Strategies for success: Sometimes all you need is a friend who listens

2014-06-01T00:00:00Z Strategies for success: Sometimes all you need is a friend who listensBy JOE MICHELS The Billings Gazette
June 01, 2014 12:00 am  • 

A young business owner called our office the other day. He was downtrodden and dejected. He was getting married in two months, he had started a new business, a legal practice. He had not landed his first paying client yet, the wedding bills were coming due and he was depressed.

His fiancee has a well-paying position in the medical field and my young friend was concerned that he was not “contributing” to the household income.

We talked for about 30 minutes on the phone and I then suggested that we go to dinner. As I suspected at dinner, the young man wanted to talk, talk and talk. That was fine — that was what I wanted him to do — just talk. I knew that if he had someone who was non-judgmental and interested, in the end, he would identify and find his own solution.

My first comment was not to be so hard on himself. He had gone to a prestigious Texas undergraduate institution, a good law school, passed the Texas Bar the first time and had been in private practice for about three years when he decided to go on his own. His fiancee also wanted him to open a private legal practice. Hence, he had done all of the “right” things. So he thought.

As we talked, my young friend told me that he really wanted to be a contributing member of society, he wanted to make money, but more importantly, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of other human beings. I could detect that as we visited and had dinner together. He was concerned that he was not “contributing his share” at home. I asked if his fiancee really cared. No, she really did not. I thought as much. However, the male ego is such that males always want to contribute to the maximum degree possible.

The next factor that I pointed out was that starting a new business is tough — irrespective of what kind of business it is. It makes no difference if it is a legal practice, a shoe repair facility or a restaurant — it takes time to get established, known and respected. Many people believe that just because they have a skill, a “secret sauce” or some other unique or special capability, talent or product, the path to the front door will be beaten down.

In a few cases, that is true. However, for the 99.8 percent of the other cases, that is not true. One has to establish a solid business plan, develop a logical and strategic marketing approach and then dutifully execute both the business and marketing plan.

Nothing happens instantaneously — nothing. When starting a new business, it is important to allow for 24 to 36 months of initial growth time before the firm begins to show a profit. What that means is that you have to have sufficient cash reserves to sustain the business plus yourself for that amount of time. Sadly, many individuals do not have these types of reserves or adequate operating capital, resulting in either a failed experience or struggling to the point where the business will close at about the 30-month point.

My young friend. Will he make it? Yes, I think so. Will he do it by himself? I don’t know, perhaps. However, he did tell me that he missed being on a team and working with other colleagues on a daily basis. What he did tell me as we were leaving the restaurant was that the guy who called me in the morning was not the same guy who was going home that night. He really felt better about life, himself and how to start his business. He profusely said thanks many times.

What did I do? Really, nothing. Oh, I paid for dinner — no big deal.  More importantly, I listened in a non-judgmental manner and let him bare his soul to someone. Was it valuable? Well, he thought it was. I did as well. If someone calls you and wants to talk, take the call. Buy a meal — after all, you have to eat, right? You may be amazed at the outcome of the experience. In our case, I have great faith that my young friend will be very successful and have a happy career, marriage and life. After all, is this not the Golden Rule philosophy? You never know when you may be the one who needs to make the phone call to someone.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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