Our guest today is COO Alliance Member Hunter McMahon, the Chief Operating Officer for iDiscovery Solutions.
Hunter is a reliable strategic partner, leveraging data analytics for litigation, investigations, data privacy, compliance issues and more. He has served as a testifying and consulting expert to corporations both large and small, while working with Am Law 100 and boutique law firms.
Hunter is a member of The Sedona Conference, Working Groups 1, 6, and 11.Â He is also a member of the American Bar Association, Defense Research Institute, and the International Association of Privacy Professionals. He began his career running IT and litigation support for a mid-size law firm and has recently led teams of experts for similarly situated companies.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- How iDiscovery Solutions creates a forensic of digital evidence for litigation
- How do business owners prepare and protect from potential lawsuits
- Systems for delegating tasks within the company and building the skills needed to delegate among the employees
- How Hunter and his CEO manage a balance between their personal time and business time
- How different businesses have similar problems and can inspire the right solutions regardless of your niche
Connect with Hunter McMahon: LinkedIn
iDiscovery Solutions â€“ https://idiscoverysolutions.com
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The post Ep. 146 â€“ iDiscovery Solutions COO, Hunter McMahon appeared first on COO Alliance.
Before we jump into this episode, you need to know about two important ways that we can help you and your company grow. Number one, check out the COO Alliance. It’s for COOs, Presidents, VP Ops, or whoever is your company’s second-in-command to the CEO. The COO Alliance is the world’s leading community for the second-in-command, and it gives COOs the tools and connections to grow themselves and the company. Head over to COOAlliance.com to learn more about our members and the results of the program, and our 10X guarantee. If you qualify for membership, you can set up a complimentary call with our team to discuss if it’s right for you. I will tell you about number two in a bit, but first, let’s start this episode.
Our guest in this episode is Hunter McMahon, the Chief Operating Officer for iDiscovery Solutions. Hunter is a reliable strategic partner leveraging data analytics for litigation, investigations, data privacy, compliance issues, and more. He served as a testifying and consulting expert to corporations, both large and small while working with Am Law 100 and boutique law firms.
He is a member of The Sedona Conference Working Groups 1, 6, and 11. He’s also a member of the American Bar Association, Defense Research Institute, and International Association for Privacy Professionals. He began his career running IT and litigation support for a mid-size law firm and has led teams of experts for similarly situated companies. Hunter, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
What are 1, 6, and 11 all about?
They are different groups, anything about eDiscovery International, theft of IP, and you have got data security. It’s different working groups within The Sedona Conference.
The people within that would know it, but outside people, we are not supposed to. It’s not like you are on SEAL Team Six or anything.
No. Itâ€™s nothing that glorious.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now.
I originally started out wanting to be the next Doogie Howser, and I wanted to be a medical professional or a doctor. I soon realized that my brain doesn’t work that way. I couldn’t retain the information and understand and memorize all of the stuff that was required for the periodic table and the different organic chemistry. An academic advisor said, â€œYou should think about law.â€ I was like, â€œLaw’s always a backup, but okay. Why not?â€
I ended up taking a couple of classes breezing through them and was like, â€œThis is fun.â€ What I realized was I like the big picture and then drilling into the specifics. If I can get the general rule of law and then know the 92 exceptions underneath, I can retain it, I can understand it, and I can leverage it versus in Science, you start with the micro and then build to the macro.
Over the years, I ultimately went to law school. I ran IT and lit support for a law firm while I went to law school at night. I ended up having more fun on the data and technology side of things as opposed to the practice of law. Motion practice simply didn’t get me excited so I stayed with what I loved to do. I stayed on the consulting side and over a decade later and consulting and data analytics with a focus on the structured data side of things. Now, as the COO of iDS, I team up with our CEO to run the company as a whole.
When did you graduate from law school?
It was back in 2011.
It was after the global financial crisis. Where did you go right out of law school then?
Out of law school, I worked for a law firm, and then I went into a consulting group after that. We were the ones retained in servicing the law firms that I used to retain. We were the group that came in and managed the digital evidence on behalf of the law firm for the litigations.
Did you get your law degree or did you go to the bar or whatever it’s called in the US?
