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Aaron Spatz 00:00
You’re watching America’s Entrepreneur on Youtube. Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And each week we interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers as a detail their personal and professional journeys. Before we jump in, hit the subscribe button and be sure to hit the bell icon so you’re notified every time we release a new episode. Thanks so much for tuning in to America’s entrepreneur this week. I’m just so incredibly excited to welcome yet another awesome guest and so excited to introduce to you Aaron Phillips, so Aaron’s a friend of mine, he went to university, North Texas for his undergrad. And he practices in in law. So he went through Baylor School of Law, and has been practicing law ever since we’re going to kind of dive into a little bit of his story. So he’s, he kind of comes from a different background where he’s practiced inside of a law firm. But then he’s also ever since just a few years ago, back in 2018, he started his own firm, and he’s been on that journey since then. So really excited to explore topics of of entrepreneurship with him. But in addition on entrepreneurship, maybe depending on where we go, we may end up even covering just a few things that you might want to know in your own business as it relates to startups and business transactions, and maybe a little bit of insight that he would like to offer. So Aaron, man, I just want to welcome you. Thanks. Thanks so much for making time for me.
Aron Phillips 01:19
Yeah, you’re welcome. Thank you, Aaron. Yeah, we’re talking to somebody named Aaron. And I point that out at the beginning. It’s like, I’m repeating my own name.
Aaron Spatz 01:28
Right. Well, so that being said, I’ll try to limit the amount of times that I refer to you by your name. Just just to avoid confusion. Have it sound like I’m talking to myself? Yeah, no problem. Yeah, man. Well, okay, well, so let’s, let’s just dive into your story. So I mean, one, it’s, you know, the legal profession is really why there’s a lot of stuff there. I mean, we’d love to just kind of learn a little bit about your life story, like, what, what? What was the path that you’ve been on? And then kind of what got you interested into the whole legal side of things, and just a little bit of your story there?
Aron Phillips 02:03
Yeah. Um, so growing out, people always said, Well, you should become a lawyer, because I like to argue or make points, you know, verbally, I was pretty precise with language and things like that, and sometimes ruthless. And also attempts ruthless for holding people to their promises. Like to give an example of a precursor when I was little, I had a journal for a few weeks. And my brother and sister went into my room, and read my journal, and wrote in it. So they were kind of kind of foolish. They’re like, if you’re going to read some of these journals don’t leave evidence, but they wrote in it. And so obviously, I found out and I went to my parents, and I said, they need to pay me money. They can’t unraid what they’ve read, so I want money from them. And my parents made them pay me money. But yeah, so that doesn’t mean growing up. I think, ultimately, you know, people associated the way that I acted some in those times as being similar to what they thought lawyers do, you know, as portrayed in Hollywood, movies and pop culture. But what really spurred me on to law was in my final final year of law school, not law school, sorry, undergraduate at North Texas. I was having conversations with people and I was an English literature major. So people were asking me, What are you going to do with that degree? which really just means how are you not gonna start as an English Lit major? And, you know, they ask Polly sign philosophy majors, the same thing. And, and some of them say, go to law school? Well, I said, you know, maybe I’ll go do mission work for a while and then come back and figure it out. Maybe I’ll teach go to grad school seminary, and I list law last, because at the time I thought it you know, that’s another three years of school, I found it a little bit intimidating. And then we talked for a few minutes, and they would leave. And I would feel like, I mean, literally, like, God, just reminding me Hey, you know, if you want to do a lot of all those things that you just talked about, why don’t you just go do it. And some things that got highlighted to me in that time, as I was thinking and praying about it were things like, I like to read rule books, which is something that people don’t necessarily think of when they think of war, they think of the arguing Right? Or the pay me money for reading my journal. But I grew up playing in my late teens and in college, a pen and paper RPGs. So the popular one that everybody knows is Dungeons and Dragons. But there’s dozens out there. And I read rule books, I read some of them for fun. I would get them read them never even have the opportunity to play with my friends. And these rule books might be a couple 100 pages, just because I thought it was interesting to see what kind of systems they had. And that’s really, you know, it dovetails into the kind of law that I do now I do business Law where I read and write and review contracts, which are, you know, documents that determined the systems and processes for the legal relationships that exist within a business and within various business relationships. So that was something that was really highlighted to me if this is what you like to do, and you’re good at this, and this will be a good direction for you to go. So I took the LSAT and scored really well and said, Okay, let’s apply to law school and went to Baylor from there,
Aaron Spatz 05:26
man, like, that’s, like, I can’t imagine like you settled your first case, man, you saw the first case out of court with your with your with your siblings and are able to get, you know, get get damages paid, man, that’s a that’s, that’s quite an art right there. It’d been on a bill to pull that off. That’s, that’s freaking crazy. The It’s not every day that I that I meet somebody who, who enjoy it, or enjoys reading rule books. And so like that, I mean, it’s like this, the discussion I’ve had with so many people, right is there there are unique ways in in in, like, the way that you’ve been shaped the way that you’ve been made, right. And so to you, it’s not obvious necessarily until, like somebody from the outside takes a look at Union like, dude, like he realized that that’s like, not everybody does that. And not everybody’s good at doing that. Like there’s like a real practical application for that. And I think for so many people as they’re going back there live, and trying to figure out where their next step is, or what they’re supposed to do, or what was made for and purposes. And I I’ve actually I explore this with people privately, this is not a commercial plug. For me, I just, it’s just a just a side note there is like, that’s something I spend a lot of time helping people understand. And it’s, it’s, it always fascinates me, because it’s like the thing that is so obvious, but to you it’s not obvious. And so you being able to read a rulebook, and understand it, and like you just legitimately enjoy the way it’s made, like the systems and and then like, translate that to present day of like, picking apart contracts and understanding all the different angles and perspectives and things that you need to consider. And so that’s neat how that was on your list. And like, of all the things that you chose that like that was the one thing and so like, what, what what was that like, then like, once you once you finally made that decision, like, hey, you know what, this, this is the direction that I’m going to go down? And like, how did that feel when you start to go through a lot? Like, like, did? Like, did you feel like when you’re going through law school, I’m like, Oh my gosh, like, this is really cool. Like, I’ve always been into this, I didn’t realize how into this, I would really be?
