Listen On

Building a High 8-Figure Firm With Tom Tona

Welcome to another engaging episode of The Founding Partner Podcast, where host Jonathan Hawkins sits down with the dynamic Tom Tona, a powerhouse in the legal field. With a knack for personal injury and healthcare recovery, Tom has built a formidable practice that fights tirelessly for the injured and the healthcare providers who treat them. This episode is a treasure trove of insights for any budding or established attorney looking to grow their practice and embrace the entrepreneurial journey.

**The Birth of a Law Firm**

Tom’s story is as inspiring as it is educational. He started in real estate law but quickly discovered that his passion and skills were better suited to personal injury law. The turning point came when a mentor encouraged him to take his cases and start his own firm. With a half bottle of scotch and a leap of faith, Tom set out on his own, and Tona Law was born.

**Growing Pains and Gains**

The journey from a solo practitioner with a laptop to a thriving law firm wasn’t an overnight success. Tom shares the importance of pushing every open file and not waiting for things to happen. His proactive approach and relentless drive to market his services were instrumental in his success. He also talks about the importance of hiring early and not being afraid to invest in the firm’s growth.

**The Power of Marketing and Processes**

Tom emphasizes the critical role of marketing in scaling a law firm. His mantra, “always be marketing,” is a reminder that visibility and client acquisition are the lifeblood of any legal practice. But he also warns that before pouring more money into marketing, it’s crucial to ensure that intake processes are efficient and effective.

**Conclusion: Lessons from a Legal Entrepreneur**

This episode is packed with actionable advice for attorneys at any stage of their career. Tom Tona’s journey from a scrappy beginner to the head of a successful law firm is a testament to what’s possible with hard work, strategic marketing, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Don’t miss out on the full story and all the golden nuggets of wisdom Tom shares. Tune in to this episode of The Founding Partner Podcast to hear more about Tom’s incredible journey and the lessons he’s learned along the way. Whether you’re an attorney looking to start your own practice or you’re seeking ways to grow your existing firm, this conversation is sure to provide valuable insights. Listen to the full episode now and take your legal practice to the next level! 

[00:00:00] Tom Tona: Time management. That’s always gonna be a number one pillar profitability. Right. James Joseph, who I think you know James as well. He is a matrimonial attorney of Long Island, but you should get him on. He’s excellent on the show. But him and I joke around, you know, when I know James since we both opened our law firms, and it was right around the same time, and we were sitting in his office one day before lunch, and I said, how do you prioritize your day?

[00:00:24] Tom Tona: Right? Because it’s all about where you prioritize your time, your focus, and your resources as a CEO of a firm. I said, how do you prioritize your day? He’s like, well, I open the calendar, I look at the climbing and I said, gimme a piece of paper. Gimme a piece of paper. I drew a dollar sign on top, and I said, that’s how I prioritize my day. And it’s never changed. If I show you my planner right now, I have three things on it. I’m looking off to the side. The first one is a dollar sign.

[00:00:52] ​[00:01:00]

[00:01:21] Jonathan Hawkins: All right. Welcome to the Founding Partner podcast. I’m Jonathan Hawkins, your host, and I’m really excited about our guest today. We’ve got Tom Tonah, who I think I originally met on LinkedIn, and then we happened to be at the same conference, and luckily we were able to get to dinner. That was a really fun dinner.

[00:01:41] Jonathan Hawkins: We had a couple other folks with us, and man, I was cracking up the whole night. But you know, that it goes to show sort of the power of LinkedIn if we hadn’t connected there, if I hadn’t been on there, if you hadn’t been on there, we would not have had that dinner and we would not be here right now.

[00:01:54] Jonathan Hawkins: But Tom, why don’t you introduce yourself?

[00:01:56] Tom Tona: Sure. Thanks for having me on, John. I really appreciate it. You [00:02:00] know, we became fast friends from LinkedIn Tom Toner have a firm out in Long Island. Two, two verticals personal injury and no-fault collection provider, healthcare recovery. And we, our tagline is always, you know, we fight for the injured and we fight for the healthcare providers that treat the injured.

[00:02:20] Tom Tona: And we’ve been doing that since 2001. So I’m glad to be here, man.

[00:02:24] Jonathan Hawkins: So tell us about your firm. How big is it? How many attorneys, how many staff, how many offices?

[00:02:28] Tom Tona: Sure. So right now we have one main office, one satellite. We’re probably gonna open another three satellites by December 31. I’m hoping to have four satellites total throughout downstate. The main office is in Iceland. We have 25 people in Iceland. We have 15 set up in the Philippines. We’ve been outsourcing certain pieces of operational stuff that law firms can outsource.

[00:02:57] Tom Tona: Since before it was in [00:03:00] Vogue, I’ve been doing it for probably over 10 years. We started with India, we transitioned to the Philippines, and we have people right now spread out throughout the country as well, you know, remote.

[00:03:10] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, I know you’ve got a, you’ve got a big operation and I know you want to grow it bigger, and that’s what I like about you. You are, you’re ambitious and you got you. You’re always trying something new. We’re gonna dig into all of that ’cause I want hear, I wanna hear about what you’ve done and what you’re doing.

[00:03:23] Tom Tona: Sure.

[00:03:24] Jonathan Hawkins: let’s go back to the beginning. So you’re a firm started in 2001. What were you doing before that?

[00:03:29] Tom Tona: Okay. So I very beginning, I’ll make it real quick ’cause it’s not all that sexy, but I thought I wanted to do real estate. I always loved the idea of investing, right? As a kid. I think you and I were joking about it the past week where I’ve been selling things since like grade school, right? I would get something like a promotional item for free.

[00:03:51] Tom Tona: I’d go to school, I’d sell it. It might be for 50 cents, it might be for a dollar. But I was a born sales guy. I graduated law school got my license in [00:04:00] ninety-four. So I’ve been doing this almost 30 years and I thought I wanted to do real estate. I went to a sole practitioner. A guy was paying me nothing.

[00:04:09] Tom Tona: When I say nothing, I mean, I. 20 grand. I was getting the guy’s dry cleaning. He would make me go get his lunch. He would make me go get his wife gifts. But why it was a gift was I got to do the lawyering. ’cause he wasn’t all that good as a lawyer, quite honestly. I did lawyering as a first year and I was winning cases for him.

[00:04:31] Tom Tona: He, I would go to court, he had no idea what he was doing. So he was doing a little bit of foreclosure. He was doing foreclosure defense, he was doing some transactional stuff. Lo and behold, I did not want to do real estate. Not that way anyway, as an investor, yeah, all day long. The minute I make a buck, I try to lock it up so I can’t spend it.

[00:04:50] Tom Tona: Right. And I do that’s my investing model is to never spend money that I could lock up in something that could make me a lot more money. So, I left that job [00:05:00] after a year. A friend of mine who was renting space in there named Herb Auger, who you’ve heard me talk about, I think, oh, actually you went to dinner with us, me, you and

[00:05:08] Jonathan Hawkins: dinner.

[00:05:09] Tom Tona: He was at dinner. Herb was renting space as a newly opened PI attorney with just him and a laptop. But we would go to lunch every day and I’d see this guy and I’d go, what the hell, man? He settles a case for 30 grand. He leaves and he’s done for the day, right? It was, but it was just him and a laptop. But we were out to lunch and he’s like, listen man, you are cut out for PI.

[00:05:29] Tom Tona: Find the job doing purse laundry. Literally a month later. Back in the day, we didn’t have job websites. We put our bar, our resume at the Bar Association and the lawyers were eating lunch there. They flipped through a book. I’m a freaking dinosaur. You laughing? That’s the way it worked. John. How old are you, John?

[00:05:47] Tom Tona: How old are you?

[00:05:48] Jonathan Hawkins: I just turned forty-eight.

[00:05:49] Tom Tona: Okay. Ah, so, so you know, you ain’t that far behind. We were working with what carbon paper. Remember carbon paper and law firms. Okay. Half the raw audience would be like, what the [00:06:00] hell is carbon paper? But anyway, so I get a call from a PI firm. There was no negotiations. They were like, we’re gonna pay you 40 grand. You wanna do PI, take it or leave it? That was the, that was my interview. And I was like can we negotiate? And the guy was like, no. And I was like, okay, I’ll take it. Because I wanted to learn PI. A week in, I get a file on my desk. I’m like, what’s this? They’re like, you’re on trial next week. I’m like, oh, okay.

[00:06:26] Tom Tona: Sure enough, I try the case. I had no idea what I was doing, but I found what I wanted to do. Right. So I spent from, when I first started with them for about five years, I tried anything they would give me. And I didn’t care about prep, I didn’t care about like I prepared, but I didn’t care that they gave it to me last minute.

[00:06:47] Tom Tona: I didn’t care if I was supposed to lose. Every time I won, I. It just reinforced that I was meant to do what I was doing. So I was doing depositions, I was doing trials. My direct report was a [00:07:00] old-school trial guy, and he said, look you’ve, I always brought in a lot of cases and I made a, I started making a lot of money very quickly.

