Creating a Culture of Flexible Employees to Activate Growth with Anthony Geraci at Geraci Law Firm

When a business changes as fast as it has recently, we need flexible employees. Creating a culture that is high on adaptability and able to shift proactively is the goal of many leaders. Hiring flexible employees is the start, but you also have to give them the space to grow. Today’s guest on the podcast is Anthony Geraci, Managing Shareholder, and CEO of Geraci Law Firm. His company ranked #1861 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We talk about the need for flexible employees in today’s crazy world. Anthony shares how we make flexibility a part of the day-to-day. Join me today to discover how to inspire and lead flexible employees.

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Anthony Geraci: The Transcript

Target Audience: Anthony Geraci is a Managing Shareholder at Geraci Law. Geraci Law Firm is the premier law firm that focuses on banking, real estate, corporate and securities practices with a particular focus on hard money / private money lenders and brokers, and Fortune 500 banking institutions. Geraci Law Firm are experts in private money lending compliance, litigation, and experts in state and federal lending law.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Anthony Geraci
Letting people go or firing somehow became a negative thing. But in my experience, when I’m unhappy with someone, they’re generally unhappy with us too. And letting them go is really the best thing for both sides. I’ve had emails from previous employees telling me to thank you for letting me go, I found a place where I’m much happier. And actually, that was the learning for me of Wow, here. I’m trying to keep people when really they’re miserable here as a result, and I was doing them a disservice as well as the company the surface. Some of the bottom line on that is, if you have to implement that software, then you already know you have a problem. And it says the only problem you’re just everybody one more excuse not to do.

Intro [0:39]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Jean Hemet. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:56]
Flexibility crusher organization is important. We know In the light of COVID and Coronavirus, that we’ve had to be very flexible as we worked virtually together. Many organizations thought it was impossible for their teams to create the kind of connections get the work done in this work environment, working from home, and they’ve held strong do that for many years. But the reality is many companies I’ve talked to and leaders have said, there are some elements about us working together in our own environments and having that level of flexibility has actually been very good for us as a culture and within our company. Now, I’m not saying everyone wants to continue this forever because many people are losing that connection they really feel from their teams. But I want you to think about flexibility as a leader. Are you putting the emphasis that you need to across the company, having flexible employees really does drive growth if you know how to use it and leverage it? Today’s guest is Anthony Gervasi with Geraci Law Firm They’ve grown really fast over 10 million, their growth rate has been astronomical, growing at over 200%, last three years. And when I talked to him, he said, it really feels like that was impossible. And I can’t see how people grow faster. And that level of adaptability has been really important to the overall growth of the organization, and really how they work together. Now, I share this with you because I love this conversation around leaders that have the comfort to allow flexibility. One area that we talked about is time. Do you allow your people to work on their own time when they work at their best? Or do you have set hours now if you think about it, and maybe the things that you’re rethinking right now is working at your best hours are better than working a set hours because of the flexibility required, and then really you showing up to be your best self. There are certain hours I work better than others and I would want to prioritize that inside my own schedule and your employees may want to do that as well. I love this interview for many reasons, but make sure you keep tuned in to Growth Think Tank. And here’s the interview with Anthony.

Commercial [3:09]
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions. You will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve, and you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again Go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.

Gene Hammett [4:03]
Anthony, how are you?

Anthony Geraci [4:04]
Doing great. How about yourself? Fantastic. We are getting a little stir crazy through the COVID-19 kind of shelter in place and excited to have you on the podcast.

Anthony Geraci [4:16]
Thank you excited to be here and the same I am ready to go to restaurants again.

Gene Hammett [4:23]
Well, I want to talk about growing your company fast but let’s really get some context to who you are and what you do. I’m assuming attorney at law but your company is Geraci Law Firm.

Anthony Geraci [4:36]
Correct.

Gene Hammett [4:38]
So tell us about you know, kind of the market you’re in.

Anthony Geraci [4:41]
Yeah, so what we do is we serve if you will wonders from banks all the way to I would say our coordinators representing private money lenders or nonbank lenders as you may have heard in the news, so anyone from a one-man shop all the way up to Besides the banks, our biggest nonbank lenders have almost a billion dollars under management, and everybody in between. So it’s huge what I would say pseudo-culture before, but also it’s really become mainstream as Wall Street buys more and more into the private lending sector.