Aron Phillips 07:30
Um, I think, no, not necessarily. I felt like even once I got to law school, I wasn’t sure what kind of law I would do. Because I didn’t know before I went in that I would end up doing business law. Because at the time, a lot of my ideas about law and what lawyers do was probably more Hollywood based than reality based. I mean, I had a friend, a couple friends whose dads were attorneys and one friend who was an attorney, and he kind of described it to me, but until you’re getting in there and doing it. It’s not, it’s hard to really fathom, you know, you’re thinking about it one way and that shifts. So in law school, I went in not sure what kind of law I would do, I did definitely have a sense of peace about it. Like this is where I’m supposed to be. It was just a matter of because with law, there are so many different avenues you can pursue, you know, there’s family law, there’s criminal law, those are two that people a lot of times initially think of, because so many people have experienced divorce or have friends who have been through divorces, and a lot of people, you know, have gotten in trouble with the law various times. But there’s also so many others, their securities, real estate, oil and gas, International. A lot of times people think of constitutional law, but there’s really not that many constitutional lawyers out there. Just because, you know, those kinds of cases don’t come up all the time. And also, a lot of times they come up in situations where people are like, do I want to spend the money on a lawyer to to resolve that issue and take try to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. And so I was kind of in law school trying to eliminate areas of law and go, Okay, I don’t want to practice that, or trying to figure out what areas piqued my interest. And it wasn’t until my third year of law school that that really happened. Until my third year of law school, I had kind of decided my fallback plan was going to be criminal law, because I felt like I could advocate for criminals and sleep at night, which you think most people that go to law school should be that way. But even at law school, whereas people who want to be lawyers, a lot of them could not. They, you know, would self admit, like they’d say, you know, I I just couldn’t do that I couldn’t defend somebody who was accused of, you know, something terrible murder, rape, things like that, you know, it’s like, that just makes people nervous and whatnot. And my thought was, you know, we have a justice system for a reason, and it’s designed so that people have advocates and somebody in their corner because not everybody gets a fair shake. And even if they did it, making sure that system treats them fairly is important for the sake of any innocent people who come behind. Because it’s always like, justice, the the corners of justice get cut off in pursuit of the people that we know are guilty. And then when those corners are cut, it harms the innocent later. And so making sure to uphold the system by advocating for everybody was important. And then also for those that are, you know, believers out there, I was at Baylor law to Christian University, I’m a believer. Sometimes people would get in a tizzy about it. And I’d say, Well, you know, according to Christianity, and if you’re a believer, then you’re 100%. Guilty, and Jesus advocates for you. So do you have a problem with that. But anyway, so then, in my third year of law school, I was in this municipal law class. And it was talking about how to advocate, not just advocate to or for, but also just give general counsel to cities on making different kinds of decisions with things. And I thought that was really interesting, providing more of the counselor role, and Baylor laws, very litigation focus. So most of the things were focused more in that direction. And this was one of the first classes where I felt like we were exploring more pragmatically, a role other than litigator, you know, the Bulldog, where you’re just going after the other side, but more of that counselor role. And I really liked it, I really enjoyed thinking that way, I really enjoyed trying to be an advisor and come up with solutions and advising on the law, but not necessarily going after somebody else to try to get something. And so that piqued my interest in municipal law, when I got out of law school, I was trying to find an attorney, a law group to join that did that, among other things. And in the course of joining the firm, the first time that I was at Hayes, Barry, white vans, and I got some taste of that, as well as other things. Because that firm did a lot of different things, they had five different partners that did five different things. And so as the low man on the totem pole, you get to do whichever one means doing that day. So it’s really good for experience, you get to see a lot of different things. And realize, okay, I kind of have a taste for Business Law in the course of that, because then you’re kind of in that counselor role constantly, there might be some chances for dispute or litigation. And there’s more clients out there, you know, there’s only so many cities and municipalities out there, and they generally like to hire attorneys with little more gray hair. So I realized Business Law was gonna be a little more successful for my career field.
