Accelerate Business Success Master Transparency and Effective Communication with Alan Crone

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Employment attorney Alan Crone was featured on the Super Entrepreneurs Podcast to talk about effective communication and transparency. As one of The Crone Law Firm Value Pillars, Alan is a big believer in full transparency in the workplace. He believes that is helps strengthen your business better than most values can. To watch the podcast, you can click the video link below. We also have the full transcription for you under the video!

Accelerate Business Success Master Transparency and Effective Communication with Alan Crone Podcast Transcription

Shahid Durrani
Crone Law Firm. Alan has 30-plus years of experience in the legal industry, and previously served as Special Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor to City of Memphis, Mayor Jim Strickland. Welcome to our show, Alan.

Alan Crone

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.


I’m glad to have you part of this show. I want to learn a lot about what you do. Can you just start off with what happened in your life that you wanted to get into law?

Great question. I was a theater major in college, and I thought I was going to… I thought I was going to become an actor or maybe a drama teacher in high school or something like that, and went on a date, and I told my companion that I was a theater major, and she said, “how are you going to make a living doing that?”

I began thinking about that. I knew that I was a good actor, but I didn’t think I was the next Laurence Olivier. I thought, “what’s a good way to use stage presence and deep voice and other physical attributes that I have like that?”

I thought, “well, that sounds great. I’d love to try cases. I’d love to have important questions riding on my shoulders.”

I’d switch my major to political science. I was always interested in politics, public service, and so I enjoyed that. As I always say, if you’re a political science major, you got to get a secondary degree, whether it’s a masters or whatever. I went to law school, and it was the right thing for me to do. I really love what I do. There’s no better profession.

You can have just an exponential impact on the world as a lawyer. Yeah, I agree. And that’s been doing it for 30-plus years in one form or another. And I’ve also enjoyed the flexibility that law gives you. Yeah.

Yes. But do you ever wonder maybe you could have made it to Hollywood by at all?

I have no doubt. That if I had gone that route, you and I would be having a different interview, but I would have been much sought after. To me, I felt this is my vocation, this is what I was called to do.

When I have doubts, I look back on it and I say nothing’s perfect and nothing is great all the time, but the high is sure outweigh the lows. I’ve been blessed. I’ve had an exciting life. I sound like I’m giving my own eulogy here, but I’ve always done what I wanted to do, and it’s never been boring, that’s for sure.

It could be a positive or negative way to look at it, but people in our lives, they have a major impact to influence our decisions, and that was an influence. It turned out good for you. It could have went the other way as well.

That’s true. I think you have to listen. Whether you’re religious or not, I am, and I believe that’s how the Lord speaks to us is through other people. But I think you still have to listen to the world around you, even if you’re not a religious person, because your life is speaking to you through other people, through events.

And the way you react to different events in your life, that determines the arc of your life. If you have meaningful, thoughtful choices based on circumstance, then I think you’re going to have a great life. If you’re reactive or you react in a negative way to everything, then you’re going to have a negative life.

Yeah. Yeah. So, whatever you put out. That’s right. So, what sets you guys apart? You have over 30 years of experience. That is commendable. So, what do you find that helps you guys stand out from all of the other firms out there?

I think what makes us stand out is we have a mission, and our mission is to protect and further our clients’ jobs, careers, and businesses. And we have built this firm for that proposition. When it comes to employment law, there are lots of great lawyers out there who do a lot of… They may do employment law, divorce work, personal injury, and criminal in there. They’re great at what they do.

But we have decided that we want to make our clients our top priority, not just in the moment, but in the way we build the firm. We’re building this firm for our clients. I think that is our unique selling proposition is we are employment law all the time.

Now, I have a little bit of an extended definition of employment law. A lot of people think of employment law just as wrongful terminations, just discrimination, harassment, that thing. That’s a big part of what we do.

But I basically say employment law is anything, any legal matter that affects your ability to provide for your family. That could be all of those things, but it could also be a dispute with your business partner. It could be a non-compete or even a personal injury matter that reduces your ability to work.

We’ve got a lot of experience in proving lost earnings and reduced earning capacity. We bring that to the table where this is not going to mean too much, but we’re an AV-ranked firm, which means we’ve got the highest professionalism, experience, and ethics.

We want to bring that level of practice to not just the big, powerful corporations, but to everybody. I say we represent people, and sometimes the people we represent own businesses, and so we work through them to help their business, but only as a conduit of helping the person rather than a big corporation.

And don’t get me wrong, not the wrong with big corporations in the abstract, but that’s just not the firm we’re built to be.

So it’s basically you represent people on both sides, on the employment side, on the employer side, is basically you’re covering all angles.

We try to. I’d say the overwhelming majority of our clients are employees and executives. Whether they’re a CEO of a corporation or they’re a paramedic working on a helicopter, we represent mainly those folks.

