Building the MVP
Episode 6: Building the MVP
While getting started in 2017, Brett Sachs had to sell his car and skip out on family events to make ends meet. But with some unwavering resilience and the unconditional support of his better half, he was able to build a large, successful law firm in less than five years. Find out how the MVP (and his better half Chelsee) made it all happen on the latest episode of The Bootstrapped Solo.
In This Episode
Brett Sachs, MVP Accident Attorneys
Pratik Shah (00:07):
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Bootstrap Solo. I am Pratik Shah, your host. And today we’re going to be talking about the good, the bad and the ugly about running your own practice. This podcast is for those that want to know what it’s really like to start, run and grow practice. Today’s guest is the one and only Brett Sachs the MVP. He runs an approximately 50 person practice that focuses on personal injury and he started his practice back in August of 2017, has been growing strong ever since. Brett, thanks for being on and welcome to the show.
Brett Sachs (00:39):
Thank you, Pratik. I’m super excited. Ever since I heard you were doing this, I was just waiting for that day where you gave me a call to invite me on. So here we are.
Pratik Shah (00:48):
Well, you block my number, so I had to get around that first before you actually picked up.
Brett Sachs (00:52):
Pratik Shah (00:52):
So no, I appreciate it, man. Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, as I mentioned at the top of the show and we discussed this a little bit pre-show, is you started your practice back in August, 2017, that’s correct, right?
Brett Sachs (01:05):
Pratik Shah (01:06):
And you currently run a high volume plaintiff’s personal injury. You do a lot of pre lit, I know you now have a litigation department. But when you started, did you always want to do a high volume personal injury practice?
Brett Sachs (01:21):
Yeah. So when I started our firm, my entire vision was always to start a firm that took in a large amount of clients that was able to through analytics, systems, procedures, policies, different KPIs, was able to take those clients and build systematic value in cases. Where we’re actually obtaining a larger percentage of settlements on the same type of cases that our competitors do without diminishing the intake. So most people, when they’re hearing high volume shops, it’s not the best quality work. A lot of clients go through the cracks, they can’t hear back from their attorneys, whatever those common things that we always hear. My job and my goal was to change the perception of a larger volume firm, giving clients access to high resources without diminishing their case value. And letting them feel as if they’re in a boutique firm, where they have access to everyone working on their file. And they don’t feel like they’re one of thousands, they feel like they’re one of one.
Pratik Shah (02:31):
Right, right. And I think you’ve done that. I mean, from everything I hear about your firm and from clients and reviews and everything, I think you have done that and continue to do that. So props to you on changing that perception and changing the game. But when I hear high volume practice, the first thing I think of is that it’s very expensive to run from a marketing perspective and an advertising perspective.
Brett Sachs (02:54):
Pratik Shah (02:54):
I mean, fair?
Brett Sachs (02:56):
I think fair is an understatement. Yeah. That is a very expensive avenue to run through if you want to be an advertising law firm or a high volume law firm, it’s never ending.
Pratik Shah (03:10):
Yeah. I mean, I think most people probably don’t even understand quite the scale that it can go up to. I mean, I know there are firms that literally spend millions of dollars every month trying to bring in business. But obviously, this podcast being Bootstrap Solo and being about starting your practice on your own from the beginning, that leads me to the natural question of, if you always had the vision of starting a high volume practice and you knew that was going to be expensive. Well, how did you get the money to start that?
Brett Sachs (03:39):
So, that question I’m going to answer in two parts. I’m going to start by saying there isn’t a direct correlation between obtaining clients and spending money. So, that’s what I want to start out with. But I knew that I would have to have some type of startup capital and I didn’t have a ton of money at the time. At the time when I decided to start the firm, I was working for a defense firm up in Glendale making $80,000 a year. So, if anyone got there knows what that’s like, in California it’s not a whole lot. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.
Brett Sachs (04:18):
But what I decided was that like, listen, I spoke to my wife, my wife was being paid more than me at the time, as she deserved to, she’s a better lawyer than I am in my opinion. And we sat down, we talked and we said, “Listen, I want to do this.” And she’s a hundred percent supportive and we decided to build our budget, our house budget around her salary. And we decided that we’re going to wait a full year before we started our firm so that we can take my salary and set it aside for startup capital of the firm, but also for household reserves as well, in case an emergency happened, or we needed more money outside of my wife’s salary. Because at the time, I mean, that just paid for literally the bills. Like we didn’t have savings at that point other than what we were putting into saving for the firm.
Brett Sachs (05:07):
But I also just because of the way that I wanted to build and set the firm up, I didn’t want to cut corners right away. I wanted to have somebody there that could do some sweat equity. So I found a partner who we decided to essentially match contribution so that my efforts and his efforts together, in my opinion, created a very healthy starting budget for the firm. So we ended up agreeing on originally 20,000 each, so 40,000 total. And then a couple of months into that, he got another bonus that was lingering from his old firm, so he decided to put that in, it was an extra 5,000, so I matched it. So a total of 50 eventually, but we started with 40,000 originally.
Brett Sachs (05:52):
But that’s not enough to advertise with. And I don’t want anyone to think that is. It’s a lot of money to start a firm if you have that kind of money to start firm. You’re going to be completely fine if you do the right things. If you have less than that, you’re going to be completely fine. It’s just how you want to set up and how you want to position the firm to meet your goals. If you want to scale, my opinion like I did is set up and spend some of your money on systems and procedures and equipment and technology, so that when you get that first client, you know exactly what you’re doing with that client from start to finish. And it goes into a system as if you have thousands of cases.
Brett Sachs (06:34):
That’s how you scale something like this, so that you don’t have to pivot or make changes once you get 100, 200, 300 clients. You already have that system created and that’s what I spent my money on right away. It was motivation for me, it was a mental manifestation of success. So one advice that I got … one thing that I got really early on that was very helpful for me personally, was spend your money on office space. Again, this is back in 2017, things are a bit different with people and wanting office space. I still personally believe in person offices at some point in your career. I like the fact that I have the opportunity to get up and go somewhere every day. For me, if I don’t have that, if I’m going downstairs to my kitchen table or to an office in my house, I’m going to delay. I’m going to see my baby, I’m going to have some long breakfast, I might go get coffee. And by the time I get sitting down at my desk, it’s like 11 o’clock. And all I had to do is literally walk downstairs.
