Learn how to make 2018 your best business year yet

Lisa Colston, RPR, a freelancer and owner of Sworn Testimony, PLLC, in Lexington, Ky., is already registered to attend the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, saying she’s looking forward to “getting my creative juices flowing and thinking outside the box.” The 2018 event is Jan. 28-30 at The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach, Fla. This business-focused conference is designed with two key elements in mind: 1) giving attendees real-world educational sessions with pragmatic tips they can take back and implement into their business immediately and 2) providing lots of time to network with a friendly, open community of like-minded professionals.

This year, attendees will work with John Spence, one of the top 100 business thought leaders in the nation. During his keynote address, Spence will focus on what he does best: making complex business ideas “awesomely simple.” Later that afternoon, he will lead an in-depth, two-part workshop focused first on business planning and execution and then on strategic thinking and planning. Since Firm Owners is a smaller, more intimate event, attendees will have the opportunity to address their specific individual business challenges during this workshop.

Colston said that marketing tips and tricks are some of the most valuable things she’s learned at past conferences. And 2018 will continue that trend with Steve Scott’s session, “Marketing your Business on the Web.” Scott brings longtime experience with search engine optimization (SEO) and website design, fields he’s been working in since 1998. SEO is one of the current buzzwords in online marketing, and attendees will come away with greater insight on how to use SEO to get their name in front of potential clients.

Colston said that the most enjoyable part of attending Firm Owners is “the feeling of community and friendship” and that she’s been able to “develop business relationships that are built on the foundation of confidence and trust.” Furthermore, “the ability to collaborate on business strategies to help grow and strengthen” her business are why she keeps coming back. Plenty of networking time is built into the schedule, including a fun “Build-it, Mix-it, Who Will Win-it Networking Event” that will kick off the conference.

Freelancers and firm owners who are thinking of attending this conference for the first time will find a warm and welcoming community. “As a first-time attendee, I fully anticipated feeling like an outsider or fifth wheel. I was so sure that I would have to insert myself into conversations and wedge myself into long-forged friendships. I’m happy to say I was completely wrong,” said Constance Lee, RPR, a freelancer and owner of Constance Lee & Company in Baden, Pa. Lee attended for the first time in 2016 and then returned the very next year.

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.

The motto for the 2018 event is “Connect. Learn. Energize.” for good reason. “A network of professionals that you can rely on through the year will make running a small business effortless,” said Colston. “We are one united group of professionals working together to maintain a professional court reporting industry overall.” 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.

Don’t miss your chance to register

The NCRA website will be running routine maintenance on Thursday, Nov. 16, but attendees can download the registration form and register by phone or mail. In addition, members who register for the event and book their stay at The Don CeSar on Nov. 24 will be entered into a drawing for a free spouse registration for the event as part of NCRA’s Best. Friday. Ever. on Black Friday. Don’t wait – registration prices increase on Dec. 16.

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.

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.

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.

Imagine that

Imagine that
By Katherine Schilling

I shuffle awkwardly in my black pumps as the floors tick by one at a time – ding, ding. The stainless steel elevator doors make a poor mirror as I try to sneak a peek at my reflection to adjust those pesky fly-aways that the wind’s kicked up. Propping my sunglasses on my head instead, I try to imagine that they serve as a perfectly good headband.

“Do you solemnly swear — swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? No, no. Drop the whole God part.” I rehearse the line again and again in my head, imagining I’m delivering the affirmation while another part of my brain imagines unloading my equipment in the room: tripod, then machine, then laptop, then cables. Yup, cables definitely last.

When I walk up to the receptionist with my best “I totally know what I’m doing” smile, I imagine that I don’t have a run in my tights from grazing my roller case just minutes earlier. I imagine I’ve done this a million times before.

I’m pretty good at imagining. After all, it’s what I’ve done all through court reporting school. And now I’m finally here, about to take my first deposition.

