Episode 13: It's Not About the Cards, It's How You Play Them
Pratik Shah (00:00:07):
Welcome again everybody to Bootstrap Solo, I am your host Pratik Shah and today we’re going to be talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly about running your own practice. This podcast is for those that want to know what it’s really like to start, run, and grow a practice.
Today’s guest is my friend Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert. She runs a 30-person practice out of Atlanta, Georgia, that focuses on personal injury, Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group. And she started her practice back in 2013 and has been growing strong ever since.
Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:00:41):
Thanks so much for having me today. Thank you.
Pratik Shah (00:00:45):
Thank you so much for being on. So, I mean, crazy growth, I want to get right into it. Crazy growth, I mean, 2013, we’re 2022, not even 10 years, and you’re 30-people strong. I mean, how did you do that? You grew fast.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:01:04):
I mean, I feel like I should be further along, but yeah.
Pratik Shah (00:01:08):
Doesn’t every business owner?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:01:12):
Yeah, I think that I’ve tried to run it like a business for the last 10 years, but there’s been so many pitfalls along the way and just failing, learning, failing, learning, that’s kind of how it’s been. But I’m okay with failing as long as we just learn, we get better.
Pratik Shah (00:01:33):
Yeah. And I’m going to dig in more into that as we get in, but I want to set the stage for a lot of folks. So when did you graduate law school?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:01:42):
Pratik Shah (00:01:43):
2012? So you started your practice right away?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:01:46):
The day I got my license. Yep.
Pratik Shah (00:01:48):
That’s amazing. So were you looking for a job or did you always know you wanted to run your own?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:01:57):
Okay, so the real story is I come from a family of… My dad owned his own business, I went to business school and my undergraduate… I always thought I would have my own business. And then I went to law school and I worked as a paralegal in personal injury during the day.
So for all those years in law school, I was working in the field. And so when I graduated I was really almost helping to run the firm by that third year. So I felt like I could figure this out, I could do this. But then I took the bar and I failed. And it was really, really brutal because I was the student body president, I was very involved in the school, it was humiliating, but what I didn’t know was that I was six weeks pregnant. And so then as you know, I had to take the bar again at the next take and I was nine months pregnant.
Pratik Shah (00:03:08):
Oh my goodness.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:03:08):
So my daughter, if she has any craziness, it’s because my entire pregnancy I was studying for the bar.
Pratik Shah (00:03:14):
Yeah, that’s an amazing story. I mean, I love that. That’s incredible.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:03:20):
So I passed and she was two months old when I got the results, and I just started my law firm right then and there.
Pratik Shah (00:03:31):
That’s awesome. And I asked you this before the show and you told me you started with a really large budget of $2,000.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:03:41):
For me at the time. I was like, this is a reasonable budget. I knew nothing.
Pratik Shah (00:03:48):
Yeah. And now that’s like, if that’s all we got, we’re filing for bankruptcy, we’re in trouble.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:03:53):
Well, and it’s really funny because I remember there was one time I had a staff member who was telling everybody that, “Oh, Jen’s parents gave her all this money to start her law firm,” and I’m thinking if that was the case, I’d be way further than I am now.
Pratik Shah (00:04:08):
Right, right. I mean, the business background… Look, in law school, they don’t teach you how to run a business. And as we know, there’s a lot of folks that do run practices and there’s some business stuff that’s definitely missing. So that’s a positive, but everybody has positives and everybody has negatives.
I mean, taking the bar when you’re nine months pregnant, I obviously didn’t have to deal with that. So when people from the outside always say, oh, well you had this and you had this, it’s like, well, everybody’s got something and everybody doesn’t have something else.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:04:43):
I have this sign in my office and it says, “Life is not about what cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play the hand.” And I think there’s people that have incredible opportunity that don’t know how to play those cards and then there’s people that have no opportunity and they play the hand to its absolute maximum.
I think when your parents give you money or whatever to start a law firm, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that too. And I didn’t have any of that because I just did it all on my own. I didn’t have anyone to disappoint, it’s just me, myself and I.
So I saved up $2,000 as a paralegal and I was able to start the firm, and I literally started out of my guest bedroom. And I used to have a whiteboard and I would say, one day I’m going to have a lot of clients on this board, and I just had 10 clients.
Pratik Shah (00:05:42):
So when you started, you started with zero clients, I assume, how did it work for you, tell me? Zero?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:05:51):
Zero. Well, okay, going back, I would say I was really involved in law school. I was the student body president, I was the ultimate networker. I knew everybody. I was always telling everyone, “I’m going to own a law firm, I’m going to own a personal injury law firm.” So I was positioning myself early on.
So once I launched my law firm, I started telling everyone, “I started my law firm, send me cases.” People knew I was working in the personal injury space. So I just started hustling. I mean, I used to just hustle. My one friend, she was working at a firm where they were taking personal injury cases, but that wasn’t their practice area. So she convinced the partner to send me some of those cases to work on and we would split the fees.
I remember my first client ever was a referral from one of my law school colleagues and I started a Facebook page the first week, I was doing a newsletter from right out the gate.
Pratik Shah (00:06:53):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:06:55):
Yeah, I mean my marketing background, I feel like I relied on heavily.
Pratik Shah (00:06:59):
No, you did fantastic. So your newsletter, I mean obviously I’ve always heard of sending newsletters to your clients and stuff like that, but you didn’t have any clients. So who were you sending the newsletter to, your law school friends?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:07:10):
My professional network.
Pratik Shah (00:07:12):
Oh, your professional network. That’s a good way of putting it, yes, which was mainly your law school friends.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:07:17):
My friends and people in my network. And I remember at that time when I first started out, I had this syndrome where I always wanted to appear like we were bigger than we were. So I was like, there’s one thing I’m not doing, I’m not going to answer my own phones. So I hired immediately I think, Ruby Receptionist to pretend like I had a receptionist.
Pratik Shah (00:07:43):
Yeah, yeah. But like Ruby Receptionist, everything has a cost, and when you start with a $2,000 budget, it’s like how much do I really want to spend on Ruby Receptionist? Talk to me about that decision.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:07:55):
Well, like I said, I was lucky in the sense that my friend was sending me cases that were basically ready to settle.