Brett Sachs (07:36):
But if you have a place to get up to and go to every single day, it creates a motivation and a positive manifestation of success. You have something to work for. And I’ve always been the person that like, I’m going to put things in place to make me work harder. And seeing that little rent check go out every month, motivated me to get money to pay that rent check. So little things like that. And I spent a lot of my money on, again, technology. I had a case management software set up immediately. Some of my best friends still work off of Google Excel. And I’m just like, I don’t understand how you run a practice, even if it’s a boutique practice off of Excel. The amount of time I save using the case management program is … I can’t put a number to it. It’s so vital to success of a firm. So those are the things that I spent most of my money on.
Brett Sachs (08:31):
And I didn’t focus on spending my money on advertising because at least in California, if you want to be an advertising law firm, you have to know what you’re doing. And you have to know where you’re going to spend that money, or you are going to lose it. Because we’re up against some of the biggest advertisers in the country spending millions of dollars a month. And when they see somebody who’s scaling fast, trust me, it creates some targets on your back. So I wanted to start a firm, a high volume firm without spending much money at all on the advertising and building relationships within the community. So that when I did scale up, I wasn’t necessarily a threat to them. It was more of just like, “Hey, I’m here, I’m staying in my bubble. Don’t worry. Like we could all be friends and there’s enough business to go around.” And I think I’ve been very successful with that.
Pratik Shah (09:26):
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I want to kind of focus on something you brought up in the very beginning is that you kind of sat down and had a conversation with Chelsea and said, “Hey, this is the vision. This is what I want to do.” Was it her vision too in wanting to start a practice? Or was she just kind of content in her job? Which is nothing wrong with that, everybody’s different.
Brett Sachs (09:46):
No, at the time her vision was to become the youngest partner in Bremer White’s history. I can say that, I like Keith a lot and I like Nicole.
Pratik Shah (09:57):
Yeah, that’s great.
Brett Sachs (09:59):
I can say that’s where she was working. It’s funny, she was very close to succeeding before she got pulled away, but that’s a different story. Her vision was to become a partner, that’s what she wanted. That was what law school taught you to do, she stayed in that system. And quite frankly, like I’ve never had a vision of starting my own law firm. It happened because when I left the original firm that I was at to go to defense work to be a real lawyer, to do the litigation aspect. I realized very quickly that I hated litigation and it just wasn’t my skillset. So when I went to Chelsea … no, it wasn’t necessarily her vision as well, Pratik. It was just her being a very supportive wife and wanting me to be happy.
Pratik Shah (10:40):
Right. And I think that’s super important is whatever support system you have, having that talk with them and say, “Look, this is what I want to do. And this is what it’s going to take.” So you guys had to kind of change your lifestyle a little bit.
Brett Sachs (10:52):
Oh, we had to-
Pratik Shah (10:53):
Because you went from a dual income, you had no kids at the time. But you had dual income, you were living your life to say, “Hey, we’re going to pretend, we’re going to kind of put in this parameter that we’re going to live on single income for a year.” That’s not, Hey, for two months, I got to save something. Or for a quarter. That is for an entire year in your youth, I’m like, we’re not going to spend this money because here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take all this money we saved. I’m not going to go buy us a house. I’m going to go start a business where I’m also going to make no money for a while, until eventually, hopefully one day I’ll make some money. I mean, is that kind of how the conversation went?
Brett Sachs (11:28):
Yeah. I mean, that was it. And it’s funny because there’s so many people that discouraged me from doing this. But people who I considered very close to me, I have family members who discouraged me, they didn’t think that I could do this, it’s not smart. And I just kept saying like, “What’s the worst that can happen? If I fail, I fail. I’m young.” But having that one person, whether it be your spouse or a friend or someone, or even me, call me. If you want support, I will give you support.
Brett Sachs (11:55):
You have to have someone that helps motivate you to make you live your dream. Because the negativity surrounds you so quickly and you will be negative. And a lot of times during the building of a firm, because there is a lot of ups and downs and you have to maintain that positive mindset and have that support system. Or you’re just going to fall into that same category of people closing shops up, in a year or two years and going back to work for somebody else. So it’s important to maintain that positive focus and rely heavily on that support system, whatever that is.
Pratik Shah (12:29):
Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about those ups and downs. So you save all this money, you adjust your lifestyle, you say, “Okay, we’re starting this practice.” Take 25 grand, you and your buddy say, “Hey, let’s put it into the practice.” August, 2017, you open your doors. What do you do day one?
Brett Sachs (12:47):
So day one, I build desk. I got office furniture and I’m sitting there. And if you know me now, you’re probably laughing at the thought that I would be sitting there in like sweats in the summer of Santa Ana, building a freaking desk for me to sit at. And I can tell you, it stood up for a while, but it did not make the move to the next office. It crashed.
Pratik Shah (13:08):
That was not up to code.
Brett Sachs (13:09):
No, it was not up to code. But what I did was I sat at my desk and somebody taught me early on, make sure that your schedule is filled. If somebody asks you to do something you absolutely say yes. Do I want to go to lunch? Yes. You want to get coffee? Yes. You want to go to this meeting? Yes. You want to meet this person? Yes. It’s always yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. So it was filling my day to day calendar and it’s finding meetings, it’s finding other law firms, it’s helping to reposition my website. Like I made the person building my website give me access so that I could change the colors, or I could do this or tweak that, change the wording. I mean anything and everything just to stay at my desk focused or be with someone that could potentially lead me to a relationship that could better my firm.
Brett Sachs (13:58):
And it was hard because it’s so easy to not be focused. And so it was either going to meetings, networking groups, cold calling attorneys, going around to … so I actually got my office suite in like a shared attorney office suite. So it’s like a Regis, but only for attorneys. And it wasn’t some major company, it was like just one owner that just bought a building and then leased out to … what’s equivalent to like Law Works nowadays in my opinion. And I know that Law Works is way more than that, but what it started out as just is an office suite for lawyers. So I was there, I just went around and introduced myself and talked to all the lawyers. Luckily I was one, a very few PI lawyers on that floor. And I just made friends with everyone who wasn’t a PI lawyer, so I could get referrals and then refer back.
