I am CEO

Founder Highlights the Importance of Building a Successful Business Culture

Full Episode from I AM CEO Podcast - IAM1973

In this episode, Michael McCready shares his experience as a lawyer and CEO of McCready Law, his approach to running a law firm like a business, the importance of creating a positive work culture, and the value of mentoring and training.

Gresh and Michael also talk about the use of technology to make business processes more efficient and the significance of understanding oneself as a leader. The interview emphasizes the idea that being a CEO is not just about individual success, but also about taking care of and empowering the team.

One of the key aspects that sets McCready Law apart is the emphasis on creating a positive company culture. Michael believes that lawyers should not be seen as stuffy or condescending, but as approachable individuals who understand the human aspect of the legal profession.

Michael McCready's journey as a CEO highlights the importance of building a successful business culture. By running his law firm like a business, focusing on creating an engaging company culture, and emphasizing mentorship and training, McCready Law has become a thriving practice. Balancing business principles with the practice of law and leveraging technology has allowed McCready Law to deliver exceptional service to its clients while building a passionate and dedicated team.

Aspiring entrepreneurs and CEOs can learn valuable lessons from Michael McCready's approach to building a successful business. By prioritizing company culture, embracing mentorship, offering training opportunities, and leveraging technology, any business can create a positive work environment, attract top talent, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

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Full Interview:


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Michael McCready Teaser 00:00

We take our cases very seriously, but we don't take ourselves so seriously, right? We want people to understand that we're humans as well, and it allows us to be able to be very empathetic to our client's situations.

Intro 00:16

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:43

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Michael McCready.

Michael, excited to have you on the show.

Michael McCready 00:51

Great. Thanks for having me, Gresh. Looking forward to it.

Gresham Harkless 00:53

Yes, absolutely. You're doing so many phenomenal things. So what I want to do is just read a little bit more about Michael so you can hear about some of those awesome things before we jump right into the interview.

A prominent lawyer throughout Illinois and Indiana, Michael has over 30 years of legal experience and is the Founder and Managing Partner of McCready Law. From a very young age, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer who supported everyday people rather than large corporations to help make a difference in the world.

Under his leadership, Michael has grown his thriving practice to over 50 employees in four offices, recovering more than a hundred million dollars for clients involved in auto work and personal injuries. He also serves as a mentor to younger attorneys while also prioritizing community involvement and philanthropic efforts.

The thing I love about Michael is we talked a little bit, he likes backgammon and also wine as well, too. If I got that correct, Michael. But I think whenever you're able to kind of balance really doing a lot of great work, but also being able to get back and make an impact, that's truly where I think you reach an incredible spot.

So Michael's super excited about all the awesome things you doing. Even more excited to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Michael McCready 01:55

Yeah. Thanks again, Gresh.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 01:56

Absolutely. To try to kick everything off, I wanted to hear a little bit more on what I like to call your CEO story. We'll let you get started with all the awesome work you're working on.

Michael McCready 02:03

Yeah. You know what? Being a lawyer you don't really associate that with CEO. Okay CEOs are small businesses or multinational corporations, but a law firm is a business. Historically, it's been a profession, right? The profession of practicing law. But what I've really gravitated towards in the last, say, 10-plus years is running my law firm like a business.

Yes, clients are paramount and we owe our loyalties to our clients and we do the best thing that we can for them. But you know what? If a law firm is not profitable, you can't represent clients. The way to become profitable is to run your business on basic business principles, which require call it a CEO or leader. That's really what I focused on over the last 10-plus years.

Gresham Harkless 02:50

Nice. I absolutely love that. And so I want to drill down a little bit more, hear a little bit more on how you're serving and working with your clients.

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Can you take us through like how exactly you're doing that and making that impact?

Michael McCready 02:59

Sure. So, when I started first and foremost, you have to be a good lawyer, right? You have to know what you're doing, but then beyond that, start learning how to run a small business, start thinking about marketing and each of these stages I've gone through with my law firm. But recently now, it's grown. My job as managing partner is to create that culture and create those values and create the alignment of everybody in the firm sound familiar.

That's what CEOs do, but that's typically not what lawyers do. Lawyers get bogged down in the trenches and as a result, they don't have firms that continue to grow and succeed. So that's been my focus is to make sure that I create an environment and a culture that encourages everyone from the person who the receptionist who answers the phone all the way up to my senior trial lawyers.

Gresham Harkless 03:51

Yeah. That's absolutely huge. So I love that you focused on that and you understood how important that is very early on.

Do you feel like that's part of what I like to call your secret sauce? This could be for yourself, your organization or a combination of both. But is it your ability to understand I guess the difference between building a business and building and being a great lawyer and how to combine those two and make an impact.

Do you think that's part of your secret sauce?

Michael McCready 04:16

Yeah, so there's an expression you want to spend more time on your business and not in your business, and yeah, there are things that need to be done, the work needs to be done, but the more that you can focus on your practice or on your business, the better off you're going to be.

