Aptus Court Reporting welcomes new business development executive

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Nov. 12, Aptus Court Reporting announced that the firm is expanding their presence in Southern California with the addition of Julie Long, who will focus on creating new business relationships while ensuring existing clients continue to receive quality service.

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Aptus Court Reporting expands Bay Area team with two new directors

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Nov. 5, Aptus Court Reporting announced the addition of industry veterans Brandon Wai and Marika Pickles as directors of business development for the company’s San Francisco, Calif., office.

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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.

Someone to trust: The value of peer mentorship

By Megan Rogers

Most of the discussion about mentoring revolves around students. Court reporters and captioners remember how difficult school was and recognize students’ need to have someone to go to for support and advice.

But what about after school? Reporting and captioning success in the real world require some measure of business skills. This becomes especially important if a reporter or captioner finds themselves operating as a one-person shop or running or owning a firm.

In 2016, Cassy Kerr, RPR, CRR, CRC, who owns StenoLogic in Tulsa, Okla., sent an email to the NCRA firm owners’ listserv asking for a firm-owner mentor. “I have been a reporter for 26 years and a firm owner for 13, and there are times when I need a sounding board, someone to go to with business questions, out of the social media arena,” Kerr said. “It’s hard being a firm owner, and it’s hard being a small-firm owner and a working reporter and trying to keep all the balls in the air at once.”

“I didn’t set out to be a firm owner,” explained Kerr in an interview with the JCR. “My passion lies with court reporting, but there are consequential duties that come with being a small-firm owner.” She further said: “All responsibilities fall on my shoulders, including calendaring the depositions, ordering supplies, invoicing transcripts, paying taxes, all the back office support that comes with running a business. I have outside help from my accountant, bookkeeper, scopists, proofreader, copying/scanning service, and the like; and they take away some of the pressure, but those responsibilities ultimately end with me.”

Kim Thayer, RPR, CRR, owner of Kim Thayer & Associates in Hanford, Calif., was one of the people who responded to Kerr’s message. Thayer agreed that a business mentor would be helpful. “As a reporter, you don’t realize the nuts and bolts that go into making a firm run,” she said. For example: “I had no idea all the contracts that needed to be read over and analyzed, from renting copy machines to software agreements. At the time I was leasing space for our office, so I had to learn how to deal with the leasing company. All the extra costs of running a business were probably the most surprising, employee taxes, etc.”

Thayer has a similar experience to Kerr in that she’s actively reporting. “That’s where I find the most fulfillment and joy,” she said. She’s been reporting since 1990 and bought the firm in 2005. Also like Kerr, she hadn’t previously anticipated owning a firm. “My current firm I worked for, the owner took me to lunch, told me she was retiring, felt I would be the best fit to buy her firm,” she explained. “After a week of thinking it out, pros and cons, we went into negotiations.”

Kerr’s desire for a mentor isn’t a new concept in the business world. Sometimes this comes in the form of a peer mentor and sometimes it comes in the form of a mastermind group.

Thayer found a mentor in the previous owner of the firm, who stayed on for another couple years working as a reporter. “The greatest benefit was I was able to call and ask her about the business when something came up, so I had direct access to answers,” said Thayer.

Mentors “can provide guidance, wisdom, and direction so you don’t become mired in self-doubt,” said Sumi Krishnan in a 2015 article entitled “Why Entrepreneurs Need Mentors and How to Find Them” for Entrepreneur. Krishnan is the CEO of K4 Solutions, a technology and staffing service, based in Falls Church, Va. “You may try to use friends, family members, and colleagues as mentors. But that won’t work. Those people can’t empathize with many of your struggles the way a mentor in your industry can.” Krishnan suggests three different types of mentors:

  • The ‘mentor from afar’: “Often a stranger who doesn’t know you but is still someone who can have a great impact on how you run your business.”
  • The industry-specific mentor: “He or she can help you with industry-dependent challenges, like managing finances and choosing suppliers. These individuals rarely mentor full time, but their one-on-one advice can be invaluable, especially in niche fields.”
  • The direct mentor: “Usually professionals whom you may be paying in return for their support.”

Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, has served as both mentee and mentor based on Krishnan’s categories, although he doesn’t use those terms. “If someone’s talking about how they do a certain thing — as an example, reading/signing — then rather than counter with, ‘Oh, I do it this way,’ I try to think, ‘How would that work for me?’ I’ve gotten a lot of good business tips that way, just from listening,” he said. Meadors, who also responded to Kerr’s inquiry on the listserv, has also acted as an advisor to reporters who are setting up their own business: “I tell them they should have a corporate entity, have their own cards, file their quarterlies, contact firms for work other than me, etc.”