Brett Sachs (14:49):
And so it was literally just fill in my day with meetings of any kind, that either sounded relevant to me or not. Just because you never know where that next case is going to come from. And then, on top of that, building the systems out. Templates, putting templates into our case management program, obviously going to the banks, filling out paperwork, making sure the firm is set up right. That it’s compliant with everything that we need to be compliant with. Making sure that IRS documents are accurate. Like just everything that you can possibly think of to build any type of business, let alone a law firm. And I got lucky because I got a handful of cases through that networking in a relatively fast time.
Pratik Shah (15:36):
I wouldn’t call that lucky.
Brett Sachs (15:38):
Well, there’s a bit of luck to almost everything. But yes, I feel like-
Pratik Shah (15:42):
Brett Sachs (15:44):
I build my own luck. And then I obviously worked on those cases. I bothered those clients every day, I checked up them. I created a great report and establishment. But it was really just building out my policies and procedures, building out handbooks for employees I don’t have. So that if anyone, for whatever reason, had to jump into my seat, they would be able just to take what I have and go with it.
Brett Sachs (16:08):
So it was a lot of that and it was very hard and it was challenging. Like you said, we gave up a lot during those years, a lot of people look at our success and how fast we’ve grown and it’s like, “Oh, like they don’t appreciate or even want to even understand the sweat and the grind that we still go through today.” But even more so at those early days. I mean, I was at the office three or four times a week to 11 or 12 o’clock at night. Random things popped up and I just was like, everything I can do to better this firm, I’m going to do. And I was taking client meetings, I was driving to freaking Corona to pick up a client if I absolutely had to. Whatever I had to do, I was going to do.
Brett Sachs (16:51):
And like I said, we gave up a lot. I sold my car, I had a Mercedes at the time. I sold that. I got a 10 year old car to drive … beater to drive around in. It was a tough, tough time. So I don’t want people to get discouraged, but you have to want that.
Pratik Shah (17:13):
You have to want that. And I think that’s super important is that everybody that wants to run their own practice should start their own practice, but they should go into it with open eyes, understanding that it takes time. And at some point, you will turn a corner, ideally. Obviously you did. And that probably brings me into my next question is you started in August of 2017, when do you feel like you finally turn that corner of, “Hey, all this hard work, sweat, tears has finally turning into what I wanted to turn into.” And I know that we’ve never reached the pinnacle, we’re always moving forward.
Brett Sachs (17:47):
Pratik Shah (17:47):
But at some point along this journey, you realize, “Okay, we’ve got something here.”
Brett Sachs (17:52):
Yeah. I think that was around the end of the first quarter of 2019.
Pratik Shah (17:58):
2019. Okay. So it’s almost two years … a year and half.
Brett Sachs (18:00):
About a year and a half. When I finally realized we’re getting somewhere and we’re building traction. And it was a little bit less of the, “When’s my next settlement going to come in to pay my bills?” And a little bit more of, “Okay, I can project this a little bit better. I have a continuous minimum monthly income coming in. And there’s some growth going on.” And I felt like that was when I felt even a little bit of relief in knowing like, this is the start for me. This is where I really can say, “We’re going somewhere.”
Pratik Shah (18:37):
So you mentioned something in the last answer about having to sacrifice some things and sacrifice the way you lived your life. We talked a little bit about adjusting down to one salary, you talked about in selling your car. I mean, what would you say was probably the hardest moment from when you started your practice till when you felt like you were turning a corner?
Brett Sachs (19:03):
Oh man, that’s a great question. I really think that it was watching … it wasn’t one moment. I think it was a moment that arose multiple times over and over again. And it was that whole keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. Not just in finances, but just in like life. All of our friends who didn’t go to law school had been out of college at that point for almost 10 years. They had an established career of whatever industry they’re in, they’re making decent money. Some of them don’t live in California, they’re all traveling. We’re giving up vacations, we’re giving up even going to like a wedding was hard for us. We could barely afford plane tickets. We had to be very strategic. When there was family events, we had to drive instead of fly, it was nuts.
Brett Sachs (19:57):
And really, like not being able to buy a house was very, very tough on us. Especially for my wife, Chelsea, because we were doing this for quite some time. I mean, people don’t know this, but I recently was able to buy my house like in 2020, it was when I first bought our house. And so I was doing that for years, living in an apartment that’s 1,100 square feet. It was it’s funny, actually, what really motivated me to buy a house was we were hiring like our ninth person at the time and I got her address. And I’m like, “Oh, you live in my complex. Maybe it’s time to go and buy a house.”
Brett Sachs (20:38):
But it was just a whole, an ideology that I felt like we kept sacrificing ourselves for other people. I remember when we hired our first employee at over $50,000 a year. Chelsea and I talked about it for a very long time, and ultimately I’m glad that I won the argument or the dispute because it was one of the reasons why we are where we are today. But at the time, to think about giving somebody around $5,000 or $6,000 a month, just one person when I wasn’t even paying myself a salary at that point was tough. It was so tough. I mean, we lived on that one salary for a very long time. Like it wasn’t until I think 2018 or 2019 that I started giving myself a salary. And I only did it because my accountant said I had to. He’s like the firm’s making enough money now where if you’re not paying yourself, that’s going to be a red flag because the IRS is going to think because I’m a [inaudible 00:21:44] company, they’re going to think that I’m trying to avoid income tax by giving me shareholder distribution. I’m like, “Well, they can just go into my bank account and see I’m not giving myself anything.” And he’s like, “You don’t even want a red flag. Just give yourself a reasonable salary.”
Pratik Shah (21:56):
Yeah, you don’t want that. The IRS is like the state bar, you just don’t want them to know your name.
Brett Sachs (21:59):
You just don’t fuck with them.
Pratik Shah (22:01):
It’s better if they just don’t know I exist.
