Early in his forensics business, David Notowitz did what many small business owners do. He stumbled around, living off referrals and being a jack of all trades handling bookkeeping, answering phones, and whatever else.
In his third year, Notowitz knew he needed a plan. Rather than a complex business plan, Notowitz created a set of lists, identifying 15 roles, systems, and marketing.
Notowitz tells host Christopher Anderson what he learned implementing his plans, what it was like learning to delegate, and why it’s important for business leaders to hold on to tasks they enjoy doing even if they have the option to delegate.
David Notowitz is the founder and lead forensic expert at the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Scorpion, Lawclerk, Alert Communications and LawYaw.
The Un-Billable Hour
Being a Business Visionary
Male: Managing your law practice can be challenging, marketing, time management, attracting clients and all the things besides the cases that you need to do that aren’t billable. Welcome to this edition of the Un-Billable Hour, the law practice advisory podcast. This is where you’ll get the information you need from expert guests and host, Christopher Anderson, here on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher Anderson: Welcome to the Un-Billable Hour. I am your host, Christopher Anderson. And today’s episode is, well, again, it’s about business. And now I know that’s what this show is all about all the time, this is a show about the business of law. But what I wanted to talk to you about today is a little bit about business vision and how to see yourself as the owner or the CEO, the visionary of the business. How to define why your business exists and how to hold yourself accountable to it. Quite honestly, we’re going to just see where else this show goes because our guest is super talented, super knowledgeable and knows a thing or two about starting a successful business as you’ll find out. My guest is in fact David Notowitz. He is the founder of NCAVF, it’s the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics. But before we get started, it’s time to do a little business of our own, so I want to say thank you to the sponsors that make this show possible.
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Today’s episode of the Un-Billable Hour is with David Notowitz. David is the founder of NCAVF. It’s based in Los Angeles. He himself is an Emmy Award-winning producer and multifaceted video and audio forensic evidence expert, his specialties have included news, documentaries, commercial video production. Way back in 1986, he started Notowitz Productions and in ’89, was hired to produce daily segments as a reporter for the Financial News Network. Now, part of it is CNBC, it was acquired by CNBC, but he has done work for Fox, for Yahoo, for GM, for the learning channel, for Rhino Entertainment, Miller beer, IBM, Disney and a bunch more as, you know, in video production and corporate productions. And since he’s also worked as a forensic video expert witness on cases with the police, with detectives, with private investigators, insurance companies, public defenders, even criminal defense attorneys all over the country and he is in addition working with private-civil and criminal attorneys and large corporations in that role.
In addition to assisting in high-profile criminal and civil cases, NCAVF is used to clarify audio and video with cases involving trip and fall, personal injury, vehicle accidents, family law disputes, assault, arson, robbery and real estate issues. In other words. they really help a whole bunch of lawyers in a bunch of different practice areas and in the end help their clients to prove their cases. So, David, that was quite an introduction. You’ve got a huge, hugely impressive resume. But what did I miss? What would you like the people to know about you that I didn’t talk about?
David Notowitz: Well, first of all, Christopher, thank you so much. It’s always fun to talk with someone about kind of behind-the-scenes on our business, because I feel like I could teach people a lot about their business and help them grow theirs just like I’ve grown mine. In terms of the services, one thing that you people might not notice is that we’re working for all sides on different cases, so we’re not only working for let’s say the DA who’s investigating or prosecuting a case or not working just for the police, or not just working for a defense attorney. So, we have all these different places that we often work for which makes me really happy because it means that we just have to be truthful with our evidence.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah. And of course, that I think, you know, in order for you to have a longevity, in order for you to have credibility, you always have to tow that line, I’m sure.
David Notowitz: Yeah, sometimes, I’ve worked with other experts, they only work for let’s say defending one side of the certain constructions, sites or something, just as defense.
And I think it makes them look unbelievable.