Pratik Shah (00:08:04):
Yeah. Oh, that’s awesome.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:08:04):
And that definitely created some cash flow. I remember I settled a couple policy limits cases that was super easy. And then I started to meet some chiropractors and they started sending me cases because I was willing to come to their office at any time of day and sign the client up in their office. So they would call, they’d be like, “We have someone here, can you come here in 10 minutes?” And I’d be like, “Absolutely.”
Pratik Shah (00:08:32):
On my way. Yeah, yeah. In fact, I was just down the street. I’ll be right there.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:08:37):
Oh, do you need anything for lunch?
Pratik Shah (00:08:39):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:08:40):
But those strategies that really worked well in the beginning when you’re just in a hustle mode, they’re not really scalable.
Pratik Shah (00:08:48):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So let’s talk about that. So you said you started your practice, you were doing some newsletters and some social media on Facebook and you were just in kind of hustle mode. Tell me about your typical day. So your first day of starting your practice, you filed all your paperwork, you’re like, okay, I’ve got my corporation, I’m set, day one, no clients. What do you do? What’s your first thing that you did?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:09:18):
Get clients, that’s all that matters.
Pratik Shah (00:09:20):
How? What’d you do? Did you call people?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:09:21):
Calling. Calling. “Hey, I’m doing personal injury? Do you have any cases?” Like I said, I ended up meeting a few people that had cases to refer to me. I did get my first referral from this girl I went to law school with. And then once I had, let’s say 10 cases, my focus was still get more cases, but then it was like, get money in the door.
So I was like, work the case, get the records, do everything you need to do to get cash flow. And back then, if I settled a $50,000 policy limits case, they’re $17,000 or whatever, $18,000. I mean, that was a lot of money to me at the time.
Pratik Shah (00:10:06):
Yeah, no, I mean I remember when I started my practice and if I settled a case above 10 grand, I was calling my wife, “We had a great day today.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:10:15):
Yeah, and I had no overheads. So what I remember happened though, is I started getting a couple clients and let’s say I had 20 clients, and I mean I delivered amazing service, everything, just calling them all the time because you have nobody else to call. They would be like, “Okay, well I want to drop some paperwork off to your office,” and I’m like, “Let’s just meet at the Starbucks.
Pratik Shah (00:10:49):
Yeah, yeah. So do you ever watch Better Call Saul, and it reminds you of… Me too, all the time.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:10:57):
And then I really realized I had such a complex about feeling inadequate because I had no office. Now in this day and age, I think you could get away with that more, but back then it’s like, what legitimate lawyer doesn’t have an office?
Pratik Shah (00:11:14):
Yeah, yeah. No, it’s absolutely true. So how long after you started your practice did you actually end up getting an office?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:11:20):
I started it in June and I got an office by August.
Pratik Shah (00:11:24):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:11:25):
Because what happened was, I met this lady and she had a beautiful office, this huge office, and I just rented an office from her, but I had access to her conference room, the lobby, the whole thing. And it made me look more legit than I was.
Pratik Shah (00:11:44):
Yeah. Well, how did you meet this lady?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:11:46):
Networking, I think at a bar event. I was always out there like, “I’m looking for an office.”
Pratik Shah (00:11:54):
Yeah. Okay. So I want to put this in perspective. When you say you’re out networking and you’re meeting people at different events, in a typical week, in the early days when you were in that hustle mode, how often would you be at an event in the evening?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:12:10):
Not always in the evening. A lot of lunches, a lot of breakfasts, a lot of bar events, a lot. I mean I was on the hustle mode.
Pratik Shah (00:12:23):
Let me rephrase, sorry. In a typical week, how many meetings or networking events would you say you would attend on average?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:12:33):
I can’t really remember on that level, but I just remember it was a lot of shaking hands, kissing babies. I mean, you’re out there promoting your brand, letting people know, but then also I was trying to be strategic like, what is going to make the biggest impact?
And so like I said, the biggest thing that moved the needle at that time was finding firms that, let’s say did criminal law but they had accepted personal injury cases in their inventory, and this happens more than you would think, and they don’t know how to work them and they don’t know how to close them. And then you going in and saying, “I’ll come in the office like five hours a week and work these cases and bring you some money.”
Pratik Shah (00:13:16):
That’s a very interesting strategy.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:13:18):
The reason I like that strategy is because I was able to cash flow within the first few months, where a lot of people I’ve talked to that started personal injury firms, they didn’t cash flow for the first year.
Pratik Shah (00:13:30):
Yeah. And also because you don’t have to outlay the cost of those cases.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:13:36):
Pratik Shah (00:13:36):
Right? Because that’s a big frustration early on when you’re starting a personal injury firm is I got to outlay all these costs. Now instead you’re going in, these people already have the case, they were already putting the cost in, they don’t have to pay you anything because you’re just going to get a piece of the pie and they’re going to get cash they weren’t getting, it’s a total win-win scenario.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:13:55):
Yeah, and I’m sure there’s even other businesses that get PI leads that you could just say, “Hey, if you get PI leads, send them to me and I’ll bring you in some money.” So that was my strategy. And like I said, back then I didn’t need a lot of cases to make what I thought was a lot of money because I had very little overhead. Even with the office I rented, I think I rented it for $500 a month or something.
Pratik Shah (00:14:24):
Right. So I know that kind of epiphany came to you because you had a friend that was working at a criminal defense firm or at a different firm and she was telling you like, “Hey look, we’ve got these cases, they’re not really doing anything.” But you don’t just rely on that. You took that idea or you saw that scenario that existed and you started seeking out that scenario elsewhere.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:14:48):
Well, what I realized is that there was a couple of people sending this firm a lot of their business. And so I started to realize where the cases were coming from and then I started to go out and try to secure business directly from chiropractors.
Pratik Shah (00:15:03):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:15:04):
And I started thinking, where do my potential clients go first? And a lot of them go to a chiropractor.
Pratik Shah (00:15:12):
Yeah. And how would you get in touch with chiropractors? How would you find them?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:15:16):
I’d just walk in.
Pratik Shah (00:15:18):
Yeah, just pull up, walk in, “Hi, I’m Jennifer.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:15:21):
“Hey, I’m Jen, I’m a lawyer. I was in my own accident, I went through this process. I know how badly these people need help. A lot of these people, even if they have med pay and you guys get paid, they’re not going to get paid,” and just sold myself to them.
Pratik Shah (00:15:39):
Yeah, yeah. No, and I think that’s super important. There’s so many people that just go through law school, they don’t understand that just being a lawyer is not a differentiating factor.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:15:51):
No. One of my mentors always says everything in life is a sale. Finding a spouse is a sale. Getting people to hire you is a sale, getting people to work for you is a sale. You’re selling yourself, so you have to think about it like that.