I got my law degree. I never sat for the bar primarily because I always felt if I sat for the bar, I competed for my buyer. My buyers are typically attorneys. If I’m very clearly not practicing law, I am therefore not one of their competitors. I chose not to sit for the bar because I was focused on the data and the technology side of things.
You have got the practice of law. What area did you specialize in?
At the time, back when I was in the law firm, we were a general defense group, and then right now what we do is focus on the discovery side of things. iDs as a whole, if you talk about the digital evidence, all those text messages you thought you deleted yesterday after you sent them, that’s what we come after. We will look at all of your logs for every activity, every Zoom meeting you have, or every chat you have on. All of the Clubhouse logs, the emails, and everything. We look at all that to paint a picture of what happened from the digital evidence.
We look at all that digital evidence to paint a picture of what happened from the digital.
There are a lot of footprints out there, aren’t there?
At some level, it’s insane, but it’s not at the same time. We sit there and we want to be connected. Everywhere we want to go, we want to touch you. I know you are a big fan of disconnecting and vacations and whatnot, but at the same level, we, as consumers always want to be in touch. I have got my phone here, my tablet, my computer, another tablet, a Facebook portal, and different devices that I’m connected with but every interaction leaves a trail.
It may leave a trail on the device or in a log of a system because you touched that system when you went and accessed it through another device and there’s a consequence to all that. There are a lot of privacy aspects of it but setting that aside for the moment, you are leaving this trail. The problem is you challenge somebody and you look into that trail insofar as to what really happened.
One of the things we found is contextual data can tell you more about what happened rather than content. With the example I give, I could tell you that I worked out for three hours this morning. I got a good workout in. I spent an hour of that stretching, and then I got to work. This all started at 5:00 AM. I could email that too. That’s good content.
That says I did a lot or you could look at my heart rate data and realize that I got about a 30-minute workout and a little bit of a walk. I took my shower and got right to work. What tells a better story or a more accurate story closer to the truth? The data can, but it doesn’t come without consequences. You have to always understand the limitations of the data before you take it through.
I found out about an app called FonePaw where you can plug in your phone, and it has a copy of all of your old text messages and WhatsApp messages that have been deleted on your phone. The data that we thought is gone isn’t even.
There are a couple of different ways to look at that. One is most of the applications on your phone, even your computer run on a database, and the optimal way for an application to perform is simplicity. It wants to go in going through a database cleansing and everything else like that can be operationally or computationally expensive while the user’s using it so they only flag the message and say, â€œHide it from the user.â€
As far as you are concerned, if it’s deleted, then the device or the operating system will choose when it cleans that up to delete the record. You also got another side that says, â€œWhere else does that record live?â€ You exchanged text messages with somebody. You delete them on your end, they still live with somebody else. There was a destination. That destination could have forwarded something to somebody else. When you sit there and you talk about, â€œIt’s never deleted.â€ It can be deleted on a device. That’s a misnotion, but it often lives somewhere else that can be tracked down, either partially or completely.
This was a few years ago. It was after I left the firm, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? They got sued by a franchisee for a discrimination case, which they ended up winning. It got thrown out. This woman had sued for saying that she had been biased because she was an African-American female. The court pulled six months of emails that the entire 1-800-GOT-JUNK? had received or sent over six months. They didn’t find a single trace of anything, a joke or a racial slur, even between employees, not about this person, but even making a racial joke. That’s how they threw it out, as they had all this digital data. Is that what you are talking about? Showing the trends or showing the context.
Absolutely. That’s more content-based in analytics. You are going into the content of the email and finding out what’s going on and we do that. That’s a traditional eDiscovery service that we process and we leverage lean review and our different techniques that leverage content analytics to try to get you there faster because there’s a whole bunch of junk in there for your email. However, there’s a whole bunch of noise in those emails that weren’t even relevant to potentially being a discriminatory joke or something like that. We take that approach and that’s been well-established.
Thereâ€™s also this other approach though that says, â€œHow did you promote people, and what approvals? Did somebody get discriminated against through the HR system? Did they get unfairly treated or did somebody else gets promoted over somebody else? What do the statistics look like?â€ Our role is not to opine on what is right or wrong, but it’s to help make the data available so that the attorneys can tell the story.