[00:07:09] Tom Tona: ’cause I was a rainmaker, right? And I still am. So I, he pulls me aside one day, he goes, look you, I know you’re kind of the rebel in the firm and he knows, I know you got about 40 PI cases right now that are very close to either trial or settle me. I’m going back to a civil service job. I got two years left to vest a full pension and then I’m retired.

[00:07:35] Tom Tona: Right? So. And I know that you only wanna work under me. Like you don’t jive with, you know, the divorce guy or the general practice guy. So he said, go out on your own, take your files, cut us back a piece on everything, which I thought was ultimately very fair. Pay us the disbursements on the back end and I, [00:08:00] so I was like, wait, I just got fired.

[00:08:02] Tom Tona: Right? But in a nice way, I went home and at the time I was a drinker. I don’t drink now, but this was back in 2001. I drank about a half a bottle of scotch and the next day tone of law was born. Right now I don’t drink anymore, so I first wanna say that, but that kind of started the firm and I started same way everybody else did.

[00:08:21] Tom Tona: I had a laptop subletting from a law firm, and I just built it from there, I just invested in myself and the firm and built it from there.

[00:08:30] Jonathan Hawkins: You know, it’s funny, I mean, you’re a born entrepreneur obviously, so maybe it was inevitable that you were gonna do it, but you sort of needed that push. The good thing is you had what, 40, 50 files to start, so that was good,

[00:08:42] Tom Tona: Right, right, right, right. And I wasn’t an idiot. I had these things all teed up. I was always working any files. I had mine, the firm, it was all one thing. I move files, right? Like you get them ready for trial day one, you get top dollar at settlement or you try the [00:09:00] case. And I’m a big believer, like the plaintiff mindset is files don’t move themselves.

[00:09:06] Tom Tona: You gotta move these files. If you’re waiting for the defense attorney to call you, I’ll be like, oh, we’re ready for depositions. Nah, you gotta push every file that’s open. So because I had those 40 files, he was like, look man, you know what you’re doing. Don’t work for anybody else. Take your files. And then within like two weeks, I settled my first case for like 300 grand.

[00:09:27] Tom Tona: I cut them back a third of the legal fee. I thought that was fair. And. The rest was all history,

[00:09:33] Jonathan Hawkins: a good start. So you had the files did you have staff or was it just you when you went out?

[00:09:38] Tom Tona: It was me. But what I did was I kind of bootstrapped it, right? I found paralegals that wanted to work at night, make extra money. We worked out a deal and I had paralegals that were paralegaling on files because intrinsically I knew my capacity was gonna be stifled. If I’m sitting here pumping out bills of particulars if I’m there, i, you know, I always said to people when they go out on [00:10:00] their own hire quick, right?

[00:10:02] Tom Tona: Like, don’t wait till you build up the nest egg, make the hire help you build up the nest egg, right? The leverage point has to start very quickly.

[00:10:11] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s a huge issue that I see a lot. I know you do too. Attorneys are scared to hire. I don’t have the money, but they’re the, that’s what’s gonna make you the more money. And I get it. It’s a balance. You gotta get there. So you eventually hired, so how long did it take till you started really hiring and growing to where you are now?

[00:10:27] Jonathan Hawkins: Sort of take us through that progression.

[00:10:28] Tom Tona: Sure. Sorry, I just, I heard my, one of the beeps go off. I wanna shut it. I don’t know if, could you hear that on your end? Do you, did you hear, oh, okay, then I’m not gonna worry about it. How long it took me after that to make my other hires. So, pretty quickly I saw, you know, marketing leads to scaling, right?

[00:10:46] Tom Tona: And as lawyers, if you haven’t heard the mantra, always be marketed right. People come to me, they’re like, look man, I’m kind of in a jam. I’m like, market, market your stuff, [00:11:00] because marketing fixes everything, right? A lesson I learned much later, like last year was marketing is almost always the answer. But before you throw more money at marketing, make sure your intake processes are tight.

[00:11:18] Tom Tona: So I hired a killer intake person. My retainers doubled. So I’m like, man, I should have done, I should have done this years ago. How much money did I lose because I was again, afraid of a price tag, right? Fear kills dreams, man. Like, you know. So for me, it’s all a process and I go, ah, I’m not gonna count the money I might’ve made.

[00:11:39] Tom Tona: I’m gonna count the money I’m gonna make and where I’m gonna invest it in, you know, resource allocate.

[00:11:45] Jonathan Hawkins: You, you brought up a good point. You know, a lot of lawyers are thinking about opening the front door to bring in new stuff, but they forget to close the back door and it’s just flowing out the back. They don’t even realize it. So that’s really important. So. Alright, so you’ve grown your firm, you were really [00:12:00] lucky to be able to trial this case is, as a young lawyer, people don’t get that kind

[00:12:03] Tom Tona: I agree.

[00:12:04] Jonathan Hawkins: nowadays, so you’re really lucky there.

[00:12:06] Jonathan Hawkins: I assume you, you don’t try any cases anymore. What’s sort of, what’s your role in the firm nowadays?

[00:12:11] Tom Tona: So I am the CEO. I will get my hands dirty if I have to. ’cause I love the scrap, so it doesn’t matter to me. You know, I’ve done everything in the firm, right? I was the street sweeper, I was the toilet paper replacer at given times. I was never too proud to get my hands dirty. So, I made a choice about 15 years ago that I was either gonna be a trial legend or I was gonna be a pure entrepreneur, owner of a law firm and hire really great people.

[00:12:41] Tom Tona: It’s been a process because I didn’t realize the difference in lawyering between people who do litigation but have never tried a case, right? Not being in the end zone on a case. There are skill gaps that people don’t [00:13:00] realize are there unless they’ve been in that zone. So the way I prep a file is different from, you know, the ongoing debate I see on Facebook groups that we belong to Mastermind experience, or a couple of these other ones where people wanna own the business of a law firm.

[00:13:19] Tom Tona: You wanna talk about scaling, but you don’t have the foundational stuff built as a business owner. You don’t just scale, don’t talk about scaling until you’ve built the foundation rock solid. There are foundational pillars to building a law firm and don’t go into certain areas of law just for the money, right?

[00:13:37] Tom Tona: If you’re going to be a PI lawyer, you gotta build the war machine to try. The cases don’t be, and I take cases from law firms a lot where they’re trying to settle a case that’s a policy tender case of a hundred or two 50 or 300. A law firm in Queens is trying to settle it for 7,500 bucks. That’s not doing right by the client.

[00:13:58] Tom Tona: Like, so you have [00:14:00] to check your motivation for why you do this stuff. Right. And for me it’s about the clients.

[00:14:05] Jonathan Hawkins: So you mentioned the foundational pillars. I think that’s important. Can you expand on that? I mean, everybody talks about growth. They wanna scale their firm. Sometimes they get a little too far out in front of their skis, at least for your firm and your practice, what do you consider some of those foundational?

[00:14:21] Tom Tona: Sure. Time management. That’s always gonna be a number one pillar profitability. Right. James Joseph, who I think you know James as well. He is a matrimonial attorney of Long Island, but you should get him on. He’s excellent on the show. But him and I joke around, you know, when I know James since we both opened our law firms, and it was right around the same time, and we were sitting in his office one day before lunch, and I said, how do you prioritize your day?

[00:14:47] Tom Tona: Right? Because it’s all about where you prioritize your time, your focus, and your resources as a CEO of a firm. I said, how do you prioritize your day? He’s like, well, I open the calendar, I look at the climbing and I said, gimme a piece of paper. Gimme a piece of [00:15:00] paper. I drew a dollar sign on top, and I said, that’s how I prioritize my day. And it’s never changed. If I show you my planner right now, I have three things on it. I’m looking off to the side. The first one is a dollar sign. The next one is the third pillar, which is human resources, and the fourth one is marketing. Right? And then no matter how big you grow. It’s just those same core basics at a different scale, right?

[00:15:27] Tom Tona: The right people in the right seat, hr, human resources, right? I now call that culture as the CEO. My job is making sure that my culture scales with my business. I don’t want a business that makes a lot of money, but turns toxic, right?

[00:15:44] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. I want to dig into the culture part in a minute

[00:15:46] Tom Tona: yeah, anything you want, but again, so like I was born for that stuff because I love marketing.

[00:15:53] Tom Tona: I hated, I’m gonna be honest, I hated human resources, but Patrick Wilson was like, ah, you [00:16:00] just never learned it. He was brilliant in that observation. Law school doesn’t teach you any of this stuff, and your people are the business, so you can’t say you hate it. You gotta hand select the people you want on that bullet train to success with you.

[00:16:17] Tom Tona: You gotta make sure they we’re all in the same alignment, in the vision, the values, all that stuff. So I learned to really love the pain points. And because I don’t have the give up gene or the fear gene, I just always press

[00:16:36] Jonathan Hawkins: A lot of people know who you are. If they don’t, then they need to go check out your podcast. It’s what’s it, lead council, a great podcast and you do some interviews, but you also sort of lay out your playbook. I would say sort of how you do it in your firm and, you know, there have been some really good episodes you’ve put out after we’ve talked about it.

