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“If you want to create something bigger than yourself, if you want to create a legacy long after you’re gone… well… you have to take big risks!”

Zanes Law is an 11-year injury law firm in Southern Arizona, with a large practice in motor vehicle accidents and other injury cases. Founded in 2003, the firm is led by Doug Zanes, an Arizona injury lawyer, and (non-attorney) Entrepreneur and CEO, Claudia Zanes. Zanes Law has two offices in Tucson and two in Phoenix, and prides itself on strong community involvement.

Zanes Law Firm

BusinessInterviews.com: What’s it like to lead a law firm as an entrepreneur and CEO, instead of a lawyer?

Claudia: I imagine a law practice is just like any other business. It requires excellence and high performance in marketing, finance, processes, procedure, people, etc. For example, doctors go into medicine for their “art” – the “art of healing.” They are not taught how to run a business. They are taught and trained to care for patients. It is similar with lawyers. In most cases, lawyers love to work their art – helping people go through a complicated process. In our case, my husband willingly admits that although he is entrepreneurial, he is better at and enjoys the legal work – his art.
I, on the other hand, thrive on the business/entrepreneurial aspect. Whether it is a law firm or a pizza shop, the fundamentals are all the same. In fact, the next business I delve into and help grow may have a different “art” and because of that, I will have to learn that specific industry’s “art,” but what I am going to bring to the table – the mechanisms and strategies of success and work – those will remain just as powerful and result-producing as they are for Zanes Law.

BusinessInterviews.com: How have you managed to establish Zanes Law as a brand that’s recognized for providing the most value to your clients, no matter what their situation may be?

Claudia: It is my genuine belief (and I think most entrepreneurs and business owners alike would agree) that the most important person in the business is the client/customer and the key ingredient to retaining and gaining new clients/customers is impeccable service and product, no matter what the situation may be.

How you do that is rooted in a belief system. Sure, it can be taught and we certainly have core training that focuses on added value service and pivotal communication skills, but your people –your employees – have to believe in what they are saying and doing for your clients/customers. And that belief in your employees starts way, way back in the leadership realm.

If you have a circle, a team of leaders and management that believes, to their core, in the business, in the mission, in the values and ideologies of the company, this will be reflected and illuminated in your employees. In fact, you’ll see it reflected in their work, their communication with clients AND with one another. You’ll see it reflected in their philosophies and integrity – what they will and won’t do in the name of the company.

Let me say it another way – providing the most value to clients in every situation is a choice and when you, as a leader, demonstrate to your team that anything is possible, especially for your clients, then they too take on that mentality and execute. They see their leadership as the prime example of that added value service.

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you tell us a bit about your leadership philosophy and how it’s evolved since first starting out as an entrepreneur?

Claudia: I touched on it a little bit above but I believe a leader is someone who is first and foremost a student. A leader is someone who is surrounded by smarter people than themselves because they always have something to learn. For a long time, I believed that I had to do it all on my own, but that is simply not the truth. As a business owner, you need to know everything BUT you don’t have to do everything.

I think by doing everything on my own early on, I set myself back. I had a million reasons why I was going to do this or that on my own and truthfully, a lot of it was rooted in wanting to “stay in control.” The truth of the matter is that you stay in control and have a successful business by leveraging people around you to do the things that you don’t need to do. Get smarter people around you especially if you are a visionary and a creator (I definitely am!).
As a leader, you hire people who share your passion for creating. I communicate my vision and goals with my team, then I let them work in their brilliance, while I focus on working on mine. I trust that my team will be accountable, and I accept no excuses. Anyone on my team can come to me at any time for direction, inspiration, motivation and especially when they make mistakes. The mark of a great leader is that their team can come to them (in trust) with a mistake and know that, with hard work, integrity and a clear vision, things can be corrected and all can move forward!

BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest risk that you ever took and what did you learn from the experience?

Claudia: Honestly, the biggest risk I had to make was leaving the career I was in to join my husband to foster the growth of Zanes Law. I was a top producer at what I did, and many people won’t admit it, but trading all those years of work, the comfort of a steady paycheck and the reality that I could still elevate in my field for a new entrepreneurial quest – in a new field – well, that was a little daunting!

In fact, I would venture to say that most people who make that leap from a “career” or a “job” into working for themselves or becoming a full-time entrepreneur do so with the same questions and hesitations that I had. But I think it’s normal. We need to have a healthy level of fear and adrenaline to propel us forward and more importantly we (especially as entrepreneurs) need to EMBRACE FAILURE. Truthfully, people don’t want to hear that you failed a hundred times before getting to where you are but the reality is you will and in those failures you find massive opportunity and eventual success – IF you choose to learn from them.

It took one week to make the decision. Some people may see this as short, as others need more time to mull over the vast details of such a decision. I needed one week. I needed a week to decide that I wanted to build something with my husband that was bigger than us. If you want to create something bigger than yourself, if you want to create a legacy long after you’re gone… well… you have to take big risks!

BusinessInterviews.com: Zanes Law has been in business for 11 years and is considered to be one of the fastest growing law firms in southern Arizona. What do you attribute to your steady and impressive growth?

Claudia: Steady and impressive growth is rooted in consistency but also in innovation. Here’s what I mean – in most industries, businesses do not survive to see their fifth anniversary. In fact, 96% of businesses are extinct before their 10-year anniversary, and a large factor to this is complacency or comfortableness. The idea that “we’ve always done things this way” can become very dangerous, very quickly. Before you know it, someone’s eaten your lunch and you’re out of business.

Over the 11 years of business development that I have done, I believe that staying ahead of the curve, innovating and always keeping a pulse on your competition contributes significantly to the impressive growth that you see. To use a metaphor, I envision my team and me as a group of chemists. We are in the midst of testing, experimenting and following patterns – patterns that are working and creating success and patterns that are not. And we run these tests in various venues of the business – finances, marketing, branding, hiring, office operations, and so on. If something is working (Eureka!) we keep going, enhancing along the way.

And the secret chemical… the perfect formulation, you ask? Making sure that you have a chemist (aka an expert) dedicated to and focused on growing the profits, managing cash flow and simultaneously working on the latest marketing trends and actually implementing them.

BusinessInterviews.com: How do you plan to keep the momentum going?

Claudia: Keep laughing. Really – we are in an industry where it is (usually) not life or death. We are going to continue to do everything that I discussed above and do it better every day. Something new for anything and everything will continuously come out, and yes, we will be there to investigate and implement it but so will many others. It will be our attitude proceeding forward that will set us apart and our willingness to do small, millimeter changes, even when no one is watching. That will make all the difference.

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