When you start a business, for most, the last thing you’d want to think about is having it go under - or you not being at the helm of it at any point. This isn’t the case for Graham Barr who believes that the first thing you should think about when starting a business is developing your exit strategy!
Naturally, no one wants to work forever. Ensuring that you have a way out, at a time that’s right for you, will be instrumental in maintaining your peace of mind when it comes time to retire to that sunny coastal retreat.
Learn more entrepreneurial tips to secure your passionate working life followed by a comfortable retirement with Graham, founder and CEO of Barr LLP.
What are three things every Entrepreneur should know?
Funnily enough, Graham’s first point for entrepreneurs was highlighting the importance of understanding your exit strategy from the business. He stated that it's one thing to have a passion that you pursue and another thing to work for a living.
As an entrepreneur, thinking about your exit and how you will successfully conduct it is extraordinarily important. No one wants to work forever, and the onus is on you to make sure that you don’t when you start your own business.
Secondly, Graham brought to light the professional needs, and henceforth professional relationships, that are going to be extremely prevalent as an entrepreneur. From accounting to marketing to legal services, there are many aspects of running a business that will require you to work on building and maintaining professional relationships.
Graham’s last point, and possibly his most obvious point according to him and entrepreneurs, was in regards to time dedication. Graham went on to clarify that it’s not about the time you dedicate to the business, it’s about the time you give up elsewhere in your life.
A life outside your business is incredibly important, so while you need to make time sacrifices as an entrepreneur, Graham encourages entrepreneurs to ensure that they have a good work-life balance.
What problem does your business solve and who are its customers?
Barr LLP is Graham’s full service law firm that engages in five areas of law: corporate, real estate, civil litigation, divorce, and criminal law, with plans to expand into wills and estates.
Graham divulged that in today’s digital world, the problem he is trying to solve is the outdated systems that individuals are faced with in real estate and corporate sectors. Barr LLP’s clients are seeking faster, streamlined, and cost-effective services.
However, he emphasizes to them that while they may find some of these factors individually, trying to achieve all of them can result in a decrease in the quality of service. Graham’s goal is to solve the challenge of maintaining personal and close connections with clients while delivering high-quality results promptly.
He aims to prioritize meaningful professional relationships and understanding his clients' specific needs, rather than simply providing a click-based service.
What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur?
Graham gave a lot of his inspirational credit to his father, who started two law firms during his career. The first one was in the 1970s as a first-year lawyer. Graham’s father and his best friend took a leap of faith and started their own firm. Then, in the late 1990s, his father decided to leave that firm and began another with two partners.
Graham had the opportunity to witness a lot of trial and error in both ventures. He was fascinated not only by what they did right and how to replicate that success, but also by learning from the things that didn't go as planned.
Being an entrepreneur means constantly facing new challenges and obstacles. It's inevitable that new walls and hurdles will come up along the way. However, as an entrepreneur, Graham embraces these challenges as part of the journey.
If someone had given you a million dollars when you first started your business, what would you have spent it on?
Graham found this to be a phenomenal question, and admitted to possibly thinking about this idea more frequently than he should. An idea about having a significant amount of money, say half a million dollars, in his first year of running his business.
With that kind of funding, Graham would have invested in building a team around him. This is certainly one of the most prominent recurring thoughts we see come up with the million dollar question.
Currently, he tries to handle most tasks himself. With a strong team around him, he believes he could’ve reached success much faster. Another recurring thought in this series when looking at the answers to the million dollar question.
Instead of grinding it out and trying to do everything on your own, having funds would allow new entrepreneurs to hire capable individuals to support them. This allows you to focus more on acquiring new clients and growing the business rather than spending all your time on admin.
In Graham’s profession, there's a concept known as the "dirty triangle," which refers to the three essential aspects of his business: finding clients, managing clients, and completing the work itself. Successful practitioners are those who can handle all three aspects effectively, according to Graham. They need to be able to find clients, build and maintain client relationships, and ensure the work is delivered.
In larger businesses, there are individuals who specialize in each of these areas. Some focus on bringing in new clients, some excel at managing client relationships, and others are dedicated to getting the work done.
As an entrepreneur, it would be beneficial to identify which aspect comes naturally to you while still recognizing the importance of the others. Having a team of experts who excel in the areas that you may lack expertise is invaluable when it comes to maximizing productivity and success.
What is your proudest accomplishment as an Entrepreneur?
There were a few significant moments that stood out for Graham when we enquired about his proudest accomplishment.
One of them was when he reached a point where he felt confident in his knowledge and skills as a lawyer. This helped him believe that he could pass on that knowledge to future generations and was the impetus behind him taking on his first student.
In the field of law, after completing law school, you typically need to go through an articling process for a year to solidify and affirm your skills. The moment Graham mentioned, when he finally felt comfortable and secure in his abilities, is what inspired him to take on the responsibility of guiding and mentoring his first student through the articling process.
Eventually, his student was called to the bar, and it was an honor for Graham to be their principal during this milestone.
Graham mentioned that, without a doubt, another of his proudest moments was seeing the growth and development of his students. He has had the privilege of mentoring two students during that time. Witnessing the potential and enthusiasm of the next generation of lawyers is truly thrilling for Graham.
He went so far as to say, for those who hear the episode, that his experience afforded him the ability to scale up his practice. Instead of being a lone practitioner with just one assistant, he has expanded his team to include 21 lawyers and over 25 staff members! It completely transformed Barr LLP into a full-service business, and the growth has been truly fantastic.
What big goals are you looking to achieve?
Graham was particularly prepared to answer this question. He mentioned that his company recently had their first retreat in Mexico, during which the question, “Where do we want to go?” came up.
Over the past three years, their firm has experienced significant growth - doubling in size! When you reach the point of being a medium-sized firm, naturally, it raises questions about what comes next. Do we aim to become even larger, perhaps with 40 members? Should we consider merging with a national or international firm? Or are we content with our current size and identity?
Barr LLP’s focus now is not just on simple growth, but on strategic recruitment. They aim to be selective and choose the right people that will fit well within the company culture and values. Graham said that they have dubbed this approach the "same entrepreneur."
Seeking to add the right individuals, at a controlled and deliberate pace. A recruitment strategy that emphasizes finding individuals who align with their vision and bring the expertise they need.
By the end of this year, Graham’s goal is to add one or two more senior members to the team. However, it's equally important to prioritize the happiness and satisfaction of his existing staff. Being an entrepreneur himself, he understands the significance of taking care of his team members and ensuring their well-being, not just at the beginning but also as they move forward.
From exit strategies to personal relationships, time management, mentorship, and business growth, Graham has a wealth of wisdom to share with entrepreneurs. In particular, mentorship holds immense significance in Graham's own journey, as he understands its profound impact on both personal and professional development.
If you’re looking to serve as a sort of mentor to other entrepreneurs, share your story with us. We’ll then share it with others, right here, and inspiration station can be reached.
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