What is an intrapreneur and how can it help your firm?
Truthfully, when it comes to your firm, anyone can be an intrapreneur. It’s up to the leaders of the firm to foster and encourage the team to explore and support new ideas and ventures.
We talk about what intrapreneurship can do for your firm in this episode with Art Bell.
Art is a writer and former media executive known for creating, building, and managing successful cable television channels. His memoir, published by Ulysses Press, Constant Comedy: How I Started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor was recently honored as a finalist in the 2020 Best Book Awards for memoir.
While working at HBO, Art pitched the idea of a 24-hour comedy network and helped develop and launch HBO’s The Comedy Channel, which became Comedy Central. He went on to hold senior executive positions in both programming and marketing. After leaving Comedy Central, Art became President of Court TV, where he was a guiding force behind one of the most successful brand evolutions in cable television. In addition to writing, Art plays piano and drums, and co-hosts “The Constant Comedy Podcast with Art Bell and Vinnie Favale.”
Art gives listeners actionable tips on:
- What an intrapreneur is
- How being an intrapreneur allowed Art to start up the very first comedy network, which we now know as Comedy Central
- The impacts of going through a merger
- Why it’s important for lawyers at any firm to operate as intrapreneurs
- The two things that go into research
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Connect with Art here:
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[00:00:27] Art: Hi, my name’s art bell. Great to be here on council cast with car. And, uh, I wrote a book about one of my greatest adventures in business. It’s called constant comedy. How I started comedy central and lost my sense of humor. I learned a lot starting that company inside HBO in 1989. And I hope I can share some of the.
[00:00:52] Karin: Awesome. Art bell. I’m so excited to have this conversation. I think this is going to be a little different and a unique conversation that there’s so many different directions. We could take this and you talk about your expertise and background, but the main thing that as we were talking that I wanted to kind of bring forward and talk to the audience about is this idea of an intrepreneur.
[00:01:17] So. Um, starting with the letter I instead of E and, uh, kind of how that relates to your background as well. So how comedy central kind of became part of HBO and that whole story. But also how that relates to lawyers and law firms. And so I have a lot of ideas about how that can, uh, come into play, but, um, first of all, thank you for being here and thank you for your time today.
[00:01:43] And I’m looking forward to this. Yeah. Awesome. Okay. So let’s start with this idea. What is an intrepreneur with an I
[00:01:51] Art: intrepreneurial with an eye is someone who starts a business inside another business. In my case, that was starting. Central inside HBO. Okay.
[00:02:02] Karin: So tell me, tell me about that. I’m sure you’ve told this story countless times.
[00:02:07] Um, but, uh, that is such a fascinating kind of adventure, like you said. So how did, how did that even come about?
[00:02:16] Art: Well, I always had an interest in comedy from the time I was a kid, loved comedy. Did some writing a little bit of performing, not so much, but I, I, uh, came out of business school and. Unlike my compatriots, who were all going to wall street, I wanted to work at a comedy channel, but there wasn’t one.
[00:02:35] This was like in the mid eighties, you know, MTV was around and CNN and yeah, lots of, lots of cable channels were starting up. And I thought, why is there no comedy? I love comedy. So I made it my goal. So talk to people about, you know, Hey, how about a comedy channel? And that’s what I did for three or four years.
[00:02:54] And everybody said, it’s a bad idea. I was just going to
[00:02:58] Karin: say, that must have not sounded like a very profitable idea for one. And, and why would anybody want, want to do that for? So how did you kind of, how did you bring people around to that idea?
[00:03:11] Art: Well, it’s interesting. You say you don’t think it was very, it would be very profitable.
[00:03:15] I’m curious. Why do you.
[00:03:16] Karin: Um, just from like a 30,000 foot view, initially, obviously looking back on it, it of course was profitable, but at the time when you’re talking initially about it, my, my thinking, if I’m just that, you know, if, if you and I are walking down the sidewalk and you’re telling me about you, this idea to have a common.
[00:03:36] Channel I’m picturing, um, like cartoons maybe or something very childish or, um, but something that would probably be hard to pitch to advertisers. So how did you kind of pitch, how did
[00:03:49] Art: you come around? We’ll get to all that. Um, one of the big objections was it’s too much. Oh, because comedy is, you know, it’s a writers are.
[00:04:00] And for example, Johnny Carson, he had a, like a bunch of writers and certainly Letterman has had a bunch of writers. Everybody has a bunch of writers. Those guys are expensive, especially the good ones. So, um, they said, you know, we can’t, it’s very hard to do that. And I said, well, what if we found a way to do it inexpensively to start?
[00:04:20] Because ultimately. Two things. I, I had, uh, I was very passionate about it, but I also had a vision for what the channel should be and wanted it to be kind of a celebration of comedy. Like, you know, the center of the comedy universe at that point, there weren’t, there weren’t a whole lot of comedy entities brands.
