Recently, I did a LinkedIn live stream to talk about the challenges I’ve faced when growing my business.
One of my favorite things to do in life, for those people that know me, is to talk business.
I grew up in a family business and now I run my own, so it’s pretty much been my whole life. I always feel that growing up in a family-run business has been a secret advantage because whenever I talk to a business owner about a trademark matter, I have a good understanding of the issues and problems they’re facing.
My dad, when I was growing up, ran a chain of automotive repair centers. He went from a single shop in 1979, to 13 locations by the time I was in college. All during my childhood, he was building his business, opening new stores, dealing with all the issues that come with managing inventory, managing employees, marketing and advertising, you name it. Having that background has been immensely helpful in my own career as a law firm owner- not only in operating it, but also in understanding all of my clients and their business challenges.
The Single Biggest Mistake I Made In My Business
Now, I want to share the single greatest mistake I made in my business.
The biggest thing that I did wrong from about 2008, when I started, to 2014 is I didn’t hire enough people. I had a single paralegal and I hired part-time folks here or there. But I tried to do everything myself. I thought that nobody could do it as well as I could and I also thought that if I hired people, quite frankly, I might make less money at the end of the year.
That was extraordinarily shortsighted on my part for of a number of reasons. I now have four additional attorneys, five paralegals, and a digital marketing person. Hiring these employees has allowed me to expand and grow my business and revenue.
There has never been an instance where we hired somebody and the bottom line didn’t grow. Ultimately, it freed me up as the business owner to go out and do more.
I think the biggest mistake, and I see this in a lot of small business owners, is that we’re so used to doing everything ourselves, and we think that nobody can do it as well as we can.
For the six years that I resisted hiring people, I didn’t have the growth that I could have had. It essentially stunted our growth.
Similarly, the number two mistake I’ve made over the years is not reinvesting enough in my business, and typically that means in marketing or advertising. Over time, you realize as you get to end of the year, if you have money left over you’re just paying taxes on that. So, sometimes a better strategy is to make sure you’re reinvesting as the year goes on and putting more money back into the marketing and advertising that can grow the business and help you take things to the next level.
How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance
Personally, I think there’s a lack of work ethic in today’s world, where people are very focused on work-life balance. While a work-life balance is important, if you aren’t willing to work hard, you should not expect things to just come to you.
One way to achieve a work-life balance, while still working hard, is to avoid burnout. You should be doing things you enjoy every day.
For me, I block off an hour every day to exercise and take a break from work. It’s non-negotiable. It also sets me up for the rest of the day mentally, as well as physically.
I think it’s so important to take that time to go for a walk, to play basketball, do whatever you’d like to do, but do it on an almost daily basis so that you’re doing something other than just work.
Work ethic is extremely important and I don’t think that you should just be playing for five days at work and two days off. If you’re going to really run a business, you’re probably on seven days a week, just like I am, but you’ve got to find ways to make every day a really good day.
Questions from LinkedIn Viewers
1. Healthcare is one of the biggest challenges and biggest expenses. How do you approach it?
If you’re running a company, you have to worry about your health plan and your healthcare for your employees. Now, if you’re under a certain number of employees, it’s not required that you actually offer health insurance. However, once you hit a certain threshold, it is required.
Healthcare is incredibly expensive and there’s no question about that. The one thing I will say is that if you make sure that your employees are comfortable and feel safe, they’re going to perform a lot better for you. You need to make sure that you’re either paying the employees enough so that they can go out in the marketplace and secure their own health coverage, or if you have to offer it, you should offer a good plan and that should be part of the overall compensation package. Ultimately, the market out there sets the rate for whatever the compensation package should be.
I’m a strong believer that you need to take the cost of healthcare into consideration when you’re setting the overall compensation package for anybody that’s coming in the door. If you’re going to provide that, it’s obviously going to be expensive and you need to consider that. You also need to consider the fact that if it just means that you make a few less dollars at the end of the year but your employees are better-taken care of, that’s ultimately going to help your business in the long run.
2. Have you ever used a temp agency before hiring someone?
I have never used a temp agency. I have a hard time believing in using temporary folks unless there’s a very narrow project that they would need to come in for. If you have one case or one big issue arise in a business, you can bring in temporary employees and have them work on that. But I don’t think it really builds any company culture to hire temporary employees. I think if it’s to deal with the exigency of the day then that’s fine.
Personally, I think training employees to work at the standard that we would expect at our firm would be really difficult on a short-term basis. When you’re hiring employees for any business, you’re going to have a lead time from the time that person actually starts working for you to the time that they’re the most effective.
As new people come in and they get more experience, and this could be over the course of several years it can take to develop, then they get to that two or three-year point in your business where they’re really firing on all cylinders for you. You need to add people to grow.