Vacation Sorrows

by Dom Loffredo, Director of Operations at MDS

Recently my wife and I spent a week exploring the beautiful state of Vermont, but expectedly so, we made our eight hour trip home asking “do we really have to leave?” If you have ever gone on vacation, then I am confident you can relate to that last sentence. Although my beautiful state of Pennsylvania has a lot of similarities –trees, mountains, farms, and lots of places to eat; something about the Vermont hospitality we experienced made me realize that our office culture should resemble our end of vacation experience mentioned above. Below are my 5 key takeaways on how this approach can prove valuable to increasing your office dynamic.

1. Make it hard to leave

The overall kindness and generosity we experienced in Vermont was overwhelming. On multiple occasions I was given bags of ice, coffee, and or food for free because we were from out of town!Takeaway: you always have the ability to make staff & clients want to stay because of your compassion and generosity –sometimes it only takes a 99cent cup of coffee!

2. Communication = Caring

We hiked and or walked about 40 miles while in Vermont –almost every trail we hiked a local would talk to us! I have hiked my entire life throughout PA and this rarely happens.Takeaway: A small conversation pays dividends to your staff –it shows that you generally care about them.

3. Recycling is not an option

Recycling is integrated throughout their entire culture without reminding people or labeling it –they just do it out of commitment to this unwritten value.Takeaway: If something is a core value of your firm, your staff should see it occur daily without it being pointed out!

4. Word of Mouth is still King

Through conversations with locals, we learned of the best “dives, overlooks and tours” throughout the state –the only place we were disappointed with came from Google.Takeaway: people still talk –make sure your brand is easily recognizable/searchable & viewable!

5. Take a Deep Breath!

Given the large mountains, we often did not have cell service and had to “wing it” since we did not have a physical map. Regardless of a few detours, I was determined to not let a lack of cell service ruin our vacation!

Takeaway: A deep breath in times of challenge or confusion can reset your perspective on how to handle the challenge –when something is out of our control we need to let it go and focus on the next best option!

Think you do not qualify –look again! The qualifications have changed!!!

By Julie Steinbacher

What You Need to Know About the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)Qualification Available to all employers regardless of size including tax exempt organizations.

There are exceptions:

  • state and local governments and their instrumentalities and
  • small businesses who take Small Business Loans

To qualify, the employer has to meet one of two alternative tests. The tests are calculated each calendar quarter:

  • either the employer’s business was fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter -this could include the suspension of travel, group meetings or commerce OR
  • the employer’s gross receipts were below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019 they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter

Any interruption of business directly resulting from federal government order during 2020 or 2021 may qualify. The requirement to wear masks within the workplace does not qualify a business. Adjustment of business hours during a stay-at-home order do not qualify a business.

Supply chain disruptions do not qualify unless they directly resulted from a government order and met all of the following requirements:

  • Supplier cannot make deliveries of critical goods due to a government order
  • Business can’t purchase those critical goods from another supplier
  • Business must experience a more than nominal effect as a direct result

Salaries of majority owners and their families cannot be included in the ERC calculation. If the business owner has any living relatives than none of the salaries are eligible. Businesses that received PPP can apply for the ERC as long as the same salaries are not used and the business qualifies for the ERC.

Tis the Layoff Season

By Dom Loffredo

As I write this article there is most likely a large company getting ready to send out another mass layoff email. In the past few months, companies like Meta (formerly Facebook), Twitter, Zillow, Peloton and many others have conducted mass layoffs, several even have had MULTIPLE rounds of layoffs. Although anyone reading this works for a small law firm that most likely won’t suffer billions in lost revenue in 2023, the actions mentioned above still can have a significant impact on your practice.

Heading into the new year with the economy in question, many people have begun to fear what their future of employment looks like. Even though you are no Zillow who hired people based on believing the housing boom would never end, your staff are most likely watching the news and getting concerned if there will be cutbacks, stagnancy or even closings in the coming year. Now more than ever, make sure that you are communicating to your staff your plan for the next 3-12 months. Just hearing that you have a plan will provide them with some reassurance.