You are trying to pull the data so that the attorneys will argue it. You are not trying to create the case. They are creating the case off whatever data they can get you to pull for them.
We helped them leverage the data. Most attorneys didn’t go to law school to play with data. They went to law school to go through motion practice, to go to the courts and argue, and all that stuff. While I went to law school, I have much more fun making the data accessible to attorneys who don’t normally access that. We go through the visualizations. We go through all the queries and all that to say, â€œHere’s what the data says. How does that interchange with your strategy?
Why does this scare me similar to the book, Freakonomics, where you can almost take the data and make it show whatever you want? You could pull all the data together and show I’m the best dad in the world. You could pull all the data together and show I’m the worst dad in the world. It’s like whoever has more paper wins almost, is it?
Yes and no. The good thing is that the technology is available now, and there are certainly opposing experts. We come against an opposing expert that disagrees with us. They say, â€œNo. We believe that the class sizes this and the damages are this.â€ There’s always somebody on the other side. Now, whether or not they are as good as us, that’s a different story. Our goal is to be able to analyze the data from an unbiased position to say, â€œHere’s what the data is saying,â€ because we have no vested interest in the outcome of the case.
We are paid regardless of the outcome. We want to stay as impartial as possible and tell you what the story is. I promise you, it’s not always what the client wants. We have had plenty of cases where we run the investigation and our general recommendation alongside counsel is, â€œGo settle this case. You have got a problem.â€
Do you work with a lot of the legal experts then that are being hired to testify? Is that who your clients are or who are your clients typically?
We are the experts that come in and testify primarily about what we do. We are usually retained through counsel and/or in-house counsel. Some clients retain us directly through the corporation and then others are outside counsel through law firms.
If you were to give a company or a senior executive some advice related to this in terms of protecting themselves and assuming that the person in a company is not doing anything wrong. They are only living their day-to-day as a normal executive. What are the things we need to do to protect ourselves and to protect our company in terms of data that’s going to be used against us?
Assume that there’s data out there, number one. There are a couple of different ways to look at this. One says you are actively trying to hide something or limit the information. I don’t think that’s necessarily the best approach because your primary motive should be a better business.
I’m not worried about those. Those people are screwed anyway. Let’s not worry about them. Let’s worry about the company that sells widgets. They are good people and they live their core values, but somebody is going to sue them at some point and they want to make sure they are protected.
Itâ€™s not so much about making sure you are protected. It’s making sure that you do the right thing once you know. Oftentimes, what we see is, â€œThe phone got dropped and we didn’t go collect it. We didn’t go get it soon enough.â€ Somebody said a penny-wise and pound-foolish scenario of, â€œWe don’t want to worry about that yet. We think we will win.â€ Make sure that you collect the evidence early and make that easy. It’s a safety net. That’s a low-cost, â€œBring in the right experts or the right legal counsel who has the experience to say, â€˜Where is all the data?â€™â€
I guarantee you, somebody’s going to ask for the data. It may be as simple as email, or it may go as intricate as your internal chat systems like Slack or Teams. They are going to want that stuff. Make sure you have got the mechanisms in place to keep it, because the last thing you want to do is end up in front of whether it’s the EEOC or the court itself, or some kind of regulatory body and say, â€œSorry we didn’t keep it after we knew.â€ That’s the worst scenario.
The other side of that is to assume that somebody else on the other end is taking screenshots. An old story of Snapchat. When everybody thought Snapchat deleted the picture, my aunt would sit there and take screenshots every time she looked at it. It defeats the purpose. She’s like, â€œI can’t look at it fast enough.â€ From that point, it became one of these notions of, assuming somebody else on the other is going to leverage that against you, and you are going to have to defend it and sometimes that’s okay.
You have got to explain the context but that’s where having all the data matters as opposed to only they saved that email. Only they saved that portion of it. You want all of it because then you can explain the whole scenario. If you have made a mistake, understand that you made a mistake and figure out how to navigate that mistake rather than live in denial because you don’t have the data.
If you’ve made a mistake, understand that you made a mistake and figure out how to navigate that rather than live in denial because you don’t have the data.
