In 2007, Travis Luther became the rebellious face of a traditionally stodgy legal industry when he launched LawFather, a digital-media agency for trial lawyers. He attributes his decade-long success to seeking out clients who share his passion for protecting the justice system and his unabashed approach to educating consumers.
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3 Key Points:
- In order to succeed, combine what you love with value.
- Luck and timing are two great factors in one’s success.
- Don’t beat yourself up and be discouraged by failures—keep pressing on.
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Time Stamped Show Notes:
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:59] – Travis lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Summer, who is also a lawyer
- [01:15] – Up until last year, Travis was an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Metropolitan State University of Denver
- [01:40] – 2-3 years ago, Travis’ line of expertise was PPC, SEO and online marketing
- [01:50] – Travis has been helping law firms explain to consumers who they really are and what sets them apart from other law firms
- [02:03] – Travis pivoted to branding
- [02:35] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: “Great authenticity beats great marketing all the time”
- [02:42] – Most companies focus on their online reputation rather than who they really are
- [03:14] – Travis shares how one of his clients uses authenticity in an effective manner
- [04:20] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Travis has been an entrepreneur for 22 years now
- [05:46] – JLD is a firm believer in doing what you love and mixing that with 100% value
- [06:05] – Travis would always tell his students that there are several factors that determine an entrepreneur’s success
- [06:20] – There were circumstances that made Travis close his coffee shop
- [07:03] – Luck is a factor in an entrepreneur’s success, too
- [08:05] – Travis would like young entrepreneurs to remember that they need to try out all that they can
- [08:11] – Don’t beat yourself up and don’t be dissuaded by failures
- [08:18] – JLD would rather be 1 for 20 than 0 for 1
- [08:40] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Travis left Washington State, then came to Denver
- [08:45] – Travis was working as a valet at night and went to school during the day
- [08:50] – While working at a valet stand, Travis had the idea to place an advertisement on the blank side of the valet ticket
- [09:15] – Travis got Mercedes Benz as a client and he made $25K
- [09:20] – Travis got a call from the Denver Nuggets who also wanted a piece of this valet ticket advertising
- [09:45] – “Good businesses or exceptional businesses are really about 1: exceptional ideas, but also 2: exceptional opportunity”
- [09:56] – The one constant in Travis’ success is that he is the one in the unique position to make that business idea happen
- [10:23] – It’s about finding a real pain point and executing a solution to that pain point
- [11:09] – Combine great ideas and great opportunity, then use passion as something to help you see that through
- [11:30] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “Educating consumers on how the justice system is deteriorating around them”
- [12:38] – Arbitration clauses are one example of the deteriorating justice system
- [13:35] – Now is a great opportunity for companies to come up with ways to deliver their services where they respect democracy and privacy
- [14:10] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Mentors and people with the knowledge that I didn’t have”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Do not let money get in the way of your success”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “To assign my tasks to other people. To not try and do everything on my own”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Trialline.net
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock your Business Potential – it helps entrepreneurs launch their business and understand what their own value is and not to discredit that value; it’s also good for new entrepreneurs
- [16:06] – “Don’t beat yourself up over failures. If you want to be an entrepreneur, continue to push forward on the ideas you believe in”
- [16:19] – Connect with Travis via his website
John Dumas: In 2007, Travis became the rebellious face of a traditionally stodgy legal industry when he launched LawFather, a digital-media agency for trial lawyers. He attributes his decade-long success to seeking out clients who share his passion for protecting the justice system and his unabashed approach to educating consumers. Travis, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Travis: Sure. I live in Denver, Colorado, with my wife Summer, who also happens to be a lawyer and is really the reason that I started LawFather ten years ago. We’ve got two boys, eight and ten; they’re both just starting to learn to ski and snowboard, so that’s a lot of fun here in Colorado. Up until last year, I spent about four years as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Metro State University here in Denver. So, you know, in my free time, I still – I continue to lecture and mentor and write about entrepreneurship specifically for new entrepreneurs who are trying to go from zero to the $250,000 annual revenue mark.
