Whenever I find myself taking a trip down “memory lane,” I find myself lingering on 2008. That was the year I leapt from the cozy confines of someone else’s law practice into my very own woman-owned business.
In the words of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
The notion of endless possibility that comes with reaching for one’s biggest dreams is, of course, exhilarating. The flip side of endless possibility is the fear of failure. Or, in my case, sheer terror! When I took the leap from employee to business owner, I did so – figuratively and literally – without a net. I spent my last bit of savings to secure a long-term lease on office space. I had no marketing budget and, truth be told, I had no budget, period. I bought a cheap desk, a phone and plenty of tissues to dry my tears in the early days. I also had no employees and, perhaps most importantly, no clients.
What I did have, was desire and drive, which were instilled in me by my dad, who still owns his own business after 55 years. His work ethic is in my DNA. I also had confidence in my skills as an attorney and advocate. I trusted my ingenuity and my intuition. Above all, I had an abiding belief in the adage that, if you want something badly enough, the whole world conspires to help you get it. In 2008, I wanted to build a successful law practice and all I had to get it off the ground was entirely intangible – save for the large office space for which I was only able to pay one month’s rent in advance at the time I committed to a five-year lease. Ballsy? You bet.
As a woman in a largely male-dominated field, I knew there would be challenges on the road to my success, and figured most of them would come from inside the courtroom in the form of opponents with whom I would go toe-to-toe on behalf of a client, and then meet for drinks and pats on the back after a hard day in court just like a scene from “Ally McBeal” or “Boston Legal.”
I could not have been more wrong.
The biggest hurdles I faced in growing my business, came from outside competition. I spent a lot of time bobbing and weaving around some pretty unfriendly foes, and still do. Thanks to the heat, I realized it wasn’t going to be enough to hang a shingle, acquire clients and be the best damn lawyer I could be. If I wanted growth, longevity and, ultimately, to provide security for myself backed by a team of excellent attorneys aligned with my vision, I needed to actively and intentionally build a business. Here are three ways I embraced this shift in thinking and created incredible momentum in my career:
- Instead of focusing on keeping up with the competition, I focused on aligning with professionals who were on my side and had a vested interest in my success. I embraced my allies and thus, began my ascent to the head of the pack.
- To expand my influence and connections beyond the courtroom, I dove into the world of thought leadership. By leveraging the media, I have been able to share my authentic expertise with the world in bold, fun ways across print, broadcast and radio platforms. This added layer to my business has positioned me as an expert in the field of law and led to new clients and wider income streams.
- According to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, as of 2018, there were 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, and just 25% of women were likely to seek financing for their business, compared to 34% of male entrepreneurs. To set myself up for financial success and stability, I sought out, and formed an allegiance with, a trusted community bank. To this day, one of my strongest relationships is with Tompkins Mahopac Bank (TMB). It has become an integral part of my business plan, helping me sustain and grow in ways that only a trusted partner would. Having that support brings a comfort beyond description.
If I could give any aspiring business owner a word of advice as she embarks on building her own dreams, it would be this: Small shifts in your thinking can have a big impact in your business. Do not be distracted by those who do not have your best interest at heart. Instead, find your tribe, as they say, and surround yourself with those who not only can help you succeed, but want it as badly as do you.
Jonna Spilbor is a popular and outspoken attorney, columnist and legal analyst appearing regularly on the Fox News Channel, the Fox Business Network and other television networks. Licensed to practice law in three of the nation’s most influential jurisdictions-New York, California and the District of Columbia-Jonna owns and operates Jonna Spilbor Law, a full-service, extended-hour law firm. The firm’s practice is dedicated primarily to the areas of criminal defense, driving while intoxicated, family law and divorce (including same-sex/marriage equality issues), living-together law, personal injury/accidents, civil rights and more. Learn more at JonnaSpilborLaw.com.