[00:16:54] Jonathan Hawkins: But like the employee onboarding system, I think you’ve got like six or seven [00:17:00] parts to that different episodes. I think that’s really good stuff, number one and number two, it’s really good that you’re putting it out there for other people to learn. I was taking notes, I handed it somebody in my office.

[00:17:10] Jonathan Hawkins: I said we gotta do some of this stuff. This stuff is

[00:17:12] Tom Tona: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome.

[00:17:14] Jonathan Hawkins: so yeah, any,

[00:17:15] Tom Tona: you for that.

[00:17:16] Jonathan Hawkins: anybody out there that hadn’t checked out your podcast, they need to and keep putting that out there. I think that’s really important. And one, I think one of your podcasts maybe you were talking about the stress, we’ll call it, of growth.

[00:17:29] Jonathan Hawkins: And you said you, you knew something was wrong because you started getting stressed again, and that’s when you knew you needed to add somebody. Tell us about that.

[00:17:37] Tom Tona: Yeah. So, again, Patrick, Wilson, Atticus you know, back in the day it was great for the fundamentals, right? They used to say all the time, you know, your practice talks to you. Your business talks to you. And I actually morph that into something completely different, which I’ll tell you in a second.

[00:17:53] Tom Tona: But I remember my first Friday I took off. Now you, dude, you’re talking to a guy. I worked seven days a week, man. And I [00:18:00] lived for that. I loved it. I worked seven days a week, but now I’m newly married. I go to the mall with my wife. The first call comes in at 11 o’clock. Something’s broke, meaning like there’s a fire in the office.

[00:18:14] Tom Tona: And I, my mindset switched. I was like, oh, my practice is talking to me right now. That frustration is my practice talking to me. And I started to look at those problems, those issues as my guideposts, right? So then I started to take off more time and I would say, listen man, don’t call me record the fire.

[00:18:37] Tom Tona: And if it’s actually really fire, call the fire department. But there ain’t shit I could do if I’m in Europe. Sorry, I don’t know if I can curse. You’ll have to bleep it out. But.

[00:18:43] Jonathan Hawkins: Go for it.

[00:18:44] Tom Tona: All right. There ain’t anything I can do If I’m in Europe anyway, call the fire department, call the insurance company and I have a I’m blessed ’cause I have a great second in command.

[00:18:54] Tom Tona: My integrator, Janira Leschek, who, I don’t care who hears it ’cause she’s never going [00:19:00] anywhere. We’ve made a blood pact basically of we’re in this to the end together. But she has been instrumental and I would say that, you know, people looking to get value out of this stuff is one of the most important hires you’ll ever make as a CEO, is that integrator second in command.

[00:19:19] Tom Tona: So whether you do an EOS, it’s an integrator, whether it’s a chief operations officer, it’s gotta be somebody that you basically, two people, one brain, and they’re executing on your vision. Right. So I was blessed because that’s Nia, right? She’s a fighter. She’s scrappy. She’s got the same disk as me. Like, so listen,

[00:19:43] Jonathan Hawkins: So, so how did you find her? I mean, it sounds, I mean, everybody wants that, but how do you find it?

[00:19:48] Tom Tona: I’ll tell you in the bathroom, I swear to you. So at the time I was renting one small office. It was maybe a thousand square feet. I carved off a section. I had my [00:20:00] person, you walked in the door and that person was my paralegal, my reception, every, she was all bundled into one, no formal training. I stuck her in there ’cause I knew nothing about hiring.

[00:20:10] Tom Tona: And she comes into my office one day and I’ll never forget it was dark out. It was like four 30. It was the winter. She said, there’s this girl in the office. I she in an office down the hall, but she was in the restroom. She was crying, but she’s a paralegal there. You keep telling me we need somebody else.

[00:20:27] Tom Tona: I was like, bring her in, we’ll hire her. She literally wipes her tears off, comes in from the bathroom. I do a quick 20 minute interview. I knew nothing about real HR at that point, and I hired her. And the rest is history. Like the kid grew up with me. She’s, you know, 20 years younger than me, 15 years younger than me.

[00:20:46] Tom Tona: And, but when I tell you, dude, that’s the secret sauce, how far you will go with your law firm is largely dependent on who your second in command is.

[00:20:58] Jonathan Hawkins: Wow. I’ve heard that from [00:21:00] others and, you know, I think you got lucky there for sure. As

[00:21:03] Tom Tona: Oh, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Which is why I will never let her leave. Yep.

[00:21:08] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. So, so back to a couple things you mentioned going away. You know, I always tell people when you go on vacation, that’s when you, that’s when you know that’s everything’s gonna break.

[00:21:17] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, two things happen, everything’s gonna break. And that’s when every client in the world starts calling in. That’s when it’s like, if you ever want to go rain, make, go on vacation. But so yeah. So, you had mentioned in one of your podcasts that I think at some point you had, I don’t know, a certain number of employees reporting to you.

[00:21:34] Jonathan Hawkins: And that’s when you knew, you’re like, there’s too much going on here. I need somebody else to create another layer. What was the number and how did you figure that out? I mean, you said it was talking to you, but how did you really get to that

[00:21:44] Tom Tona: Yeah. So again, the business talks to me, right? I always treat the business like a living, breathing thing. And I’m like, why am I so stressed? Why am I so stressed? And I feel like we had eight or nine people, [00:22:00] and I was part of Atticus at the time, and I start listening to what would be considered a podcast.

[00:22:09] Tom Tona: Now they had this audio file of an interview of when you need an office manager. And sure enough, they’re like, when you get to seven reports. You got too many reports after that. Seven people, too many. Doesn’t matter if they’re VAs, doesn’t matter if they’re in person. You cannot manage the communications.

[00:22:31] Tom Tona: It’s too complex past seven people. So I did what every other law firm owner does who knows nothing about this stuff. I said, Janira, you wanna be my office manager? ’cause she’s done everything in the office. Now again, I was blessed and I was lucky, right? Because I didn’t even realize, I never looked at her resume.

[00:22:50] Tom Tona: So she actually had a Bachelor of arts in law firm administration. I was like, oh, I didn’t even know that, right? [00:23:00] So I promote her to office manager, and now no one’s reported to me. I already start that whole paradigm of, look, I don’t need to know what’s going on, like I gotta let go with mine. Other than the legal ethics in the file, I.

[00:23:16] Tom Tona: The legal competencies in the file, which again, I was still doing all the legal work at the time. So I, the number seven comes from the US military. I believe all the studies that have been done after that determination of you cannot have more than seven direct reports and function and communicate in an efficient way.

[00:23:42] Tom Tona: And I found that to be very true. So now if I have a manager who’s handling 10 people, I actually did this recently, my no fault silo my no fault manager is a unbelievable manager. And I was like, you got 15 VAs. Do you have a VA that you love? I call ’em ITMs, international [00:24:00] team members. Other people call ’em virtual assistants.

[00:24:01] Tom Tona: I call ’em international team members because they’re part of the team for us. I said, how many ITMs do you have in the Philippines? 15? You got anybody over there you love who’s really competent? Yes. Train him to manage. The international team members, give him a team of seven, we’re gonna take you eventually, we’re gonna get you outta managing all of that.

[00:24:23] Tom Tona: Right? So that seven number, it’s pretty accurate. The stress level decreases. ’cause complexity of communication becomes so much as you add past that and it’s like a ridiculous multiplier of stress and inefficiency.

[00:24:40] ​[00:25:00]

[00:25:11] Jonathan Hawkins: So here’s another level. So you’re the CEO now, but, and maybe you know, you get in there a little bit every now and then, but you know, the transition from doing the legal work to doing both the legal work and the business to then becoming the CEO, I mean, I know personally it, it is stressful. I mean, you’re dealing with internal business stuff and then you’re dealing with judges and having to go to court and all that.

[00:25:31] Jonathan Hawkins: How did you manage that and how did you get out of sort of the day-to-Day Legal, and how long did it take you?

[00:25:38] Tom Tona: Okay. Well, I’ve been in that. CEO role right now, probably the last seven to 10 years, right? Because I, once I started hiring associates it started with reading the book E-Myth, the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. At the same time, [00:26:00] literally fortuitously, I was out to lunch with James Joseph.

[00:26:02] Tom Tona: He said, dude, you gotta take Atticus, man. They’re preaching your song right now. You gotta check it out. So I went to a weekend seminar at Atticus and boom, I hired him on the spot. So pure CEO, roughly 10 years, had a little glitch last year. Had to jump into certain part of the file handling again, realizing that was not gonna be for long.

[00:26:23] Tom Tona: That was not gonna be for long. ’cause I had to check what I wanted to be when I grew up last year, right? One, I had the vision of a trial firm. For personal injury, largely driven from crystallizing it through EOS. And I’m gonna give a shout out to Ryan McKean, who really inspired me to figure out gut check time.

[00:26:48] Tom Tona: What kind of personal injury firm do I wanna own? I came from trial work. My EOS state of the union that we did on last Friday was we’re back to [00:27:00] trial firm. And it’s been paying off already. It’s just, it’s been working and it’s getting the clients what they need, right? We have four trials pegged for trial by the end of March.

[00:27:11] Jonathan Hawkins: It is amazing. It’s amazing how that happens, right? Having a clear vision.

