59. Mike Morse, Mike Morse Law Firm Smart Risks, Smart Choices and Becoming Fireproof

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Mike Morse is the founder of the Mike Morse Law Firm and one half of the duo that brought us the Fireproof method and book. Along with his business partner, John Nachazel, Mike has developed a framework to turn good law firms into great ones. Using their Fireproof method, Mike and John took their own firm from a $17 million business to a $160 million business, and now it’s their mission to share their tactics with the world.

On today’s episode, Mike tells us all about what it means to be a visionary and how it’s vital to know yourself before you can think about growing your firm. We also discuss some of Mike’s secrets to hiring successfully and why in a world of digital media, there’s still a place for traditional marketing methods.

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

There are few names as big on the PI scene as John Nachazel and Mike Morse. Together they’ve catapulted Mike Morse’s law firm to the top of its game as Michigan’s biggest PI firm, and they’re not showing any sign of slowing down. We got a taste of the integrator side of the famous visionary integrator duo a few weeks ago when we spoke to John and I’d be doing you a disservice. If I didn’t complete the picture.

Mike Morse

A visionary is someone who has a hundred ideas a day. And that has been me my entire life. And I never knew what to do with them. Most of them didn’t come true because I didn’t have my John Nachazel.

Chris Dreyer

Today, we meet the legendary Mike Morse, the best known visionary in law that fights fire with straight fire. We hear how Mike’s book and methodology Fireproof lit a fire under a whole generation of attorneys. Why you get to take marketing risks, the win big, and how Mike weeds out strengths and weaknesses in himself and his prospective hires. That’s coming up on The Rankings Podcast. The show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, stay with us. Mike Morse got his JD in law from the university of Detroit and started working at a firm before founding his own practice in 1995. But it wouldn’t be long before he found himself back in the classroom, this time on the other side of the desk.

Mike Morse

They called me. They were in need of a, uh, professor to teach someone how to teach the students how to run a law firm. They saw what I was doing. They saw my success. And I said, yes. And I tried to throw a few years. It was fun going back to the old school and meeting some students. And I got some really great feedback and I only did it for a few years, but it was great.

Chris Dreyer

Nice. So, so did they give you kind of the topic that they said, Hey, we’re, you’re going to do law practice management.

Mike Morse

Yeah, that was kind of what else I wasn’t going to teach a contract law or torts, I mean, I could teach torts, I guess, or property is what I was going to say. Uh, but yeah, you know, I had to run a law firm. I think, I think that’s another reason why I wrote the book that I wrote was to teach law students and lawyers, how to run a practice. So that was actually my first foray into really teaching. And when we wrote the book, it was to teach more. And in a funny side note, Chris, I haven’t, I don’t know if I’ve ever told anybody this, but when, when my publisher said what’s one, what’s a goal for this book, like in 10 years. Uh what’s. What’s one thing that you wish or hope that happens. And it was, it was that, that it was that every law student, this is a mandatory book for them to read. And I don’t, it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know if it ever will, but, but I really wish somebody in law school would have given me this book or soon after law school would have given me the book, Fireproof, because it just would have taken away so much guesswork that’s that.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And you know, it’s interesting because I hear a lot of our guests, they talk about, you know, you go to law school to learn how to practice law, but they don’t teach you how to run a business, which is what a law firm really is.

Mike Morse

It it’s, it’s almost, yeah. It’s almost becoming cliche that, that, you know, what, what they don’t teach you in law school. Um, And, and they really don’t teach you how to market, how to advertise, how to run a business, how to hire and fire, how to look at data. They don’t even mention data. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s, uh, you, you need a whole, almost a year of an MBA or a year of something else to, to accompany it, unless you’re going to just work for somebody and work in somebody else’s little firm where they have the grief, but if you ever wanna, you know, run your own place, um, hang your own shingle. You definitely mood. You know, this, this knowledge.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. And you know, we, so we had John Nachazel on previously, uh, your, your COO, your, your integrator, and, you know, he’s, he’s very the process they get down and dirty with the data and things like that. And you’re mostly an ideas guy who basically you’re innovating, you’re, you’re trying new things. So what elements do you think make a visionary and not just someone with a few good ideas.