Pratik Shah (00:16:11):
Let’s talk a little bit more about that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:16:14):
The jury, it’s a sale.
Pratik Shah (00:16:15):
Yeah, it’s, you’re convincing the judge, opposing counsel, adjusters, everything, you’re selling all the time. And I think there’s such a big negative connotation with sales automatically people think, used car salesperson.
I come from a sales background before law school. I used to sell mortgage leads, I used to sell cars, I mean you name it, I sold it, type of stuff. That’s how I got through undergrad and all that stuff. And so I have an appreciation for the art, and I think people assume that good selling is bad customer service when in fact it’s actually the opposite.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:16:50):
Yeah, you’re helping people to solve their own problem and leading them to understand not to suffer any further.
Pratik Shah (00:16:59):
And if you believe in yourself and your own service, I mean with you telling me, “Hey, I would call my clients all the time and I would give them an update of what’s going on in their case and they had an ability to get ahold of me and not a staff member.” You’re providing a better service than 98% of lawyers out there that are providing.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:17:21):
I know. I know, but I always knew that wasn’t a scalable model. But in the beginning, when you’re a solo, that’s all you have to sell is yourself.
Pratik Shah (00:17:27):
That’s what you have to, that’s your advantage.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:17:31):
You’re able to pivot quickly. You know clients inside and out, they love you, but I do see a lot of people get trapped in this level.
Pratik Shah (00:17:44):
Yeah. And that’s hard to break out of because they think, this is my brand, this is how people know me, this is why they refer me business. And if I start doing it where now they’re talking to somebody else, maybe I don’t get as much business.
But that’s the fear, no matter what decision you make in business as you’re building, there’s always a fear of the next step. I remember, and I’m sure you had this too, deciding to hire my first person was like this big leap of faith I had to take and I’m sure for you too.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:18:16):
Oh definitely. Well, in my scenario, I was assigned a mentee from law school as to be their mentor when I graduated. And so I asked her, “Do you want to come be my intern?” And so I had a free intern for that whole summer. And I think that experience of having somebody working and helping me, when she was ready to go back to school that summer, I was like, I need somebody. I got so used to having help and that really stretched my mind to the value of an employee.
Pratik Shah (00:18:57):
So how long out before you hired your first employee?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:19:02):
Well, I got the intern in July and I started the firm in June, but I wasn’t paying her so it really wasn’t like an employee, but then I convinced her to stay on and work part-time for the semester and I paid her, but it was nominal.
I mean, the thing that was stressful, I’m sure this you would say the same is I used to think, oh my gosh, this is a commitment. What if I can’t make payroll? But what I learned over the years is you’re really only committing to maybe six weeks of pay because if they cannot generate you any money in those six weeks, you probably would discontinue hiring them.
Pratik Shah (00:19:48):
Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it because that was a big fear was like, what if I hired somebody and then three months in I got to let them go? That’s such a jerk move, I feel bad that they pick me out of all those other employers and I just let them go but that’s part of it.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:20:10):
Oh well and it’s like on them, if they can’t execute at a level where I can convince myself to keep them.
Pratik Shah (00:20:16):
Right, that’s true too.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:20:18):
Then it’s really on them that they didn’t create enough value to sustain their role.
Pratik Shah (00:20:23):
Yeah. And obviously over the years you’ve hired so many more people from that first part-time person and you’ve probably let a few go and-
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:20:35):
A lot, a lot.
Pratik Shah (00:20:35):
And a few have quit on you and-
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:20:36):
Pratik Shah (00:20:37):
… you go through that. Yeah, it’s a constant process. So these early days trying to be in hustle mode or being in hustle mode, getting these clients, you got your intern, you get your office, you’re starting to build, you’re starting to roll and when you hire employee number two… Were there milestones that you had planned out like, okay, if I can make this much money then I’m going to start building the next one, or if I get this many cases, then I’m going to hire the next employee?
How did you plan your scaling, because you’ve mentioned a few times now these things you were doing were not scalable. So you had a mindset of I need to scale, how did you start shifting into that?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:21:19):
I always wanted a really large firm, that’s one thing I always wanted. Even today I walk in and there’s 30 people here and I go, where’s the other 30?
So it was kind of demoralizing to be at the only one employee, for that I remember just being like, this ain’t my scene, this ain’t my show, this is not my life. I don’t want to just have one employee, this is brutal.
And I think a lot of the things I did was out of pure survival and pain points, like, okay, I can’t do any more of this. I need someone else to do this or this is not a good use of my time. I know that my time over here makes us a lot of money, my time over here doesn’t make us any money. And so delegating, delegating, delegating and trying to maintain staying in the highest and best use of my time, is how I justified different employees.
I think I started with a receptionist and then a case manager and then a legal assistant and then maybe a settlement clerk, and maybe it was a while before I hired any attorneys.
Pratik Shah (00:22:41):
How long was it before you hired an attorney?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:22:43):
Probably five years.
Pratik Shah (00:22:45):
Wow. So how big was your firm at that point before you hired an attorney?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:22:50):
We probably were at eight people.
Pratik Shah (00:22:57):
Wow. So it was you, a team of eight, and then you decided at that point I really need another attorney to help on these cases.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:23:05):
Well, what really happened was I had my second child and I was going out on a maternity leave. Well I thought I was going to go on a maternity leave but I never did.
Pratik Shah (00:23:18):
Yeah, yeah. It’s your business, it’s just what are you going to do?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:23:21):
Well, I did later have a maternity leave with my third child, but-
Pratik Shah (00:23:25):
Good for you.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:23:26):
… that was a very orchestrated scenario. With my second child, I started to notice that… maybe it was in my mind… but I was thinking people aren’t going to send me business because they’re going to think I’m going and having a baby and no one’s running this firm.
So I was thinking I need a lawyer here so I can not be here for a little bit. But I was like, okay, if I had another lawyer they could assume that the other lawyer will be handling the work when I’m not here. But the first three or four attorneys I hired, it was a disaster.
Pratik Shah (00:24:07):
Yeah, tell me about that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:24:08):
I was terrible at hiring. I didn’t know anything about hiring. Hiring is actually one of my favorite topics now, and I’ve developed a love of the hiring process and I have a lot of positive feelings around it now. But back then it was brutal. I hired-
Pratik Shah (00:24:33):
What was brutal about it, tell me what mistakes you made that you learned from?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:24:37):
I feel like I blocked some of it out, but the attorney that tried to steal all your cases.
