Mark Breyer once declared that he would never work with his wife, Alexis, but they’ve been running their personal injury law firm together for 20 years. In retrospect, they found that they set themselves up to have problems scaling their business and fall behind the times. Clate and Scott follow Mark and Alexis’ business journey and talk about going from generalist to specialist, letting half their staff go on one day, and keeping moving goal posts for your business.

Mentioned in this episode: “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber.

Learn to manage your business like Mark and Alexis did with our “Small Business Office Automation Guide” in our sidebar.

Check out this and other episodes at smallbusinesssuccess.com.

Interested in Elite Forum? Find out more!

010 – Marital Judo – Mark and Alexis Breyer Transcript

Alexis Breyer: So for me I feel like when you’re at that point where you’re not putting out fires, where you’re doing everything in advance, where you have good systems and policies and everything’s running smoothly like a well-oiled machine and you don’t have to watch every single thing and go home and be like oh god! This person did this, this, or that! I feel like at that point you’re like okay, I got a great business.

Clate Mask: That was Mark and Alexis Breyer talking about how to take vacations, enjoy life and have the small business success you want by systematizing your business. Tune in for the full episode to hear more.

Scott Martineau: Welcome to today’s episode of the small business success podcast. I’m Scott Martineau.

Clate Mask: And I’m Clate Mask. We’re co-founders of Infusion Soft.

Scott Martineau: And today we’re going to talk with Mark and Alexis Breyer. And we’re totally excited to hear their story and learn more about their successful journey. And we’ll probably, hopefully we’ll get to some of the dark places in your journey as well. So thanks for being here with us today Mark and Alexis.

[0:01:00]

Clate Mask: And just to prove that we’re equal opportunity here on Small Business Success Podcast, we actually invited lawyers to come join and be part of the Small Business Success Podcast. So Mark and Alexis, why don’t you tell everybody what your business is, what do you do?

Alexis Breyer: Well, thank you for having us, first of all.

Clate Mask: You bet.

Alexis Breyer: We are personal injury lawyers. Mark does litigation and I’m more of behind the scenes. It’s pretty much been that way from the get go.

Mark Breyer: Loosely translated into “she does everything.” And then she tells me what to say and where to say it.

Scott Martineau: That’s great. And so, tell us, give you know, give people just a little bit of sense of where you are in your business. So how many years have you been running your business, and how many employees do you have?

Mark Breyer: All right. So we started our practice in November of ’96. And we now have 26 people on the team.

Scott Martineau: Okay!

[0:02:00]

Mark Breyer: And we have, it’s been an interesting journey as I’m sure we’ll talk about. But it was not a straight line from where we started to where we are now. And now we are in a position where interestingly we had grown from handling all sorts of personal injury cases primarily people who were not hurt as badly.

And then grew to the point where we were only handling the most serious life-altering injuries, helping people in that situation. And now, it’s an interesting evolution because suddenly we find ourselves where we said well, look at all the people we’re no longer helping. Is that really who we are and what we want to be?

And so now while we have kept a main focus, and obviously depending on which lawyers are involved and what we’re doing, we still have a big component of the practice helping the people who are most seriously hurt.

We have now expanded almost back to where we started to say let’s open up. And if who we really are is giving a level of client service that no one can ever expect or experience, we need to open that up and grow who we are and grow our brand so to speak.

[0:03:00]

Clate Mask: I love how you said, we grew to the point that we just served you know, the most seriously hurt, the life threatening. That point of how you grow from generalist to specialist is something that I think entrepreneurs a lot of times don’t really understand.

Like, it takes a lot of discipline to say no to certain things. And yet the growth actually requires that you say no to those things and find your specialty and really go nail it.

Mark Breyer: Alexis can tell you this better than I can but it took us a long time to have the courage to start saying no to cases that were bread and butter part of our income.

Clate Mask: Yes. Absolutely.

Scott Martineau: And that focus got you to a place of success where now you can intentionally expand back, and do things but with a foundation that’s been built.

