Episode 21 – Lisa O’Flyng: Growing a Practice Group 10x in Three Years

Right-click on the audio file link:

Episode 21: Lisa O’Flyng

And then select, “Download Linked File As…”

Subscribe to

Law Firm Excellence

Or subscribe with your favorite app by using the address below

Lisa O'Flyng

Lisa O'Flyng

Marketing Director, Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C.

Lisa O’Flyng is the Marketing Director at Ruder Ware, a 40-attorney firm in Wausau and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. When two of the attorneys started doing work for clients in the Agribusiness sector, they perceived a potentially much greater opportunity. The firm made a deliberate effort to pursue it and now, three years later, they’ve grown the practice group about ten times its initial size. Lisa outlines the steps they took to raise their profile and engender trust in the highly-networked Ag community.

Full Interview Transcript

Michael: My guest today is Lisa O’Flyng, the Marketing Director for Ruder Ware. A 40-attorney business law firm with offices in Wausau and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Lisa presented a case study at the Legal Marketing Association conference this year. Ruder Ware grew their agribusiness practice group about 10 times its original size over a three-year period, and she told us how they did that. It was a great story with some fantastic insights, and I asked Lisa to share it on today’s podcast. So thanks for joining me, Lisa.

Lisa: Absolutely. I’m happy to be here.

Michael: So I think it’s always helpful at the start of the conversation. Tell me a little bit about the firm. What are some of the practice groups and the local…the landscape, as it were, in your region.

Lisa: Sure. Certainly. As Michael had said, we have about…or as you’ve said, we have over 40 attorneys in our offices, Wausau and Eau Claire. We are a full-service business law firm. So we internally divide ourselves into four practice groups: business transactions, employment benefits and labor relations, litigation and dispute resolution, and estate planning. And we also have a fiduciary services department.

Michael: Okay. I’m curious about Wausau and Eau Claire. What sort of the business, the breakdown of business types that you see a lot of there?

Lisa: Oh, sure. Wausau definitely has a long history of manufacturing. In fact, the roots of Wausau would be in the lumber industry and everything that comes from the lumber industry. So think paper mills and papermaking. That was really big in the Wausau area. Manufacturing is also very big when you’re looking at machinery manufacturing or other businesses related to that.

Eau Claire, I would say is a very different mix. It’s smaller businesses and it’s definitely an older mix. Like there’s a good history in the Eau Claire area, but it’s very different than our Wausau area.

Michael: Okay. What’s an example of one or two the business types that you have there?

Lisa: In Eau Claire?

Michael: Yeah.

Lisa: I would say definitely big in the banking industry would be Eau Claire. I would also say manufacturing but definitely on a smaller scale. And I’d also say healthcare would be a huge industry in the Eau Claire area.

Michael: That’s great. That’s helpful. The other thing I wondered about is how many firms of your size or primary competitors that you see? I’m sure there’s a lot of one, two, three-attorney shops. But some of the bigger players like you are.

Lisa: Yeah, we are definitely the largest law firm headquartered North of Madison, and in our market areas, we’re definitely the biggest.

Michael: Okay, great.

Lisa: So our competitors would be Madison, Milwaukee firms.

Michael: Right. Okay. Thanks, that really helps set the context. So as I recall from the LMA presentation, you perceived an opportunity to better serve the agribusiness market. Can you talk a little bit about what you were seeing and where you were in that market when you decided to make a concerted effort to pursue it?

Lisa: Absolutely. As I’ve shared, we’re a sophisticated business law firm, so we’d always done work for businesses in a variety of industries, from entrepreneurs and startups to some of the oldest and largest employers in our area. And what we saw is we had started doing just a smattering of work in the Ag industry. And once we started getting into that industry, we realized how lucrative that might be, and started to wonder if that was an industry that we should start spending some time on.

So when you look specifically at Marathon County, which is truly where for purposes of this, I’ll concentrate our efforts, even though we have…our Ag Focus Team encompasses the Eau Claire area as well. But looking at like Marathon County, agriculture accounts for 14% of the total jobs in the county. And we’re looking at that going, “Gosh, this is definitely something that we should look at.” And you think of that and the impact on the economy, and as we got into the industry, we started learning that these producers were going to people in Madison and Milwaukee, or they weren’t going to anybody at all because they were really wanting someone in their own backyard that understood the industry, and they wanted to meet with somebody face to face. So I think that all of those combined really helped us to understand that this was an industry that we needed to get involved in.