Gene Hammett [5:17]
Well, you’ve grown your company fast. It’s been a pretty good journey for you. You were number 1861. In 2019, over 200% growth over 10,000,045 plus employees is all that about right? Absolutely. A journey. I know that a lot of companies like yourself are proud of growing fast, but I know there’s usually something else they’re more proud of. Is there? What would you say that is within your, your perspective?

Anthony Geraci [5:49]
Yeah, for me, it’s about building something bigger than myself, if you will. I’m growing fast is wonderful, of course, but it’s also the fact that it you almost feel validated, I feel validated. We built this they will come mentality if you remember Field of Dreams, and we’re building towards something that’s really adding value to our clients. In this case private lenders, not just being if you will their water but also being a big part of their market and assisting them any way we can with our connections, our contacts, what have you.

Gene Hammett [6:21]
Well, I really understand that because I have left a business that grew really fast and I just didn’t feel like I was really living my purpose. What I’m currently doing now, having this podcast is a part of that is I feel like part of my legacy. Anthony, you have put a lot of focus on the culture of the business and specifically on having flexibility. Why is flexibility so important as you’ve grown fast?

Anthony Geraci [6:49]
I think the biggest thing is really people want flexibility. One of the books I read I think a lot of businesspeople read it was drive by Daniel Pink, and really good gave a lot of impact to me, which was that I think most people don’t just crave to show up at work. And if you will do a bad job and what have you, they really want to contribute to something. They want autonomy and they want flexibility. To me, I wanted to grow something and I want them to, you know, have the flexibility and what they want. And because I think happier people, you know, contribute more than, say, neutral or negative people.

Commercial [7:27]
Hold on for a second, Anthony just talked about flexibility. Another word for flexibility is adaptability. And we all want to create an organization where we have a high degree of adaptability, things change, new technologies, new processes, maybe the client’s needs have changed, and we want to make sure employees aren’t so set in their ways that they’re looking around the corner looking for those places so that they can better serve the clients. Maybe take advantage of technology. Being the kind of leader that encourages people to be adaptable is very important. And you want to make sure you hire them in the first place that has that ability to be adaptable. If they’re so rigid, it really makes it difficult for them to grow and learn. And we know that’s really important as you continue to be the leader that your team deserves. Now back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [8:17]
Now flexibilities probably serve you pretty well through this shutdown through the COVID thing. How has it really impacted you?

Anthony Geraci [8:26]
I wish I could say I completely predicted this because I, you know, honestly, from the time we got the order from our local government, which is Orange County here in California, to the time we’re back operation was less than an hour. I, of course, predicted this four years ago. No, not really. what it came down to those we wanted, we did flexibility and the vision for years ago was if you want to work from the beach, so be it go work from the beach and, and be happy. We invested a lot in our technology. We’re one of the earliest adopters, in my opinion, at least back in 2008 voice over IP and that gives them the flexibility to connect over the internet with your phone systems. Fast forward to four years ago. To us, it was probably the first time we could find that overall package of using a phone system, but also having our servers virtual. The whole theory was of a bomb dropped on our building. Could we still be operational? And of course, the answer is resounding yes. Today, no one works at the office right now. Which, of course, is a different question of paying the rent and everything like that. But today, you know, everybody’s working remotely. And I would say just as well, if not, maybe even better than at the office.

Gene Hammett [9:36]
I saw Twitter announced recently that they were allowing their employees to work from home, like indefinitely. Yeah, I know. I’m not saying that you’re making that call. But I’m kind of curious. What do you think about the future of coming out of this COVID thing as it relates to your law firm?

Anthony Geraci [9:53]
Yeah, I go, I’m in between, if you will, I think what a lot of us are missing and again, I’ll speak for myself. than everybody is that connection, and I love technology, I adopt it, I use it. But you know, I’m missing those connections. Personally, I’m missing that face to face or, or, you know, just general discussions. Virtual happy hours are fun and everything, but it’s still, you know, I still miss being I’ll see someone face to face and look them in the eye.