Brett Sachs (22:02):
A hundred percent. So, I think that … again, it’s hard to say. It wasn’t one moment, it was just a continuous drive of believing that this is going to work. And it was a lot of conversations with Chelsea saying, “Babe, we’re going to be hurting until we’re not. And it’s just going to feel as if it’s overnight, but it’s like, we’re going to look back and it’s going to be all this hard work is paying off.” And again, like you said, you never really feel like you’ve ever really made it, in my opinion, if you’re doing it right. And so, we still have a long way to go. But those early years of sacrificing and putting our life on a hold as a whole was probably the toughest part of this.
Pratik Shah (22:46):
And I think it’s really interesting what you said, because we talked about the conversation you had with Chelsea of, “Hey, we need to go down to one salary because I want to save up to start a practice.” But that continued. That wasn’t like a, “Hey, okay, I started my practice. Now I’m making money.” You started with zero clients, is that accurate?
Brett Sachs (23:04):
Pratik Shah (23:06):
Yeah. So you said, “Hey, Sachs Law is open for business, but we got no business.”
Brett Sachs (23:10):
Pratik Shah (23:10):
This is where we are.
Brett Sachs (23:11):
Pratik Shah (23:11):
And then you start hustling up some cases, shaking hands, doing all the networking stuff to get some business and you’re moving forward. But then it wasn’t for like, it sounded like almost a year until you took home a salary, even more than that. Because it was like end of 2018, you were saying so a year and a quarter. So almost five quarters. So it went from a year of saving money on a single salary to another year and a quarter of not making any money. So almost a little over two years of not taking home any money essentially before you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to pay myself.”
Brett Sachs (23:44):
Pratik Shah (23:45):
And I know how it worked when you’ve got the pass through is when your accountant says you got to take something. That doesn’t mean you’re taking home 200k.
Brett Sachs (23:50):
Pratik Shah (23:50):
You’re taking home like 65k just to like not get taxed like crazy.
Brett Sachs (23:54):
Yeah. I think it was a $50,000 salary at first.
Pratik Shah (23:56):
Yeah, exactly. So I don’t want people to think like, “Oh, your accountant said you got to take home money. So you took home a quarter of million dollars.” Like, no, that’s not how it works.
Brett Sachs (24:03):
I mean, that still isn’t salary today.
Pratik Shah (24:06):
Right, of course not. Yeah, it shouldn’t be. And so, you’re growing. Okay, so finally your accountant says, “Hey, you got to take this 50-60k home so you don’t get red flagged.” And you’re like, “Oh crap. I got to take it home, that means it’s not in the business. I’ve got staff.” When did you hire your first staff?
Brett Sachs (24:24):
After my first year. So I stayed in Santa Ana for one year and around June of 2018, I … or, sorry, not June. May of 2018, I hired my first employee. So not a full year, I guess, it was about nine months.
Pratik Shah (24:43):
Yeah, close enough.
Brett Sachs (24:44):
And then she didn’t last very long, unfortunately. And then I believe that we had, by time 2019 came, I’m almost positive and I should have looked back at this, I apologize. I think we were up to 8 or nine people.
Pratik Shah (25:04):
Brett Sachs (25:06):
And that’s something that I think is important to note because I had a lot of solo attorneys or attorneys that want to start a firm or have already started a firm and they come to me and they’re like, “How do you know when to hire somebody?” In my opinion, as a firm owner, you should at any time you can, delegate everything that you’re not good at or that you don’t want to do. And even if you think that’s going to hurt you because you’re spending an extra $5,000 or $6,000 on a month on a salary or more. I can assure you, it’s going to lead to way more return.
Brett Sachs (25:48):
And you have to look at hiring staff as an investment and the multiples of what they can bring back to you. So, just as a short example, there’s a firm up north that I mentor and he’s a great attorney. And he gets really big settlements and he does really well. And he’s got … at a time he had more liquid cash than I did. But my firm had like 25 or 30 people in it. And he’s like, “I don’t know how you sleep at night.” And I go, “Well, because I’ve set my firm up to project adequate capital, and I know I can pay for these people.” So instead of having a year or two years of reserves, I have three months or whatever it might be. I mean, things have changed, evolved at any given time as over it grows. But I don’t want people to be discouraged to hire people because hiring people is the first step at succeeding and growing and scaling.
Brett Sachs (26:44):
Because you, as the principal attorney of the firm, need to focus on being the principal attorney of the firm or whatever you want to be. Whether it’s the operator, whether it’s the managing attorney, whether you want to actually be on cases, whether you don’t. Figure that out early on and then build around that idea so that you’re not scraping and figuring it out when you have 50 or 60 or 70 cases, and you don’t know if you should hire somebody and it’s kind of working, but it’s not working. It’s like always keep an open mind and not be afraid to take the risk because you have to invest in yourself.
Pratik Shah (27:21):
Right. The risks might sometimes not work out. Like-
Brett Sachs (27:26):
Pratik Shah (27:26):
We’ve all had that. And I’m sure that as you’ve built your practice, as you’ve started getting more and more referrals and doing more advertising and getting some cases in through organic means outside of referrals, you’ve seen that where you’ve made investments into people or you’ve made investments into certain vendors or companies. Or you’ve made investments into a certain advertising channel that just didn’t work.
Brett Sachs (27:51):
Most of them don’t.
Pratik Shah (27:54):
Yeah. And I think that’s okay. I think for a lot of people, they have to understand that it’s not going to work all the time and that’s okay. You only really need two or three of these things to work out to really have a successful practice.
Brett Sachs (28:08):
I think you really did hit the nail on the coffin. Everyone’s focused on spreading theirselves in so many areas because they’re like, “I need to put money here. I need put money here. I need to do this. I need to do that.” It’s like, okay, no. If you can focus on one or two key areas that can bring you in business, just become great at that. And don’t think that because the firm next door is doing this, that you have to do this. Because let me tell you, almost anything anyone ever tells you, this is including myself. I’m an open book and anyone who knows me, knows that I will open my books up to anybody and people have come in and looked at that. So, take this was a grain of salt. But 99% of what people tell you is probably wrong. It’s inflated.
Pratik Shah (28:53):
Brett Sachs (28:53):
It’s fluffed, it’s just not true. I mean, somebody talked to a firm owner he’s like, “Yeah, I have over a hundred employees.” I’m like, “I know for a fact that’s wrong. I know a hundred percent that’s wrong because I know who works.”
