May 25, 2022

StrategisChhr

Skillful Business Crafters

Tips From An Unintentional Business Founder And CEO

Stacey E. Burke: 20-year lawyer, legal marketing expert and consulting business owner.

I left a highly lucrative law firm partnership in 2013. Upon my exit, I intended to take a pause and eventually return to another law firm; however, my former competitors asked me for help—and thus my law firm consulting business was born. I never intended to run my own business, and certainly never intended for my foray into consulting to become a permanent job. As I quickly discovered, though, the legal industry had a significant void and need that I came to fill—and as a result, I have turned what I am most passionate about and enjoy the most within law into a career and a thriving business.

Below I will discuss a few lessons I’ve learned, along with tips for other owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to help you thoughtfully plan, execute and adjust your business models as you travel along your ownership journey.

Make Your Business A Client Of Your Business

While many of the lawyers I consult with are leaving firms to start their own businesses, and I help them formulate plans, devise marketing assets and strategies, and think everything through before they make the leap, I did not establish my own company this way. I went into digital marketing without a website or a social presence established beforehand, which was far from ideal. As an unintentional business founder and CEO, I have learned many lessons like this along the way.

One of the most important and helpful lessons I learned early on was to make my own business a client of my company. While many business consultants pay lip service to this idea—suggesting that owners set aside a few hours each month for their own entities—I disagree with that approach. From its inception, I knew my company would have to evolve to become efficient and effective to provide the best possible service to my clients. I therefore needed to invest as much time and energy into my own company as I do for each of my clients. The handling of my own company as a client isn’t just done by me in a vacuum—I involve my entire team and have even used outside consultants to gain additional perspective.

For example, when my team does “file review” (I’ve kept the law firm jargon for our monthly meetings) of all of our clients, we include Stacey E. Burke, P.C., and we have designated projects and tasks we perform daily for the company. Prioritizing working on my own business has been crucial to the success and growth of the company. Furthermore, involving all of my team members encourages them to become more invested in the success of my business and gives me helpful and constructive insight into the pain points of each of their positions within the organization. Ultimately, you have to make your own company a client of your business and devote time and resources to it because no one else will.

Prioritize And Protect Your People

To me, being a CEO means being responsible for the professional happiness and financial livelihood of everyone on your team, including employees, contractors and the vendors you work with. As a female founder, I make work-life balance and a family focus the foundation of how I think about every job description, discuss it to the extent it is appropriate with new-hire candidates, and plan our holidays and days off for the year by gathering everyone’s thoughts and opinions so our entire team’s needs are considered, cared about and incorporated.

Being the owner of a business also means the buck stops with you, so to speak. For example, when something goes wrong or a client gets ornery, my employees know to escalate the issue and the angry person straight to me and I will handle it. I do not allow any client, no matter how much they pay us, to treat anyone on my team poorly. If they want a fight, they can bring it to me (and I can decide if they are worth continuing to work with). The philosophy is simple but important: Protect your people at all costs—they are your most valuable assets, and if you treat them that way, they will stay and grow with you. In addition, the company name is literally my own name, and the work we do affects my reputation, so I must remain cognizant of that at all times.

Remain Of Service To Others

While many other business owners have told me to charge for consultations, I still provide them for free. Many business owners would consider this a waste of time. In fact, I just recently spent hours on a video call with a law school classmate who basically learned everything he needed from me and then hired someone cheaper.

I still think it’s worth it to always be generous with your time and expertise because even when people don’t hire you, they may recommend you for speaking engagements, publication opportunities and very often to other potential clients with larger budgets who will hire you. You also learn more about your industry with each conversation you have. I truly consider each interaction with someone in the legal industry to be a valid part of business development, as well as a part of my personal duty to pay it forward and help those who truly need advice that I can easily provide.

Conclusion

Just as it’s important to remember to prioritize your own individual skill development and your own business’s needs, for those who lead and/or are client-facing—whether an entire company or a group within a business— remember that those you work with are people. Do not lose sight of their humanity by being too focused on the task at hand, as you can risk losing valuable clients and vital team members.


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/03/01/tips-from-an-unintentional-business-founder-and-ceo/