On the other hand, there is another opportunity that this “fear” season provides to you as a small business. It is this; the opportunity to solidify a reliable and positive culture throughout your office. Although this may be an uncommon takeaway, I have proof –discussions with two of Julie’s staff who have been with her through the 08 crash and the 2020 pandemic. Common thoughts on why Julie succeeded throughout these extremely challenging times for other businesses? Julie’s determination to keep building and developing her firm. Both staff shared that Julie’s ability to push forward gave staff confidence in their boss. By Julie moving forward with innovation, the staff felt comfortable in this simple fact: in a time of doubt, they have an employer who they trust to push the company forward regardless of circumstance. It may sound cheesy and small, but it matters! Having that trust sets the groundwork for a culture and office environment of reliability and consistency, using one that makes people want to stay!

Regardless of where you are today, the coming months will be a pivotal time for you to set the standard at your office. Don’t let the negativity of the news dampen engagement within your office. Create a plan, communicate that plan, and stick to it! Even through difficult times, our team at MDS is here to help you through it –whether that be marketing, hiring, staff retention or building systems at your office! Make sure to proactively schedule your annual and monthly coaching calls with us at the new year quickly approaches.

Dementia Care Planning Attorney

Jenna L. Franks, Esquire, Partner, Steinbacher, Goodall, & Yurchak

AboutDementia-Care
Jenna L. Franks is a Partner at Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak licensed to practice law in both Pennsylvania and Florida. She practices out the firm’s State College location and leads the team there on all pre-planning clients. Jenna has the largest team within the Steinbacher firm, which comes with many managing difficulties. In working with Julie, she has learned how to create layers of middle-management, set boundaries within her team, and to delegate so that her clients still receive the best possible service while also keeping her team happy and content. Jenna’s State College team has seen exponential growth over the past 5 years and we are very excited to see what the team has in store for the future!

Jenna is also heavily involved in the firm’s marketing department and her team is commonly involved in testing out new marketing techniques and strategies.
Jenna has presented for MDS for years about dementia care and elder care planning and procedures, but has more recently become engaged in coaching for members. She has a passion for learning and engaging with other like-minded dementia care and elder care planning individuals and she is excited to be a part of the “think tank” that MDS has become.

Jenna’s Story

Dementia-Care

Those who have seen a loved one go through the end stages of life understand how many decisions need to be made. I am Jenna Franks and this is my story on how dementia affected me.

I’ll never forget the day my husband was on the phone with his family. This was about 10 years ago and we were living in Florida. All of our family was back here, in Pennsylvania. I could tell something was wrong by how he was acting on the phone, but then he hung up and just started crying. My husband is not one to cry. So I knew something was very wrong.

My husband’s father passed away when he was young. So he was raised in part by his grandparents. He was always very close to his grandparents. It turns out there was an accident. His grandfather had a stroke and he fell. When his grandfather was falling, his grandmother had tried to hold him up and both ended up having a bad fall. His grandmother ended up breaking her hip. It was not looking good at the time for either of them.

dementia-care

Now both of his grandparents actually recovered from that fall. They were never the same, but they were able to go back home for awhile. However, that day after my husband got off the phone, we decided we needed to move back home to help out with the family.

We moved back to PA

and I took a job with an elder law firm. I never practiced in elder law before and I had no idea that what I would be learning at my job would soon really help with what was happening with our family.

While my husband’s grandmother was hospitalized, she was diagnosed with dementia. We knew her memory wasn’t as good, but the diagnosis was a surprise to us. Within a short period of time, she started experiencing memory lapses and judgement issues. She left the stove on. We found socks in the refrigerator. And she repeated herself, a lot. However, she motored around the house like the Energizer bunny! Pap was fine mentally. His limitations were physical. The stroke left him very weak. His legs became very lean and he was barely able to walk. It was interesting to see Gram and Pap operate around the house together. In a way, they were a good fit because Pap kept Gram on task with what she needed to be doing and Gram met all of the physical needs for the two of them. They supported each other and this worked for them – for a little while at least.

It seemed like we were constantly having to adjust with Gram and Pap’s needs. Pap was in and out of the hospital. While he was there, Gram’s memory would be at its worst. They compensated for each other. But if one of them was off, it became very clear to us how much help they needed.

By going through this rollercoaster with my own family, I’ve developed a passion to help others going through the same journey. It’s a difficult and, oftentimes, long journey. Especially if dementia is involved. And no one should do this alone.

