RL 93: Jared Correia — Business Management: Looking at the Modern Day Lawyer Through an Entrepreneurial Lens
Release Date: 07/16/2018
In this episode, I am excited to have Jared Correia on to talk about looking at our law firms from the business aspect and how to grow them without driving ourselves insane.
Jared Correia is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, and he regularly contributes to legal publications, including his columns for Attorney at Work and Lawyerist. Jared is also the host of The Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network.
- How law school doesn't teach us to be entrepreneurial as lawyers, and how change management is hard on law firms. Jared talks on how he specifically helps lawyers to overcome that.
- How law firm managers can better focus on the business aspect when there is a constant overwhelm of new technology and financial burdens.
- The positive effects of appropriate delegation on the small law firm owner, from differentiating yourself from others and content marketing. He also talks on general time management tips.
- As a business owner, including the owner of a small law firm, you need to be able to bounce back from failure. Jared talks on how to manage that and what that looks like.
- What he does in his personal life to maintain his sanity as a business owner, and what we should adopt to help better protect ourselves from burnout.
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Jared Correia: [00:00:01] And I think a lot of what lawyers get stuck on their headspace is okay, I've got to get clients and I've got to crank out the substitive work, and I don't have time for anything else. But business management techniques are just like anything else, you just have to take the time to learn them and figure out what you're doing.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:43] Hello my friends, thanks for being with me today. In this episode, I'm delighted to have Jared Correia, he is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting. He is a former practicing attorney, and Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional, and national events, and he regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column for Attorney at Work and Lawyerist. Jared is also the host of The Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network.
[00:01:14] Before we get into the interview, if you haven't listened to the last bonus episode, go back and check it out. I shared a 6 minute guided meditation to help you work with loneliness. It's a preview for my new course, Mindful Pause. So often I hear from lawyers that they know they should practice mindfulness, but they just don't have the time. And I always tell lawyers, just start with six minutes, .1 hour. Of all the hours you dedicate to your clients, work, and others, don't you deserve to have at least .1 hour to yourself?
[00:01:45] Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you, to fit into your hectic schedule. Think of it like taking your daily vitamins to boost your well-being. Head on over to JeenaCho.com to learn more or check out the show notes. And with that, here's Jared. Jared, welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast.
Jared Correia: [00:02:01] Hey, thanks. I'm very excited to be here. And yes, make time for mindfulness everybody. So true.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:07] Also, I wanted to have Jared on the show because not only is he my coach, but my husband (who is also my law partner) also uses him. So I wanted to have you on to just share your wisdom and your knowledge with the listeners. But before we get started, why don't we just start by having you give us a 30-second introduction of who you are and what you do?
Jared Correia: [00:02:28] Yeah it's a family affair, right? So I have a business management consultant for law firms for the last ten years. I had previously worked for the State of Massachusetts, and currently I have a private firm where I help lawyers with technology, financial management, and marketing decisions, and I also have several bar associations I work with on a contract basis, and have been more regularly. And for more information you can check out my website, which is redcavelegal.com. Was that 30 seconds? I hope so.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:07] Great. So to get started, I think there's such a disconnect between what they teach you in law school and the actual practice of law, and you talk a lot about having an entrepreneurial mindset. Tell us what you mean by that, and why it is that lawyers aren't naturally entrepreneurial.
Jared Correia: [00:03:26] I should say that law school is getting better about teaching lawyers about business management, but it's still not great. And I think lawyers are just not great at business management because they were never taught it. Like if you get an MBA, you learn how to run a business. But when you're in law school, generally speaking the whole curriculum is focused on substitive legal work, and that's great to turn you into a lawyer who can practice law, but that's not great at turning you into a lawyer who can practice business. And it's a totally different mindset, to run a business than it is to work for somebody. You've got to be resilient, there's a lot of highs and lows, you got to be on top of things constantly. There's not a day where you can take an afternoon off and go on Amazon and shop for stuff; you've always got to be gunning for the next client. And you have to potentially manage other people too, which is difficult for many folks to do. And sometimes you have to do that coming right out of law school, or without a whole lot of experience doing it, and that's a really difficult part of it. The places I see lawyers falling on their faces who could be managing businesses better but are not, are the ones who don't want to take the time to learn. business management techniques. And also, taking the time to learn how to manage people. Especially if you're going to grow a law firm and the idea is to be bigger than a solo shop at one point, you really need to figure out how to leverage staff. And that's a hard thing to do.