Alexis Breyer: Which was a little bit of the problem. We were lucky enough that we were growing so so so so big that we were like we have to take a step back, and how are we going to do that? And so we decided we’re going to take our step back by helping the most seriously injured.

[0:04:00]

And once we’re at a point that we are disciplined in all of our systems and policies and procedures, then we’ll you know re-evaluate.

Scott Martineau: That’s great. Well, good for you guys for getting to that point and taking the time to then step back and you can say okay. What really is our specialty? What really is our niche? And when you get to that, then there are some really cool ways that you can continue to grow and expand.

But I think particularly for people that are in their first 2-3 years of business, that journey of finding your niche, finding your specialty, it’s exactly like you said Mark. It takes a lot of courage to say no to, just to business. It’s like wait. That’s what keeps the lights on. That’s what makes this all work. We can’t say no.

And you have to be very careful, because you can’t say no to everything. You have to artfully and gradually move through the place where you’re getting more and more specific and specialized. So congratulations for doing that. It’s awesome to hear.

[0:05:00]

And then it’s fun to hear how now you’ll be able to leverage that specialty and do something that goes beyond that. And it’s an art and a trick to do that. And so it will be…

Alexis Breyer: Part of what we did was set up criteria. So it was in writing. We took the time to really set up policies and procedures so that when calls did come in, and you know different scenarios or whatever they were, we would look at our criteria, see if they met that, and then each scenario would have an outcome.

So that it wasn’t like on the fly you were deciding. Is this someone you want to help or can help, or how do you work that? And what do you do for those people who you can’t help? Or have decided that you can’t help?

Clate Mask: That ability to really get focused on your ideal target customer is such a key thing.

[0:06:00]

I know Scott is, a lot of time as we’re talking to people, they don’t take the discipline, they don’t have the discipline or take the time to say okay, what does the ideal customer actually look like for us. And then have the strength to say that’s not ideal, or we’re not going to bring in that customer.

Mark Breyer: So powerful though as a marketing principal. Every time you say no to a population, your message gets more refined and more targeted and imagine the customers that, the clients you’re taking on today. The message is, it just perfectly matches with who you are.

Alexis Breyer: We have a saying too that every time you say yes to something you’re saying no to something. So it’s like you’ve got to kind of balance. I think going back to the 2-3 years when people are in that time frame, that we spent a lot of time working in the business, you know?

Handling the files and handling the calls, and all of that. I think if we were to go back, we would maybe develop a system to have more time to spend on the business. Because it took us a lot of time to focus on you know, how important that is.

[0:07:00]

Mark Breyer: You know what everybody’s saying that’s listening to this right now. They’re saying well, those guys are lawyers. It’s got nothing to do with my business. It doesn’t translate, you know. They’re doing, it’s a service-based business, it’s not web based, it’s not product based.

And a lot of our growth and a lot of our successes come, to the degree we’ve had it, by going to seminars for non-service based business. And for those people right now who are going, what these lawyers have done can’t be of any value to me, all I will say is from our perspective, we have found that small and medium sized businesses that we’ve interacted with, stolen from, learned from, we probably have about an 80% overlap to completely different web-based concepts that have nothing to do with service and man-hour type issues. It’s remarkable how much there is.

Clate Mask: Absolutely. That’s why we can say, you know, we talk about your business. Most attorneys would say business? I don’t have a business. I have a law practice. It’s like offensive to call it a business.

[0:08:00]

Mark Breyer: Which means that’s what they do. If you don’t look at it as a business and just a practice, you will have not a business, just a practice. Which is a choice, but then you’re giving up the ability. If you really care and think you can do something better and different, then spending your time just doing it means you can’t reach out and help the people you otherwise think you can help better.

Clate Mask: That’s right. That’s such a great point. And it applies to whatever your business practice, doctor, chiropractor, dentist, real estate mortgage, financial service, you name it. There’s a certain view that some people will have in those professions where they don’t look at it as a business.