Aaron Spatz 12:36
To us, that yeah, that’s, that’s what I mean, you can always go get hair coloring, right? And just like just at you just just help yourself look like you’re aged. Yeah, no, no, the, that’s, that’s a neat perspective of just kind of hearing the journey of, of, you know, process, the process of elimination in terms of how you were able to kind of land into where you want to be. And then But then also, not just the process of elimination, but then understanding, so critical of a role that is that people need, like people need a counselor, they need somebody that they can lean on in that role. And so I mean, you’re, you’re the guy for the job. And I think that’s, I think it’s fantastic. Just hearing that journey, and, and just all the different things that you’ve got to experience kind of on on that path. So, that kind of take us then to what what led you What led you to the point where you were you decided that you want to go do this for yourself? And if you be like, you start your own firm, like, what, what, what kind of motivated you to?
Aron Phillips 13:42
Well, I, you know, there’s that baseline thing of, you know, money. Definitely, I thought, Okay, I’m, if I’m doing work for somebody else, if I can figure out how to do it myself, even at the same efficiency, that I’m not giving away the money to somebody else, I get to keep the profit at the end of the day. But it was kind of a winding journey for me. So I knew after the end of my tenure at my first firm Hesperia, White Van Zandt, that I still, I needed to be selective with smaller firms. I’d gone there and they were a smaller firm. They’re a large one for Denton, but, you know, they weren’t like Thompson knight or Baker bots, or some of the larger firms, you know, in DFW, that are even nationally that you know, just big law. They had about 11 Attorneys, including me, but still, the culture fit, you know, wasn’t right. And so I was like, Okay, where do I go from here and once again, prayed about it felt like I was supposed to just take some time and do nothing and wait. And at the end of that time, ended up connecting, once I felt released, right, started looking again, I connected with this attorney that had a A group and they were just going to feed me a little bit of work, but it was going to be almost like a self startup. The only problem going back to that gray hair issue was I was a second Herot second year attorney. And I was, you know, bringing in clients was not a forte of mine yet. So I realized pretty quickly, okay, I need to get a lot better at networking, or I’m going to starve or be at the mercy of those who can. Because any leverage in a small firm or medium sized, firm, true leverage. And marketability as a as you know, yourself for your career comes from being able to generate and maintain client relationships and deal flow. Otherwise, you’re just hoping that you’re useful enough that somebody else wants to keep you around. And so, so started doing that there. After three months there, I was actually not making ends meet. So I started working nights and weekends, I drove Lyft. And Uber. I had a friend that had a commercial contracting company out was powerwashing, WalMart parking lots at two in the morning. And you know, and then on the weekend, on Friday night, and Saturday night driving downtown Dallas and Fort Worth, or if there’s a big game, you know, going around the stadiums, and trying to catch the surges to get paid a little bit more on Lyft and Uber, and then waking up in the morning and going and trying to network and drum up business. I did that for a few months. And then I met this guy, Lance Metcalf, he ended up hiring me at his firm, then Metcalf Adair, they’re in South Lake. And so join them was able to at least have a salary. And the way I looked at it was, you know, if this will get me out of having to work nights and weekends, then then I can really focus on law. But I told him, Hey, I’ve been trying to drum up business for six months. And I’ve only brought in at that point, I brought in one small issue from a client, like where we drafted an employment agreement or something. And so I was looking at myself thinking, you know, I’m not good at this. But so I told him, Look, if you have plenty of work, I can come in and do good work. And we’ll all be happy because my compensation was based on a small base. And then once I hit a certain amount of collections, it would ramp up from there. And so I told them, I’m not going to hit that unless you have plenty of work to hand to me. I can still go network, but I’m not at this point, finding stuff. And I got in there. And there was not really enough work to keep me busy, where I’m popping over that threshold. And so I was encouraged to go network, which I’m thankful for looking back, right? Because then I spent the next few years networking a bunch. Basically, if they didn’t have something hot for me that day, or, you know, a couple days, I was trying to set up lunches and coffees, I was I got heavily involved in the Southbank chamber and got on the board while I was there. And so, just tried to get involved a lot and cast a wide net. And then over time started generating deal flow generating clients and getting things in that were actually making, you know, a decent amount of money for the firm. It wasn’t a ton. But it was something to me anything was a win, you know, at that point, because I had thought okay, like the first six months, one little employment agreement wasn’t much. But over the course of the next few years