By Peter J. Strauss
Texas Monthly named Terry Black’s Barbecue in Austin, TX one of the “50 Best BBQ Joints.” It is a family business with generations of barbecue knowledge. If you’ve ever been to Austin, you’ve probably been to Terry Black’s, or at least heard of it.
Most nights they sell out of meat by 9:00pm. And while they claim it is because of their “labor intensive cooking process,” I believe it’s due to the reputation they have earned in the Austin community; a reputation attained through being well connected to the city itself.
I travel to Austin frequently. It’s one of my favorite cities, filled with charm, culture, a vibrant music scene, great history and now, a booming technology and real estate hub.
Two months ago while visiting the city on business, I had the opportunity to meet with Wes Fang of ForbesBooks. Wes is the Vice Chair of the Publisher’s Financial & Legal Practice and we were discussing my book, The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies, that was soon to be released by ForbesBooks.
After dinner, I walked out of the restaurant and rather than hop in my car and head back to my hotel, I went for a walk through Butler Park. To this day, I still don’t know what made me take the detour.
Standing there at the top of a slight hill, I admired sweeping views of the downtown skyline, the city lit with the vibrant glow of Austin’s intense energy. I was only there a short time, yet the evening left an impression on me. It dawned on me that I had never seen the city quite like this. I recognized there was something special about the sight, something unique about the moment.
Reflecting later, I realized I had felt the connectivity of the city. It wasn’t just the BBQ, the colorful cityscape, or the slight breeze on the warm spring night. It was all of it. Each element woven together to create a special feeling that resonated with me.
The next day, I returned home to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. On the flight home, I took out a piece of paper and wrote the word “connectivity” in the center and circled it. I then started to fill the paper with moments from my life that felt connected.
I retraced my steps from law school graduate, first year associate, establishing The Strauss Law Firm, writing my first book on Captive Insurance Companies, and establishing Hamilton Captive Management. The very premise of my decision to leave the traditional norms of the legal industry and corporate ladder climbing stemmed from a desire to create more powerful relationships with clients, to connect in a faster, stronger, more intimate manner.
As I continued drawing, I pondered the idea of connectivity within our firms. We charge flat fees for services, hold ourselves out as “in-house” counsel for high net worth business owners, and challenge ourselves to look for creative solutions to real issues that are not just legal-based, but also life-based.
Imagine that, an environment where clients can come and share their business ideas, visons and concerns without fear of the constant clicking of a timer—a concept that seems counterintuitive to building a relationship.
It’s not only our relationship with clients that matters, it is also their relationship with our office. Those who visit us here in the low country won’t find employees, they’ll find team members. We don’t punch a clock or have lunch hours, we work until the job is done. We have Pizza Fridays, wing eating contests, and “Annie Oakley” days at the range. At the same time, our clients know they will likely get an email response if they reach out at 9:00pm. The team is dedicated to supporting and connecting both with our clients and each other.
Connectivity reaches past the clients and our team members. Our business model stands on practicing inclusivity with our service partners, advisors, and our community. Connectivity requires work. It is a constant balancing act. We fail and we succeed, constantly tinkering to improve. We’ve gotten it way wrong and “oh, so right.”
As the wheels touched down on Hilton Head Island, my sheet of paper was completely covered with bubbles. Then very simply, I drew a line connecting each bubble, retracing the start of the practice, the self-published first book, first public speech, corporate retreats, team promotions, brand recognition, and ultimately collaborating with ForbesBooks. I realized then how profoundly connected to my business I felt.
Connectivity doesn’t just happen. It may be the secret to the sauce, but it’s a labor intensive cooking process that is worth the wait!
Peter J. Strauss is an attorney, captive manager, speaker and author of The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies with ForbesBooks. Learn more at thestrausslawfirm.com.