces in place. I want to get trained,” versus, “I have a situation. I need a lawyer to help me in this situation.”?
Krista Mitzel: In general, we don’t change our fees based on the types of cases that come in, but we do have solutions that can be helpful. Oftentimes, we have a flat fee setup for new companies to put their handbook, new hire documents in place, which can be nice. It’s sort of a fixed fee arrangement. There are other things that we do at a fixed fee. So it’s nice for the company to be able to rely on that.
We’ve also recently put together a new product, where we do quarterly audits of various employment practices, to make sure that we can help the companies maintain all of the good things that we did at the beginning. What we were finding is we’d help them set up at the beginning, and they invested there, and then they’re like, “Well, we have an HR person,” or, “My office manager does that.” I’d be like, “Are you sure? Are they auditing?” They’re like, “Yeah, no problem.”
Then two years later, they get sued. They’re like, “Krista, why didn’t you tell us about this?” I’m like, “Well, we did and we trained you. We came in and we keep up to speed, but I’m not in your files every day. I’m not auditing those payroll records every two weeks. I’m not making sure your person is keeping up with the right paperwork other than updating your handbook and retraining everyone.”
So we thought that’s a really good way to spend clients’ dollars if you had to budget because then we can fix whatever happened in that last quarter, retrain all the new people you hired that didn’t get the initial training. We’re just experimenting with things like that that can help clients on a proactive basis and help them budget and educate their team. It allows them to have a little more peace of mind.
There are a lot of things like that that come up. Then litigation: we don’t really do insurance work, but oftentimes, if the client can direct us, we will help with that. We handle anywhere from two to eight litigation matters at a time and oftentimes those clients don’t have insurance. So we do our best to try to get it resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Russell Benaroya: That can be super expensive.
Krista Mitzel: It can be.
Russell Benaroya: Is there anything else on your mind you want to share around employment law? I want to shift a bit to you as an entrepreneur and master networker.
Krista Mitzel: Just in general, don’t be afraid to try new things and to pivot. This is a completely new workforce we’re in right now and it’s going to be difficult and challenging. I’m really encouraging leaders to be more open and vulnerable, and try to connect with people because Zoom is odd.
Just try it out, see how it works. If it doesn’t work, try something new. Embrace the change that we’re in right now even though it’s very stressful. Also, the biggest thing I can say right now is, even if you’re an essential business, if you have workers who can work from home, have them work from home. Just let them have that option. If they want to go in, fine.
Our economy and everyone’s going to do better once this pandemic is over. So everyone can just stop pushing people to get back to work. If you’re a food server and you have to go to work to cook and feed people, great. But if you’re in an office environment, let people work from home. Even if it bugs the crap out of you just do it. It’s going to be better for all of us.
All those rebuttable presumptions about workers comp claims for COVID will hopefully go away and it’ll just reduce risk all around. We have a lot of employers getting sued for forcing workers that really shouldn’t have gone into the office to go in. They’re getting stress claims, they’re getting anxiety claims, and they’re getting covered claims. It’s just not worth it. Off my soapbox now.
Russell Benaroya: Love the soapbox; great advice.
Krista Mitzel: Wear a mask.
Russell Benaroya: You are a master networker. Where did that come from for you? Is that something that emerged in your professional life or have you always had that magnetic element?
Krista Mitzel: I don’t know about that. My mother would say I’ve been a sparkly unicorn since I was a child. I’ve always been a connector. I love people. I am a true extrovert. I love hearing people’s stories and I love connecting with them. That’s just made networking easy.
Networking is really about making a connection with someone. But from a business standpoint, to turn that personal connection into business, you really just need to listen. You need to figure out what’s going on with people, what stresses them out in their business, and then figure out what solution to provide. I don’t always have the solution myself, but I know someone who can help them.
So people remember when you really go out of your way to help them and to offer up suggestions. Just because of the way I think holistically about business, I’m not just a paper-pushing lawyer who writes up a document and gives it to my clients. I am always questioning like, why do you want to do that? Where did you get that idea? Let’s talk about what your plans are and how that fits in.
So a lot of the advice I give and offer to folks that I’m getting to know is a real big-picture view. A lot of people don’t like sitting up at 30,000 feet. I think to be a good networker and make connections with people, you have to be genuinely interested in people, you have to listen, you have to be able to put yourself out there a little and create those connections. Be strategic about where you spend your time; we all have limited time.
So it’s important to figure out what you enjoy doing and do things that you enjoy, but also things that are going to benefit you. I jokingly say you want to get the twofer. Here I am with Russell doing a fun podcast. I’m also learning, I’m engaging with someone, I’m talking about my business, and I’m having fun. So we’re getting a lot of things out of this interaction.
Are you going to walk with a business development friend and you’re exercising and your business developing? I think that people overthink it sometimes and they think it’s this chore when it doesn’t have to be. If you do the right things for you, you can really make business development an integral part of your life, especially if you don’t feel like you’re a natural business developer.
Russell Benaroya: I too like to network regularly. I’m very curious and so I ask a lot of questions. It’s not uncommon for somebody to say, “You just spent the entire hour asking me questions. I learned nothing about you.” I like asking people a lot of questions, but I don’t necessarily volunteer as much. Or am I so into what I’m learning that that’s the twofer? It’s super enjoyable for me. I don’t need to talk about myself.
Krista Mitzel: Well, it might be, but I would recommend to you that it’s okay. It doesn’t always have to be 50/50. None of our relationships are perfectly equal. I think it would benefit all of everyone to find a way to get in things about yourself and to share about yourself, even if you’re very interested in learning about the other person.