Jeena Cho: [00:04:47] Yeah. How does one go about learning any of that stuff?
Jared Correia: [00:04:53] Well of course, you want to talk to somebody who is a really good business consultant. But outside of that, a lot of it's trial and error honestly and figuring out as you go, and trying to do as much research as possible. I think knowledge is power with a lot of this stuff, and there's information available online. So if have time to sit down and watch YouTube videos or read articles about how other people have done it, that's helpful. If you can find a mentor who's an attorney who has the kind of practice that you want to have, then that's another way to figure these things out. Sit down and talk to somebody, or go into their office for a day and see how they manage their practice.
Sit in on a staff meeting and see how that's run, ask people to show you who have successful law firms how they run the back end of their office. Do they use a case management system, do they use tasks and workflows, how do they delegate work? All that stuff can be really helpful and can be learned, it just takes some time. And I think a lot of what lawyers get stuck on in their headspace is okay I've got to get clients and I've got to crank out the substitive work, and I don't have time for anything else. But business management techniques are just like anything else, you just have to take the time to learn them and figure out what you're doing. And a lot of lawyers don't want to put in a time, they just want to be told what to do.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:05] Right. Well and law school is really good at training you to do that, just to be a follower and do what they tell you to do. And then you graduate and it's like wait, there's no more script. No one's going to give me a syllabus and a homework assignment.
Jared Correia: [00:06:18] Yeah exactly; there's no script, no syllabus. That's a good way to look at it. You have to learn by doing, and law schools have not traditionally been great at teaching people that.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:27] Yeah and also to go along with that, there is just so many frequent changes and upheavals that is inherent in starting your own business. So thoughts about how you can cope with that or just become more resilient?
Jared Correia: [00:06:42] Yeah and I'm sure this is a topic you talk about regularly and well, but that's the thing. If you've got a job, you know you're being paid every two weeks. If you have a business, it's not that way. And what law firms, especially starting law firms should think about, is that even very successful law firms have lines of credit they can borrow against. Because realistically, you could make $20 one month and $30,000 the next month. So you've got to figure out how you're going to manage those ebbs and flows of practice, and a lot of that is money-related. But the problem is, you can't let those money issues (and they're not real issues, just how a business is run) overwhelm your thinking and make bad decisions based on that. You need to be even-keeled; you need to always look at the long view. And the problem is, a lot of attorneys don't project for this type of stuff.
[00:07:35] So if you're setting up a practice and you're doing revenue projections for example, which a lot of attorneys don't do and which are relatively straight-forward to put together, you'll have a better sense of what your practice is going to make on a monthly basis, on an annual basis. And realizing that it's not going to be the same every year, every month, but you're going to consistently hit the marks hopefully, help. Because it gives you some clue as to what you're doing. You've kind of got goals, whereas otherwise you're just swimming against the tide. And that's tough to do. So I think the main issue for law firms, especially those starting out, but even law firms that have been around for a while, is beating back this idea that your doors are going to close because you have a bad month.
Everybody's had a bad month, and the likelihood is that you're going to have a good month following it up. And I hear this from entrepreneurs all the time and it's true because I have my own business as well - just when you think your business is crashing and burning, you'll get a couple client e-mails or you'll get a couple of phone calls for referrals. It almost always happens that way. And if you can weather the storm of the first one to three years, you're far more likely to be successful and your percentages of closing down that business go way, way down after that. So really it's just trying to be even-keeled, sticking to a plan, and working that plan over the course of years. And it's not going to happen overnight, which I think a lot of people think it might.