Multiple endings

• Planning is important. No matter the situation, you might not be able to stay home.
• Warning signs – first symptoms
• How married couples compensate for one another – family members don’t know what is going on
• The steps of losing/giving up independence

IS YOUR MINDSET HOLDING YOU BACK FROM GROWING YOUR LAW PRACTICE

LegalGen

A common desire for most lawyers is to have more clients and more revenue –sounds great! Before looking at how to maximize revenue in your practice, I recommend you look at your overall revenue versus your actual profit, which can be the difference between a thriving practice and one that is ‘getting by’. All too often, practices strive to do everything they can to generate higher revenues. This may include marketing campaigns, flashy ads, more team members, a bigger office, or other similar classic campaigns. Yet, at the end of the day, profit is lacking. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. In fact, this was made painstakingly clear for many practices throughout the current pandemic, resulting in additional stress and negative outcomes. Here are two simple ways you can think differently with regards to technology and how to grow your firm’s profitable revenue:

LegalGen

1. Go after the under -40-year-old market! Historically this has been a very unprofitable segment, so attorneys have stayed clear. The fees were modest, and the work was manual. Today this segment wants a digital experience, human interactions provided as the exception, not the standard, and long-lasting relation-ships with service providers. With advancements in technology, information intake, client education, and the ability for legal document creation to be fully automated, are you currently completely automated? What does removing the administration, education and drafting do to the profitability of your revenue? Lastly, what is the value to your firm of a happy loyal client to that you can provide services to for the next 40 years?. Make sure your technology is working for you!

LegalGen

2. Large group plans This is another area that has been unattractive for attorneys; why deal with 100s of people that are only going to pay a few hundred dollars each? It won’t be profitable and it will be an administrative nightmare, so it never made sense to approach. Today going after larger groups haves never been more attractive, so long as you have the right technology to support the practice. We have seen clients deliver final Wills for entire police forces and fire departments in weeks, or POAs for graduating high school classes going off to college in weeks, with all interactions being digital. Law firms have embraced such opportunities for the ability to earn profitable revenue, provide a needed service to their community and market this brand. Would you also like 100’s of happy clients that you can add to you marketing funnel for future work and referrals?

LegalGen

In summary, thinking different about your clients, market dynamics and how leveraging technology can dramatically change your firms’ opportunities can start to set you apart from others. Finding profitable revenue is a marathon, not a sprint, and delivering your services with the technology now available to you can put your firm on the growth trajectory you’ve been looking for.

To learn more please contact Enrico Linscheer from LegalGEN.

Enrico Linscheer

CEO of LegalGEN

Email: elinscheer@legalgen.com

Website: https://legalgen.com/

A Legaltech platform helping attorneys serve their communities.

Use-The Tebow Affect

RespectGrowing up a college football fan, I was no stranger to the impact that Tim Tebow had on his family, football team and the world of college football. In fact, I was a huge Tim Tebow fan despite my family being devoted Penn State Nittany Lion fans. For those that aren’t familiar with the name, Tim Tebow played for the University of Florida (Gators) from 2006-2009 while also winning one Heisman Trophy and two national championships.  Ultimately, he was the ultimate leader in the college sports world at that time. 

Recently, Tim Tebow was a guest speaker for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference. His given topic is one worthy of sharing with all of you: The Keys to Lasting Leadership. Throughout his session, Tim shared how anyone can demonstrate leadership once, but to do it over time and leave a lasting impact requires four core components: respect, belief, passion and compassion. Below, you will see my take on these four categories and how they greatly impact your effectiveness as a leader within your office. 

Respect 

  • Tim mentioned how social media “likes” should be switched to “respect.” The argument here is that many people like things that they don’t necessarily respect, which creates a lot of confusion at the organizational level. 
  • In the end, your employees could seem as if they “like” you, but still fail to respect you. Ultimately, respect must be earned from your employees- spend time with them to establish this early on in your relationship. 

Belief

Belief 

  • Here Tim gave examples that demonstrate the power of believing in yourself.  
  • As leaders, we must have belief in ourselves and our staff. If you fail to have one of either of these your power as a leader will quickly be diminished.  

Passion 

passion

  • Arguably the most important topic of the group, you must have passion for what you do.  
  • If you lack passion in your job and don’t stand behind what your organization does, it will be extremely difficult to gain the respect and belief of your co-workers.  
  • If you find yourself struggling here, take some time away (a great long weekend opportunity) and reflect on things you are or previously were passionate about and how you can reignite that fire. 

Compassion  

  • Tim described this as “showing passion towards others” or “being willing to suffer with someone in a supportive way.”  
  • Co-workers are real people and will experience real-life challenges throughout their time working with you. Spending 2-3 minutes just checking in on how someone is doing (not accepting the “ok” response when you ask how they are doing) can go a long way in enabling you to demonstrate compassion for others. 