Gene Hammett [10:21]
I agree with you. I want to get back to this whole aspect of flexibility. Like, I know that you have taken some specific steps to allow this and what areas of flexibility Do you consider when you’re being intentional about this?

Anthony Geraci [10:38]
Absolutely. So I would compare it I guess, to the rigid corporate structure of nine to five even you know, that I think is prevailing in most law firms. we transitioned to I would call results-oriented work environment. And I tell people, every single attorney that works for us, every single person who supports them, you really have one job, make your clients happy. How you do it. I don’t care. Yeah. If you want to come in at 10 am, and you’re getting your job done, I’m not going to say a word to you. If you need to work 12 hour days, whatever it takes to make our clients happy, you know, it’s more results-oriented rather than show up and you need to have FaceTime with me to make sure you’re around. We don’t believe in any of that. It’s the results really show and how happy our clients are, as well as how happy you are. And I think you directly see it in revenue.

Gene Hammett [11:29]
What have you done to make sure the team works efficiently through this I think you even said that they’re working better through this, this work at home environment. Yeah,

Anthony Geraci [11:39]
You know, for a lot of us, we have weekly meetings, you know, I still have a weekly management meeting. Um, as I said, there was no downtime instead of, instead of meeting face to face, we met via zoom, you know, so I think zoom is kind of the quintessential video system, not promoting them necessarily, I will stop but whatever that is for you. For us. It’s a zoom. So we’re seeing Each other face to face in our weekly meetings. still asking the same question is still bonding, still discussing different ideas and different aspects. So So like I said, those are still the things that are happening, I suspect, but I don’t know, people are still communicating and other meetings getting together calling each other on one. We use slack for instant messaging besides zoom, and we have a general chat room. I think everybody was slack has that were, you know, people just discussed everything’s going on, or what have you so very much. You know, I think I think the thing that we focused on and still exist in our community, our people, you know, still bonding together and getting stuff done. I would say, what we don’t have anymore is, you know, gosh, you know, I’m so bored. I’m gonna go talk and walk to the watercooler to discuss things. You don’t get asked to get up and walk anymore. You could zoom people, you can slack them, everything is still at your desk. And I think people are spending more time if you will, at the computer bonding as well as just getting back to work. So like I said, it’s probably a little bit better.

Gene Hammett [13:00]
Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but there have been some articles put out there some new software that has been really making the rounds around taking small screenshots of computer screens to make sure people are actually working. A lot of people think it’s an invasion of privacy and, and it’s certainly borderlines not trusting your employees. What do you think about those kinds of Big Brother? I’ll say technologies.

Anthony Geraci [13:28]
I don’t believe in any of that, personally, honestly, I think it’s just one more excuse of now. Oh, now I have evidence that I’m going to fire you. Through my experience, at least, you know, I’ve been doing this now. 15 years, you know, when you have a problem employee, they’re not producing, you have many other signs. And to me the screenshots is just more and more excuse of, I need that one more piece of evidence, instead of, you know, being a leader, if you will, and having that hard conversation of, well, I can clearly see you’re not doing your job here. We have an issue and the issue You’re not happy here. And I think, you know, when people go are firing somehow became a negative thing. But in my experience, when when I’m unhappy with someone, they’re generally unhappy with us too. And letting them go is really the best thing for both sides. I’ve had emails from previous employees telling me Thank you for letting me go, I found a place where a much happier. And actually that was the learning for me. Wow, I’m trying to keep people when really they’re miserable here as a result, and I was doing them a disservice as well as the company the surface. Some of the bottom line on that is, if you have to implement that software, then you already know you have a problem. And instead of dealing with the problem, you’re just implementing one more excuse not to deal with the problem.