Every now and then, as I say, a right-thinking entrepreneur will hire us. I love helping entrepreneurs build a HR-compliant workplace because it’s legally smart, but it’s also a good business. It’s a good business to treat your employees transparently, to train them well, to give them the tools they need to succeed.

And I find that organizations that do that tend not to get sued. And more importantly, they tend to make a lot more money, which what we’re all out here trying to do.

The more organized something is, the more streamlined it operates. It’s going to benefit the owner if he adds policies and processes to improve things.


That’s right. It’s not to get off too much of an employment law tangent, but simple things like job descriptions that are just jotted off to check a box really understanding how your organization is built, how each piece fits together, what it takes for each piece to be successful and to hire to that. I’m a big believer. I mentioned it already, I’m a big believer in mission. If you’ve got an organization that has a mission and you can communicate that.

I was on a recruitment call right before I got onto this call, and I was talking to this lady about coming to work for us, and I asked her what her mission was, and she was a little flummoxed. She said, No one has really asked me that. What gets you up in the morning? Why do you choose to work in this area? We talked about our mission, about helping people protect their job and so forth.

When you hire to your mission, you’re much more likely to make a good hire. You’re just trying to get somebody in a seat. And this lady told me, I want meaning in my life. I want meaning in what I do for a living. And I think most of us want that.

And so, if you can lay it out there and almost recruitment calls almost needs to be you need to do everything you can to talk the person out of working for you. Because you want someone that buys into that mission, that sees the mission and is willing to put up with the inevitable bad days that they’re going to have, along with hopefully great days because they’re bought into that mission. And you can’t replace that with training or anything else.

If someone has that fire to help you accomplish your mission, then that relationship is already starting out on a much stronger foundation than if you just even if you’re just hiring the most competent person on paper, if they don’t buy into the mission, they’re not going to be around very long.


I can relate to that. I appreciate when businesses lead with heart. When they do things from heart, the quality is so much different.

Oh, it is. And then you’re not disciplining people, you’re training them. Yeah, it’s more of a partnership. And then when things go wrong and the relationship sours and if, God forbid, you find yourself in court, all of the communication and documents are going to say to the jury, look, we tried. This just didn’t work.

This wasn’t a situation where we were trying to fire them for some cockamamie reason or legal reason just didn’t work out. And juries are smart. They see that. But when they see a bunch of arbitrary decisions that don’t seem that come out of left field on someone, they tend to scratch their head and say, what’s really going on here?

Again, that’s why one of our big value pillars in our shop is transparency. We want to be transparent with our team members. We want to be transparent with our clients. Opposing counsel, judges, everybody that we deal with, hey, there’s no hidden agenda here. What is what you get. And I think people hope people respect us for that. I think our relationships are better across the board.

And it comes back, like you said, to transparency. And then anyone can see that transparency, especially the employee that’s coming in, when they see those things, they realize, okay, I feel at home here. I’m safe. And it makes a hell of a lot of a difference. And even when we’re doing business with our consumers as a business, having that transparency makes a difference.

I won’t call them out, but I think the airlines industry in general, I’ve often wondered if there was a study, because we’ve all had that experience of sitting in a gate and they come on and they say the flight is delayed, it’s be 15 minutes. And every 20 minutes they say it’s going to be 15 minutes.

And it would be nice for a little transparency to say, look, we’re working on this. It may be 2 hours. Now, maybe there’s a psychological study that says it’s better just give a group of people like that 15 minutes of hope rather than uncertainty. But I think some transparency in that circumstance will go a long way to make people feel better about their flying experience, at least on certain airlines.

It’s the emotional side too. They fear chaos happening. Two to 4 hours, people start freaking out in the waiting area. So maybe that fear makes them make it a calmer process.

Maybe, yeah. I would really like to know the science on that. I’m sure that they but if you’re a veteran flyer and you hear the 15 minutes, you know that’s not true. You just know it’s not going to be particularly after the second 15 minutes, this is going to be a major delay. I just wish they’d say that. But anyway, I think transparency is always good and it’s better in bad times than in good times.

Admit a mistake and say, we miscalculated this. That happens to us. We have to go to a client and say, I got some bad news, the judge made a decision we agree with, or this witness has changed their story, or whatever. But just being as transparent about that as you can, I think, helps people because they don’t feel like they don’t know what’s coming.

I find that transparency requires heart because people are afraid of the response or the reaction for just being honest and being transparent. And people sugarcoat it or they move it around or make some changes to what they’re saying just to make it easier on the other person.

But that’s another question we need to ask is that what are majority of people okay with? Are they okay with hearing the transparency or a sugar-coated version? Like with me, when I’m dealing with you, I try to be as transparent as possible. And sometimes you can see the other person is not happy. What are your thoughts on that?

