Raj Jha – Building Business Systems | 412

Raj Jha – Building Business Systems | 412

Raj Jha

Matt Theriault is joined today by Raj Jha, a previous COO and the current leader of Practice Alchemy, a boutique law firm representing some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. Learn how to get consistent results out of your business, which systems to tackle first and last, the biggest mistake people make with systems, and much more on today’s episode of Thought Leader Thursday!

Raj Jha

What You Will Learn About Raj Jha – Building Business Systems:

  • Why systems and delegations are important to a business
  • How to get consistent results
  • How to keep the same position consistent throughout multiple hires
  • The key to developing systems that work
  • The biggest mistake people make with systems
  • Which systems to tackle first if you’re a solopreneur
  • Which part of your business should be systematized last
  • The best book Raj Jha read in the last 12 months
  • How Raj Jha overhauled his original economic model that wasn’t working
  • How to network with attorneys

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Matt Theriault: This is Theriault Media.

Raj Jha: Find an attorney that you really get along with. Find one that you can partner with, and there’s a really great way to mutually add value. If you can become a referral source for them, and refer that attorney more opportunities, more business, and it doesn’t actually frankly take that much, right? A few deals a year could be fantastic for them. And what you’ll get in exchange for that is having a partner who can actually look at deals, and help you plan strategically.

Matt: Hi, I’m Matt Theriault of the Epic Real Estate Investing Show, and this is Thought Leader Thursday. Today I’m joined by the fearless leader of Practice Alchemy. Practice Alchemy works with law firms of all sizes and practice areas to create a comprehensive law firm marketing strategy for them that will consistently deliver a return on investment. As an attorney, our guest founded a boutique law firm that today represents some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. His early background in computer science and his depth of experience in the legal realm not only serve as a perfect fit for those silicon valley clients but enable him to introduce dynamic and modern marketing practices to attorneys across the country, who have hit a wall with their practice growth efforts. On top of all of that, he has previously held the title, COO, giving him the insight and understanding into attorneys’ struggle to prioritize their workloads.

Matt: So, please help me welcome to Epic Real Estate Investing, Mr. Raj Jha. Raj, welcome to the show.

Raj: Thanks very much for having me, and for the very detailed introduction, so people will know everything about what I …

Matt: I wrote that whole thing myself.

Raj: I second that right. And now on to the unscripted part of the show, right?

Matt: Exactly, exactly. Jha, is that how you say your last name?

Raj: It is, yeah.

Matt: It’s correct? Okay. I’ve actually known you for a while now, and I never said your last name before.

Raj: Yeah, exactly. It’s actually fewer letters than yours but harder to pronounce. So, yes.

Matt: All righty, so I’m really excited to have you on the show today, and the reason I asked you on is a very popular topic here on my show, that revolves around systems and delegation. And from what I know of your, from what I know of you in our professional circle, you’ve really been able to dial that part of your business in. So let’s just start with, why are setting up systems and delegations important to a business, and where’s the big opportunity there?

Raj: It’s important at the highest level for consistency, right? Ultimately, regardless of what kind of business you have, consistent results are important because you can count on it, you can grow the business in an intelligent way, and that predictability comes from having a system. And even when you start a business and maybe you’re a solopreneur at the beginning, ultimately, you have to think about how do I replace myself? And that always comes back to a system of some sort, because if you just hire somebody, or even if it’s a contractor, if it’s your first employee, and you say, hey do this, and there’s no framework, you’re not sure they’re gonna do what you expect them to do. They don’t have your knowledge, they don’t really know your business. So systems lead to consistency, and consistency is better client delivery and better profitability.

Matt: Right, yeah consistency. It’s really everything, isn’t it?

Raj: It is, yeah exactly. And this applies to every part of the business as well, so it’s not, you know we’ll probably dive into that a little more as we go on, but it’s not just one big system. There are lots of little systems in every business as well.

Matt: Super, so can you give me an example of, in your business, give me an example of a system, so we can kind of just see the impact of this and how it impacts you and your business?