Commercial [14:43]
One more second here. Anthony just talked about letting people go. One of the things I want you to think about is when you have gotten all of the money aligned, your partners, your customers, your employees, your executive team, all the stakeholders are alignment together and one person gets out of line, your moral obligation is to make sure that you have a conversation, to get them to either step up, or get going. Now, you may look at this a different way, it’s either coaching them up or coaching them out. Your job is to understand when to do each of those, and when to let go of those employees. I learned this from the interview I had with horse shorts and the conversations I’ve had with him afterward. He’s a co-founder of Ritz Carlton, and he really shed a light on this in a unique way. That interview is very powerful if you want to check it out. But I wanted to share it with you here because letting go of people has been a hard decision for many leaders to make. It takes courage, but it’s necessary. It’s a moral obligation back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [15:45]
I love that perspective. And I don’t think it will take you to know, really become a strong factor. I can’t believe these companies like really are selling this efficiently because it really is Have an invasion of privacy kind of feel like if you don’t trust your employees to do the work like there’s a bigger problem. Yeah. No flexibility is one thing. And I know younger workers actually really want that some flexibility. And some of them actually what I’ve heard behind this, they thought they wanted to work from home, and many of them are like, you know what, I really don’t want to work at home all the time. I just want to be able to if I needed to, when you think about flexibility, where do you draw the line?

Anthony Geraci [16:33]
I mean, I draw the line, I guess maybe because we have a lot of different metrics that measure things. Again, client happiness, we have a client NPS score, net promoter score. So we know when a client is or is not happy, and maybe it’s the legal profession, but clients are not shy about sharing why they’re unhappy. They know that somebody is not serving them for a variety of reasons. So to me, that’s one aspect of objective evidence. And for me, we’ve tried to do away with all subjective evidence as much We can and what are the objective measurements? One is client happiness. Another for attorneys is billable hours. And we know whether we don’t focus on it, we know you have to build a certain amount of hours to exist and be doing the work. And the people don’t feel the attorneys rely on them. So we’re gonna have complaints if you want to internal promoter score of I have a complaint about an employee. So we also do have an employee net promoter score as well. So we have both of them kind of measuring what’s going on. But again, also, we’re going to know if there are issues and we can investigate further from that. So I know if I answer your question, but yeah, we have objective measurements that that really, I’m sure there are ways to hide in the system. But you know, we’re not that big 50 employees where we’re going to know, I think at some point,

Gene Hammett [17:47]
I’m familiar with the NPS and maybe others aren’t, how, how exactly are you using this to be able to get that feedback, like from a timing standpoint, and then what do you do with it,

Anthony Geraci [17:57]
Anthony? Absolutely. So a net promoter score is really a survey. And the whole goal is for both employees and customers to keep it as simple as possible. In fact, the traditional Net Promoter Score has two questions on a scale of one to 10. How would you? Or would you recommend our firm to a friend of yours, and if the score is below a six, tell us why. So how the Net Promoter Score works, if you get a 10 or a nine, that’s a plus one. If you get an eight or a seven, it’s neutral. Anything six and below is a minus one. You aggregate all that up, and you’re going to score something. So it could be a negative number, and God forbid, I hope it’s not a negative number for you. We generally hover in the 40s or 50s. So definitely work to be done, but nothing that screaming, you know, the shift taking.

Gene Hammett [18:45]
So when you think about the timing of this, do you do it at certain times, like at the beginning of the relationship toward the middle, only at the end? What have you learned over your journey here?

Anthony Geraci [18:57]
Yeah, so we do it quarterly, and to not And then data, our clients will do a two half appliance, so they get twice a year. Just make sure we check the pulse on them, and we measure the scores. And if and if people take the time to give us feedback, I don’t know about you, but feedback to me is so meaningful. I actually think lines to tell me off or tell me a very negative review because it gives me a chance to fix it and really work on the business itself at being versus someone give me a number, you know, for not telling you why. I’m actually happy about the number four. So I tried to find out to find find out why they’re unhappy with us. For me, and I think for a lot of companies, but I’ll speak against myself, is data so needed, I don’t know where we’re screwing off. And maybe that’s one of the headaches of the bigger business is I realized so much more reports than I did 15 years ago, was just me, you know, in a 47 square foot office. So

Gene Hammett [19:53]
Anthony, we’ve talked about flexibility and I know that you know, the journey of leadership is never one of a perfect record. You’ve probably made some mistakes in this thing. What comes to mind that you can share with us today about a mistake that you made that really shifted? Or was a defining moment for your own leadership?

Anthony Geraci [20:12]
Oh, gosh, we’re talking about personal technology. I’ve made so many.

Gene Hammett [20:17]
Let’s take to the business side. We can talk about personal later.

