09 Nov Business Ownership Reflections
As we celebrate our 8th year of business at J. Miller Law Firm and it also being the month of Thanksgiving, I am reflecting on the journey to get here as well as going forward into 2023 and beyond. I started my business at the end of 2014, truly from scratch, not taking any clients from my old firm. I had an idea of how I wanted to practice law and it was important to me to stay true to that vision, no matter how hard it was in the beginning.
J. Miller Law Firm was founded on simple ideals.
#1: Client communication is a priority. Clients have entrusted the firm with sensitive and often personal issues as well as their hard-earned money. J. Miller Law Firm makes it a priority to not only respond promptly to client inquiries but to be proactive and as much as possible communicate with the client the status of their issue before they ask about it. The firm feels so strongly about this that it is included in our fee agreements.
#2: Clients are our partners. It is our goal to have clients who not only are informed but ask questions and understand the process. A majority of the firm’s clients are either ongoing business clients or clients who come back to us later for additional work, and we maintain a working relationship over time. This also means not taking every client who calls. The attorney-client relationship must be a good fit and we strive to maintain a positive working relationship with each client.
#3: Building a business is building relationships. The firm has been successful in building a business primarily through active networking and referrals.
#4: Be a resource. The firm has developed a solid base of trusted referrals in which to refer clients to other professionals for different needs such as accountants, financial planners, realtors, insurance, and so on. This allows the client to save time and often money to help resolve an issue.
#5: Give back. My volunteer work includes serving as the 2022 Board Chair of the Bixby Metro Chamber of Commerce; Board Member of the Bixby Development Foundation; mentor and subject matter expert for SCORE Tulsa; mediator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and volunteer arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau to hear and decide disputes between business owners and customers. I have also been a frequent speaker at various community events and networking groups, and a frequent guest on KRMG Green Country Entrepreneur Hour.
The journey has not always been easy, and it’s not always easy for my business owner clients and mentees. If I have any advice to others just starting out or currently struggling and wondering if entrepreneurship is the right fit for them, I would offer the following –
- Have a mentor (or several). Business ownership involves a lot of making decisions by yourself, and it’s a lonely job. You don’t always want to bring every concern to a spouse, partner, or family member. Have a person or people you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. This can also be a business coach.
- Know when and what to outsource. In the beginning, I tried to do everything myself to save money, including teaching myself enough WordPress to build my first website. It was functional and looked ok, but the website I have now is far better by the use of professionals who build websites for a living. The reality is most people are very good at the thing they started the business to do. They are not as good (and it takes more time to do) other things that are the administrative side of the business, such as bookkeeping/taxes, building a website, marketing, and so on. One of the best and most time-savings things I have done is hire an assistant – first virtual and now in person most of the time.
- Know when to say “no.” This may be saying “no” to a difficult client, “no” to attending events that don’t have value for you, or “no” to extra demands on your time.
- Know your numbers. Your financial reports tell you a lot about the health of your business and can help you plan for growth as well as knowing where to cut back on expenses. Also knowing where you get your business can help you determine what marketing and networking has value for you.
If you’re struggling – I hope you find some time and some resources to take a breath, reflect, and make decisions that are best for you and your business. I continue to be thankful for my family, friends, clients, and referral partners, and I look forward to continued growth in 2023 and beyond. I count my dad as one of my business mentors, and as he has always said “The best is yet to come.”