Ahh, to be content. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? “Contentment” is that 15 minutes of space in your life when everything seems to come together in a few glorious moments – just for awhile – and fit just right like a day on a beach. Business is good. Finances are stable. Health is stable. Family is happy. I’m happy and grateful for where I am today. All points of concern seem to be at bay, and my guardian angels and blessings are all present and accounted for.
But being content is not the same thing as being Satisfied. Because when you’re grooming something – anything – whether it’s a garden, a fitness regimen or a business, to be satisfied would suggest that you’re done. Mission complete. It’s all good.
Well, I can tell you that by spring of 2016, I was pretty content with how things were going for Hartman-Imbriale. Hartman-Imbriale was a partnership of two completely separate firms, really: Andrew W. Hartman, LLC was the real estate closing firm and James F. Imbriale, P.C. was the personal injury practice. Marketed together as a partnership under one shared name.
The real estate firm had survived the worst real estate financial crisis since the Great Depression, and had become an even stronger player in a smaller market of closing firms. The injury side, managed by my great friend and attorney Jim Imbriale, was settling big cases and providing great recoveries for injured families. Efficiencies (and profits) were up. Employee salaries were up, clients seemed happy. Imbriale and I posted a lighthearted story about our mismatched law practices in Around Woodstock Magazine in July 2016. Lots of laughs. It was all good.
Or was it?
The trouble with being content, if you want to call it “trouble”, is that you tend to look the other way when a thing or two goes awry. Which is exactly what I began to do more and more often by this time in 2016. I was enjoying my life, and my practice, and ignoring some warning signs that my business and my brand was starting to suffer some cracks. And for someone with a background in marketing, this is a source of some embarrassment to admit. But I’m an older guy – I profess my weakness in the area of internet marketing. I was far too ignorant to the impact that “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) would have on my practice.
Stay with me. This gets thrilling later. To keep it simple, SEO is the process of putting keywords and webcrawlers to work to cause your business name, phone number and website to rank high in Google and other searches on the internet when the public is looking for particular goods or services. So for Hartman-Imbriale, proper SEO might include the words “real estate closing title insurance personal injury medical malpractice head trauma woodstock jasper” and so on. The better your SEO, the higher your Google rankings will be — and your business shows up #1 or #2 when someone is searching for “injury attorney near me” in Woodstock, Georgia.
Here is an insider secret: Closing attorneys really don’t need heavy SEO. A good closing attorney earns his keep by building relationships with people he will work with again and again and again. I don’t need to go back to the internet pond and keep fishing. Mine is, for the most part, a practice built on repeat business and referrals and word of mouth. Personal injury, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite; once an injured client has been served they move on (one would hope) and they aren’t likely to need your services again. Time to go back to the pond. So Imbriale hired a fairly pricey (and effective) SEO company and Hartman did not.
So the Very Effective SEO Company hired by my partner and friend to market the injury side of Hartman-Imbriale elected to use only injury-related SEO keywords – because I was not contributing to their results paradigm nor to their bottom line. No real estate search words. No real estate webcrawlers. The Hartman-Imbriale name and “personal injury” became synonymous with one another. The result was catastrophic for “Hartman” on the internet.
I began to look like a personal injury attorney. To the rest of the world outside of North Georgia, I was a personal injury attorney; Hartman-Imbriale was a personal injury firm with maybe a passing fancy in the field of real estate law.
And because I was content, I wasn’t paying attention to the internet. Business was pretty good anyway, because I was fostering the personal relationships I had with clients and just doing my thing.
But then other troubling things began to happen. I would hear that when a big banker was referred to me by my title insurance rep for a commercial closing transaction, he “Googled” my name to vet me and dismissed me outright as a “general practice guy”. He was looking for a boutique real estate attorney. So much for my 20 years of experience in real estate law. Same thing was happening with real estate agents from other markets when they were looking for a closing attorney in North Georgia. I was nowhere to be found on the World Wide Web.
Alas, the seeds of discontent were planted and grew quickly by fall of 2016 and I couldn’t let it go. Call it ego, call it pride – call it a plain old identity crisis – I wanted clarity and focus in my name and brand. I was Not Satisfied.
So Jim and I had the tough conversations. And truthfully, my “happy law” real estate practice didn’t always mesh well with his iron-fisted injury law image, either. Something about sunglass-clad yellow house mascots (yay Clozee!) and Candy Carts don’t convey the rough and tumble courtroom brawler persona that your typical injury litigator likes to put forth. Change would be good for him, too.
2017. A busy year of secret change for Hartman-Imbriale. In the midst of blessed times for both firms, we made the bold and risky decision to blow up a name we had invested in for 18 years. But it was time. Different needs. Disparate marketing paths. Contentment may weaken your business, but satisfaction will kill it. So the pithy old adages about escaping comfort zones, moving cheese and all that; we did it. And I humbly (and boldly) believe that the two firms rising from the old will be even greater than what we left behind.
Speaking for what I have created in Hartmanlaw, you’re going to find a firm even more laser focused on customer service; on efficiency; and on fun. Our benchmark is going to be nurturing the relationships we build with our clients, new and old. We have created a logo and a Mission Statement which embodies all of that, and future posts will bring you into that journey.
So for those of you who’d want to know why we would do such a foolhardy thing and obliterate such an established firm name, now you know. Thank you for indulging me with this incredibly long post, if you’re still reading. And welcome to our new firm!