Jeena Cho: [00:08:57] Right. And also I think as you become more experienced, you start to have less of those panicked moments. Like I remember when we first started LC Law Group, the phone wouldn't ring one day and I would be like, oh my gosh we're never going to get a new client, we're going to go homeless, we'll have to shut down our business, we'll have to go back to the old law firm. And now it's like, ok there are just slower months during the year. Like winter is always a bad time for filing for bankruptcy, no one wants to go through the holidays filing for bankruptcy you know?
Jared Correia: [00:09:34] And the sooner you can get away from my thinking like, I'm going to be living under a bridge next month, the better.
Jeena Cho: [00:09:40] Yeah, exactly. And I think that's also where that mindfulness practice really comes in handy, because you start to see the errors of your own thinking and you can learn to manage all of those internal anxieties.
Jared Correia: [00:09:53] Oh absolutely. If you can stay away from the self-sabotaging behavior, it helps tremendously. And if you can focus reasonably on what the reality of the situation is, not the negativity you're throwing down on it, the better. And I agree, that mindfulness is a good way to center yourself. As you know very well, probably better than anyone.
Jeena Cho: [00:10:14] So technology.. You know, I feel like I am constantly bombarded by all of these different technology companies. And they're like, I can help you do this thing! And part of me is like, well but I don't really need that thing, what do I really need that thing for? And it just feels so overwhelming, even something like finding a practice management software. There are so many of them, and I'm sort of like do we really need one? So thoughts about how to manage the overwhelm of the available technologies out there, and how to go about smartly selecting the ones you're actually going to use, that are appropriate for your practice?
Jared Correia: [00:10:49] You're certainly not alone. Most of the people I talk to, one of their big issues is how do I choose technology? And the case management example is one that is particularly apropos, because there's probably 250-300 case management software’s out there, it's insane. There are some industry leaders of course, but there are just a lot of them. And the other thing too is that this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Legal technology is still a pretty nascent field, and there are some genres of technology that legal hasn't even really explored yet. Like there are very few legal CRM's, or customer relationship management software’s out there. I suspect there will be more.
[00:11:31] So what you're seeing is attorneys who already feel overwhelmed, with more entries into this field every day. So you really need to take your time to manage the technology and choices you make for your law firm. And this is another thing that relates to okay how do you manage your business? Well, you have to take the time to do it. A lot of attorneys will Google technology for five minutes and they're like that looks like a good product, I'll buy that. And then it's a flaming disaster, and three months later they're like this sucks and all of technology sucks, so I'm going to go back to the Stone Age and I'm going to be faxing everything. I have those conversations quite a bit as well.
[00:12:09] So I think what you want to do is not purchase the technology until you need it. And in terms of needing it, is a pain-point related to it? So let's talk about a case management software, for example. I tell people, if you want to keep your overhead low just keep a spreadsheet of your clients. Until it becomes painful for you to keep the spreadsheet for your clients. What does that mean? You find you're getting behind on administrative stuff, you find you are having trouble doing conflict checks. You find you're having trouble finding things related to client information. Once those things start to happen, you're going to get in trouble if you don't have a higher level of technology you can use. So at that point, it's good to get into a case management software.
[00:12:53] And then I'd look at three to five options and extensively vet them, including about technology and data security. Because that's an important topic for lawyers as well. So that's how I would approach it, when you feel like you are overwhelmed about a task, look for technology to solve for that task. And then if technology is not the only solution you need to use, then look for people to help you. And then you're talking about contractors or employees who can also use the technology you're now going to apply for your office generally. And the advantages like, you've got so many cloud-based software’s now. And from now until 10 years ago, you would never be able to get into a system or a case management software for less than $5,000 up front. Now you can get into a system like that for $10 a month. So the pain points can be a little less painful, because you can get into the software more quickly because the costs are flattened and predictable.
Jeena Cho: [00:13:54] I think the next big thing (aside from office management) that lawyers struggle with is marketing. And you know, I struggle with marketing and have this feeling like if I'm really good at what I do, do I really need marketing? What do you say to that?
