Rainmaking is an art. It is the art of getting business, getting the better business, and then eventually all of the business from your clients. It is the art of initiating and building the right relationships with the right people. It takes a lot of skill, creativity and persistence. A thought leader in the areas of rainmaking, recruiting and leadership, Scott Love joins Michael Zipurski to share some of his wisdom and experience in bringing in consistent clients for the consulting business. Scott is the founder of the Attorney Search Group and host of his own podcast, The Rainmaking Podcast. Tapping his immense experience in headhunting rainmakers for law firms, Scott talks about the qualities you need in a rainmaker and how you can build strategic relationships that will eventually bring the right people to your business.
I’m here with Scott Love. Scott, welcome.
Thank you. It’s good to be here, Michael.
You are a thought leader and spent a lot of time in the areas of rainmaking, recruiting and leadership. You published over 250 articles. You’ve been quoted in places that are well-known like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, HuffPost and dozens more. You’re a speaker, author, podcast host and the President of the Attorney Search Group. Let’s go a little bit back in time, earlier into your career because you served as a leadership trainer at one of the world’s largest naval bases. Tell us a little bit about what that was like, what you were doing there, how you ended up there, and from that point.
It was purely accidental. I went to the Naval Academy. My goal was to become a pilot and in my senior year they said, “You’re not going to be a pilot.” I said, “Why is that?” They said, “You’ve got a history of headaches.” I had headaches that were not debilitating, but they were limiting. For that reason, I couldn’t be a pilot. I had to go surface warfare, which means you’re an officer on a ship. I went into the fleet with a bad attitude and doing something that I had no intention of doing. By that time, I enjoyed the sailing part of it. The sailors I had were tough. The sailors that I was working within my department had naked mermaid tattoos on their arms. That’s how tough they were.
I loved it. I loved working around people like that. I loved earning respect from sailors, and then the headaches got worse and I couldn’t function. I was in the process of being medically separated from the US Navy. Long story short, when I got out, I started seeing a chiropractor. I’ve been seeing one at least twice a month since 1996. That gave me 100% relief. That’s what it was. It’s from a minor sports injury that gave me headaches. When I was getting separated, I got to spend about a year and a half in the world’s largest Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia as a leadership trainer. I was in the right place at the right time. The Navy came out with a new initiative called Total Quality Leadership, which was a derivative of W. Edwards Deming’s total quality management concept.
That’s what led me to be a leadership trainer, where I would train thousands of senior enlisted officers and civil service workers on these ideas. It evolved into where I was an organizational development consultant. I’m going to these different commands in the Norfolk area at the age of 24, where you do know everything at that age. That gave me good and solid leadership concepts when I got into my professional career. I did sales. I got into headhunting back in 1995 and the rest is history. It’s something that I absolutely enjoy every day.
Take me back to that time when you’re a young pup and you need to go. I’m sure others around you were also quite young. What’s going through your mind where you have to train and lead people? Was there ever a point where you felt uncomfortable and you felt, “Am I good enough to do this?” The whole imposter syndrome type of thing. Describe that for us a little bit.
At that time, I was getting separated. I didn’t get to do the things I wanted to do. I had to deal with that. There were a lot of mixed emotions with that, but I saw this opportunity as a trainer to do work that I truly loved. I was on the debate team in high school. My partner and I were in second place in Texas for debate. I debated at the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy had a debating team, which was great. We got team tables and we got per diem on the weekends so we go to different tournaments.
I got to do something that I truly loved and I saw that as, “This is my service.” I might not be the sharpest marble in the bag when it comes to everybody else in the fleet, but at least I had ideas that I know can help them. Some traditions in the Navy at that time, the Navy realized that not all traditions are healthy traditions. I knew that they needed to change. It was exciting for me to know, even though I might not have had the chance to do the things I wanted to do, at least I can make a contribution to the service, to my colleagues, to the peers, to my comrades, and help them understand some progressive ideas.