Fake it until you make it. Visualization. Mind over matter. Call it what you want, but it’s one of the key reasons I got through school. Since before my first day of theory, I had a very specific image in my head of what I would look like after my school career: pencil skirt, black pumps, roller case in hand. There would be tall buildings, cool elevators, and beautiful cityscape views from the windows. I’d be poised and articulate, and I’d take down the record with ease. My writing would be clean; my schedule, full.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that focusing on positive or negative thoughts will bring about positive or negative experiences into your life. Visualizations power that Law of Attraction. Now, no one is saying that simply imagining something will magically make it come true. If you’re a student now or have been in the past, then you know that it takes practice, discipline, focus, and a whole lot of work to pass that final test.

However, maintaining a positive spirit by keeping one’s eyes fixed on the goal is what makes all that work worthwhile. The weeks, months, and even years spent in front of the machine practicing won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t eventually reach your goal; you won’t reach your goal without a positive attitude; you can’t maintain that positive attitude without visualizing your goal.

While there is no one answer to most students’ burning questions — How much should I practice? Should I shorten my writing or write everything out? What’s the fastest way to get through school? — the one constant among all successful graduates is that they had a goal and visualized it until it became a reality.

Demoralization is, above all, the greatest threat to one’s success in school. Visualizing yourself as the successful court reporter you want to be is that imaginary carrot on a stick to help you get through the tough times, something to remind yourself why you’re sitting in front of your machine for hours. It makes the days you dedicate to memorizing briefs and scrimping and saving for the state association conventions worth it. Without that shining light at the end of the tunnel, it is easy to grow to resent the grind of school days.

Painting a magnificent picture of your future can also have the added benefit of tricking yourself into success. In my later speeds when I hit plateaus, I would get frustrated, and then I would get imaginative. I pretended that I’d already passed that test and that the ten minutes of dictation were merely a warm-up. Sometimes it worked. Like imagining a plateful of delicious food to stave off my rumbling belly, that imagined confidence shrugged off nerves and left my apprehension at the classroom door so that I could tune out the negative self-talk and just write.

Now, nearly a year and a half after I left school, has all my visualizing paid off? Well, I got my pencil skirt and pumps, but they’ll sometimes show runs in my tights or get scuffed. On the job, I’m sometimes poised and articulate; other times, I forget my own name. Sometimes my schedule is full, and sometimes it’s emptied by a rash of “cancellitis.” But that doesn’t stop me from still imagining. I’m always making new goals and focusing on them, looking forward to what I can accomplish next.

Whatever your goals are, bring them to life with powerful visualizations. Get creative and don’t skimp on the details. The more vivid the image, the more potent it will be. These self-affirming visualizations will keep your head high when things get tough, they can help you relax during tests, and they will remind you what all your hard work is for.

And just imagine what will come next.

Katherine Schilling, RPR, is a freelancer based in Richmond, Va. She can be reached at katherineschillingcr@gmail.com.

 

REPORTING: Are you ready for daily copy?

By Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas

It’s Friday at 7:30 p.m. The weekend has officially started. You’re just kicking back to relax with a movie and some popcorn. Then this email hits your inbox:

“We need someone to cover a three-week asbestos trial starting Monday, daily copy, rough at close of each day, four realtime feeds plus judge, multiple copy orders. Are you available?”

Your first reaction: Woot! You can’t type fast enough: “Yes! I’ll take it!”

daily copyAs you hit the send button, your eye falls on the postscript you somehow missed on the first reading: “And, oh, by the way, they need the final no later than 10 p.m. every night.”

Are you thinking: “When will I sleep? When will I eat? Will my family remember what I look like when the trial is over? Will I still have a family? Will the dog remember who I am? What was I thinking? I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can

With a seasoned team of scopists and proofreaders, a little prep work, and the latest technological advances in CAT software, you can do this — and live to tell the tale with a smile on your face.

The first step is to start preparing now, before you get that call or email. A small investment of time and effort now will pay off huge when the big day does arrive.

