So often, the focus is on how a service provider helps its clients. In truth, we’ve learned a lot by working with entrepreneurs. In the article below, George Nemphos shares five key takeaways.
What Entrepreneurs Have Taught Us
by George Nemphos, Co-founder and Managing Member, Nemphos Braue
When we started Nemphos Braue, we wanted to practice the law differently – to treat clients as strategic partners, not just customers in a taxicab with the meter running.
What I’ve come to realize is that it’s our clients who have helped us solidify what it means to be a different kind of law firm. As a way of expressing our gratitude to our clients, here are five lessons we’ve learned by working with entrepreneurs.
1. Have fun
Through the phases of ideating, building and scaling, it is such a rush to be a part of helping someone’s dreams come true. Don’t get me wrong, it can be crazy at times, but when you’re in the thick of important conversations and making critical decisions, it helps to be working side by side with someone you actually like and respect. The paperwork will always be there, but the opportunity to be a true counsel to our clients and to inject life into your life’s work means much more.
2. It’s OK to say no
We’ve counseled our clients through multiple capital raises, the flattering requests of interested buyers, employee and vendor contracts, merger opportunities and structuring decisions. While we provide advice and risk mitigation planning, most entrepreneurs have a second sense – a gut feeling – that’s a well-honed skill and a superpower for protecting one’s business, if harnessed correctly. How can it go wrong? We had one client who got very big, and brought in lots of capital, only to realize later that certain deals had diminished the founder’s controlling interest. In hindsight, saying no may actually have saved the founder money in the long run.
3. Nourish relationships
My co-founder Tim Braue and I have clients who have stayed with us for more than 15 years. Why? Trust. Here’s the real truth, though: The deal isn’t the end point. We check in, we answer questions, we address follow-ups and follow through. We listen.
I’ve watched how our clients have succeeded through their own strong relationships. A food manufacturer was able to call on suppliers and distributors to figure out logistics challenges during the pandemic. A cybersecurity company tripled the amount of contracts it had with a government agency. A health care technology company acquired the maker of a product that had inroads with key medical providers, securing new business opportunities. The saying used to be: “It’s all about who you know.” Now, when your name is readily available on every digital platform, it really should be more about how well you know them.
4. It’s about the people around you
For many small businesses, the people around you are family. Documentation, operating agreements, co-founder agreements and structuring decisions matter, even in a family business. Having a lawyer as a neutral party can help – though if you choose to discuss politics at the family dinner table, you’re on your own. You won’t make the right hiring decision every time. If you’re diligent though, and consider the whole person, their personality and the fit within your company culture – in addition to the resume – you’ll be right most of the time.
5. Don’t stop thinking
One of the most inspirational aspects of working with entrepreneurs is watching their minds work, hearing their excitement and anticipation for new products, new partners, new ventures and new angles, and practically seeing the lightbulbs constantly appearing above their heads. What’s the keyword there? New. I can’t stop thinking about my company, even on vacation. (I once took a call from the jungle and nearly became a lion’s dinner. Let me know if you want to hear that story sometime.) That’s what it means to be a business owner. Startup business hours are sunrise to sunrise. (See No. 4: Hopefully you hire good people so you can at least get some sleep.)