Build, Buy or Bury

You are running a business, let’s call it a legal practice, and you have a problem. You are spending too much time dealing with a small irritation. The irritation could be just about anything, but let’s say the issue is that your invoicing system doesn’t connect with your contact management system. “System” may be too strong a word for many. Essentially, when you issue an invoice for your services, the bill doesn’t automatically show up in the file where you keep other details about the same client. As a result, each time you issue a bill, you have to remember to manually place a copy in the client file, and since you forget from time to time, periodically you have to look at both your invoicing and contact systems to make sure all the information you want is where you need it.

You may not have this exact problem, but you probably have one (more likely many) small irritations on the same scale that suck your time and attention and simply become chores that you dread dealing with. So what do you do? Is there a way within the scope of your resources (time, ability, financial, etc…) to change your habits, kludge something together or develop some manner of automation to address the problem (i.e. build)? Is there an off-the-shelf or customer app or service that you could adopt to fix the problem (i.e, buy)? Or can you convince yourself that the annoyance is inconsequential or low-priority and that while you may get to it later, no harm comes from ignoring it now (i.e., bury)?

For three months this past winter I ignored an issue with my front door where pushing the plunger on the door handle didn’t always spin the internal gears quite far enough to pull the bolt fully clear of the plate on the door frame. A simple little hip-check or shoulder into the door and, voila! open door! I buried the problem. How I managed to do so for so long was a wonder considering the annoyance was a little more severe for the rest of my family, each of whom are at least 80 lbs lighter than me and thus a little more hard pressed than I to harness the physical force needed to open the door.

One evening, I relented and set about monkeying with the gears to see if I could lessen the burden for my long-suffering family. It worked…sort of…for a little while… A week later it was as if I hadn’t done a thing. A combination of my limited skills and an actual unrepairable aspect of the problem meant that my build was insufficient. I needed a pro and ultimately bought a solution. Weeks later I still marvel every time I open the door that it took me so long to do what needed to be done.

Some problems can be buried and for others, the fix can be built. But the funny thing about those circumstances where the solution must be bought, is that the buyer must be ready. The buyer need not go through the stages of burying and building to find themselves in a circumstance where they know they need to buy something, but they do have to believe that they have a problem that can be fixed by buying a solution. The first day my door stuck, if a roving locksmith waltzed up and offered to fix it, I would have turned him away because I didn’t have a problem as far as I was concerned. That realization wouldn’t come for a couple more weeks.

Returning to where we began with our business person and their irritation; until they consider that they have a problem that needs to be fixed, they are not in the market for a solution.

So with that in mind, I have a few questions for those building the next generation of legal tech.

Am I describing your market?

What can be done to help your market recognize that they have a problem you can fix?

What are you doing to be there when they are ready to buy?

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