“But why do I need to prepare now?” you may ask. “I may never need such a team. I don’t even work with a scopist/proofreader on a regular basis. What’s the point in spending time on it now? I’m sure I can just post on Facebook or another forum and find all the help I need at a moment’s notice.”

Maybe; maybe not. Most quality scopists and proofreaders keep a full calendar of work. Forming a good team is always a challenge, even more so at the last minute. Searching for superb help when there is no time for due diligence is a sure recipe for disaster. And, as we all know, even the most foolproof technology can behave like an unruly child, especially when there’s no time to troubleshoot or learn.

Get ready before it happens

First, begin lining up a team of scopists and proofreaders who have extensive knowledge and experience with daily and immediate turnaround work. Do your due diligence. Get references, read testimonials, and pay attention to how questions in groups and forums are answered. You can choose to assemble your own team or you can contact a ready-made team geared exclusively toward daily work.

Second, agree upon a form of communication that will afford all parties the fastest response time possible. Applications like Google Hangouts, Yahoo, AIM, Facebook IM, and Skype are all good options.

Third, have a frank conversation with your team about your expectations and theirs during the course of the job. How do you want to be notified of questionable spots to check before sending out the final? How much — or how little — research do you expect from your team? Do you expect scoping to be done with full audio? How firm are you about having your specific preferences followed to the letter? How will files be transferred back and forth? Who is responsible for putting together the rough? How and when will invoices be sent and when is payment expected?

Fourth, verify your team’s availability as soon as you learn of an impending daily. Send your team any word lists, prior transcripts, and any other information you have that may contain spellings/terms/parties pertinent to the case.

Fifth, set up a short practice session with your team to ensure that you have all the correct settings for your CAT software when performing realtime or daily work.

Finally, relax. You’ve got this! With a solid team behind you, you can focus all your attention on your writing. When there’s a break or it’s lunchtime, you can actually get up and move around, eat a real meal, make a phone call, go outside and enjoy some sunshine. Your team will be there doing the heavy lifting while you get some much-needed downtime to gather your strength for the next round.

You’ll emerge from this experience with a new level of confidence in your skills, your marriage will still be intact, the kids will still know who you are, the dog will still recognize your voice. And you’ll actually look forward to the next time you get that crazy email, knowing that you are equipped with a secret weapon: a proven team of scopists and proofreaders working alongside you every minute with one goal in mind — delivering a finished, polished transcript in record time to your adoring fans – er, clients.

Who’s afraid of that big, bad daily trial now? Not you!

Brenda Rogers-Fiscus, Deborah Smolinske, and Beverly Thomas are the primary team members of Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, which was established in 2014.  Learn more at transcriptbrigade.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

TechLinks: Keeping organized with technology

TechLinks_logoIf one of your 2017 resolutions is to get more organized, the NCRA Technology Committee has your back.

A trio of tips from makeuseof.com offers strategies to reach inbox zero with your gmail account, use the camera on your iPhone to manage your life and help you remember things, and use Google calendar more efficiently.

A Jan. 10 article from Inside Counsel offers information about three startups that help manage your calendar. While originally written for lawyers, it is easily adaptable for court reporters.

Keep in mind that Acrobat Pro DC allows users to scan or snap a photo of a paper document, then edit the graphics or text with fonts that match the original, which keeps you organized wherever you are.

Celebrating entrepreneurs

“It took a lot of hard work and determination to get through school and to build my skills as a practicing reporter. I’m a reporter business owner, so my approach in working with clients, reporters, and staff is generally directed by the reporter in me,” says Jan Schmitt, RPR, owner of the Schmitt Reporting & Video in Vancouver, Wash.

To mark Women’s Entrepreneur Day, an international day celebrated with a worldwide social media campaign on Nov. 30, the JCR reached out to several of NCRA’s firm owner-reporters — both male and female — to get their take on what entrepreneurship means to them.