Jared Correia: [00:14:12] Yes that's a perfect evolution, because that's a mistake a lot of lawyers make, The lawyers are always like, I went to law school and I learned to be a good lawyer who manages substitive legal work, and that should be enough, right? Like everybody should come to me. But that's not the case, because when you look at states that have high legal populations, like I'm in one in Massachusetts and you're in another California, the problem is okay you want to find a good bankruptcy attorney? Well throw a stone, there are 20. So you have to differentiate yourself from everybody else. So how do you do that? I think one of the ways you do that is you consistently talk about what you do well. And it doesn't necessarily have to be salesy, it can be very natural. Think about what your client's main issues are. So maybe you know that your clients generally come to you with three or four major problems. So write about those problems or speak about those problems. And there are so many publication methods out there now that it's really easy to engage this type of content marketing. Which is essentially advertising yourself, but also offering some free advice that is not giving away the house. What do I wear to court, how do I file bankruptcy, what type of bankruptcy should I file, that type of thing. You've got to be thinking about, what long-tail search terms are people using online to answer these questions? And you want to write for those.
[00:15:33] That could be the title of your blog post or your video. You need to repurpose as well. So that can be the title of a blog post and then you turn it into a video also. Now you get two pieces of content on two different channels, that if someone explores that topic online they're going to be able to find something that links to you and you're going to be more relevant than other people who not writing about those things. And this is different than doing a standard paperclip campaign, where people are mostly focusing on shorter phrases or single words. This is a way to get after people who ask specific questions and they're searching in places that are not necessarily Google or Bing, not that anyone really searches on Bing. But if they're on Facebook or LinkedIn, you can publish this stuff broadly. And it's free to do, it just takes a lot of sweat equity. So I guess I jumped in and answered the question about how to do this, but I think step one is you talk, speak, and write about things that are related to your practice and problems that your clients have, and then you publish those items as widely as possible.
Jeena Cho: [00:16:37] Well that gets me to this question of time management, because we have so many things that we have to do. I mean we obviously have to service our clients and do that very well, and then we also have to market and we have to be an entrepreneur and run our business. And especially when it comes to marketing. I was just reading some blog post and it was like, "Why Every Lawyer Should be on Instagram," and I was like no, I just don't think every lawyer needs to be on Instagram. So I have these conversations all the time, like how much social media should lawyers actually engage in? Because all of these things have a cost to them, right? Whether it's money or time. So thoughts how to prioritize your time so that you make space for these things that you need to do, but also figuring out what it is that you should be focusing your time on. Do you have thoughts about how to structure your day or general time management tips?
Jared Correia: [00:17:37] Just between you and me, some lawyers should definitely not be on Instagram. But that's the thing, there are so many channels now out there. There are social media channels for business people, there are social media channels that you use for family stuff which sometimes bleeds into business. There are these video platforms, there are these photo platforms. It's overwhelming. So if I go into a law firm for example, and tell a lawyer to do these 15 things, they're going to do exactly zero of those things. So I like to focus on 1 to 3 campaigns at one time. I found in my practice and personally in the work I do and the attorneys I work with, is that it's not overwhelming as long as you keep it to one to three things per quarter.
[00:18:22] So for example, what we were just talking about. So for this quarter you want to do a blog post a week, and then you want to post it to Twitter, and then you want to revise your LinkedIn profile. Alright, that's what you're doing for the next three months. That's it, don't get distracted. Don't chase another shiny object and just do those things, and then after that quarter is done see if those are still viable things that you should do, or if you want to move on. And if you want to implement those things moving forward and say you dropped one or two, pick up another two things to do for the next quarter. But I think proceeding like that is really helpful, because you don't get overwhelmed. And in terms of social media as an example, yeah there are like 50 different channels you could use. So I tell attorneys, make one your primary channel and then populate information by others. And there are these management tools for social media, for example. And I'll just tell you how I do it.
[00:19:17] So I'm very active on Twitter, have been for years. Wrote the ABA book on that subject, so that's my primary channel on social media. So I have a publication schedule for Twitter, I repurpose all my stuff through there, and then if I'm posting things on other systems like LinkedIn or Google Plus, I don't have an Instagram account yet I'm probably one of those people who shouldn't have an Instagram account. You just repurpose from the main one, and you say oh that's a cool article let me repost that to my LinkedIn. And do it that way, and then it does feel less overwhelming. And then if you've got a major publishing engine, and again Twitter is mine, I publish more frequently to that than to others. And I think that's fine as well. So pick a main channel, set up subsidiary channels, and derive the content that you're placing on your subsidiary of channels for your main channels. And I think that helps too, in terms of time-management.