How long did it take you from the time where you were told, “You cannot become a pilot,” to the time where you were not only okay with the idea of shifting and getting more into leadership training but going, “This is what I’m meant to do. This is the right thing for me,” going from disappointment to a positive mindset?
I still feel it. My wife, my little girl and I went to Virginia Beach near the Oceana Air Base. I hear the F/A-18s and see them flying over. It still hurts a little bit. Some of my classmates got to go on that journey and I’m excited for them. All of us in life, we have these doors that we come to. Door number 1, 2, and 3, and this is something that I’ve been able to teach my son who’s nineteen. He’s gotten involved in modeling a few years ago when he’s represented by IMG. He never wanted to go to college, but he found a trade. I told him, “When you go through life, you see three different doors. You go, ‘I think what I want is behind door number 3.’ You open that door up and you see three more doors. You might have to go through that 4 or 5 times.”
I’ve always had that pang of disappointment, but I had been able to see that even though it didn’t work out the way I want it, wasn’t it better that it worked out that way? It’s like the way I look at where we are in the crisis now in my own business. I don’t like the chapter that I’m reading in this book, but five chapters from now, this crisis might have given me ideas that I wouldn’t have discovered. I’ve found some strategic changes that I’ve made because of the crisis that will be better for me in the long-term. That’s the thing we all need to realize. We don’t always get what we want. We have to control that which we do have control over, which is our response to change. This is something I remember hearing from Wayne Dyer years ago that no matter how bad things get, you still have control over how you respond to your situation.
Some people might be going, “This must be a consulting show. What’s going on with this conversation?” What we’re talking about is mindset is the biggest factor in determining your success. I see it consistently with those that are successful, those who achieve a lot in their lives. They are the people who when confronted with challenging or what looks like a negative situation, focus on the positive. They’re open and taking action towards that future. Clearly, that’s what you’ve done here. Let’s now talk about probably the most unlikely and least exciting concept for people who live in Vancouver, Canada, which is rainmaking. It rains so much here that no one wants to use the word rain. Rainmaking in the context of what we’re talking about now is something a lot more exciting. For those who might not be familiar with the term rainmaking, what does that refer to?
It’s your ability to generate business is the bottom line. How do you become the one that people think of? Years ago, I got into sales and recruiter of a training company that I eventually sold and got out of so I could focus solely on my legal recruiting practice, but I still love talking about this stuff. From my experience in teaching this, what I’ve learned is as a rainmaker, you want to have the idea of getting more business, getting the better business, and then eventually all of the business from your clients.We don't always get what we want. We have to control that which we do have control over, which is our response to change. Click To Tweet
More business, meaning you always want to be looking for that next opportunity. Better business, meaning, maybe the margins were a little bit better. Maybe they FedEx you the check or wire transfer you the money the day the fee is due, or even a little bit earlier before your terms are due. Maybe they even seek you out to get your opinion on projects, and then eventually all the business. You are the only one they want to work with. If it’s a big organization, you’re the first person that they think about. That’s the perspective that we need to have as rainmakers. It’s not necessarily getting the call. It’s substantiating your value when people are talking with you, knowing that you’re published, that you are a credentialed authority, a pre-eminent expert within your focused areas, and them feeling safe that you’re the one that can get the job done.
You work with and had relationships with many people who you would describe as being rainmakers and being successful at it. What do you see when you break down or look at what are the criteria or the characteristics that are similar amongst those that are successful or able to bring in business consistently? If you had to say, “That’s a trait, criteria or a characteristic that’s always present among those who are able to generate business, win more profitable business, and be a real value within their organization,” what stands out for you?
There are three things. Keep in mind, it’s not me talking to people like you and getting to know other people. As a partner-level recruiter for big law firms, I’m recruiting rainmakers. I’m recruiting the people that have built successful practices. When I go through that process, I get to read their business plans. That’s exciting to get to peek behind the curtain of some of the most successful attorneys in the world. Even though I’m not an attorney, I’m a business guy, a sales guy, and a client development person. I understand what it takes to build a successful practice. It’s not because I’ve done it, it’s because I’ve seen many people in a personal way and seeing how they’ve done that.