Pratik Shah (29:07):
It’s not true.
Brett Sachs (29:08):
It’s not true. So like, I don’t know why he told you that, but it’s wrong. Or like, “Oh my gosh, we’re killing it in this area.” You’re probably not. Like, I can tell you every avenue that I’ve done that I have fallen flat on my face with, and I’ve spent tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars trying, and it doesn’t work. So it’s like, don’t be afraid to lose because at the end of the day, you might not be gaining business, but you’re gaining lessons.
Pratik Shah (29:42):
Brett Sachs (29:42):
And you know how to not do the same thing twice, learn from the mistakes. It’s not a big deal. But I can assure you that it’s okay to take risks and it’s okay to understand that if you fail, just pick yourself up and try again. I mean, listen, I wish I had 400 cases coming in my office right now. I don’t at any given time. It’s just we are still always trying something new and figuring it out, lead gen companies, different marketing schemes, every SEO, TV, radio, just various opportunities, billboards, sports teams, whatever it is to build brand awareness. Some things work, some things don’t. And it’s just picking yourself back up and trying again.
Pratik Shah (30:28):
Right. And I think there’s that very famous quote we all know about the man in the arena and going in and trying it. And I think that’s super, super important to harp on, is that it’s very easy from the sidelines to say, “Well, of course, that wouldn’t work.” Or, “Of course that would’ve worked.” And it’s like, look, you don’t know what’s going to work. And you don’t know what’s going to work until you put your own money at risk and your own business at risk every time you do it. And then you realize what works and what doesn’t.
Brett Sachs (30:53):
Pratik Shah (30:56):
And so I think that one thing I always tell people is I always say like, I want people to have a longer horizon of success. You mentioned something about people want to sprint to the finish line, but the reality is a successful practice is a practice that has been in business and is profitable for 40 years. Not for three years, not for five years, but for 40 years. And all of the stuff you’ve touched on about sacrifice, building in those systems, taking those risks and keep pushing forward. And don’t be afraid of like having to fall down and get back up. I think are all the recipes for success for that. And if you operate on a timeline of 40 years, then you’re okay with making some mistakes. Because you’re like, “I don’t have to get there tomorrow.” What do you think?
Brett Sachs (31:42):
I agree with you. And that’s probably one of the biggest things that I struggle with, to be honest with you, is patience. Like I am the guy that wants everything today. I just had a meeting with my case managers today. And we had like a little opening like icebreaker thing just to lighten the mood and the person who came up with the icebreaker said like, “What’s one thing professional or personal, a skill that you wish you had that you don’t?” And I said, patience. I wish that I was more patient in every aspect of my life, especially in the firm. Because I want everything today.
Brett Sachs (32:16):
So it’s a continuous battle to remember that it is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. And yes, when you’re looking at quarters or years, small things can become major issues. And that can lead to some really disruptive parts of a business. I’ve made those mistakes.
Pratik Shah (32:42):
Give us an example.
Brett Sachs (32:45):
When you’re stressed and you’re not bringing in the revenue that you projected and you’re going out and you have advertising budgets that are being built. And you do nothing, but week after week hound on your team about how they’re not performing correctly, or they’re not settling this fast enough or they miss this on this case and they’re not checking up. And they only settle this many cases this week. And then also keeping that same mentality that we’re not going to settle any case that’s not supposed to be settled. We’re not going to settle under other value. It’s always client focused first and it’s that horrible balancing act.
Brett Sachs (33:27):
That can drain very much on your team. And there are times during this firm that I’m going to very happily admit we had mass exodus. We had people who like 3, 4, 5 people at a time, that just got up and walked out, no notice, left, just didn’t show up or sent email saying, “We’re done. We left our key cards on our desk. Thank you goodbye.”
Pratik Shah (33:50):
Brett Sachs (33:52):
And that makes you reevaluate, it makes you rethink like, listen, is it always going to be my fault? No. No. And in today’s market, it’s very difficult to get people who see a vision, want to work very hard and understand adequate compensation for that hard work. But when things happen where people come to you and they’re at their wits end, even though you’re like, “Well, you’re getting paid the best. You have this.” We have five different types of coffee in my office, we have health drinks in my office. I have snacks and food and you literally never leave my office and be completely fine every day, all day. But that doesn’t mean everything to people.
Brett Sachs (34:38):
Sometimes it’s just validation and showing constant respect and making sure that the people who worked very hard for you, feel appreciated. And when you’re not patient and you don’t look at this as a long term stretch, where I’m looking at month to month or that our quarter was horrible. Instead of our like full year and not even looking at how the end of the year could end up. I mean, we could end up quadrupling the loss that we had during the first half of the year. And just focusing on the negative, they stop believing in you and they stop wanting to come to work and build your vision with you. And so keeping patience and understanding things take time and being able to work through that will ultimately help everyone involved, especially yourself. Because there’s a lot of anxiety that goes into not being patient. So I hope that was a good example and it made sense.
Pratik Shah (35:37):
Yep, totally. No, I mean … and you mentioned the word a couple of times, the word vision. And I think in this conversation that I’ve been having with you, Brett, I mean, you’ve talked about that from the beginning. I can tell from the beginning you had a vision of what you wanted your practice to look like, you launched, you started executing that vision. You knew that you wanted to have systems in place and policies and procedures on what you were going to build. And you continue to keep building that vision. But when it gets really hard, do you question the vision?
Brett Sachs (36:11):
Yeah. That’s a great question. And the answer to that is absolutely yes. There are a lot of times where I sit down and I rethink, “Is this the right type of firm we want to run? Should we transition into a trial firm? Should we transition to a lit firm? Should we downsize and focus on catastrophic injuries instead of high volume?” I look at some of my friends who run a lot smaller firms and they have months where they did … well, let’s just say a million dollars in settlements. And I’m thinking, “Okay, great. Obviously we do that and much more every month.” But then I’m looking at their overhead and I’m saying, “Holy crap, that 350,000 or 330,000 or depending what their fee split or fee contingency is, goes directly into that firm owner’s pocket, essentially, because their overhead’s so small.”
