t’s hard to believe—this week is the one-year anniversary of the launch of Jane Freedman Law. It seemed like a good time to reflect and share some lessons learned in the process of creating my firm.
Looking back to one year ago, I was very scared. The only work life I had experienced in my almost 20 year career as a corporate lawyer was at big firms and companies. I was scared about marketing and getting clients. I had left my large law firm right before I was about to make partner, in 2001, in part to avoid the seemingly burdensome obligation of marketing and building a client base.
However, to launch the firm, I overcame my fear (or at least tried to temporarily block it out of my head). The official launch was sending an announcement to all of my contacts, letting them know what I was up to. I worried about what people would think. I remember the night before my announcement went out, I agonized over sending it. Would people make fun of me? Would they take me seriously? What would they say?
I closed my eyes, sent a silent request for good karma up to the heavens, and hit send on the announcement. Remember how worried I was about how it would be received? Well, the response was overwhelming: gracious, kind and supportive. That day was a great one. I smiled every time I got a response with words of encouragement or an offer of help. With technology, I could track my open and click through rates. Which I did. Hourly. Sometimes more than once an hour!
Which leads me to lesson #1: Everyone needs a cheerleader.
Everyone needs support and encouragement, preferably from someone who’s been where you are. My husband, who is reliably my biggest cheerleader, helped me overcome the initial fear of hitting “send.” I also joined a women’s entrepreneurs group. Although we were all at different stages in our very diverse group of companies, we found that we confronted many of the same issues. These women offered me a judgment free place at a time when I needed that support and advice and the ability to share successes and failures.
From sending that one announcement, I heard from people from all different places in my life, my career and my network. I heard from people that I had worked with 20 years ago and had not heard from since. I heard from newer friends and colleagues. They all offered words of encouragement, advice, introductions, lunches, dinners, drinks and coffees. I followed up on every single one. Eventually, business came my way. I found that I was winning business based solely on referrals from my network—clients were engaging me based on the trust and respect that I had built over the years within my network.
Which leads me to lesson #2: Relationships are key.
Develop and maintain your network. I am constantly getting together with people. In fact, my husband makes fun of me because I have a networking breakfast, lunch or dinner typically at least once a day. Through my networking, I’ve been invited to join and speak to various groups, many of them women only, further expanding my network. Again, relationships.
I discovered something important about myself, something that I would not have realized had I still been sitting in my corporate office for 10 plus hours a day, at my computer or on a conference all, working hard on company projects. I found that I truly enjoyed connecting at a personal and individual level with different people in different ways. I realized something that had eluded me all those years ago at a large firm: winning business is about being yourself, keeping in touch with people, and maintaining and nurturing relationships. Even if I am not going out and meeting people in person, I blog. I share interesting articles. I try to stay top-of-mind with my network.
Which leads me to lesson #3: Be authentic.
Be yourself. If you try to be someone that you’re not, that comes through and impacts every aspect of your business.
Today, I’m happy to report that Jane Freedman Law is an actual business that continues to grow through your support, encouragement and referrals—day by day and month by month.
There is much credit to give and not enough room in this blog to thank everyone personally who has influenced, helped or shaped me. So a big THANK YOU to all who have all played a part in the success of my firm and my career. You know who you are! I hope to pay it forward.
As always, thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment.