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BUSINESS IN THE FRONT: Firm Lessons from Tiger King, Series 3

Published on Apr 14, 2020
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Things we desperately want in quarantine: A good internet connection, measurable goals for our team, flattering lighting for Zoom videos, and probably wine. Things we don’t want during quarantine: A toilet paper shortage, that many leftovers, and a bonus Zoom-style episode of Tiger King. We don’t always get what we want, but hopefully, we get the business advice we need. Just as Joe Exotic’s political career came to a timely end, we wind down our business lessons inspired by Tiger King…

Trust the process. When things start to go sideways for Joe, he ventures down a path of (alleged) arson and a (pretty public) murder-for-hire plot. Instead of focusing on his core business, he veers off the trusted path. I think we all see how that worked out for him. We see many examples of firms that have trouble trusting the process. Whenever you implement new processes and procedures in an already busy atmosphere, there can be a dip in productivity as your team gets accustomed to the changes. The dip is your investment period before the big payoff.  TRUST THE PROCESS. Firms who quit in the dip never realize the fruits of their efforts and never get the opportunity to jump to that next level. The dip can happen when you implement a new software system, when you slow down to analyze your workflow, and when you make changes to standard procedures. That slow-down doesn’t mean you aren’t on the right path. It just means the work has to be put in before you can enjoy the success.

Treat your team well. I don’t think Joe would be nominated for any HR awards. Publicly firing team members in front of others, underpaying, and providing questionable food and living conditions don’t foster loyalty or business culture. They create an atmosphere of distrust and fear. When Joe needed a kind voice and a loyal business advocate during his trial, his team didn’t show up. During this unprecedented crisis, many employers are tempted to lead by reaction. Those quick to layoff team members or micro-manage those working from home may be adversely impacted in the future. We attract and keep good talent by being good employers, and the measure of a good employer is often how they react during tough times and challenging circumstances. We all want a loyal, hardworking team. We don’t accomplish that by hammering them down. We accomplish it by being good leaders, giving our team proper tools, training, and expectations, and trusting them to perform. We accomplish it by addressing issues as they happen…timely, fairly, and objectively. Trust is a two-way street.

Address the elephant in the room. We work with plenty of law firms that employ husband and wife teams, parent and children teams, or sibling owners. We’re not saying that the business model doesn’t or can’t work…it’s just important to address it with your team upfront. Make sure they have an avenue for reporting HR issues that don’t involve uncomfortably ratting out your husband to you. Joe’s husbands worked at the zoo, pointed guns at the team members, and were clearly not management material. I doubt he provided a proper human resources avenue for his team to report issues or safely discuss concerns. Don’t be like Joe.


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