Walk us through iDS. What exactly do you guys do? Give it to us in layman’s terms so the average business person can understand it.
We help both legal and compliance navigate their data through requests. You could get a request from a regulatory agency. You could have an internal investigation, or you could have an international dispute or a domestic dispute civil dispute. We come in and we help you find all the evidence and wire it. We gather it, collect it, and then use it because thatâ€™s a big thing.
You could do a collection off your hard drive, but you might not be able to make that use as an exhibit in a court of law. That’s what we do. We try to take that digital evidence that can be super complex and convoluted. We layer it all together because that’s the big thing. Most people think of it in silos. â€œHere’s my email and text messages. Here is my Slack.â€ I have got emails, Slacks, and text messages back and forth between a whole bunch of folks. Sometimes youâ€™ve got to layer those things together to understand the situation.
Tell us about your firm. How many employees? Where do you operate? What kind of clients do you typically work with?
We are about 50 employees primarily throughout the United States. We have got offices in Washington, DC, Georgia, and California. Everybody’s virtual and has been since the middle of March 2020 now. We also have an office in London. I was sharing with you before the show that I was in London the first week in March 2020 signing the lease for the new office. When I landed back, we closed our offices and have not reopened for regular business since then.
Fortunately, we had a very distributed model anyways. We are able to operate remotely pretty easily. We had some hiccups that we had to navigate, primarily handling physical evidence which, most people take for granted that you can ship and receive hard drives. In computers and mobile devices, we had to navigate that and rework our workflows on how we were going to make that happen.
What’s your leadership team look like? What’s the makeup there?
We operate under EOS. We have our visionary, our CEO, and our Founder, Dan Regard. I am the integrator and COO. We also have a Chief Financial Officer, Chris Conway. We have a Director of Sales and marketing Donovan Sachs. We also have our Chief Information Officer Mark Gianturco.
What was it about the iDS that got you to join them? Did they come after you? Did you go after them?
It was a little over two years prior to my joining. They found me at The Sedona Networking Conference in Texas Working Group 1 Series and comes up to me and says, â€œTwo years, McMahon.â€ Iâ€™m like, â€œTwo years for what, Dan,â€ in front of clients, colleagues, and everything? â€œTwo years before we work together.â€ I was like, â€œOkay. Sure, Dan.â€ I had known Dan for years in the industry and sure enough, it was 2 years and 3 months. I made him wait an extra couple of months.
I remember I was sitting in the basement talking to Dan for months. It was his vision on thinking through what we could do through data analytics as opposed to what we were doing and having fun in that space. I joined iDS originally as the Director of Data Analytics. I ended up taking the role of COO at the beginning of last year.
I love that he poached you or pre-poached you, almost persuasion. I think it’s one of the best places to hire great employees is when you are at networking events and industry conferences because it shows that person is either investing in themselves or being invested in, which is a good sign when the company’s investing in the person or they’re learning.
Anyone who’s there, who’s game on. If they are hanging out in the bar the whole time, they are either doing lots of deals or you don’t need them. When you see the people that are working the event, for me, that’s always a good sign of the people that I want to go and poach at some point. You had his eyes there.
Dan and I have a very good dynamic between the two of us. We were high-intensity, both of us. We are always on. You can rarely find us up with the off switch and it’s fun though. It’s exciting for us. The impromptu calls on the weekends and all that is when the best brainstorming happens. It’s when we chat things out but we probably connect far more than most people. It’s odd to go a day without us talking a couple of times. Itâ€™s almost like you would be in the office.
You are near Atlanta somewhere but isn’t he in the same region?
No, he’s up in DC and currently in Pennsylvania with everything going on okay.
He and you aren’t in the same office day-to-day. How do you stay on the same page with him as CEO and you as COO? I know you talked about EOS, but walk us through some of the systems or what you do to stay on the same page with each other.
As I said we talk a freakish amount but we can be in the middle of a conversation and we can stop mid-sentence and pick it up three hours later right where we were. We have that level of synergy between us, which helps us be able to stay dynamic with the business. Also, stay with family because we can stop our conversation and go have dinner with the family and then pick it back up later. We have that respect for each other’s time to be able to start and stop as needed.