Pratik Shah (00:24:44):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:24:46):
The attorney that’s just trash talking you to the whole firm. Yeah, I just had some attorneys that just were really poor caliber of… I think when you’re a solo, the really cool thing when your firm gets bigger and bigger is you attract top talent. Top talent wants to go work somewhere cool, right?
Pratik Shah (00:25:11):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:25:12):
They want to work somewhere that has a reputation, that has a vision, that has a point of view, that is doing epic things. When you’re a solo, it’s very hard to convince people to come work for your three-person firm.
Pratik Shah (00:25:27):
Yeah, yeah. No, it is. I would talk to some of my friends that have smaller practice and sole practices, it’s like when you think about the hiring funnel and you’ve got tier-one talent wants to work at the tier-one place.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:25:45):
The tier-one firm.
Pratik Shah (00:25:45):
And it’s just what it is.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:25:48):
That’s my driving force to build a large organization is, I crave the day I can work with some of the talent that’s in my mind.
Pratik Shah (00:25:58):
And what happens is as you build your brand, people will start coming up to you and be like, “How do I get a job with you?”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:26:03):
Exactly. That is when you’ve arrived is when you’ve built a brand that people are like, we have some friends that there is no… they could just open the door and people flood in.
Pratik Shah (00:26:18):
Yeah, yeah. It’s like I don’t want them to talk to my people because I’m afraid… You’re not allowed to talk to my people.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:26:25):
But that is a strong brand and the people know that by going to work at that organization, they’re going to become better, right?
Pratik Shah (00:26:34):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:26:35):
They’re going to get so much valuable legal experience working there that it will change the course of their life.
Pratik Shah (00:26:42):
Yeah. One of the best, I wouldn’t say pieces of advice or a phrase or a story or whatever, that I heard that really resonated with me on this topic is that if you can provide a vision and you can provide a path so that people that have their own vision for themselves in their career, that vision can fit inside your vision, that’s when you’re building a team.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:27:10):
That’s pure gold. So I don’t take away the fact that when you’re just by yourself and you have one secretary and one receptionist and you’re out there trying to attract top talent, it’s likely not going to attract top talent. You’re going to get some mediocrity unless you just happen to know somebody. I mean, I could see a scenario where you might get lucky, but generally the caliber of candidates is not great.
Pratik Shah (00:27:42):
And it’s reflective of the caliber of business that you have.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:27:46):
Exactly. So that was very, very frustrating for me because I considered that I was doing high level work and I do everything 110 and so to have people working for me that are slack, it’s really frustrating and it’s not a good reflection on your brand. Also, this just happened for me, I started the firm when I was 28, I mean, back then I think I had an imposter syndrome like, how am I going to get a 40-year-old attorney to come work for me?
They’re looking at me and they’re like, you’re this young girl. Which that’s no longer an issue for me at all. I have people of all ages that work in my organization and I’m very clear now, and I want to say this to the public, that age really has nothing to do with it. Truly, there’s people that have worked for me that were old, that were not good. There’s people that worked for me that were young, that were incredible. It’s not a direct correlation, but I think sometimes your own insecurities are the stories that play out.
Pratik Shah (00:29:06):
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a projection thing. If you feel that you’re uncomfortable hiring that person, they can feel that too.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:29:14):
Yeah, and it’s like you’re having this whole scenario go on in your head that’s not even true. So you have to be really confident and sometimes fake it to make it, to get to a point where you’re hiring people that are better, smarter, older, wiser, better lawyers than you. You have to be really secure to do that.
Pratik Shah (00:29:37):
Yeah. And so I want to talk about this real quick is you’re building your practice, you’re growing, you’re closing business, you’re generating more and more revenue every year. You’re adding new people, you’re figuring out the right people, the wrong people. But at some point in personal injury, I think a lot of folks look at success or making it, as I’m finally settling a big case or these bigger cases, because that’s kind of what we see on the billboards, it’s what we see on the websites. That’s what attracts clients when they see the big numbers. So how long was it from the day you started your firm to when you feel like you first settled that big case?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:30:23):
It was like five years.
Pratik Shah (00:30:26):
That’s a long time. And that’s what helps attract talent too, because attorneys want to work on bigger cases. It’s tougher to sell to a talented attorney, “Hey come and work on these small $20,000 cases. And I’m also by the way-
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:30:41):
You don’t think that sounds attractive?
Pratik Shah (00:30:44):
… a young attorney.” No, why would you want to do that? Or another firm is saying, “Hey, come work on these big seven-figure cases,” they’re like, “Well that’s much cooler.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:30:53):
There’s real good reasons to build a better machine because you get to do cooler things.
Pratik Shah (00:31:02):
Sorry, sorry… When you say big case was five years, what was the number? I mean I don’t know how much you can disclose, but…
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:31:09):
It was a million dollar case and actually we settled it. It was a policy limits million dollar case and it was pre-sue even.
Pratik Shah (00:31:19):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:31:20):
And at that time it was funny because I didn’t think that was really that big a case. To me, it was big in a sense, but I really didn’t think it was that big because you’re thinking about a lot of times somebody gets a million dollars, it’s never enough.
Pratik Shah (00:31:43):
Yeah. Yeah, of course.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:31:46):
The other thing that I think I’ve done, which kind of coincides with this, I have had such strict blinders on, I really don’t look at what other people in Georgia personal injury are doing. I’m just like this, I don’t compare, I wasn’t heavily involved in the Georgia legal community and I think it’s because I knew that it would be so tempting to compare. And I had a lot of networking outside of my state in other jurisdictions because I always felt as a business owner, it’s so weird, are people really being honest with you if they’re competing with you?
And so I would do a few things here and there with our Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and stuff. But after law school when I got into growing my business, I stayed in networking mode, but I didn’t get really involved with the personal injury people because they’re not going to likely send me a case anyway.
I would hang out with my friends that did other practice areas and I just tried to really just put my nose to the grindstone and do my own thing. And so later when I realized people were posting about their $400,000 verdict and I’m like, but we just settled a million dollar case,
Pratik Shah (00:33:09):
You’re like, that’s kind of cute. Yeah.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:33:12):
Yeah. And I realized, okay, maybe this was a good outcome, but that’s just, I feel like I’m always like that.
