Get insight from top business leaders at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference


Time is running out to save on registration for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla. After Dec. 15, there is a $100 late fee on registration.

This business-focused event promises attendees the opportunity to connect, learn, and energize when they network and participate in invigorating and motivating sessions. The event is from Jan. 28-30 at the luxurious Don Cesar hotel.

The NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference is the foremost event dedicated to owners of firms of all sizes — including freelancers — to help them increase their business savvy, make new connections, and take home the latest in best practices and strategies for ensuring the continued success of their firms.

“The biggest benefit for me is the opportunity to meet and get to know the respected firm owners from across the country and to see how they address and deal with the same business issues I face every day. Getting to know the colleagues and forging lasting relationships is very special as well,” said Rick Levy, RPR, a freelancer and owner of First Choice Reporting & Video in Miami, Fla. Levy has attended Firm Owners almost every year since 2012. “Networking with the firm owners allows me to feel more comfortable when I must find affiliates to refer my clients to for out of state depositions,” he added.

The 2018 agenda features an array of innovative, interactive, and inspiring sessions led by some of the best leaders in today’s business world. Keynote speaker John Spence, one of the top 100 business thought leaders in the nation, will share his insights into achieving business excellence. He will also present his most intensive business improvement workshop, specifically created to help management teams take a hard, honest look at their business to determine exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are. The workshop will also help participants create a focused plan for how to succeed at a higher level in the marketplace. To learn more about Spence, view his video.

For more than 22 years, Spence has traveled worldwide to help people and businesses be more successful. He is the author of five books and co-author of several more, a business consultant, workshop facilitator, and executive coach with a client list that includes numerous Fortune 500 firms. His areas of expertise include leadership, high-performance teams, managing change, organizational culture, consultative selling, strategic planning, strategy execution, and the future of business.

He has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America, and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In addition, the American Management Association named him one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch. He has been a guest lecturer at more than 90 colleges and universities, including MIT, Stanford, Cornell, and the Wharton School of Business.

Building on John Spence’s sessions on developing business excellence and strategic planning, Chris Hearing and Greg Laubach will present a session entitled “Managing to Maximize Business Value.” This interactive presentation will focus on creating short-term profits and business value so attendees can learn how to plan as if they will run their business forever but act as if they’ll sell it tomorrow. Hearing has 30 years of experience as an executive leader, during which he has helped organizations successfully face complex market challenges head-on by identifying and implementing opportunities for revenue growth and operational improvements. Laubach has experience in both the legal and corporate sector. A skilled negotiator and deal closer, Laubach has sourced, negotiated, and closed countless acquisitions, joint ventures, and other business relationships as platforms for growth.

SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy, Steve Scott is also scheduled to lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the Web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Ample networking opportunities are also scheduled including the “Build-It, Mix-It, Who Will Win It” opening event followed by a reception and dinner on Jan. 28. Also on the agenda are a networking power half hour, free time during lunch, and a closing reception. Attendees will also enjoy education events during breakfast sessions and a special welcome and meet-and-greet with NCRA’s new CEO and Executive Director Marcia Ferranto.

Finally, attendees will get access to the annual NCRA State of the Industry. This session will look at how the court reporting and captioning industry is doing now, what areas firms are developing, and what successes they’re finding – all based on solid, current data. Having a real-world sense of what the industry looks like nationwide will help attendees know where their individual businesses fit into the big picture. “This coming year, I hope to take away ideas on what new technologies other firms are using and how they are dealing with the court reporter shortage across the country,” said Levy.

Come join the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in January and discover what connection or tip will be the one that makes 2018 your best business year yet, no matter what size your company may be. Don’t miss your chance to register and save by Dec. 15. Special hotel rates for the event will also expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

MANAGING: Inspiring your team

By Judy Stevens

If any of you have heard Anissa R. Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, speak at either a state or national conference, you know the value in her wisdom and the easy manner in which she delivers that wisdom. Years ago, I invited her to speak at a Colorado Court Reporters Association symposium, and even then I was impressed by the way she captivated the audience of freelance and official court reporters when she has never, herself, edited and finalized a deposition or trial transcript. However, the techniques and tips of shorter and cleaner writing are, indeed, the same as those she’s mastered in her CART career. After having watched her work her magic in that room, I knew I had to reach out to her when I wanted to provide additional training to my reporting staff.