Christopher Anderson: Sure, yeah, because they always take a side. So, we went through all these things you’ve done. You’ve been in broadcast television, you’ve worked for major corporations directly, you’ve done all this work and then you’ve been a forensic video expert. How long has it been since you founded and started NCAVF?
David Notowitz: Well, the first case we had was in 2001. It was a smaller case. A friend of mine, an attorney, asked me to help him out and it was — I was kind of nervous actually, quite a bit nervous because I would have to testify possibly and I was — I’ve never been testifying at court before. it went really well. Then we had a second case with the same friend of mine in 2006. During all this time, I’m still doing all the other work that I’ve described. Then in 2006 though with that second case, it was a very high profile and it was really interesting and honestly made a lot of money doing it. It lasted a couple years and the press was huge on the case. That’s when I started realizing, wow, I could do this as a business and I should.
Christopher Anderson: Right, yeah. And so, I mean, it kind of reminds me of the story of being really good at something, being a technician like Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited. Are you familiar with that book?
David Notowitz: I’m not.
Christopher Anderson: Okay. Some of my listeners are, but anyway, just where — I think a lot of lawyers fall into this trap too, where — and I’m not calling it a trap for you but it is a trap for a lot of lawyers where you’re good at something, you make some money doing something. And for a lawyer, the cliche is then we hang out our shingle, you started a business. You mentioned like 2001 and 2006, when did you really start thinking of this as something to offer to others than this one client that you worked with made these first successful cases with?
David Notowitz: Yeah, so after 2006, the trial ended up going to trial in 2007. At that point after that verdict, I realized this is going to be a growing business, video and audio surveillance, evidence is going to be exploding. I could see devices starting to appear. The iPhone came out in 2007. So, I knew that like all this technology was moving towards recording video a lot more and people, in their hands, would be witnesses with their video equipment or with their audio. So, I thought, okay, this could be a growing thing. Now, to run a business, I didn’t know what I was doing still, even after all these years of working in productions and all this, I was always doing it myself quite often, hands-on, doing the shooting, doing the editing, doing all these things and I thought wait a minute, after learning about this, I thought, I can’t grow, what am I going to do here. And so, I hired one person to like answer the phones. And I wasn’t very smart about it, but I just said, “Look, I’m not going to just answer the phones all the time, let someone else at least answer the phones.”
Christopher Anderson: It’s a great place to start by the way.
David Notowitz: Yeah, it’s like a really obvious place to start. Why do I need to answer the phones all the time? I need to actually do the editing. I was saying you know like I need to work on editing, so someone else can answer the phone so I’m not distracted with my work. But I realized after reading and learning and talking to other — I had a friend who was a really successful business person, I asked him how can I — what can I do here, like what am I doing wrong? Because I really didn’t realize it.
Christopher Anderson: And what were the symptoms? Why did you think you were doing anything wrong?
David Notowitz: Because I was working my touche off, to say it nicely, and I wasn’t making any more money. I was like, “what’s going on here? I can charge more per hour which I wanted to do and I started to do. But how can I get these smaller jobs, little things that I don’t really want to do? Can I get them to someone else somehow?”
Christopher Anderson: Yeah. And how many, just to kind of jump forward, so that’s 14, 12, 13 years ago, to today, how many employees are working full-time at NCAVF?
David Notowitz: We have six full-time employees.
Christopher Anderson: Okay, and then do you use any outside or part-time employees as well?
David Notowitz: It’s very rare now as of the beginning of 2020 for me to have independent contractors is not as easy legally. So, I made everyone part-time employees or employees. But we have six full-time employees. And then once in a while bring someone in but to help out a little bit but mostly, we’re in-house right now.
Christopher Anderson: Excellent. And so, from just you to six, what would you say were the biggest challenges you faced as you started to grow your company?
David Notowitz: The hardest thing for me is giving up my control, because I am such a perfectionist, usually, where I want to do everything exactly my way and exactly right. And that’s how I’d become successful. in the other work that I had done. But I have to let go of some control.