Raj: Sure, I actually delved into this recently because, I had an employee depart, and she took with her a lot of institutional knowledge, about how we actually do our marketing campaigns. And it was kind of, a lot of it was in her head and it was an opportunity for me to go in and say, “Okay let’s take the,” one example, “Let’s take the production of social media and blogs, and all the things that we do for our clients, and actually systematize that.” So, looking at it step by step, what has to happen? How do you make sure that when the one person is done, that the baton gets passed to the next person appropriately? How do we benchmark success, know we’re on track, all that. So it’s really taking things apart, and in this instance, blog in social media production for our client, and constructing it into something that can almost run by itself, right? It’s a step by step protocol.

Matt: Right, so it’s not people dependent, right?

Raj: Yeah that’s exactly right.

Matt: You can plug any person in there and that task can get carried out now. Perfect.

Raj: It’s people dependent but it’s not a specific person dependent, right? It’s role dependent.

Matt: So you had this person with all this knowledge in their head, they left and that could have been, caused a big impact on your business.

Raj: Yep exactly, but within a week and a half, we managed to systematize everything she was doing, delegate it out to other people, and so now that’s one less point of failure in our business.

Matt: Perfect. You might have already answered this a little bit, let’s get a little bit more detailed though. If you were to pick a new task today to delegate, or a new system to create, I guess this last week and a half, what did that process look like from beginning to end?

Raj: Yeah so in other words, how did I go through the process of creating the system?

Matt: Yeah, I mean did this employee, were they involved in helping you create the system, or did you have to kind of go look at her job and …

Raj: I kind of had to go look at her job, which was honestly bad on my part. I should have done this earlier on in the process, but we all learn as we go, about the pieces you don’t know, right? You get good at delegating, and there’s a fine line between delegation and abdication. And when you have a trusted employee, you sometimes say, “Oh, go set up the system.” And they do it, and they’ve got their system, but it’s not general enough, right, it’s not something that could be applied to other people.

Yeah, so you asked for a specific example of something?

Matt: Well, so if you were gonna go set this system up, kind of like what was your approach to that process, that you had to go recreate this?

Raj: Yeah, so number one, always begin with the end in mind. Right? So you ask, what are we trying to achieve with this system? And then what does success look like? And you have to define that very crisply. Some of these systems are internal facing, some of them are external facing. Either way, you have to know what success looks like, either for your customer or client or for internally, another consumer of the process, because it’s a production line ultimately.

So you ask yourself what does success look like, and then you kind of work backward from there. At each stage, okay, I know I wanna end up here, with this kind of end product. Then what’s the previous stage? Okay, well what are the inputs to that stage? What information is necessary, what tools are necessary, and then what are the success criteria for output? And then you just kind of work backward up the chain, until you figure out, okay from tip to tail, these are all the stages.

Matt: Got it, right. I’m starting to notice a pattern in my line of questioning is that, I had this next question lined up, but it tends to get answered in the previous question. So if like my normal-

Raj: I’m a mind reader, hence.

Matt: Exactly, so let me ask you, and I mean like I said you might have already answered this, but what are the biggest mistakes either you have made, or you see others make when it comes to systems and delegation? Abdication is kind of one, and certainly, I’m certainly guilty of that so I get that. Anything else that you can think of?

Raj: Yeah and I think this applies particularly to a business owner, to an entrepreneur. We very often, we think in big pictures, right, big generalities. Okay, I know I wanna accomplish this. I know, these are the big pieces, then you kind of throw it to somebody else. That’s sort of abdication, right? You’ve given responsibility, but you haven’t really given clarity on the outcomes, and so a few mistakes that I see is, not sitting down with the person tasked on making the system if it’s not you, and say, “This is what success looks like, and here’s the process I want you to follow, and here is the sign off you need to get.”

So whenever someone creates a system, have the business owner, it’s ultimately in smaller businesses, sit down with him and review it. And think to themselves, okay if this person vanished, could I take this and give it to somebody else. That’s a very important criteria for that. You know I’ve made every mistake in the book, you know using, creating systems that are too complicated, or not complicated enough. It’s that just the right level of the system that matters because if everything is task driven down to the five minutes, you know checkbox, then it’s too detailed and won’t be used. If it’s too general, then you don’t know if it encompasses too many subtasks, and there could be a failure there.