Before doing that, though, I talked to a few reporting firm owners with whom I’m associated and told them about my desire to provide additional training in-house to my employee reporters. I was told by one that (1) it wasn’t my responsibility to provide training to them; it was their own responsibility to get their own training, and (2) no one would come to training on a Saturday that wasn’t mandatory.

With those viewpoints, which were almost 180 degrees opposing to mine, I called Anissa. “Anissa,” I asked, “what would you think about offering your ‘Tackle Transcript Turmoil’ program to my staff on a Saturday via teleconference?” We discussed many of the logistics then set a date. I sent out an e-blast to my staff and almost immediately had 13 people who RSVP’d. All of them showed up on Sat., June 17, to hear Anissa and to improve their writing style so transcript preparation became easier and more streamlined through better dictionary entries.

Now, these aren’t new reporters. Some of these reporters have been with my firm for five or more years, and some have been reporting for more than 15 years. They each learned something through the training, all stayed after the conference was over to discuss ways to make highly functional new dictionary entries based on their individual software programs, and they bonded with each other on a Saturday morning. Now, does it really get any better than that?

My point in sharing this information is to suggest that you look outside the box for assisting your staff. Gather clues on what they might need from conversations with them. I noticed that one reporter was taking one day off for every one-day assignment so she could edit that assignment. One day to edit one day? Having been a reporter, I knew that there had to be ways to assist her, short of getting her a scopist, so that she didn’t spend that much time on editing. Another reporter wasn’t using locking suffixes and prefixes to her advantage, and her rough drafts had words which, although they should be readable by most attorneys, had things like in-form-ation because she hadn’t appropriately entered each of those syllables in her dictionary. Yes, they tranned correctly, but didn’t attach correctly to make the appropriate and complete word. These were two women who I recognized immediately could benefit from Anissa’s dictionary wizardry!

Don’t think that it’s the reporter’s sole responsibility to get additional training. They don’t know what they don’t know. This was more in-depth than their previous training with their software had been and also more personalized. Anissa asked them to ask questions — specific questions to their situation — and then answered them one by one. Yes, it is their responsibility to get the training they need, but it’s your job to listen to them and to hear what’s keeping them from absolutely loving what they do. If that one thing happens to be editing, then pick up the phone and call Anissa or whoever else you might think might benefit them. Talk with your team, and you might be totally surprised at how willing they are to learn if you’re willing to make it happen for them.

What it cost me was a catered breakfast, orange juice and champagne (for mimosas, of course), a very reasonable fee for Anissa’s time, and access through our video-conferencing system. What it brought me was a team of reporters who learned something from Anissa and from each other, who might just have cleaner strokes in their files, and who might, just might, quit spending so much time editing. They shared ideas and thoughts, exchanged some phone numbers, and discussed Facebook and additional “groups” for software-specific information.

I love and value the closeness within our team. I wish all the reporters could have attended, but it was a Saturday, and it was the middle of June –one of those amazingly beautiful days that can happen in Denver.

I also wish more firm owners felt connected to their staff on a one-on-one basis to the point that they hear their transcript struggles and they feel their writing pain. I often can see it on their faces after a job. When they left this 1.5-hour training, I saw smiles and laughter and heard comments about spending the rest of that afternoon making some of the changes to their dictionaries. Now, tell me. What is that worth to you as a firm owner? Step up and be their leader.

Judy Stevens RPR, CMRS, CPE, owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at Judy@skreporting.com.

 

Maintaining a freelance mind-set in an official world

By Risa Entrekin

Many reporters accept an officialship after years of freelancing and feel they can relax with only one person to keep happy: the judge. After the excitement wanes, however, complacency often manifests itself in job dissatisfaction and frustration. The official who maintains a freelance mind-set in an official world can avoid this and enjoy a successful and pleasant career. Here are a few thoughts on how to succeed at the business of officialships without really trying:

Technology: In this ever-changing world, the steno machine remains a steady, trustworthy foundation upon which we must build an environment to meet client demand. The “client” may be a judge, court administrative staff, a probation or parole officer, attorneys, pro se litigants and their families, or any combination of the above.

As new attorneys emerge on the scene who have been immersed in high-tech gadgetry since before they started kindergarten, the reporter’s ability to respond to their needs becomes increasingly important. Whether it is emailing transcripts in various formats or live streaming a realtime feed to off-site participants, an awareness of technological advancements and the willingness to acquire the skill and equipment necessary to respond to those advancements is crucial. One way to become familiar with the latest advancements is through technology itself: participating in Facebook groups, watching YouTube “how-to” videos, and attending NCRA and other conferences either in person or remotely.