Anthony Geraci [20:21]
But yeah, so on the business side. As I said, I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my biggest mistake is really looking at letting someone go or firing somebody wrong. It has such a negative connotation or a culture. And I bought into that for a while. And then like I said, I still, of course, felt this negative connotation. I fired somebody, they were not happy. They weren’t even showing up to work or showing up spotty if you will, clearly just not engaged and even after trying to talk with them, they didn’t want to open up and they just unhappy. So I finally let them go. And I got an email funny enough three months later from the employee, saying, you know, thank you so much for letting me go. I will was unhappy, you know, as far as I know it. And really, I found a place where I’m happier, and really felt that we were growing faster still are. And I found that some people are happier in a smaller environment. You know what, I think Marshall Goldsmith says, What got you, there won’t get you to hear. And the same thing with people too. People don’t necessarily want to grow, they want to stay where they’re they feel successful at. And I think that’s what this person was really struggling with, didn’t know how to explain it. And so after letting them go, I really realized it’s a two party relationship between employer and employee. And funny enough when I’m frustrated, like the other day or two, so that was a learning experience. And so I do try to coach people to grow, but if they’re not bought in, I also tell people, this is the time to really consider whether you want to be here or find a place where you can be happy because I do believe you will find happiness wherever you want to be, and it just may not be with our company.

Gene Hammett [21:55]
And it’s so true. And I know it’s hard to have these difficult conversations. But it is necessary for everyone.

Anthony Geraci [22:05]
I love the fact.

Gene Hammett [22:07]
Go ahead.

Anthony Geraci [22:08]
I was gonna say I made those mistakes too, right? And what I found them not having the difficult conversations is that slow-burning fire becomes a forearm fire with because I did not I was too cowardly to have those conversations. And I learned from that as well just have them. Anthony, I want to wrap this up with a chance to maybe weigh in on something we haven’t talked about as it relates to the growth of your business. What is the other contributing factor that you think is really, you know, move the needle? Oh, gosh, I mean, there’s so many I’ll talk about, I think something that doesn’t get talked, talked enough about which is myself and I was the big limiter to my company. Let’s go with that. You know, in order to fast fastly grow, it really comes down to, for me, it was me and a 47 square foot office. Like I said, one person that became two became four became 50. And I’ve had to change every step of the way, I’ve had to reinvent myself. And the biggest thing is having to do is let go, recognizing that my solutions are not the only solutions and I don’t have all the ideas and letting my people make mistakes, letting them grow and also letting them find ways I didn’t think about that really added value to the company. So in two words, I let go to grow.

Gene Hammett [23:24]
You’re not alone. I talked to hundreds of founders just like you and they become the bottleneck. And it’s hard when you’re in the day to day and you’ve maybe you’ve grown it up and it’s your baby. But I appreciate you having the self-awareness to realize that it back to Marshall’s famous saying what got you here won’t get you there. And it really is a pleasure to have you on the show, Anthony.

Anthony Geraci [23:50]
Thanks for having me. I enjoyed being here and really appreciate all you’re doing for the community. Thank you so much.

Gene Hammett [23:55]
I love interviewing people that have their fingers on the pulse of growth. And Anthony is another example of that growing as fast as they have as a law firm, and continue to rethink how they operate through this Coronavirus, aspects of growth and leadership, Anthony is talking about how he’s going to change specific things inside the organization to continue to innovate, to continue to create more connection across the team, but also to increase profitability and better serve the clients. How do you do that? Well, he knows his choice is to be more flexible about how things get done because what got you here may not get you there. Well, I love these conversations because you as a leader, probably thinking about how you could create more flexibility. I know the key behind this is for you to evolve as a leader. My job as a coach is to work with leaders during the defining moments of their growth, to help them really understand and get really clear about how to move forward, what’s the vision look like? And how do we really identify what’s standing in the way and getting to the root cause is the key. If you have any questions about how I can serve you and your team, make sure you reach out to me, [email protected] I love what I do. And I love helping you grow as a leader. So make sure you reach out to me whenever you have a question. I may not be able to work with you immediately, but maybe have a resource within my network that I can connect you to right away to give you exactly what you need right now. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

 

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

 

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