So I have, Scott and I both have a little experience inside of law practices. And we commend you for taking the approach you have, because as you’ve just said, Mark, it’s what enables you to serve more clients and to serve them effectively.

[0:09:00]

And so you can, listeners out there you can hold on to your purist view of how you think of your profession or your practice. This is also true many times of artists and very creative folks. And yet, if you’ll unlock that belief, then you can actually start to create a business that allows you to serve many more people and give them the benefit of what you offer.

Scott Martineau: And we’ll throw in awesome lawyer jokes, just to keep it…

Alexis Breyer: We know a lot of them.

Scott Martineau: Yeah, I have a little disclaimer here. My father is an attorney and four out of my five sisters all married attorneys. Clate’s one of them. We rescued him from the practice of law.

Alexis Breyer: That happens to a lot of lawyers.

Scott Martineau: So we may have a few jokes up the sleeve that we can draw on today. So I want to hear how things got started. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a husband/wife law firm.

Clate Mask: Yeah, why did you start the firm, right? Because you, didn’t you practice in law before that? And then, it wasn’t like it…

Scott Martineau: Tell us your story.

Mark Breyer: The key point to this story that Alexis will tell…

Alexis Breyer: And there’s two sides, every story we have has two sides. The right one which is mine, and Mark’s kind of made up one.

[0:10:00]

Mark Breyer: Distorted. Yes. Well, since we’re being recorded I just want to say whatever my wife says is absolute fact.

Clate Mask: Smart man.

Mark Breyer: Before the story of how we ended up working together is this key point. I repeatedly said to her, we will never work together. To the point where she one time, we were sitting at one of these vending machines where you could have business cards made up for $1.50, and she had one made up of us working together.

And I said you’ve got to throw that away. We are never going to work together, so it’s not even a joke to me. How is it we ended up working together, Alexis?

Alexis Breyer: I would also like to back up a few years from that and just to let you know, he also told me he would never be my boyfriend. And here we are, eight kids later.

Scott Martineau: So you are always right. Period.

Alexis Breyer: Yes. But we ended up working together, because Mark worked for insurance defense for a little bit. And I was always on the plaintiff side.

[0:11:00]

Even you know when we got out of law school before, all through college, I had always worked for the people who were injured. And during the time that I was working for another firm, there was just some different things that had happened.

And Mark basically said you know, I don’t want you working there anymore. There was some safety issues. And he’s like, you’re not going to work there anymore. And I’m a very driven, motivated, hard-working person.

Scott Martineau: I couldn’t tell.

Alexis Breyer: And I was pregnant at the time. And I was like, who’s going to hire me? I’m not going to be able to work for nine months. And I was like what am I going to do? I called him for like three straight days at work. Well, I’m home. And…

Mark Breyer: One day.

Alexis Breyer: One day.

Mark Breyer: It was one day.

Alexis Breyer: It might have, it was a few days I think.

Mark Breyer: We went from me telling her for years we will never work together. She did not have a place to go to work for one day and by that night, here’s the marital judo she threw on me.

[0:12:00]

By the end of the first night home, she had me begging her to work with me while she was telling me no, you don’t really mean it. Yes I do, I really mean it. This will be great. And that was one day.

Alexis Breyer: And it was, yeah.

Scott Martineau: Okay, we’re going to call our first witness.

Alexis Breyer: But it was, it wasn’t intentional at all. And that was part of what made our first you know years in the business hard. Because we hadn’t prepared for it. We were young. We didn’t have money saved. We had a kid on the way. So you know, for us, it was, it wasn’t intentional or planned or, but I mean…

Mark Breyer: The general idea of being personal injury lawyers or insurance defense, which for those that don’t know was the other side of the same coin, that was intentional.

[0:13:00]

She had literally worked her way through college working in a law office that handled personal injury. I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer. The idea of working together was unplanned, and in retrospect therefore not executed as well as it may have otherwise been. But you know.