Brett Sachs (37:08):
And then I’m like, “There are many months during the year where I don’t even meet my nut every month.” And it’s hard. It’s hard to sit there and be happy for my friends when I’m like I’m working so hard to be in the rat. And that is a very tough position to be in. And it takes a lot of self focus and evaluation and true belief that you didn’t get here … I don’t know who said it, but it’s going around social media right now. You didn’t work this hard to get this far. So you have to stop and you have like, “Nope, this is going to work. We got this.” Refocus, reanalyze, whatever it might be. So yeah, it’s hard. But my biggest advice to anyone who starts their own firm is, know what you want and make every decision based upon getting that result.
Pratik Shah (38:07):
Yeah. One of the things we talked about too pre-show is that when you started your practice and you mentioned it here too, is you wanted an office, you got an office space, you wanted to have Apple Mac computers, so you got that, even though it’s a tight budget, that’s what you spent money on. Got your desk and all that. And I think that’s something you have that even, I think a lot of people don’t have, even people have unsuccessful practices is you’ve just got this like, “I know what I want and this is what it’s going to be.” And sometimes you run into situations when you’re like that, it can help you become really successful, like where you’ve become. Because you know exactly what you want, you’re going after it. But sometimes you run into those walls, where you will have people four or five people quit at the same time. Or you may have people say, “I don’t want to do business with you anymore because I don’t like the way you do business.” And what do you say to that? Has that happened?
Brett Sachs (38:57):
Yeah, no, it does happen. Totally. And that’s the reason why having the vision helps. Because in times of stress and anxiety and in those lower moments where you sit there and you scratch your head, like how am I going to get out of this? Believing in your vision and having core and key people around you that also believe in your vision means that you really can’t focus on the negative. You just have to pick your pants back up and say, “I can’t fix what just happened.” Or, “I can’t change what just happened.” The only thing that I can focus on is how am I going to react to it? Because I can’t control someone else’s thoughts and I can’t control their actions. I can only control how I react to that situation and how do I move forward from it?
Brett Sachs (39:51):
So whether it’s diving in and having to do things that I don’t normally do. Whether it’s case evaluations, settling cases myself, I have a really good leadership team. A lot of times they jump in and take caseloads over when that happens and they retrain and we build out and you focus hard and you come up with solutions to the problems that are presented to you, instead of dwell on them. I have this rule, like you got five minutes to cry. Go cry, do whatever you need to do to de-stress, five minutes. Then look yourself in the mirror and say, “You got this. You are blessed to be in this position having to make this decision. Because there are thousands and thousands of people that wish they were even presented an opportunity that gets screwed up to fix.”
Pratik Shah (40:42):
Brett Sachs (40:43):
And having that mindset every day is the only way you’re going to get through these ups and downs.
Pratik Shah (40:48):
I love that. I love that. Okay, couple of fun questions for you. When you finally turned a corner and you were able to go back to Chelsea and say, “Okay, I’m taking a salary. We’re rich now. I took my $50,000 salary.” When you finally really financially got there and I know we’re never there, but when you finally got to the point where you’re comfortable. What was your first like, okay, I’m buying this for me because this is something that I’ve been wanting to have for a long time? I know you’re a car person, so maybe it was that.
Brett Sachs (41:20):
It was a car. It was a Range Rover Sport.
Pratik Shah (41:24):
Brett Sachs (41:26):
And it was a big thing for me because one of the things that my initial partner, which I don’t even know if we brought up. Yeah, it was because we brought up the capital. My initial partner wanted from like day one is like, “When are we going to be able to put the cars through the business?” I’m like, “Well, when we have money to pay for the cars.”
Pratik Shah (41:44):
Brett Sachs (41:44):
Pratik Shah (41:44):
It’s not free.
Brett Sachs (41:47):
Yeah. He’s like, “What about the tax write off?” I’m like, “You still have to have the money to pay for the write off.”
Pratik Shah (41:52):
You got to make the monthly payment. Exactly.
Brett Sachs (41:54):
It reminds of like Schitt’s Creek. It’s like, it’s a tax write off. What’s a tax write off? Who’s going to pay for it? I don’t know, the tax write off guys.
Brett Sachs (42:01):
So when I was able to do that and put it through the company, it was like, I got it moment. And it’s funny too, because I mentioned in the statement, it came from my dad, when my dad saw the car, he goes, “That’s aggressive.” I was like, “Yeah, but it’s a tax write off.” And he goes, “Okay, but you have to have the money to pay for it.” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m good. I’m good. I got it. Thanks.” But it was that.
Brett Sachs (42:29):
And then I bought my first nice watch after that.
Pratik Shah (42:31):
Nice watch. Nice.
Brett Sachs (42:32):
And I made sure that like … because again, these days we didn’t have TikTok and Instagram the way we do now. It’s evolved, it’s everywhere. And we’ve touch on this all the time, you and I talk about this all the time. We’re surrounded with these want to be business owners or these gurus that are selling classes out of their apartment. And saying things like, “You shouldn’t buy this, you should buy this. This needs to come out of your passive income, not your active income.” It’s like shut up. All that shit. No one knows what the hell you’re talking about, you don’t explain it correctly. Like no one understands that.
Pratik Shah (43:11):
What we were saying too is like a lot of people are so eager to be business gurus. They forgot to build a business first.
Brett Sachs (43:17):
Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly. That’s what you said, too.
Pratik Shah (43:19):
They went straight to TikTok guru school-
Brett Sachs (43:21):
A hundred percent.
Pratik Shah (43:22):
And they jump on … and it’s so bad. Some of it is just so wrong, at least in my opinion. I’m just like, “That is just not right.”
Brett Sachs (43:30):
Exactly. It’s funny, people think like, “Oh, you started doing well, you went and bought those materialistic things.” And again, to some people it is materialistic, a hundred percent. One of my best friends from high school, we’re very opposite people. And he’s into like camping and he’s into like yoga and he lives up in San Francisco, I think that’s all we need to say. But he spends the same amount of money on stuff as I do, it’s just different stuff.
Pratik Shah (44:02):
It’s just different stuff. Yeah.