Pratik Shah (00:33:19):
But I think that’s what keeps you hungry, that keeps you growing is that if you think that what I’m doing is amazing and not just you personally, in the general you, the royal you, if the individual business owner thinks what I’m doing is amazing, that’s when you start dying.
And I’m glad you said that because that’s part of the reason we started the podcast is that there’s so many people jumping on social media saying, “I’m killing it. I’m doing this amazing stuff, I’m doing this, doing that.” And as a business owner myself and running my own practice and now running the software company, it’s like I never think I’m doing enough.
People from the outside are like, “Oh, you did that. That’s amazing.” I’m like, “Man, we could have done better. We could have done this. We should have done it that way and we should have done it this way. We didn’t try that.” Because there’s a puzzle that we’re trying to solve that can never be solved, but we’re getting closer to solving it.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:34:16):
We’re getting closer. Well I would say that I do feel so blessed to live the life that I live and I’m way closer to living my dream life now than I was when I started in 2013. I get to do more of the stuff I like and less of the stuff I don’t like. And I have a way better team that I get to work with every single day.
And the problems I have now are much better problems to have. And I don’t want to take away from that because I don’t want to be seen as, I’m not grateful for everything that we’ve done but I also live in the future in my vision of where we’re going.
Pratik Shah (00:35:05):
Yeah. Yeah. You said something really interesting which was… I mean a lot of what you said was interesting. I didn’t mean just right now, I didn’t mean it that way. But what I want to touch on is you said, I live the dream life, but the dream life isn’t, I’m on the beach with an umbrella in my drink, it’s that I work on the things I want to work on, and that’s really special.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:35:31):
I have no interest really in retirement to be honest with you.
Pratik Shah (00:35:35):
I love that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:35:37):
And I’ll tell you why. My dad retired at 42, and my dad is what I would consider a true entrepreneur. He started his first company when he was 18 and he worked till he was 42. So that’s 24 years or whatever but people that are true entrepreneurs, they don’t do well with idle time.
And I’ve seen some of his glimmer dull. And I think that he’s very bored. He’s been retired for 20 years and the Rolling Stones is an example I give. They’re not out on the road doing shows because they need the money. This is what they love to do. And one of the challenges for my dad as an entrepreneur is he grew a lot of businesses but he wasn’t really passionate about a lot of them. People like this where they have all these businesses but none of them really relate to their purpose.
That is the lesson he taught me is do a business that you’re passionate about and that you love and you will never feel the way that he felt. He felt his business burned him out. If you’re in the wrong business, you can be seeking retirement. All my dad wanted to do, when can I stop? When can I stop doing this?
If your life is set up in a position where that’s all you’re thinking about is when can I stop? You need to reconsider what are you doing? I am so lucky and I feel like you probably feel the same way. I get to do this life, I get to do all these things. I love what I get to do.
Pratik Shah (00:37:26):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean it sounds like you found your next hire.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:37:33):
I mean, still think that all of this is evolving. You have a tech company, I see more things, but what we have going and where the direction we’re going, it’s amazing the people that we get to interact with and the incredible minds that we’re surrounded by. The mentors that I have, the conversations that we get to have, the people we get to help. You should live your life in that mode if you can.
Pratik Shah (00:38:05):
And I think everybody can. I mean, look, obviously people have some life scenarios that sometimes it’s not possible for everybody and I understand that, whether that be family obligations, health issues or whatnot.
But generally speaking, I think what I love about America in general and why my parents came here is that if you work hard and you take risks and you’re willing to take risks, the country rewards that. This country rewards that. And not only rewards that financially, but rewards that in the sense that you get to have the life you want. You’re not obligated to anybody else’s belief system of what you should be doing or how you should be running your business. You are able to run it for the most part, the way you want it.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:38:54):
It’s incredible. Freedom is one of my core values and I feel like I live very much on my own terms and everything that happens in my life is 100% my, either fault or manifestation.
And that’s the cool thing about being an entrepreneur and owning a law firm and the business we are in. It can be very heavy at times, but it can also be extremely rewarding. But yeah, so we started to get the big numbers later into the firm but I do think for a lot of law firms, the big numbers are not what carries the firm, it’s the bread and butter cases.
Pratik Shah (00:39:38):
Yeah. The big numbers are the icing.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:39:41):
Well, and sometimes the big numbers really significantly increase your profitability. A lot of times the smaller cases are not the big money makers, but they’re the thing that consistently pays the bills.
Pratik Shah (00:39:55):
And the reason I like bringing up the big number question of how long it takes to get to that big number, is that when I first started in personal injury, I had never worked at a personal injury firm. I didn’t know anybody in the industry or anything like that. I started seeing all these big numbers when I’d Google and billboards and this and that, and I’m like, man, everybody’s getting these big numbers all the time.
And it’s like, I’d be three years in, four years in and my biggest case was a hundred grand. And I’m like, am I just a loser? What is going on? And I started to talk to other business owners… You have a background in marketing, you have a background in business, you have hustle, you have drive, and which somebody like you with that hustle, that drive, that hunger, that experience those brains, it still took five years to get a big number.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:40:44):
Do you know why? Because if you look at historically, statistically, a lot of the big cases either come to people who do massive media like TV, which you’re not probably doing if you’re a solo. Although I have met a few people randomly that have done that.
But you either have to have an incredible advertising budget to get those cases right out of the gate, or we all know large cases often come by referral. And sometimes it takes a certain amount of years for that referral to come back around.
When I first started out, we only got a couple referrals and now we have nine to 10 years of prior clients we’ve represented that there’s an organic churn to our referrals now that they just come in organically. We didn’t have that machine behind us of people referring to the firm.
Pratik Shah (00:41:39):
And that commitment to investing that time, which is, hey, as soon as we get a new client, we’re putting them in the system, we’re adding them to the newsletter. And just because they don’t refer us or none of our clients referred us any cases for three years, we’re not stopping the newsletter. We’re going to keep it going and we know this is going to eventually pay off.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:42:02):
Yeah, I think marketing is all about consistency.