[00:27:15] Tom Tona: clear vision man was everything. So, and I will say like that was knowing Ryan, speaking with Ryan and hearing his story about Mikey Cruz and what he did on that trial and having that gut check himself, I. Look who are we as a law firm? And you can make a comfortable living if you’ve tried cases and you set up systems to settle them.

[00:27:37] Tom Tona: But that’s not the same as delivering what should be delivered if it’s not the right number. And as any person that owns a trial firm or trial lawyer will tell you if you’re settling every case, you’re not getting the top dollar for those clients. Right. So, just continuing down that trajectory.

[00:27:56] Tom Tona: That was the epiphany. That was the epiphany I had for what I wanted to do. But I [00:28:00] also knew it wasn’t gonna be me.

[00:28:01] Tom Tona: So that’s where I had to get real about, okay, the lawyers that are going to be in here, I need some of them that want to try cases and be on trial. Right. And now I’ve, now, I’ve now I’m hiring that very shortly.

[00:28:16] Tom Tona: Very shortly.

[00:28:16] Jonathan Hawkins: gives you the clarity so you know what you need to go find. So, okay, so here’s a question for you first. I’ll tell you what I think I know about you, and then, and it’ll lead to a question. So, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a business guy you’re a big dreamer, you’re a risk taker, but you also, you got a family, you know, you got that and you don’t want to risk at all.

[00:28:36] Jonathan Hawkins: So as you continue to grow your firm, how do you approach sort of the balancing of the risk with investing in the growth? What’s your approach to that?

[00:28:46] Tom Tona: All right. That’s an awesome question. So I have a couple of ground rules, not too many when it comes to risk versus the balancing act one. You know, I was talking to somebody, I forget who it was yesterday, and they were like, look, you gotta get [00:29:00] liquidity line of credit against your home equity. And I was like, eh.

[00:29:03] Tom Tona: Never ever. My one rule, and I don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to my approach to business, but my one rule is nobody touches my home. Right. No one gets a lien, no one gets a no. My business now is at a level where I don’t really even have to do that. But yeah I still have to personally guarantee everything, but no one’s gonna touch my home where my wife and my daughter sleep at night.

[00:29:29] Tom Tona: Right. And if they ask for that’s just a deal. That’s just off the table. I can, I’m very creative on the financial side. I can, you know, and I’m aggressive on the financial side, and I have the wherewithal from the firm at this point the cannon fodder financially, where, you know, banks only wanna deal with you and you don’t need them.

[00:29:48] Tom Tona: So when you don’t need them, that’s the time to lay the foundational stuff that you know you will need for your plans, right? So I never put my family at risk. So doing a balancing act between risk, [00:30:00] I can just tell you that I don’t really have to do a balancing act because I don’t have that fear reflex, right?

[00:30:09] Tom Tona: I don’t take stupid. Chances. I don’t say, oh, I crossed this number. I want to be 20 X that and I’m gonna put the bank on that bet. Do I make aggressive bets? Yes. My wife, who’s the accounting manager in the firm, Janira, and my other team leader, Carissa, I run everything by them to get their sign off and buy-in.

[00:30:37] Tom Tona: That does not mean like we really stretched far last year, last quarter, with risk versus reward in the vision I had and the infrastructure build out that I had invested. And it was hard for them because they don’t have the same thing as me. I still had to push the envelope. So I basically [00:31:00] said, do you trust me?

[00:31:00] Tom Tona: Do you believe in me? And what’s the worst situation, outcome? Can we manage it? And they all said yes. Trepidation and a little bit of fear. More so Janira and my wife. ’cause we created a lot. I, it was just a tremendous amount of stress for them to bear with me on the plan. Me, I was kind of in my sweet spot, I’ll be honest with you.

[00:31:22] Tom Tona: Like when you turn up that flame as high as it goes. I was walking around like everything was good, man. I was. I was like, all right man, this is where I belong. I’m that general in the war. And so I don’t know if there’s a real balance, right? When you start playing with six-figure investments in your firm, in yourself that you could take home, right?

[00:31:44] Tom Tona: You’re married, right, John, you married, okay? Your wife, I assume knows what goes on financially in your firm, okay? If you choose to allocate $250,000 to a vision bet you’re making, she doesn’t see that money come home. You could be [00:32:00] damn sure she could be like, what the hell are you thinking? Right? And you gotta say.

[00:32:06] Tom Tona: Do you wanna live? Like no one else lives in six to 12 months? Or do you wanna live safe and secure? ’cause you can’t have it both ways. You gotta be willing to say, this is a $400,000 investment. I’ve always made us nothing but money. You gotta trust me. And what’s the worst that happens? You’ve seen me do this a bajillion times.

[00:32:29] Tom Tona: You don’t think I can drag us from the ashes again, if there’s an issue where I’m not seeing something now though, to answer your question, balancing risk, I also bounce that decision off of my fractional CFO. I also bounce that decision off my accountant and I check those decisions because as you scale you, it’s higher stakes all the

[00:32:55] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s right. And you know, you wanna make bets, but you don’t want ’em to [00:33:00] be where they kill everything. So it’s an incremental bet. So I came across something some years ago, an investment guy and his philosophy about how to make a big bet. And so he says, look, you need a house that’s fully paid for.

[00:33:11] Jonathan Hawkins: So it doesn’t matter where it is, it could be anywhere in the world, but it just, it needs to be fully paid for. So, so you can go live there if you lose everything and you see you need at least one stream of income. That you can sort of rely on. Then you build a pile of assets or money that you can go make the big bets with.

[00:33:28] Jonathan Hawkins: And then I think probably part of that is you don’t bet it all on black. You know you’re gonna, you’re gonna spread it out, you know.

[00:33:33] Tom Tona: listen, I’m not stupid with money, right? So to answer your question about balancing risk, I built those revenue streams within my law firm, right? I’ll never forget where I stand. My wife tells me she’s pregnant. I’m standing in the kitchen of a rental. We were renting at the time, 15 years ago, and like a white heat warms through my body, like, oh my God, PI is good, but there’s months where PI sucks.

[00:33:59] Tom Tona: And then my [00:34:00] other vertical was born. That other vertical is that other stream of income institutional collections for healthcare providers with legal fees backed by insurance companies, paid by the insurance companies. I always get paid, I always get paid with regularity and I get paid on a thirty-day turn on anything we win.

[00:34:19] Tom Tona: Now I just gotta go out and do marketing, which I was born to do. I also built another vertical within the space of working with a mass tort firm out of Manhattan that I do marketing. I send cases we work the, you know, they work the cases for me with me, you know, so, those two verticals are those cash lines that, that financial guy’s talking about.

[00:34:44] Tom Tona: So I then take, I can be more aggressive on the one silo that I know needs it, which is the trial side personal injury. I. Right. So yeah, that’s good advice. I also don’t believe in big swings. I’ll be honest with [00:35:00] you. I believe in incremental wins, right? So yes, I took a very large investment, but when you put it in perspective of what the business produces year after year, it’s not all that scary.

[00:35:16] Tom Tona: It’s really not. ’cause I’m not stupid with money. And then, you know, the other philosophy is, and I don’t know how your financial guy would feel about it, but I tend to, any money I do take as a profit distribution or that is. The cream on the law firm, which is the, you know, the profit side.

[00:35:32] Tom Tona: If I ever take anything, a lot of it gets reinvested back in firm. But the stuff I do take, I’ve locked that up so it can’t be accessed meaning, you know, put it into real estate, put it into, you know, a real estate investment with other friends that we’ve talked about, right. So it’s not, it’s never gonna be touched even within the next five years.

[00:35:53] Tom Tona: That is my, I’m a long tail player on the financial space. So my wife has a lot of comfort [00:36:00] in that perspective. I frustrate her a lot of times ’cause I don’t like to spend money

[00:36:04] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, that, that’s good. Yeah. So, so you mentioned, so, so a couple things. I’m a big believer in niche practice areas and I like that you’ve got three, you call ’em verticals and they serve different purposes and they pay out on different timelines. You know, the PI probably nine to 12 months, maybe 18 months.

[00:36:20] Jonathan Hawkins: The no-fault collections, which I want to talk about next. Sounds like that’s monthly or pretty quick. And then the mass torts, I mean, hell, that could be

[00:36:28] Tom Tona: Five years. Five years. Yeah. Five

[00:36:31] Jonathan Hawkins: could be longer. But let’s talk about no-fault collection. I really never knew what that was until I was talking to you. So maybe explain that a little bit.

[00:36:40] Jonathan Hawkins: What is it? And then we’re gonna dive a little deeper on that. ’cause you’re doing some cool stuff there.

[00:36:45] Tom Tona: Sure. So when I had that white flash of fear about having a kid that I had to support now, a wife that I had to support, I studied my current business model and I was like, okay, I don’t know a lot about business at [00:37:00] this time, but I understand. I have a personal injury client who’s an individual. So I said, okay, this is a B2C business.