Michael: Those are some really compelling factors. And I was even thinking about, how did you get to that point where you were looking at that data? Was this part of an annual, “Let’s look at our market and see what other opportunities are there” type process? Yeah, how did you get to that point?

Lisa: It’s a good question. I think that Ruder Ware is full of really great attorneys. So my plug for them is that they’re always looking at ways to be better, bigger, different. How can we get into something and own it? Because we’re looking at our landscape and we’re seeing businesses in some areas dying, or we’re selling off a big client, or we are…any of those factors. And we started thinking, “We need to do something to grow and to diversify, and to be that different, because otherwise we’ll die in the vine.

So my two attorneys really that were instrumental in creating this focus team, they were the ones really who had the…they had been doing this smattering of work in the Ag industry. And the more they saw, the more they scratched their heads and would talk to each other and say, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? This could be a really great opportunity for our firm,” because firms are sophisticated businesses. Even if producers don’t think of themselves as businesses, you look at a firm and you’re looking at employment work, potentially litigation because they got some bad seed or some bad fertilizer. You’re looking at definitely estate planning and succession planning, and most definitely business issues like contract issues and real estate easement issues, things of that nature. So it was really their looking to innovate and diversify that drove that.

Michael: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Okay. So we’ll get back to that story in a minute. But I’m curious, are there other areas now that are on your radar today the way that that was in 2013?

Lisa: Sure. Absolutely. We would be looking at the banking and financial institutions area. That’s something that represents a significant amount of our work. My attorneys have been active in that industry for many years. In fact, our former managing partner is now the secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. So our depth and breadth of experience in that area is significant. So that would be an area that we’re looking at.

Also looking at healthcare and what that might mean to us. We have an attorney internally that really does a lot on compliance, telemedicine, different issues affecting hospitals and physicians. So those would be the two that are on our radar at the moment.

Michael: So you’re always looking at on the horizon to discern, “Okay, what are the next areas we want to develop?”

Lisa: Absolutely. Always looking to innovate and be better and unique.

Michael: Yeah, and I think it’s cool, that part of the mission in the firm and contribute to the mission of making a better community too. Helping to bolster and help those businesses grow.

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. One of the things our founding partner George Ruder had said, it’s our duty. We make a living in the community we live, but it’s our responsibility to give back to that community. So we look at that both civically and looking to be that advisor to our clients rather than just their attorney, and we’re signing up that contractor or doing this. We really want to be their true business partner.

Michael: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So there were two attorneys doing some work just in the mix of other work they were doing. And what were the first steps as you started to dig in?

Lisa: Sure. One of the first steps is we have in Wisconsin what’s called Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. And it’s a show that basically travels all around the state, and it goes to farms in different counties, and it highlights innovations in the Ag industry.

And it was about 2011 or ’12, I would say, that Wisconsin Farm Technologies was right here in Marathon County. And one attorney who really practices his…concentrates his practice on environmental and litigation, he was asked to be on the planning committee for that entire event. And through that, he got to know a number of contacts in the Ag industry, one of which he got to know very well, even though he had known him before, was our Ag consultant, who we have now hired on as our consultant. And it was, I think, for him learning what the opportunity might be. That was definitely the first step to see, “This is definitely lucrative and definitely something that we want to get a piece of the action of.”

Michael: So what was the consultant able to help you do? Just to better understand the market itself?

Lisa: Yeah. Well, our Ag consultant was a former professor for the University of Wisconsin-Extension. And he taught courses while a professor such as dairy management, nutrient intake management, on-farm facilitation, things of that nature. And in that time, in this 30-year tenure basically, he connected with so many people within the Ag industry. So his relationships with farmers run deep. And even those that are kind of like referral sources because he would go on-site and work with farmers on various issues that they were dealing with.

The Ag industry, it’s different than any industry that we’re in. And what we found is that they don’t take kindly to outsiders. And they do their deals with a handshake. It was those things that were very different that our Ag consultant made us aware of and said that, “I can be that foot in the door for you. I can help bridge the relationship. I can schedule a meeting and introduce you to this person, and then you can share what it is that you know,” because it’s so important for us to prove our knowledge and also to prove our approachability.

Michael: It’s interesting, so there’s handshake deals getting done and then your firm started doing work for people. Did that change the nature of that aspect of the culture?

Lisa: No.

Michael: Or are they still all doing handshake deals or just using you for other things?