So, getting the sizing right, and that’s gonna be different for every business, is also a really important thing that I see people not paying a lot of attention to.

Matt: All right, now let’s get practical. If someone were to take on the idea of systemizing their business, so you got a solopreneur out there, a one-man band. What system or systems should be tackled first?

Raj: That’s a good question. They’re several frameworks for that. But ultimately, you have to look at what your highest contribution is in the business, and then what are the things that are ultimately commodities. So if these are the first things that you are delegating out, whether you got an hourly assistant of some sort, or even just a subcontractor doing things for you, you have to ask yourself, what are things that are taking a huge amount of time, are relatively repeatable, and are not core to my business or not core to the value that I add, right?

So I mean, if you think about it, what’s one of the first things that almost all businesses outsource, is bookkeeping. Right? So why is that? Well, it makes no sense for me to be doing journal entries and entering receipts and things like that. We all get that, but then we fail to apply that lesson to something else that might be equally systematizable, right? So that’s a general principle. Look for those things where you’re not adding huge amounts of value, or that are low level, repeatable commodities that free you up, so you can work more on the high-level parts of the business.

Matt: Got it, so what should be last then? Should it be like your genius and what you do best, or your biggest value or, is that the last?

Raj: Yeah, last would be either you’re genius or your highest contribution to the company. Second to last is probably anything in the line of money, between a customer and you, right, because very often some of the last things that should be off your plate are sales and marketing. Because a lot of the other delivery and operations can be handled by other people. You can actually find, really people whose genius is the delivery of the thing. The thing you don’t wanna let go of is the wallet of the business. Financial controls. And you don’t wanna let go of sales and marketing unless and until you feel that you really have a solid team in place for that, and systems that you know and you can see at a dashboard level what’s going on.

Matt: Raj, what is the last book you read, in the last 12 months, and or let’s say, what is the best book that you read in the last 12 months, and how did it impact you?

Raj: The best book, okay, now the funniest thing is because I do them all on audio, I don’t even remember a lot of the books. Let’s see …

Matt: Recent memory then.

Raj: Yeah recent memory, one of the books, I reread it or relistened to it, is Essentialism. I think that that is a really, an eye-opening thing. It’s about what really matters, and asking yourself, is what I’m doing really essential at all times. And I find that, both personally and professionally, that, that’s a really important lesson.

Matt:  Yeah. No, I read that as well, but I think that I’ve forgotten most of what I read in there. But I remember reading …

Raj: Well, it’s worth a reread so.

Matt: Is there another book called Minimalism, or was it, minimalism a subject within Essentialism?

Raj: Well, there might be another book, I don’t know about it.

Matt: There might be another book.

Raj: Yeah, might be another book. Yeah, exactly.

Matt: Okay, good. So what’s the toughest time you’ve had in business, and how did you overcome it?

Raj: Yeah, you know there have been several. I mean it’s a long road, but I think ultimately, it is realizing that my original economic model of this business didn’t work. And I was not charging enough for the services I was providing, and again, down to systems, I had systematized things to a point where, I could deliver very well, but ultimately I wasn’t charging enough, and there wasn’t enough value in the product, in that marketing product that we originally started with, to have customers stick with us for the long term. So I invested probably two years of my life in trying to push that rock up the hill, and not deciding sooner, that I need to reset some assumptions in the business.

Matt: Got it. As real estate investors, our network, the people we know, are really important to us. And one of those key players says, a realtor. Right? And that’s kind of what everybody always goes after, and has been a realtor the first few years before I was an investor, investors hit me up every single day, and it was just annoying. And they were just like, I just thought they were all full of crap, and I was like, “Stay away from me, I don’t wanna deal with investors.” Right?

Raj: Exactly.