The other thing that we have done is we have our L10 meetings, which is our entire executive team every Tuesday, but he and I have different synced meetings with the different executives every other day of the week so that we can focus on there. Monday is finance. Tuesday is Information Technology. Wednesday is sales and marketing. Thursday is finance again. Friday is admin ops with him, me, and our assistants. It lets us look at all the different dynamics of the business, at least for twenty minutes a day every day, but its different aspects.
Give us an example of a sync meeting with, let’s say, marketing and who’s doing the sync meeting with marketing.
Dan and I will be on as well as our director of sales. He’s part of the executive team and we have a running agenda. A quick recap, what’s going on, what’s the focus for the next week or that rolling seven days, and what are we stuck on? Any hiccups that we need to tackle and any decisions we need to make. We generally have a back burner list that tells us, â€œWe are still aware of these things, but they are not the priority right now.â€
How about you and Dan? What do you do in terms of you guys having meeting rhythms with each other or is it only constantly talking?
It’s constantly talking, but I’d say, we usually get to a pinnacle point and I’d say it’s probably once every ten days where we’ll take an evening and have a fun meeting. Sometimes that’s a business strategy, talking about a three-year picture and some big goals or sometimes it’s reviewing one of the cases that our team is working on and saying this is some fun analysis. We find that in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed and we can disconnect and we don’t have client emergencies, we can have that almost old-school fun. It’s because we do love what we do and we have both done it, that’s where we can have that creative mind share.
How does a company that focuses on analytics, data, and scraping everything together stay high level on the data in the company? How do you not get overwhelmed? You guys could pull up every possible breadcrumb of data on how to run your own company, but there’s no way you could run the business that way. How do you prevent that from happening or does that even occur to you?
When I’m looking at where I’m going to spend my time or where we are spending our initiatives and our goals, I put it in three different buckets. Is this going to increase revenue in the client experience? Itâ€™s revenue-focused. Is this limiting our growth? It’s something that’s a hurdle and efficiency problem that I’m not getting the efficiencies we need out of a team member, or this is something that when we grow, we are not going to be able to sustain, or is this simply operational and we need insights?
If I prioritize that way, almost all of those unnecessary data streams, all of those unnecessary data points fall to the back burner just naturally because those are usually operational. If they are not directly impacting revenue or our performance from a client experience standpoint, it gets back burnt. If it falls off the radar after a couple of weeks, it goes into the abyss. If it comes up again, then we know it’s a recurring theme that we might have to address. If it’s coming up again and again, that means it’s probably connected to revenue somehow. We only haven’t figured out how it’s connected to revenue yet. We will go through an idea session on that.
I love Traction. There are lots of interesting operating systems that exist from different groups. What have you had to do to take these systems from EOS Traction and adapt them or iterate them for your company? Give me an example of one system that you love from Traction that you have tweaked.
The L10 Meetings are a great example. In our L10 meetings, we are very disciplined about it. We follow the agenda and we make sure that we have them but what we found in Q3, we needed a jumpstart and a positive growth momentum. Once a month, we take the L10 and we focus on a growth opportunity at the iDS session. We don’t review the scorecard. We don’t go through all of the other agenda items and we try to get everybody out from behind the computer and go for a walk and talk instead but it’s brainstorming so it’s very visionary.
It’s, â€œWhat is a great opportunity that’s out there that we can tackle as opposed to practice going through business operations because we are still tackling those no matter what. We still have the scorecard updated. We still have our issues list.â€ If there was something critical, we were going to have a conversation anyways but we make sure that we focus once a month on that visionary aspect because that’s where the fun is. That’s where we keep the momentum going as opposed to back on our heels only executing.
When you are touching on something, we used to call it our storm meeting at 1-800-GOT-JUNK. We did it on the third Thursday of every month and it was time for us to get strategic. Strategy has nothing to do with planning. Strategy is what if. It’s talking about opportunities and what-ifs. We only look looked at 6 months to 12 months out, but it was because we were growing 100% a year for six years in a row.