Brett Sachs (44:03):
He would rather go to a restaurant and spend a thousand dollars on some like crazy dish out of like the deep Pacific ocean, like rare puffer fish that no one can eat unless you cut it the right way or else you’re going to die than buy a nice car, like that’s just how he is. So it’s like, whether it’s a house or a car or it’s clothes or it’s investments. Whatever it is that you spend when you feel like you’ve made enough money where you can splurge a little bit. The one thing I do recommend is make sure it’s something that you appreciate and that you love and that you’re getting it for yourself.
Brett Sachs (44:41):
If you buy a car so that you think other people are going to think that you’re cool in it, it’s never going to make you happy. You got to buy … and trust me, I’ve bought a lot of cars that I thought was going to make me happy. And within months I’m like, “No, this car is not going to make me happy.” And all my friends know me whenever I get a different car in their life and how long is this one going to last? But if you know that you’re buying it for yourself, you’re not, in my opinion, whether it’s from passive income or active income or whatever.
Pratik Shah (45:09):
Brett Sachs (45:09):
Make sure that you’re happy, you live once.
Pratik Shah (45:14):
I think that’s great advice is that make sure you’re doing it for yourself. Like if the reason is because you want to show it off on Instagram or whatever, that’s the wrong reasons. Unless that’s what makes you happy, then so be it. But make sure it’s what you are into and you’re not doing it because some magazine or some TikTok person told you that this is what successful people do and this is what successful people look like. Make sure it is what makes you happy and gives you that sense of satisfaction of, “Hey, I’ve made it. This is for me. I enjoy doing this.” A hundred percent, I agree with that.
Pratik Shah (45:48):
So, let me ask you this now. We talked about a lot of things here, but someone comes to you and I know you mentor a lot of young lawyers. But someone comes to you, “Hey Brett, I want to start my own practice. And I want to run a high volume practice, kind of like what you do.” What do you say to them?
Brett Sachs (46:06):
I ask them what systems and procedures they have in place. I ask them if you got a client today, what do you do with a client? Because if you’re going to build a high volume shop, it has to be scalable from day one. No questions asked. And if they don’t have that answer, they’re not ready. I’m willing to help and teach them what that answer should look like. But if they don’t have anything set up in their head, other than I just want to start a law firm because it looks good and you’re obviously successful. Then they’re just not ready for it.
Brett Sachs (46:41):
And I think that a high volume practice needs systems in place because you really can’t let any client slip through the cracks. And that’s something that drives most every decision at my law firm is client focused first. When you’re sending out a letter to the DMV, know that you’re not just putting out a piece of paper and putting a stamp on an envelope. That one letter could lose our client’s license if it’s not done properly. It could be temporarily taken away from them. Everything you do on every file touches someone’s life. And not having those systems in place means that you will let those clients down.
Pratik Shah (47:26):
Right. And they’re choosing you over the hundreds and thousands of lawyers that they could choose that are out there. I mean, they could throw a rock and choose a different lawyer and they’re choosing you. So, they’re trusting you, you got to have their back type of thing.
Brett Sachs (47:39):
Also, and then it might just be because this is what I did. And I think this is what you should do. But if you really want to scale and you really want to grow a large practice, put in the freaking work. Like it amazes me that I see people who start their practice and you’re within the first six months. And I’m seeing them on the golf course, like four times a week. And I’m like, “Okay, I get wanting to network. I totally understand that.” And then I see them at every single event you could possibly have, no matter where in the state it is. San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Orange County, they’re everywhere. And I go, “How do you have time to be at everything? Like, are you a practicing lawyer or are you just a networker?” And it’s fine if you’re a networker, but then don’t tell me that you’re a law firm owner. Because you’re just not. Like I’m in the office 95% of my life, or I’m literally doing something that’s directly relating to the growth of my firm.
Pratik Shah (48:42):
Brett Sachs (48:43):
So put in the sweat and put in the equity and work your ass off for a couple of years to gain the benefit. Even in this world of being able to work remotely and being able to set up systems and everything’s cloud based, and you can literally work from the pool. Just because you can work from the pool, doesn’t mean you should. Because if I’m at the pool, I’m not focus on my client. Like that’s just my personal opinion.
Brett Sachs (49:09):
There are days where you can go work from the pool, like if you’re on vacation and you want to work, great, that’s awesome. But your norm shouldn’t be that relaxed state of mind. In my opinion, the norm should be grind hard, work hard for your future and for your family’s future. And then the rest will come.
Pratik Shah (49:30):
I think that’s great advice. And I think there’s a mentality shift that you’re talking about is that there’s a lot of folks that as they’ve worked a lot of jobs coming up when they’re younger is they’ve gained the mentality of what is the least I can do to get out of this week and get to the weekend. We know those people. We know those people. They’ve worked for us, we’ve worked for them. They’ve worked with them. We know those people. And I was like that too, when I was 16 and 17 stocking shelves, was how do I do the least amount of work to not get fired? And then there has to be a mentality shift, which is how can I get the most out of this week?
Brett Sachs (50:07):
Pratik Shah (50:07):
What’s the most I can get done in this week? As opposed to what’s the least I can get done? And that mentality shift is an absolute necessity in being successful in your career, being successful in your business and building the life that you want.
Brett Sachs (50:23):
Yeah. And it’s funny, when I’m mentoring like early on solo practitioners, I always like to ask them, what’s your favorite time of the day? And I get a variety of answers. What I think is the best response is either super early in the morning or after five o’clock at night. And then I ask them why. And those were my favorite times of the day, because those were the days where I didn’t have anyone bothering me and I could focus a hundred percent on work and growth. Like that’s when I did my admin stuff, that’s when I was able to focus on my website, that was the time that I was able to go through my mail and mail stuff out. Eight to five, client focused. Before eight and after five, you’re good. Work on the growth of your firm, prioritize your time. And whenever anyone asks me like, “Oh, are you so excited? It’s the weekend.” I’m like, it’s the same day of the week. For me, there is no weekend.
Pratik Shah (51:24):
Exactly. It’s just another day.