Matt: Until there was one person who actually came and actually understood what made me tick and we built an incredible relationship together. And I’ve kind of taught that when you’re out networking with realtors. Understand that they work in a little box, and they’re really focused on their commission, and the faster they can get that commission the better. So if you can kind of delivery those things and not make things too complicated for realtors, that’s how you approach realtors.

So an attorney is also a very important part of the real estate investors network, are there any idiosyncrasies or things that someone should know if they wanted to network with attorneys?

Raj: There definitely are. I’m a retired attorney and we’re a very idiosyncratic bunch. I think one of the things again, you know you said realtors live in their little box. The attorneys do the same thing. They spend so much of their career and their life, just learning how to do the craft, that there are a few that go out and they do a lot of networking events and things. Most of them, most of an attorney’s life, it’s not what you see on TV. You’re not in court all the time, you’re sitting, it’s a rather lonely existence, you’re sitting in your office, churning through deals. And so I think there’s an opportunity for investors to really get to know … find an attorney that you really get along with. Find one that you can partner with, and there’s a great way to mutually add value.

If you can become a referral source for them, and refer that attorney more opportunities and more business, and it doesn’t actually take that much right. A few deals a year could be fantastic for them. And what you’ll get in exchange for that, is having a partner that can help you look for deals and plan strategically. Because a lot of folks use attorneys reactively, like when there’s a problem. Or oh just pay for the deal. And can they do that? Yes. But if you find a really good attorney, what they can be fantastic about, is warning you about problems that you might not have even thought about in advance. So when you’re structuring a deal, etc., and obviously you’re clearly teaching folks a lot about that, but they might not always anticipate something that has to do with restrictions on the land use of what have you, that might exist up for a specific property. So find one really good attorney, feed them well with referrals, and in exchange, you’ll get a lot of strategic guidance if you’ve chosen well.

Matt: That’s kind of like the number one rule in general of networking anyway, just give, give, give before you ever really ask, and so that’s …

Raj: Yeah that’s exactly right. The one thing I will say with attorneys is they often don’t have enough kind of deal flow to be referral out partners for a lot of entrepreneurs, but the value that you can get from them is in the strategic advice, and if you feed them referrals, it’s definitely something that works out, and you don’t need a whole lot of them. One good attorney to find, or maybe two in your network.

Matt: Yeah one of the key relationships for us would be a family law attorney, like bankruptcy, divorce, divorce, bankruptcy …

Raj: Estate planning probably.

Matt:  Probate, estate planning, exactly. The same thing for them, do they find the same thing of value is just referrals, is that what they would hold us in the highest regard?

Raj: Yeah, it is. And the one thing that might be valuable to folks listening is, really don’t go with the true generalist. If there’s someone who thinks that they can do everything, and they’re holding this up as a generalist, they may be a very competent attorney, but nowadays it is impossible to be an expert at everything. So I always advise folks, get your estate planning and probate attorney as one kind, your family law attorney is a different kind. Your real estate attorney is a different one. So you might have multiple relationships like that, but you’re gonna get much better work product and much more depth of knowledge that’s useful to you if you do it that way.

Matt: Got it. Cool, makes sense. Got it. Thank you very much. Raj, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us today. Just in case your ideal client was listening today, how would they know it and what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?

Raj: Perfect. An ideal client for us would be anyone who’s got a law firm. We typically work with two partners or more, so anything from a two, five partner firm, all the way on up to 20 or 30 partners, that’s kind of our sweet spot for doing the kind of marketing that we do. Visit us at practicealchemy.com, and there’s a few things you can do there. Number one, there’s a whole bunch of guides and resources that you can download, or you could request a marketing assessment, which is something that will go through with you, and actually flag, “Here are the things that you should be paying attention to,” and all that’s available at practicealchemy.com.

Matt: Super. Thanks, Raj, we’ll talk soon. Very soon, a couple days here.

Raj: A couple of days, at our next meeting. So I’m really looking forward to that, and thanks for having me, Matt.

Matt:  You bet, you bet. All righty. I’m Matt Theriault and God bless to your success, and I’ll see you next week for another episode of Thought Leader Thursday. Take care.

Matt Theriault

Real estate investor and educator.