Jeena Cho: [00:20:08] Yeah, and there are lots of different programs out there that will cross-post things for you. Like I use Buffer, that's what I use. And it'll post things on different schedules to all the different platforms, and I find that that just makes it a lot easier rather than to log in to LinkedIn and post it there, and then go over to Facebook and post it there.
Jared Correia: [00:20:30] Scheduling is great. And people always tell me, I'm talking to you right now and you just posted something online. And I'm like yeah, that's because I did it like three days ago. And people are still staggered by that, and I'm sure you run into the same thing. It's like, you too can schedule posts online. It's great.
Jeena Cho: [00:20:46] Yes, it is great. Or they'll be like, I thought you were on a retreat? I was on a retreat. It happens magically, automatically.
Jared Correia: [00:20:57] My time management could be better, because I'm clicking through e-mails as I'm recording your podcast and you're about to murder me. So I need to work on that a little. But that's one reason why I don't have a smartphone, because when I'm out meeting with people or I'm hanging out with my kids at the playground or whatever, I don't want to be distracted all the time. So one of the ways I combat that is I don't give myself access to those things, at certain points.
Jeena Cho: [00:21:32] Well I think in every business, as well as just in general in life, there will be obstacles and challenges and failures. How do you deal with that?
Jared Correia: [00:21:44] I try to look at the process more than the result. And I know that sounds crazy, I know most people are totally results-focused. If I have a process in place and something doesn't work out exactly the way I want it to, I'm comfortable with that because I felt like I took the time to do it right. To be able to think of things in that way, you have a notion that things not going to go perfectly every time and you're not going to have a 100% hit rate in business; it's just never going to happen. And that's okay. It's okay to step back and reassess things or not move forward on something because it wasn't working out. If you look at professional baseball, you get 3 hits out of 10 at bat you're a success. And I think for a lot of small businesses it's the same way. Once you find out what your bread and butter is, that's great and then you can experiment outside of that. But not every experiment you take is going to be successful. So I think focus on the process, focus on being thoughtful about what you're doing, and then don't just throw that failure into a bucket and be done with it. Analyze it and see what didn't work, and you never know. You could rehash it later on at a different time, tweak what you were doing a little bit, and it might be successful. Maybe you were a little bit ahead of the curve, maybe you a little bit behind the curve.
[00:23:03] But you don't know unless you take the time to analyze it. And that's fine, but it doesn't mean you stop taking swings. And eventually, if you've got the process right I think you're going to hit on results more often than not. But do take the time to analyze why something failed or why something is successful, and you can use it next time. And also, you never know. I'm very bad (or good, depending on your outlook) about taking every call or e-mail that comes into me. I always talk to somebody or respond to somebody, because you never know what's going to happen. So I think there are potentially opportunities within things that you would label failures, that might work out in the long run. Maybe you try something different, but you end up meeting a great referral source that you never would have if you had not done something like that.
[00:23:47] I think it also tracks back to business owners being comfortable taking chances. Creating a business is a real risk, especially in this economy. And just because you have one successful endeavor or one successful niche practice that's working for you doesn't necessarily mean you don't want to take risks anymore. You don't want to push the risk out of your profile, because it might cause your practice to stagnate. And that's the last thing you want.
Jeena Cho: [00:24:15] Right, yeah. And also, I'm obviously like a lot of people, risk adverse and I don't like to have failure. But I took a class on design thinking, and it really changed how I view failure. Because in design thinking, you never think about failures as like, oh this didn't work. It's always an opportunity for learning, and also an opportunity to gather data. So you take that data and you repurpose and you iterate, and come up with the next prototype. So I think if you can look at it in terms of like, I'm gathering more data and I'm just running an experiment rather than I'm a failure as a human being. Because I think that's what often happens, we internalize these "failures". So if you can adjust your thinking in terms of, oh I failed at this, now I suck at this and I'm a terrible lawyer. Like no, I ran an experiment, it didn't work. Let me gather some data so I can figure out what I can do differently next time.