Clate Mask: So what did you learn? Give the quick top two or three points.

Scott Martineau: The first two or three years were pretty hard, right?

Alexis Breyer: Well, it was very hard. We were very lucky. We had a couple of mentors that we reached out to, older attorneys who had law firms that we tried to pick their brains, and even get help with sending business our way and you know, that type of thing.

Mark Breyer: But it’s a great question, what did we learn in those early years.

Alexis Breyer: How hard it is to run a business!

Mark Breyer: I’m sure part one is, not going in eyes wide open but that’s fine because anyone listening to this probably has already had that first realization.

[0:14:00]

But I would say this, that in retrospect, what we were doing is we set ourselves up for day one in the idea of how are we going to get the first case, how are we going to handle the first case without a clear idea of are we setting processes up so that as we grow we can do it in some sort of smooth transition.

No. The software we had was good enough for that moment. Well, by the time we then went to switch the software we needed, now you’re already a little bit behind the times. We had in no way said maybe we might be okay at this, and maybe people might give out our name.

What are we going to do with those names, how are we going to make? So we had a general idea, we knew we wanted to connect to people. We pretty much knew what we wanted to do and what we thought we might be able to do. But if we could go back to that time and I could have a 30-minute conversation with me, without giving away the future, I think I would say, look, what do you really need?

What is the software, what are you going to need, number one. What computers are you going to need? What, plan out your people. What are you going to do about marketing.

[0:15:00]

And I don’t just mean what you’re doing today. What’s going to happen when you go from I have enough time to do this, to I don’t have enough time to breathe. And I think that all those things ended up happening, but they happen now in a time when you’re trying to carve out a couple of hours, which was another mistake.

Alexis Breyer: We didn’t really have a business plan where we sat down, we didn’t even know that even existed.

Mark Breyer: Right.

Alexis Breyer: Like we were just, you open up an office and you try to get cases and all this stuff about developing systems and having policies and developing leaders and we had, now it’s like ten years later. It was a lotta, lotta time later.

Mark Breyer: About five years into our practice, someone handed me The E-Myth. And by the time I read it, one, I was turning every page going I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot. And then part two was, uh oh, I’m behind. And I wish I could have read that book in week one or sooner than I did.

[0:16:00]

Not because that book gave me the details of every step, but was the eye-opening, and I still should have immediately followed more of that book and said I am going to carve out one day a week to be on this business. And I didn’t do it.

Clate Mask: It’s funny, because when Scott and Eric and I started working together, we’d been in the business probably about six months or so and I came to them and I said hey guys, I think it would be really cool if we just all read one book together each month and we just learn by reading that book. And they were like…

Scott Martineau: Ah, stupid idea. It will never work.

Clate Mask: You mean like a book club? And I was like guys, come on, I think it would be really good. No no no. Finally, we’d been in business together almost a year. And I read the E-Myth. And I’d read it before when I was in business school, actually.

But it didn’t mean much to me then. I read the book and I was like the whole time reading, and when he talks about the technician and the entrepreneur and the manager, I’m very much the manager. Scott’s very much the entrepreneur. Eric’s very much the technician.

Alexis Breyer: Perfect team.

[0:17:00]

Clate Mask: Very much the trio’s that way. And I went to them, I’m like listen guys, we have to read this book together. And they read it, and we ended up having a great experience just learning from it. And many of the things you’re talking about Mark, but really just teaching us to just work on the business and that was actually the beginning of us reading like crazy.

And now we read, we’re insane the amount that we read and learn. But it was interesting because it actually kicked off with that book. And helping us to understand really some of the myths of what it is to be an entrepreneur and how you can actually create a great business if you are working on it instead of in it all the time, which is what everybody does.

Whether you’re an attorney or a widget maker or you make pizza or whatever. You do your craft, you do your thing and you don’t realize the business that is required to make the whole thing work. So congratulations on getting through that in the first few years.

