By Nerino Petro at 21 February, 2011, 8:00 pm
During a recent trip to Atlanta, I was taken to one of it's iconic restaurants: Fat Matt's Rib Shack . In addition to serving up barbecue and comfort style side dishes, Fat Matt's also has live blues music playing every month. Our tour director for the evening was my fellow Practice Management Advisor, the State Bar of Georgia's own Natalie Kelly. Natalie took myself and several other Practice Management Advisors to Fat Matt's for some "local flavor". The barbecue was terrific as was the music of Frankie's Blues Mission. By now you're probably asking yourself what does a successful barbecue restaurant and a successful law practice have in common? Keep reading after the break and you'll find out.
When you look at Fat Matt's as you're your driving by, it doesn't look like much: it's a rather small and then non-imposing building. Other than the Fat Matt;s sign with the neon pig in the middle, there's nothing to really indicate that this is any place special. It's clearly a restaurant of some type and a bar, but nothing makes you think to yourself that its somewhere special. The same can be said for hundreds of law offices throughout Wisconsin and the United States. You know the ones, they are the ones (perhaps yours) which aren't in big modern buildings in high visibility and high traffic areas or upscale locales. don't have big flashy ads,
When you enter Fat Matt's, you're struck by the fact that it's a tiny place, with a couple of rows of tables and a menu on the wall as you walk in. Depending on the time of day, there may be a line and you'll have to wait for a table after you order your meal. When you look closer, everyone is enjoying their meal, listening to the music or talking; nobody is rushing to get out. These are folks that are comfortable with the business and the services it provides. Despite being the antithesis of large and fancy, there is a comfortable feeling to Fat Matt's.
When you order your food, they tell you upfront that they won't start your order until you've actually gotten a seat. Once you've found a spot at one of the tables, your food is quickly brought out to you by Fat Matt's staff and you can get down to enjoying some terrific barbecue and enjoying the music of local musicians. The way Fat Matt's runs its operation can serve as a model for small, successful law offices anywhere.
So, what are some of the observations I took away from Fat Matt's?
- Fat Matt's isn't being pretentious or have lots of high-priced marketing;
- They aren't in the fanciest or largest building, but the space works for their business and visitors aren't uncomfortable to be there;
- They have a brand that they've created and is unique to them;
- They deliver a terrific product that folks want at a fair price;
- They have a certain customer base they are looking to serve and don't go beyond that ( if you want fine dining and crystal water glasses you're in the wrong place ); and
- People enjoy the ancillary services (live music) they offer.
Now forget we're talking about a rib place and look at the underlying principles of the Fat Matt;s Business model; the underlying principles that make Fat Matt's a success to its customers holds true for lawyers and law offices across Wisconsin and America.
1. Appearances can be deceiving: you don't need to be in the biggest building, have the fanciest offices or even lots of space to deliver great client service and develop a loyal client base.
2. You can have a successful business without a huge marketing budget so long as you deliver pick your target audience, produce a good product and insure that your clients have a great experience.
3. You don't have to have a huge menu. Don't try to be all things to all people,but rather focus on those things that you're really good at and look for customers that want and need your product or service.
4. Deliver a great product quickly and customers will appreciate the service.
5. Create your "brand" and make it unique; think of what you would like people to think of when they think of your firm.
6. You don't have to do everything yourself or provide every legal service; Fat Matt's focus is on its food while it leaves the entertainment to the musicians that play and provide added value to its customers. As attorneys, you can't be great in every practice area so create trusted relationships with other attorneys who you can refer your clients to when they need assistance for legal problems that are best provided by someone else. These outside providers should be folks who will provide the same customer experience to your clients that you provide yourself and that you would provide to any referrals you receive in kind.
So the next time you're in Atlanta, visit Fat Matt's, have some good food, listen to some great music and decide for yourself if the Fat Matt;s business model is something you can learn from.