[00:04:39] Um, there was Saturday night live and national Lampoon, which was kind of dead by then, but that was, that was, it was pretty much it Johnny Carson show with that, you know, That wasn’t quite a comedy brand. So I said, we need the world, each one of these things. And I said, if we can do it inexpensively to start, would that work?
[00:05:00] And the answer was ultimately yes, but the first time I pitched it to the head of programming at HBO told me for 15 minutes, you spent telling me what a terrible idea, not only expense. No comedians would want to be on it. Um, nobody wants to watch that much comedy, you know, she went on and on. I didn’t even say anything.
[00:05:20] I mean, I was just a kid then pitching a crazy idea. Right. So at
[00:05:24] Karin: the time, and this is something that I want to. Bring kind of circle back on, but at the time, what was the first iteration of your idea? Was it, um, stand up like straight comedians, just with standup shows or what was, what was the first idea?
[00:05:42] Art: and this’ll be interesting to the lawyers out there. Cause I spent the first, when we first started this, we had to get approval. From all the guilds in Hollywood, because the idea was we were going to use clips, short form clips from comedy movies and television. Right. See, also YouTube, you know, I mean, you know, where all those clips are.
[00:06:07] Um, but in those days you couldn’t use a clip. Sure. If you want to do a clip show or use a clip, you had to pay a fortune for it. I said, if we do it as a promotional, you know, on a promotional basis, but the name of the movie, you can rent the movie at blockbuster. Remember those guys, then it’s promotional.
[00:06:25] And then the guilds have a promotional exception, but the lawyers said you got to check. So I spent my. Riding around Hollywood going from guilt to guilt, trying to talk people into this. And ultimately I did, I talked everybody
[00:06:40] Karin: into it. So it was initially kind of a clip show or you were kind of show it.
[00:06:45] What, what was the first, uh, kind of set of shows that were showing up on and was it called comedy central at the time?
[00:06:52] Art: Well, we started it, it was called the comedy channel. I thought it was a pretty good name. Um, given that it was a comedy show and, um, First show John Stewart hosting short attention span theater.
[00:07:05] Mr. Hosted clip show. We had stand up, stand up, which was stand up clips. Mystery science theater 3000. Yeah. Which is cool, which came in the mail by the way. And that was, that was the first time I realized when that showed up in the mail, before we launched, I said, this, this channel is going to be successful because the whole idea is for comedy to find us great comedy, to find us.
[00:07:28] And they wrote us a letter and sent a tape and they said, Hey, we hear you guys are starting a comedy show. Is this something that would interest you? We flew out there. Yeah, the rest is history. So yeah, I mean, that was, uh, that was kind of our opening and we, we did have movies and some TV
[00:07:46] Karin: shows. Yeah. Okay.
[00:07:47] So coming back to this idea of like, first of all, it didn’t even have the same name at the beginning and it didn’t have an, you know, it’s not really, it doesn’t look the same today as it did then. And it really shouldn’t. Um, well, exactly. That’s not the point I was trying to get to is like in this idea of an intrepreneur.
[00:08:08] The recognition of that first draft and the first draft, shouldn’t be, you know, what you expect to see next year or five years down the road, or however many years now down the road, we are. Um, how much of an awareness did you have at that point? That this was just the starting.
[00:08:29] Art: Well, you know, I was, I was fairly young.
[00:08:31] I had no experience in programming television. I had no experience in comedy professional, professional. Excuse. As a matter of fact, they teamed me up with the head of comedy of HBO. And the first thing you said to me before he said high arc was, what do you know about comedy? And he was kind of edgy about it, you know?
[00:08:49] I w I have conviction that the comedy channel was the right thing to do. I knew that whatever we started with would probably not last into excuse me, into eternity. So I, we launched and it was a disaster by the way, at launch terrible, the press creamed us. They said HBO just wants to comedy channels.
[00:09:14] And what are they thinking? And this is a disaster for them. And yeah, and I felt this was really the one time I felt the weight of an entire organization on my shoulders.
[00:09:30] Karin: And so that is a moment. And that’s a moment that I feel like. Especially these lawyers who are starting firms or even mid career, and this idea of the entrepreneurship, um, that is something that I feel like in anyone making these decisions and trying to kind of lead an organization or lead even a part of, uh, uh, That’s the worst where you’re feeling that weight and things aren’t necessarily going the right way.
[00:09:59] You know, they’re not necessarily going according to plan or you’re getting some negative feedback or whatever the case might be. So obviously that, wasn’t the end of the story because, you know, we all know how things are going now. Um, so how so, what did you do to kind of pull through that and how did that turn out?
[00:10:19] Art: Well, you know, it’s interesting. A lot of people ask me, how’d you get through it. Everybody was kind of screaming at you, which is what it felt like, including some of the people internally saying, oh my gosh, I just gave up this other job to take this job. And now this thing’s a disaster. Um, again, I had. A lot of conviction that there should be a comedy networking in the world.
