We work with a lot of entrepreneurs and start-ups. Heck, at 5 years old, our firm is just getting out of the toddler stage! So, I get asked a lot about the “how.” How do you start? How do you know what to do? How do you scale? We can answer a lot of the legal ones easily, like “How do you create a company?” and “How do you protect your trademark?” The other ones are trickier and very fact dependent. But throughout it all, the question of “How do you ‘be an entrepreneur’?” all comes down to being OK with being uncomfortable. You will be uncomfortable a lot. I know I was. I hadn’t started a law firm before 2016. I hadn’t hired employees, figured out insurance, or picked out an office space before. There were a lot of looking at options, and feeling like a game of Eeny-Meeny was a likely approach. That meant we spent a lot of time making decisions based on the best information at hand, but a lot of it was “Well, this seems good for now.” I learned that I was OK with “good for now” and building on it later.
I have also learned that I am OK being uncomfortable when saying “Yes” to opportunities that I don’t really know how we’re going to do it. When we hired our first employee, we weren’t really sure if she would say yes, if we could keep her busy, and if we could pay her for a full year. I mean, yes, we could pay as long as clients kept paying, but what if all my clients left me?! Both she and I had to be OK with those unknowns. And, perhaps, even harder was being OK when saying “No” to opportunities. If a prospective client wanted to pay me to do something like defending a parking ticket, as a young start-up, you don’t want to say no to money. But that is not my forte, and if I took it, it would distract me from what I am good at doing. That meant, I had to say no even if it meant I wasn’t sure I’d have something to say yes to later.
Finally, I have discovered that I don’t feel awkward nearly as often as many others do. If I am at a microphone in front of a large group of people, I am happy to tell them what I think and what I know. Put me in a room full of strangers, and I will find someone to talk to about something. I hear a lot about how awkward that makes people feel, and I just shrug. When asked how I do it, I just say that I suck it up and get over it. I haven’t always been as good about that as I am now. I built that muscle. But that hurdle to say, “Hey, I’m Erin. What’s your name?” is a bit lower for me than for others. Even better for me, my hurdle for me to follow up with an ask is pretty low, too. “Hey, can we meet for coffee?” or “Can you send me a link to that book?” are easy. “Can you tell me how you hire people?” was harder until I realized people generally love talking about what they do. And “I have this idea, what do you think?” sounds scary to ask until you realize people like being asked their opinion. So, I while I may have started out with a head start in the OK to be awkward race, I have built that awkward muscle to be even better. That means if we are at an event (and we will be able to do so again!), be ready for me to come up and say hi. But even better, practice being OK with being uncomfortable, and come up and say hi to me! We’ll be awkward together!