that went up. And so then I started trying to have conversations with them, you know, going back to the okay, what’s my marketability and viability career wise, if I’m generating this amount of business, we’re a small firm, you know, what’s the plan for me? How is this going to look because I was generating enough business to keep myself busy enough while still market going in networking. But at times the two partners, Metcalf and Derek wanted help with their things. And that caused tension at times. And then, you know, one of my questions to them was, okay, are we gonna hire any other help, we didn’t even have an administrative assistant really full time in the office. And so you know, there was not anybody else, you know, if you want to talk about the crap rolls downhill, you know, or them trying to get things done at the lowest operative cost, there started to be some tension there. And so out of those conversations, and and my frustrations with the way things were was born, okay, I need to make a decision of either need to leave and go find another firm that I think I will be happy at that I can, you know, kind of try to be blunt about, okay, here’s what I am doing. Here’s what, here’s what I think I can do. And here’s what I need in order for this relationship to work or try to do it on my own. And I realized that with the help of a few other friends that in the networking world, you know, one of them was this guy. His name escapes me now that’s going to drive me crazy. Bob’s different There we go. While Superman, he’s with score, which is the something core of retired executives, I think his words. And so they they mentor people for free, a business people, great resource. And so he I was meeting with him should just talk about business stuff and sales stuff in general because he was actually a sales executive. And he was like, look, it’s clear, you’re not happy because I was bringing up to him some of the conversations and some of the situations. And he was like, so you need to sit down and write out like option A, option B, like where do you want to be in the next six to 12 months, because if you’re in the same place that six to 12 months, you’re going to be even happier. And and so I wrote it out, we pros and cons prayed about it. And then Bobby on sent me cuz score had has this as a resource of business plan, it was like a 10 or 15 page like template. It was awesome. So all I had to do is plug in things. And then a financial business plan, like where we had like 15 sheets in an Excel spreadsheet that were linked and stuff. So you can project all kinds of stuff. It was great. So I spent, I went vacation for a week vacation, we can talk, if you want, we can talk about that story a little bit. But anyway, um, I ended up doing billable work for five days on that vacation. But while I was on vacation houses plugged a good amount of time into those templates and really, you know, digested and shoot over what is it gonna look like going out on my own, so that I can get comfortable with the idea. And then we found out that we were pregnant in September of 2018. And in the midst of all this decision making that vacation was in August, so find out we were pregnant September, and we decided to really give it a go or at least create flexibility for ourselves if I decided to work for somebody else, or if I tried to start something and it failed. So we moved in with my wife’s parents that fall in September. And I started my own firm in November, and with my wife’s blessing, despite the fact that she was pregnant, so it was kind of a do or die. But the way I looked at it was I’m really early in my career, you know, worst case scenario, we go bankrupt at, you know, 29 years old or 31 years old. Yes, two years ago, yeah, so 31, that’s not really, that’s fine. Like, nobody’s gonna really come after me, if I ended up going belly up financially. So I’ve got plenty of time to go work for somebody else, and still have a fine career. So I figured, risk wise, better now than after I have, you know, four kids and a huge mortgage and all this other stuff, it’d be a lot easier with low overhead, you know, at the beginning of a family, and that worked out, God, you know, provided there was still deal flow when I left. And since I got to keep the profit, you know, the delta between expenses and revenue, I made more my first year out of my own than I was making working for somebody else, which is, I don’t know if that’s common from what I understand. It’s not common. But I had the benefit of working on those networking relationships for two and a half years before that. And so I’ve been networking, you know, I was essentially my third year of networking. And so really got the benefit of that. And so I am thankful for the time that I spent in that cafeteria, because of the fact that I was able to build that pipeline and that network that then fed me as soon as I labs.
Aaron Spatz 23:27
Yeah, I mean, that that network is everything. I mean, that that was where that deal flow was coming from, that’s where you’re able to start relationships, build relationships, maintain those relationships. I mean, there’s there’s a lot there. And I mean, that was gonna be that was gonna be my question for you is, I think a lot of a lot of folks struggle with the business development side of things, just getting things going. And so for you, kind of going into it, looking at it. Looking back, I mean, you still believe it, like the work that you did in terms of networking, that that made a huge difference.