Lisa: Yeah, probably. What we’re seeing is that, I think, handshake deals are so ingrained in that culture that that will continue long after you and I have left this earth. But I think that our foot in the door for them has been the aging population of farmers. So they’re looking at succession planning. And it’s basically, “Who’s going to get the farm after I’m gone?” That’s basically…when you look at the increasing age of farmers and you realize that basically that’s an issue that’s really important to them, who’s going to get the farm, as I said. That was kind of their foot in the door. And giving the farm to a family member or selling it to someone really can’t be a handshake deal.

Michael: Sure.

Lisa: So I think what we’re trying to do is we see succession planning as a place where we can get our foot in the door, and then what we need to do is cross-sell to say, “Now that I’m more familiar with your farm and the issues that your farm faces, I’d really like to bring my employment attorney in and help you out with your handbook.” Or, “I know you’re looking at that piece of land. We really should do a land contract or we should do whatever.” So that’s how the attorney, once they get in, really just start to grow that business.

Michael: So you had this consultant who was making introductions. Were there other things that you did beyond that to get the word out that you were available to assist with people?

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. It was a very deliberate approach. So while the consultant was making introductions, how he was doing that is that even before we got to that part, we identified our referral sources. So we said, “Okay. Bankers, accountants, insurance agents, Ag extension agents in surrounding counties, vendors servicing the Ag industry.” We needed to meet with them to communicate, “Okay, here’s what we know and here’s how we feel we can really help your producers,” because we’re a full-service firm. We don’t just do succession planning. We do everything, we’re the full package, and we’re right in their backyard. So meeting with the referral sources and making them aware of the services that we provide was a big deal for us.

Then what we did is we started advertising in publications read by producers. And we found that those publications that were the most read and the most successful were those that were produced by industry organizations. So you have like the Wisconsin Farm Bureau publishes Rural Route. Or you have the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association produces Common‘Tater. So those were the publications that we began to advertise in.

And by doing that, we kind of perked up on their radar and they were like, “Wait, Ruder Ware, we didn’t know you were in this industry.” And then they started coming to us saying, “We need some content and we could really use an attorney that understands the Ag industry to write on X.” And so my attorney, my one attorney who co-founded the Ag Focus Team, he did a long, involved, really well-done series on the waters of the United States. And that was a big deal for us, because then they went old school. They started to publish articles, or they would do various seminars across the state of Wisconsin and reporters would almost always be in the audience. And then they would get coverage in various papers that we weren’t even advertising in. So that was pretty fantastic.

Then what we also did was exhibit at trade shows. But not just any trade shows, these are farm shows. And the one farm show, Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, is literally in the middle of a field. And I have to buy big bales of sawdust to put down on the base of our exhibit floor, our booth floor, which is great, but that’s where the producers were.

So we realized, “Hey if we want to market to this industry, we’ve got to walk the walk and we’ve got to talk the talk. And we’ve got to be in front of the producers.” So even though my firm typically just doesn’t exhibit at trade shows, we would exhibit at our local chamber, their business expo because we wanted to support for the business community, but beyond that, nothing. But for Ag, we knew that’s where the producers were going to be. So now we exhibit at like the Marshfield Farm Show or the Eau Clair Farm Show, or the Central Wisconsin Farm Show. And we were actually asked to exhibit at, I think it’s rather illustrious, the World Dairy Expo, and that draws 73,000 people from around the world, and we are the only law firm exhibiting at that show. So that’s pretty fantastic.

Michael: Wow.

Lisa: And it’s attorneys that work the booth. So it would mean nothing. Would I love to work at the booth? Sure, but I can’t talk the talk like my attorneys can. And so then our Ag consultant is in the booth, and he’s saying, “Oh, I know that person. Why don’t I introduce you? This is so and so. This is attorney so and so and this is how he could really help your farm. What issues have you been seeing?” So he facilitated that conversation.

Then I would say the fourth way is that we really started to sponsor events in the Ag community. So we are a member of the Partnership for Progressive Agriculture. It’s a big nonprofit organization in Marathon County that serves Marathon Country, and it could be even bigger than Marathon County. It basically acts as a great organization for Ag producers. Giving them education or connects them to the network of producers. Things like that.

Our Ag consultant is a board member for that, and in fact one of my attorneys now serves as a board member on that organization. And they’re incredibly well-respected. They do a lot in our community, and so now we started to sponsor some events that they hold on an annual basis. Like Farm City Dinner. Yeah, it’s been interesting, but very deliberate was our approach because we realized that we had to do it right.