Jared Correia: [00:25:16] And that's a great way to look at it. Yeah, the design thinking idea is great. I also use software terminology when I talk about this, sometimes I'll say this is my beta or this is my alpha, or this is a skunkworks project that I'm working on that nobody really knows about that I'm testing it out. And I think if you can think of it that way, that's great because software companies, design companies, they don't think of failure in the same way that business owners do, traditional business owners. And then you're completely right about this notion that people feel like, I failed at "X" part of my business or "X" experiment within my business, so I'm a terrible person and I failed my family. That happens, and the quicker you can get over that, the more you get back into running your business effectively. You can't let that drag you down for a day or an hour, because you've lost time moving on to the next thing.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:07] Yeah. What are your thoughts on helping people maintain their sanity as business owners?
Jared Correia: [00:26:15] Good question, I'm still trying to figure that out myself. I think you need an outlet. Mindfulness is a great outlet for example, and all the things associated with that, like yoga. If I could do yoga, that would be great. But I've almost died doing yoga several times, so maybe that's not what I do. Exercise good though. If you can get on a regular exercise schedule, that's helpful. If not on a daily basis, at least regularly with a system and a plan. That helps you get stress out. If you don't have a way to get your stress out, you're going to carry that over into the work, you're going to carry that over to your family, and you're not going to be particularly effective.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:54] Yeah, I think putting yourself first and caring about your own well-being is really, really important for not only being a good lawyer, but a good business owner, good family member. All of the things you do in life.
Jared Correia: [00:27:08] I also try to differentiate between work and hobbies. I think people don't necessarily do that, especially lawyers. People are always looking to gain new revenue, and I think lawyers are always thinking what's the next thing I can do that can make me money? But I think it's okay sometimes to do something that doesn't make you money, just because you enjoy doing it. I don't know if it's scrimshaw, I don't know if it's woodworking, I don't know if it's writing the great American novel. But whatever it is, take some time out to do it.
[00:27:36] And the last thing I'll say on this is, I often tell people the problem with a lot of lawyers too is they work seven days a week and they never give themselves a break. So once a week, take a day off. A full day and don't do work from midnight to midnight, and then get back after it and catch your breath. Oftentimes attorneys and small business owners don't give themselves a chance to do that.
Jeena Cho: [00:27:58] Yeah, totally. And that's a recipe for chronic stress and anxiety and burnout.
[00:28:03] Well before I ask you my final question, for the people that want to learn more about you and your work, what are some of the best places for them to do that?
Jared Correia: [00:28:15] Oh yeah. Let me say two places: I said my website before, and that's a great place to go. I have a lot of information there, it tells you everything I do. RedCaveLegal.com. And as I said, I'm also very active on Twitter. Most of the stuff I do, I'll post on there. And that's at Twitter.com/JaredCorreia. Just my name, Jared Correia. Yes, I have three vowels at the end of my name, my kids and my wife complain about it constantly. Such is my life.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:53] And all of that information will be in the show notes. And my final question to you is this: the name of this podcast is called The Resilient Lawyer, what does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?
Jared Correia: [00:29:01] Oh, that's a really good question. I think a resilient lawyer is somebody who can strike out on their own, build a practice from scratch as a solo attorney; those are the lawyers I have a lot of respect for. And you can maintain that over the course of years and not be overwhelmed by viewing themselves as potential failure or imposters, which happens a lot for lawyers. So I think a resilient lawyer is somebody runs a successful practice and has a healthy psychological profile.
Jeena Cho: [00:29:30] Great response. Thank you so much Jared for joining me today, I really appreciate it.
Jared Correia: [00:29:36] My pleasure, this was really fun. I'm glad we could do it.
Closing: [00:29:42] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you've enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It's really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we'd love to hear from you. E-mail us at email@example.com. Thanks and look forward to seeing you next week.