I’d say there are three things. Number one is that these people are confident, but they’re also selfless. They know that it’s not about them. The consistent theme of every single successful person I’ve met in rainmaking is that they’re not selfish. They’re selfless and they’ve got confidence. They got nothing to prove but they’re not arrogant because they know it’s bad for business to be arrogant. It’s an uncomfortable life as well. That’s why I said it’s not about them. It’s about the other person. It’s about the client.
The second one is that they are strategic. They’re looking for that opportunity. What is that problem that they can solve? Where’s that area that isn’t being fulfilled? Where can they double down on certain strengths? Number three, they’re consistent in the work that they apply to continue to build their brand. They’re not resting on their worlds. They’re not saying, “I wrote a book. Time to go to bed early every night.” That’s like the tortoise and the hare. Once you get ahead, you don’t pull over and take a nap. You continue on with the consistent effort.
What do you think drives those people? I don’t think everyone is always driven to achieve more or at least people have in their mindset at times, “When I reach this next level, then I’ll retire, then I’ll sell the business.” This is a theme that I’ve seen also among successful people. They’re not in it for the money. Most successful people give a lot of their money away. Billions of dollars that they give away, but they’re still doing what they’re doing. They’re still growing business and adding value. In your experience, what do you think drives those people? What’s going on inside their mind or souls that are helping them or tell them, “You probably already have enough money. You don’t need to work anymore. You’ve done well. You’ve probably got some great investments,” but they’re still pounding the pavement. They’re still looking for ways to add value and building the business. What stands out there for you?
What I’ve seen with a lot of law firms is some firms have mandatory retirement for their partners at 65. There are some firms that have opened that up. They will take anyone past that age. There are a lot of attorneys I talked to that are 64, 63, 65. They want to keep practicing and they want to keep going and working until the day you have to pull the firm from their cold boney little fingers. They want to do it to the bitter end. It’s not necessarily that it’s part of who they are. It’s not necessarily an identity, but it’s the joy of doing the work, of knowing that you’re solving problems.
This is the one thing I’ve seen within my own practice. Sunday night, my heart skips a beat because I get to go to work Monday. I love taking vacations. Hopefully, in a few years, I want to get to where every Friday I’m on the golf course, except for a few important emails. Maybe I’ll turn it into client golf every Friday. It’s not necessarily the rush, it’s more of the self-actualization that they’re doing something significant. It helps people and it’s a lot of fun.
Within my work, I love it. I’m absolutely honored. If someone asks me, “What is it about your niche that thrills you? Is it getting the big checks?” I said, “What thrills me the most is getting the trust.” I had a partner that called me and said, “These are the four firms I’m interested in. I want you to present me there. I get calls all the time from the headhunters. You’re the only one I trust. These are the four firms I’ve identified, present me to them.” I’m like, “This is great. Thank you. I appreciate your trust.” There has to be something more than money. It’s not about the money. It’s about the meaning.
Let’s talk about your company, the Attorney Search Group. You serve law firms and partners transitioning into different firms. You’re bringing rainmakers. You were at a naval base. You wanted to become a pilot. How did you get into the world of law? More specifically, how do you end up choosing the niche? How did you arrive at that?
When I got out of the Navy, it was a depressing time for me. Looking back now, I know I was not behaving in a healthy way. I was self-destructive in many ways. I got into regular sales. I sold telecom. I interviewed with a head-hunting firm. This is back in 1995. The owner of the company said, “Tell me about your career ambitions.” I said, well, “Tim, I need a job.” He said, “It sounds like you’ll fit right in.” That should have been my first tell. I worked for that firm. I didn’t get paid commissions. Nine months later, I hung out my own shingle, not even knowing that the recruiting industry was a thing. I did well with that.
