The demand for talent seems to be heating up. The brightest people don’t want just a job and a paycheck. They want to be part of a mission. Great leaders know the value of empowering brand ambassadors. Today’s guest is Sheryl Hunter, attorney and founder at Hunter Business Law. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4200 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. The company has made the Inc list for three consecutive years. Hunter Business Law is The Entrepreneur’s Law Firm. Sheryl and I talk about the value of empowering brand ambassadors. We look at how employees want to have a voice. Sheryl knows the talented employees on her team are very capable of telling the company story. Empowering brand ambassadors across the company gives your people new ways to contribute and add value.
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Sheryl Hunter: The Transcript
About: Sheryl Hunter is the President of Hunter Business Law, The Entrepreneur’s Law Firm®, which was named on the INC 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies in America — and on the list of Largest Women-Owned Businesses in Tampa Bay in both 2019 and 2020. For over 20 years, Sheryl Hunter has represented hundreds of growth-focused entrepreneurs and their business enterprises, from start-up to exit. She is the Founding Partner of Hunter Business Law, a boutique firm designed specifically to serve as outsourced general counsel to entrepreneurial clients, as well as investors in early-stage companies. Sheryl is an investor in and outside general counsel for Florida Funders, the most active VC in Florida, and is on the board of Synapse, a nonprofit connecting innovator throughout Florida.
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.
Sheryl Hunter: Right now, I don’t really need a lot of business development by my team, but they do have a ton of client contact and it’s equally important for attorneys and in any business, there are two elements. One is bringing in the business. It’s probably even more important to retain the business. And that requires the people on your team, really treating the clients in a way that the clients are super happy, you know, and they are staying with your company and they’re not leaving. So I think it’s important as an employer in a fast-growth company to pay just as much attention to whether or not an employee can retain clients through excellent service as, as it is for them to bring in business.
Introduction: 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 Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today we look at this concept of empowering brand ambassadors what I mean by that is you are really asking people to go front and center with your brand. It’s not just you that’s giving the speeches or on the podcast or going to the conferences. You’re asking people to get out from behind the desk and actually be a brand ambassador for the company. We have a very special guest with us today. It is Sheryl Hunter with hunter business law. They are experts in the world of startups all the way from the beginning to the exit. And Sheryl shares some of the ways that she has engaged this whole concept of empowering brand ambassadors inside her law firm. Now they were on the Inc list that grown really. But what we share with you today will help you understand when you want your employees to be the face of the company. Not just you. Now, some people don’t want to be the face of the company at all. They want to just serve their clients. But I do believe that a personal brand can really create some empowering moments and connections across the clients that you want.
And it doesn’t have to be just you, you can empower brand ambassadors. And that’s what we talk about inside this episode. Now your journey of evolving as a leader requires you to. To challenge yourself and to be supported in that journey. And my job is to do that for you is to challenge you, to support you in a way that helps you be the best leader you can be. If you know that your culture, your leadership could take it to the next level, you want to remove the tension that’s inside the organization that causes people to leave early. I want to help you do that. My job is to help you be the best leader you can be. If you want to check out some of the free resources, just go to Genehammett.com.
If you want to schedule a call with me, go to the top right-hand corner and click on, start your journey. I’d love to work with you and help you be the best leader you can be. I’ve got a lot of options of how we work together. Before that let’s get on the phone. I want to help you understand your problem clear than you’ve ever seen it before, and then help you see what solutions are there.
All you have to do is go to Genehammett.com. Start your journey. Here’s Sheryl.
Gene Hammett: Hi Sheryl! how are you?
Sheryl Hunter: I’m doing fantastic. Thank you.
Gene Hammett: It’s exciting to have you on the podcast.
Sheryl Hunter: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to be here.
Gene Hammett: I’ve already let our audience to a little about you and what we talked about today, but I want you to give us some context about hunter business law.
