Growth Through Imperfection

Continuing from a previous post reflecting on the seven years since starting my law practice, here are a few more things I’ve learned along the way about business development, entrepreneurship, and growing a law firm. Hopefully, some (or all) resonate with anyone working to grow their career or business. 

When I first started my firm, and for several years after, I spent a lot of time thinking there had to be a clear and logical blueprint for business development. If I could just find the right program, join the ideal networking group, or read the best book on the subject, surely I’d be able to grow my business to where I felt it should be. It was particularly easy to succumb to this kind of thinking when I was feeling unsure about what I was doing, if I hadn’t hit a milestone I wanted to reach, or if I saw someone else posting how their firm was killing it. Obviously, my not measuring up was because I hadn’t yet found the right program, group, or book.

I now know that’s not how it works. Having tried a lot of programs, joined (and left) many networking groups, and read a slew of books, I’ve come to the most definite conclusion that, at least for me, there is no one perfect formula to grow a law firm (or any business). I’m sure the various programs, groups, and books work for some people. I, however, am not one of them. And I’m quite certain I’m not alone in that. So, with that in mind, what has worked for me?

First, starting and growing a business takes confidence and the ability to put yourself out there, in emotional and financial harm’s way. It’s a big risk. Some people have no problem here; but again, I am not one of them and the prescriptions of a given program, group, or book weren’t going to change this for me. The solution could only come from within. And that meant spending time thinking about what made it so hard for me to have the confidence that comes so easily to others. Ultimately, I understood it was a fear of criticism. I’ve talked about this a bit before in that previous post, but the tl;dr is I was always terrified that if I wrote something on LinkedIn, on my blog, or in an email, someone somewhere was going to say it was stupid. I suspect some of this fear has to do with gender, but that’s an issue for another day. 

What helped me get over this? It began by simply recognizing and acknowledging the issue. Therapy (duh!!) was big. Meditation helped as well. I also work with a fabulous business coach who often gives me new ways of thinking about things. I have a bunch of different pieces of advice she’s given me over the years written down where I can refer to them when needed (frequently!). One of my favorites is a reminder that we all tell ourselves stories and hold certain beliefs, but we need to look at data to see if the stories have any truth to them. I also work with a wonderful writer and editor on a lot of my posts and articles. This allows me to get my ideas down quickly without constantly judging or second-guessing myself, knowing someone else will make sure there are no incomplete thoughts or missing punctuation. 

Secondly, I’ve learned that sometimes doing something is better than doing something perfectly — and way better than doing nothing. I, like many others who have gone to fancy schools, worked for BigLaw, and grabbed at every gold ring along the way, tend to think that everything I do has to be perfect. Obviously, with legal work, exactitude is crucial. However, when it comes to business development, I realized that by getting bogged down in the search for the perfect way to do something, I often didn’t get anything done. Again, outside help has been really important for me in putting aside my urge toward perfection and focusing on just getting things done even if they’re not 100% perfect. Over time, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t has helped me refine my approach so that even when I know I’m not perfect, I keep moving in the right direction. 

Which brings me to a third thing that’s helped me: consistency. In other words, practice. For me, the act of doing something over and over again has been hugely helpful in becoming more comfortable with it. Truthfully, I’m not sure how exactly I stumbled on this, but it works for me. What you’re reading right now is a perfect example: when I started writing these posts, each and every one was a torturous struggle through hours of pain. Now several years and countless posts later, simply through repetition, the process has become much easier. And that, I assure you, feels great.