This week we are celebrating 15 years since Danny Clifford and Ben Gouldson opened the doors, or at least first sat around the kitchen table, of Clifford Gouldson Lawyers.
We thought it might be a good time to reflect on what we’ve learned during these 15 years not just about legal practice but about running a business, surviving the ups and downs and growing to a team of 37 across Toowoomba, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. So, Ben, Danny, Amanda Tolson (who became an equal owner in 2014) and the rest of the management team have put their heads together and come up with 15 lessons from 15 years in business.
- Long game before short game. Think about everything you do as a business with the long term consequences in mind. Short term gain might ultimately result in long term pain.
- Value your team’s insights. You probably don’t know your business anywhere near as well as your team does – seeking their input on strategy is invaluable.
- “Plays nicely with others”. Increasingly we’ve come to focus on whether new team members are a good fit and have the right attitude more than on perfect skills or experience. When you work with people you like it makes a better experience for clients and us.
- Offer support to others. The support of other business owners is critical – reaching out and supporting each other in hard times (like COVID) is so valuable.
- The right data. Having access to quality, accurate data to identify trends in your business and your industry is invaluable in timely management decision making.
- Some you keep, some you lose. Retaining great people is critical but sometimes you have to accept that even those team members you wish would stay, seem like a perfect fit and have become family, may still choose to move on, and that is ok.
- Be brave! Some steps can feel risky (opening a new office, a new hire etc) but bravery and optimism are important ingredients in those decisions!
- You do you. It’s easy to do what fits but it’s impossible to do what isn’t in your nature. Always invest in new skills, knowledge and technologies, but self awareness about what makes you tick and how that works in business will keep you on track.
- Integrity is everything. Critical moments will arise where two paths are before you. The easier path may produce a cash windfall but at what cost? Distil in the moment whether or not the path you’re about to embark upon aligns with your core values and beliefs. If it doesn’t, steer clear no matter how hard the decision may be.
- Culture beats strategy. No amount of strategy, planning or incentives will achieve your end goal without a positive and healthy culture in the business – aligned to the core values and beliefs of the organisation.
- Walk the talk. We’ve all been in organisations where there is no alignment between the speak and the action. This is dangerous for customer experience, but also for the culture of the people working with you. Leaders only maintain accountability through actions that align with words.
- Protect what you’ve built. So maybe this is also legal advice, but we can’t overstate the importance of legal protection for your business. Intellectual property protection, the right contracts and legal advice to protect your future are important.
- Modesty & Marketing. We’ve invested plenty in marketing our business, but we always try to do so with a sense of modesty. Inflated claims and overstated achievements may attract some attention, but your clients soon see the truth when the work starts. Nothing beats happy clients for growing a business.
- Have fun and keep laughing. If you’re getting at least a little fun, laughter or enjoyment out of your business each day it makes everything easier.
- Have faith. We can’t see the future, we don’t have all the answers, often the right path is unclear. So sometimes you just have to have faith that your choices, and the support of the team around you, will get you to the right destination.
So this is what we’ve learned, along with a lot about ourselves, over the last 15 years in business. We certainly aren’t business coaches but we invite any of our clients, contacts and business colleagues that ever want to chat about their business over coffee to give us a call. We hope we increasingly demonstrate value for our clients and referrers as a confidential sounding board.