Aron Phillips 23:59
Oh, yeah. Huge. Um, I don’t think networking can be downplayed at all, and I don’t think it can be oh, sorry, I don’t think doubt networking should be downplayed at all, and I don’t think it can be over stated how important networking is for small business owners, unless you have a budget for media, for advertisements for billboards, which most people don’t, networking is an insanely cost effective way to build awareness about your business. You know, let’s just say, local chamber, that’s 500 bucks for the year, okay. For the year, you get to go to all these events, find out about all kinds of things that are happening where various businesses are getting together and business owners are getting together to socialize. And, you know, comparatively, an ad in a magazine might be several $1,000 For one run, you know, that runs, you know, one time you know, in one month or one one issue out of multiple issues in a month. And so, um, you know, joining a local chamber and then going out to coffee and lunch, you know, it’s not like you need to take people to steak houses and, you know, super expensive places, you know, it can be 10 bucks for a couple cups of coffee, it can be, go to tacos or go to, you know, Mexican place, you know, those usually have good lunch menus, where you can just get, you know, couple things that are not going to be 2535 bucks per person, and just be smart about it. But go meet as many people as possible, and then start figuring out where are those referrals going to be coming from? So like, for me, I figured out, okay, I’m in business law, at the beginning, I was going and I cast a really wide net. So if I went to an event, I tried to meet every single person get their business card, and then I followed up with every single one of them to get lunch, coffee breakfast. And then after a couple years of that, I realized, okay, most of these people, even if they like me, don’t really have the ability to send business my way. So who are the people that are able to send business my way, because they’re in front of the business owners at the time, they’re making the kinds of decisions that would make them want a business attorney. And for other industries that may look different, you know, if you’re an ancient company, you know, I’m not going to be your best referral source. But maybe realtors are going to be a great referral source for you, you know, maybe mortgage guys. So figuring out based on your industry, where’s that synergy? Where, at what point are the decision makers that decide to call you going to be talking to somebody else about that pain point. And so for me, it’s CPAs, and accountants, bankers, commercial bankers, specifically, commercial insurance, guys, commercial real estate guys. So I figured out, okay, those are the people that are actually able to send business my way. And so what I started doing is I would go to events, and I would still collect business cards, exchange emails, if somebody asked me for a cup of coffee or or meeting or lunch meeting or something, I would always say, Yes, make time. So always take the meeting. But the ones that I would follow up with got more selective. So I started trying to mostly follow up with people that were in those top couple tiers of referral sources that I knew, Okay, there’s some synergy here. So it’s going to be the ROI is going to be there. And so, and then still attending other things, because, you know, you never know where something can come from. So still going to the bingo night, you know, put on by the chamber and going to the awards banquet, and going to Oktoberfest and still plugging into the wider community, but trying to make those plugins have larger impact by making sure I’m, I’m at larger events where, you know, I’m going to see a lot of people and can be associated with that without having to spend, go get coffee with every single person for them to remember me when 90% of them can’t even you know, send me a deal because they’re just not in front of those people.
Aaron Spatz 27:55
I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s just taking, it’s just taking a smart approach to the way that you network, and I love the way that you laid it out. So I mean, you’re accepting, you’re accepting meeting requests from people, but then you’re also now you’re just thinking through, okay, what like, what is like, who are the decision makers? Who, where are these energies located? Who are these people, and so it makes your networking more strategic. And I think I think there’s a tremendous nugget of wisdom here, because it makes no sense for you to talk with somebody that has a very, I mean, not that there’s zero probability, but the probability is certainly tremendously lower right of them being able to refer a deal to you, versus somebody that like, hey, this person has a, like, 90% chance of being in a situation or 100% chance of being in a situation where they’re gonna be able to refer business to me. So it would behoove me to develop relationships, see how I can help them be of service to them, but also, be top of mind or be, you know, be at least in the conversation in that mix. And so I think that’s absolutely terrific advice. And, and, you know, and I’ll say something real quick, and I’ll stop, but the, the ability to take meetings that you don’t know, are incredibly beneficial. I’ve almost always found those to be the ones that are like, beneficial, I don’t know what if that’s been your experience, but it’s like, it’s for me, it’s been the the meetings I’m thinking man, there’s really no reason to me like I don’t I like I’ve almost canceled meetings before. And then those ends up being the ones that I’m like, holy crap like that. I needed to go to that. And then and then it was like a reminder then from there on. I’m like, I’m taking everything.
Aron Phillips 29:28
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve definitely found you know, you never know what you’re going to get right. It’s a to me, you know, every now and then there’s duds, but I found sometimes those meetings are definitely hidden gems of somebody that you really connect with, or somebody that really encourages you, or somebody that you really have an opportunity to encourage because they’re in the middle of something that you can really speak into, you know, sometimes it doesn’t even end up having to do with business. But it’s a it’s always I think, worth it because You know, the way I look at it is, there were a lot of people that took meetings with me early in my career that probably thought this is I’m gonna make sure to take meetings with people, even if, you know, I don’t think it’s necessarily going to benefit me directly, but trying to help other people and try to pay it forward.
Aaron Spatz 30:18
Yeah, yeah, 100%, I found that that will come back to you. Not Not that that’s why you do it, because you’re just doing a kindness of your heart to help somebody out. But people remember that. I mean, I’ve made introductions for people, where they had a need that I was in no way positioned to solve whatsoever, I mean, is way out of my wheelhouse. But like, you know, what, I’ve got a guy or I’ve got a, I’ve got a good friend of mine, I got this lady who handles this type of thing, I will get you her information or his information, I’ll get that over to you, you know, as soon as we’re done here, and then they get connected. And, you know, eight months later, I’m getting a phone call from somebody, a friend of a friend. And it’s just, it’s funny, it’s funny how that works out. But no, I just, I appreciate you being so raw and so honest with just the way that you’ve approached your career and the decision points that, that you’ve been faced with, I appreciate the just the Insight kind of how you’ve operated through the the networking opportunities, but then also your assessment of your own financial risk and your future, I think that’s a great, great perspective that people should really take stock of, because, to your point earlier, it’s like you have, you have a lot less to lose now than you do later. You know, theoretically, right? So it’s like, well, while you don’t have six kids and a you know, all these met, you know, just a massive list of things to cover. It’s in your in your young enough and in in your career, like you can afford for things to possibly not work out exactly the way you wanted them. But what’s cool though, is that it it like it is working out for you like you are you are stepping forward and you know it you’re you’re reaping the benefits of all the seeds that you’ve sown for the two, three years of relationship. So kind of take us take us to present day like what what does it look like for you now? Like, what’s your, like, what is your world look like? Now in terms of your preferred?