[00:10:41] And I went to work every day saying, okay, what can I do more of that’s working and what can I do less of that’s not working. And that was my approach. And, you know, I just, I really tried to tune. All the criticism and everything. I mean, it was just, it was relentless. Um, the subtitle of my book, which is, you know, how I started coming to central and lost.
[00:11:02] My sense of humor is really about a time I got called in by the chairman of HBO. Now, let me just tell you about the chairman of HBO. He had just been named the most powerful man in Hollywood by the New York times. And I was not the most powerful. I was not the most powerful man anywhere actually. And, uh, way down on the org chart.
[00:11:22] And he called me in and he said, you know, art. It took a comedy channel to get me to lose my sense of humor. Oh yeah. You know, how’s that for a knife through the road, but it was a good, it was a good evaluation of the situation. Like things were not going well, but I will tell you what happened. And you mentioned the fact that we changed our name.
[00:11:42] We got competition, MTV networks, as soon as we announced this was before we launched. As soon as we announced that we were going to launch. MTV that were said the next day. We’re going to launch one too. Oh, interesting. Yeah. Well, you know, one of the things I found out in business, and that was the first real big lesson don’t underestimate the competition.
[00:12:05] I mean, listen, there were lots of great cable television networks out there and TV had MTV notes on MTV and Nickelodeon, Nick at night. I mean, they, they knew how to do this stuff. Right. So that was pretty scary. Um, but. I will say, this competition makes you better. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and that’s, that’s something that, you know, in every business, including law, you know, you’re going to have competition, right.
[00:12:29] Karin: And you should, I mean, that makes all of us work harder, strive to kind of, you know, edge them out. So MTV says that they’re going to. Uh, do a competitive network. And in my previous life I worked for in the real estate industry. And to me, that is just like the market speaking. You know, the market is telling you what, um, what people want.
[00:12:55] And MTV is saying, oh, okay, well, we don’t want to miss. And, and you guys have that, that first movers advantage, you know, all those typical things that you talk about in business school. So MTV is coming along as the kind of second man to the, the idea. So how did you then say rec? Did you, did you have people around you that recognized?
[00:13:17] Okay. The fact that MTV is wanting to do this is, is giving me a vote of confidence. And so we need to keep pushing for.
[00:13:25] Art: Yes, actually, I was the only one who kept saying that I was trying to convince people that we weren’t going to die here. I kept saying, look, you know, a year ago, there were no comedy channels.
[00:13:37] Now there’s two. I mean, that’s, that’s solving, um,
[00:13:42] Karin: major companies too. They’re not just like two little like local cable fans.
[00:13:47] Art: You hit the nail on that. They did not want HBO. To get that space. They weren’t sure that space was real. Obviously they hadn’t been working there. They launched six months after we did, which means we had a six month headstart putting it
[00:14:00] Karin: together.
[00:14:01] Yeah. Which is a long time in the life of a, of a channel. That’s true. Yeah. I mean, at least getting started and kind of, uh, getting people familiar with.
[00:14:12] Art: Yeah. And what it did was they had to, they had to come up with a channel concept that was not our channel concept, right. They had to do something completely different to differentiate themselves in the market.
[00:14:21] And they said, Hey, we are long-form programming. We’re going to show sitcoms and not going to show a lot, any standup comedy. We are comedy for people from age five to 95, which is not a way to define your target audience. And they put a lot of old sitcoms on the stores. We were trying to be, you know, what’s happening now?
[00:14:41] Edgy, common. Yeah.
[00:14:43] Karin: 18 to 34, the, you know, the really up and coming. Okay. So, um, I don’t even know the end, the answer to this. So where is it now? Who owns comedy central?
[00:14:56] Art: That’s a good question. CBS, Viacom, somewhere in there, somewhere in that space. I don’t work there anymore. Just so you’re clear. I left there after eight years and went on to other channels.
[00:15:10] So I’m
[00:15:12] Karin: out of the picture.
[00:15:14] Art: HBO sold it to Viacom at some point, I guess I don’t want to run. Okay.
[00:15:23] Karin: And what about MTV’s comedy channel? Is, does that. No.
[00:15:27] Art: What happened is six months after us. Yeah. They were called ha the comedy network. And I know, yeah. I was interviewed in rolling stone and they said, what do you think of their name?
[00:15:40] And I said, I hope they keep it because I thought, I thought it was terrible. But anyway, so yeah, so they don’t want six months after us. Six months after that, after we gone head to head and the press was calling at the comedy channel wars. I got a phone call and they said we’re going to merge the channels.
[00:15:59] Karin: interesting.