When you are doing 100% growth compounding, six months is a lifetime. A year is crazy because if you are going to go from $30 million to $60 million in 12 months and then do it again. We would look at least 6 or 12 months and brainstorm around stuff. That’s where the fun is because the team then got to and it also stretches the company. You are ideating at a cool level. How about you and Dan in terms of your roles together? How did you split your roles and responsibilities between the two of you? With him being the visionary and you the integrator? Was it already done in terms of the leadership team?
That’s been an interesting dynamic. Both Dan and I are doers. We have done what our company does. From that standpoint, one of the things we both struggle with is being less of the consultants and more of the leaders in the company. We have had to make that and last year’s part of EOS as we define the one thing. What’s your one thing? Mine was to leverage others’ experiences for the betterment of the company and what translated was to delegate. Make sure that you are doing what you need to be doing and not what you used to do.
Leverage otherâ€™s experiences for the betterment of the company. Delegate. Make sure that you’re doing what you need to be doing and not what you used to do.
When we look at our roles, a lot of what I have tried to take off of Dan’s plate because prior to me being the COO, Dan was both. He was both the visionary and the integrator trying to run the company and he did successfully for years but for us to grow, we knew that we needed to have somebody focused on getting stuff done and let somebody focus on the growth and the opportunities that are out there. Where Dan remains heavily involved in our client developments, our marketing, and our sales and we are still working on cases because he’s still one of the preeminent testifiers in the country. He’s still working on cases.
He was in deposition now that his work is still very much involved in the client front. While I will take on much more of the operational and the administrative aspect of things and make sure that we are at an excellence level there. When he brings the work in and the rest of our directors and our BDMs do that we then have the operational excellence to be able to execute them at the iDS standard, which is a high standard.
Talk to me about delegation. You mentioned that you have to delegate more. Do you have a system for delegating? Do you have a way that you delegate? Delegating is a skill that most people never get trained in.
I had a client that challenged me and I’m not the best at it. I still struggle with it, but I’m aware that I struggle with it. I know that I have to make a conscious effort to do it as opposed to it coming as a default mechanism for me. A client many years ago when I was building an old team forced me, and when I say force, he challenged me very strongly to go on a trip without my laptop for a week.
I had to work through the team. I had to figure out a way that through my phone and only my phone, I could get stuff done, which at some very big level forced me to delegate because I couldn’t do the things that I was used to doing. I couldn’t take the report and edit it and do it right. From there, I learned the art or the strategy that there’s a balance between taking the time and walking somebody through something, which is expensive.
If you think of time being your greatest but then you got to think about it. If I walk them through and teach them how to do it, that then saves me doing it twenty times the rest of the year. Is this something that’s going to happen twenty more times or is this something that’s going to happen once? It’s going to happen once. It might be something just to get done. If it’s going to happen multiple times, and this is a recurring issue, you have got to take the minute. You got to take a breath and help them understand or delegate it to somebody else so that they can, but you can’t sit there and keep doing it yourself.
We are launching a course right now called Invest in Your Leaders, and one of the modules is on delegation, but the second is on situational leadership, which dovetails into delegation. Have you ever studied anything on situational leadership at all? It’s when you think about the project that you are delegating to someone, what’s their skill level on that project, and then what’s their commitment level on that project?
Based on those two things and evaluating whether they have no skill, some skill, or high skill, and then no commitment, some commitment, or high commitment, you end up with a point value that gives you 1 or 4 different leadership styles to use when you are delegating that project. Sometimes they need to be micromanaged. Sometimes you can hand in a project and walk away because they have already got it right and/or you need to coach them or problem solve but there’s a real science even behind. That idea of delegation as well. You probably get a lot of it intuitively, and some leaders do, but others fall into the trap of always doing it the same way.
I look at it as a, â€œDo I want to be doing this in six months?â€ One of the things that I have learned, sometimes I have got to do one with somebody to be able to teach them the next one. They have got to see it in action. If they haven’t done it before, they have got to learn from seeing it done. Then they get to do one, and then they get to run with it with an advisory if you will. Somebody is still watching their back and willing to back them up, but at the same time, they know how to run themselves.
Have you studied this kind of stuff at all? Have you read books on it or watched videos on it or taken courses on things like coaching and delegation? Has this become intuitive to you over the years of leadership?