John Dumas: Let’s get niche here. Let’s get real specific. What would you define your area of expertise in just a couple sentences?
Travis: Two or three years ago, I would have said it was SEO, PPC, and online marketing; but, you know, as those services have kind of become commodified, my expertise has really been on helping law firms explain to consumers who they really are and what helps them stand alone against other law firms when a consumer has a choice to make.
John Dumas: So would that be more of a branding thing?
Travis: It is, yeah. We really had to kind of, you know, pivot to branding.
John Dumas: You had to rebrand to branding.
Travis: We had to rebrand to branding, yeah, because, you know, there was more that had to be done for marketing for attorneys than just, like I said, those traditional PPC things. So the next question was once we get traffic to an attorney site, how do we help them stand alone against kind of the clutter of attorney advertising that we all see.
John Dumas: So within this new area of expertise, what’s something that we don’t know as entrepreneurs that we should know? And drop a value bomb.
Travis: What I say is that great authenticity beats great marketing all the time, or at least that it has been from our experience. And so I think a lot of companies, you know, whether they’re law firms or any kind of company, try and – they spend a lot of time trying to conceive of who they may portray themselves as on the internet rather than really focusing on who they are and bringing who they are to the forefront of their marketing and messaging. So that’s our goal at LawFather, is to say there’s something unique and special about you and your firm, let’s really dig deep, find out what it is, and bring that to the forefront over all other marketing.
John Dumas: Do you have an example of one of your clients using authenticity in an effective manner?
Travis: I have a great example. I went through this exercise with a client of mine who had actually been a client of mine for probably seven years. We wanted to take it to the next level and move into more of this authentic branding. And so we said, okay, let’s talk about something, you know, specific. What’s something interesting about you? And he says, oh, well, I was hit by a car six years ago and I was in the hospital for a month and rehab for a month; and I thought, you know, this is something like truly authentic about yourself where you can really connect with people who have legal issues because you can tell them that you’ve gone through this ordeal and you understand what’s going to happen and what may happen. And just the idea that that hadn’t been brought to the forefront of his messaging seemed silly to us but not to him, he just hadn’t really thought about it in those terms, you know, about personalizing who he is with his marketing.
John Dumas: Just make it real, make it authentic.
John Dumas: Be genuine, Fire Nation. So let’s talk about your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. I mean, ten years is a long time to be rocking what you’ve been rocking. There have been the ups and the downs. What’s the lowest of the low? Take us to that moment and tell us that story.
Travis: I’ve been an entrepreneur for about 21, 22 years now, and I kind of break my entrepreneurial life into two segments, the first ten years and the last ten years. So in the first ten years, I had a skateboard and snowboard shop and a couple coffee shops and a record label. And I would say that the lowest of the lows was when I closed my coffee shop. It was something that I had poured all of my time and resources into. It was a place where I arrived there at 4:30 in the morning and a lot of times left at midnight or 1 p.m. [sic]. And I lived under the concept that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life or, you know, old adages like that. So I just poured myself into doing what I loved, and it didn’t work. And it seemed like no matter what I did, there was some obstacle to my success. And so I remember the last day I was open. The owner of the building had walked in and asked me what was going on and if I had the rent, and I said I don’t and I’m not going to have it in the future and I just kind of sat alone in that big coffee shop at one table by myself just kind of pondering what the heck had I done for the last 12 months and why couldn’t I make it successful.
John Dumas: Why couldn’t you? Like what was the lesson learned? Like we always hear that follow your passion and it’s something that I actually never say alone. I’m a huge believer in knowing what you love, knowing what makes you light up inside; but at the same time, making sure that you’re mixing that 100 percent with value and a need and a pain point in this world to deliver that both passion and value. So what was missing for you? Like what is the reason that you failed?