Michael: Yeah, well. Let’s see. So when you describe the farm show, I’m picturing attorneys in three-piece suits out in the field. Is that an accurate…?

Lisa: Thank goodness, no. Suits are not allowed in the booth. The interesting thing is we do have logoed Ruder Ware shirts, so things of that nature. And they actually get to wear khakis or jeans. That’s part of our dress code, but that’s what they can wear when they’re exhibiting at farm shows, because that’s what the clients are wearing. So you’ve got to know your audience. But if you go in with a three-piece suit and wingtips, you may not be connecting with them so much.

Michael: I think I remember too from the LMA, you showed a photo of an ad, and you commented that you chose not to use clip art. You thought you needed to go into the community and take a photo. What was the set-up with that?

Lisa: Yeah, that’s a good question. We knew that we had to select a producer that was well-known, well-respected, and well-liked in the Ag community. Because if we put them on our banners and in our ads, producers paging through the publication or walking past our booth will be like, “I know that family. That’s a really good family. They use Ruder Ware?” This is definitely grassroots, and this is marketing 101, and I did it. It’s not complicated, but sometimes you can overcomplicate things by trying to be clever and trying to be something else. And we figured, “Hey, let’s approach it the traditional grassroots way.”

So we selected a client that we had just done a succession plan for. He’s a young farmer and he’s going to be giving the farm to his two sons to run someday. And we said, “They’re the ones that we really want to feature on our campaign.” And it’s a fantastic family. So we went on-site and walking through the barns, I had a great photographer who was taking pictures from every angle. And it ended up just being a wonderful shoot and they were so honored and a little shy at the fact that we thought everything was so neat and that we wanted to feature them. So it really went a long way, I think, in solidifying our relationship with them.

Now, when we exhibit at trade shows, we always hear…people will stop by and say, “I know that family. Did you know blah, blah, blah?” Or, “Have you heard that they did this?” And we laugh. But it’s been a great relationship for us and we’re so pleased that they participated in the campaign.

Michael: I think it’s cool too, having attorneys at the trade show in the right context or I guess with the right…if the clients are walking around, a lot of times they have just a question and they see that opportunity like, “Oh my gosh, this thing that’s been bugging me. I’m just going to ask this attorney,” and before you know it they understand, “Oh man, I need to go deeper than this. “

Lisa: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, the thing is that I cannot stress the importance enough of having the Ag consultant in our booth. Because if it was just the attorneys, attorney are very…typically they’re not going to be the extroverted people who would be out in the middle of the aisle saying, “Hey, how are you, so and so? Have a pen, let’s talk about Ruder Ware.”

But you put my consultant in the booth who’s well-connected in the Ag community, and people come and he can call them out in a really nice non-snake oil salesman kind of way, and then make the introduction. So he has said all along, “Okay, attorneys, I can work the booth but you really need to be there because I want to make that face-to-face introduction. You need to prove to them in the flesh that you know what you’re talking about.” I just saw a client set up a couple of weeks ago that came through. It was a client that we had connected with at the Marshfield Farm Show. So it really is working.

Michael: So there was a concerted effort. Let’s see. So you had some ads in these trade publications. Oh, I wanted to ask you about that series on the waters of the U.S. I didn’t quite follow that. So how does that tie into the topic of legal expertise for farmers and other folks in the agribusiness?

Lisa: Absolutely. The Clean Water Rule affects producers all over the United States. And my environmental attorney said, “This is something that farmers need to know.” Because basically this rule is trying to say, “Okay, what’s protected? What waters are protected? If the field is running off into a little stream, is that part of the overall that basically the farmer will be facing regulations and fines and all sorts of things if there is runoff? And what does that mean?” So he wrote a highly complicated…I think it was a nine or ten-part series on this. And the editor of the Common‘Tater, I saw you smile about that, but that truly is the name of the magazine.

Michael: I know. I enjoyed it.

Lisa: It’s pretty great. It’s a beautiful magazine. Their managing editor at the time kept coming back to us saying, “Please write us another article, Ross [SP].” Because the content was pretty technical, but my attorney definitely has a knack for taking the heart out of something and…or getting to the heart of the issue and then writing about it. And she had said that she was fielding comments. Managing editor was fielding comments and compliments from readers all the time saying, “I’m so happy that you ran something on this because I didn’t think that something like this would affect me and our community.” So it is connected.