I entered my non-compete. I had to start all over in a one-bedroom apartment. The proverbial folding card table that was my new business and it worked. Several years later, I did well. I wanted to teach some of the concepts that I’d learned to people. I started a training company. A lot of the legal recruiting firms that I was consulting to, I’m not an ex-lawyer. I’m a recruiter guy and a sales guy, but I saw that it was exciting work. I liked the type of work that they were doing. I told myself that if I ever want to get out of training and get back into recruiting, that’s the niche I’m going to pursue. That’s what I did back in 2009 and 2010.
You mentioned that you sold or exited a business. Explain what that was? How big did that business get? What was your role?
I did train for recruiting firms, direct hire and staffing companies. I’d spoken to every trade association meeting within the recruiting and staffing industry. The American Staffing Association was a big client of mine. I did webinars. I’d speak at their conference every year. Over 4,500 recruiting and staffing companies from over 36 countries invested in my training materials. I had VHS and cassette tapes when I started, eventually DVDs and CDs, and then online learning.Rainmakers are confident, strategic and consistent. Click To Tweet
The only way I could do well and make the money I wanted to make was not to do the speaking, but to do coaching. For me personally, I don’t enjoy coaching. I like to do deals. I like to put things together. I like projects. I like chasing the hunt and doing headhunting. I exited that. I was able to extricate myself from that and focus solely on the placement part of recruiting partners and even groups, and then even doing some mergers acquisitions of small firms going into larger firms.
When you made that transition out of that training company into now working with law firms, doing the placements, the recruiting. We’re now talking about the world of professional services, not training by itself. How did you go about getting clients? The first few clients that you landed, how did that come about?
I knew that if I called people and said, “My name is Scott Love, I’ve never placed a lawyer before and I’d like to work with your firm. Nobody would take that call.” I got creative. I did the things that I taught people. I talked about getting published. If you get published, you can use that publishing exercise as a way to build meaningful connections with clients. One of the first calls I made was a referral from the director of marketing to a managing partner of a Washington office. I called him and I said, “So and so referred me to you. I’m writing an article on leadership and I’d like to interview you.” Our 20-minute call turned into a 45-minute session where most of it was talking about golf. We ended up playing golf.
I remember we’ve teed off on our first hole. He said, “Tell me about some of the other firms you’re working with.” I said, “Kevin, you’re going to be my first.” I’ll never forget the look on his face. I thought, “I’ve got seventeen holes to recover. I can save it.” Sure enough, I did. We finished our round. By the time we’re on our second beer, he trusted me. He knew that I’d been successful in a different niche. He said, “We’ll give you a shot. We will help you learn legal. You help us grow our firm. I need three successful partner placements within a short period of time.” I was off and running.
The publishing side of it, people often think it’s like the chicken and the egg. Did you have reach out to a publication that agreed to run that piece, and then you reached out to that person to interview them? Do you reach out and say, “I’m working on a piece,” but you didn’t have a home for that piece yet?
I said, “I have a blog and I write on leadership.” Everybody, if you’re going into a new area, you do have something unique about you. What’s unique about me was I used to be a trainer on leadership. I’m an expert on leadership. “That’s what I went in with. I’ve been in recruiting for X number of years. I’m a specialist within this area, and I’m in the process of writing an article on that. Somebody within your firm referred me to you. I’d like to see if you’d be open to having me interview you for this article on my blog.” That’s how it was.
It’s not a duplicitous way. It’s not necessarily a bait and switch. I always have multiple objectives for everything I do. It was a legitimate article that I wrote. I quoted him. It was a good article. It gave an introduction. When you call people and you say, “I’m a complete stranger,” you need to see if you can reverse engineer a referral. I had of referral from someone internally that he knew. I had a legitimate reason to make contact with this person that wasn’t a sales pitch. The sales pitch can come later when you’ve earned the right to have the ask. You have to earn the right. You’ve probably done this and anybody that has a podcast or has written articles. You’ve seen that some of your best connections come from those types of conversations.
Fast forward to now, what do you find is working best for you and for your company to generate leads and new opportunities?
A lot of it is talking to a lot of people and keeping your thumb on the pulse of what’s going on.