It can be something as easy as, they share a story about something that happened in their business. And you’re like, “Well, actually, I had a client a few years ago where the XYZ happened that was very similar. This is how we supported them.”
You can story-tell. You can integrate your own experiences. If you’re in a proper business development meeting, where the two of you are meeting to talk about each other, I think you do have to pivot the conversation at some point, even if the other person doesn’t say, “Well, what about you?”
Some people don’t have good manners and they forget that it’s a two-way street. Then you have to say, “I’d love to share a little bit about what I’m working on.” You can share about your business and have your own stories to tell. I think that that’s how people learn about each other. You have to tell stories about what you do, how you’ve helped clients, and what interesting things you’re working on.
I think if you do that with other people, they’ll feel the reciprocity. They’ll feel like, “Thank you for asking me what interesting projects I’m working on. What about you? What interesting projects are you working on?” Hopefully, they’ll come around.
Russell Benaroya: How do you think about your time relative to networking? Now, I know you own a firm and you have attorneys that work under the broader umbrella, but the attorney’s bill by the hour. You know the value of your hour, so to speak. So how do you think about prioritizing time for business development?
Krista Mitzel: I am very involved in women’s issues. I really like to support women in business. I enjoy my Women Presidents’ Organization because that is all CEOs of women-own companies. I really enjoy connecting with that. It’s also a great way to learn and to meet other business owners.
It’s not meant to be business development, but it has turned into business development. Again, coming back to what do you enjoy doing? What are your passions? Even the Provisors group that you mentioned—this is a great group of professionals who oftentimes will do business together lawyers, CPAs, accountants, consultants, bankers, wealth managers—everything a business needs is really in that room.
If you find a group like that that you enjoy, then it’s how you spend your time within that group. What group do you align with within the group? What subgroups? Everyone in that group is part of a homegroup where they have a group of people they see monthly. I was asked year over year to run one of those groups and I said, “Nope, I want to run the women’s group. I want to run an affinity group for women leaders.” That’s where my passion lies.
So now I have a group that’s over 300 women. We’re the largest affinity group and the whole entire nationwide organization and that’s what I’ve loved. I’m still getting the benefit of networking, but it’s something that I really enjoy.
So find what you enjoy. If you aren’t an evening-cocktail-party-schmooze-around person, don’t go to those things. It’s not going to work for you. You’re going to go and you’re going to waste your time. You’re going to eat bad food and you’re going to be frustrated that you missed out on being with your kids at night and spending time with your significant other or whatever it is.
So figure out what works for you and do that. You have to be consistent about it. As you get up in your levels, the higher you are, the more you’re required to bring in business, the less time you have to work and the more time you have to business develop. People don’t like that because most practitioners like their jobs. They’re good at their jobs. Now they’re being forced to add this extra thing in.
A lot of companies also don’t change the requirements as you get more senior. That’s another thing for big companies to think about. Lawyers, for instance: most partners I know still have to build 1800 hours and build a book of business. Where is the time for that? There isn’t. If you want someone to build a book of business, you need to change the hours’ requirements to something lower because the benefits are going to trade-off.
That’s just old school thinking like we talked about earlier. You have to try something new and experiment because then what happens is people go off and start their own companies, making a better profit margin doing it differently.
I think you have to follow your passions and utilize social media, too. I think a lot of professions were very reluctant to get on the social media bandwagon, but it’s working. Utilizing LinkedIn properly, utilizing Instagram and Facebook; I’ve gotten a lot of business because I’m– I was reluctant at first and then I was like, “You know what, if any of these networking people friend me, I’m going to accept.” So I just started accepting them.
Then you’d be surprised at how many really great big clients and cases I’ve received because someone said, “Oh, my gosh, I saw that cute post of you and your kids last weekend. By the way, my client, they totally need this thing you do. So I’m going to connect you.” I think people underestimate that the personal connection really creates loyalty and it drives business to you.
If you’re a writer, write blog posts. If you’re a speaker, do podcasts or get on seminars, and webinars. The opportunities are there if you put yourself out there and you make those connections.
Russell Benaroya: Love it. I’d love to end it there, Krista, unless there’s something burning that you would love to express that I didn’t ask you today.
Krista Mitzel: No, I think this is just great. I think there’s so much that people could be doing. The one thing I would say is, especially now during an overwhelming time, when there’s a lot going on, pick one thing and try it. Try it for three months, try it for six months, and then try something else.
One thing I see leaders doing that’s, I think, a mistake is they try to take on too many projects or change too many things at once, and it gets overwhelming, and then nothing gets done. One thing that I’ve seen for legal projects, strategy projects, personal networking efforts; try one thing for a while. Put your effort into it. If it’s not working or producing the results you want after you give it some time, then you can pivot. You got to put in the time. You get what you give.
Russell Benaroya: Great advice. We call it running experiments. We live in a world of running experiments. Some things are going to work, some things aren’t. That’s where we learn.
Krista, thank you so much for joining us today on this edition of Stride 2 Freedom. I was excited to talk to you because you have such a practical eye on employment issues, which can get pretty sticky for us as entrepreneurs. You’re also a very successful entrepreneur in your own right.
You’re out there hustling every day to stay in the orbit of people that you could serve. Thank you for all the work that you do. I’m excited for more people to learn about you and The Mitzel Group. Have a great day, Krista.
Krista Mitzel: Thank you so much for having me. This is great and I really appreciate all you guys are doing to support your clients.
Russell Benaroya: Thanks. Well, thanks, everybody for listening. Talk to you soon. Bye.