[00:37:10] Tom Tona: I then looked upstream. And said, are there upsell opportunities or profitability layers that I am not capitalizing on? And lo and behold, I go, well, I can represent one injured party, but I can represent like 30 healthcare providers that touch that injured party. And I could represent healthcare providers that do the same type of law that I knew, which was the no fault collection stuff, where other law firms have the individual, but I’ve got all the upstream, and I started with one chiropractor who had 10 files. we just crossed like 300 institutional clients and we’re doing 16,000 files this year.

[00:37:55] Jonathan Hawkins: Damn. That’s a lot of files.

[00:37:58] Tom Tona: I think, you know, [00:38:00] I think people don’t realize, like you look at your current business model, like your specialization is law firm succession plan. Right. But you’ve got a captive audience. I. You gotta look up stream.

[00:38:12] Tom Tona: They come to me for this. But what else is there? I, it’s funny ’cause before I got on the call with you, I was talking to Jeff Cunningham, who you know, right? Jeff is my ethics guy on retainer. I said to him, he goes, what do you got going on? We check in, you know, I check in with him once a month ’cause I’m very aggressive on marketing and on operation and I always want my ethics guy signing off on it.

[00:38:36] Tom Tona: And what I love about Jeff is he’s not your typical ethics guy. Every other ethics turn is like, no, that’s a standard answer. You pay a lot of money for it. Jeff is like, let’s examine the how, the why I said I have started succession planning and you know, I’m just working with the CFO now on it. He said, oh, you’re gonna work with John, right?

[00:38:55] Tom Tona: I said, of course I’m gonna work with John. He’s got a New York guy. That’s his wheelhouse. John’s getting my call [00:39:00] when it comes to the paperwork to deliver everything we finish as far as Succession planning with a partnership track, right? I want. I think that to be an A level firm, you gotta deliver beyond pay, beyond bonuses, opportunity for ownership.

[00:39:23] Tom Tona: We can’t do this forever. I take guys out to lunch all the time that are in their early forties and they’re like, ah, the old guys at the table, they won’t let us try the cases and we’re never gonna be equity till they drop dead. They’re all gonna be gone before that happens. Right? So real talent wants opportunity and I’ve built something sellable.

[00:39:42] Tom Tona: Why would I not wanna benefit everybody with that? Right.

[00:39:46] Jonathan Hawkins: You know, the other thing I’ve seen a lot of, I’m sure you have too, it’s the old guys, we’ll call it, they hang on too long. And then the aggressive second generation that really could take over, get fed up and leave. So then [00:40:00] there’s this gulf between the old guys and the young, and then that gulf just gets farther and farther and bigger.

[00:40:05] Jonathan Hawkins: And then at some point the old guys it’s hard to recruit. ’cause the people look in there and they say it’s, this is a dead end. And then it is just, it’s inevitable. It’s just gonna fall in on itself. And so it’s it’s smart. You’re starting this because if you people that wait too late, then it’s too late.

[00:40:22] Jonathan Hawkins: You can’t, you can never come back from it.

[00:40:24] Tom Tona: And you see it better than anybody, man. Like the what’s insane to me is, and I gotta say is probably greed. It’s gotta be greed that they don’t wanna let go of the big paydays they’re getting. But it’s the only sector I know of. Every other business person I know builds to sell, builds to exit. And it’s the only sector I know where guys die at their desk. I don’t understand. How archaic that thinking is. Like, I built something of value and each vertical is sectionable off, right? [00:41:00] Oh, you wanna just do pi, you don’t want the other stuff? No problem. We’ll, value pi, it’s got a value. We can work on that.

[00:41:07] Tom Tona: Right? Or you look at the whole thing as a business. Hold, listen. If the hedge fund money gets freed up to own law firms, I’m perfectly positioned for that. I’ll be calling you much sooner rather than later.

[00:41:17] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, well, let’s, okay, we’re gonna dive back to the no fault. I

[00:41:20] Tom Tona: Go ahead. Go ahead.

[00:41:21] Jonathan Hawkins: created some sort of internal proprietary software or something to help handle that. Correct. So tell me, you know, what gave you the idea to do that? Was it just you, just necessity and then how long did that take and how does that work?

[00:41:34] Tom Tona: So in terms of growth and scaling, it typically comes down to technology and people, right? You gotta have the right people and you have to have the capacity, right? So I was doing it with. Upwards of about 50 no-fall clients at the time. ’cause my marketing I’m like a savage. I go out there, I sign up for all these clients, and then I had paralegals and I was still doing all the ARBs myself, [00:42:00] but I scaled it really quick.

[00:42:02] Tom Tona: And I realized without realizing what scaling even was, I said, oh my God, I’m still on spreadsheets. My stress level is telling me this is insane. I go to the marketplace and I always say, in addition to what my old coach used to say about your business, always talking to you. The marketplace is always talking to you too.

[00:42:21] Tom Tona: You have to create the bandwidth to step outside of the stress of the, to figure out the opportunities that lay before you. Okay. I remember where I was. I was watching the Sopranos one night. I used to go home when the Sopranos was on live, but you know, once every week they would release a new episode, I would open a bottle of red wine.

[00:42:40] Tom Tona: I would have a pizza from one place, always the same routine. And I think it was on at nine o’clock. I was, I had my laptop on my lap and I was like, I can’t run this on spreadsheets anymore. I can’t run this on spreadsheets anymore. Nobody wants, this is not even risk mitigating, right? You get the wrong person, deletes this spreadsheet.

[00:42:59] Tom Tona: [00:43:00] You, you’re screwed, right? I was running them on an Excel spreadsheet. I start looking for software. I can’t find software right there in that instance. I said, all right, I gotta build it. I start calling around, I start talking to people that are in tech, and then I start fleshing out what I want. And then we started building it.

[00:43:19] Tom Tona: I just but again, I, at that point, I had the capital from the law firm to build what I needed to run and scale the law firm, right? So I built a client portal that basically encompassed everything that I knew I needed to run the no-fault silo and give clients a. 24 7 access to millions and millions of dollars in receivables that they weren’t even aware.

[00:43:44] Tom Tona: They didn’t know where they stood. So then it became a marketing tool once I went live with it. But the impetus behind it was I stayed with Chase Bank and I’m still with Chase. They’re not great on the lending side. Anybody owns a business’ will tell you they’ll never lend you what you need until you [00:44:00] don’t need it.

[00:44:00] Tom Tona: And then you need something else and they still won’t lend it to you. And I love my banker at Chase, so that’s no knock. I don’t know that she listens to this or not, but I, it’s no knock against her. But she knows, like on the lending side, they’re not really, but their software, their technology was always and still is.

[00:44:16] Tom Tona: Cutting edge. Cutting edge. That was the impetus. So I said, I want clients to see this like a bank portal you log into to see your receivables. And that was how I built it.

[00:44:27] Jonathan Hawkins: So you’ve been talking about, you know, building a firm to sell. I tell people, I tell lawyers, if you can try to build assets, the assets are where the value is. And that is it. This software is an asset that could be sellable. And I know we’ve talked offline about it before. The other thing about it that I think, and you tell me the no-fault collection, you know, it’s a high volume practice.

[00:44:50] Jonathan Hawkins: It’s probably hard to manage and it’s hard to manage at scale. And by having this asset, you’ve now created a competitive advantage. You said it was a marketing tool, but it’s also, I [00:45:00] think, a competitive advantage to move the cases quickly. Another thing I’d like to talk about with business owners, I know other people talk about it too, is you create moats around your business.

[00:45:11] Jonathan Hawkins: And in the law it’s kind of hard to do, but I, it sounds to me like you’ve done that with this software and the no-fault collections and really it’s just. Now it’s just getting more clients, which you’re good at, and just scaling the crap out of it. And then that is something, you know, again, somebody just buy it.

[00:45:30] Jonathan Hawkins: It’s a revenue stream

[00:45:31] Tom Tona: yeah. So the no fault in and of itself is a revenue stream, right? And I’m talking about, now I’ve got like built in demand for this portal, and we’re just gonna be rolling out the white labeled version of it. White labeling for everybody who doesn’t know is basically you slap your name on it.

[00:45:48] Tom Tona: Now the Hawkins Law Firm has a Hawkins portal client base, right? A client portal, right? So we’re talking about forming a new company around the portal. ’cause when it [00:46:00] was first built, it was built for the law firm. The law firm was paying to develop software. It needed to run the practice. Now I see a different future down the road for the portal.

[00:46:13] Tom Tona: Now I’ve got. You know, over a dozen law firms in Florida that I know would be on it the day we white label it. I just hung up with somebody before this call and they’re like, oh, we could either build it and spend a half a million to a million dollars in two years and possibly get it right, or we could just pay you a licensing fee.

[00:46:33] Tom Tona: So it’s kind of taken on a shape of its own at this point. Which again, you know, I’m building a session plan, but I don’t have, knowing that I have the personality to not be on the golf course at 65 and not doing some kind of wheeling and dealing. Right. So,

[00:46:49] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, the other cool thing about the software I’ll just, which it sounds like you’re already doing, is, you know, you can spin that off into its own entity, even if you don’t sell it to anybody else. It’s a, [00:47:00] it is a

[00:47:00] Tom Tona: I plan on doing. I plan on doing that.

