Inside Track: A recovering workaholic with strong communication skills
Bethany Weaver, the young CEO of Legal Copy Services, tries not to draw attention to her age.
Bethany Weaver, CEO of Legal Copy Services, is a little self-conscious about her age and would rather not make an issue of it.
However, some things are hard not to notice. She is 29. And she has been the CEO since 2008.
Legal Copy was a small business in Grand Rapids when she was hired in March 2007, fresh out of Calvin College with a degree in communications and a major in rhetoric.
She started at Legal Copy as the customer service rep and one-person marketing staff. The company only had about five employees at the time, which is how she tries to explain away her rapid promotion to CEO.
Since she became CEO in 2008, Legal Copy has increased its revenue by 774 percent, its net income by 4,900 percent, and added 55 new jobs. Legal Copy has been a recipient of Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Sustainable Companies award for the past two years. This year it was honored by Gov. Rick Snyder as one of Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch. Also this year, the firm was selected as one of Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies in America, in the top one-third.
“She is very, very bright — very driven,” said Paul Van Tol, a Mount Clemens attorney who is the majority owner of Legal Copy.
The company is located in Cascade Township and was founded in 1981 as a records procurement and reproduction company serving the legal community in Michigan. Legal Copy is hired by attorneys and insurance companies to procure records — mainly medical records — needed in litigation. Procurement of medical records is no easy process because of the HIPPA laws protecting patient privacy. It requires all kinds of documentation, permission from patients and signatures galore. Maximum security of the stored records is also a paramount issue.
Legal Copy procures electronic documents, and sometimes paper documents; all are converted into electronic documents in a format that can be searched by the client for specific words to expedite legal research and case preparation.
Rhetorically speaking, what is rhetoric? And why study it in college?
It is defined as the art of effective expression and the persuasive use of language. Weaver said there are two types of rhetoric: communication in public speaking and via the written word. Rhetoric tends to focus on business or politics, she said.
“I’ve always been a bit of a talker and always loved engaging with people,” said Weaver.
Weaver, who grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, had jobs in retail sales in high school and college. She worked in a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Cleveland, which she said prepared her for working with “demanding clientele.”
“I just love helping people find something,” she said. She saw her communications skills as one of her strengths.
“Really strong communication skills will serve you in a number of ways,” she said.
Van Tol told the Business Journal about the first time he met Weaver. “She came up to me and shook my hand and looked me in the eye, and it was pretty quickly apparent when she started working in a leadership position that she was very unusual — just very poised in whatever she did.”
Weaver is “one of the greatest public speakers I have ever met, quite frankly,” said Van Tol.
When she first started at Legal Copy and was the primary marketing person, she and Van Tol attended lawyers’ conferences with the company being one of the sponsors. That gave Weaver the opportunity to make presentations on behalf of Legal Copy.
Van Tol said representatives of other sponsors would take five or 10 minutes to talk to the assembled attorneys, and it was often apparent the audience became bored.
“Bethany got up and in about 90 seconds explained what the company was, why we were there, what we could do for them, and she sat down. And everyone was smiling,” said Van Tol.
He heard her give a eulogy at her grandfather’s funeral, and when she finished, the minister said he really didn’t think he had any more to say after her moving tribute.
When Weaver started working at Legal Copy at age 21, she said she soon realized there was a great deal of untapped potential business for the company, and she wanted to help the staff make Legal Copy the best at records procurement in Michigan, implementing new technology and improving efficiency and customer satisfaction.
After her sudden promotion to CEO, she started “pounding the pavement,” especially in Metro Detroit, meeting with law firms or insurance companies. Prior to that, Legal Copy had focused on West Michigan. She would drive to Detroit in the morning, drive back to GR later in the day, and put in more time at the office.
“We did work seven days a week,” she admits, some days putting in as much as 14 hours. “But we saw the potential in it,” she added. “The business was out there. People were looking for someone who was going to get their records faster, with better service.”
Is she a workaholic?
“Recovering,” said Weaver with a laugh.
A few years ago, at a social event with a co-worker, she met a CPA by the name of Adam Weaver. They were married four years ago and now have a 2-year-old daughter and a 10-week-old son. Adam, she said, “is the number one dad, in my book.”
When she is home with the kids after work, she leaves her cellphone in the other room and ignores it until she has put the kids to bed. Then it’s back to work for a while. On weekends, she works while the kids are napping.
“When business is growing as quickly as ours is, that’s just how it is,” she said.
Legal Copy has several hundred clients and is on track to book from 80,000 to 85,000 orders this year. Last year it was about 73,500. She can’t divulge names of the largest clients but said that of the state’s largest property and casualty insurance carriers, “the majority of those are clients of ours.”
Legal Copy has a competitor in Lansing and a few in Metro Detroit.
Are those Detroit firms scared? She was silent for a moment, then said: “Yes!” and laughed heartily again.
She works so much because she is passionate about the company, she said.
“I have so much respect for my employees. They’re a critical part of our success and ability to grow, and I feel a commitment to them. I’ve promised all of them an opportunity in joining Legal Copy and what this company is capable of, and so I want to deliver on that to them.”
Noting that she is not from West Michigan, she said, “Legal Copy has been my family. It’s something I take very personally, through the good and the bad. The people of Legal Copy have been here for me. I’ve shared my life with them.”
“We say that we don’t look at employees at Legal Copy as a job description. We really see them as a person with a story. And it might sound kind of cheesy but we really do try to celebrate that story because that means they bring something unique, and we try to identify that. That’s going to be great for business.
“Especially being a small business, you really want to capitalize on the different things people bring in, and let them put that to work, let them use that. They’re going to enjoy their work the most if they’re able to do so, and the company is going to benefit, as well.”