[00:16:00] Art: Yeah, no, not interesting. Horrifying. I mean, I thought it was horrifying. We were fighting in the trenches. I mean, we were really thinking we were winning. He had better ratings. We had better programming. We had, we had more heart.
[00:16:12] Karin: Yeah. And you, it was your idea. You started it and they’re just a bunch of copies.
[00:16:19] Yeah. I mean, sorta like a copycat with the variation.
[00:16:23] Art: True. But you know what I mean? That’s an interesting point because it’s very hard to copy somebody’s idea, you know, wait, you know, letter for letter, let’s put it that way. So, you know, people always said, well, did you talk, you know, you probably didn’t tell a lot of people about your idea because you wanted to keep it secret.
[00:16:41] I said, oh, oh, oh contraire. I told everybody. And the reason I told everybody, because I wasn’t worried about them copying it so much as like, I wanted to get feedback on the idea. It’s too expensive. This that, that, you know, you want to hear that. So that’s what I did. Anyway, we merged the channels. I thought I was going to get fired.
[00:16:59] They fired a lot of people, but they put me and then. Uh, Haas programming together and they said, you guys figure it out. You got to figure out what the programming is, who you’re going to hire, how you’re going to relaunch and what the new name is. Yeah. Because we couldn’t call it either. Huh? Yeah. Right.
[00:17:18] Well, that was good news.
[00:17:22] So, so we’ve been named it and we launched and we relaunched and we’d put it together. And the heavy bedding was that we weren’t going to make it through the year because. Listen, I’m sure lawyers, you know, you merged. It’s very, very difficult. You’re putting two completely different cultures together, which was true.
[00:17:39] And two different concepts for your business together. Very hard. And
[00:17:43] Karin: so, you know, what kind of have people working together that 10 weeks or a couple of weeks ago used to hate each other. And they were like, you know, and so it’s hard to sort of be like, oh, all of a sudden, I’m happy to see you. And let’s have a little hug group hug.
[00:17:59] Art: Yeah. And there was the same kind of bitterness on their side before. My boss, the head of the channel was fired, made somebody president. He was fired and their boss was fired. And that’s like, you know, when your boss gets fired because you like your boss, usually, you know, so everybody kind of moped in, but you know, months later, Crazy working together.
[00:18:21] And, and we, we wanted to make sure that it was a comedy network in
[00:18:24] Karin: the world. So this is such a fascinating story. And what I’m actually really drawn to is, um, you know, it, it’s kind of easy to look at the comedy central path and say, oh, look at that. It was a great idea. And it, you know, when all along who knows.
[00:18:41] That you couldn’t have obviously predicted the future, but it’s obviously were it all worked out. But what to me is even more interesting is to look at the HBO path and the ha whatever they got, uh, and everything they did wrong. And so when you look at this idea, cause both of these were intrepreneur ideas, but MTV, uh, kind of did everything wrong and they were second to market. They were just kind of jumping on an idea that they just were desperate to kind of possess. And then they were just trying to do programming that, that met the needs of every single possible audience, which that never works in business either.
[00:19:27] Um, so. Tell me what, how, first of all, tell me what your thoughts are on kind of what they did wrong. And then how did you integrate that? Once you guys merged, where they had all these from this outsider’s perspective, bad ideas, and you guys had all the good ideas and how did you kind of integrate that stuff together?
[00:19:48] Art: Well, listen, let me disabuse you of the notion that they had all the bad ideas that we had, all the good ones, they are skilled, and they were skilled programmers. They. When you do a channel it’s for the rest of your life. As someone pointed out to me, you know, it’s always there, but it’s always changing too.
[00:20:08] So they came out of the box with a particular notion. We came out of the box with particular notion. My notion didn’t work out because, and the quick, I will say that eight weeks before we launched with those clips, the directors Guild of America, the DGA called and said they changed their mind. And they didn’t want us to do it.
[00:20:27] So all that programming that I put together, a launch was gone anyway. So ours, it really didn’t work. We had to kind of change, change things up there’s I don’t think. And you know, it’s interesting. Cause we talked to them. You know, we merged in years later, I don’t think they were going to stick to that necessarily either.
[00:20:46] I mean, they may have channels or like you kinda, you know, you kinda duck and, and jive and, you know, move with what’s working and yeah. And they did some original programming and we did some original programming. Um, so I don’t think anybody did anything wrong. So to market second, the market is not really.
[00:21:05] Necessarily a bad thing. I mean, Blackberry was first to market. Right. And remember up into them. Right. Um, second, the market allows you to not make the mistakes. You think your competitor. Um, and also it, it gives you a good opportunity to define yourself in terms of somebody else and differentiate yourself because what you really have to do in television and probably in everything at a law firm, I mean, you know, you have to really represent your brand and represent who you are and who you for and all of those things.
