The Strategic Business Blog

I’m Just a Court Reporter…(who owns a firm)

Posted by Terry McGill

I'm just a court reporter - who owns a firmIt’s amazing how often this response comes up, on a national basis, when I’m speaking with a court reporting firm owner. As we have discussed in the past, owning a court reporting firm and being a court reporter are two entirely different situations. Since the vast majority of court reporting firms are owned and operated by individuals who were, and in many cases still are, court reporters, that statement becomes a very accurate depiction of what it is like for the vast majority of these owners trying to own and manage a court reporting firm. For discussion purposes, let’s look at why this dynamic exists for firm owners across the country.

Assume – Most court reporters assume that being a court reporter is all that is needed to own & manage a successful court reporting company. If you have been a successful court reporter for 15-20 years, how difficult could it be to own the firm you have worked for all these previous years, right? The short answer is very difficult! There is a further assumption that everyone around you knows what they are doing and that you, as an owner, won’t have to worry about what they are doing or how they are doing it, right? Again, the short answer is NO. Assumptions, as an owner, will usually produce negative results. The view is completely different from the owner’s seat than the view from the reporter’s seat.

As with any small business ownership, there are a number of skill sets that come into play when you are an owner that don’t have to be present when you are an employee or independent contractor doing the work or providing the service. Unfortunately, most individuals that become owners don’t realize or understand this concept until it’s too late or until there has been detrimental effects on their underlying companies.

The vast majority of small business owners believe that additional sales & marketing will solve most of their issues and in a few situations, that may be true, but, in many more situations, that is only part of the many issues they are dealing with. I absolutely agree that sales & marketing is a vital part of any ownership strategy and owners should be as proactive as possible with it in the current competitive environment. I also know from experience that sales & marketing is usually the tip of the iceberg for court reporting firm owners.

There are other issues that are causing detrimental effects for the owner and the business. The lack of ownership skill sets prevents owners from taking appropriate actions within their firms on an ongoing basis. This is a massive problem within the industry for owners. There are many other areas of concern for an owner. Some examples may be:

  • Financial Related Issues
  • Human Resource Related (Independent Contractors & Employees)
  • Operational Issues (Scheduling & Production)
  • Process & Procedural Issues
  • Sales & Marketing (Proactive vs. Reactive)
  • Outside Service Providers
  • Maximizing the Results
  • Competing in a New Environment (National & Regional Contracting)

Each one of these topics mentioned has many sub categories that will come into play for an owner on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Hopefully, you start to understand that there are a great many skill sets that will challenge most owners and their results if they are not present to the level they should be.

As we delve into these issues, it becomes apparent that there are numerous issues that owners are dealing with on a daily basis. It is easy to understand why “I’m just a court reporter” comes out most of the time. This dynamic is not unique to the court reporting industry. It exists within the small business arena, across many, many industries.

What can you do as an owner, if this describes you and your firm?

  • Look at your company from an overall comprehensive view, not just sales & marketing or some other specific issue. Everything you do will affect every other part of your company and the results it produces. It is all connected!
  • Be realistic about your skill sets as an owner. You may not have all the information or expertise needed to produce the best results.
  • Don’t assume it will improve in time, it usually won’t. It’s never too soon to address a bad situation and correct it.
  • Quit trying to manage only the symptoms of the underlying problem or issue and determine what is really at the heart of the problem or issue. If the root cause of the problem or issue is eliminated, you won’t have to spend all of your time trying to manage around the symptoms. This again, is very common with small businesses in general; owners want to fix the symptoms while ignoring the disease. If you find yourself constantly putting out fires, stop the cause of the fires instead of looking for more buckets of water.

It’s OK to be “just a court reporter”, but understand that ownership has its own set of challenges for you and be willing to address those challenges as you move forward with your companies. It would be much easier if your problems could be addressed with just a new sales & marketing program, but that isn’t realistic when the majority of the issues come from many different areas of the business. There isn’t a perfect employee, manager, business model or industry that exists, that I’m aware of, but if you and your firm can be a little better tomorrow than you were today, it’s well worth the effort as you move forward.

If you'd like to read more about the transition from court reporter to firm owner, you might be interested in the Transitioning from Court Reporting into Firm Ownership Guide. It covers why the transition is challenging and 7 steps to taking ownership and gaining better control of your court reporting firm.

If you would like to speak with us further about your specific firm's challenges, we offer a complimentary 10-20 minute consultation. Request your consultation.

Download the Transitioning from Court Reporting into Firm Ownership Guide


Terry McGill is a small business consultant and managing partner of Strategic Business Directs. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Topics: Small Business Management, Court Reporting Firm Owners, Court Reporters