LeadershipIn the end, the path to lasting leadership within your organization is not a “one-size fits all” approach, so appropriate time should be devoted to visualizing and strategizing how to provide effective leadership within your office. 

If you would like to get group insight with other attorneys and executive directors on effective leadership within the office, make sure to join our monthly Executive Director calls which are the first Wednesday of each month or email me for the link at dloffredo@themilliondollarlawyer.com . 

Dom Loffredo  

 

 

 

5 Tips for Nurturing Your Referral Sources

By Julie Steinbacher

There is a central truth to business: you are only as strong as your network. For many of us, the past three years have been spent working on adapting our businesses to the ever-changing needs of the pandemic. During these transitions, maybe your business has put off creating new and maintaining old referral relationships. Maybe you have pivoted. One thing is certain, there is no better time than now to focus on your network.

Referral marketing is a crucial long-term strategy, but it can take time to develop a relationship with a referral partner. In order for a professional referral relationship to become fruitful, both parties have to trust in each other’s abilities to serve the client well. To help you start this process, we have compiled a list of best practices to keep up with referral sources.

1. Keep an updated contact list.Contacts

Make a contact card and note details about every contact you have and add them to your email/mailing list. Adding this valuable information to your CRM is important, but if you are just starting out, you can always use an Excel sheet and move the list later. Think of the time spent maintaining your contact list as an investment in continued and future business. The money is always “in the list” – why would you buy cold mailing lists when you aren’t using your existing contacts in the first place?

2. Make an effort to consistently follow up with your contacts.

At our office, we send a letter with newsletters. This works out well since it’s something we are already doing. It provides our contacts with useful information without adding additional work.Newsletter-image

3. Design an easy referral system.

Provide materials to referral sources that will attract potential clients. At our office, our newsletters include our contact information as well as engagement opportunities such as free seminars. Educational documents are a wonderful resource for referral sources.

Thank-you

4. Remember to send a thank you for each referral.

Each time we get a referred client, a staff person sends a thank you card to that referral source. We track those referrals and if one person sends 3 referrals, we send them a token of thanks like a fruit basket.

5. You must share your knowledge, especially about changes in your area of expertise.

For instance, if a law changes, we always jump out in front of the proposed change and provide articles in our newsletter and timely educational webinars. We also keep them up-to-date with interesting changes.

Share-your-knowledge.-It-is-a-way-to-achieve-immortality.

Those are five simple ways to cultivate referral sources and maintain relationships. As we move into the transition of COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic, we must resume building our referral network.  For some, this will look different. Civic organizations, non-profit boards, and professional groups now meet online rather than in person. This allows participation in groups without having to accommodate travel time. 

For our office, we were able to collaborate more with referral partners through webinars, which was highly successful for both our office and their business. We urge all businesses to take time to evaluate their referral network and make a conscious effort to add new referral sources and interact with those already in their network. This may look different after COVID but there is no need to wait – pivot now for a more profitable practice!

Lost Tax Deductions

By Julie Steinbacher

non-profit

There are many ways to donate to nonprofits and support causes. But as a recent Tax Court decision reveal, it’s very important to receive a detailed donation receipt from charities. In Albrecht v. Commissioner, a widow lost a $464,000 tax deduction of art and artifacts because the donation receipt that she had received from a museum did not state that she had not received any goods or services in exchange for the contribution. While I doubt that many of us are sitting on a half a-million-dollar art collection, it’s important to note that this decision only impacted the donor, not the nonprofit. It is best practice for nonprofits to issue a donation acknowledgement shortly following a donation, and preferably, an end of year summary if you have donated more than once. However, the optimal documentation isn’t always provided to the donor. Since the responsibility of providing the IRS with proof of donation falls to the donor, here are the basics of what a well-crafted, IRS-optimized donation letter should include: 