Michael: Yeah, that’s interesting. So a lot of attorneys have an awareness of an issue that affects people, clients, but the clients have just no clue that this is out there. So that’s a great opportunity, and any time there is that combination is to not only cover the legal aspects but to just identify, “This is an issue, but here’s how you need to think about it.”

Lisa: Absolutely.

Michael: And also, have you done anything with that collection of articles? Like an e-book or a published book or anything like that?

Lisa: I’m thinking that we’re going to, I want to do something like that for him because he invested such a significant amount of time, and truly the body of work itself is very impressive. So I think we definitely would. And he’s also been asked to present on it in a few instances. Just a very condensed like half an hour presentation of what all of this means and how it affects them. But I’d really like to put him on the road because not only is he a great writer, I think he’s a great presenter. He’s very professorial.

Michael: Right, right. And also for folks in law firms who are thinking of ways to get people out in the community, that’s a nice combination. So it starts with an issue. Number two is you do the research to get a full complete coverage on it, then you write about it. And then now you’re an expert yourself so you can start speaking about it.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Michael: And it’s compelling presentation content because it’s something that…you’ve done the work. You’re the only person who can speak on this in this comprehensive way.

Lisa: Exactly.

Michael: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So would you say that the initial push has completed? Is that process done or there’s more things that you’ve got lined up to do in that community?

Lisa: Good question. We’re at the point where we realize now when we exhibit at trade shows people say, “Oh, I’ve heard of you, guys. I know who you are.” Or we’ll attend events and they say the same thing, “Oh, I’ve just been working with so and so on this matter.” That’s only starting. And we realized that if we take the foot off the pedal now and we slow down, that we’re really…we’re hurting ourselves because the opportunity is still there and we’re just breaking in.

So really our energy is still invested in succeeding with the Ag Focus Team. So we will continue to publish articles and solicit some of our vendors or referral sources for presentations, speaking opportunities. I’m still going to be running ads in the various publications, even though that’s passive marketing. And we will also still continue to sponsor various things that are important to the Ag industry. So we’re really not planning on taking our foot off the pedal any time soon.

Michael: That’s great. The practice group started out with these two attorneys. How many folks are primarily involved in it, like, the bulk of their practice these days?

Lisa: Good question. I would say Ag at this point doesn’t represent the bulk of anyone’s practice, but it’s growing in significance. I think we’ve got about eight people on our focus team, and that fluctuates based on who it is that we need. And if there is an issue that we hadn’t thought over that just came up and that person wasn’t on our focus team. So our focus team consists of people from all areas of the firm because it’s something that’s multidisciplinary.

So I think that’s really important, because the meetings…and you didn’t ask this but I’ll just expand on this a little. The meetings for the focus team truly consist of our Ag consultant saying, “Okay, these are the issues that are keeping producers up at night. This is what I’m hearing in the Ag community. Here’s what I heard from my referral source, let’s talk about this. Do we need to do an article on this topic? Do we need to work with so and so on having a seminar?”

So a lot of the meeting is, “Okay, here’s what’s happening. What are the marketing opportunities? And what are the areas that we really need to bone up on and do a little research on so that when producers call, we know what they’re talking about?” And I think having that focus team and having people, attorneys from all areas of the firm represented, makes it highly successful.

Michael: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Well, that’s great. So anything else come to mind on this topic? We covered it pretty well, but any other cool insights or anecdotes that come out of this?

Lisa: Good question. I can’t say I’m sure that your viewers would be interested. When we first started the initiative, our board had challenged us to say, “Okay, we get that maybe your target audience doesn’t know who you are yet very well, but we really don’t want you spending a lot of money in getting them to know who we are.” So they really challenged us to do the grassroots campaign.

So when we initially started, our investment in getting better known was about 12,500. And that includes sponsorships, it includes advertising, it includes fees for our consultant, it includes exhibiting at trade shows. And currently as of today, we’re sitting at roughly a $20,000 investment every year, because again, we’re doing this smart, we’re doing this slow, but we’re also doing this very targeted.

And perhaps this is just our market area, but I think it’s important to point out that often times when people are looking at getting into a new industry, a new market area, they have these big dollar signs in their eyes thinking, “Oh, we’re going to have to budget X amount.” And perhaps that’s going to have them not pursue that area of practice or that industry. And I think it’s important to remember and take a step back and say, “You can go old school and you can do some grassroots things that are all about relationship building, and communication, and being in the right place, and being where your target audience is.” And I think that the importance of that also can’t be understated.