Mike Morse

So a visionary is someone who has, you know, a hundred ideas a day and. That has been me my entire life. And I just, I never knew what to do with them. Most of them didn’t come true. Uh, because I didn’t have my John Nachazel and, you know, a visionary’s mind is just running a visionary. Doesn’t want to read the nitty gritty contracts, a visionary, can’t read an email more than a few sentences, a visionary. I mean, I’d go out and I’d tell you about all my flaws, but, um, The, the, you know, a true visionary is it’s an entrepreneur and it’s, you know, 1% of the population or less they’re, they’re few and far between, but it’s really, really important to identify and know yourself and know if you’re that visionary because it’ll change your life. For the first 13 years of running my law practice before I met Gino Wickman, I did not know I was a visionary. I had never heard that term. I didn’t know I was an entrepreneur. I mean, maybe if we would’ve had a conversation, I could’ve figured it out, but I didn’t really know. And once he, you know, drew out the definition and made me understand what a visionary was and what an integrator was, I realized clearly where my lane was and what I wasn’t good at. And I was still doing the integrator stuff. I was doing both. 99% of the lawyers are doing both right. And in my practice and my business didn’t explode until I understood the difference. And I started acting in my lane and then I hired John to act in his lane as the integrator. So neither one is more important than the other, which is really, really important, Chris. Um, neither one is, is, is it just, it’s just, what are you. Are you one or the other, you can’t be both and do it really well. So that’s, that’s really the importance of that discussion, in my opinion. And for every lawyer, it’s important to know which one they are.

Chris Dreyer

I couldn’t agree more Michael. And one thing that I’ll say when I did read your book and it was phenomenal. And one thing that triggered me is for our business, we had self-implemented EOS and I thought, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re working maybe at 80%. You know, EOS and traction. So we went out and hired a certified EOS implementer, and it was, it was really a game changer to have that non-biased third party to kind of chair the meetings. And, you know, in your book, you talk about advocating for finding people who can compensate on your own weaknesses and where it might be someone else’s strengths. So is there a method where exercise owners can use to help them identify what their strengths and weaknesses are?

Mike Morse

So we spent a lot of time, um, in the book talking about different types of tests. Um, whether there’s psychological based test or just memory tests or, um, otherwise, I mean, they’re there, I I’ve used them for. Well, more than 13 years before I met Gino. Um, my father-in-law was a big proponent of it. Um, when I was married, my wife and I took the tests and this is 20 plus years ago and they’re really illuminating and it’s, it’s shocking how 50 questions or 75 questions can really dial in and tell you who you are, but you won’t know that until you take it yourself. Once you like read the test and, the data that comes out of it, you’ll realize, wow, that’s me. How does it, how do those innocuous questions about, you know, weird stuff, how do they get to know deep inside my heart, deep inside my brain? And it’s really a fascinating thing. And then you realize, how could I ever hire another person without giving them this test? Because the questions are innocuous. You give people the test and you can read about them. And if you can’t really… the tests are so smart that you can’t scam them. You can’t fake them out. You, you, if you lie, they know because they ask in so many different ways and you’re most people aren’t smart enough to cheat them. And so what you’re left with is a great summary of who the person is. So we, um, we make sure that every potential employee takes the test from the mail room to the, you know, senior executive. Every lawyer, secretary and everybody in between. And we read them before the interviews and we ask questions off of them. And it’s just another tool in our arsenal to make sure that we’re not making a hiring decision because hiring decisions are costly. They’re exhausting. And, um, um, they’re, they’re, they’re, you know, anything that I can do to avoid it. I do. And the test costs a lot of money. I don’t even know what we paid per person. I mean, it’s thousands of dollars, but in my opinion, it’s the best money we spend. And, um, you know, I’m a huge advocate for it.

Chris Dreyer

Michael, that was kind of going to be my follow-up question to that because I’ve taken some of those myself. So the cost, um, concern here. Obviously the greatest, one of the biggest costs for businesses is keeping your people, you know, the, the, the cost of turnover and hiring. And so I was really curious if a firm wants to implement this at what phase do you recommend implementing the personality test? Is it, is it right when you get the resume, you go through them and then boom, you hit a personality test. Or is it after maybe a quick hitter interview, just to make sure they’re the, you know, that 15 minute first interview, just to make sure they’re they meet the qualifications or at what point do you implement it?