501c3

  1. Tax-exempt status statement: Statement that the organization is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. The nonprofit’s EIN should be included to demonstrate tax-exempt status. 
  2. Name of the nonprofit and name of the donor 
  3. Date of the contribution: The date the donation was received. 
  4. Contribution Details 
    1. For cash (checks, credit card, payroll deduction): The amount of the contribution that was received. 
    2. For non-cash gifts: A description (but not the value) of the non-cash contribution. 
  5. Statements – Good Faith Estimates of Value of Goods or Services. Did the donor receive any goods or services in exchange for the gift? 
    1. A statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization in exchange for the contribution, if that was the case. 
    2. If any goods or services were provided by the organization in exchange for the contribution, the letter should include a description and good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services. (Example: A fundraising dinner event where some of the funds received from the donor pays for the actual dinner, while the rest is a donation.) 
    3. If the goods or services that were provided to the donor were insubstantial token amounts, that should be noted. (Example: When a small gift is given to the donor with the nonprofit organization’s name or logo on it like a bumper sticker, coffee mug. See below.) Or a statement should be provided if goods or services (if any) that the nonprofit provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, if that was the case. 

bbb

If you do not receive a letter with the information above and plan to use your donation as a tax deduction, reach out to the organization and request one.

 donate

 

The Windy City 

MDS 20 Year Anniversary Logo

 

Just last week we celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Million Dollar Solution® in the beautiful city of Chicago.  Although my central PA small town roots have my heart, big city life has many perks that I always appreciate. For those that were unable to make the trip, we had a great group that spent time diving into various key players in building, expanding and or improving our offices, the opening by our very own Julie Steinbacher set the tone for the entire weekend. Below is a brief highlight on some key takeaways I think all of you can appreciate.

 

 

2022-MDS-20th-Meeting-1

 

 

Trust your own success When Julie first shared this, I didn’t understand immediately, but the more I reflected on that statement the more I realized that during times of struggle, lack of progress or loss, it often stems from our lack of trust in ourselves. Many of you had to trust yourself to start your own firm or jump into the new career, so don’t forget to go back to the basics. 

 

 

 

2022-MDS-20th-Dinner-1

 

Who are the five people that will make me better? I’ve heard the saying many times “you are only as good as the 5 people you spend the most time with,” but most often it goes in one ear and out the other. Luckily, Julie elaborating on who this looks like for her over the years made it finally resonate. The people I surround my self really makes a difference, so why don’t I put more effort into these relationships? – It doesn’t have to be professional relationships only – my wife would still be my number one on this list – but make sure your list is balanced! (Professional, relational, spiritual, etc..) 

 

 

 

2022-MDS-20th-Dinner-2

 

 

 

What wakes you up? What do you live for? What motivates you? If you didn’t have any risks/barriers, what does a perfect situation look like for you? This is a question we need to reflect on more than we care to admit. Our answer could be different with each season of life, so it is important to have this question in the back of your mind.  

 

2022-MDS-20th-Tour-1

 

 

As we took time going around the room hearing what others had to share for themselves, I kept adding items to my list for each category. The power of working alongside one another continues to prove more valuable than I expect each time. Regardless of who your “go-to” person is, make sure that you have a “coach” in your corner. Insight and direction from a clear and honest individual is one of the most valuable relationships you have.  

Obligation vs Opportunity

Article by Dom Loffredo, MDS Operations Manager

The motivation behind this article was provided by reflection on my first official “Father’s Day” and the opportunity that I have been given as a father.Positive-Thinking

To preview – this article is ultimately about leadership – so please hear me out to the end. One of my favorite questions I have been asked since becoming a dad was “what is one tip you have for other father’s.” Unfortunately, my answer was much shorter originally, but my drive home provide time to think about that question a little deeper. My best tip is this: always view it as an opportunity and not as an obligation. Now, some would argue that as a parent you have both the opportunity and obligation to care for and love your children, however the point of this article is an attitude shift. According to websters dictionary, obligation is defined as “an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound.” I underlined “legally bound” because no one wants to be bound by anything, hence, when we use the word obligation it is almost always associated with a negative thought. On the other hand, when you view fatherhood, motherhood, marriage, leadership or employment as an opportunity you are much more likely to associate positive thoughts with them!

Opportunity-KnocksLet’s look at this from the leadership perspective. If you view your position and its responsibilities as an obligation, a negative attitude will follow. This goes the same from the employee perspective. If you put something on their desk and say “do this now” because its “part of the job” their motivation and productivity will be much lower compared to “I’m giving you the opportunity to do….” That is the difference between obligation and opportunity. As a leader, you convey the difference between these two words by your actions, emotions, and presence.

Personally, I started a list of things I view as an opportunity and others that I view as obligations. The biggest difference I found between the two was my attitude towards the “obligation” items. If you spend a few minutes reflecting on that list and what influences your attitude towards them, even the smallest step today can contribute to paving a better road ahead