Why you’ll fail if you obsess about your image

By Robyn Allardice-Bourne, Partner and Head of Mediation at Spring Law

I ran a successful hat business before becoming a lawyer. Being CEO of a small enterprise was a great educator and I absorbed many lessons that I’ve taken across to my legal role. And of course, being a lawyer has taught me a huge amount too.

One major lesson I’ve learnt which applies to all areas of business is that being authentic is hugely important. What do I mean by that? I’ll try to explain…

A crucial part of being authentic is being motivated by what you do beyond financial rewards and status. Of course most of us are driven to a certain extent by prestige and money, but if you are motivated primarily by passion and enjoyment for what you do then extraordinary things will happen. If you’re fulfilled in your role, you develop experience and expertise, and that’s always going to work.

My second element of authenticity is to stop trying to act like that hugely successful expert. Ditch the superman or superwoman persona. I’ve found that it’s far more important to present a positive front and to be honest. I’ve learnt to regularly say: “I’ll come back to you on that; I’m going to look that up because I’m not sure.” It’s reassuring to clients if you are genuine about what you know. It means you’re listening to the problem and thinking about it. If you try to appear like the font of all knowledge you’ll probably end up talking nonsense.

Putting clients at ease to allow both you and them to be genuine – and unblock communication – is my third ingredient of authenticity. One way to do that is through humour, which is a good way to relax clients. When someone walks into my office they generally worry about ticking clocks and bills, so want sharp, short, answers. That’s not very useful for building up the relationship so I tend to have a 20-minute chat out of the office to put clients at ease. Both adviser and client need the opportunity to work out if they are right for each other.

And here’s one final tip: I’ve learnt that moments of generosity are always rewarded threefold in business. For example, a favour I did for someone while running my previous business led to me supplying the hats for the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Today, as a lawyer I get almost all of my clients through referral, so random acts of generosity are very good for business.


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