I would like to say it’s become intuitive, but no. I read a ton. I read a ton. I listen to a ton of podcasts. I prefer articles over books just because I lose a book halfway through because I’m moving on to the next concept if I think that it’s been flushed out enough. Lately, I have been doing a lot of Blinks from Blinkist. That gives me great information and the ability to go take that concept, research it a little bit, digest it, and move on.
The recent one I took was the difference between total addressable market versus total addressable problem and focusing on the total addressable problem as opposed to the market because that’s something that’s already there. That if you focus on the need as opposed to who you think needs it, the people who know they need it, you can then get a tight ROI on where you are spending your time and new efforts.
A client that I used to coach in Geneva would figure out the projects that he was working on over the next three months, and then he would read Harvard Business Review articles tied to those projects, and he found that Harvard Business Review would release these little booklets. It would have ten case studies all related to a specific theme. He focused his learning related to those core projects. There are so many business books that you read, especially if they are Malcolm Gladwell’s. By the time you finish the second chapter, you understand the concept. You don’t need eight more chapters to get through it.
I enjoy the stories that go with them. When I traveled more, I did a lot more audiobooks. When you are walking through the terminal or you are sitting on the plane and getting some work done, you can listen to them but now that we are not traveling anymore, I lost that. I realized, â€œI have got a gap right now.â€ I went a couple of months without doing a lot of reading and I felt odd. I was like, â€œI got to get back to it,â€ but the summaries from Blinkist are great. In articles that we find and a whole bunch of news feeds in our industry that you can take advantage of.
You have joined the COO Alliance as well, which is the only network of its kind in the world for the second-in-command. What was it about that mastermind that grabbed your attention?
I felt like I knew the business and I knew our company well. One of the things that I learned when I left the law firm and went to the consulting side was that there was a whole world I didn’t know. I knew my world well, but there was a whole world I didn’t know until I saw it. Going on a consulting side and being able to be exposed to hundreds of clients as opposed to me being the client, I realized that there were a lot of advantages to seeing different perspectives.
One of the things that I knew real quick this year as I took on the new role that I needed were different perspectives and a sounding board, not from an internal, â€œIs this going to fit,â€ but what are we missing and how can we challenge this? What resources are out? I was talking to Gordie and trying to understand what’s the dynamic of the network. The Slack channel has been huge. You have seen some of the exchanges and the exchanging of resources, not from, â€œHere’s exactly what to do, but here’s what we’ve done.â€
We found the good and the bad so that when you are going through something or when you have got an idea, you have a network to bounce it off of. One of the things that I have found throughout the year talking to clients, industry cohorts, and all that, especially on my Coffee, Walk, and Talks, was different businesses and different perspectives have a lot of great ideas, and they are not all that different than what we do. Leveraging their experience is highly advantageous even though their businesses may not directly align with ours.
I call it ideas having sex. You take a couple of ideas from a few different people and they merge together and come into something else. With you and Dan, has it been an easy ride the entire time, or have you guys had your occasional good conflicts as well?
We have our bouts, but our bouts are usually a matter of where we spend our time and attention. He is the quintessential visionary. On an average Monday afternoon, he has got 922 new ideas. I am a very strong integrator. I’m very tactical and sometimes very focused on just getting stuff done right in front of us that we need to get done.
I would say if there’s ever a disconnect, it’s because one of us comes into a meeting with a rigid agenda that things we need to block and tackle. One of us has more of a, â€œLet’s brainstorm mentality.â€ You can see it. It’s one of those conversations that you are like, â€œWe are struggling through this. Let’s stop this and reconnect later.â€ It’s a misfire if you will but rarely are we on different pages, which I think goes to talking all the time and talking about the good and the bad. I’m very quick. If there’s anything going on, it’s a quick briefing but wants you in the loop. He does the same for me. â€œI had this one conversation. They are coming your way. Here’s what’s going on.â€ It makes it very easy to give each other those quick briefings rather than having to dwell on something going on.
We are doing this on January 22nd, 2021 so we are at the start of the year. Do you set New Year’s resolutions for yourself or goals for yourself that you are focusing on? Is there anywhere that you are trying to grow or improve as a leader this year?