Unlike Kerr and Thayer, Meadors set out to start his own firm, Meadors Court Reporting in Fort Collins, Colo. “I started my own shop on a shoestring, and not a nice new shoestring out of the pack, but a frayed and tied-together one that looked like it had belonged to a teenager trying to outrun a pack of dogs,” he said. The appeal of owning a firm, however, was “playing by my own rules.”

Meadors has also tapped into what is essentially an informal mastermind group. “I’m fortunate that in Colorado, we have a pretty collegial bunch to whom I can talk without a lot of worries,” although he admits, “I do have a few colleagues I relate to more often.”

In a 2013 article for Forbes entitled “7 Reasons To Join A Mastermind Group,” Stephanie Burns describes a mastermind group as “a group of smart people [who] meet weekly, monthly, daily even if it makes sense, to tackle challenges and problems together. They lean on each other, give advice, share connections, and do business with each other when appropriate.” Burns is the founder and CEO of Chic CEO based in San Diego, Calif. She lists advisement, collaborating, extending your network, and cross-promotion as some of the reasons to form a mastermind group. “By interacting and sharing your challenges, it’s almost certain that someone in your mastermind will have a solution for you, and you may also be able to offer a solution, connection, or tactic to help another in the group,” Burns said.

“Sometimes you just need some trusted colleagues who are at the same place in their development to hash around ideas with. That, in a nutshell, is the mastermind group,” said Adrienne Montgomerie in a 2015 blog post entitled “How a Mastermind Group Educates Sr Editors” for Copyediting.com. Montgomerie is a certified copyeditor and editorial consultant based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. “To start your own mastermind group, list the colleagues you turn to regularly for advice (or who you would like to) and who consults you. Pick people who share aspects of your own practice,” Montgomerie said. “One or two points in common is essential, but points of contrast are very important, too. You want to be able to draw on each other’s different strengths.” She also notes: “Your mastermind group doesn’t have to be local. Online chat systems, video conferencing, or even a group email chain can facilitate communications.”

In a 2013 article for Entrepreneur entitled “Look to Peer Mentoring Groups for Ideas, Support, and Tough Love,” Brian Barquilla, who uses the term peer mentoring group, explained, “Peer mentoring groups are usually 10 or 12 owners of similarly sized, non-competing businesses who get together to help each other find faster, easier ways to build a great company.” Barquilla is the president of AdvantageB2B Consulting + Marketing in Jacksonville, Fla. Since Barquilla suggests finding peer mentors outside of your own industry, he points out: “It is likely whatever problems you face, someone in your group has faced it and remedied it, but what worked for one industry may not with another.”

Previous experience with a professional group is what got Kerr started in thinking about finding a mentor. “I became involved a couple of years ago with 4word, a Christian professional women’s organization that promotes mentors in the workplace, and that is when I first became aware that even working women need mentors, and it gave me the idea to reach out to the listserv,” said Kerr.

Kerr admitted that she doesn’t want to feel like she’s bothering a court reporting friend who may be too busy to answer obligatory questions, so having a wide network can help. Meadors explained: “Really, conventions — state, user group, and national — have been huge for me in establishing connections and listening to what others do. I had one firm owner tell me back in the 1980s, ‘I have gotten back every penny I have ever spent on NCRA conventions just for business knowledge and contacts,’ and I find that to be true. And then that leads to friendships and ongoing contacts. There are firm owners coast to coast and in between with whom I chat, all thanks to those connections.”

Perhaps the most challenging step is swallowing that pride and understanding the value of reaching out. “I shrugged off wondering what other reporters and firm owners would negatively think about a 26-yearplus reporter and experienced firm owner asking for help,” said Kerr. “I made myself vulnerable because my thoughts are we reporters need to ask for help from our colleagues, we need to continue learning and growing in our profession, and we need to stop thinking we will look incompetent if we ask for help.”

“No matter how high your position in a court reporting firm,” Kerr concluded, “I believe everyone would benefit with a mentor.”

Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at mrogers@ncra.org.

Tasks that paralegals can delegate to court reporting firms

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyA blog written by Kramm Court Reporting offers 11 tasks that paralegals can delegate to court reporting firms that would help increase efficiency. Among the tasks are finding and reserving conference rooms, setting up interpreters, and providing a common calendar for parties to access. JD Supra shared the post on Sept 21.

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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.

PE-backed Lexitas buys Deitz Court Reporting

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyLexitas, a national provider of litigation support services, announced in a press release issued Aug. 14 that it has acquired Hoorwitz, Inc., dba Deitz Court Reporting.

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VITAC joins Sports Group Video as a corporate sponsor

JCR logoA press release issued June 13 announced that VITAC, based in Canonsburg, Pa., has become a corporate sponsor of the Sports Video Group.

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Steno Services expands to nationwide coverage

JCR logoA press release issued June 12 announced that Oklahoma City-based Steno Services is partnering with a broad range of firms and advertising across the nation to expand their services nationwide. Steno Services had previously covered only the Oklahoma City area and surrounding regions.

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