[00:47:02] Jonathan Hawkins: And that it, I know we’ve talked a lot about non-lawyer owners, but if it’s in its own entity that’s not a law firm, you can pass that to your daughter.

[00:47:10] Jonathan Hawkins: You can go raise money, you can do whatever you want with it, raise investors, and you don’t have to worry about all those rules, and then you just license it back to your firm or whoever else.

[00:47:19] Tom Tona: And to be honest, you know, I’ve already done all that research, right? So software as a service SAS that you’re talking about, they require $5 million in sales before they’ll take you seriously, right? Because everybody thinks Hey, I have a patent. Well, if you don’t take it to market, you don’t get rich.

[00:47:36] Tom Tona: You just spend $25,000 on patenting fees. But you could say you have a piece of paper that looks fancy, you gotta monetize it, right? It’s the same thing with software. This is not bubble where they’re like, tone of law has a portal. Let’s give Tom $50 million. And Tom require, you know, I in the south of France with my wife and my daughter on a boat, on a yacht.

[00:47:56] Tom Tona: It’s not like that, right? You gotta show $5 million in [00:48:00] sales for it to be a business. But I do have that opportunity and yeah, I am gonna spin it off. I’ll give the law firm. Unlimited license, right? The unlimited license is, I built it for the law firm and I don’t want anybody looking at my no-fault silo going, well now we gotta pay for this, we gotta pay.

[00:48:19] Tom Tona: You know what I mean? Like, look, that might change. I’m not the guy that would structure, structure that deal. But I’ll always be ultimately fair. But the white label opportunity too is, yeah, this is the moat, right? No one in New York has this. No one in the country has this. So, you know, in New York, this kind of sells itself, right?

[00:48:43] Tom Tona: And the to talk about the no-fault silo a little bit more, it’s self-marketing. I don’t do SEO. I don’t have to do PPC on the no-fault. Everybody knows us. We’re a market dominant force in no-fault collections. Because of the portal and because [00:49:00] of the fact that we have systems that are so solid in how we process claims and cases.

[00:49:05] Tom Tona: Yeah, they can take look money in the bank. We have on our portal a win rate of eighty-five percent over almost 60,000 arbitration files. That’s our historical data. So I’m not promising results. I’m saying I can’t promise results, but historically, your success rates are gonna be north of this if you do X, Y, and Z.

[00:49:33] Tom Tona: Why do I know that? If you’re an orthopedic surgeon, I work with a lot of orthos. They brag to their friends about how much money they make with our office. Their friends now wanna work with us, so they call us loss. I can pull up every orthopedic client and say, oh, our success rates on orthopedics who follow our tonal law systems and methodology for collections and file structuring. ninety-five percent. So if you have a [00:50:00] hundred thousand dollars you can bank on ninety-five thousand. Here’s the way it’s gonna flow out over thirty, sixty, ninety, a hundred eighty days. Oh. And we have an average, you know, resolution time of 200 days. And they’re like, wait a minute, if I give you a million dollars, you’re telling me I’m gonna get 90 to ninety-five percent of that in under 200 days?

[00:50:19] Tom Tona: I’m like, I can’t promise it. ’cause we can’t promise you results. But I could show you what the statistics show you APIs, the data that you hear everybody

[00:50:28] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s sweet. That’s sweet that you can just pull that. I love that. That’s that’s awesome. Shifting again. So number one, really cool on the no-fault collection software that you developed and for any attorneys out there, you know, I encourage you if you can if you can figure something out like that within your practice, go for it.

[00:50:46] Jonathan Hawkins: Although it takes time and it takes money, but go for it. But shifting, you talk a lot on LinkedIn and other places about coaching and masterminds. I know you’re real active in that community and I’ve been in it too. [00:51:00] Not as long as you have, not as active as you have. And I know it’s valuable, but talk to the folks out there that may be thinking about that or maybe have never thought about it.

[00:51:08] Jonathan Hawkins: What’s your view about it?

[00:51:09] Tom Tona: So it’s funny that you just segwayed into that because I was going to say about the portal, I was part of a different group in Atticus. Their challenges were take off 175 days a year and innovate something new. I innovated the portal. That was the challenge. Right? The time off is critical to give you the space and the bandwidth.

[00:51:36] Tom Tona: So to answer your question specifically, I love when people call me up and they’re like, what do I need? I’m like, you need a coach, right? Oh, okay. When I get the money, I’m like, that’s like saying you’re gonna wait to join an exercise class until you’re skinny. You join an exercise class to get skinny. You hire a coach as early as you can afford to do that.

[00:51:59] Tom Tona: You attend [00:52:00] masterminds, right? A nominal investment, $4,000 a year gets you in the drawer in the door at John Fisher’s Mastermind. I have been to every single one for the last, I don’t know how many years. I’m missing my first one in April. ’cause I’m going to the EOS Worldwide Conference in San Diego with Janira my integrator.

[00:52:21] Tom Tona: And that’s a week long conference. Otherwise, I’d be at the John Fisher thing with Craig Goldenfarb’s back to back. So the advice for anybody is. Get a coach. Oh, you wanna wait till you get more money? Okay, get a coach anyway. Right? Four-thousand-dollars. If you can’t find $4,000 somewhere in your practice, you got bigger issues.

[00:52:42] Tom Tona: Even if that’s your last $4,000 and you don’t have to pay it all. It’s a thousand dollars a quarter. No commitment. No commitment, no contract.

[00:52:50] Jonathan Hawkins: And that’s important. I think there are, you know, there are different levels of coaches. You could spend probably 50 grand a year on all this stuff or may, there’s may, maybe stuff that’s cheaper than 4,000, but you’re [00:53:00] right, there’s no long-term commitment. Go for it. I mean, there are lower levels that you can get to that will just pull you up faster.

[00:53:08] Tom Tona: last night I saw on LinkedIn there were these two trial guys who’ve been bemoaning the cost of coaching, which I don’t necessarily agree with by the way. I think that one of the secrets that I heard somebody talk about, but I’ll repeat it here, is you have to pay to play. The world of business success, meaning you don’t get access to rooms without supporting the people in those rooms.

[00:53:31] Tom Tona: Okay? So, John Fisher’s mastermind, that guy’s not making a fortune on this stuff. He loses money probably every mastermind, but he’s brilliant ’cause he gets med mal referrals throughout the country. So if you’re in the room, don’t seek to just take, right? But pay to play, man. Pay the fee. Don’t ask for a scholarship for a thousand bucks.

[00:53:52] Tom Tona: Buy the guy’s book, he gives ’em to you for free. Go on and buy the guy’s book anyway. Right? You gotta show support for [00:54:00] the groups that just give. So going back to that, there’s a guy who started a mastermind on LinkedIn and he is only charging twenty-three bucks a month. A month. And I’m like, listen, I don’t know.

[00:54:12] Tom Tona: I don’t know how they’re gonna do that. I don’t know if it’s gonna succeed. I’ll probably one of the guys that join, ’cause I am a junkie for this stuff, but. Twenty-three bucks a month is the cost of one deli sandwich in Manhattan now, right? So like the guys that, or ladies that call me up and they’re like, what do I need to do?

[00:54:30] Tom Tona: I think I need to hire a managing attorney. I’m like, do you have an office manager? Right? And the guy’s like, no, but I need a trial attorney for listen to me. What you need to do is your first hire should be a coach to help you figure out what you need, right? You’re coming to me, A, I don’t do that stuff for free anymore.

[00:54:49] Tom Tona: I don’t have the time and B, at the level I’m at. I gotta charge you more money than some of the coaches I can refer you to. I’m not gonna take money from people if there’s a better cost-effective option, right? [00:55:00] So hire a coach, find your, and listen, go through the stuff that we put out for free on LinkedIn.

[00:55:07] Tom Tona: There’s a lot of value there, one, but two, I’ve talked about how to find the right coach. I’ve got LinkedIn posts that are literally the 3000 word max that give you the interview script on how to hire a coach. Just print it up, hire a coach, right

[00:55:22] Jonathan Hawkins: I’m with you.

[00:55:22] Tom Tona: Yeah. And I had a buddy who was, I don’t talk to anymore.

[00:55:29] Tom Tona: He had some issues, but the guy would tie me up with questions and I’d spend time answering those questions and he would ignore everything. And I just I turned to him an ass call. I’m like, you’re an asshole. You waste my time. You make me give you valuable advice that other people pay for and then you ignore it anyway, so I should charge you.

[00:55:48] Tom Tona: ’cause then you might value it differently. But I, you know, I stopped kind of dialoguing with him ’cause I was like, I can’t take this anymore. Like, it was just a chronic thing where I was like, you’re not [00:56:00] listening anyway.

[00:56:01] Jonathan Hawkins: And that’s a good point. If you pay for it, you’re more invested and you are more likely to actually do something

[00:56:07] Tom Tona: You value it. Right. You value it. I was trying to be a good friend. I.

[00:56:11] Jonathan Hawkins: So, shifting again, I know we’re getting towards the end here, but you said you, you’re an animal in marketing. I know it, I’ve seen it. I’ve heard you talk about it.