Maintaining and improving one’s skill is always a worthwhile goal that will benefit the client as well as the reporter. A trial involving technical subject matter will always be extremely challenging, but it can be more successful and less stressful when a reporter is at the top of his or her game. Some courts even offer pay incentives for additional certifications.

Financial considerations: An officialship may create new and challenging financial considerations that are best discussed with an accountant or tax advisor. Although taxes will be withheld from salaried income, it may be necessary for the reporter to file estimated tax payments to avoid underpayment penalties. Keeping transcript income and estimated taxes in a separate account may be helpful.

Keeping good financial records is burdensome and time-consuming, but it is a necessary evil. Some officialships require additional record keeping that can seem like “busy” work to the busy reporter. However, this record keeping is simply a job that must be done. The best attitude to cultivate is one of acceptance instead of procrastination.

Organization: When time is short and days in court are long, a consistent method of organizing work and maintaining records is a necessity. Constantly prioritizing transcript requests is a must. The “Sticky Notes” tool available on the Windows desktop or the use of Microsoft OneNote can assist the reporter to be continually aware of what task needs the most urgent attention.

Proofreading on a mobile device can allow the reporter to make more efficient use of unavoidable time delays. Files can be sent and received from a proofreader using the same technology. Develop a quick and effective way of preparing a job or case dictionary for a realtime feed. This often is the difference between a mediocre and excellent realtime transmission. The official may find it helpful to organize the most urgent tasks at the close of a workday.

Teamwork: Unlike the freelance world where the reporter is often working autonomously, teamwork is extremely important for the official. Officials live in an uncertain world of budget cuts and work study evaluations, and they share their world with courthouse personnel who often do not understand or appreciate the reporter’s contribution. Officials often face threats of being replaced by other technology. The reporter’s best reaction in the face of uncertainty is to become invaluable at the courthouse. As with any public-sector job, the reporter will work with a myriad of people from a variety of backgrounds who possess many different attitudes and work expectations. A reporter should always strive to maintain a professional attitude and keep the interests of justice as his or her top priority.

Teamwork also includes working well with a future team, the reporters who will assume the official reporter positions of the future. Create a method of communicating with the reporters of tomorrow about how records, audio files, rough drafts, and final transcripts are stored. This lasting legacy furthers the cause of justice. An “In Case of Emergency” file which can be easily accessed by others will ease the transition and save time. The file should include passwords, file locations, account numbers, locations of keys, and any other information the court reporter considers important.

Professionalism:  It is human nature to have short memories of positive experiences and lingering memories of negative situations. This is one of many reasons for the official reporter to endeavor to develop and maintain a high degree of professionalism. The NCRA Code of Ethics is an additional incentive. Frankly, another reason to always maintain professional integrity is because the legal community is often relatively small and closely knit. A reporter may not know that the doddering old attorney fumbling with the newfangled evidence presentation method used to be the judge’s law partner or that the intake clerk struggling to get a degree may end up clerking for the judge before he accepts a position with a stellar law firm.

Reporters should always avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The official who becomes complacent about their duties can sometimes relax this standard and become friendlier with attorneys who frequent the courtroom. Giving advice and commenting on a case is always inappropriate, regardless of how well a reporter knows an attorney. The official should treat everyone equally, both in the courtroom and after the fact.

Always strive to honor commitments made for transcript production. Maintain communication with the requesting party throughout the production process if necessary. A late transcript now and then is inevitable and unavoidable, but a late transcript preceded by no communication from the court reporter is unjustifiable.

The official sometimes has more flexibility to volunteer with state and national associations, and yet freelancers often carry the lion’s share of this burden. Officials should encourage students by mentoring them if at all possible. This encourages the student and allows them to be more comfortable in an intimidating setting. This connection with students can benefit both the student and the working reporter. Providing pro bono services or transcribing interviews through NCRA’s Oral Histories Program are other ways officials can contribute to their profession.

An unknown author once said, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Officials should faithfully preserve the record with skill and professionalism, always being cognizant of their contribution to our collective destiny.

Risa Entrekin, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CPE, is an official based in Montgomery, Ala. She also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. She can be reached at risaentrekin@gmail.com.

 

CHECKLIST: What to bring on a reporting assignment

By Robin Nodland

Long-time NCRA member and 2016-2017 Technology Committee chair offered her personal checklist for what she brings to the job. She suggests adapting this for your own purposes.