Sheryl Hunter: Okay. Well, hunter business law, where the entrepreneur’s law firms. So that’s very intentional. I have a huge passion for working with entrepreneurs and love the diversity of the experiences. So as the entrepreneur’s law firm, we work exclusively with growth-focused entrepreneurs and their business enterprises. So that’s from startup to exit. And I say individual entrepreneurs as well as business enterprises because obviously, we start with the founder. Oftentimes they’re coming to us with an idea and get them formed, and then they’re building an enterprise. So we’re now integrating with employees that they’re bringing on investors that they’re bringing on, different strategic partners, the contracts that they have going with them.
So we get to go on the journey with them and I’m kind of a shiny object person myself. So this feeds the, they need to get exposure to a lot of exciting new businesses and concepts, and to be constantly learning.
Gene Hammett: Well, you’re in a good place because I think a lot of people listening in here are founder CEOs of fast-growth companies.
Sheryl Hunter: Exactly, That’s the kind, that’s the kind of one I love. Sometimes it’s hard to nail them down on legal. Like, do I really have to worry about this? And I’m like, yes, trust me. You know, we don’t want to derail your, your dreams by not doing good contracts and NDAs and protecting you. So let’s do that in this conversation. Yeah. ,
Gene Hammett: Sheryl will, I’m excited to talk to you today because my research in your company, you know, not only were you on a fast-growth company, But you personally have shown up on our radar because you have the way you treat employees, the way you treat and empower people. Tell us a little bit about why empowerment is such an important piece to the growth of your business.
Sheryl Hunter: Well, two primary reasons. One important piece is that I do not have enough hours in the day to accomplish my own dreams and where I want to take the business. So I am not a micromanager. I really have to hire people. That is reliable. Self-driven motivated internally, have a passion of their own to work with the type of clientele that we have. And so a lot of that sort of selfish in a way is that I, I know my limitations as a manager, I’m not going to have really rigid, face time and, you know, check them. Did you do this? Did you do that? So I have to hire for it for that purpose. And that means people who are, you have to empower them because I need people to be self-motivated, doing their own thing. I do believe though, that you can either hire people to be like in my practice in a lot of law firms. But I think that this industry rides it really in any profession, are you hiring people to be you’re in like behind the scenes, they don’t have a lot of exposure to your customer. They don’t have a lot of exposure from a branding standpoint.
They’re not out giving the speeches. They’re not going to conferences. Or do you want all of your employees or at least a good majority of them to be an extension of your business and an extension of your brand that is going to impact how you build your company pretty substantially? So there are some in my industry, there are certainly larger law firms where I call it assembly-line law, where they will know how to do a certain piece of a transaction. For example, And sometimes the partners don’t want them to learn anything else, because then they’re not a threat. They’re not going to take the client. They’re not going to leave the company and be a competitor. And I don’t think that that’s the right thing to do for some people who work for me, and I so I come in and give them a lot of client contact and a lot of 360-degree viewpoint and education so that they do know how to practice law in the area that we’re practicing.
Gene Hammett: Now, I give a speech one time about when you truly do want to scale your company up, you want to select certain people to be brand ambassadors and brand ambassadors really do have the drive to be in front too, to be able to share a message, to be an alignment with a company. And I feel like that’s a lot of what you’re talking about with some of your employees.
Sheryl Hunter: Absolutely. I mean, they’re out in our community, right? So I am building this business and most of our customers, our clients are in the Tampa bay region. So we have venture capital clients that, you know, they’re investing in companies throughout the state of Florida, but most of our business comes from my own community. So every time you employees at a grocery store, you know, out at a restaurant, Communicating with the public. They are extending our brand there. They have an opportunity to make an impact, and I want them engaged in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship in the greater Tampa Bay area on the west coast, Florida. , because our visibility is then extended through that engagement.
I understand some people are introverted and you need great drafting attorneys and you need, you know, people who do things more behind the scenes. So I certainly don’t expect everyone to play that role, but I certainly want to empower them if they do. And a simple example is we do headshots the moment they’re. Do professional brand new headshots, because I want them to feel confident. You know, that they have a good image when they’re creating their LinkedIn page. If they don’t have one, when they are going to be speaking in an engagement, I want them to feel good about the headshot that they have.
Gene Hammett: Give us some other examples of how they’re they’re really extending the brand?