I can still oversee it but I had to define the jobs that were involved, figure out what I can let go, like peel off from —
Christopher Anderson: So, let me ask you the tough question, because I think a lot of lawyers really resonate with what you’re saying in their businesses. And you know, by the way, probably more so than you lawyers who run their own businesses tend to also think and by the way, lawyers who are listening, you know, but I’ll say it again because it’s been a while since I said it. Everything I’m saying about lawyers, I’m saying about myself because all this was true for me as I started my law firm and built my law firms up and then started my businesses and built my businesses up, these are all true for me. But they think they’re the best bookkeepers, they think they’re the best paralegals, they think they’re the best typists, administrators, office managers, people managers, et cetera, like it’s not just the technical work but it is also the technical work. But so, here’s the tough question I wanted to ask you, is in your business now, with six employees, is every single aspect of the business run and done 100% to the way you’d like it done as if you did it yourself.
David Notowitz: The answer is no. It’s not done. And honestly, who’s going to care about your company most? You are. So, who’s going to be working to make your clients as happy as possible, not the employees as much, you are. So, there’s no way you’re going to ever get all your employees to do as well as you would do if you did the job yourself, it’s just true. So, to say like no one can do it as well as me, it’s really true. But if you want to grow your business, you have to let go a little bit.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah. And what I like to emphasize too is because I think it’s important, is when you say if you want to grow your business, that’s something that’s good for you. But the truth is also, if you want to grow your business, that’s something that’s good for the people you help, because if you can’t grow your business, you are basically telling a whole bunch of people out there that could benefit from your business, that you’re not there for them, that you can’t help them. And then so growing your business is about that. So let me ask the corollary then, what have you held on to? What is David Notowitz doing in the business that you haven’t let go of yet?
David Notowitz: One of the things I love doing and I’ve always loved doing since even in high school is writing. And I’ve grown in the area of marketing writing. Over the years, I did that in college, for other businesses and I still love it today. I love writing. The emails, the direct emails, I have 5 000 people on my mail list for emails and I love creating the newsletter and updating people with my writing. So, that’s something I’ve focused on. Also, I do some article writing which I really love as well.
Christopher Anderson: Excellent, very cool. All right, so what I want to do here is we’re going to take a break and hear a word from our sponsors who make this show possible. And when we come back, David, I’m going to — we’ve kind of walked through the beginning and then now, then what you’ve given up and what you have tried to hold on to. But I want to talk to you is about your business plan and like how you documented or how you kind of structured how you were going to get from there to here and how well you followed it. But first a word from our sponsors.
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And welcome back, we are talking with David Notowitz. We’ve been talking about his starting of his business NCAVF which is the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics. And we’re talking about, you know, basically walking through his story which should sound familiar to a lot of our listeners who are solo attorneys or just hiring their first couple of folks or even if you’ve come down the road, maybe sounding familiar, maybe sounding like some things you could do differently. So we told the story now, now I want to look at it again from the beginning prospectively, like what David did to get ready for risk growth and to pre-think it, to preconceive what it was going to look like. David, prior to the show you shared with me a document that you called the NCAVF business plan. So, if you don’t mind, let’s talk about that a little bit.
David Notowitz: Sure, sure. I started it in like 2010, I think. So, prior to that in 2007 when I decided to move into the business, you know, it’s three years of like fumbling around.
In 2010, I realized from suggestions and reading, I need to develop a plan of some kind. So, I broke up everything that I was doing into lists and I broke those up into jobs or at least positions, I called them. And right now, I was doing almost all of the positions in 2010 except for answering the phones.
Christopher Anderson: Before we go into the positions, because I think it’s really great the way you put those together and I’ll tell everybody first of all that when David’s talking about making a list, he came up with A through O. So, I think that’s 15, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Yup, different roles. And I want to talk to that. But the first thing I wanted to ask you about because people are like — I think when you say business plan, people are just sort of — their eyes glaze over and they freak out because they don’t know what to do or how to get started. And some people do make what I consider to be the huge mistake of going out and like buying a product like business plan pro and following it because then you’re not planning, you’re answering questions. Where did you come up with a structure how to put this business plan together? It’s for the listeners because they’re not looking at it, you start with roles then you’ve got a whole section on your systems that run the business, then you’ve got a section on marketing and how that’s going to go. And that’s basically your plan, is it’s got the people, the systems and then the marketing. How did you come up with that structure?
