I love business. Whenever a lawyer gives me a meaty business law blog to write, on a topic such as M&As and corporate governance, I get very excited. I also love being around passionate, engaged people who have enough gumption (one of my favourite words, thanks Margaret Mitchell) to get off their butts and build something worthwhile.
This is why I love working with start-ups. I learn so much from the founders and their enthusiasm, not only for their business, but for the world in general is infectious.
If you offer a professional service, I would urge you to make it a policy to give start-ups a break for these three reasons:
Someone did it for you
Entrepreneurs tend to have ‘healthy’ egos; after all you need it to keep persisting when the going gets tough. But as your success grows, it is easy to forget that, yes, your hard work and ‘street smarts’ have been a large part of your success, but so has luck and the generosity of others.
I still work with my first client, a law firm who gave me my break nearly three years ago. I am eternally grateful that they took a chance on me and credit them hugely for the position I am in today.
When I started out, countless people helped me; law firms who let me write copy for free so I could build up a portfolio, networking groups who let me join for a discounted fee because I had no money, friends who put me in touch with potential clients, strangers who gave me advice.
I can never repay these people for their kindness, but I know they do not expect it. The best way I can honour the help they gave me is to pay it forward to others and support those who are just starting out as best I can.
It feels good
Study after study has shown that random acts of kindness not only make the receiver feel good, but also the giver. I will never forget the day my husband and I shared a table at one of our favourite restaurants with two elderly ladies. The place was full and these two women kindly offered us a seat and we spent a wonderful hour chatting to them. I went up to pay for our food and on a whim, paid for the two ladies as well.
I never told them, we simply said goodbye and left. They only found out when they went to pay. They wrote us a lovely card, which the owner of the café gave to us when we returned some weeks later.
Regardless of how they felt, nothing can ever replace the joy of making such a random gesture. I still smile when I think about it.
Helping a new business get off the ground is the same. You are working with someone to achieve their dream. And who knows where it will lead….which brings me to…..
You grow with them
One of my clients is a law firm I have worked with since its inception. When the managing partner rang me, there were two of them and a couple of consultants working from home. With drive and dedication, they now run one of the most prominent immigration law firms in London, with an office in the West End. The partners are regularly called on by the media to make comments on developments in immigration law and they have a staff of around 10 and are growing all the time.
I have been with them from the start and have loved being part of their journey. As they have grown, so has the amount of work they have given to me and they are now one of my biggest clients.
Choosing to take on a start-up as a client is a risk. Generally, you have to discount your rates (or at least offer payment options) for the first year as their cash-flow is tight. But if you come across one who you can tell has the fire and passion to make their business a success, take a punt. They will often be the client who provides you with the most satisfaction.
Especially if they pay it forward themselves one day.
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