Mark Breyer: What have you guys done to make sure that you’ve been able to hold tight to what you, to going back to The E-Myth, because you know as you grow the lines get blurry.

Alexis Breyer: Mark’s now the MC here.

[0:18:00]

Clate Mask: That’s great. I remember one time we had this, we were about 6-7 years in and we had this one guy that was sort of an outsourced CFO that did a bunch of work with us. And he came in and kind of learned about our business. And I remember him saying, he said you guys have e-mythed the heck out of this business.

And so we were just, I think intentionality is really the key. We were just very very intentional about the way that we taught entrepreneurship, taught the business, system creation. Just a lot of systematizing. Scott really brought a lot of that systematizing to the table.

Scott Martineau: And I think we also, we were intentional about creating the space for the business. We had a quarterly, and Clate brought this as sort of an oral tradition that passed down to him at a prior organization that he was at. And so every quarter, we had a very systematic, rhythmic process of going, just stepping away completely from the business. We also had the weekly version of that. But that’s been totally…

[0:19:00]

Clate Mask: Yeah, by the way, that’s really one of the key things. And I think for, I don’t know if you guys have practiced this but I think for a lot of listeners, what happened was you hear this okay, work on the business. But what does that really mean? How do you do it?

And it’s so difficult because you’re dealing with the fires every day. And even the perceived inability to step away is greater than the actual inability to step away.

Mark Breyer: All the way.

Clate Mask: If you don’t create a system and a discipline to do that, then days, weeks, months, quarters, years go by and you just haven’t taken the time to work on the business. So, what I would say to people listening, and really the direct answer to the question of how did we do it?

We created a planning rhythm that we stick with like clockwork. We literally have done it over 50 quarters in a row, every quarter. And it’s got a weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual rhythm to it. And it is, we make all kinds of stupid mistakes. Sometimes the quarterly plannings aren’t great. Sometimes they’re amazing. But it’s the discipline to do it, and do it over and over and over, that keeps you working on the business.

Alexis Breyer: For us I think it’s getting it on the calendar and not going to the office.

Clate Mask: Yes!

Alexis Breyer: Once you go to the office…

[0:20:00]

Clate Mask: Forget it.

Alexis Breyer: It’s just, you get caught up in the minutiae, Mark always call it. Caught up in the details of the people coming in to your office and you know…

Mark Breyer: And everybody knows, so I’ll then tell one of the best things I ever did, but everyone knows, the people around you, the team that cares, will resist this harder than they resist anything other than a foreign invasion.

The idea that you’re going to take time away from working inside of what you’re doing in order to go… they don’t even see it as work. It’s a vacation. I don’t get it. The single best step I ever took, and I was talked into this by others, was to take a day off every week to not go in the office and just work on the business.

But I cannot count the number of times people on the team, well intentioned, my best, the best team members, can you just do this one call? I just need you, just this one day. And it’s so hard to say no. But if you do it and you create what I did for myself, is I said I want to see the success or failure of this idea.

[0:21:00]

So I kept a list for the first five months of everything I had accomplished that day that I did not think I would otherwise have accomplished. It was overwhelming. But it took almost, and my deal with my team was, and you don’t have to do this and it depends on how you interact with your team.

But I said to the degree that any of you are convinced that what this really is, is another day off for me, you can call me up at any point or ask me any time what I worked on that Monday. And I will tell you. And I’ll let you know. Just so it’s transparent.

Scott Martineau: That’s great.

Clate Mask: That is awesome.

Alexis Breyer: For a little bit he shared the list with people. For a little bit…

Scott Martineau: To convince them he was actually doing stuff?

Alexis Breyer: Yeah. I mean, we, any time we had a problem or anything like that, we would try to develop it into a system or a policy and we’d get on his agenda, so it was like okay, if you don’t think I’m working on anything, here’s what I accomplished today. You know? And then they would reap the benefits of that. Because the next meeting he would share this is what I’ve done.