Gresham Harkless 04:31

Yeah, absolutely. I marvel at the way you've been able to understand and do that. I know when I read your bio, you've mentored a lot of younger attorneys that were not maybe as for longer trying to get started. Do you feel like that's a lot of what you're imparting on them, just to make sure that they understand those things to be able to grow and scale?

Michael McCready 04:48

So one of our firm values, values are important mission, vision and values. You gotta have them. They will develop organically, but that's a different discussion. But one of our values is mentoring and training and not just within, right? Of course, we take an active role in training the attorneys at our firm, but it's also giving back to other attorneys, teaching them how to be a good attorney and what a good attorney means.

From my firm, a good attorney is someone who's well rounded but somebody who sits behind the desk 80 hours a week. No, we encourage them to get involved in the community. We encourage them to get involved in bar associations and those kind of things. We encourage them to get out and teach and train themselves.

So that's so ingrained in our culture. That everyone who is part of the firm understands that, and that's one of their expectations. That started with me at the top. Any CEO, it's got to start with you. If you don't back up what you're saying and do it yourself, then how do you expect people to follow you?

Gresham Harkless 05:52

Yeah, absolutely. We so often forget, like in terms of being a really great leader is a lot of times what you do and you know how you create that environment for so many people.

Do you feel like by having that as a strong value within your organization, has that really led to some of the success that you all have had?

Michael McCready 06:08

Yeah, I would agree with that statement. When we're looking at recruiting anybody for the team, whether it's a case manager or an attorney, we're looking for well-rounded people, and attorneys in particular. One of the biggest compliments that someone can pay to me is to get to know them over dinner, and they're like, wow, I didn't even know you were a lawyer.

So another one of our firm values is approachability. We want to break the stereotype of lawyers. We don't want to be seen as stuffy or condescending or above. We want people to understand that, yes, we are lawyers, but we're no different than you. We have our hobbies. We have our interests now. We take our cases very seriously, but we don't take ourselves so seriously.

We want people to understand that we're humans as well. And it allows us to be able to be very empathetic to our clients situations.

Gresham Harkless 07:04

Yeah, I love that fact that you said that we are humans as well, because I say, especially in business and a lot of times in life at that, we sometimes forget about the human aspect and we forget about who the people are.

I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. It could be like, start with the why, but what are some apps, books, or habits that you have that you feel like makes you more effective and efficient?

Michael McCready 07:27

I'm a big fan of technology and I'm always trying to stay on the cutting edge of whatever is new. My firm, we try to build in as many efficiencies as possible. If we can build in efficiencies, it frees up everybody else's time to focus on the higher-level things. It's a business principle.

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You want to be able to do as much with as little number of team members and have the team focus on those individualized and unique situations and allow technology and efficiencies to do a lot of the rest.

Gresham Harkless 08:02

Yeah, I have this phrase that I say a lot of times on the show where I say the systems will set you free.

Michael McCready 08:07

And truthfully technology is much more dependable and predictable than humans. Analyzing your processes and allowing technology to make those processes more efficient, I think is my number one hack.

Gresham Harkless 08:21

Yeah, I love that hack. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. So this is a little bit more word of wisdom or a piece of advice. I like to say it might be something you would tell your younger business self if you were to hop into a time machine or potentially one of those young mentees that you're working with as well.

Michael McCready 08:36

Listen to your team. Okay, it should not be coming top-down at all times. All right, take the time to ask questions. Take the time to actually listen. It might be a crazy idea or a wacko idea, but you're listening, they're feeling that they're being heard and encouraging that two-way communication, that's not top-down, right?

You as a leader want to build your team from the bottom up and not necessarily once again enforcing it or bringing it down from the top.

Gresham Harkless 09:13

Yeah, and I feel like when that happens, I feel like it feeds right into what you talked about the values and the culture at that, because I feel like especially we all have the things that are gifts or talents or the things that we can bring to the table.

But if there isn't that interconnectedness, that two-way street as you alluded to, then you don't get the opportunity to feel like you're part of the organization. So I feel like that probably helps support the culture as well.

Michael McCready 09:34

Yeah, absolutely. And as my team has grown, this is not something when it was just myself that I gave any thought to, or even when I had 235 employees, this was an evolution. This was learning and making mistakes right with team members. But at a certain point, you do have to follow these basic principles.

You are nothing without your team. You'll be a CEO of nothing if you don't have dedicated team members that believe in you and believe in your mission and are capable and competent and want to do and fulfill the vision of the firm.

Gresham Harkless 10:15

Yeah, and that's such a powerful kind of revelation, to have in a kind of reminder. that. I know you alluded to that. Do you feel like that happened like a flip of a switch? Or was it something that you gradually understood along the journey of you growing from yourself and then adding on all these people and members of the team?