David Notowitz: I actually went online and I did find a lot of other business plans. And I found suggestions and I just looked and read all those different plans, I read about them. From that, I said, “what do I need to do in my business,” like what — I just need to write a list of the work I do, a list of the systems I have running the company and the weaknesses and a system for marketing because I love marketing as I mentioned, I love the writing but I love the marketing in general. So, that was important to me. I knew it was important for this business to do good marketing.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. Those are, you know, because usually. when I’m talking with clients as well, usually what I recommend is the business plan has to cover three key areas and you’ve got them. One of those key areas is acquisition, how are we going to get clients because without that section, the rest of it really doesn’t matter. The second area which you also cover is production. Once we get those clients and make all the promises that we’ve made to them, how do we get the work done? Which includes the people which you’ve listed out here too in the roles, et cetera. And then the third area of a good business plan which I have a little bit of criticality to your business plan on this one is financials and describing what the business is going to do financially. But so you described this because you found some business plans out there and the first thing you did was describe all the roles. And you said like I described, there’s 15 of them and you’re wearing all the hats. How similar does your business look today to the roles that you listed at the beginning?
David Notowitz: Surprisingly, it’s quite accurate in terms of — because I’d already done the business, already done production and all other kinds of work and then I went into the forensics for several years before I wrote the list. When I was doing it by myself from like 2007, 2010, I really was fumbling around but I was finding what we needed to do. and the interesting thing was a lot of jobs were just coming to me because of this high profile case, the attorneys that would hire me and find the work for me, so I didn’t need to do as much marketing and that was just a good thing, it was just more organic growth, do a good job, that’s the marketing, right? You would do a great job for someone, blow them away and that’s we still try to do, that’s good marketing.
Christopher Anderson: But it’s not all the marketing that you talked about, but I do want to stick to the people and then we’ll come to the marketing here in a second. One of the things I found fascinating about this is that knowing your business as you did and sitting down and thinking about it even though you were personally wearing all the hats, doing all this work. You were able to delineate 15 roles, and actually, you have H1 and H2, so it is 16, which is even better. Because when I work with law firms on an individual basis, what I usually tell them is what you figured out in your business plan is that they’re in a given law firm, there’s typically about 16 roles in the law firm. And a lot of people go like, “no, there’s not, there’s only three employees, or there’s only me.” And just because they all look exactly like you, doesn’t mean that the roles don’t exist or that they’re all getting done well, but they exist. And you figured those out. And as you said it stayed pretty much the same over that time. Which are — you mentioned that answering the phones is one that is something that you gave up early.
What are some of the early wins that you had in hiring for these roles?
David Notowitz: Another role that I hired was someone who could do video editing for me, who could do the initial work of grabbing material from the clients, either it’s audio or video evidence and preparing it for me to use in the forensics side as more of an expert. So, they would be the initial touching of the evidence and then I would do the more complicated work. And over time, I could train those people to do the more advanced work but at least I started them off doing the simpler stuff and that allowed me to focus on the more difficult work.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, so for a law firm, that might have been like an associate or even a paralegal, someone to get sort of the more — I think it’s Seth Godin, but I’m not sure. But anyway, the most businesses that are a service, 85 roughly percent of what they do is rote, is just ministerial stuff you do the same way for every client. And 15% of it is truly art. and the more you can get rid of that 85%, the more time you can focus on the 15% of the art. And that sounds like what you’re doing there, is hiring someone to get — it’s not easy work, it’s not like simple work. But the less already work just so that you could focus more on the art, is that a fair description of how you did it?