While the people identified themselves foremost as reporters, they had many traits that transfer over to being an entrepreneur. “When I tell people what I do, I always explain the reporting part. Telling them I am business owner comes later in the conversation when I explain that I don’t work in a courthouse but for myself,” says Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and the owner of Russell Court Reporting, Inc., in Tulsa, Okla. “And I never even thought of myself as an entrepreneur until about a year ago when a friend introduced me as one.”

But reporters shouldn’t fear the term entrepreneur. Small businesses contribute to the global economy and make up about half of all U.S. jobs.

Attributes of the entrepreneurial court reporter

Only nine months into her career, Katherine Schilling, RPR, a freelancer in Richmond, Va., explains entrepreneurship this way: “In my mind, an entrepreneur is someone who offers a one-of-a-kind service that furthers their industry as a whole. This, too, is something that I feel comes with time and experience. These are the real-timers, the multiple hook up-ers, the three-scopist team-ers, the daily copy turn around-ers! At present, I’m focusing purely on advancing my own skills, but once I’m at a point where I’m offering something revolutionary to the court reporting industry, maybe then I can start considering such a prestigious title as entrepreneur.”

Entrepreneurship matches many of the attributes that reporters already have — at least according to the Small Business Administration, which lists persuasiveness, risk-taking, independence, creativity, and being supported by others as important traits for entrepreneurs.

“You are very much a salesperson as a reporter, and that is the start of being an entrepreneur,” says Donna Linton, RMR, a freelancer based in Ashburn, Va. “You start at the beginning of the day selling yourself by being on time and prepared for the case, having your exhibit stickers and equipment ready to go. What is hard for a lot of reporters is to know you have the skill at the end of the day to sell your product by asking, ‘Do you need a rough draft’ or ‘Would you like to expedite this?’”

But there are many more traits that reporters and firm owners list as important in addition to those mentioned — with organization and planning topping most people’s lists. “The most important in my view are focus, persistence, determination and patience, planning, and dealing with many types of individuals, as well as being accountable,” says Grant Morrison, CRI, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m big on planning ahead, especially for trials,” says Linton. ”Working with other reporters to get as much information ahead of time from clients helps us be consistent and produce the best product we can under pressure.”

“I believe the most important attributes of being an entrepreneur in the field of court reporting start with integrity and a commitment to the legal process,” says Kathy Reumann, RDR, a freelancer based in Rock Island, Ill.

“Punctuality is extremely important. It shows respect and readiness to tackle the job at hand,” says Lisa B. Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner based in Melbourne, Fla. “Being able to keep calm in a situation that may not be going as planned and focusing on how to solve the problem and move on.”

“Entrepreneurs are the trailblazers of any industry, so they need all the following attributes to make their business a success: self-motivation, discipline, time management, and a passion to keep learning and improving,” said Schilling. “Court reporters have these traits in spades. Due to the nature of the court reporting field, we are often the only ones driving ourselves to do our best, through school and even decades into the working world. The job is also a very solitary one, especially for freelancers, so we have only ourselves to rely on in order to stay focused on the job and stay organized when those high page counts and expedites start rolling in.”

“A reporter skill that translates to an entrepreneurial skill is perseverance,” says Kerr. “No matter how difficult a deposition may be with the terminology or people speaking at once, I don’t give up, and I follow that same thinking with running a business.”

Advice for entrepreneurs

Many stressed the importance of being a reporter first. “You have to know how things are going out there in the field working an actual job so you can understand what the reporters are dealing with and what the clients are really expecting from their reporters as well as the judges,” says Linton.

Finding good support is essential to supporting the entrepreneur, whether it’s additional reporters to build your business or hiring a scopist or proofreader to keep up on your deadlines. Linton notes that these investments are about knowing that time is money — and saving time is key.

“The ability to attract and keep good reporters and staff is key. Endless determination, good vision and leadership — ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18) — knowing your strengths and, more important, knowing your weakness and being willing to seek help in those areas. Some creativity and an ability to sell go a long way,” says Schmitt.