Mike Morse

My first hire took a test. So it’s weird. I’ve never talked about this on a podcast or webinar. Um, but, but that’s the truth and it’s interesting, right? So it doesn’t matter the size of your firm. You should test, um, When I was smaller, I would definitely interview somebody first. And if I liked them, I’d go through the expense. Right? As I now have 150 employees and a full HR department, they are doing tests before the interviews. We have a dialed in. I mean, we have packages that we pay for. So we pay a yearly fee and we get unlimited tests for a lot of these things, because we’re doing dozens and dozens and dozens a year for the solo who has to pay per test. You know, you’ve got to make a business decision, but you know, it’s not bad to interview somebody, but the interviews, you know, I’ve been faked out in interviews. I’ve been faked out. I’ve had people pull the wool over my eyes and they come in and they suck and they, and they don’t. You know, all the stuff they represented was bullshit. So, you know, it’s very hard to bullshit on these tests. I’d rather do testing and not interview. If you want the truth, I’d rather, uh, I mean, truly, you’re not going to do that. Um, but, but, you know, cause the interview’s important and if people won’t test by the way, Chris, I won’t hire them. If they say, you know what, here are my grades, here’s my track record. I’m not taking your goddamn tests. I don’t hire them.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. Yeah. And I’m sure they, they don’t take the test. They don’t fit with your values anyways. So boom, there go.

Mike Morse

What are they afraid of? If they’re afraid of me looking inside of them to know who they truly are, that’s not a person who would fit our culture.

Chris Dreyer

That makes great sense. You know? So in your book, you’re the goal of fireproof. The philosophy is running your law firm like a business. So you can focus on doing what you do best. And so just kind of a broad question here, you know, what’s the main thing lawyers tend to do wrong when they start their own practice, you know, what do you, what do you think they should prioritize and focus on when they begin to go out on their own?

Mike Morse

It’s a great, you know, you mentioned the book Fireproof, and if, if you do, if you like, you know, Chapter One: Know Thyself, right? If you know who you are early on. If, you know, if you’re the visionary type or the integrator type, you will be able to, you know, focus on that stuff early, as opposed to 13 years later, when I finally couldn’t, you know, I was hitting the ceiling and I couldn’t move on and grow. So it took me 13 years to understand that concept. I would have loved to have had that concept on day one, even if I was even if I had to be the integrator and visionary for a short period of time, it wouldn’t have been 13 years. Right. Does that make sense? So I would have liked to have known earlier on, you know, who I was. And so, so if you’re going to hang up a shingle, I would, you know, okay… I can’t afford an integrator right now, but I know that that’s not, I’m not going to do that for long. And my next hire is going to have the attributes and the characteristics of the things that I don’t love to do. And I’m not great at, I didn’t do that for 13 years. And I think my, my trajectory would have been different had I known that? So that’s, that’s the thing that, that, that hops out at me, uh, in my brain. When you ask that question. Um, know thyself.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, it’s really important. I was, I was listening to a Bigger Pockets Podcast. I’m not sure if you listened that before. It’s a real estate podcast and they had Dan Sullivan on and it said focus on who, not how. Like who should be doing this task. And when you know yourself, then you can maybe go out, hire a project manager. If you can’t afford necessarily the full integrator, the full package of, of process guy. You know, I, I got a couple of questions that I’m going to throw at you here, that, that are probably going to be unique too. So, you know, since the book has been out since June, are there any additional chapters that you wish you’d added or would like to add now?

Mike Morse

Wow. Well, I had a couple of people have suggested that I have a follow up. One was on branding, personal branding. And that they think that I have a decent, uh, personal brand and that I manage it well, and, and that, uh, I could do a whole book, you know, it was a podcast and we went off on a branding tangent and, uh, he liked what I had to say. And he said, that’s your next book? Um, so let’s go with that chapter. Um, and the other, I mean, we, when we wrote the book, we weren’t writing the book to, um, talk about Fireproof coaching. We, we didn’t have Fireproof coaching. It wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t a concept. It wasn’t a vision. And since the book came out in June, my phone and email is blown up and we now have 15 Fireproof law firms across the country that we are coaching and taking them through the Fireproof model. And it’s, um, probably a chapter that we would have put in had we known it was a need. Uh, it’s a lot of fun. Um, I’ve carved off time as John Nachazel’s carved for that time to work with law firms and help them with. Build their jumbotron and help them with their hiring process and, you know, help them with everything under the sun. And it’s been really rewarding to see the fast growth to see, um, the appreciation and all that. It’s just been, it’s been great.

Chris Dreyer

It’s awesome to hear how Mike and his partner, John had been able to springboard off the success of fireproof into a whole new venture. The way Mike tells it, it’s just kind of happened. I know from my conversation with John, that there is a heck of a lot of planning and projection that goes into everything they do. With that in mind, I wanted to hear Mike’s opinion about what I find to be one of the trickiest aspects of running a business. The long-term planning aspect, that those one three, five and 10 year goals.

