Remember the day I quit the job to start up a new firm? It was 27th October 2006. Had a headache from 5am. Spoke to dad on the way to work. Had to cut the call short – fear of the lump that was rising in my throat. Words of encouragement. Badly needed them but then choked when they came. Sorry dad – call you back later. Head thumping. Into the boss’s office. Caught him cold but he was great about it. Cheers Alan – never forget that. Pints that evening in Toners with Larry – suddenly a partner in a law firm. Just like that! Like a couple of giddy children. Nicest pints ever. Come on world – let’s have you. Two lads, a small room on a lane and a load of unrealistic optimism. No wives, no kids, just big mortgages. Nothing to lose and everything to lose.
Opened up shop on 1st January 2007. A couple of family clients (“send me a bill so I can pay you!”) and new shoes to break in. Walking the streets looking for a start. A couple of lucky breaks. Pretending you could do some of this law stuff – need a will done? Collect a few bob? Can do. Say yes to everything. 7am network meetings in the Red Cow? See you there. Funny stories. Startup land.
One-year in. The world collapses. Can’t downsize when there are only two of you. Las tin first out? Roll up the sleeves. Longer hours, harder grind. Always be positive. Client goes bust. Heartbreak. Always strive for a bigger thing. Surprise yourself. Big firms swing their axes. Great people get hurt. Pick them up – we’ll give you a start. Dust yourself off – you’re great. We can do this. Keep smiling – everything is an opportunity.
Make a few mistakes. Make a few more. Learn a bit each time. Get a culture going. Get brilliant young people to follow you. See them grow and become brilliant. This is more than us – it’s them. Feel so proud of them – heart thumping! Big firms come hunting. A curse – or maybe a compliment?
Every year a blank page. Where’s the work coming from? Are people happy? Have to keep your culture strong. Some will stay, some will go. Breaks your heart every time but you believe in what you’re doing. Keep the faith. Be true to yourself. You’ll get there. People see it. They want to be around you. It’s powerful. When you drift, they drift. Get back to your core – to your true self.
Work is brutal for a few years. Receiverships, examinerships, sinking ships. No champagne. Just getting through it. Do what it takes to keep the lights on. Finally things are looking up. Ten fast, tough years. Challenges ahead. Nothing like what we’ve been through.
Why do we do it? We enjoy using our skills to help people. Simple. Makes us feel good. We are so fortunate. The computers are coming but they don’t connect like we do. They don’t get inspired, or teary or passionate. That’s the stuff that matters. Let the technology do the rest. Sit with your colleagues and your clients. Get to know them. Care about them. You’ll get it back in spades. This is a contact sport. Get bruised once in a while but recover and become better. Work on relationships – at home, at work, with your clients. Invest in them and stay true to yourself. Have genuine conversations. Avoid bullshit. Everyone struggles and is coping. Be fair to yourself and your colleagues – they are good people, doing the best they can.
Get the technology to help you. Don’t fear it – embrace it. Take time to learn and improve yourself. Take a course. Open your mind. Don’t blame others. Avoid negative people who suck away your positivity.
Broaden your interests. Keep up your (now forgotten) hobbies. It makes you interesting and gives you new things to talk about. You’ll be inspired. Get back to stuff you loved when you were young. You will inspire others without even knowing it.
Watch out for yourself and your wife (or husband, or partner, or mum or dad or son or daughter). You’ll get sucked into the job. It can dominate your thoughts. They’ll understand and back you. Thank them. Pay attention to them and appreciate what they sacrifice for you (quiet stuff – the phone checking, the interrupted holidays, the lateness for everything…the distractions). Love them and never forget why you’re doing this. It’s for them.
Be your true self. Don’t judge yourself or others. Strive to improve yourself always. You will need to. Standing still won’t cut it. Don’t get complacent. Be kind to yourself and others. Celebrate your successes. Be grateful and never forget how fortunate you are. Give thanks always and help others always.
Ten years will fly by. Then a knock on the door comes. One of your stars walks in with a white face and a headache.
“Can I have a word?’….