Brett Sachs (51:26):
I don’t notice any difference in a weekend that I do in a week, other than I don’t get to see all the people I work with every day. Because they’re at home and for them it’s a weekend. But that mentality switch in life critique is what sets entrepreneurs and business owners aside from everyone else. And again, we need everybody else. I want the people that have major ambition, but don’t want to start their own firm. I want you to grow my firm with me.
Pratik Shah (51:55):
Right. And I think that’s important. Yeah. I think what you said is super important is that you have to realize that I know we talked a little bit about the TikTokers and Instagramers that want you to believe that everything is easy and it just really isn’t. And that’s part of the reason I started this. We talked about that before is that I want people to … if they want to do it, I want them to be encouraged to do it. But I want them to see it with open eyes, as to what it really takes and how it really does consume you. And it’s going to consume you. And if it doesn’t, it’s a tough game to win. And the ones that win are going to be the ones who let it consume you.
Brett Sachs (52:30):
A hundred percent.
Pratik Shah (52:30):
And so if you don’t want it to consume you, which is perfectly fine. I get it. My wife does not want anything to do with the business and the last thing she would ever want to do is start a business. She wants to be home on the weekends, she wants to volunteer at the kid’s school, she wants to do those things. And I’m glad that she wants to do that because I just want to work on the business all the time.
Brett Sachs (52:50):
A hundred percent. It’s interesting, like you owned a firm and then you start a business and it’s like … you can probably edit this part out. And I think you’re starting another business. But you’re constantly thinking about the next step. How you can grow-
Pratik Shah (53:09):
Brett Sachs (53:09):
Not just personally, but also in business. How you can better the companies that you’re working on and building and how you can potentially build other companies to better solutions with problems that you arise by building your other companies. Those are the people they’re going to win. All day every day. And it’s interesting to see these days because of technology and what’s being out there that people think they can just get by. And it’s almost as if they believe that the world owes them something, because they woke up that day.
Brett Sachs (53:48):
It’s like everyone saw that Matthew McConaughey like speech when he won some award and he said like, “A mentor of mine came to me and asked me like three questions. Who’s your hero?” I don’t even remember, long story short, it was him basically saying like my heroes always me 10 years from now. Because it’s something I can’t ever obtain and it’s something that will always allow me to reach for something bigger. I love that mentality because you’re always trying to grow yourself. And if you’re never looking back inward to be better than you were yesterday, then you’re never going to win. And don’t compare yourself to anybody else, compare yourself to yourself.
Pratik Shah (54:33):
Brett Sachs (54:34):
Where were you last year?
Pratik Shah (54:35):
You figure out your vision. It’s kind of like bringing back to that thesis of what we’ve been talking about is, you win when you execute your vision, whatever your vision is. It’s not by any other standard than what you set for yourself.
Brett Sachs (54:50):
Exactly. And again, don’t listen to people spending their time on social media, in my opinion. There are people that are obviously making money on social media. But if you think about this as a long term play social, media comes and goes. The ways to make money on social media comes and goes. They change algorithms, they change this, they add new platforms, they take away platforms. Eventually there could be regulations on it, like who knows? And if your game plan is in something that you can’t control, then just be very, very careful of who you’re getting your advice from.
Brett Sachs (55:32):
And it’s like every month I see like a new type of like way to become rich overnight. Like now people are like, you don’t even need to buy houses to rent out. You can go rent houses from somebody else and then talk to that person into putting it on Airbnb. And it’s like, huh?
Pratik Shah (55:50):
What are you talking about?
Brett Sachs (55:53):
What are you talking about? So you’re going to rely on someone else owning a property that can take you away from that at any time. And then you’re going to use that as your passive income to buy your sports cars? That can be taken away from you at any time, it’s not truly passive. What are you talking about?
Pratik Shah (56:03):
It’s so crazy. I know.
Brett Sachs (56:05):
So it’s just be careful of what you’re learning out there and keep an open mind. Because if you are comparing yourself to somebody else. Number one, you’re never going to succeed and make yourself happy because you’re always chasing someone else’s dream.
Pratik Shah (56:21):
Right. And you don’t really know what’s happening under the hood. Like you can’t do it. It’s because it’s not an accurate representation of what they’re dealing with and what they’re going with. You just got to have your own thing. And I think you’ve done that. I think you’ve built a phenomenal firm. I’ve seen the work product come out of there. It’s very, very high quality work product. You’re amazing. Chelsea’s amazing. We love your whole team. So, I think with that, we’re going to kind of wrap up, Brett. Any final words for the listener?
Brett Sachs (56:50):
Pratik Shah (56:52):
Like six of them only, by the way. But go ahead.
Brett Sachs (56:54):
Well, you got another one from last week. That’s awesome.
Pratik Shah (56:56):
Brett Sachs (57:00):
I think the only advice or last closing … or whatever you want. The last thing I want to say, edit this out, Theresa, let’s start this part over.
Brett Sachs (57:08):
Yes, the last thing I want to say to listeners is never give up on your dreams, always believe in yourself and invest in yourself first before you invest in other things. And two, if you ever have questions, concerns, comments, or you’re having a bad day, get my information from Pratik and I’ll be there for you. Because people are there for me and without those people, there are some days that like, I don’t even know what I would’ve done. And so it’s important to have great, great, great support avenues. And I can say that you, Pratik, are one friend that I know I can always rely on to be there for me if I feel discouraged or you’re always there to cheer me up.
Brett Sachs (57:55):
And I appreciate that and we have a great group of attorneys and friends that we can do this and people outside the industry. And Theresa is your Chief Marketing Officer, I believe, sorry if I incorrectly put the title on. She also owns one of the greatest marketing agencies in the freaking profession. And she’s one of those people, too. And that’s the best part about what we do and is what I encourage your listeners to do. Work with people that you love to work with and that you can be friends with outside of the job. That’ll make this all better and it’ll make it so much more fun. Because I get to surround myself with people that I love at each and every day. And it allows me to keep that positive mindset and keep that vision at the focus of where I’m looking every day.
Pratik Shah (58:41):
I agree. And I feel the same way, Brett. Thank you so much. And thank you, all of you for listening or watching. We’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrap Solo. And remember, just because guys like Brett make it look easy, doesn’t mean that it is.