Mike Morse

So, I’ve never had a 10-year goal. 50% of the. Entrepreneurs who, who work in the EOS system, don’t have ten-year goals. And as a true visionary, um, our brains don’t work that way. When Gino first introduced it to me, I’m like, nope, I can’t think 10 years out. I can barely think tomorrow. Even though I’m a visionary I can think tomorrow. Right. So what we do is we have three-year goals. One-year goals and that works for us. And we update every January and it’s shorter. It’s easier bites. And even the three-year goal is a little bit, you know, it was kind of like a BHAG right. It’s just kind of hanging out there. But the one-year goal to me is the, the, the most important. 13 years in a row, we’ve hit it. Uh, to the penny basically, except for COVID 2020, which we’re going to come off. We don’t know the exact number, but we’re going to be less than 10% off, which is a good thing. Shockingly, I would have guessed 50% off, but John Nachazel does such an amazing job with forecasting and predicting that, uh, he had a dialed in and, uh, it’s a game-changer that every business in America, especially law firms have the ability, if you have the right data to predict, what you’re going to earn what the firm will bring in at the end of the year. And he’s proven it time and time again.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. And you know, it’s funny when, when I go on a vacation or something, I come back and I’ve got a million ideas and my team’s like, Oh shit. You know, Chris went on vacation, you know? So in that 10 year, even for myself, I’m like, you know, that seems pretty out there because I’ve got all these shiny objects floating around. But, uh, you know, one of the things I really liked in your guys’ book was how John and yourself tied your goals into year to date numbers, and year to date actual, uh, in addition to those weekly, uh, leading indicators, which I thought was incredibly smart. In fact, I think I took a picture on my phone and even said, like, we need to do this as well in terms of like those revenue targets and things like that. And. So switching over to the marketing side, you know, you, there are so many avenues of marketing, you know, social media traditional on the ground, print, billboard, TV, vanity numbers. And I noticed, you know, you’ve got, uh, 855-MIKEWINS, you know, first of all, is that a, is that a Paul Faust, a RingBoost special? Um, you know.

Mike Morse

I didn’t know, Paul back then. But, uh, Paul’s a good friend. I recommend everybody get their vanity numbers from Paul. Um, but this was just a whim. I was in Mexico with some friends and we came up with it and the guy who I was with actually had connections, got me the number I’m like, okay, let’s do it. And that’s been my number for, uh, since about 2011. And, um, it’s, it’s worked for me.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And you utilize it really well. I mean, it’s like cohesive across all your marketing initiatives. Yeah. You know, speaking of some of those marketing methods, you know, 80, 20 big Pareto big picture, what are some of the marketing initiatives you think personal injury law firms should be investing in today?

Mike Morse

Well, of course, you know, digital, um, that’s the, you know, I was just, uh, just on a webinar and they did a survey to the people and, you know, that’s where people are putting their money. Um, I think it was 1% were on TV. So that’s, that’s really, uh, digital and, and, you know, PPC and the SEO of course, and the good work that you do, but, you know, I think social media, um, you know, you can’t get away with it. I don’t know a law firm that doesn’t have it. I know a lot of law firms who do it badly, um, and who don’t. Get it. And, uh, don’t try to be a little bit different. I mean, so many people aren’t on TV. I don’t think, you know, we can talk a lot about TV of course, but, but taking the concepts that we’ve talked about, you know, the Cherry Garcia concept over vanilla and applying those to what you do, applying those to social media, I think is just as important. I mean, it’s really. You know, doing the opposite of what everybody else is doing and being bold and taking risks and being funny and self-deprecating and bringing in your pets or your mom or your kids, or whatever makes you different and unique. That’s what people want to see. I mean, if you look at my best posts, it’s not the ones of me saying I’m going to fight for you and when call me, right. It’s the ones… I was in a, I was on an Island with my daughters a few days ago and, and my, my social media person said it’s national ice cream day. Get me a picture with you and your kids eating ice cream. And I don’t need a ton of ice cream, but we like ice cream once in a while. And okay, so we had these little organized cups and we took a goofy picture and I, my tongue’s hanging out like that. And, and it’s hundreds and hundreds of comments and shares and likes it. It was like, that’s what people care about. That’s what you and I care about when we’re trolling the, uh, social media and, and like so many law firms don’t get it and they just put up this boring shit. That’s never going to do anything for them. And so it’s, um, it’s just taking risks and being different and that’s where people should, um, you know, whatever they do, that’s how they should do it is be different.