[00:56:21] Jonathan Hawkins: A lot of lawyers are scared to market. They’re scared, you know, they don’t wanna be salesy, they’re scared about this, you know, you’re not afraid to ask for business, and I like that so. What kind of advice would you give to the people out there that maybe are starting their firms or trying to get the clients, but they’re just, they just don’t know what to do.

[00:56:38] Tom Tona: So it’s kind of a complex question you’re asking, right? Because one, I think it starts with knowing yourself at the foundation of anything that’s gonna work. You have to know yourself, right? If you’re a born salesperson, then you’ll sell. You’re not worried about [00:57:00] rejection if you. Not confident in your skillset that comes across.

[00:57:05] Tom Tona: I can smell that a mile away. And so can anybody who’s pretty savvy, right? So it’s a complex question because different people like different things. So like there are introverts that like to read, but don’t like talking to people, start a book club, right? Because the whole thing about marketing at the grassroots level and marketing can be broken down into two things.

[00:57:28] Tom Tona: If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re gonna invest a lot of time. If you don’t have a lot of time, you’re gonna invest a lot of money. And some of us do both, right? Some of us do both time and money. I love marketing, so I never want to take myself outta marketing. I just hired a fractional CMO because I can’t run the silo and the vendors anymore.

[00:57:49] Tom Tona: It’s making me crazy and I don’t have the time I have to pay for that, right? So the advice I would have is in the beginning, typically money’s tight. You gotta eat every day [00:58:00] anyway. You will never meet somebody who does more meals with more people than me. Sometimes I’ll have a cup of coffee with somebody in the morning or breakfast and lunch in the afternoon.

[00:58:09] Tom Tona: I tend, I wanna have dinners at home. That’s kind of my line. I wanna be with my kid and my wife. Knowing yourself and it’s a skill. You can hire people to teach you the skill, but don’t expect people to teach it to you for free and don’t expect them to do the lifting for you. You gotta put in the time and the effort to learn how to sell.

[00:58:30] Tom Tona: If you’re not gonna learn that you are gonna have a problem in your own practice, you might as well seek out a really good job with somebody. Respects. You can put you on a track, but if you don’t wanna sell and you don’t think you have a business and you are in sales, you’re wrong.

[00:58:46] Jonathan Hawkins: And it’s, you gotta practice. You’re gonna, you’re gonna sort of suck at it. If you’ve never done it, you’re gonna suck at it at first. You just gotta, you just gotta do it and fall on your face

[00:58:54] Tom Tona: yeah.

[00:58:54] Jonathan Hawkins: just keep doing it.

[00:58:56] Tom Tona: You can’t be afraid of rejection, man. It’s just built in and there’s great books [00:59:00] out there, right? Like Grant Cardone’s book Closer’s Guide to Survival win Friends and Influence People Best marketing book out there. People miss the point of it. Marketing’s not about you. Marketing is about the person you are talking to.

[00:59:12] Tom Tona: Their pain points, all your opportunities. When I go out to lunch with somebody, I’m like, how’s business? And then I shut up, which I don’t shut up a lot, but I shut up because if I ask somebody, how’s business or how’s life? What do people love to do? They love to complain In those complaints is born business.

[00:59:32] Tom Tona: That’s how my no-fault silo got started. I was trying to hit doctors up for PI. That benefits me, that benefits the client. That does nothing for the doctors. Once I stopped doing that, and I would go out, have lunch and say, Hey doc, what’s your biggest pain point? Boom. Marketplace opportunity was born.

[00:59:52] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s gold right there, Tom. That’s gold. Yeah. Great advice. All right. Shifting again I know you’re into [01:00:00] Brazilian, Jiu-Jitsu. How’d you get into that? How long you been doing that? Tell us about that.

[01:00:04] Tom Tona: All right. So, I’ll take you way back. A lot of this stuff ties together. I was really bullied as a kid. You know, I’m five seven Weighed a hundred and twenty-five pounds when I graduated high school. And I had the mouth on me that I have now. So I got beat up a lot. I got bullied mercilessly that ties into a, I got into martial arts because of it.

[01:00:27] Tom Tona: ’cause I wanted to, I never wanted to feel fear and feeling fear when you’re about to be bullied. I went to kind of a tough high school. And so when you feel fear like that. It’s horrible. Horrible. And I feel for people that are bullied it’s like my least favorite thing that triggers me from zero to a thousand.

[01:00:46] Tom Tona: If I see somebody bullying in my office or I see somebody talking escalatingly rough in my office, I’m the guy that leaves the desk and goes and talks to them. So I got into martial arts back in high [01:01:00] school. You know, again, I was drinking. I shouldn’t have been in high school. And I got in a fight with a wrestler and I was that feeling of drowning again.

[01:01:09] Tom Tona: I was in deep water with this guy. He had me pinned. He weighed 50 pounds more than me and he just beat me mercilessly. I missed a year of school because of that beating. I had torn ligaments in my knee but I never forgot it. So I took other martial arts and it. When did I see my first UFC back in the nineties?

[01:01:27] Tom Tona: It had to be, but I never forgot that feeling of not being able to defend myself again. And so I said, I gotta take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I gotta learn the ground fight. I was, now, I was a lawyer. I was I’m fifty-five, I was thirty-eight years old. And at the time people were like, are you nuts? Like, there’s no, you’re not getting in a fight.

[01:01:46] Tom Tona: I go, you never know. You’d never know, right? I just, I never wanted to feel out of control. I go into a school, I know I’m already old for Brazilian, Jiu-Jitsu. I interviewed like five different schools and then I found my [01:02:00] instructor now and he was a hundred and twenty-five pounds, and he held me down.

[01:02:04] Tom Tona: I couldn’t get up and I was like, here’s my tuition. I’m good. Let’s go. It was also, I never, I always embraced the suck, right? Like, I wanna do hard things that I shouldn’t do to see what the results will be on the back end. Dude, I’ve had more surgeries than you can count. More beatings, more bloody noses.

[01:02:28] Tom Tona: But it, it killed my ego at a time. I needed my ego to be killed ’cause I thought I could do no wrong. And I got more from Brazilian, Jiu, Jitsu than pretty much almost anything else in my life. And I got into it. And the benefits have spilled over business-wise representation for my clients-wise, you name it, it’s been nothing but a positive experience.

[01:02:51] Tom Tona: Anybody listening to this, you’re never too old to start. And I would say that there is nothing that will change who you are like doing Jiu Jitsu. It [01:03:00] humbles people. They need to be humbled and it gives you self-confidence to the people that don’t have it. And so it is for everybody. You gotta find the right school.

[01:03:09] Tom Tona: But yeah, it was, it’s been an amazing journey. And now I’m down to like once a week ’cause I got fake hips and time is pressed. But I like this Saturday, I am training with a buddy of mine who beats me up for about two hours. And we’ve round out each other’s edges. Another black belt. I’m a black, I got my black belt in jujitsu three, four years ago.

[01:03:26] Jonathan Hawkins: Oh wow. That’s awesome. You know, the other thing, it teaches you to take a beating, get back up, all that kind of stuff. Toughness. But the other thing is the mastery element, which, you know, applies throughout life. So that that’s awesome. I know we’re going here, so you

[01:03:41] Tom Tona: about, don’t worry about me timewise, man. I carved out time. I love talking to you, so don’t worry about me. We could always cut it down to an hour later.

[01:03:47] Jonathan Hawkins: Alright, so, couple things. You know, building a firm, it’s not easy. It’s not easy, it’s fun. I like it, but it’s a lot of challenges, you know, what kind of habits did you develop to [01:04:00] be able to do what you’ve done and what you want to do?

[01:04:02] Tom Tona: Okay. Great question. And so it kind of ties into the last question you asked, right. Which was, you know, talking about jujitsu. There’s so many parallels. In all areas of life, right? What do I mean by that? I just said earlier, there are four core principles that if you revert back to those four, I don’t care if you’re just crossing six figures, seven figures, multiple seven figures or eight figures, those four principles of law, firm, building and management, time management, profitability, hr, and marketing, they don’t change, right?

[01:04:39] Tom Tona: It’s the same thing in jujitsu. So what I’ve always tried to do is embrace one of my core habits is seek to simplify where things are complex, right? There’s always a simple analysis that can be applied to the most complex problem. Sometimes it takes you a while to get there. Another [01:05:00] habit, meditation. Oh, dude, if I could recommend one thing to anybody listening to this?

[01:05:05] Tom Tona: If you’re a lawyer, if you’re a law firm owner, you wanna make millions of dollars, take up meditation. Because your brain is this wondrous thing and it will solve issues. It will change from meditation. But if you don’t give yourself that slack time with your eyes closed and train your brain’s gonna train you.

[01:05:29] Tom Tona: And your brain is a monkey. Mind. Your emotions are always gonna get the best of you. And I can give you a list of names. My arm long of people who are really talented that are on the roadside, laying like litter, for lack of a better word. ’cause they could not control their emotions, their brains, or their mindset.

[01:05:51] Tom Tona: So like you, self care is a big thing for me when it comes to habits, right? I. I have a list of [01:06:00] habits. I do almost every day. Like this morning I woke up at four-thirty. I had my coffee. I meditate right after coffee every day. It’s not negotiable. I then hit the gym in the basement. I will do the treadmill every day.

