2008 Message From Todd: It`s My 5th Year Anniversary

I've been thinking about my five-year anniversary as a business. I've always considered June 1st of every year to be my anniversary.  And in fact on this date every year I've written several articles about it on my website. 
  • 2005 message from Todd
  • 2006 message from Todd
  • (I think I must have neglected to write in 2004 and 2007 about this topic, though last year I did write a year-end blog post: To Recap: A Miracle Year)
    2008 Message From Todd
    As I was looking back I was thinking about the  first job I ever took - as a court reporting agency -- which occurred late May of 2003. And I can remember how I actually got that job. I walked in to the offices of a pretty well-known WCAB law firm in Santa Ana, California in May of 2003. A secretary there named Fawne Wallace scheduled a job with me that very first day for later in the month. It turned out to be a non-appearance.  Still, I felt very good about it because I was now in business. I actually had a client. Previous to that I had a DBA and business cards.  You can't really say you're an “agency owner“ until you have clients, turns out.
    In the intervening years, I have realized how blessed I was to secure that initial client and a slew of others.  Things have changed though.  Gone are the days when you can merely walk in off the street to a law firm and expect to get anywhere.  Competition is fierce and there are these annoying things called “Vendor Panels“  that secretaries have to follow. 
    After five years things have gone very well, though. Half a decade has elapsed in the operation of this business. And I can say that it has only gotten sweeter over time. I've learned a whole lot about myself during this process.  I believe that we've created a very nice business model.  I believe that we have treated court reporters fairly and represented our profession ethically.  I hope to be at it for another five years (at least)!
    Things I've Learned About Running a Court Reporting Agency (a partial list)
    • Do not offer give gift card incentives
    • Do not use a reporter with an expired license
    • Get a credit line from the bank (if necessary) in order to pay vendors (court reporters, interpreters & videographers) before you've been paid as is the custom and practice of the industry at large.  (Just yesterday, in fact, I got COD'd $6007.75 from an out-of-state agency that performed a job for me.  I completely understood their position and was happy to do it.)   
    • Get the best accounts receivable system in place that you can possibly come up with.  (Be on top of this like white on rice)
    • Get your invoices out as quickly as you can after the completion of the job
    • Be prepared to occasionally go to small claims court
    • Have as much software and/or technology at your disposal as possible
    • Be aware of the nuances of the NCRA codes of ethical conduct.  (They will help you flesh out the black and white from the shades of gray)
    • Be aware of things going on within the industry
    • Go to seminars
    • Go to schools
    • Read and write about this profession as much as you can
    Have As Much Technology On Your Side As You Can
    I investigated some of the off-the-shelf solutions available out there.  Some of it is very good, however at the time that I started the business, I was broke. I started this company on a shoestring budget and have built it up from there, boot strapping it all the way.   I called it GM Funding -- grocery money funding -- in the early days.  Thus, I didn't have a lot of money to purchase any technology resources. I have had to utilize in-house and outsourced development for pieces of the technology like online calendering and websites and repositories.  Essentially, what we have now from a technology standpoint is completely our own custom solution. And I think we've actually benefited from that because from what I hear about some of the software that's available out there... it's not as flexible as it could be.
    We upload deposition notices to the system so that the court reporter can have those e-mailed to them. We upload e-transcripts, condensed transcripts, exhibits and video files to our website and provide passwords for attorneys to log in.  Basically we have stopped providing CD ROMs unless there is a special request.  Now we provide passwords to our website.  We're saving money and time as well as saving trees (so to speak). We also have implemented an online calendar so that our staff can all be informed about the same thing at the same time. And this is all stuff that we developed in-house.
    My five-year message in a nutshell: get as much technology as you can!
    Cheers to another five years!

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    Todd Olivas

    Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
    He founded TO&A in 2003.

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