[00:21:36] And that is a tremendous amount of work. I mean, that’s all behind the scenes stuff. You know what that is. If you don’t do it, You don’t succeed in anything you really have to know w w what you stand for, what your vision is, what, you know, w what your so-called elevator pitches. I hate that term, but you know what you’re all about in order to make sure that you’re not going to fail by doing too much or not satisfying your, your original, uh, goals.
[00:22:07] So, yes. We we came together. We were both pretty wet behind the years at that point. And. We chose a lot of things from each of our programming, you know, we put the, we put the best stuff together.
[00:22:22] Karin: Um, yeah. So you’re, you’re kind of path forward. When you talk about figuring out who you are and what that brand is.
[00:22:29] It sounds like at that point, when you came together and you had that merge, you had to read. Almost all of that and kind of bring everybody’s thoughts and, or at least a good part of it was, is that fair to say that, I mean, you had a new name, you had a new, a whole group of different people where you rebranding the whole channel or, or how did that work?
[00:22:51] Art: Yeah, well, essentially that’s right. I mean, and the exercise of coming up with a name for. To talk about what we wanted the channel to be. Yeah. And in my book, I tell the story of the name, which is extremely funny, how that happened, because nobody really wanted it to be comedy central at the time, except a few of us.
[00:23:11] Um, but, but we, we had hired naming companies and of course experts and stuff, and they said, you know, you guys tell us you want to be the center. You know, the center of the comedy universe. You want to be comedy central. You could never name it, then
[00:23:29] why not? And they said, well, you know, it’s too on the nose. And if you want to go into some other kind of programming, so what are we going to do? Cover a girl’s high school basketball. I mean, what are you talking about?
[00:23:41] Karin: Um, it’s too perfect. It’s too good for you.
[00:23:45] Art: I don’t know. We had no. Anyway, so what happened is we took their names and we threw comedy central in to a batch of names that were being tested.
[00:23:54] Comedy central floated to the top pretty quickly. So that was that
[00:23:58] Karin: that’s an interesting kind of method too, is especially, I feel like when I am working with a lot of law firms, you do have this design by committee idea. And especially when they are going through these mergers and they have a hard time.
[00:24:12] Making decisions like a lot of time goes into, okay, there’s six names on the sign. What order do we put the names? And you know, the numbers, the number of committee meetings on these things are ridiculous. But at the end of your story is you put it out to the market and you T you let the market speak to you.
[00:24:35] So for whatever, uh, methods. That you think are going to happen when it comes to marketing at the end of the day, it’s what is, what are the people say? You know, how do they respond to your message and how do they, uh, how does your, your name or your message or your ad or whatever the case might be? How does that resonate?
[00:24:53] And then that’s the end of the, that’s the end of the story. Even when I was in real estate, did your house sell at that amount? No. Well then it wasn’t worth that so that, you know, what are the market say?
[00:25:05] Art: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Listen, we spent a lot of time as most television programmers do, uh, and television marketers on research, talk to the audience, a tremendous amount and the kind of research I wanted to do early on.
[00:25:19] Especially as like, we want to talk to our audience and say, Hey, what does comedy mean to you? Um, you know, what. And you talked to guys, you know, a 16 year old or 18 year old guys, they said, well, you know, I like comedy. Cause if I’m funny, then you know, the girls will pay more attention to me. I mean, you got stuff like that, you know, I know it sounds juvenile.
[00:25:40] Right. Um, and so you had to learn about what your audience thought about your product, even before you designed your product. Um, and that was very helpful. Yeah. There’s two things that go into research and I don’t even know how much research law firms do. Stuff like that, but two things that go into research.
[00:25:56] One is doing it. The other is interpreting it and making it work for you. Oh,
[00:26:01] Karin: interesting. Okay. Tell
[00:26:02] Art: me as farther. Part two is a lot harder and the people who can do that are really special.
[00:26:07] Karin: Okay. So that’s so doing the work, but then putting it out there and interpreting the results. Is that what you mean?
[00:26:13] Art: the results and say, okay, so here’s the result now? What are you going to do about it?
[00:26:16] Karin: Okay. So what does this mean in terms of. Our
[00:26:20] Art: plan, our product on marketing or advertising or press communication and future product innovations, you know, all of that stuff.
[00:26:30] Karin: Yeah. I think the research part for most of the firms I work with is overwhelming.
[00:26:35] And so they, um, they just kind of go with their gut and then they call it their expertise. And so
[00:26:42] Art: let’s talk about that. I mean, you know, listen, I’m fascinated by the way. I love lawyers. I’ve worked with zillions of lawyers, as you can imagine. And I always say. I want to have a great lawyer by my side, whenever I’m doing anything, I looked for that.
[00:26:57] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but so tell me about the kind of research that law firms do.
[00:27:03] Karin: Uh, well, the ones that we work with, we do the research. So we go out and we figure out, uh, we have a conversation with, with the firm about their overall strategy. Uh, and we are trying to get to the ideas of who their clients are, why they hire that.