[01:06:11] Tom Tona: ’cause I worry about cardiac health. I do forty-five minutes, the minimum effective dose as recommended by studies that are done. I will then do the sauna for as long as I can, take the heat. And then every other day I lift weights for strength training. One day a week I do jiu-jitsu and I try to eat, I try to limit my caloric intake ’cause I know that’s been shown for brain health.

[01:06:35] Tom Tona: Heart health and all of that stuff. So I try to limit myself to one meal a day, one big meal a day, and then, you know, if I get a little weak, I’ll have like a protein shake or something like that. But these are habits that I build a little at a time. Right. If I could, you are asking me like, what would I recommend for people if you don’t meditate?

[01:06:56] Tom Tona: I say to people, download the Headspace app. It’s free for 30 [01:07:00] days. Okay, you download Headspace, can you do one minute? One minute with noise canceling headphones on in the dark at five in the morning? You can’t do one minute, then you don’t got discipline, right? And what happens is you start to see the magic and go, oh, I could do two.

[01:07:17] Tom Tona: Oh, I could do, I do 20 minutes a day. Now I started doing twice a day. I do 20 minutes in the morning, 15, 20 minutes in the morning, and before I go to bed, I put the Apple watch on and I do they have a breathing app and they have five minutes. I fall asleep every time like a baby. I used to have insomnia.

[01:07:34] Tom Tona: I was a chronic, like non-sleeper. So habits are these little things that you do daily and cumulatively that you wanna do. ’cause you know, in the long run it’ll have massive effect. By the way, I also do this stuff. ’cause when I look up, how do most billionaires start their day or multimillionaires start their day meditation.

[01:07:57] Tom Tona: I go, well that’s for me ’cause that’s where I wanna [01:08:00] be. Right? So the habits that I’m doing are designed for self-care. ’cause if you don’t take care of yourself you’re definitely not gonna be able to build a law firm where you have to take care of other people and you’re not gonna be able to take care of, you can’t take care of anybody effectively if you don’t take care of yourself.

[01:08:17] Jonathan Hawkins: So true. I’m not currently meditating, but I have gone through long stretches, you know, month-long stretches where I did it every day, every morning. Sort of had that routine too. And it definitely, I. Calm me down, down. It takes a little while, but after a while, even my wife was like, you just seem different.

[01:08:32] Tom Tona: And I’ll tell you too, ’cause you are a monster, right? You wanna scale. I know how hungry you are, dude, I hear it. Every podcast you do, everything you put out, you’re born to do what you’re gonna do. At some point I. To be the CEO that the company needs to scale. You gotta be the lighthouse in the storm, right?

[01:08:51] Tom Tona: So we had a highly stressful fourth quarter get on a leadership meeting. It’s an hour and a half long and I could see the look on everybody’s face. I’m like, guys, take a deep breath [01:09:00] man. ’cause I had already been meditating ’cause I fell off too. I fell off for like six months after doing it for years.

[01:09:05] Tom Tona: And that’s kind of the meditation journey, right? Get back on. Because for you to scale nationwide like you wanna do, you gotta be a different CEO. You gotta be that guy that’s unflappable in the terms of the stress that everybody else is gonna, you gonna see it on their face. You go, listen man, take a deep breath.

[01:09:24] Tom Tona: This ain’t as bad as it seems. We’re good. And when you could do that, I had three people on that leadership meeting go. Dude, thank you man. You like, you just calmed us down. I’m like, okay, can now, can you guys start meditating too? Because you guys need to be the leaders that everybody else needs to scale, right?

[01:09:39] Tom Tona: So there is that ripple effect. And I would be like, look, they’re not gonna get the best of John Hawkins if you don’t take care of that brain of yours that has this drive to be nationwide, right? So, yeah, man, get back on it.

[01:09:54] Jonathan Hawkins: All right. I’m doing it. I’m committing now. I’m committing now. We’ll check back.

[01:09:58] Tom Tona: you sent me text messages. You showed [01:10:00] me.

[01:10:00] Tom Tona: You, you’re doing it?

[01:10:01] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. Okay. So you touched on this a little bit. You’ve, throughout this podcast, now’s the time to do it. So I wanna know, what’s your vision as of today for your firm? What’s the vision for, I know you have three verticals, but describe it however you want.

[01:10:16] Jonathan Hawkins: What’s the vision?

[01:10:17] Tom Tona: Okay. It’s going to be a multi-eight figure law firm. I had originally, it’s so funny the way things shape up, but you know, you gotta dream big. Your dreams don’t scare you. Not big enough. Right? So I wake up January, 2023 and I’m like, I wanna build an eight figure law firm. Like that’s a big metric.

[01:10:36] Tom Tona: It’s a hairy, audacious goal. That’s what I’m gonna do. I know what I need to do. I write out this big long plan with my coaches. We go through all the pain points we know we’re gonna hit. So my big goal is to be multi-state MSO, multi-state operator with offices in major markets. Multi, multi eight figure law firm.

[01:10:58] Tom Tona: Right. And [01:11:00] I know we’ll get there because when we set the original vision, it was a three year window and we’re probably gonna hit it sooner than three years. That’s the magic of like the EOS planning, along with the mindset, all the culmination of that stuff. So my, my big, hairy, audacious goal is to be like the next John Morgan and Morgan, you know, with the culture that we have.

[01:11:24] Tom Tona: I watched John do what he did, and I read his books. And a lot of it was you put it into being by the repetition of saying, Hey, this is the vision man, and I wanna leave you with this. do EOS, I think you do EOS.

[01:11:39] Jonathan Hawkins: I’ve read that book probably three times. I don’t have the outside coach yet, but

[01:11:44] Tom Tona: So I highly recommend and I’m not the guy that’s disciplined enough to implement it myself, so I hired somebody but they always talk about it. I think it’s from Jim Collins, good to great, you know, right person, right seat on the bus in the same direction. And I was like, well, we’re not really a bus.

[01:11:58] Tom Tona: We’re more like the bullet train that’s [01:12:00] outta Japan. Like we move and we are moving fast. And so when I did my EOS rollout last week, we had already been on it a year. And I was like, I want you all had 20 people in the room. They thought I was crazy probably. I said, I want you to repeat after me. The train has left the station and what that means, and I got goosebumps as I said, it is this, my vision is so clear.

[01:12:23] Tom Tona: I see that destination Nothing’s getting in that way. The bullet train has left the station. What that means is, Hey John, you come in tomorrow and one of your key legal assistance is like, I am, my husband’s being relocated, moving to Florida. Okay, the trains left the station. What do we have to do to fill that seat?

[01:12:44] Tom Tona: Right? Or I had that happen to me. One of my key managers, like my husband’s relocating to Florida. I’m, I gotta give you notice, I was like, ah, we’re sending you a computer. Everything in your desk will be when you get to Florida. You are my [01:13:00] first remote employee. That was five years ago. She’s my best man, one of my best managers.

[01:13:05] Tom Tona: So I just repeat that mantra every day. Now, like, it doesn’t matter what happens in the micro, the train has left the station. If you know your destination and the windshield is clear, that vision is clear, you’re going where you wanna go. The rest of it’s not gonna stop that train.

[01:13:23] Jonathan Hawkins: I love it. I love it. Although I think eight figures may not be big enough, Tom, I

[01:13:27] Tom Tona: Well multi right? I said I wanna get to like 50 million, a hundred million. Look, I’d love to

[01:13:32] Jonathan Hawkins: hundred, what? A hundred is what? That’s nine-figure. Right.

[01:13:34] Tom Tona: Nine figures.

[01:13:36] Jonathan Hawkins: I’m seeing nine figures in your future.

[01:13:38] Tom Tona: God-willing, and the creek don’t rise, man. God willing.

[01:13:41] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this has been fun, man. I love talking to you. I love your energy. I love all the stuff you’re putting out for people that wanna find you. Tell us the best places you mentioned. You know, tell us your podcast, LinkedIn everything.

[01:13:53] Tom Tona: The podcast is lead counsel and the whole goal behind that is when we were coming up, we didn’t have [01:14:00] access to any of this stuff, any of these rooms, any of these conversations, right? Like in order for you to talk to a figure lawyer, you had to fly to their office and hopefully they would.

[01:14:08] Tom Tona: Gain you with their presence now you can just tune in on a podcast and listen to it. So that podcast is having people on that are building these mega monster firms or own them already or on their way to it. Right. And then LinkedIn, I love LinkedIn because I love the written word. I was a writer undergraduate.

[01:14:26] Tom Tona: I thought I was gonna be a famous author one day. Instead I turned into a law firm business owner. So yeah, I mean, those are the two places. Our law firm website is You can find us on there as well.

[01:14:37] Jonathan Hawkins: In your podcast. I’m gonna plug it again. I really love it. I’ve shared that with so many people, so many lawyers, so keep doing it. And thanks for coming on. It’s

[01:14:45] Tom Tona: That’s awesome, man. Thank you. Thank you. And I appreciate you having me. This has been a lot of fun.

[01:14:50] ​[01:15:00]