Travis: This is something I tell my students, too, is that there are a lot of factors that determine an entrepreneur’s success, and I think as entrepreneurs we focus too much on what we did wrong outside of those other outside activities. So in my sense, I put all the blame on myself, but really, you know, as circumstances had it, I was next door to the mayor, who was a very conservative man. He didn’t like the idea of art shows or rock shows or people having cigarettes on the front patio near his business. And so, you know, there were little things that he would do to kind of mess with my ability to have a business. He would send sign enforcement people down and he’d send parking enforcement people down, you know. I mean, he wasn’t the only one. We lived in a small, conservative community, and so there was a lot of pushback that I really didn’t appreciate until years later when I was taking my own inventory of whether or not I really had what it took to be a successful entrepreneur.
John Dumas: I think it’s important to make the statement that luck is huge. I mean, luck plays an absolute factor in successes and failures of every entrepreneur. I mean, you know, Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook two years earlier or two years later, like who knows? Like that market might have been gone if he launched it two years too late. Somebody else might have taken his place. Or two years too early, we might not have been ready for it. We might have still been stuck on Myspace. I mean, I know for a fact that if I launch the exact same show, EOFire, at my skill level of 2012 in 2017, this show fails. I mean, luck, timing, these things absolutely play a factor. So that’s a big takeaway that I want you, Fire Nation, taking away is that, you know, it’s not always some concrete reason; sometimes it’s just a combination of a lot of things, why things both succeed and/or fail. So, Travis, what do you want to make sure our listeners get, that one clear lesson?
Travis: Well, from there, it’s just as you said. I mean, I would hate to see a young entrepreneur not have immediate success. And even though they have that fire within them, they stop pursuing those things that they love because they hadn’t been able to turn them into dollar signs. Just remember you’ve got to try a lot of things, and all those things have to line up under the right circumstances. So don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be dissuaded by a few failures, and continue to march forward if being an entrepreneur is what you truly want to do.
John Dumas: I would rather be 1 for 20 than zero for 1, I’ll tell you that, any day of the week.
Travis: No doubt, no doubt.
John Dumas: Let’s talk about an ah-ha moment, Travis. Tell us one of your greatest ideas that you’ve had to date and kind of walk us through how you had that idea first and then how you turned it into a success.
Travis: Yeah. You know, I’ll go back to that comment I made about the first ten years and the last ten years. I left Washington State and came to Denver, and I was working nights as a valet and I was going to school during the day. And one night while I was working at the valet stand, I got the idea to sell advertising on the blank side of the valet tickets. And I kind of approached the owner of my valet company, and he said, well, that’s a great idea, but it’s not going to work. I said, well, if you don’t think it’s going to work, do you mind if I pursue it? And he said, no; and I said, do you mind if I get all the other valet companies on board? And he said, no, go ahead; if it gets me free tickets, go for it. And so I remember putting all of that together. I got one client, Mercedes-Benz. The same was about $2500, and then I get a call from the Denver Nuggets. And Denver Nuggets want to do a big valet ticket advertising program.
And I remember sitting in the office thinking about my price and my structure and everything that I needed to do to make this work. And long story short, I came out of that with a commission probably larger than any salary I’d made in a year or two previous to that. And my ah-ha moment was that good businesses or exceptional businesses are really about, one, exceptional ideas, but also, two, exceptional opportunity. And so what I found throughout my entrepreneur career is the one constant in my successes has been that I was really the one in the unique position to make that business happen. And the other things that I had done, I wasn’t necessarily the right person to be doing it. But in the valet company and LawFather and my other companies, I’ve come to combine my unique position with my exceptional ideas.
John Dumas: One of the things that I would say to that that pops up as far as a quote is find a real pain point, Fire Nation. Execute an amazing solution to that pain point, and people will find you. Like Travis didn’t go knocking on the Nuggets’ door; they found him because he had a great idea. Well, he had, number one, a really good idea, he found that real pain point that multiple companies/people had, and he provided a solution he was able to execute upon and people found him. So follow that recipe, and it could lead to success. And Travis, that’s my big takeaway from your ah-ha moment. What’s the one thing you want to make sure our listeners get?
Travis: I want to just make sure that they understand that, going back to some previous comments, while we said that follow-your-folly idea is sometimes a mistake, that to make sure you’re combining great ideas and great opportunity. And then use the passion as something to help you see that through, but not necessarily to be the cornerstone of a business. That doesn’t always equal success.