David Notowitz: Yes, and because I live in Los Angeles and work here, there’s a lot of people working in Hollywood that could use work on the side. And because I worked in it as well, I know how to speak to those people. And so, I could hire people from studios or freelancers and bring them into my office and really train them quickly and really get them up and running to help me out. The other area that I quickly learned I had to give up was bookkeeping and dealing with some money and I was so wrong at first, I was trying to do it all myself, you know, everything, to keeping track of taxes and all this stuff that I’m terrible at, honestly. Finally, I hired a good bookkeeper and helped me tremendously, a big thing off my back.
Christopher Anderson: And with lawyers, I don’t need to know what you charge an hour and here’s just a business axiom that you possibly may not have heard it expressed this way, it’s one that I write about. But in your business, the most value you can bring your business is the least amount you can pay someone else to do what you’re doing right now competently. So, in other words, if you’re doing your own bookkeeping, in Los Angeles, you could probably hire a bookkeeper for $45, $50 an hour, I’m guessing. A good bookkeeper, let’s say $60. I’m going to guess that you charge more than $60 an hour and yeah and I know the lawyers that are listing charge more than $60 an hour.
David Notowitz: Right, well I was going to say that. It’s really nice to work on law cases because almost never do I get my client, the lawyer, saying, “you charge what an hour?” You know, lawyers, they don’t say that to me which is an awesome feeling. So, yes, I can pay a bookkeeper so that I can have more time to spend hourly working on cases and making more money.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, and again, like I said, some lawyers think they’re a better bookkeeper and they might be right. But if you really, really break it down, when you’re doing bookkeeping in your business for $60 now and you’re capable of billing $300, $350, $400, $500 an hour, you are stealing from the business. You are telling the stakeholders of the business which might be you but are also your family, if you’ve got partners, your partners, but there are other stakeholders, your family, other people who count on you for your time, your clients who want you fresh for their cases, you’re telling them that, “I’m going to take this time and do it for one-fourth of productivity out of it.”
David Notowitz: Yeah, but it’s fun so like with marketing, okay, I’m telling you, I agree with you. But marketing, I could pay someone else to write the articles for me.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah. We’re getting to marketing.
David Notowitz: I’m just saying that that job, though, I enjoy doing. So, just like if you really, really enjoy the bookkeeping and that’s fun for you, you don’t necessarily need to give that up. If that’s one thing, you know, you can pick one thing in the business and say, “you know what, I’m not giving up because I really enjoy that.” So, for me, it’s —
Christopher Anderson: You’re absolutely right about that.
David Notowitz: For me, it’s the marketing and it’s — I might give it up one day or I might give up. I give up part of it sometimes because I do the social media example, I give to someone else. But I know we’re not on that yet, but just saying in terms of general jobs, I keep a few because I like doing them.
Christopher Anderson: And I think that’s a really, really great point, is the things you love to do and we should really separate, I think, in growing the business and delegating. It’s so easy to talk about delegating the things you hate doing. Delegating cleaning the bathroom, got that.
Delegating the paperwork, got that. Delegating all the things — whatever — you may not like doing the bookkeeping, delegating that you may like doing it. That’s the easy one. Then there’s the stuff you like to do that you ought not be doing which might or might not be bookkeeping and then there’s the stuff you love doing and the more you give up the things you don’t like and the things you like but ought not to be doing, the more you can do the things you love and I think that’s a great point. In some people it might be the bookkeeping. I had a law partner who just loved maintaining the building. He loved putting up the wallpaper, loved pulling a fuse, whatever. It was just and then I tried and tried to tried. I said, dude, you do not need to be a hero on the Sunday painting and he loved doing that. So, I totally, I think that’s a great point that you made. Tell you what we’re going to do, we’re going to take a break here. When we come back, I want to talk to you briefly about the systems because I’ve got a little saying that we use that in a good business, the systems run the business and then you hire people to run those systems and I want to just talk about the systems that you knew you were going to have to have in place and then I do want to spend some time on the marketing. But first we’ll hear from our sponsors.