Pratik Shah (00:42:07):
That’s beautifully said. And it’s very frustrating as a business owner when you have limited time and limited assets and you’re consistently doing something and you’re not seeing an ROI and you’re like, this isn’t working
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:42:21):
Yeah, that’s the temptation. But I think if something is not working or it feels like it’s taking a lot of your time, for me, I got a marketing assistant at some point and then I was like, whatever, we’re just going to let it keep rolling. And the marketing was a pain point at one point because posting on social media, all that stuff, I don’t do that now. I mean we have people that do that, but it’s a daily thing to stay top of mind. Yeah, I mean there’s so much you could say about that.
Pratik Shah (00:43:01):
Yeah. I heard a story once of… and I don’t know if this is true or not, but they say there’s this tree in Japan that you have to water every day and you won’t see it sprout at all, a flower or nothing for six years [inaudible 00:43:18].
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:43:18):
Yeah, I think I’ve heard of this.
Pratik Shah (00:43:21):
And then the tree will grow nine feet in 18 months. And so did the tree grow for six years or did it grow for 18 months? And a lot of times those roots are building, and we just don’t see them. We don’t know and we don’t really understand that you just got to kind of keep on it.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:43:39):
Well what was frustrating for me at that period was although we were building those roots, you’re thinking, I need cash now.
Pratik Shah (00:43:48):
Yeah, yeah. I got payroll. Payroll’s not waiting six years.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:43:53):
So what’s going to get us the case tomorrow?
Pratik Shah (00:43:57):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. So this kind of naturally leads me to the next topic that I want to talk about is these frustrations that come up at different stages of a firm, there’s different problems and there’s different frustrations.
Can you think of something, let’s start with the worst and the ugliest, right? We said at the top we’re going to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. And I want to talk about the ugliest thing is in the almost 10 years now, you’ve been running your practice like the toughest, ugliest moment?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:44:35):
I think some of the worst moments were just certain hires we had that were just horrible. And having to deal with those scenarios and letting people stay too long that you know need to get rid of, but you have no one else to do the job. That’s some of the worst. I think also not enough people talk about cash crunches.
Pratik Shah (00:45:01):
Let’s talk about it.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:45:01):
I mean, I study personal injury, I study finance, I run this whole firm off of data. And you look at the mathematics of it, it’s a complex business to run. Okay, you’re taking cases on and then you’re agreeing to pay people to work on these cases for months if not years and then at some later date you’re going to be paid. Most people won’t sign up for that business model.
Pratik Shah (00:45:32):
Yeah. I mean, your dad, who’s a serial entrepreneur and has run multiple businesses will look at that business model and say, no, that doesn’t make sense. There’s way better business models for me to run.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:45:42):
It’s a cash-lag business. So you’re putting out cash now for cash… You’re loaning a lot of money out. You’re lending money out to fund these cases, not only in payroll but in marketing dollars, in case costs. And then when you’re talking about litigation, we’re talking years, and gambling on some level whether all this cost and expense is going to be worth it.
And you’ve got to run the firm efficiently enough that a case that, let’s say it’s a policy limits case, $100,000 is all you’re ever going to make off this case. If you do that case in 12 months and you can get the hundred, it’s way more profitable than if you do that same case and get 124 months. So there’s massive pressure to run the machine extremely efficiently.
Pratik Shah (00:46:37):
And here’s the other problem is a lot of times you’re not the bottleneck on why the case won’t settle. You’ve got another side that doesn’t want to pay you.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:46:49):
And it’s again, we’ve lots of cash forecasting. We’ve done inventory forecasting, we’ve done looking at different data points, which insurance companies pay faster, which ones pay slower. But the best of the best, I mean I work with some of the best of the best in the industry on cash flow predictions on personal injury law firms and they tell me, “Jen, we can give you projections on an annual basis. We cannot give it to you on a weekly or monthly basis.” So when is payroll due? Payroll’s due on a weekly and monthly basis.
Pratik Shah (00:47:32):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:47:34):
It’s like, I have a million dollars coming, can you just not get paid this week?
Pratik Shah (00:47:37):
Yeah. Yeah. And we’ve had some people on the podcast before, talk to us about going through those cash crunches. I specifically remember a gentleman talking about had payroll coming up and he knew these cases were going to settle. He woke up in the morning and knew he had to hit payroll that day and didn’t have the money and he ended up borrowing-
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:48:00):
I’ve been there, I’ve been there.
Pratik Shah (00:48:01):
Talk to me about that. How’d that happen? What did you do?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:48:03):
One time, I literally… So we do a lot of things, once it settles to get the money in the door really quickly. So we have them overnight, FedEx us the checks with our FedEx account because these checks would get lost in the mail. Remember back in the day. I’d be waiting on this $100,000 check and it’s lost.
Pratik Shah (00:48:28):
And they’re like, “It’s going to be another four weeks because we got to stop payment.” You’re like, “Four weeks?” [inaudible 00:48:33] the payroll.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:48:35):
I know. I remember one time driving to the headquarters in Duluth here in Georgia to pick up the check in hand and deposit it in the bank like cash.
Pratik Shah (00:48:47):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:48:48):
If you deposit it in the branch, they’re like, “We could possibly release it tomorrow.”
Pratik Shah (00:48:53):
Yeah. Well, I used to do that and I remember being in those situations where it’s doesn’t look good, it’s not good optics when you’re like, “I’ll come pick it up.” But a lot of times it’ll be like, “Oh, what a coincidence. I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll just swing by. it’s going to be two hours though. I’m not going to tell you why.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:49:15):
You look around now and you’re like, they knew we were desperate.
Pratik Shah (00:49:19):
100%. Yeah, you thought you were so smart pulling this stuff and they’re like, “Man, this loser’s driving over to our office to pick up the check.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:49:28):
And then at that point you don’t even have any staff. So it’s like you driving. It’s like you might have one assistant or something. So yeah, that was not fun times.
Pratik Shah (00:49:42):
I remember one time I was in a real cash crunch situation and I went and picked up the check and I had the disbursement sheet ready for the clients and the doctors to sign. And then I spent the whole day driving around to get everyone’s signatures so I could cut checks asap because I didn’t want to wait for DocuSign, I didn’t want to wait for these signatures. We’re going to do this right now because this needs to happen today.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:50:08):
Actually, I have a concierge level service, I’m coming to you.
Pratik Shah (00:50:11):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Every single call is, “I’m in the neighborhood. Are you available? Can I just swing by real quick? I’m finishing some work down the street.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:50:20):
It’s so humiliating.
Pratik Shah (00:50:21):
Yeah, they don’t know.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:50:25):
I know. But now I look back and I’m like, I’m humiliated. I’m humiliated that I did that.