[00:27:20] What you know, what their positioning is. And then we define that strategy in terms of how we’re going to approach those clients. And it shouldn’t be the same for every firm because we work with firms across all different kinds of practice areas. So figuring out how you’re going to find those clients and you know, this idea, a lot of them start by saying, oh, all of my, all of my clients come in through referrals and it’s all just a referral based business, which to me is a huge red flag.
[00:27:50] Instantly indicates that they really have no strategy. And so it’s not that they, that, that referral based business is a plan. That’s going to continue to work it’s that they, they need a strategy and then we have to lay it all out, figure out how we’re going to do that research, how we’re going to define their market and then go after that market in a way that isn’t happening.
[00:28:13] Usually when we initially have those conversations,
[00:28:16] Art: That’s great. I mean, that’s very smart. He’s very smart. And it’s nice to hear that that law firms like everybody else, uh, they undertake that the undertake understanding or expanding or working on their strategy the way every business does because they should.
[00:28:34] But you said earlier that when it comes right down to it, it gets. Somebody at the, at the firm, it’s their gut intuition.
[00:28:43] Karin: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of times it’s the kind of founder of the firm. Um, and that’s, that’s usually before we come in and I will say, uh, it is great that a lot of them are looking at that strategy, but the majority, it doesn’t even occur to them that they need a strategy.
[00:28:58] They think that either their referral plan. Is there strategy or the idea of strategy is not necessarily something they learned in law school. So it’s like, I’m just going to kind of, you know, put the horse blinders on and kind of go forward in my path as a lawyer. Yeah. But that, that’s it. Then you’re riding the roller coaster of business and you don’t necessarily know when business is coming in.
[00:29:21] You don’t really have a system for that. So, um, as much as we work with on the strategy, The majority of firms that come to us have it’s, it’s a new process, even if they’ve been around for 10 or 15 years. Uh, and they, they didn’t do it in the, in the beginning. So, um, that’s great. That’s really great. What’s the other question?
[00:29:41] Sorry. Something about that.
[00:29:44] Art: Well, the other thing that comes to mind is do you do research on their model?
[00:29:49] Karin: Well, we, we try, but we, uh, well, th their, what their idea of marketing is and what my idea of marketing is, are often two different things. So they, they often don’t have a lot of in place. A lot of times when they’ve reached a certain level of success, they are just.
[00:30:11] Like putting out fires and they’re just trying to get the things done that are the most urgent, most squeaky wheel. And so this idea of having an actual marketing plan and a strategy and whatever they’re doing, um, is not necessarily happening unless they’re, you know, on the larger size firm, sometimes they’ll have someone, uh, an actual dedicated person in their, um, in their firm.
[00:30:38] You know, doing marketing or combination of marketing and some other administrative stuff. Uh, but even then it depends where they come from. If they come from a background in a certain kind of marketing, that’s the stuff they’re going to focus on. So we’ve tried to come in and kind of lay it all down.
[00:30:53] Look, look at it in a more integrated approach where, you know, here’s where you are. Here’s where you were. Here’s where you want to go and let’s lay it all out. Plan it out at a year at a time so that we’re not. Flying by the seat of our pants at every new social media thing. Like some lawyers should be on Tik TOK, but most should not.
[00:31:15] So, um, so yeah, we, we take a look at what’s happening, but, uh, it’s always interesting. It’s always kind of, you know, opening up the hood of a old rusty car and, and. Kind of squinting and wondering what might be under there. I’ve
[00:31:31] Art: heard commendable. Yeah. So, um, yeah, these are important things. These are important things to all companies.
[00:31:39] Karin: Uh, relevant to this idea of a growing law firm is this, this concept of the intrepreneur that we’re talking about, where there are these subsections of your firm or your business and how you can grow those and how you, a lot of times in larger firms, there’s a few different practice areas. And there’s one area that.
[00:32:02] A certain set of lawyers are trying to grow and they really are building that separate from the other parts of the firm. And so this idea that you can take a separate. Approach and kind of go out and, you know, within obviously under the umbrella of the larger firm and grow that in a way that can be new and different and really approach your clients in a new and different way.
[00:32:27] Uh, I feel like that really applies to this whole conversation. Yeah,
[00:32:31] Art: absolutely. Let me just sort of give it a blanket statement you want in, in your firm and companies have found this too. You want everybody in the firm thinking like an entrepreneur, you want everybody in the firm to be thinking about how can I, you know, what innovation is going to help here?
[00:32:49] What opportunity are we not taking advantage of that? I want to tell management about, because I think we can do something with that. And then. You know, that that relies also on top management or, uh, and I dunno how every law firm is, is organized, but there’s a man there’s managing partners and, um, that requires them to be open to that.