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Christopher Anderson: And I’m back with David Notowitz. We’ve been talking about his experience getting his business off the ground. NCAVF, the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics and we’ve been talking about the business plan that he wrote all through the last segment. And we were talking about people and filling those roles and I wanted to shift now, David, to talk a little bit about the systems because the second part of your business plan was you perceived the need for an integrated system to manage the company. Can you just talk a little bit about what you saw as a need there and how that fit into your overall plan?
David Notowitz: Yeah, well, I had all these different ways of keeping track of things. I had a database just with names and addresses and phone numbers. Then separately, I had all this evidence coming into the office at that time through FedEx and UPS and USPS. We had to track when it arrived, we had to track what we did with it, file it and then keep track of it and do the work and then I would forget about a case. I literally, oh, my gosh, I got this evidence in. Did they pay? Huh, I can’t remember. Do they pay for it, do they give me a deposit? I can’t remember. So, many things connected and I would — it was just hard for me to keep track of everything and to manage it. So, from beginning to end, so the client’s happy, so we get the work done well and so that everything’s on schedule and that we’re on deadline and all this and do we have a deadline and what is the deadline, what does the client want from us. And after a while when I got more and more cases, I would start to forget what was what. That was really frustrating.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, and so you wanted this to be all in one place?
David Notowitz: If I could, yeah. I mean, the ultimate goal was to track all this in one spot. I know I needed someone to also oversee that. So, I called that position the case manager and I also had a different person which I called the office manager. The office manager is the first person I hired. The one that answered phones?.
Christopher Anderson: Yup.
David Notowitz: I ended up calling that person eventually an office manager as opposed to just a receptionist and that office manager would take in evidence and help me manage it, help us send it out again in the mail. So, a lot of things that nowadays actually is done electronically which is awesome for me. I love keeping things technology-based as much as possible. So, now, I have a very powerful in-house internet connection, very fast. I have file connection, file server in-house that’s backed up externally every night and all the evidence gets sent to us electronically or at least most of the evidence.
Christopher Anderson: Right.
David Notowitz: But we track all this with a piece of software so that when it comes in, we mark it down, we mark down the deadlines, we keep everything on a database that’s much more robust. I use Clio to do that.
Christopher Anderson: I was going to ask you if you built it or if you mind saying what you did, but that’s going to speak loudly to a lot of lawyers listening. So, you use Clio?
David Notowitz: Yes and I realized early on that I wanted to run the business like a law firm.
Christopher Anderson: Okay.
David Notowitz: Even though I’m not a law firm. I knew I wanted to charge like a law firm, I want to make money like a law firm and I want to have retainers like a law firm. So, we do all this stuff and even the company name I named to appeal to government workers. A big acronym, a big long name that looks good to police or looks good to — it was on purpose. It wasn’t an accident and I thought about how to run it so that attorneys would feel comfortable.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, which is a great segue to the marketing because that’s the name of the company, is one of the first decisions you made for how you’re going to market the company and the one thing I said we’re going to get to that later is I wanted to speak to because I think you just put your finger right on it is another thing that Seth Godin had said which is when you’re getting a business off the ground, when you’re launching a business, when you’re running a business, one of the last roles you actually want to give up if you ever do is director of marketing because what you said earlier about no one’s going to care about running the business like you do? Well, let me tell you, nobody’s going to care about marketing the business like you do. Both from a getting enough business in the door to meet your financial goals but also protecting the image, protecting the brand, communicating the brand, staying on brand. Nobody’s going to do that like you and the fact that you love it makes it even better. I think a lot of business owners do because a lot — one of the things that we get to do as a business owner is use our business to put our message out there into the world as to what we’re trying to do to help people. So, tell me a little bit about what your business plan said about marketing and what you’ve learned along the way.
David Notowitz: Well, I just, I love convincing people to hire us but I love telling them the stories on successes that we had and I wasn’t good at talking. Honestly, I know I’m talking now with you, I was definitely very much an introvert. I started off as an editor early on. I’d be in a dark room by myself shut off from the world for days on end and I loved that. So, interacting with other people was something that I had to learn how to do well and marketing is really — requires that.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah.