John Dumas: Travis, let’s talk about today. I mean, you and I are rapping in 2017. What’s got you fired up right now? Like what gets you up in the morning excited to tackle the day?
Travis: You know, what gets me fired up is really like educating consumers on how the justice system is deteriorating around them. I don’t think that they understand that or appreciate it. And so I feel very fortunate in my business to be able to connect the law to consumers. Most people only need an attorney maybe once or twice in their lives, and I feel really excited to be able to provide them a good experience with the law when that time comes. And so, you know, I’m fired up about, like I said, helping attorneys be authentic, connecting consumers to people who can really help them, and, in that, making sure that people realize that, you know, the justice system is kind of their last protection and that it’s important and that it’s okay to take advantage of it. I don’t mean that in a mean sense, but if you have a dispute about something, it’s okay to enter into the justice system to try and get it rectified and not to have all of these bad feelings or bad connotations about attorneys. It’s just not necessary.
John Dumas: So what are some actual ways that the justice system has deteriorated? Like give me some real examples that you’ve seen firsthand.
Travis: Arbitration clauses would be one huge example. You know, it’s almost impossible for a consumer to enter into an agreement for a cell phone, for lawn care, for a dental procedure without being auto-opted into an arbitration clause, which basically says, hey, you’re agreeing to put a brick wall in front of your opportunity for justice in the court system; you’re going to agree to a mediation, you’re going to agree to it on our terms. And that puts consumers at a huge disadvantage, and I think they just – they lack an understanding of what they’re giving up when they hit “I agree” on a 27-page document.
John Dumas: I think one of my questions is like what’s the alternative? Like what’s the alternative to that? Because if we don’t click “I agree,” you know, that 19-year-old behind the Verizon counter is like, all right, bye.
Travis: That’s right. And I think this is a great opportunity for companies who can come up with ways to deliver services in which they respect democracy and they respect privacy. That’s the other big one. I think that this is the time for companies to come up and provide that value solution to address that pain point and to be able to really grow a strong following and a strong business base.
John Dumas: Fire Nation, if you think Travis has been dropping some value bombs now, just wait for the lightning round, after we thank our sponsors.
Travis, are you ready to rock the lightning round?
Travis: I am. Let’s do it.
John Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Travis: You know, there was nothing ever holding me back, but I think what was holding me back from becoming a successful entrepreneur were mentors and people with the knowledge that I didn’t have. And I think when I started connecting with those people as well, I became a successful entrepreneur.
John Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Travis: Do not let money get in the way of your success. If you need something, if you truly need it, a computer, a phone, or a truck, find a way to go get it.
John Dumas: That’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Travis: My number one personal habit that contributes to my success is to assign my tasks to other people, to not try and do everything on my own.
John Dumas: Can you share an internet resource, like an Evernote, with Fire Nation?
Travis: Well, what I’m really hot on right now is a program called Trial Line, trialline.net. It is a timeline tool for like storytellers, and it also has a dynamic CV function in it. So you can kind of create an online interactive portfolio of work that you’ve done and share it. So that’s my resource for the moment.
John Dumas: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Travis: Well, it would be this book by Greg Crabtree called Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits: 4 Keys to Unlock your Business Potential. It really helps entrepreneurs frame launching their business in terms of understanding what their own value is and being sure not to discredit their value. And it’s really good for entrepreneurs who have never been in business before and who are just starting, because it gives you some really great axioms to build from.
John Dumas: Let’s end today on Fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Travis: My parting piece of guidance is, again, don’t beat yourself up over failures. If you want to be an entrepreneur, continue to push forward on those ideas that you believe in; just make sure that you’re the best person in the best position to execute on them. I would say if anyone wants to stay in touch with me, my website and blog is at travisluther.com, and you can see my entrepreneurial writing there and also follow up with the contact form.
John Dumas: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with TL and JLD today, so keep up the heat. And head over to EOFire.com. Just type Travis in the search bar; his show page is going to pop up with everything we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore, and of course head directly over to travisluther.com. Travis, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Travis: Thanks, John.
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