Waaaay back, I wrote a post on making the transition from being a cog in the wheel of commerce to being the engine of your own business.
Since then, I’ve encountered more and more data on how terrifying, how thrilling it is to be an entrepreneur.
One of my side jobs is coaching other attorneys in making this transition from cog (employee) to entrepreneur. Like me, they hit barriers to their success almost daily—both within and without. Some give up. Some don’t.
Here’s what they’ve taught me about getting through those barriers:
1. When in doubt, reach out.
Lawyers are trained to mistrust everyone and everything; probably more than any other profession. We don’t even trust each other! But, really, most other lawyers probably need connection and support just as much as you do. When faced with fear about whether you should talk to another lawyer, take a chance on them. It really can’t hurt you to be vulnerable and real and ask for the help you need.
2. You CAN’T know it all. You can only be resourceful in learning.
Even judges need their law clerks to teach them the law before they can rule on it. You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about your field. But you can seek out resources beyond your own law firm to bolster your knowledge base.
3. Paint yourself into a corner.
I know! That sounds horrible! But yes, if you want to absolutely make certain you do not fail, you have to make failure not an option! Many, many times success only comes when we have no choice in the matter. This is like the guy I met recently who was fired from his job, couldn’t find another, and started a business on just a tiny shred of hope that ended up succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. I see that in my clients all the time! The people that “fail” are frequently those for whom failure ain’t so bad. But when people rely on you to make a living and you cannot fail… trust me, you won’t.
4. Expect to plateau, often.
Your business will plateau several times as you grow it. You will periodically reach the limits of your capacity personally and professionally. That’s when you’ll be tempted to give up. My next blog post will be on what to do when you plateau. For now, know that it happens and you can meet that challenge.
5. Remind yourself everyday why you’re doing it.
Okay, truth told, for me being a business owner wasn’t necessarily a choice. When I started, there wasn’t much legal work to be had and what little there was wasn’t going to serve my family at all. I was painted into a corner in time and resources. I had to learn to make money for the first time in my life. That’s terrifying! Every time I’m tempted to give up (and yes, I still am even now) I remember that the job market hasn’t improved, I haven’t gotten any younger; my family still needs me; I like working for myself; I love my clients and my work and dammit… I’m not giving up!
6. Take the next right step.
There isn’t much a person can do in any life situation but identify and take the next right step. How do you know what that step is? Go back to Number 1! Reach out to other like-minded people who are where you are or have been there in the recent past. (If you ask old-timers, they will have forgotten what it’s like and may not be that much help to you). My primary go-to groups are other Personal Family Lawyers® and Law Business Mentors who have helped me figure out how to set my next foot forward when I’m stumped.
7. Schedule time to work in and ON your business.
You’re learning not just the legal/technical work of lawyering but how to create, grow, and run a law business. As Michael Gerber says, author of “The E-Myth Revisited”, you are taking on three jobs: Technician, Manager, and Entrepreneur. You must give each of these three parts of yourself time to mature. If you’re only spending time as a technician, your business will never grow. If you’re only spending time as a manager, your technician will shut down and not want to work. If you’re only spending time as a visionary, you won’t be able to produce the product or service you’re offering.
8. DON’T GIVE UP WITHOUT A FIGHT!
Tempted as you will be to cut bait and go get a “real” job, don’t do that without exhausting every opportunity you have. Yes, you have to feed your family, but you can do without a lot before you throw in the towel.
Remember that being an entrepreneur is not a “lifestyle” choice. It’s a choice to be fully responsible and in charge of your own life and your family’s resources. Being an entrepreneur is learning to create money while having a job is earning money.
And that’s the best insurance against an uncertain future.