David Notowitz: So as I got better with documentary films and advertising those and talking about that work, later on, I could apply that to doing work as a forensic expert and talking about the work we did, teaching to bar associations which we do a lot of. I do a lot of teaching now and I really enjoy that and I share my cases with attorneys. I teach at law firms at their lunch time and it’s not like a marketing thing although that’s what I’m doing it for. I’m doing it there to teach but in effect, they’re seeing how am I going to look on the stand when I have to testify? So, it’s really nice. It works for them. I teach them about audio and video forensics. It’s great marketing for me because they get to see me in action and see the work that we can do for them.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah. And I noticed like one of the things that you said that was that your primary method of marketing was going to not be like basically reaching out and bashing people over the head with you need to hire us. You’re working with referrals and you’re working through this sort of networking. Tell me about like how you were conceiving about how to bring people into your infrastructure, into knowing about and wanting to hire your business?
David Notowitz: Yeah, so I at first didn’t really know how to market this business because how do I reach attorneys? They have all kinds of ways of protecting themselves from — they have gatekeepers.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah.
David Notowitz: Their paralegals or the office person who answered the phone just like people protect me from marketing.
Christopher Anderson: Right.
David Notowitz: I can’t reach them. So, I tried doing all kinds of cold calling. Look, do you need audio and video forensics work? Like it doesn’t work. They have to need it first usually. Usually they need to have the need for this service then they find us. So, the way to do that is have the classes available so if they need to learn, they can learn from us and they look it up. Look it up on Google, look it up on Bing whatever. But that was over a time I realized that. It took time to realize that the cold calling does not work for us.
The social media marketing, that stuff, that works pretty well. So does teaching at conferences, at law firms, at association meetings. The other thing that works really well is just Google ads. We advertise on Google ads. So, when someone does a search or the attorney’s assistant does a search for our kinds of services they’ll find us.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah and what would impressed me also with this is that you didn’t just say like, okay, I’m going to go out there and do some marketing and I don’t like to do this but I do want to do this. Like your marketing plan has 22 items of and you called it the marketing manager systematized. Could you just talk about like do you do you still do all 22 of these things?
David Notowitz: I can say that we’re weak in some and stronger in others for sure, but I’m always keeping an eye out on the newer thing. For example, TikTok right now is really big. That wasn’t big a year ago or two years ago. So, we have to keep our eyes out and be flexible to add those things to our mix if we think it’s necessary. But honestly, TikTok, I don’t think will be a source of getting new attorneys to come to us, but who knows maybe in the long run it would. But I’m keeping an eye on it. But, yeah, there’s so many steps in marketing and we try to do as many as possible, but for example, it used to be that updating your website all the time was really important because the new pages, the new dates that were on the pages, that would really improve your SEO.
Christopher Anderson: Right.
David Notowitz: It’s become less important but still there. So, we still update our website with blog updates and updating the pages, but it’s not as systematized. But there’s a lot of things that we — you have to with all your business like, okay, I mean, submit to all the website search engines. Well, there’s not that many anymore. Really, that do anything.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah.
David Notowitz: I mean, I had.
Christopher Anderson: But for lawyers, there’s a lot of directories still. So, that’s a big one, yeah.
David Notowitz: Yeah. there are and I don’t know about for lawyers, but like Super Pages was huge, Yellow Book. There was Yahoo Local, there was Yelp. And honestly, there’s still Yelp, but it does nothing for my business. So, all these things adjust and you have to like be flexible and realize and only the owner can really do that, because if you assign this to someone, you know what? They’re just going to keep doing it until they like you fire them, I guess. But if they’re good, they’ll tell you, but it won’t be as obvious to them that they need to think outside the box.
Christopher Anderson: Sure. Yeah. And I got to ask you because it is your business like do you use your talent in video to enhance your marketing?