I think most of the time I dread the response in exponential proportion to what I actually get. I think the Ritz Carlton did a study and found that they got higher marks when they overcame an obstacle than when they gave perfect service. That people appreciate you being honest with them. And most people can appreciate with them. And we all make mistakes. We all drop the ball from time to time.

Yeah. And if you just say, look, I got some bad news, whatever it is, I got some bad news. We got this document and it doesn’t look good or got some bad news, and you tell a person, you say, okay, here’s how we’re going to make it. And most people are so appreciative that you’re straight with them.

I’ve got a colleague that does a lot of medical malpractice and he says, people never come to me and say the doctor apologized for this outcome and I still want to sue them. It’s usually a doctor or a hospital that makes a mistake and they won’t admit they made a mistake. They’ll try to tell you that the sky is blue when it’s obviously stormy and rainy.

And I just think that speaks wonders, volumes that people appreciate because they can identify with that. They can identify with you because they make mistakes. You’ve made a mistake and then they treat you the way they would like to be treated when they make a mistake. And like I say, I think we sugarcoat things not for the other person benefit, but for our own benefit when we’re sugar coating it.

Takes a specific type of mindset to know that the other person knowing the truth is so valuable and not worrying about yourself and just giving it to them in the nicest way possible, but in the long run you’ll keep them closer to you. They’re appreciative of that, but definitely it’s super important.

I’m glad that we’re having this conversation about it, but I wanted to ask you, Alan, do you have any kind of tips that you can share for an employee? If an employee goes into a business, what steps can they do to make that relationship better? And same time, when an employer hires an employee, what could they do to make the relationship better?

I think the first thing both sides of the equation can do is ask hard questions up front. If there’s a deal breaker for you and you want to find that out and you don’t want to skirt it in, it can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

But if you’re an employer and timeliness is important to you, you need to find out how embarrassed somebody is for being late. They’re not very embarrassed for being late. Then they’re probably going to be late. And if that’s a deal breaker, you need to find that out on the front end. And so that’s again, I go back to the whole job description.

Part of it is the job description needs to be unique to that particular job or class of jobs in your organization. You need to know what it takes to be successful in that job and then hire to that, hire to your mission, and then have a culture where people can confront each other constructively. In this country, we have a terrible relationship with confrontation. There’s good confrontation.

I’ll give you a good example on this timeliness issue. I’ve represented a fellow. He was a black man that was in his 60s, and he had worked for the same company his whole life. For the last 20, 30 years, he was habitually late. He was between 15 and 20 minutes late every single day.

It had to do with the public transportation system in his town. There’s just a hole. No matter how early he got to the bus stop, he was going to get to the place 20 or 30 minutes late. It’s a new boss who’s white, and it just really ticks this guy off that this guy is 15 or 20 minutes late.

But he doesn’t confront him with it. He doesn’t ask him, Hey, what’s wrong? He just took it as, well, this guy thinks he can just come and go as he pleases. After three times of the fellow being late, he fired him. He told him, he said, You’re late all the time. He comes to me and we’re in the consultation and I said, well, the paper here says that he fired you for being late.

Is that the real reason? The guy said something I’ll never forget. He says, No. How do you know that it wasn’t the real reason? I’ve been late for the last 30 years, and it was all right then. Now I get this new young white boss, and all of a sudden, it’s not all right anymore. It must be because of my age and race.

We eventually settled that, and we found out there were some younger white folks that got a little bit more of a pass on the late thing that he did, and it resulted in a settlement. But my point is, I think that whole thing could have been avoided if the manager had sat down and said, “all right, what’s going in here? Why are you late all the time?”

Then at least he would have known that it wasn’t an intentional thing on this guy’s part. It was because of the bus system. I think that they could have adjusted his start time, and he would have been late. He would have been on time all the time. But that company didn’t give themselves an opportunity to succeed there for a couple of reasons.

You’ve got to ask yourself, “okay, why is this a problem?” Then go and look for that root and maybe is it reconciled? But most of the time it is reconciled. You can make it happen. In a nutshell, that’s legal.

The other thing I recommend people do is read my book, The Law at Work, which goes into these sorts of things and talks about not just it’s written for people, not for lawyers. If it were written for lawyers, it’d be about that thick, but it legs out the law and how the law affects our working relationships, and it goes into a lot more detail.

Thank you so much for sharing that, Alan. At the end of the day, it comes down to care and compassion. When we have care and compassion in our businesses, in our government institutions, in our law firms, and anywhere, you will see that the relationship’s improved, everything improves.

Like you said, you can avoid so many of these cases just by just being human. Thank you so much, Alan, for coming on our show today and speaking about all this. It’s great to find out how important transparency is for your business and what you do, and also other people involved in the journey.

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