I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross W. Albers, the CEO of Albers & Associates. He began his career as an attorney in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. There he prosecuted cases in the circuit and district courts of Maryland. In 2015, he started the Law Offices of Ross W. Albers as a solo practice in Carroll County, Maryland. Today, Albers & Associates is a personal and professional development company with law offices across Maryland. The firm’s attorneys practice criminal defense, estate planning, personal injury, family law, and general civil litigation.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
About two weeks before I got married, I was fired from my job at a small law firm. I came home and told my wife that I was going to start my law firm. My wife, Emily, was not thrilled because she grew up in a household where her father was a small-town attorney in Vermont. Sometimes legal bills were “paid” in exchange for snowmobile repairs. Despite her uneasiness, we were married two weeks later, and I started my firm from the dining room table of my home.
Today, Albers & Associates is a personal and professional development company that supports its employees to improve their lives, provide them happiness, and love them like family. Our attorneys, paralegals, and staff provide legal services for criminal defense, estate planning, family law, and personal injury.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Probably on day two of opening my business, I was working from home in the living room. Remember, I just got married and been fired by my job two weeks prior.
It was around 3 pm, and I poured myself a glass of wine while I worked on some files. My wife came home and said, “This is what owning your law firm is?”
It wasn’t a good look for me.
The takeaway is this: people are going to support you, as long as you are doing the things that will make you successful when you start. My wife was reminding me to get off my ass!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that helped you in your career? Can you explain it?
I’ve been listening to many audiobooks recently by Patrick Lencioni. His book, “The Five Temptations of a CEO,” will open your eyes to what it means to be a CEO and business owner. I think he helps you understand that purpose of a CEO is to drive results, hold people accountable, create organizational clarity, and encourage conflict that improves the business. All of his books are excellent, especially the ones on teamwork.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven business” is more successful in many areas. When you started your company, what was your vision, your purpose?
Like most people, when I started my law firm, I did it because I didn’t want to have a boss telling me what to do. So what happened when I opened my firm? I did all the same things I was doing for my old firm. Nothing changed. I created a job for myself. I was an employee of a business that happened to be named after me.
Eventually, I started working with a business coach, David Kelly of the Growth Solutions Team, who taught me the concept of working “on” my business and not “in” my business. He made me realize that I started a business, and it was my duty to be the leader and owner of that business, not the only employee.
So, my purpose and vision changed from not wanting a boss to wanting to be a leader of an organization that improves the personal and professional lives of its members. We happen to practice law, but we are a leadership and training company.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
“Trust the process.” I continuously remind myself that if I follow the principles I’ve learned about working “on” your business and not “in” it, then everything will be fine. Trust the process.
Thank you for all that. Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family-related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have two daughters under the age of three, and a third daughter due in August. Our children’s daycare closed once everything started shutting down. My wife and I didn’t know how we were going to be able to work full-time and take care of our children. Luckily, since daycare was closed, the teachers were available to babysit. We immediately hired a teacher to come to our house and watch the girls.
Can you share a few of the most significant work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Keeping our team motivated has been a challenge. We’re all working from home. I think it’s hard when you’re not with your colleagues to stay focused. There are many distractions at home. Also, people were worried about being laid off, too. So, we created a mantra and repeat it daily on our Zoom huddles: “The phone is going to ring. We’re going to retain new clients. We have billable work to do. We can resolve and settle cases. Continue to do what makes us successful, and the score will take care of itself.” I repeated that every day for a couple of weeks. Now, I catch my team, repeating it to each other!
Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain it?
I am staying connected with my friends and family. I find that during all of this, my friends and family are talking, texting, and video conference way more than we used to. There are a lot of great apps out there that let you play games and interact with your friend and family. Also, get out of the house! Go for a walk. Get outside.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Mergers and acquisition. One of my strategies for growth before COVID-19 was M&As. We are brining other attorneys and firms into our practice. In fact, we merged a firm with three attorneys into our practice during COVID-19. So while most people were downsizing, we expanded. I think a lot of people will finally realize that they don’t like “owning/running” a business and actually really enjoy doing the work of their business. I enjoy hiring, acquiring, and inspiring, and not practicing law. I want to build a $150M law firm and build a great company that develops people personally and professionally. There’s an opportunity for me to find people after COVID-19 who will want to be a part of that!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we will be a lot more mindful of public places and touching things. I think people will stay home when they’re sick, and their co-workers will demand that too. I don’t know if we will all wear masks going forward; I certainly hope not.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I’m focused on teamwork. Teamwork is the most potent force in any organization. If I can get all my people rowing in the same direction, then there isn’t another law firm that can compete with us. I plan to do more training on teamwork and offer my people courses to take to improve their leadership skills. The COVID-19 shutdown experience is almost like experiencing massive trauma. I’ve found that it has brought our team closer together. I think our people will look back and say, “Remember COVID-19, and how we grew our business!”
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Stay positive. Assess your team. Figure out who’s an ideal team player and who isn’t. This experience will make some people in your organization shine and others not. Rally your team around a mantra. Repeat it daily. As a leader, be vulnerable with your staff about the challenges you are facing but explain how you’re using these challenges to grow and make changes.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Dream BIG. Take ACTION. Be RELENTLESS.” We all have massive dreams when we are children, but as we get older, we let life get in the way of our thoughts. Or, maybe we still have a big dream, but we never take any action to move towards that dream. We let it just stay a dream and wishful thought. Or, maybe we start taking action, but we do it sporadically and stop after a few setbacks. I say, “Dream BIG. Take ACTION. Be RELENTLESS.” It’s something I make my daughters say before they go to bed every night. A friend made some beautiful artwork with that saying, and it hangs on their walls.
I had a dream to go out and start my law firm. In reality, I didn’t want to have a “boss.” But, along the way, I realized I started a business and not just some job for myself where I didn’t have to worry about a boss telling me what to do. When you start a business, you have a duty to be a leader and to bring other people along with you to help improve their lives, not yours.
So, why not, dream BIG, take ACTION, and be RELENTLESS.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can visit our website or connect with me on LinkedIn. Or, call my office, and lets set up a time to Zoom. I’d love to learn about your business.