[00:33:11] Yes. And that sometimes is a bridge too far for. Companies, because if you, if you think that all the great ideas are coming from the top, then you’re wrong. They’re not coming from the top. They usually coming from the bottom of the middle. Right. Um, and you know, at the point where you’re at the top of the company, you shouldn’t really be kind of parsing the ideas or the, the, um, you know, the commentary or the, the, uh, concepts that are coming through and saying, that’s a good one.
[00:33:40] That’s not a good one.
[00:33:42] Karin: Yeah. If the bottom and the middle aren’t. Aren’t kind of bringing all those ideas forward. You’ve done some bad hiring because you should be hiring for people who are experts in that role. And they should know exactly where your weak points are and they should be, and you should constantly have these weak points.
[00:34:02] Every business and law firm changes throughout, you know, the history of their existence. And you should constantly be aware of the areas where you need to grow the area where you need to improve. And if. Uh, if you’re not, then there’s a culture problem where people aren’t willing to speak up and there’s some, some other major issue that needs to be addressed.
[00:34:24] Art: The it’s never the fault of the people in the firm, because everybody walks into the company, they get a new job. Hey, like you’re in your job and it’s good. You know what they should do, you know? Right.
[00:34:35] Karin: Exactly. Exactly. Everybody has it right on the tip of their tongue.
[00:34:39] Art: Um, so it’s really about Tom management giving.
[00:34:43] Giving they’re giving their employees permission to think like entrepreneurs and to think like they are owners of the company, whether they are there or not, or the four partners in the firm in order to move things forward, other than. You’re not taking advantage of your best
[00:35:00] Karin: resource. Yeah. And that can be a revolutionary idea in law firms, because I find a lot of lawyers are challenged to even think about their work in terms of a business to begin with.
[00:35:10] You know, they feel like they’re these advocates and there’s, you know, this kind of very different, higher calling that a lot of lawyers have been, um, you know, brought to. And so to even think of a law firm in terms of a profitable business that has revenue and you need to be thinking. All of the business, you know, ideas is not always something where people weren’t real lawyers are starting.
[00:35:35] Art: Well, you know what? It has that in common a little bit with entertainment, because well, think about it. Entertainment is where art meets business and the artists typically not typically that’s I don’t wanna, I don’t want to say typically, but you know, the artists are about. Yeah. They’re about, you know, doing what they do best and getting their messages out and getting their films out and getting their programming out.
[00:36:00] And that doesn’t always correspond to well to the business of entertainment. And we’ve all heard those stories. I think you have to have a part of your business that as you were describing it, it’s about heart. It’s about dedication to some higher ideal. ’cause you don’t want to just be a lawyer because your dad was a lawyer, a lawyer, because you think it’s a worthwhile profession and you can help people and you can make a living and you can, um, you know, have a future in it.
[00:36:31] So all of those things come together and yes, there is a portion of you that is like, it’s not about the business. It’s about the law. Right. You know? Okay. I get that. It’s not about the business. It’s about. The entertainment. Love your phone. It’s the same.
[00:36:50] Karin: Right. Yeah, but you can’t have one without the other.
[00:36:53] You can’t have comedy central without the business side of it and the advertisers and all of those things. And the same thing with a law firm. Like you can be as idealistic as you want as a lawyer, but if you can’t pay your bills and then you can do your work. So, you know, like there’s, there’s a balancing act and, and all of those things in, in recognizing.
[00:37:12] The business side of these things that you know, that like you described. Um, so art, tell me the book that you’re, you were, we were talking about this at fascinating book that you’re reading. What’s the book that you have.
[00:37:24] Art: Okay. Yeah. Um, actually my daughter gave it to me. She, she works in a bookstore. Um,
[00:37:29] Karin: oh, awesome.
[00:37:30] She’s probably got some awesome recommendations.
[00:37:32] Art: She knows what’s happening. She loves 32 anyway. Um, it’s called the Dawn of everything. Know history of humanity by David Graber and David windrow
[00:37:45] Karin: and everything.
[00:37:47] Art: Yeah. So listen, this book is not for the faint of heart. I think it’s like 800 pages or something.
[00:37:53] And you know, you look at a book like that. And I, I did the same thing. You know, I’ve read long books in my life and, uh, history books on me and you look at it and say, man, I’m not going to get through this thing. And then I started reading it and suddenly I’m fascinated because what they’re talking about is how states formed, you know, cultures and countries, and also how the concept of freedom.
[00:38:19] Played into that formation.
[00:38:21] Karin: Oh my gosh.
[00:38:23] Art: It is just, and most of the book is then saying, you know, for years, archeologists and philosophers only said this, but they were wrong. And you know, he takes apart some of the gray Jared diamond. Who’s a particular favorite of mine who wrote guns, germs, guns, and steel.