What does that mean? Dive deeper into that more specifically. Are you calling or emailing people? What are you doing when you say talking to people or reaching out?
Within my niche, it’s all about making connections. I’ve got two sides of what I do. One side is on the client-side dealing with the firms, and the other side is on the candidate where I’m recruiting candidates for a specific opportunity. On the client-side, that’s a little bit more strategic. I’ve called the number of clients that I have. I used to work with about two dozen firms in two markets, New York and DC. Since the crisis happened, I pushed out everywhere, every major market. Instead of two dozen firms, now it’s maybe about eight. I’ve opened up the matrix geographically and limiting the number of people that I’m working with, but it’s still more potential placements. That means that I get to know them a little bit better. Because I’ve made that adjustment, I’m now able to get closer to some of the clients because I told them.
For example, one firm has four different offices that I spend a lot of time recruiting. I told them, I said, “Out of all the firms I work with, you’re in the top three. I want to spend more time with you. For that reason, maybe you can connect me with your firm’s chairman. I’d like to get a conference call over a Zoom meeting set up in the next 2 or 3 weeks.” He said, “That sounds great.” Another client of mine is one of the key leaders of a 1300 attorney firm. He and I talked. We’re playing golf and the chairman of the firm is going to come also. I’m getting more time with people that way. It’ll be socially distant golf. We won’t be doing shaking hands and all that. Looking for ways to get in front of people that have significant problems that you can solve, that’s the whole key, especially in the age of COVID.
Talk a little bit more about how you’re managing that process. Do you use a CRM heavily? How do you stay on top of who to contact, how often to contact and managing that process?
I don’t have any schedule of, “I need to call people on a certain day,” or anything like that. I let the activity drive that. I do have people that I reach out to every once in a while. I have the technology that I use. I have a database that’s unique to my niche of recruiting, that I have data that I subscribed to. It’s unique to the industry of legal and they combined together. I pay for all these services and it’s not cheap. That helps me to manage the data so I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing the technology. I delegate that by paying for services that do that for me.Once you get ahead, you don't pull over and take a nap. You push on with consistent effort. Click To Tweet
I use that, and then I also have a dry erase board with white magnetic. You’ve got the person’s name on there. It’s white. That’s how I use it to keep track of who my people are going forward. I’ve got a lot of activity. A lot of it is dependent upon that. Another thing I’ve done, as you know because I interviewed you on The Rainmaking Podcast, I’ll send a new prospective candidate an email and I’ll mention my voicemail message so they know that it’s not spam. At the bottom of that is the link not to my firm’s site or my bio, but to The Rainmaking Podcast because everybody wants content even if they’re not going to leave their firms. With every connection that I have with people, I try to make sure that it’s not about me. It’s about, “Here’s something that I can give to you even if I can’t help you, even if it’s not the right time for us to talk.”
How have you approached growth in your own business? Talk to us a little bit about the team. Do you work with contractors? The structure of your business, how do you put that in place to continue growing?
For 2020 or maybe 2021, it’s me and I’ve got my two colleagues that work for me and they are my shoulder tappers. They’re the ones who reach out to the candidates for me to set up conversations. I’m able to get leverage that way. I don’t have any intention of growing this into a business. There are two different ways you can grow an enterprise. One of them is through a scalable business that eventually develops equity and you can eventually sell that. The other way is through practice and you have to look for leverageable components that make it easy for you so that it is a practice. Hopefully, there’s enough margin in there. You can take your margin, put those investments and get leveraged that way. I don’t have any intention right now to grow a business because I like doing the deals. There are some people that I’ve talked with that are successful within my niche who I trust, who I’d like to be associated with, and where I think I can help them. There could be some collaboration between the two of us as well but that’s probably it.
In terms of how you go about things, you look at it as a lifestyle business. You’ve structured it so that it works within your lifestyle. You’re not looking to grow a multimillion-dollar firm and hire a bunch of people. Is it correct that the way you’re approaching it is you’re working with a set of small-ish group of clients? You look for ways to maximize the value of the deals and engagements. All of the profit that comes from the business, you’re then able to take that and invest it into other things or use it for lifestyle or the fun things that you enjoy.