Professionalism:

  • Professional appearance
  • Professional demeanor
  • State and national association memberships
  • State and national certifications

Equipment:

  • Stenowriter w/Bluetooth connection with tripod
  • Writer cable (when Bluetooth fails)
  • Manual for writer
  • Support contract for writer
  • Laptop with sticker re: recording
  • Sound card
  • CAT software key
  • CAT software manual
  • CAT software support contract w/800 phone number
  • 2 microphones
  • Laptop stand with tripod
  • Coolpad
  • Power strip w/long cord
  • DepoBook or notebook
  • Exhibit stickers
  • Business cards
  • Pens
  • 2 USB jump drives
  • Extra tote for exhibits
  • Worksheet for assignment
  • Notice of deposition, if available
  • Directions to assignment, if needed
  • Smartphone

Extras:

  • Post-its
  • Granola/protein bars
  • Lunch money
  • Parking money
  • Cough drops
  • Kleenex
  • Water bottle and/or coffee
  • Mints
  • Highlighter
  • Red pen
  • Pill box with: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, allergy meds
  • Spare smartphone charger (grateful attorneys used it to charge up more than once)

Realtime jobs:

  • Stenocast
  • Router
  • Netbook(s) with realtime software
  • iPad with MyView
  • RSA shortcut book
  • Realtime/rough draft disclaimer

Court:

  • Form for “court reporter is the official record”

 

Robin Nodland, RDR-CRR, is  a firm owner based in Oregon. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and can be reached at RNodland@lnscourtreporting.comNodland was the co-chair of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Technology Committee.

 

2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference keynote to focus on achieving business excellence

John Spence will present the keynote at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference

Participants in the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference will gain an inside track into the thinking of John Spence, one of the top 100 business thought leaders in the nation. Spence will take the podium as keynote speaker and share his insights into achieving business excellence.

The 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference takes place Jan. 28-30 at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Fla. Members are urged to register for the conference soon to take advantage of a discounted rate being offered through Dec. 15. Rates for the conference registration will increase by $100 beginning Dec. 16. Special hotel rates for the event will expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

In addition to the keynote, Spence will present his most intensive business improvement workshop. This workshop is specifically created to help management teams take a hard, honest look at their business to determine exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are and then create a focused plan for how to succeed at a higher level in the marketplace. Participants will leave his session with a much improved understanding of their business as well as a plan of specific action steps that address what needs to be done immediately to improve their organization’s revenues, market share, and profitability.

Key elements Spence will address include:

  • an understanding of the importance of creating a clear vision and a focused strategy
  • numerous benchmarking audits against top companies
  • an understanding of the four primary and four secondary drivers of business excellence
  • an examination of the importance of mastering the organization’s “moments of truth”
  • the discovery of why it is critical to own the customer’s voice
  • an in-depth look at how organizations create effective strategies
  • an examination of the nine steps to effective execution
  • the discovery of how to greatly increase accountability across the organization

For more than 22 years, Spence has traveled worldwide to help people and businesses be more successful. He is the author of five books and co-author of several more, a business consultant, workshop facilitator, and executive coach with a client list that includes numerous Fortune 500 firms, small to medium-sized businesses, professional associations, and other organizations. His areas of expertise include leadership, high-performance teams, managing change, organizational culture, consultative selling, strategic planning, strategy execution, and the future of business.

At 26 years old, Spence was the CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation, overseeing projects in 20 countries. Just two years later, Inc. Magazine named him one of America’s Up and Coming Young Business Leaders. He has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America, and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In addition, the American Management Association named him one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch. He has been a guest lecturer at more than 90 colleges and universities, including MIT, Stanford, Cornell, and the Wharton School of Business.

“The Firm Owners Executive Conference is designed to help you grow your business. The topics this year address the new challenges we’re all facing with a head-on approach with frank discussion on how to embrace the changes so that we are not left behind. By the end of the conference, you will return home with a renewed strength and business strategy for 2018. You will be more aware of the changes in technology and how they will impact law firms, corporations, insurance companies, and legal support services, with an emphasis on court reporters,” said Christa Walton, CMRS, CEO of Florida-based Orange Legal, who has attended numerous Firm Owner events.

“When our firm was smaller, the benefit was attending the classes and learning from the speakers. Now that our firm has grown and we know more, the biggest benefit of attending is getting the opportunity to network and spend time with great friends. Most of the time, at one point during the event, the owner and I will look at each other and say, ‘That just paid for the entire conference,’ whether it be getting the opportunity to speak with a firm owner who needs help in our area or just hearing how another agency does something we’ve been struggling with,” she added.

