Four Lessons I Learned by Opening a Business

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(Ruth Goldner, Lawthenticity, March 24, 2015)

My business was not born out of necessity. I had a stable job at a busy, respected, and successful law firm with good opportunities for career development. Everything seemed to be lining up, but it didn’t feel like the right fit.

I eventually realized that I wanted to build a business that supported my community and helped people move forward when they had legal issues in their personal lives. Rather than trying to develop this practice within an established law firm, I took a risk and left to open a small firm in Royal Oak. It was the scariest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. The following four lessons gave me the strength and motivation I needed to take the plunge and open my business.

Build your business around your values.

When I began to think about opening a business, I purchased a variety of books on business development. These books CFSEM-123-OaklandCounty115-digital-ad_v2had many different approaches, but shared one common theme: start with your values. Your mission statement, every company policy, and your marketing plan will stem from your company’s core value. For me, I see lawyers as potential healers of conflict and wanted to build a community-based law firm that helped people restore balance and peace to their lives. Reflecting on this value makes it easier to make decisions about how my practice operates, and makes me feel nourished and satisfied when I am at work.

Get ready to work long hours, but create space for self care.

I was ready for long hours, but was surprised by how many 12+ hour days I worked in the first few months of my practice. These long hours were satisfying but exhausting. Remember that you are your own best friend. Reflect on what helps you decompress and build it into your day. When there is an opportunity to take some down time, do it. It’s easy to work around the clock because there is always something that you could be doing to build your business. If you are going to be your own boss, be a good boss and take care of yourself.

Decide whose opinion really matters.HowesLocation

When you are working towards opening a business, you will hear a wide spectrum of opinions ranging from enthusiastic support to horrified warnings. It can be exhausting to process these viewpoints, especially when those viewpoints are negative.

I found it helpful to identify a small group of people who could provide honest but productive feedback. These people, comprised of some family, friends, and professional contacts, always believed in me and supported my project but did not blindly encourage every harebrained idea. They knew my strengths, weaknesses, goals, and fears. When I hit a bump in the road, my trusted council acknowledged the hurdle and helped me brainstorm solutions. They celebrated my successes, and galvanized me when I felt defeated.

Knowing whose opinion actually matters is crucial because it is so easy to get mired in negative or discouraging feedback, which sometimes comes from people that you respect and love. Do not take everything to heart. Try to remember that most people mean well, and they may be alarmed at the thought that you would take a risk like opening gardenfreshADa business. They may also be projecting their own anxieties about risk onto you and your situation. Everyone’s tolerance for risk is different, and do not let these comments shake you. Consciously decide to whom you can turn for productive feedback, and call these people whenever you feel rattled.

Accept that you cannot plan for everything.

When opening new business, it is absolutely imperative that you do your homework. Reflect on your values and mission statement, research the market, consult with your peers, study the tools of the trade (including marketing, branding, networking, et al), identify your strengths and weaknesses, develop a budget, save up as much money as you can, establish contingency plans, and put it all down on paper.

I’m a “recovering perfectionist,” and I tried to plan as much as possible so that my business launch would be smooth.royal_services Although my planning was helpful in many ways, it was impossible to avoid little (and sometimes big!) bumps along the road.

Develop a tolerance for risk and learn to be comfortable with flexibility. If something doesn’t work, be resilient and develop a new strategy. When faced with an unplanned challenge that feels insurmountable, consult with your trusted council, listen to your intuition, and accept that you are going to have to take some risky leaps of faith. As Napoleon Hill famously wrote, “Don’t wait. The time will never be quite right.”

Ruth Goldner is an alumna of Ferndale Public Schools and Oak Park native. She is a licensed attorney and the co-founder of Goldner Deeg PLLC, a law firm in Royal Oak that provides legal services in the areas of family law, divorce, and custody. For more information, please visit

This article was originally published at Ruth’s blog, Lawthenticity (, and is republished with permission.

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