Aron Phillips 32:10
Yeah, at this point, um, you know, I’m, I’m, I would say, this year, I finally started getting to the place where I’m billing about what I’m worth. Because when you first jump out on your own, you’re still billing close to what you were when you were an associate somewhere else, and you’re just wanting you’re hungry for clients. So it was, that was one thing is, is having confidence in myself in my worth and learning to okay, it’s been about six months, I need to slide that scale up. Otherwise, I’m going to be lagging later on, you know, I’m going to hurt myself later on. At this point, I’ve got an assistant when I jumped out on my own, I didn’t. So you know, I’m trying to add that wheel early. Right now as a part time assistant. But I’ve got a fractional assistant as well, I’m going to try to combine those into one on site full time here in the spring, when might want to contract ends that I’ve got going but got that in the hopper, and then I’ve got a potential associate in the hopper, he went to Baylor, so I went back to Baylor and went to the on campus interview process back in November of 2019. So before COVID, everything was looking great, you know, economy was humming along, if you remember, you know, when Trump was president. And so, the, when interviewed, I interviewed like 19 people in one day, it was a blur. And then offered some guys some some spots and COVID hit. So I had two guys that were gonna intern for me last summer COVID hits and I called them up and was like, Look, initially, it was going to be a paid position. But suddenly, it was like, I don’t know, if anybody’s going to do anything with business, you know, suddenly, like law is usually considered a luxury, you know, unless, unless it’s a matter of survival or something. Like, okay, we can write these employment contracts ourselves, like, you know, because COVID is going on, and we need to cut costs. A lot of the that was my thought. So I was like, Yeah, I don’t know if these, these will be paid positions at this point. So if you want to come work for me for the experience, great. But if you don’t know are no foul. One of the guys said, now I’d rather stay with my family because he was living in Waco, his family was in Waco, he was going to move up to Dallas for the summer. And it was gonna make sense if he was paid. The other guy was commuting to Baylor. And he was partway between there and Fort Worth. And so he was like, now it’s about the same drive it is It might even be shorter than it is for me to get to school every day. So I’ll just go work for you for the summer. I’m not doing anything else. And so he was a good fit. enjoy working for me. I enjoyed having him in the office. And so he’s going to SMU for tax law now and he’s going to start working three part time this fall, and then hopefully come on full time once he graduates from SMU. So God willing This time next year, I’m going to have two full time employees. And start, you know, in earnest, up to this point, it’s been trying to really push it to see how much I can take on. And at times, you know, just kind of grit my way through it, you know, sometimes you have a sleepless night or, you know, you work on the weekends, but, you know, it is what it is, it feels a lot better doing those sleepless nights or working on the weekends when you’re doing it for yourself, in some ways, in my opinion, because it’s not somebody else asking you to come in, and ultimately, you’re making them money. You know, I’m like, Well, you know, this is this is, to me, it’s a sacrifice that’s worth making. When, when you know, it’s for yourself, and you’re building something for your own future. So, yeah, so that’s kind of where we’re at right now. You know, I’m still networking. And one thing I would say on that note, you know, just just circle that back in, because as I said, I don’t think it can be overstated. I’m still not working. I didn’t like stop once I got through my first year, you know, I stayed on the board for the Southlake chamber, I’m still plugged in there. I’ve joined some other groups, you know, and I’m, and I continue to go through this last spring. You know, for CPAs, one thing that I did was I went through my contact list and reached out to any CPS or accountants because I knew their tax year had been crazy last year, and it was crazy again this year, and I just said, Hey, can we bring you breakfast or coffee or something, you know, we’re not gonna, you don’t need to come meet me for lunch, I’ll come to you. And, you know, for some of them, we just literally dropped it off and left, if that’s if they were that busy. Most of them, let us stick around for 2030 minutes in the conference room while we ate, you know, or had our coffee but, but still, I tried to make it as easy as possible, and just help them through their tax season a little bit. And so, you know, I’m trying, I’m still networking. And even in those months, where I’m having a lot of business, and I’m maybe having late nights or working on a weekend, I don’t cancel those networking meetings, I still go attend things, I still meet with people for lunch and breakfast. To me, those are as integral to my business as my billable work. Because if you go a few months, and just stop all those lunches and stuff, because you’re too busy to network, you’re gonna look up and find that you’re suddenly not busy at all. And then it takes a while to get that momentum going, again, to be top of mind with people. And so I to me, I’d rather network even when it’s painful, then, you know, stop that, that hustle.
