It’s 2006. I've developed a pretty good regional reputation helping law firm owners who have become trapped by their business, to get un-trapped and then scale - but my wife’s sudden illness has blindsided me.
I can't function. I’m falling apart. All because inexplicably, immaturely, and quite stupidly I failed to follow my own (excellent) advice about building a business that works for you.
My wife is in severe pain and can't get out of bed.
We’re broke and about to lose our home. The stress is unbearable.
Growing up was turbulent. My father made his fortune from real estate and white-collar crime. Yes, you read that correctly.
One night I awoke to the sound of bullets hitting our house. A business associate had sent someone to kill my father. Although he escaped, he later lost his fortune, remade it, and lost it again. And then the law caught up with him. This is why I can tell you exactly what it’s like to visit your father in jail.
And just for fun, I also had a ringside seat as my mother and stepfather built and lost a fortune in a business that was at least legal; but then saw them fight off creditors for many agonizing years.
In case you’re keeping score, this was all before the age of 25 by which time I’d lived at no less than 15 different home addresses.
Maybe it was the business my father was in or the way he lived his life. Or maybe it was the way my mother and stepfather lived theirs. Or maybe it was all the moving around. Either way, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. One thing I can tell you for certain, I leaned pretty heavily on my superpower to survive all those turbulent years.
My superpower is clarification. I’ve been doing this my whole life without even realizing what it would someday do for me. As a kid, I'd sit at the dining table listening to my parents' conversations and try to help them avoid an argument when “he” stopped meaning him, and “she” stopped meaning her and pretty soon my parents were having two totally disconnected conversations. Sometimes they’d laugh and give me a compliment for catching the misunderstanding. Other times I’d be told, “mind your own business.” I still remember how helpless it felt having to swallow my words while the train wreck slowly unfolded in front of me - I learned to hide my superpower.
Fast forward to 2006. That’s the year I married my wife. It’s also the year she got sick. One minute life was great. So great. The next minute, Ale got so sick she lost 25% of her body weight over 18 agonizing months.
Despite preaching and teaching the virtues of building a sustainable business that works for you even when you’re not working, I’d stupidly failed to follow my own (excellent) advice. I know it was really, really stupid of me.
My so-called business was really just me working from the dining room table. I was making a lot of money, but there were no systems. No procedures. No scale. And so, within weeks of stepping away to begin nursing Ale back to health, quite predictably, everything fell apart.
We quickly burned through our savings and then went the credit. Despite selling everything of value, we lost our home to foreclosure. It was humiliating. Especially since by then I’d already been a Small Law Practice Management Advisor with The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service. I was lucky enough to have worked there for four years under the world-famous JR Phelps who taught me all about how to start, market, manage, grow and scale-up a small law firm. Then he set me loose with more than NINE THOUSAND (9,000) solo & small law firm owners from every walk of life and firms in every practice area you can imagine. I know this sounds like an improbable number but it’s a fact. I’d spend about half the month in the office fielding calls from owners of small law firms who needed help with starting, marketing, managing, growing, controlling and figuring out how to make their law firms more profitable. Or sometimes, just how to get their small law firms to work for them instead of letting the firm ruin their life.
In a typical day I’d speak with anywhere from 5-7 law firm owners x 5 days-a-week = 25/week. I was in office about half of every month so that’s about 50 law firm owners I had the opportunity to work with per month x 12 = 600 per year x 4 years = 2,400 one-on-one telephonic consulting, strategy and tactical solutions between 1999-2002.
And when I wasn’t in the office I’d be out in the field conducing onsite consultations on behalf of The Florida Bar when the Disciplinary Committee found that a lawyer’s violations of Bar Rules stemmed from systematic law firm management problems and not bad intentions.
And I stopped counting back in 2002 BEFORE going on the road for several years to bar associations & law schools on The National CLE Law Firm Management Tour sponsored by Microsoft, Lexis-Nexis, Law Pay & Ruby Receptionists.
And that was before I built the team that built How To Manage A Small Law Firm into the largest & fastest growing firm in the world dedicated exclusively to helping to manage small law firms.
But back in 2007 I was broke!
That’s the year Ale recovered andI pivoted into info products while doing whatever consulting jobs I could find to pay the bills.
Although money was tight, the great blessing of the year was Ale's health improved. Which was a double blessing because she was able to begin painting again and, believe it or not, that’s how we survived, by selling her paintings.
By 2011, we’d sold all the paintings and Ale couldn’t keep up with demand. Because it turns out the same marketing & sales strategies I’d been using to help law firm owner build million and multimillion-dollar law firms worked well for selling paintings, too.
My business was finally gaining some momentum, and that’s when Ale made a tough decision I’ll always be grateful for, to postpone her art career and join me in the business. But she had one SERIOUS condition: “Yes or Yes. You’re going to find a way to make this happen.”
That was in 2012. That year I allowed myself NO excuses and gross revenues shot up to one million dollars.
We celebrated by shopping for new furniture, and at the store, my wife scribbled me a note:
"Take all your excuses, and shove them up your ass – T.A.Y.E. A.S.T.U.Y.A!"
That became our rallying cry. That also became the name of our son who was born in 2015.
Today, How To Manage A Small Law Firm works for me. I only work in it about 90 days a year, and it’s well into the 8 figures.
All because I stopped making excuses.
I know this is probably one of the longest bios you’ve ever read. And I thank you for making it to the end. That tells me you’re probably more likely than most people about saying “YES” to the question that was put to me all those years back: Are you willing to live for a few years the way most people aren’t, so you can know what it’s like to live the rest of your life the way most people can’t? So let me offer you one piece of advice here at the end of my bio: If you want it badly enough (whatever “it” is), you can make it happen. You just have to be ready to take all your excuses, and shove them up your ass.