Chris Dreyer

So a couple of things on TV, and I don’t want to focus too much here, but. Uh, you know, first you mentioned being unique and it makes me think of like Jim Adler and the hammer, you know, now there’s hammers and every state and city and, and, and now, you know, they’re, they’re kind of common there. They don’t stand out as much. Um, the other thing though, is do you think the TV play. One of the things that I’m a digital guy, and I think most of the digital guys try to ostracize the other. You know, talk talks back about the other marketing initiatives. But the thing I like about it is because I can be watching cable and see an advertisement four times in the same day if I’m, you know, if I’m watching, do you think that just recurring where they might see a multiple times in the same day has an effect? Why do you think still, even though Netflix and all these other streaming services out there, TV’s still effective?

Mike Morse

Good question. Well, I think it’s listen. I think it’s gonna become less and less effective every year. Um, so that’s, uh, for sure. Um, but then. Listen, I’m not a huge TV watcher, Chris. So I’m not a great person to ask that question to, but my phones are ringing and it’s daytime. It’s people are watching daytime TV. I mean the networks and the cable channels – they’re not going away. And people are still watching and it’s still a, it’s still a popular medium, even though it’s not for you and I, a lot of people who need lawyers are watching TV and the ones who aren’t, you know, they’re going to see your ad on a billboard, or they’re going to see it on digital. And, uh, I think, you know, there’s different audiences. I mean, you know, you know, you and me are seeing it on, on digital and billboards, but we’re not seeing it on the TV. The people who are sitting home all day watching TV may not be seeing it on digital or on the billboards. So you got to kind of be everywhere, which is, which is not easy.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that, that omnipresent, it makes me think, you know, like the motorcycle, no people that niche down into motorcycles where they’re, they’re hanging out, they’re going to those festivals, they’re the ride motorcycles themselves. And they do really well there because they’re in that community. That group. Yup. Yeah. Switching over to personal here. So, you know, in the past, you’ve spoken about your father was a personal injury attorney and how that played, you know, in your career choice. And now you have three daughters. Do you think one of them is going to follow in your footsteps? You know, would you like them to?

Mike Morse

Well, two of them are in college? Um, we have definitely had the law school conversation. I would love one of them to come over and take over the firm. And, but, you know, I, I, I want me to leave it up to them. You know, they’re looking at social work and education and they want to make this world a better place. They’re amazing kids and. I, I don’t know. I kind of hope so because, you know, I have so much fun and I have a great firm and I’d love to be able to put it in the hands of somebody that, that, you know, I trust and love. Um, but I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds for them. So, uh, stay tuned.

Chris Dreyer

Sounds good. Sounds good. And then we’ve got a closing segment here. It’s our three for three. It’s just, you know, three questions, a quick hitter or three questions in three minutes. And I’ll just start. And we’ve talked about this a lot, but number one, what is your top law firm marketing tip?

Mike Morse

Be different. Jerry Garcia, over vanilla. Take some risks. Don’t be like the terrible competitors in your market. Do something. That’s going to make people smile and save your ad and share your ad. Bring your mom into the commercial, bring your dog and the pro commercial. Bring your kids into the commercial. Do you know, do something different?

Chris Dreyer

Love it. Love it.

Mike Morse

That’s it.

Chris Dreyer

Love it. Which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Mike Morse

I guess I’m going to go with Elon Musk because I own a couple Teslas and I love Tesla. And, uh, I think, I think he’s a pretty cool guy. Built a great company, built some great cars.

Chris Dreyer

He definitely embodies the Cherry Garcia in the contrarian marketer.

Mike Morse

Absolutely.

Chris Dreyer

And then I got a curve ball here. I had to pin something to this for you. Uh, so what book has had the biggest impact on your business besides anything traction related?

Mike Morse

I would say putting me on the spot, I read lots and lots and lots of business books. I’m going to go with Good to Great. Uh, by Jim Collins, I… that’s a long time ago, but I remember it. Um, and it, it, you know, it just solidified a lot of the things that I did. It taught me a lot about being a leader and about the type of people I want and about who I wanted to become. We were a good company. I read the book and I think we became a great company. And I think that’s a must read for anybody trying to run a law firm.

Chris Dreyer

Consider it added to the list. Mike is one, the most esteemed PI attorneys around and for good reason. He has one of those personalities that seems to inspire creativity and other people, which no doubt, passes onto the rest of his team. Couple that with the way he treats his firm as a business and his powerful business partnership with John Nachazel, and it seems like there’s no limit to what he can achieve. You’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thanks to Mike Morse for joining us this week. And you can find more info as always in the show notes. And we want to hear from you! What are you going to do to take your marketing from plain old vanilla to Cherry Garcia? Drop us a review and let us know. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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