Bruce M. Stachenfeld is an incredibly creative thinker, visionary and thought leader. As a mega rainmaker in real estate, a marketing guru, a columnist, and the founder and Chairman of a highly respected law firm in New York City, he enjoys going for insanely impossible goals and is happy to work hard to get them. He doesn’t worry about failing or making a fool of himself. He is a teacher at heart who likes to lift up those around him. He leads with love and looks for the good in others. Bruce is super competitive and a crazy hard worker who hates to “waste” time but loves to “spend” time. He always seeks the truth and likes to do things differently from the conventional path. A devoted husband and proud father of two children, Bruce is a scotch collector and connoisseur, an avid reader, and the proud finisher of the Ironman (twice!) in Lake Placid and Kona, Hawaii.
I grew from a complete marketing disaster to great success. Of course, I did it through growing a Power Niche. After graduating from Tufts University, Summa Cum Laude, I worked really hard and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1983. After graduation, I went to work in New York City as a lawyer. I worked for three major law firms (Shea & Gould, Latham & Watkins and Mayer Brown). I also had an in-house gig along the way, formed a small firm Shapiro Shapses Block & Stachenfeld, and then finally formed my current firm called Duval & Stachenfeld LLP.
I am now the founder and chairman of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, based in New York City. We call ourselves the Pure Play in Real Estate Law® since we focus almost exclusively on real estate law and areas that are related to real estate law.
My marketing strategy for many years simply did not exist. For years, I just labored as a worker bee and did what I was told. It was when I worked for Latham & Watkins that I saw something different: a business designed to create a great culture and great working environment for its associates. Latham & Watkins realized before other firms that the associates that worked for them were, indeed, effectively “customers” and they were very smart. This was the Latham & Watkins Power Niche and I was completely pleased to be part of it at the time. In 1991, real estate went into a serious tailspin and I was released from the firm.
I was shattered. Utterly shattered! It took a week, but then I started to get happy to almost euphoric. I felt so ecstatic that I didn’t have to just toil in the trenches and that my career could be anything I wanted!
I guess at this point I was thinking about marketing and bringing in clients but I had no clue what to do or how to do this. I knew I needed clients but I had no idea how to get them.
In October of 1997, I started Duval & Stachenfeld but still – foolishly – amazingly foolishly, actually — did zero marketing. Basically I just picked up the phone when a client called.
In 2002 the firm had a near-death experience when a major client slowed up its deal work. We got through this but; even more amazingly, I still somehow wasn’t getting the message that I needed to innovate and market to create customers.
In 2008/2009, by the time I was 50, I still – incredibly stupidly – did no marketing at all and just waited for the phone to ring from my biggest (single) client. Not only that, I was convinced I was an incompetent marketer – I just didn’t have that skill set. I couldn’t sell anything to anyone – I was a marketing loser. Indeed, the first few times I tried to “market” or “sell” I was so bad, I still get “creeped out” when I think about it. I had no training and no idea what to do, and I was an utter flub.
Then the Global Financial Crisis came along; it beat the heck out of me and my firm. Our major client halted their deal flow and our firm revenues plummeted by almost 60% (not a typo). This was truly awful. We had no Power Niches and very few clients. This is what sparked my path into marketing.
Nothing really made me into a marketer except dire necessity. I started out on an odyssey. I didn’t have a great plan of action at the time and things just kind of evolved. I hired a young lady as a marketing director and teammate. Admittedly she was similar to me in that she was smart and flexible in thinking and had had zero training in marketing.
My mission began with the theory that even if there wasn’t legal work to be had, it would be good to just meet with people who were players in the real estate world and get to know them. The greatest insight I had at this early time was that I was not going to do what other lawyers do and harangue everyone I met for legal work. Instead, I would just meet people, find out what they were doing, and see if there were ways I could be helpful, perhaps by connecting them with other clients.
I developed relationships by connecting, meeting and networking with others. I wasn’t out pitching myself as a lawyer. I became someone who could connect someone to other persons who could give the first person what he or she wanted. I was thought of as a very “connected” lawyer. I could add value more than “just” doing legal work. I could provide useful business connections and add real “value” in a way that other lawyers could not. So, I made the mission statement of our firm:
“Helping our clients grow their businesses.”
Now that my law firm’s business was starting to explode, I started working to an even higher level and trying to become what is loosely referred as a “thought leader” in the legal world.
I started writing a blog called “Reinventing the Law Business” on www.abovethelaw.com, and now write a column there called “Power Niche Marketing”. More recently I started writing The Real Estate Philosopher® publication. It is dedicated to putting forth provocative, outside the box, ideas in the real estate worldwide.
Clients call me constantly and regularly not just for legal advice, but for how to grow their businesses, for how to get a job, for ideas, for introductions and connections, and for basically anything important to their success in the real estate world.
I figured out along the way how to not only be a successful marketer but how to market in a more effective way, and now, I want to help you be successful too!
My 7 Power Keys to Success:
- Always try to reach “impossible” goals.
- Seeking for “truth” at all times.
- Word Hard – don’t “waste” time, learn to “spend” time.
- Don’t always take the conventional path.
- Think Creatively – apply deliberate practice to thinking.
- Seek the good in others.
- Enjoy teaching others what you have learned so they can be successful as well.
Who I Admire:
- Peter Drucker
- Abraham Lincoln
- Teddy Roosevelt
- Winston Churchill
- My wife Ann, from whom I have learned much…