Linton advises finding a reliable and fantastic scopist and proofreader: “Do not be afraid to use one and find a favorite or two.”

“Know your CAT software to save you time so you can take more work to make more money,” Linton also suggest. ”For an agency, it means knowing skilled reporters who are reliable and keeping them happy. It saves the agency time finding coverage and means fewer headaches when producing their work for your clients.”

“Having the right people working for me,” says Kerr. “Those include everyone from my scopist and proofreader to my CPA. Delegating responsibilities to the people I can count on to get the job done and done correctly so I can focus on reporting and other aspects of running a business is so essential. I tried doing everything by myself, and it made life very difficult.

Organization is also important, mentioned by almost everyone. “Being organized in your scheduling is important,” says Johnston. “Personally, I have three calendars with all of my work appointments and jobs: one paper calendar, one smartphone calendar, one whiteboard calendar in my office. Reporter work days are anything but routine, so if you’ve committed to something, keep the commitment. Your reputation is of utmost importance.”

“Other important attributes are being wise with your finances and having confidence in your ultimate success,” says Kerr.

“Higher education and certification in your field shows dedication to your career,” says Johnston. [Ed. Note: NCRA offers education specific to firm owners at is Firm Owners Executive Conference, being held at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 12-14, 2017.]

“Luckily for court reporters, there are always plenty of industry conventions to attend in order to expand our knowledge and improve our skills for the job,” says Schilling. “By continuing our education, we improve our product and can deliver top-notch work that will wow our clients and push the court reporting profession to new heights!”

Manage your time to manage your life

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant who presented at the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference in April 2016, offered tips about time management to NCRA staff, and several of her suggestions can be adopted by anyone. Early on in her presentation, she noted that our attention is split between wanting to be accessible and needing to focus. Several studies over the past decade show that focused attention is important to everyone’s daily lives. Email, Gomez points out, is one of the new technologies that drive people to feel the need to be available to anyone all the time, as are cell phones and so many of the social media networks.

Productivity studies in recent years have offered new insight into the way we work. For instance, Gomez pointed out that your willpower and the ability to work on hard tasks are highest in the morning, and that adopting this daily habit of tackling the worst task early in the day prevents procrastination and, in the long term, burnout. Alternatively, using this information, some people instead choose to set aside time each morning to work on their most important long-term goals.

Gomez also suggests calling your to-do list a master plan to help change your mind-set about tackling what you need to do. The master plan should work on the five C’s:

  1. Have only one place where you keep all of your lists about what needs to be done. It can be a physical notebook, an online note program, or even an Excel or Word document where you include everything that needs to be done. It’s important to find a system that works for you.
  2. Write everything down. Don’t rely on your memory.
  3. Figure out your categories, which help you to prioritize. You might have a section for projects, phone calls, personal to-do lists, or more. (When asked, she said that some people might find it better to keep one list for work and one for personal, but that it was mostly personal preference.)
  4. Have a deadline. You can use deadlines as a proxy for priorities; if a deadline passes, renegotiate the deadline. If it’s a large project, add interim deadlines if they aren’t already assigned. When you note that you don’t have enough time for a project, work with the person to manage expectations and prioritize your work.
  5. Use it, look at it, cross it off, and consult it on a real-time basis. Gomez suggests looking at your plan at least once a day, maybe three or four times a day.

Once you have an established system, Gomez advises that you figure out your top priorities – maybe two or three things – and determine what action is needed. Once you have your priorities, take time each day to focus and move forward on your priorities, and find ways to protect that time.

Gomez admits that you have to figure in time for work that doesn’t fit with your top priorities — perhaps you need to respond to emails or make calls. How you plan your day should reflect those realities, and you can add those tasks to your agenda to make sure that those things are taken care of too.

As she closed the session, Gomez reminded attendees: Is the goal to just get by, or is the goal to thrive? Get in tune with what works for you, so you can improve your focus and gain more energy.