First Year In Business

Posted: Thursday July 15 2021

By: Abbie Coleman


By Marie Walsh – Consilia Legal

*First published in 2019

You may or may not be familiar with the lyrics from the hit musical Wicked and the famous song defying gravity but this is for me anyway how the concept of starting my own law firm took flight.  This and a very drunken night out.

You could say that something had changed within me, something was not the same and I was definitely through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game!

Consequently Consilia Legal came to existence.

I am of course a solicitor by trade not a business person and I have never run a law firm.  This is also the case for my partner Laura.

I can’t speak for the others but what followed the initial concept and formation of the business has been perhaps the steepest learning curve in my life to date which has come with both highs and lows and in the main permanent exhaustion.

I’ve been asked by MMB Magazine to share my experiences in the first year of business and I think it might be useful for others for me to share my 5 top tips for anyone in the first year of business based solely of course on my experiences to date so here goes:-

  1. Bankers – There are a lots of these in business of course. I made the mistake of thinking that the bank to whom at least one of my partners and myself had been loyal customers for many years would assist with this new venture.  I was wrong.  So tip number one is to sort out your finances straight away and find a bank which understands your business, wants your business banking and with whom you can communicate effectively.  I wasted a lot of time with my bank and with hindsight should have realised they were not interested in my business at all from an early stage.  Ultimately we took up a tip from a client contact who referred us to his business manager at Barclays and the rest is history.
  1. Get networking – I have always valued networking and in particular regular networking events. I enjoy the camaraderie of it all and sharing experiences with like-minded people.  When we set up the business I joined BNI in Bramhope.  Its early mornings but regular meetings take place each week.  From this group alone I have managed to source valuable services for the business such as IT suppliers, document scanning services, PA support, marketing materials and the list goes on.   All of these things from people I like, see weekly and most importantly trust.  This and other groups we attend have helped us undoubtedly progress and grow the business and increase brand awareness in the first year.   So tip number two is to get out there as much as you can and shout about your business in person. Good contacts who know you well are invaluable.
  1. Social Media – It has astounded me how much work has been generated from social media platforms. Facebook Linked in Instagram and Twitter have not only been profile raising platforms and enabled us to engage with our online audience but have also personalised the brand and like it or loathe  it it’s working.    It’s so true that people buy people and social media allows you to get personal.  Tip number three is to Get Social.
  1. Focus and Limits – Tip number four is to know your limits and keep focus.  Its important in the first year not to over commit and burn out.  I have learnt this the hard way.  As a new business you want to say yes to everything and everyone.  This isn’t always the best way to progress though.  Be honest with yourself about what capacity for work you have.  Also keep focussed on what kind of work you want – don’t get taken down a work stream path that you don’t want and never intended just because it’s there and may seem easier.  Stick to your original business plan and keep going back to it.  Remember why you set up the business and your goals.  Don’t be distracted by others.  In this first year of business it seemed everyone wanted a meeting coffee lunch etc but was this for my benefit?  To be honest 80% of invitations were sales calls.  Don’t aim to please aim to achieve.
  1. Future and change– Finally keep looking to the future. The first year has very high highs and very low lows.  What is important though is to keep your focus on the future.  Be amenable to change in order to keep moving forward.  Hardly anything we do now in the business was how we had envisaged it or how we started out doing it.  Changing practices and streamlining procedures / processes etc is an ongoing task.  Whatever you do though don’t look back and be overly critical.  You are new to this and there are bound to be hiccups.  If its not working change is and don’t worry about failure.  You are having a go.  You have already achieved.

Good Luck!