In addition to enjoying ample networking receptions and opportunities, participants in the 2018 event can expect to connect, learn, and get energized through a number of insightful educational sessions.

Among the guest speakers on the bill this year will be Steve Scott, SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy. Scott will lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the Web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Since August 2006, Scott has worked with individuals and corporate clients to use internet-marketing strategies like SEO, local search, social media, pay-per-click, and more. His clients have included IBM, American Express, Reader’s Digest, and Revlon.

“During my career, I’ve developed websites and search engine optimization programs for clients, both large and small. Helping business owners worldwide create a powerful online presence for their brands is my life’s work,” Scott said. “As an SEO industry veteran with a history in computer training dating back to 1990, I’ve trained and consulted with Fortune 1000 companies and have logged nearly 4,000+ hours in a hands-on training environment.”

For more information and to register for the host hotel and conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference heads to Florida

Registration is now open for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held Jan. 28-30 at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Fla. Participants in the 2018 event can expect to connect, learn, and get energized as they attend insightful educational sessions and valuable networking events alongside other industry leaders.

Members are urged to register for the conference soon to take advantage of a discount rate being offered through Dec. 15. Rates for the conference registration will increase by $100 beginning Dec. 16. Special hotel rates for the event will also expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

Among the guest speakers on the bill this year is Steve Scott, SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy. Scott will lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Since August 2006, Scott has worked with individuals and corporate clients to use internet marketing strategies like SEO, local search, social media, pay-per-click, and more. His clients have included IBM, American Express, Reader’s Digest, and Revlon.

Steve Scott will present on search engine optimization strategies

“During my career I’ve developed websites and search engine optimization programs for clients, both large and small. Helping business owners worldwide create a powerful online presence for their brands is my life’s work,” he said. “As an SEO industry veteran with a history in computer training dating back to 1990, I’ve trained and consulted with Fortune 1000 companies and have logged nearly 4,000+ hours in a hands-on training environment.”

According to Cregg Seymour, Chair of NCRA’s Education Content Committee for the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, attending the event will help firm owners generate new business.

“Through the premier networking at Firm Owners in 2017, we have created new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We continue to enjoy new or increased business that has benefited both our network partner firms and us,” added Seymour, who also serves as president of CRC Salomon, a court reporting firm in Baltimore, Md.

For more information and to register for the host hotel and conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.

Last call for JCR Awards nominations

Nominations for the 2017 JCR Awards are closing Oct. 31. Nominate yourself or another noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards.

Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story.

Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

Exiting from your court reporting firm

By Terry McGill

Exiting your business is a hot topic for many owners that seems fairly simple at first glance. You start your firm, let it grow for 25 or 35 years, and then sell it to someone while you quietly walk into the sunset with a pocket full of cash.

But the reality is more complicated. When you started your firm, it was unlikely you were thinking about what you needed to do to sell in the future. And you might have assumed that there would just be someone to buy your firm at your price when you were ready to sell. That’s not always the case.

Let’s run through some of the things that you, as a court reporting firm owner, can do to make the whole process smoother.

The first question that we may ask is: How soon are you planning to leave your business? If you want out today and you started thinking about an exit last week, this is a different scenario than if you have been planning and engineering your firm for exit years in advance. Most of the time, owners have not planned ahead for the best possible exit.

When an owner exits a business, there are many, many considerations to be taken into account.  Here are a few questions you should think about:

  • What is my firm actually worth to an outside entity?
  • How would a deal be structured if I were to sell?
  • Is the buying firm a cultural fit with my existing firm?
  • What will happen to my staff and reporters?
  • Will my clients be treated in the same way that I have treated them through the years?

You may have even more questions, but let’s start with these.

What is my firm actually worth to an outside entity?

Unfortunately, it might not be as much as you think. Most owners want to be compensated for the years spent building their firms. Instead, the market is concerned with evaluating a firm’s value, usually using something called the EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization). An interested buyer will probably offer a multiple of that number to come up with a value that he/she is comfortable with. Both parties should consider many factors when coming up with a deal.

How would a deal be structured if I were to sell?