Pratik Shah (00:50:28):
No, don’t be. I mean look, it’s survival.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:50:32):
Yeah, it truly is survival. And I will tell you the one thing in my mind was, there ain’t no way I’m going down. I will die at this desk before. They say, Oh businesses, not all businesses survive.” There was like, no, this is going to work. I don’t care what I have to do, I will crawl over broken glass. We are not closing this shop.
Pratik Shah (00:50:59):
And that drive, you have to strip yourself of any sense of ego or pride because that’s why businesses fail a lot of times is, “I’m an attorney, I can’t do that. I’m not willing to do that.” And that’s a problem, a lot of times ego gets in the way of people making money.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:51:22):
Oh yeah. And have to check your ego. I mean, I went into this phase where I did incredible amounts of personal development. I just feel like I was not a good leader, I was not a good manager. It’s really hard when you’re… I mean, I consider myself, I’m a get-shit-done kind of person. I’m relentless. It’s hard to make the transition from being the star to the manager that builds other people up because I would just get super frustrated like, “Why can’t you do this? Why can’t you do this?”
Pratik Shah (00:52:01):
I’ll just do it myself.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:52:02):
I’ll just do it myself. And that is a very limiting mindset, and so I had to get out of that and I had to make the decision, do I want to remain the only person that can do these things? Or do I want to grow as a leader, grow as somebody that’s managing people and that’s a very difficult transition to make.
Pratik Shah (00:52:27):
Yeah. How did you do that? What did you do to develop that part? Because that is very difficult because I know I went through that where it was like, “Dude, we can’t find good people. I’m just going to do it myself. I’ll just work the extra weekend or the extra whatever. I’ll just stay later and just get it done.” But you’re right, at some point that’s a bottleneck.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:52:48):
I just think my core value on freedom was what always drove me. Okay Jen, you’re not going to have any freedom if you can’t get let other people do it. And then I had a couple experiences where some really talented people, I just got very lucky, came and worked for me. And once you experience having someone who’s smarter than you come work for you, that will check your ego at the door and then you’re like, “Ooh, I could get down with having more people like you.”
Pratik Shah (00:53:17):
You have any friends? Yeah, yeah.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:53:20):
Yeah, yeah. And then once you experience, oh this is so cool, this person brings so much value to the table, if you could have an experience of having one incredible employee, it could change your entire mindset.
Pratik Shah (00:53:36):
That’s awesome. What was the process you took? I understand the mindset of personal development and why you were motivated to become better, but was this like, hey, I read books on it, I watched videos, I did seminars or… Talk to me about that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:53:54):
I hired a business coach.
Pratik Shah (00:53:54):
There you go.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:53:55):
I hired a business coach at year two, and then I went on a workshop tour where I went to every workshop that they had around the clock. And I just was like, I have to get better. And then I met people at these workshops and these business coaching things that were much bigger than me. And I got obsessive over, what are they doing that I’m not doing?
And then these people were in other DMAs, in other markets, so they were very honest with me. They would tell me their numbers, they would tell me what they’re doing and then I would see them traveling with their staff. And I would see they have an operations director and they have a finance person and they have a bookkeeper and they have all these people.
And I would just go sit and breathe their air and be like, what is it like? What is like to have those people? And I would start to visualize, one day I’ll have these people. And then I felt like I was just modeling, trying to recreate what they had.
Pratik Shah (00:54:53):
Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, I think there’s a lot of hesitation for people in wanting to hire a business coach or something. Again, going back to that ego of, I don’t need them, I know what I’m doing, this and that. And did you find that hiring a business coach was a positive decision for you?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:55:10):
The first year I hired a business coach, my revenue tripled.
Pratik Shah (00:55:15):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:55:17):
So I would say, yeah. My business coach was an ass kicker. I mean, they were just like, you want to be right or you want to make money?
Pratik Shah (00:55:28):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:55:28):
They would just tear you down. And there was a lot of resetting your mindset and teaching you about business. And I always say people see where I am now, there’s been seven years of study. I’ve been literally in the hard-knocks school MBA for seven years. I probably have spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal development and coaching. I’ve been to hundreds of seminars. I want to get better, I don’t want to have to learn everything the hard way.
Pratik Shah (00:56:11):
And that’s important. That is so hard to accept, which is-
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:56:20):
Pratik Shah (00:56:20):
It is hard. It was hard for me. It’s hard for a lot of people. I mean, I’ve learned, I’m a reader and I kind of learned that way. So I read a lot of business books. I read a lot of books by people that have built a lot bigger businesses than I’ve built. So it’s similar in that process. My learning process is just different.
And I found so much of that, when I read these books of like, oh my God, I can see how I would’ve made this mistake. And now that I’ve read this, I’ve read this same thing in six different books by six different business owners, clearly there’s some consistency here that I need to be doing.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:57:01):
I love to read too, and I love podcasts, but the one thing I would say that’s different with a coach… and I’ve had a lot of coaches, I still have a lot of coaches. I’m surrounded by coaches. You can read a book and think you understand it and then really you only understand it if you can execute. To know and not to do is not to know.
Pratik Shah (00:57:28):
Not to know, yeah.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:57:30):
So I would go to my call with my coach and I’d be like, “Yay, I get hiring.” And they’d be like, “Okay…” And then they would start poking holes in what I’m doing.
And I think there’s this idea that everyone has a blind spot, I can’t see back here. And a lot of people convince themselves that they know things that when it comes down to it, the numbers and the data and the execution shows you don’t know.
Pratik Shah (00:58:00):
Yeah. Yeah, I love that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:58:03):
So I like a little bit of getting… I don’t know, I’m like a crazy person. I like them telling me, “You don’t know.”
Pratik Shah (00:58:12):
And it’s also accountability, because you can’t be accountable to a book because the book’s not going to check on you. But you have somebody that says, “Hey, did you do that thing we talked about last week?” Hey, let’s look at this. Let’s look at this.” How come you don’t know that number? You should be knowing that number. That’s your business.”
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:58:31):
Yeah, and that overachiever in me doesn’t like to disappoint my coach. I don’t like to show up with nothing. And I think as a business owner, there’s a huge vulnerability in nobody holding you accountable. Nobody, your staff is not going to hold you accountable because they don’t want to get fired. And there’s a lot of people that own businesses that surround themselves with yes-men, and that’s very dangerous.