Michael: It sounds like that consultant that you hooked up with early in the process was really instrumental. As you think about some of the other industries that you’re interested in going deep on moving forward, are you able to find the analogous versions of those people out there? Is that where you would start? You mentioned banking and healthcare.

Lisa: Yeah, I think that that’s because of the success that we’ve seen with the Ag Focus Team, we realized that having the consultant who’s an insider in that industry was very helpful. So I could definitely see that as we build up in the industries that we’re looking at, that that would definitely be something that we would consider.

Michael: That sounds great. Well, Lisa, thank you so much. Really enjoyed the conversation. I’m grateful that you were willing to share so openly about all the different pieces, how it all fits together.

Lisa: Absolutely. I welcome any opportunity to talk about my firm. So it’s a great firm.

Michael: Well, maybe just what are some of the other things that are exciting about the firm that you really enjoy?

Lisa: Oh, there are so many. I would definitely say I really appreciate the understanding that civic involvement is so important. When I look across all levels of management and of law firm hierarchy, from shareholders to associates to even paralegals, and to our administrative team, we are involved civically in the community at various levels in various boards. In fact, we just had a task force that was established to look at, “Okay, here are the nonprofit organizations in the communities that we call home, Eau Claire and Wausau. And of those organizations, which ones are important? Which ones are highly visible? Which ones are where the board members are the movers and shakers of our communities?

And we created this wonderful spreadsheet that now when we have laterals or associates or whomever join the firm, I can say, “Okay, here’s where this group, our task force said would be key areas that you can get involved.” And I think that that’s, even if it’s legal assisting getting involved, we feel that that’s really very important because it’s showing the community that Ruder Ware cares about the community, number one. But we’re also getting our name out there in the right places. So it’s a wonderful way to market ourselves.

Michael: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I was talking to a law firm leader, Michael Moradzadeh, who runs a 50-year attorney firm that’s throughout the U.S. but he’s in San Francisco. We were talking about, they are a B corporation, and that is a designation that some companies can get by complying with various requirements to show they’re giving back to the community. I want to say B, I might be wrong. Yeah, I forget now what the letter is. So I’ll put a note and a video if I got that wrong. Basically one of the things he talked about was the fact that they now have, in addition to things like paid time off or things like, that someone could take time off to go participate in a charity for the day or give service hours. That was part of what they were doing at their firm. I thought that was interesting.

Lisa: That’s wonderful. It’s wonderful.

Michael: Well, thanks again. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Lisa: Likewise.

Key Links

Show Notes

  • Ruder Ware is a full-service business law firm [0:49]
  • Overview of the communities of Wausau and Eau Claire, Wisconsin [1:36]
  • What they saw in the marketplace that helped them understand there was an opportunity to pursue in the Agribusiness sector [3:42]
  • They were actively looking for opportunities to replace practice sectors that were gradually reducing due to natural market factors [5:45]
  • Beyond Agribusiness, there are other new sector opportunities they perceive today [7:20]
  • One of the firm’s founding partners spoke regularly about the responsibility of the firm to give back to the community [8:51]
  • Finding a consultant with deep ties to the Agribusiness community [10:49]
  • The Agribusiness community is tight-knit with a general distrust of outsiders [11:45]
  • Succession planning was an unmet need that gave them entrée with many farm owners [13:04]
  • Before going after business directly, they focused on referral sources, like bankers, accountants, insurance agents, and Ag vendors [14:38]
  • They advertised in publications read by Ag producers [15:24]
  • Advertising lead to requests from publications for editorial content, which led to even wider coverage [15:55]
  • Exhibiting at trade shows [16:46]
  • Saw dust, hay and jeans; no suits allowed [19:40]
  • Shooting photos for ads with farm-owners known in the community, not using clip art [20:25]
  • An attorney was aware of a key issue affecting the Ag community that many producers didn’t know about and wrote a series of articles on the Clean Water Rule that had big impact [23:05]
  • The firm’s board wanted them to pursue the initiative but in a very cost effective way; they achieved big impact with a relatively small budget [24:13]
  • The firm is very systemic about civic involvement; they have a spreadsheet to track who participates in what organization and this helps them to identify where people should focus for new areas of involvement [31:19]