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.

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.

New online service helps legal professionals reserve qualified court reporters in seconds

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Sept. 19, DirectDep, based in New York, announced a new online service that helps legal professionals reserve qualified court reporters in seconds. The online service works similar to reservation and appointment services such as OpenTable and Zocdoc.

Read more.

PERSONAL MARKETING: Getting the most out of LinkedIn

By Sara L. Wood

LinkedIn has become the premier place for people to improve their careers. No matter what part of the profession you are in, you can use LinkedIn as a tool to get ahead. However, some LinkedIn profiles are more successful than others. As you position yourself for success, here are six tips for optimizing your personal profile.

1) Showcase your certifications. You can do this two ways. First, make sure your certifications are listed after your name in your title. Even if your potential clients don’t understand what your credentials mean at first glance, certifications can add credibility to your profile. Next, explain what those certifications mean in the body of your resume. Other members of NCRA will know what they mean, but those outside of the profession may not. You worked hard to earn your certifications, so make sure you do everything you can help your clients understand the value you bring as a certified professional.

2) Set up your profile to get better endorsements. While you’ve been browsing LinkedIn, you may have seen the option to endorse others. Other people may have even endorsed you. If you have not yet used this tool, here’s how it works. The LinkedIn algorithm will automatically start suggesting endorsements on your behalf to your network based upon the skills you have listed in your profile. This means that you should begin by listing all of the skills you want others to see when they get suggested endorsement options. Here are some skills to get you started: speed, public speaking, management, videography, realtime, and CART captioning, to name a few. If you are stumped for what to list, take a look at some of your colleague’s profiles for ideas.

3) Increase your number of endorsements. The principle of reciprocity can often apply to endorsements. If you endorse others, they will be more likely to endorse you. To start building up your endorsements and make them count, take some time and endorse those who deserve your accolades. These endorsements should be sincere. Remember that when you are saying that someone else has a skill, you are publicly laying your reputation on this assessment. That said, giving honest endorsements may not only encourage others to endorse you, but it can also help build your social capital with other people on LinkedIn.

4) Assess the quality of your endorsements. As people begin to endorse you, they will have the option of writing in skills that you didn’t necessarily include in your profile. This can be both a positive and a negative. On the plus side, someone might acknowledge you for a skill you never considered. However, conversely, someone in your network may endorse you for a skill you don’t have. If you start to see skills rising to the top of your list that you don’t want to see, reach out to people you know and ask them to endorse you for the skills you would prefer to see at the top.

5) Update your resume, and connect with new contacts. It’s tempting to let your LinkedIn profile languish, but you never know which connections will get you more work. It’s critical to keep your resume fresh, and stay in touch with new connections. When you are out on a job, and if it’s appropriate and ethical to do so, collect business cards. (You may want to check with the firms you work for to be sure you understand the firm’s policy before approaching attorney clients.) If you have a connection, you can follow up with those people after the job on LinkedIn.  Also, don’t just send the standard template connection request. Use a personalized, genuine message when you reach out, and the person will be more likely to remember you.

6) Use a professional headshot. Or at least use one that looks professional. This is the first image that people will see when they come to your profile, and it will set the tone of your personal brand for the rest of their experience on your page. If you have that great photo of you in a bikini on the beach, you will want to think about the message that image communicates to your audience.  While it may be a fantastic picture, it may not convey your professionalism as a court reporter. Personal photos are best left for places like Facebook; again, unless that is the brand you intend to convey. If you have it in your budget, invest in headshots. Depending upon your area, they can range from the low- to mid-hundreds. Larger cities can be higher, so shop around. If you can’t afford the expenditure, put on your nicest business outfit, stand in front of a neutral background, and have someone take your photo. If you want to get a bit more in-depth, Google “how to take your own headshot,” and there are many professional photographers who can give you tips.

Sara L. Wood is NCRA’s Director of Membership & Marketing. She can be reached at swood@ncra.org.