Pratik Shah (00:59:01):
Yeah, it limits your growth, it limits what you can do. We’ve all heard that old kind of adage in saying, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” And I believe that, and I’ve seen that difference when I have meetings and dinners and whatever with people that are so much more… that have gotten to where I want to get to, not just financially, but just in building a business and in life and whatever. Those conversations are so different than the other conversations I have when I’m just hanging out with my buddies or whatnot.
And it’s like, I want to have more of those conversations and that’s what this is, right, is there’s so many people and so many different perspectives and so many different businesses that we hear from and you’re like, wow, there’s some consistent themes, like something… You talking about it, about being in hustle mode, just grinding, having a vision, executing, that’s pretty consistent over a lot of the business owners. And then on the micro level of how that’s executed is very different for everybody.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (00:59:59):
Pratik Shah (00:59:59):
But the macro big things, you got to have that mindset and then you figure out the micro on how you’re going to get there or with the help of a coach. And everybody has… Michael Jordan had a coach. Right?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:00:13):
Yeah. I mean for me, I just think it’s so easy to… I don’t know. I will say there’s also a level where you can get over coached, that has happened to me before where I had coaches that were giving me opposite advice and that’s very dangerous too.
And the other thing is, you can outgrow your coaches. And I’ve outgrown tons of coaches that I worked with where they were life shattering and amazing at one level and then at another level they really weren’t challenging me anymore.
And it’s hard to leave behind coaches and to outgrow people and that was a really hard situation for me. Sometimes when you’re in these coaching communities, all your friends are in there, let’s say your community and you have to know when it’s time to go to the next level.
Pratik Shah (01:01:07):
Yeah, that’s very insightful. So couple more questions and then we’ll wrap up. What is your favorite part of running your own business?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:01:23):
I love the marketing. I really do. I like the marketing, I love spreading the message of our business. I am still pretty involved in the marketing and I think a lot of owners, even though we have people running the marketing that lead that, you see a lot of owners will pick one area that they stay involved with, and that for me is definitely marketing.
I like building the culture and building the vision of the firm. And I think the owner should definitely be involved in those two things. I don’t love the building of the systems, that’s not that fun for me. It has to be done, but it’s not managed by me at this point and it’s always been hard for me. That’s not natural to me to build systems, I want to get something going and then let someone else run it.
Pratik Shah (01:02:21):
Yeah. But the systems are necessary.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:02:24):
They’re absolutely necessary.
Pratik Shah (01:02:28):
There’s just no way to scale without that.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:02:31):
But systems, they’re so tedious to me. They’re so meticulous and tedious. And I have people on my team that are incredible at systems and they are obsessed with systems and they’re great at building systems. I just don’t think that’s my strength.
But I love getting to get out there and meet people and network on behalf of the company and learn. I also really like mentoring some of the staff and building our team.
Now we’re starting to do some cool things internally, coaching our team and building cool parts of… We’re going to start a book club and just fun. I think the work we do, it’s amazing and we are helping clients and getting results for our clients is so rewarding but also building a company that you love to work at is also so rewarding.
Pratik Shah (01:03:30):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. All right, so next question. You’ve had a lot of coaches, you’ve grown a lot as a lawyer, as a business owner, as a person, you’re a mom, you’re all these things. If you could go back 10 years and talk to young Jennifer who just failed the bar, what would you tell her?
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:03:58):
It’s going to be okay. I think you always are… When you don’t have that peace of mind that it’s all going to work out. I feel like even the way I am now, 10 years down the road, the advice would probably be the same, “It’s going to be good. You don’t need to stress. You got it.”
But it’s also part of me that I think keeps the company growing is I always feel like we got to keep going. But I think I’ve learned to give myself more grace and to be more compassionate to myself. I’m very, very hard on myself. I feel like you’re probably the same way.
Pratik Shah (01:04:40):
Being more forgiving. Yeah.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:04:42):
Yeah, you’re going to get this. My COO Tracy, she always says, “What’s meant for you is meant for you.” And she told me years ago, she’s like, “I knew the company you were going to build the day I met you.” And I do believe there’s part of who we are, that we’re just basically living out what we are meant to do here. But it’s like for me, I’m always afraid I’m not going to live up to my full potential.
Pratik Shah (01:05:12):
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:05:14):
I want to see that, but I feel like we’re on the path and I should give myself a little less hard time on that.
Pratik Shah (01:05:23):
And it’s a balance because if you start pulling your foot off the gas or stop holding yourself accountable, it’s very easy to slip into that comfortable mode.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:05:33):
Although I will say as of lately, this has been a really big transition for me. I used to think, going back to our conversation on the hustle and the grind, the hustle and the grind used to be painful. It’s like, it’s a lot of work. It’s intense, it’s a grind. The more I’ve built my business as of lately, it’s like the more I just step into just being myself and doing the things that are the highest, best of my talents. The company seems to be growing faster, more effortlessly and so it’s that transition from the grind to just it working so much easier.
Pratik Shah (01:06:19):
I mean, it sounds like it’s fair to say it’s like a transition between surviving and thriving.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:06:25):
Yes that’s exactly the vibe of what I’m trying to say. It’s like you can be in that survival mode for so many years, but it’s so much better when you get to the mode where it’s all working together and you’re just more operating in your power.
Pratik Shah (01:06:45):
I love that. I mean, I think that’s a great place for us to end. I really like that a lot. That was awesome. Thank you so much, Jennifer. Can you share where people can get ahold of you, obviously your website and Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group.com.
Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert (01:06:58):
Yeah, ATLinjurylawgroup.com. You can email me, jennifer@ATLinjurylawgroup.com and find me on LinkedIn, social media, my handle on Instagram is @JenGoreLawyer.
Pratik Shah (01:07:13):
Awesome. Awesome. I think you’re going to have several people reach out with some questions and thoughts and comments, because this was really enlightening and I’m sure I’m not the only one that appreciated it. So thank you so much.
And thanks to all of you for listening or watching. We’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrap Solo. And just remember, just because people like Jennifer make it look easy and effortless, it doesn’t mean that it is.
And one ask for all of you guys, if you enjoyed the pod, please share where you share stuff and let people know about it. We think we’re spreading good news and good information for people. You heard a lot of good stuff here and I think it can really help some folks.
We don’t sell anything on here, so we really help and appreciate your assist in growing the pod. Thank you all so much and we’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrap Solo. Thank you, Jennifer.