David Notowitz: Yes, we do. In fact, one thing I really like to do and it’s been very effective and this is a new thing I do. Every time I have a job or a teaching engagement to teach at a bar association or a firm, prior to that speaking engagement, I create a customized video for that organization or that firm to say I’m coming soon to you. I look forward to it. This is what I need you to do. I need you to write a few questions and give it to and then I named the person that’s in their company that invited me. And I say, I really look forward to seeing you there, I look forward to teaching you, but give me a couple questions. I need you to do this ahead of time and it’s a video. It’s maybe a minute long. And guess what? They send it out, my contact sends it out to everyone and it’s a great business. It’s a great lead because it makes me even more in their mind.
Christopher Anderson: It’s brilliant. You know, a lot of lawyers speak to different organizations too. That’s just I think it’s a great takeaway.
David Notowitz: They should do that. They should do this. Is to create a video, a simple one minute, hello, I’m excited to reach out to you and to meet you. I look forward to seeing you on Zoom or in person. It works out really well.
Christopher Anderson: So, as we run to the end of the show here, I did want to ask you one question about your business. Where you are today? We’re now 10 years since you wrote the business plan, roughly 13, 12, 13 years since you really started seeing this as a business, six employees now, what part of running your business today do you like the best?
David Notowitz: Oh, the best. Yeah, I think –
Christopher Anderson: I’m going for the other one next.
David Notowitz: Okay, okay. Well, the best is the marketing still. I really enjoy — I enjoy – do you know what I enjoy? I enjoy meeting clients and teaching them something in the middle of the case and they go, oh, my gosh. Wow. I didn’t even think of that. And it helps their client. It helps them. I love that ah moment that happens quite often in our business.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah and then of course briefly what are you still doing that you like the least?
David Notowitz: The thing that I’d like the least and I’m still doing it and I’m not sure how to get around it is all the business side of the financials. As you mentioned yourself, that’s like the weak part of my business plan and I need to figure out that better.
Even though I’ve improved it astronomically in the last two years using Clio and using other services like QuickBooks, I still need to get my arms around it better.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, and working with working with a good CFO or a fractional CFO can be a way to do that and the one thing I’ll say because I know we’re running out of time, it’s something I love to talk more about with you and of course with any listeners that would want to know about this as well, which is you got to me with a business plan; as a business owner, we have to answer the question first and foremost of why. Why am I doing this? What do I expect this to give back to me and that could be money, it could be time, it could be professional satisfaction? Usually, it’s a combination of all three. And then the money and the metrics and figuring out those reports all flow from your decision first about what it’s supposed to be and then because then you’re tracking towards what you’ve defined as your true north, otherwise, financial reports are just financial reports and they just tell you you’re winning or losing but they don’t tell you if you’re getting anywhere.
David Notowitz: I use my gut a lot. I use my gut a lot. Honestly, I look at all the possibilities and I say, is this financially — is this gonna work? And I just go for it.
Christopher Anderson: Yup. Listen, we are unfortunately, I would love to go another half hour with you, but we are out of time. Maybe we’ll bring you back but if listeners want to contact you, what’s the best way to reach David Notowitz?
David Notowitz: I would say go to our website or give us a call ncavf.com, ncavf.com or call us at 213-973-7811 and you can talk to me. I’m happy to talk to you if you have questions.
Christopher Anderson: Excellent. Just say that phone number one more time, David.
David Notowitz: 213-973-7811.
Christopher Anderson: Fantastic. That wraps up this edition of The Unbillable Hour and I thank all of you for listening. Our guest today of course has been David Notowitz. He’s the founder of NCAVF, the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics and he’s just given you ways to contact him and of course, I am Christopher Anderson. And if you have any questions about stuff we’ve done on the show you could always reach out to me here at The Unbillable Hour and I look forward to seeing you next month with another great guest as we learn more about topics that help us build the law firm business that works for you. And remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes. Thanks for joining us and we’ll speak again soon.
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