That’s the goal. I’m 53. In terms of retirement goals, I’ve got a number, but I don’t even think I’m going to stop. I’m probably going to scale down to I’m working four days a week. Now, I’m working three days a week or maybe two. I don’t know if I could go below two. I love family time. I love golf. I love spending time with Rotary organizations. I used to be a member of the Washington Rotary Club when we moved to Richmond. Before the crisis, I was going to DC every week. I was a member of that group and then the crisis came. I withdrew my membership and want to find a local group to get plugged in because I enjoy service work.
We’re active in an Anglican Church here in Richmond. We love getting involved in that and spending time in areas outside of the business that is meaningful. You’re absolutely right. When people say a lifestyle business, that sounds delightful. There’s a lot of teeth grinding that goes along with that and a lot of nail-biting when things don’t work out. You got to be smart about that. You got to have backup options that you can jump on. If plan-A doesn’t work out, what’s plan-B or C? You’ve always got to have things like that
There are two camps, those who look at the idea of a lifestyle business and go like, “You don’t have enough motivation. Why aren’t you trying to grow more?” You then have those who are building big businesses and other people are looking and go like, “This person is working hard.” They might have high revenue, but they’re not enjoying much profit. There’s nothing wrong with that. We have clients that we work with in our coaching program that are on both sides. For some, they want to keep it as a lifestyle business and maximize profits.
Others are thinking longer term in terms of the value of the enterprise, the business, and a potential sale later on. There’s no right. It’s about figuring what’s right for you as an individual and building the business around that. I want to talk about your writing and podcast. You have The Rainmaking Podcast and you’ve written over 250 articles. What impact would you say that those two things have had? Would you say that one has had a bigger impact than the other?
Both of them have been significant. Most of the writing I’ve done has been recruiting specific. That’s when I saw that when you write articles, when you’ve got an email list of people that want to get to know you, that can drive revenue. People are ready for you. You could write articles as a funnel, as a way to get people to be introduced to you. They read what you wrote. Two years later, they’ve been reading. Now, you’ve got another offering and then they jump on that. They’re going to jump on that when they’re ready. I also think within my legal recruiting niche, if I put most partners on an email list, they would never take another email from me. That’s how they are. They’re not interested in being on an email list, but they’re going to listen to a podcast.
That’s what I’ve found is one way to keep top of mind. It’s not necessarily doing it so that I get the call or I found you on Apple podcasts. That has happened. In my third week of having The Rainmaking Podcast, I had proof of concept. A partner attorney said, “I found you. The content is great. This is what I need.” It gave me an open door to have a conversation. More than anything, when you do get involved in publishing, whether it’s audio through podcasting or articles, it’s not necessarily to get the call, but it substantiates your level of authority as a preeminent expert within your area.
If you go to my site at AttorneySearchGroup.com, there’s a link called Thought Leadership. That’s where I put all the articles where I’ve been quoted and all the podcasts that I’ve been interviewed on. I’ve got another link called Podcast where those are the ones that I produced. If anything, you’ve got to do something that shows that you’re distinct, you’re unique, and that you have a value that your competition doesn’t offer to the same group of people you want to get in front of.
You mentioned the URL already, but is that the best place? Where should people go to learn more about what you, the podcast, your book as well, and the work that you’re up to and see examples of your work and your focus around the area of legal and so forth? Maybe tell us the best place for everyone to go.
I’ve got two sites. One is more towards the legal niche, it’s AttorneySearchGroup.com and you can get to the podcast on that link. The other one is ScottLove.com because sometimes I will speak or even do virtual programs for groups on the topics of client development and leadership, but mostly on client development and rainmaking. That has speaking testimonials. I’ve been speaking for quite a long time. I used to make a living speaking for about 4 or 5 years, back from 2003 to 2008. Those are the two sites. I’d be happy to answer any questions that anybody has about any of this stuff.
Scott, thanks for coming on.