Sheryl Hunter: Well, I mean, if you, for example, I have a new young attorney that wants to go to a blockchain conference. Cause we have some blockchain clients there. We do work with a lot of technology businesses, and one of the reasons I hired him, he actually was doing elder law, totally unrelated to what we do, but he was only out of school for a year. But he sent me a fairly long email when he was pitching me, why I should hire him and really expressing his interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain and this new industry. And that he’s on his own time. Like you said, you’re looking for a person who’s not nine to fiber. Right. Not thinking that way.
You want to living and breathing the industry. And of course, they have to have a family life and go exercise and do other things, but you want their, their passion to be real and authentic. And that this would be a career that they’re going to do, whether they do it at a hundred business law or anywhere else. And so he wanted to, he expressed an interest in going to a conference. Now it costs me money to sign him. He’s not billing time while he’s going, but I’m like, of course, I’m going to pay for you to go to this conference because that’s where he’s excited. About going, and then he’s going to meet people and talk about our firm and talk about our interest in blockchain.
Gene Hammett: Sheryl, when you think about leaving this unique group of people, what has had to change and your, the way you lead and connect with them to make sure that they have the confidence and courage to be out in front. ,
Sheryl Hunter: I will tell you that I think it’s a constant challenge and we’ve had our share of turnover. , and I would say, I don’t believe it’s because in most cases this, the person was unhappy. I think it’s more, they’ve left to go in-house counsel. So I’m like, oh, I’m a really good training from, for somebody to go in-house counsel, which isn’t that surprising because we model. Practice as being like an extension of a business that we’re like having an in-house counsel partner down the hall for you to come and talk to. So the attorneys that I’ve hired do get very good training to go on and then be in-house counsel for businesses. So it’s not surprising that we’ve lost them, but I’ve recently had a lot of conversations, both with clients who I know. Being friends with, and HR experts about the turnover, generally millennial turnover largely is, you know, and I’m being told, you’re going to be lucky if the attorney stays with you for three years and I’m thinking, wow, it’s so different.
Because when I was, you know, 25 years ago, I started off at a big firm and it was, you know, the track was eight years. You’re going to be considered for partnership. And then people had been at the firm for long periods of time. I’m not getting applicants where they’ve moved every 2, 3, 4 years, and you see this on the resume. And that really changes. Both the recruiting and the retention mentality. So I’ve been deep dive, trying to think about how do I recruit differently? How do I retain differently? So I don’t have turnover.
Commentary: Sheryl just talked about turnover. Now, every company has some level of turnover. Some of this is voluntary. Some of this is not so voluntary and we want to make sure that we’re tuned in to what causes turnover. Whenever it comes up, if you’re having a retention problem, you want to make sure that you are looking at the employee’s expense. A few key factors inside of that is by asking our employees about, you know, what you could do to serve them better, how you can be a better leader and really create the kind of relationship between the two of you where it’s not just you giving them feedback, but they’re giving you feedback as well. You also want to create a place that’s transparent, a place that people feel included, and all of this drives into it. My work is about people feeling like owners. If people feel like owners. They really have to think twice or three times about leaving because they’re not going to get the same experience somewhere else. You have to be an intentional leader to create the kind of experience that keeps the best talent and attracts the best talent. If you’re doing that great. If you’re not make sure to check out some of the free content we have at Genehammett.com back to Sheryl,
Gene Hammett: I appreciate you sharing that with us. A lot of it comes back to, you know, the kind of experience people are having the opportunities for growth. And, you know, it sounds like you really do believe in the cross-training and giving them a full reach across clients and connecting, probably even bringing work in or your employees kind of bringing in new opportunities to the firm.
Sheryl Hunter: Some. Well, I will tell you, we turn away a ton of work, which is why I’m hiring right now. We have a very full plate, the Tampa Bay area, if you’re not familiar is in a bit of a boom. , we have a ton of people moving here from California, Boston. No other parts of the country for, I think COVID has, has sort of accelerated that, but it’s part of the, is that Florida, Miami in particular, but Tampa bay as well is turning into a tech hub and it’s much more affordable to live here low taxes. We have more venture capital funds. I’m proud to represent two that are very active in this area. And so we’re, we’re getting people who are moving to this area in droves, which is super exciting.