My one thing this year is to bring more cohesion throughout the company for the client experience. Looking at our organization as a whole, we have different service lines, different disciplines, and different areas of expertise, and we are focused on bringing that as super cohesive. Itâ€™s this level of experience for our clients across the board that nobody else can compete with. My goal as a leader is to bring all of the different teams and folks and processes together to make that happen and that requires me to get out of the weeds because I can’t be in every project.
I can’t do everything myself and that makes me step back and look at the bigger picture operationally as opposed to project by project. New Year’s resolutions to me are immediate setups for failure. You are not going to do them. This year, I took on a different approach and I set five things for 25 days every month. I tried five new things.
For 25 days, you evaluate, you reset, and you do something different the next month that may continue something, but the whole idea is growth and habits. Read Blinkist every day, stretch 15 minutes every day, run 50 miles in a month, and those kinds of things help you grow personally, but also in a discipline. This month was the Blinkist and a couple of other things. That’s why I’m back to reading and loving it because it starts in the morning. It gets new ideas flowing in less than fifteen minutes.
My sister is a bit of a badass, and she’s doing that 75 Hard programs. Have you heard of that?
Yeah, I’m very familiar with that.
She’s on day 22 of it. She was an elite ski racer and she’s been a CEO for 25 years. She’s a badass. She’s â€œYeah, you should do it.â€ I’m like, â€œNo, I really shouldn’t.â€
Before COVID hit, I love Spartan Races, the obstacle course racing. I have done tons of them. I did it with a client up in Lake Tahoe last year at the World Championships, or I guess 2019. I have a ton of fun with that. With all things going on, the races are not the same as they used to be but I got a group of friends here in the neighborhood and we are doing the DEKA Fit, which is a modified version of a decathlon. It’s 5 different stations and 500 meters. We are training towards that and my goal is to just finish strong and not be the last.
Do you know the reason why Joe Dispenza walks around carrying the 45-pound weight of the kettlebell?
Heâ€™s had a few of those. It’s discipline. There’s a whole bunch of stories that go behind it, but one of the things that I loved about Spartan, and I believe in a career progression is getting comfortable, and being uncomfortable. I love the races because you are never comfortable.
He told a friend of his that he would carry a kettlebell related to how much weight his friend had lost in a certain amount of time. His friend lost 22 pounds or 20 pounds. He was carrying around a 20-pound weight, but he was over in Europe and he lost the airline lost the kettlebell. Someone in Greece bought him an ancient kettlebell from 150 years ago. It was this huge rock with an iron handle, but they messed up and they bought him a 20-kilogram kettle.
Now, he’s walking around with a 44-pound ancient kettlebell everywhere. I’m like, â€œThat is badass.â€ Hunter, if we were to go back to your 21-year-old self. You are just getting out of school or maybe 23-year-old and you are just graduating from law school. What advice would you give yourself that you wish you’d known now but you didn’t know back then?
Listen more. Especially my younger self, you were quick to provide solutions and quick to provide answers. When asking more questions and listening more still to this day, rings true. We are huge advocates for active listening and understanding the problem before proposing a solution. Especially the young gunner, if you will, is quick to provide the answers.
That’s what we want to do and we want to be that solutions architect fast. We want to make the client happy when most of the time, understanding the problem, â€œWhat’s the problem behind the problem? What’s the hidden problem,â€ is usually where the big value comes in. The more you can listen, the more questions you can ask in a collaborative setting. Usually, the better out, the exceptional the outcome.
Understanding the problem behind the problem is usually where the big value comes in. The more you can listen, the more questions you can ask in a collaborative setting, the better the outcome.
Hunter McMahon, our guest in this episode from iDiscovery Solutions. Thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate it.
It was awesome.
- iDiscovery Solutions
- The Sedona Conference
- American Bar Association
- Defense Research Institute
- International Association for Privacy Professionals
- Invest in Your Leaders
About Hunter McMahon
As the Chief Operating Officer for iDiscovery Solutions (iDS), my focus is collaborating with our team of experts to provide industry leading solutions for clients. During my tenure in the industry, I have served as a testifying and consulting expert, to corporations both large and small, while working with Am Law 100 and boutique law firms.