[00:38:41] Oh, that was a great, great book. They just say, not Jared got a wrong and they, they kind of talk about that. Oh, it’s a very interesting book and very well-researched. I mean, it’s good zillions of footnotes if you care, but I can’t stop turning the pages, you know, that’s not what you’d expect, so, yeah. And it gives you an insight into.
[00:39:06] Oh, that’s so cool.
[00:39:08] Karin: Well, I mean, talk about an insight into the world. I feel like we just had this little window into the creation of a comedy channel, which, I mean, how often do we get to hear about that and the history of how that came about? And I was so fascinating. I just, I mean, I feel like there is a tie in there that I’m trying to kind of bring together that, that, that book sounds amazing.
[00:39:31] We’ll obviously have that on the library page on the website and link to it in the show notes and everything. But, um, our what’s the big takeaway that you want our listeners to get from this show?
[00:39:43] Art: Well, I think the big takeaway is what you were talking about is the fact that, you know, if you don’t know who you are as a firm or as a company or as a brand, you’re going to be floating around and missing a lot of opportunities.
[00:39:55] Yeah. So it’s worth taking the time and making the effort and believe me, it takes time and effort, and it’s a constant, uh, undertaking. You constantly have to attend to it. It’s not something you do once and walk away from. Yeah. You really have to pay attention.
[00:40:12] Karin: So I feel like that was such that that was really what I was getting to just going through all the different iterations of, uh, Comedy, what was the first name of the channel comedy, the comedy channel, and then you’ve got comedy central, but then you’ve got MTV coming in with ha and you know, all these different variations that all eventually lead down the path towards what we have now and recognizing.
[00:40:39] You know, uh, early on when I was talking about, you know, MTV doing things wrong, none of those were really wrong. This was just part of that process in getting to where things are now. And, and if you, if anyone had stuck in the mud and decided. We’re going to stay with this path. We’re not going to change.
[00:40:56] We’re not going to, you know, take variations, then it wouldn’t have worked either. So, um, so that’s, that’s the kind of lesson for most things in life recognize that you have sort of a, sort of a plan and that plan is going to always just change and you have to roll with it as it does.
[00:41:12] Art: Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s really important.
[00:41:14] I, listen, that’s what I talk a lot about the book, the books of memoir. It’s the whole thing from my point of view, it’s really about what I had to do. Keep the thing going in the face of incredible failure and, uh, just how we shaped it. And now how it was such a team. So
[00:41:33] Karin: does the book cover the whole history from like the beginning up to the merger?
[00:41:37] Where, what period is
[00:41:39] Art: it covering? Covering my period. Okay. Yeah, it was there from the time, from the time I came up with the idea a little before that, you know, a little background on me cause it is a memoir. Um, through the time I left comedy, eight years later. Uh, and I know what you’re going to say. Oh, why’d you leave?
[00:41:59] And the answer is I got
[00:42:00] Karin: fired. Oh, night. I mean, not nice. Oh
[00:42:04] Art: yeah. And that was, uh, you know, I’m sure everybody goes through that. Or a lot of people go through that. Yeah. I talk a lot about what that was all about in, in the, in the last couple of chapters, it’s very hard and getting fired gave me a whole new perspective on getting fired and people who’ve been fired.
[00:42:20] They’re not necessarily bad people. Who’ve done a bad job, you know, cause I wasn’t a bad person to do it. They had done a bad job. As a matter of fact, what do you have to do to keep a job in this town? That was my first
[00:42:32] Karin: you exactly.
[00:42:33] Art: How about inventing the channel?
[00:42:34] Karin: You know? Yeah. And there really is such a stigma with it and you know, and everybody.
[00:42:39] Automatically jumps to conclusions about how you did things wrong, or you were a bad person, like you said,
[00:42:44] Art: yeah. You didn’t show up for work or you call the boss’s wife that mean
[00:42:48] Karin: some major mistake. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that sounds fascinating. I can’t wait. So the combination of your book, which is constant comedy, and then the Dawn of everything, I feel like we’ve got the history of everything combined with some comedy,
[00:43:03] Art: pretty much read those things and then stop reading.
[00:43:08] You are good. Um, I will mention that my books out in audio book, if you already have stopped reading and I do the narration, if you can stand that for seven and a half, um, so, uh, you know, any way you want to consume it, I think it’s an interesting story with lots of lots of fun stuff. It’s pretty funny.
[00:43:27] Lots of funny stuff.
[00:43:30] Karin: Yeah, well, and just the idea of how you can bring that around to whatever story or business or law firm or whatever you’re building. Um, it’s always fascinating to see how these things happen and then, you know, figure out how you can learn from that. Right. Awesome. Well, art bell, thank you so much for being here.
[00:43:46] Our bell is a writer and former media executive, and. Find his book and all of the links to the Don of everything and everything else in our show notes. Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.
[00:43:57] Art: Thanks for having me. It was fun.