Gene Hammett: And you got some of the most incredible beaches in the world.
Sheryl Hunter: Oh, well, we do. I can’t say I go there a lot, we are trying to do a little retreat at the beach, like, okay, what work can we do at the beach in the cabana that, you know, we, we aren’t doing here, but so for right now, I don’t really need a lot of business development by my team, but they do have a ton of client contact and it’s equally important. For attorneys and in any business, there are two elements. One is bringing in the business. It’s probably even more important to retain the business. And that requires the people on your team, really treating the clients in a way that the clients are super happy, you know, and they are staying with your company and they’re not leaving. So I think it’s important as an employer in a fast-growth company to pay just as much attention to whether or not. An employee can retain clients through excellent service as, as it is for them to brand business.
Gene Hammett: You know, when one of the things we talked about before we cut the recorder on was about how this personal brand is an extension of your own personal brand. You know, you’re out into the marketplace. You’re, you’re doing speeches, you’re doing everything you can to position the law. But are you, you’re encouraging your employees to do this too? How do you lead them through those things when they get a little bit shy or they’re not quite sure of themselves. It’s natural for this to happen, but how are you addressing that challenge?
Sheryl Hunter: Well I think this goes back to a bit of broader advice that I would give. And, you know, I went through a program called a key person of influence. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Daniel Priestley, but he’s also written a book called 24 assets. He’s from Australia and then did a lot of work in the UK and Singapore. So he’s probably wider known in Europe, but they had a sub-section of key person of influence in Tampa. And it’s really designed around developing your own brand. And I think that if you want someone to be more confident going through the process of, of a program like this, even if you just read the book can help. And I think listening to podcasts, like what you’re doing can help people gain confidence through doing right. And so if they’ve written, I had an employee who wrote a book or even a set of blogs on a certain area that they want to be an expert in and they can walk into a room. And they have that sort of, they’ve gone through that exercise and then they feel more credible.
You know, they’ve, they’ve created some credibility by developing things. So the KPI program talks about having a perfect pitch publishing content, creating products. So you’re productizing, particularly in the service industry. Raising your profile. So, you know, it makes you more confident if you walk into a room and you have a great LinkedIn profile and you know, somebody, oh, I’m going to connect with you. You don’t want to feel like, oh God, I only have like 50 people on my LinkedIn. And I don’t think I updated it. And you know, for a year, So we try to make sure that they have all these things in order where they gain confidence. And also that they’re able to articulate the mission and vision and the values of the firm.
And that comes from mostly sitting in, I have them sit in on consult calls, client meetings, so that they really can hear me speak and can start to understand, like how we communicate with our clients, in a unique way.
Gene Hammett: Sheryl. I want to switch a little bit here. I want to ask you this question. I ask a lot of people. We joked about it just a few minutes ago, but have you made any mistakes as a leader? And if so, can you remember and share with us one that you’d feel comfortable opening up to everyone?
Sheryl Hunter: Well, and I’m still making mistakes as a leader. You know, I am, I am a very driven person and I think a very basic mistake that I do think leads to stress in the environment. You know, I don’t really expect employees to work the insane hours that I work. , I’m a night owl, so I’m up at one coming up with something. And my mistake is that I would email that at [1:00] AM or even at [7:00] PM. And I realized that even if I would tell my employees that I’m not expecting them to respond, you know, after hours, certainly not one in the morning. I think it was created. A sense that they should be responding or they should be working those kinds of hours that I’m working. And I think that creates almost like chronic stress, environment and it can lead to burnout so that I’m trying to work on, you know, putting those on hold, sorta like saving them and have, and then auto-send in the morning when they’re supposed to be starting their day.
