When I started our firm seven years ago, I could have never envisioned where we would be in 2020. At that point the firm was about to turn five years old and we were beginning to see all our hard work really take off. Our client base and revenues were growing steadily, and we had just begun to expand our team from me and our one fantastic admin to three lawyers (and still the fantastic admin) and our work also started to broaden from exclusively litigation to include a transactional corporate and IP practice. I was feeling really good about what we had accomplished and about the year ahead. And then the world stopped.
Like many business owners, my first feeling was – concern (panic?) – would everything I had worked so hard to build over the last five years come to a crashing halt? We worked with many small business clients as well as some large ones – how would their businesses survive? How long would the crisis last? What was going to happen next?
I started to participate in many group calls with other small business owners and spoke with many of my clients and friends. I quickly realized that small business owners were falling into two camps – those who were panicking and bemoaning the loss of momentum and business they were facing, giving into feelings of worry and immediately feeling stalled, exhausted and burnt out (all very valid emotions at the time) – and then another camp, who stared into the unknown and looked at the immediate impact on the business and whose first thoughts were “how can I turn this to an advantage? Or at least avoid a total train wreck? What’s my pivot?” To those who know me, it should not be hard to guess which camp I fell in and which group I decided to spend my time with.
Facing a Challenge? Surround Yourself with Problem Solvers
One of the biggest sources of support to me during that time was my 2019 Tory Burch Fellows community – in late March, needing to find other entrepreneurs who were thinking about the crisis like me, I sent out an email to the 49 other 2019 Tory Burch Fellows and asked if anyone wanted to meet up for a Zoom Happy Hour – as hard as it is to believe now, that was a new concept at the time! And lots of the other Fellows responded and joined. And for the next year or so, many of us met each week to commiserate, brainstorm and help each other pivot, stay the course, and navigate through the crisis. I had really appreciated my relationships with many of the other Fellows before the pandemic, but I will be forever grateful for the group from 2020 forward for helping me stay centered, sane and on track as we all weathered the crazy storm that was 2020 together.
Oddly, after a brief dip in business in the Spring of 2020, our business resumed its upward trajectory that Summer. It wasn’t really because of the pandemic that our business grew – it truly was in spite of the pandemic that it grew. My resolve to hold fast to what worked before and to not let unexpected challenges deter me worked to the firm’s advantage. And so, we continued on our way and are truly grateful that we were spared the impact of the pandemic that so many other businesses are still recovering from.
Expect the Unexpected
So what have I learned? Well, one thing comes to mind. At our daughter’s high school commencement this June, the commencement speaker’s theme was “expect the unexpected.” That is as true for young adulthood (and really, life) as it is for running a business – you need to expect the unexpected. Truly, the pandemic was above and beyond what anyone in the right mind could have expected (except maybe for a few writers of dystopian fiction) but it happened, and we survived. In some ways we’ve seen a lot of the unexpected in the last few years, this year’s Dobbs decision a notable example. It’s very hard for me to fathom that a basic human right I really took for granted during my entire reproductive life is now denied our children. Mindboggling, to be sure, but a clear example of where we need to expect the unexpected.
Humans are Resilient
The other thing I’ve learned – honestly, I think we have all learned – is that the human race is remarkably resilient. This is not the first global pandemic we as a human race have seen, although most of us have not lived through one before this. And we did what humanity has done before us. We carried on and used our technology and knowledge to find solutions.
Now, coming out of the pandemic, we see many other examples of the unexpected. One example is the permanent rise in hybrid work and working from home. I can remember, as I am sure many of you can, how as young lawyers, we were told that working from home was “impossible – How do we know you are really working? Won’t you be distracted?” There are still those who feel this way but most of us have finally figured out that type of sentiment is just nonsense.
Building a Business My Way
For me personally, the thing I have most learned over the last seven years is that I have finally found what I was truly meant to do, even more so than being a lawyer: being an entrepreneur. I love building something and, most important, I’ve embraced what my parents (and my husband and kids lol) have always known. I want to do things for myself, my way.
My mom loves to tell this story. When I was quite little, not long after I learned to walk, I was all dressed up one day to attend church (it was likely for Easter or Christmas – I know it was one of the major Catholic holidays), in an outfit complete with a little blue purse, which I loved. The church service we were attending was down a very steep and very dark flight of stone steps, and it was crowded, so my dad decided to pick me up and carry me down the steps instead of letting me try to walk them. I was having NONE of it. As my mom tells it, I proceeded to beat him around the head with said little blue purse and demanded he put me down, so I could do it MYSELF. He didn’t put me down, but from that moment on, they knew they were in for a ride.
Things honestly haven’t changed much in over 50 years. I may no longer carry a little blue purse (black is my more likely color of choice), but I still like to do things for myself, MY WAY. What a pleasure it is to find that “my way” often works out and allows me to build things I am proud of and help others. That dogged determination and unwavering belief in my ability to figure things out for myself have helped me weather pandemics and other hardships and unexpected events along the way.
Building a Business My Way Doesn’t Mean Doing it Alone
But I have learned one other thing over the last 50 years that little me, with my blue purse, hadn’t figured out yet. That is that you really can’t – and shouldn’t – ever do it completely alone. That everyone, even the most dogged individualist, needs help and a team to support them, guide them, and, at times, to tell them when they are on the wrong path. I am grateful to have that team in my life, especially all those at ND Galli Law. Happy Anniversary to my team and congratulations on last seven years of success! Now let’s get working on the next seven.