Clate Mask: Then they actually start encouraging you. Make sure you actually spend the time doing that.

[0:22:00]

Mark Breyer: In effect, that actually happened. Hey Mark, on your Mondays can you please address this issue.

Clate Mask: Exactly. Exactly. That’s cool. So I want to make sure I draw out a couple of things here before you jump on, Scott. So for our listeners who have heard this principal many times of work on your business, they might hear wow, this, a day a week. I can’t do that.

So let me just say this. We practiced this. Let me tell you what it looked like for us. There are two really important principals in addition to as Alexis said, leaving the office. And making sure, and we also tell people disconnect from technology when you leave. Don’t have, like cell phone, e-mail, social media, you can’t be on any of that stuff.

You have to actually change your brain into a mode where it can do work that knows it’s going to be uninterrupted. So once you do that, what I would suggest to our listeners is, if you can’t do a day, that’s fine. Take two hours. Be gone for two hours off site. Work on your marketing. Start with the marketing.

Because if you’ll work on the marketing, what will happen is it will turn into four hours, pretty soon it will turn into a full day.

[0:23:00]

And then you’ll start to find other things maybe in addition to the marketing that you do. But particularly if you’re in years one, two or three, you’ve got to spend that time and pull yourself away and do that offsite work.

And what I’ll tell you is if you don’t make that time investment, you’re going to wind up spending way more time than you would have if you’d just invested that time up front.

Alexis Breyer: You also won’t be as successful.

Clate Mask: That’s right.

Alexis Breyer: Because making time for that, it basically makes your business grow. And so, when people are spending more and more time in the business, in the business and they’re not focusing on the business, it just doesn’t make your business grow as well and they’re not, the systems and policies.

Mark Breyer: I would say this. Not to disagree, but I would challenge the problem with the two hours and challenge everyone out there who’s saying to themselves, I don’t have a day. So I realize everyone truly believes that.

[0:24:00]

But let me set up my situation at the time that I was talked into this by two people who were more successful than we were, who I trusted, who just pounded into me you have to give this a shot. At that time, I was litigating everything in our office.

Which means, for those of you who don’t know, judges say you have to be here this day. And then on top of that, I was at that time, and this has changed, the primary lawyer contact for virtually every client.

Clate Mask: Wow.

Mark Breyer: Which means the clients have grown to know me and trusted me and there was no other voice that they knew. So to take a day off to me seemed impossible. How am I going to work this around judges’ calendars, other lawyers’ calendars for all the depositions we have to go to. My clients who needed it.

And it seemed I couldn’t even get what I needed to get done. I mean, truth be told, and I don’t know that Alexis would have a share, but we’ve worked Sundays. We don’t work Saturday but we have worked Sundays the clear majority of our work lives.

We have worked six days a week. Now, if I can’t get it done in six days a week, how am I going to get it done in five and take a day off?

[0:25:00]

You will find a way, and if you can just trust the concept, just give yourself calendar. First of all, for me, when I came up with the idea – it wasn’t my idea, when I decided to do it, I had to start these Mondays about four months down the road.

Because every single Monday until about four months out was packed. So I literally couldn’t start it until the following January. When I did, I think I calendared out I think two or three months to see how it worked. Whenever you can do it, just try it. Give yourself ten weeks. You will not regret it.

Alexis Breyer: We were later in our process, though. If you’re in year one, two, three, you don’t, you might now have this much.

Clate Mask: Yeah, that’s why I use that little two-hour hack, but I know it will swell to a day.

Alexis Breyer: I think the most important thing is just, whatever you do start with, I mean even to back up I think a lot of people don’t even realize you should be working on your business. We say we’re going to seminars or something, what do you do there?

[0:26:00]

You don’t even get, there’s not even a policy or procedure for anything. Nothing. So I think just like understanding that working on the business is important and setting aside whatever time you know, even if you can’t do it Monday through Friday at first, maybe take Sunday. Take a couple hours or a few hours or figure out when in there you’re going to do it.