So it’s, I’m trying to be more respectful of the emotional impact of the constant barrage of domains. So that would be one example. Another example was I had a, very sharp paralegal who wanted to start a business, and I think she thought I’d be super excited about it. And I really probably should have been more excited for her, but I was frustrated because it was a business manager of mine who collaborated with her to start a business that was going to lead to them, both leaving. And I was like, I hired you as a business manager to help me grow the company and your plan. To start a business and take my paralegal. In hindsight, I wish I had just supported them, you know, in doing that and then been able to feed the pipeline behind them, knowing that they were probably going to leave because it wasn’t consistent with my love and encouragement for entrepreneurship.
And so I wish I had kind of gotten behind them and just said, that’s awesome. When do you think you might leave as a result of this so that I can, you know, plan ahead. So when I was talking about needing to. Take a different approach to recruiting and retention. I actually want to have very open conversations with people, is this a stepping ground for you? And if it is, that’s fine. Give me advanced notice. If you’re going to be leaving. If this is something that you want to be doing, let’s talk about it. I can help you. So that doesn’t become a shameful Fang and then it’s not a surprise to me when they say I got a great opportunity. I’m going to go in two weeks, which is not good.
Commentary: Sheryl just talked about her insane hours. Now I know a lot of people are driven. They want to work up until the midnight hour and beyond. Well, if you expect your employees to do the same, Then you’re creating a place where people can get burned out. It can be really tough to take. And how do they know this? Well, Sheryl talked about the emails that go out past midnight and you know, how she had to curve her, her approach to that. You have to also be intentional about some of the things you may be doing that make burnout a real problem. If you believe in insane hours, that’s great. But are you expecting every one of your employees to, burn the midnight oil and pushed me out? Even the limits that you know are unhealthy for you. Well, all of that really will help you understand yourself as a leader. When you get real about how you’re showing up for your team. A lot of these blind spots we don’t realize yet. So I’m putting a spotlight today on this, because if you’re pushing hard and you expect others to push as hard, or maybe you’re just doing it, not expecting they do, but it’s, there’s an unwritten assumption that causes tension inside the workforce. Then you want to make sure that you’re aware. Back to Sheryl.
Gene Hammett: I totally know what you’re talking about because I’ve, I was sustained about this the other day. My mom’s 80. She just had a new hip and, where she’s almost 80 should probably correct me if she’s right here.
Sheryl Hunter: Well, she would correct you. I still want a seven in front of my name,
Gene Hammett: but I, I really get a chance to, to be there with her during this. And I knew that she was taken care of and she mentioned about pensions and whatnot, and I’m like, I don’t know what a pension would feel like. I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. So I’m like, do I create my world. And I was just thinking it’s just not normal for employees to be with a company for 10, 20, 30 years. Like it used to be. And I know this has been going on for a long time, but just kind of hit me within this new, fresh moment of huh. And, and be mindful of that as you’re bringing people in to on the journey with you, is this a stepping stone or is this something that you really want to build a career out of?
That’s a really wise intention that they can, that the hiring process. Yeah, Sheryl, I appreciate you sharing openly with us about how you see the personal brand and people being an extension of this. And I appreciate you being on the podcast.
Sheryl Hunter: Absolutely. It’s my pleasure, Gene, and keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great to have information out there to help.
Gene Hammett: Well, I want to give you my, take on today’s interview with Sheryl. I want you to understand what really possible for you as a leader, when you bring on people behind the scenes, as she was talking about, we all need behind the scenes people, we have them in our company, but we also have people that are in front and center that are serving clients and building their own personal brand, building their own way in the world. Our job is to clear the past with them not to make it harder, but actually make it easier. Give them chance to grow. All of that growth can be energy putting back into the day. They may leave someday. This is a reality that we have to deal with, but we, as leaders can create space for people to grow and for them to want to refer other candidates, that would be amazing to come on, join us on this journey.
So when you think about your journey as a leader, if you’re not sure what your step next step is, you want to be a part of a community of other great, extraordinary. We have fast growth boardroom, which is filled with a lot of people from eight, 5,000. You don’t have to be on the 5,000 to be there, but you do have to want to be a great leader and be hungry for growth.
Just check out fastgrowthboardroom.com. When you think about growth, do you think about leadership? Think of Growth Think Tank as always with courage, 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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