Michael McCready 10:32

I would say absolutely gradually. It's a process. It's a process and there are great books out there and they can talk about it and you can read about it. But at the end of the day, it's individual actions. It's my interactions with the team. You have to step back. Yes, you're the CEO, but you have to step back and put yourself into your team's shoes and train them and mentor them and encourage them.

All of these things which are gonna contribute to the overall success. 'cause at the end of the day, it is a business. A CEO is a business, is in charge of a business, and you want that business to be successful. That business is successful by taking care of your team members.

Gresham Harkless 11:17

Yeah, absolutely. Now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Michael, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Michael McCready 11:28

Being CEO of a law firm is like riding a bike with a monkey on your back and fire being breathed at you and trying to avoid the pot. It's a million things and trying not to crash. I read that metaphor somewhere else and I butchered it, but the point is, being able to keep the bicycle going in one direction without losing control and trying to get that bike to the finish line, despite all the distractions, all the setbacks everything that you need to deal with.

And then finally, making sure that as you grow, you work with a great team around you. There comes a point that one single CEO can't do everything in the firm. You need to be able to have the right people beneath you to execute what you want for the firm without you having to do it directly.

Gresham Harkless 12:19

Yeah, that makes so much sense.

Michael McCready 12:21

Yeah. Now, Gresh, you have to understand a lot of people listening to your podcast might have very, very small businesses, right? Or, one employee or 456 employees, and they are functioning as the CEO. At some point you do have to look in the mirror and decide whether you are the right person to be the CEO. And a lot of people are not the right person and doesn't mean the business won't be successful.

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You started the business. You need to focus on what you do best and being the CEO and running the operations may not be it and realizing that you're the right person on the bus, but you might be in the wrong seat and hiring people that compliment you and hiring people that fill in your deficiencies.

There are things that I don't like to do and I'm not good at. So I've always made a point of hiring people to compliment the things that I am good at.

Gresham Harkless 13:13

Yeah. I think that plays so much into this word I hear so many times of ego. Sometimes you have to have the ego to believe that you can create and make an impact and do really phenomenal things.

But that same ego, it's like a double-edged sword. It could be what kind of ends up being like a Titanic to you, to your organization because it doesn't allow you to allow the people to shine, allow the people to do the really great things because you think and want to do everything when in reality taking a step back and putting that ego in the backseat is really what's going to lead to your success.

Michael McCready 13:43

You have to take a long, hard look in the mirror at yourself, okay? You have to know yourself before you can lead a team. Until you get those, until you get knowing yourself and what your strengths are and what you enjoy, it's hard to get people to follow you if you don't have that vision yourself, and if you don't understand who you are and where you want to grow.

Gresham Harkless 14:05

Yeah, there you go. If not you, then who? There you go. So I absolutely love that Michael. I truly appreciate that definition, that perspective, of course, I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do now was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know.

Of course, how best they can get hold of you, find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on.

Michael McCready 14:24

So I would encourage any of these people that are running their own business, no matter what size, reach out to someone else, learn and try to get some pointers on what you should avoid, what you should do.

Like I said, there are a lot of smart people out there that have been down the road that you're trying to go down.

Gresham Harkless 14:42

Yeah, absolutely. I think when we understand that and tap into that, we start to really marvel at how impactful we can be by leaning into the impactfulness, if that's even a word of other people and what they're able to accomplish. So when we're able to marry the two, that's when really phenomenal things happen.

And for people who want to get ahold of you and your team and all the awesome things you're doing, what's the best way for them to do that, Michael?

Michael McCready 15:02

It would be our website. We've got four physical offices in two states. But everything funnels through the website. That's www.mccreadylaw.com. Everything that I've built for the last 25 years is somewhere on that website.

Gresham Harkless 15:23

Nice. I absolutely love that. And of course, to make that even easier, we're gonna have the links and information in the show notes as well, too, so that everybody can follow up with you.

But I think it shows a lot by everything you've been able to build and create over the last 25 years. But I think it says even more when you're able to take the time out and have these conversations, but also take time out of your impactful things that you're doing to be able to help out others.

So I think that speaks volumes to yourself, your team and who you are as a leader. I appreciate you for doing that, appreciate you even more for being on today.

Michael McCready 15:52

Hey, listen, Gresh, if you can inspire one person, right? That's all it takes. We don't need to change the world. But if you make a difference in one person's life, whether it's the podcast you and I are on or one of the other podcasts or me going out in the community, that's all you can help hope for as a human.

Gresham Harkless 16:07

Yeah, absolutely. And we sometimes forget that a lot of times when we take these moments and we throw them in the ocean, it might just seem like one rock or one pebble, but it starts to reverberate and make an impact with so many more people.

So thanks so much for making it easy to make that ocean go out.

Michael McCready 16:21

Thank you.

Outro 16:22

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at bluesixteenmedia.com.

This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening!

Website: mccreadylaw.com

Instagram: mccreadylawfirm


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