The structure of one deal can be different from the next. There isn’t a standard deal structure. If you are offered $1,000,000 for your firm, that $1,000,000 can be paid out in many different ways over a period of time. It may be in an upfront payment, or a smaller portion may be given at the beginning with the remainder being paid out over a period of time (for example, three to five years) to the owner. There may also be certain levels of revenue and earnings that are a part of the deal that could affect an owner’s payout over time. The main point here is that deals are created differently and structured differently based on an acquiring firm’s goals and directives.

Is the buying firm a cultural fit with my existing firm?

This is a valid question and concern for any owner. It’s important that the firm being acquired and the firm acquiring it are a good cultural fit; that is, they should have similar values. It’s to the benefit of both firms to explore this issue thoroughly. A transition to new ownership should be as seamless as possible — to benefit the staff, reporters, and clients. Many deals have gone off the rail because there wasn’t a cultural fit and similar mindsets moving forward. This is one of the reasons due diligence on both sides is very important to the acquisition or merger being a success. The financial aspect is extremely important, but the cultures should mesh as well and not be overlooked.

What will happen to my staff and reporters?

Again, this is a valid concern for an owner. You have built your staff and reporters over many years, and they have become part of your family. Most firms are respectful of current staff and reporters and are not interested in anything that would be disruptive to any potential acquisition of your firm. Your staff and reporters have helped build the firm to the point where an outside entity would be interested in acquiring your firm. It would not be to the acquiring firm’s advantage to make wholesale changes to the very people who contributed to the success of the firm. Having said that, other factors could affect the acquisition downstream.

Will my clients be treated in the same way that I have treated them through the years?

The clients are always a concern on both sides of an acquisition. They are the lifeblood of the industry. That’s one of the main reasons that the cultural fit is so important to ensure clients remain. An acquiring firm is taking risks because there is no guarantee that clients will continue to be clients. As owners, all of you take the same risk with clients every day. The client who is with you today is not guaranteed to be your client next month. Everyone in the industry understands the value of protecting the client base. This is an additional reason that due diligence is so very important in any exit strategy. Many of the potential negative issues can be avoided at the beginning instead of putting out fires at the end.

What we have tried to illustrate is that there is not a “one size fits all” type of deal. There are many different factors in many different areas to consider before you exit. Educate yourself as much as possible to ensure you understand the process and the components of the process before you move too far down the exit pathway.

Many owners are not prepared for all of the ramifications and, therefore, not ready to exit. If you are thinking about an exit, make sure you go into any potential situation as an informed and educated owner with the right questions.

Terry McGill is a small business consultant and managing partner of Strategic Business Directs. He assists court reporting firm owners with operational, financial, organizational, growth, marketing, sales, and exiting issues. He can be reached at terry@strategicbusinessdirects.com or 614-284-0846.

Equihacked

mirrored images of computer code written in green on a black background

Photo by Cheryl Pellerin | Dept. of Defense

By Christine Phipps

Equifax announced in September that they discovered a data breach on July 29, that occurred mid-May through July, which affects 143 million Americans.

The hackers were able to access the Equifax data through a security flaw in the Equifax website. In a Sept. 7 post on krebsonsecurity.com, security expert Brian Krebs said, “Equifax may have fallen behind in applying security updates to its internet-facing Web applications. Although the attackers could have exploited an unknown flaw in those applications, I would fully expect Equifax to highlight this fact if it were true – if for no other reason than doing so might make them less culpable and appear as though this was a crime which could have been perpetrated against any company running said Web applications.” The Fort Knox of our identity information was asleep at the wheel.

While this isn’t the largest breach, it’s one of the most serious because the hackers accessed names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. These are the essential elements to take out loans, open credit-card accounts, and more.

Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were affected by clicking on the “Potential Impact” button. Make sure you are on a secure computer (not a hotel or public computer) and are using a secure internet connection (not a public network like a local coffee shop, etc.). Equifax is offering free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and other items for those affected. I have always had credit monitoring so that I receive alerts in balance increases and decreases, new accounts, and credit inquiries. If you do not have a system of monitoring in place, I would strongly suggest you do so.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is a freelancer and agency owner in North Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of the NCRA Board of Directors. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.

The JCR Awards recognize innovative business strategies and more

The JCR Awards offer the perfect way to showcase innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. For the third year, the JCR staff is seeking stories that bring to life new and inventive ways that NCRA members change the way they do business, serve their communities, and help promote the professions of court reporting and captioning.

Nominations are currently being sought for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2017) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a group and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination as well as groups, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March 2018 issue of the JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31.

Read about the winners from 2017 and 2016.