Mark Breyer: But find a time,

Alexis Breyer: Yeah, have an agenda and set aside some time to work with it.

Scott Martineau: Okay, so we only have about five minutes left. I want to make sure to hear the moment, what was the moment in your business when you sat back and you’re like okay, this feels great.

Clate Mask: We’re actually doing it!

Scott Martineau: Yeah, you’re actually doing it. You’ve crossed over that threshold and maybe from the, practice…

Alexis Breyer: Well, Mark’s never satisfied. He doesn’t own the world yet, so I don’t think he’ll ever have that ah-ha moment.

Mark Breyer: Wait, you’re saying I’m not going to own the world?

Alexis Breyer: I don’t know! So, but that being said…

[0:27:00]

Scott Martineau: What do you think? What would you say was the most definitive success point for you?

Mark Breyer: That’s a great question. First of all, what Alexis said is true. You keep moving the goal post. There is no doubt that three years ago, our business, and we haven’t told the whole journey, but just in a 30-second synopsis, we grew our business.

And our model at the beginning, you know we’re Jewish and in the first couple of years, our kids got more Christmas presents than Hanukkah presents because our kids were at, our babies were at the office with us. And you know, we’re in Arizona. There’s like seven other Jews.

So the little babies had relationships so to speak with clients and they were getting all these Christmas presents. And that’s who we were. We were, I did not want to be the mom and pop shop. My problem with our branding as husband and wife law team, the only reason I hated that. I loved the idea that it was different, and I loved that…

Scott Martineau: The kids actually say mom and pop.

Mark Breyer: It says mom and pop, which is, I wanted to be…

Alexis Breyer: Which we’re not.

[0:28:00]

Mark Breyer: I wanted to be the highest achieving, most successful, I’m hiring them because they’re the best, and that’s the problem with husband and wife law team. But what we knew we wanted at the outset was relationships.

I don’t know if we could have defined it, but it’s who we thought we were. Well, it was who we were, except, if you really do a good job for people they start telling other people. And they tell other people. And we got to the point from about 2004 to 2007, about ten years into our practice, where we had totally gotten, not totally.

We still felt we were doing it better than others but had gotten away from who we wanted to be, and that is you will have a better relationship and a better client experience, better customer service than you’re going to get anywhere.

So in December 2007 we stopped taking 80% of our cases, the smaller ones, and on a leap of faith we said we’re going to get back to who we are. And our staff over time shrunk dramatically. Well, it wasn’t completely over time because half the staff got let go on one Monday. But it, which is a longer story altogether.

Alexis Breyer: Well, we had to reevaluate at that time to say, and I think you have to always do that.

[0:29:00]

And you guys have that with your mission purpose values, you know, where are we at. At that time we didn’t have mission values purpose, but we had to say to ourselves, oh, we’re getting away from where we wanted to be because we had grown so much. I think for…

Mark Breyer: But would you agree, Alexis, anyone who worked in the office we had in 2006 who walked into our office today, it’s an unrecognizable business.

Alexis Breyer: We just really started at that point focusing on empowering other people to understand our, although we didn’t call it values at that point, envision, but what we were teaching them more and more is we are about creating relationships, giving people the best experience and getting the best results.

And for us, I think for me I don’t know exactly when our ah-ha moment came. Like I said, he doesn’t own the world yet. So he’ll probably never have it because the goalpost always goes higher and higher.

[0:30:00]

But we always talk about the proverbial two month vacation, or could we leave and everybody still understand what we expect of client service and results and how people should be treated and what happens and why we’re different, when you call our office what the difference is.

And I mean, definitely you know at least five years ago or so, you know, when you are your, when you first start out your business everything is like you. And I think you know, for a long time when we’ve focused on our business but we didn’t focus on people understanding how important it was to us to understand the client service aspect and treating people right.