Aaron Spatz 37:24
And that’s solid advice. I’m telling you, like, if you’re watching this or listening to this, and you’re interested in starting your own law firm, or even just your own business, for that matter. I mean, this is, this is some really, really great raw, real insight into into just the, the hustle, right? I mean, it’s it’s all hustle, man, I mean, you, you’re, you’re, you’re out executing the work, but then you’re to the point that you’re I mean, it’s a brilliant point. And I think it’s a great reminder is like you don’t let off the gas in the networking side of things, when you’ve got enough billable work coming in, because it’s it’s just like, it’s like any marketing, you know, sales funnel, where it’s like, you’ve you’ve got to keep your you got to keep your pipeline, you got to keep your, your conversations, you got to keep all that flow moving. And if you just, if you just turn the faucet off, once you’re done working what you’ve got currently, then you got to go back and start that whole journey all over again. And it and it just that momentum it and it’s man, it’s a momentum killer. You know, it really is I mean, it’ll it’ll absolutely, yeah, it could take longer to get that. Get that rolling again. So what? So kind of like, what we’re on the topic here, like, what, what other? What other advice would you have for folks that are looking to start start their own journey? I mean, you’ve you’ve, you’ve really articulated this really well, and I’d love to just glean anything else that may or may be rattling around in terms of things that you think people really need to consider when they’re, when they’re, when they’re weighing whether or not to go through with us.
Aron Phillips 38:56
Sure, um, I think I’ll have a couple of different points, I’ll hit first from a 10,000 foot view, you know, what you mentioned me thinking, I’m at the beginning of my, you know, lifecycle as a human. And so my, my loss is lower than somebody who might be 40 or 50, and have kids in a mortgage on that. I think looking at that useful. For me, it was useful in terms of it helped encourage me to step out, but I don’t think there’s necessarily a wrong time to step out. I think if you’re if you’re sick to your stomach, every one Monday when you get up and go to work, and and you’re working for somebody else, and you’re literally I mean, I was I’ve, I’ve worked at those places where you’re physically like you have a knot in your stomach when you’re driving to work on Monday morning. Then, if you have a dream for something else, and you think it’s possible, I think it’s worth doing thinking about it, praying about it, putting the plan together and seeing if you can do it. Now that doesn’t mean if you hate your job, you should just quit and start something Which leads me to the next point, put in some foundational work. And what I mean by that is, you know, I was fortunate somebody was able to give me a template, but find a way to get a business plan together, scores a great resource that I mentioned. That’s just spelled normally SC O R E, there’s one of the Dallas Fort Worth area, but I don’t know if they’re a national brand or not. But they’re a nonprofit that helps business owners, there are other small business resources out there, where you can get free templates and things that will help you work through what do you need for your business. So put in some of that foundational work, and then understand you may need to do some of it for free or hustle without seeing much return for a while. So if you go back to my earlier career point, when I was like, I’ve been networking for six months, and I got one little piddly thing you may need to network for six to 12 months, before you see any meaningful, you know, regular deal flow or or whatever it is in your line of business where you didn’t mean to start small, you know. And so it may look like taking a haircut on it, so to speak, you know, and cutting your price or doing it for free for the first few, you know, the stereotypical example that everybody probably would smile on is the person who’s starting a photography business because they’re like, oh, I need to add to my portfolio, I’ll do a session for you for free. But really, that’s they’re putting in that foundational work, they’re doing that thing for free for somebody, you know, and I’ll probably a lot of people hearing this smile, because we all know that person that got a camera. And so now they’re starting a photography business. But from a business mindset, they’re taking the right approach, they’re getting their name out there, they’re just trying to generate some some buzz about it. And so in the same way, you know, if you’re going to have a window cleaning company, maybe go to a local strip mall, you know, or something where there’s a lot of windows and offer, hey, we’ll clean your windows for free this month, once a week. And if you guys like it, then we can talk about a contract. And so you know, maybe you have a loss leader where you where you do that. So they can see that you do good work. But think about ways that you can creatively get some stuff out there that may be able to accelerate your journey. And then I think advice counsel cannot also can’t be understated. As a business owner, you need to have people around you that you trust that you will lean on, you can’t wear all the hats, you can’t be an accounting expert, you can’t be a legal expert, you can’t be you can’t even necessarily be an all around business expert, you know, your business and your industry. But, you know, you don’t know what different people have tried in different situations, you’re not going to reinvent the wheel probably. So why not lean on other people’s wisdom. And value that to me, you know, if somebody is going to give me advice that ends up making me 1000s or 10s of 1000s or hundreds of 1000s of dollars by applying it. It’s certainly worth, you know, $200 now or $4 Now, or whatever their consulting time is to get to glean that and then have the opportunity to go apply it. So I’d say those are the major points. I think I probably had like four or five there.