Mark Breyer: But to answer that question in twelve seconds, last year we took our whole, all of our kids, and we went to Costa Rica for eleven days. And in eleven days for the first time since the day the practice started, I did not call the office. I did not check an e-mail. I did not do anything.

[0:31:00]

And I was able to do that, because I knew deep down that back at the office, the team we had in place was going to carry on as if I wasn’t there and I didn’t get off the plane and call. When I did go into the office, a day or two after I got back, whenever it was, I don’t remember, everything had gone just as we had hoped.

Scott Martineau: Beautiful.

Clate Mask: Why don’t we do this more often!

Mark Breyer: And that was a great moment.

Scott Martineau: Did you send your itinerary of what you did every day to your team? I want you to make sure you know I am not working!

Alexis Breyer: We had an amazing trip in Costa Rica. But I think that’s where, obviously as owners, especially me, I’m very controlling. I want to see everything that’s going on.

Mark Breyer: Oh, I’ve never seen that.

Alexis Breyer: Mark’s more big picture. But I think, a lot of small business owners, it’s hard to let go. And I think having everybody understand what you want of them and what decision you would make and I say a lot, you’re on the same page, you know?

[0:32:00]

I think once you have really good people and you’re working with them and you have those systems and policies and procedures in place so that everybody’s working together, and you have awesome, I think it’s very important to have awesome energy in your office.

Like you have to have a very good vibe and so people have to be happy and you know, if you have all of that, then eventually I think for us we feel like if we’re not there although we are still involved, on a daily basis we’re in the office. But I mean we’re not minutiae-ing everything. Everybody knows what they’re doing.

Scott Martineau: That’s the key.

Alexis Breyer: And I think everybody, our clients are happy and people call in, I feel like they get the best service. So for me, I feel like when you’re at that point where you’re not putting out fires, you’re doing everything in advance, where you have good systems and policies and everything’s running smoothly like a well-oiled machine and you don’t have to watch every single thing and go home and be like oh god!

[0:33:00]

This person did this, this, or that. I feel like at that point you’re like, okay, I got a great business. And ultimately it’s not just about, if you have a service business, you want, you still have a business.

Scott Martineau: Well, congratulations. What you’ve done together as a husband/wife law team is really cool and just the way you built your business, it’s really awesome to hear.

Clate Mask: I’m just imagining the vision that most entrepreneurs have when they start their business is what you just described. Take my family eleven days, business is operating without me, and I just love that you shared with our listeners today how, maybe it’s not as easy as it seems but with intentionality around creating time to work on the business, and looking at systems as your friend, right?

Not, because I think entrepreneurs, you referenced earlier say attorneys have a harder time. I think entrepreneurs have a hard time with the idea of a box. Like a system is, well, I want to change it to do whatever I want.

Scott Martineau: Counterintuitive.

[0:34:00]

Clate Mask: But if you want to have a team, you’ve got to create systems and then you create enough flexibility so that those on the team can own improving that thing. But it’s great. I love hearing the way you’ve made those your friend.

It’s such a great, it’s just great to hear the story of where you’ve come. Someday Mark, we look forward to hearing you as the president of the world. Three or four more years.

Scott Martineau: Okay, well thanks for being with us. This was a lot of fun, great to hear about the success of your business.

Alexis Breyer: Thank you.

Scott Martineau: I know it’s inspiring to all of our listeners.

Alexis Breyer: And good luck to everyone.

Mark Breyer: That’s right.

Scott Martineau: Congratulations.

Mark Breyer: Thanks for having us.

Clate Mask: You bet.

Scott Martineau: That’s it for this episode of the small business success podcast. Did you want to close it up, Clate?

Clate Mask: You know, you’ve done a great job. Go right ahead.

Scott Martineau: That’s it for this episode of the small business success podcast. And thanks to Mark and Alexis for being here. We wish you all success in your business.

Clate Mask: Don’t forget to rate on iTunes and share and subscribe. We look forward to the next podcast. Make sure you tune in.