Aaron Spatz 43:18
No, that was I mean, that was that was really solid. And I appreciate I appreciate you sharing all that there’s a there’s you sparked a thought, as you’re explaining when your points I want to I want to circle to this one really quick before we were run out of time here. But how do you go about it? Because I think I think this is a common entrepreneurial problem. I’m just curious how you’ve dealt with it, like what’s your kind of what your perspective or your your philosophy with it is? But so the the notion of like chasing whatever work comes your way, right? Like, there’s gonna be situations where you’re, you might have somebody who approaches you as like, Hey, I’ve got this legal matter that I need help with. And you’re thinking in the back your mind, like, yeah, like, Can I do it? Yeah. Like I like I legitimately can’t otherwise I wouldn’t say yes, but does this is this taking me away from like, my core service? Or is this taking me closer like, so? Like, thinking it was so like, I’d like your perspective on that, but then also just apply to general business sense of like, people that have, I mean, whatever type of company they have, right, but how do they? How do they navigate those types of issues? I’m just just curious what your feedback is to that.
Aron Phillips 44:28
Yeah. I’m happy to share. So I’m going to give credit first to the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins. If you haven’t read it, go read it. So I’m going to talk about part of that. But I think in that book, they’ve got this concept of the hedgehog. And so that’s what makes there’s good. There’s lots of good companies, what makes them great companies. And a hedgehog has one thing that they’re really good at. That’s how they survive. They just truck along wherever they’re going And whatever something comes up, they just curl up into a ball and have the little pointy things out. That’s it. And then they just keep on going. And then they compare that to the fox who might try to kill the Hedgehog, right, the other companies out there, and the fox will try to do all kinds of things to get attention or, or various things to distract the hedgehog. But ultimately, you know, he can’t get to the Hedgehog, he’s, he’s all over the place. And the Hedgehog is just focused on getting where he’s going. And does the one thing curl up in a ball. And so they said, the great companies were those that focused on the one thing, right, if you’re, for example, if you’re a landscaping company, don’t also be an equipment rental company. And also, you do commercial and residential. And, you know, maybe that can work. But the scale is probably different. The price points are different. So for me, on the legal side, you know, I do business law, the big three that people come to me for, you know, LLC startups, you know, issues. So formation and structuring commercial real estate issues, and mergers and acquisitions. If somebody comes to me with like, let’s say, a bankruptcy issue. Could I help? Yeah, I mean, if it’s a business that’s going through bankruptcy, maybe I can provide some ish some help, if they’re really far ahead of it. Like they think they might go through bankruptcy later this year. And so they’re trying to renegotiate some contracts or something. But if it’s like, we need to file tomorrow for bankruptcy. No, I’m not good for that. And so working that backwards, figuring out, at what point am I actually providing good value. I had happened recently with a business client, I helped them form their business, and I represented the business, I had them sign a disclosure letter so that the individuals that were the partners, understood, I’m representing the business, I’m not representing any of them individually. And then came back sometime later and said, we want to we want to split ways this is working. Okay, I made sure to remind both of them, you know, on the phone and things, I don’t represent you personally. But as long as this is still a peaceful interaction, I can draft up the things to get one of you out of business. From there, it escalated into a dispute. And it was clear that one of them was doing things that were harmful to the business. And so we, I had a choice to make, you know, in terms of okay, I can technically on behalf of the business go after that person. But we may need to go to litigation. And most of what I do day in and day out is not litigation. My this guy and this company needed a litigator. So I handed him off to a litigation firm, and made sure that he had good counsel, and it was exactly what you know, to your point of, Can I do this? Yes. But with my bandwidth, you know, I knew for one, you know, I had plenty of other stuff to work on. So saying yes to that, just because when it would require a larger investment of time and resources, for me to get up to speed and be comfortable with decisions I was making and being asked to make relatively quickly, as what happens in litigation. I wouldn’t be serving my client best by hanging on to that. And so I think a lot of times, in the name of well, I you know, I just want to make one more dollar, people accept things because they’re like, I don’t know, you know, it’s that always hungry mentality, right. It’s, it’s sometimes it can bite you in the butt. And so it’s important to be selective, and be more like the hedgehog. And I’ll give another visual that I heard one time that I really liked, is like, you know, if you imagine yourself as a stationary point, but there’s, you know, a spectrum of places you can be laterally, there are opportunities that are whizzing by, and you grab on to every single one that, you know, you’re gonna end up on somewhere on that spectrum, they, you don’t know how you got there, you don’t necessarily like it, because you’re just grabbing whatever you see next. That’s essentially what the person that takes everything is doing. They end up hurting, I would say hurting those that they’re serving as well as themselves because they don’t end up being as good as they can be, like the hedgehog great at one thing. And they ended up not necessarily liking what they’re doing, because you could end up grabbing on opportunities. You know, I don’t like family law. I find family law stressful. I would have trouble taking that stuff home with me. Ironically, because I was going to go into criminal law, I’d be fine with that. But family law, I can’t I can’t do that. But for the sake of money, I could write somebody could say, well, I’m having a rough month. You know, I know there’s plenty of money in that. People are getting divorces, and they take that one case. And then the next month, it’s like, well, you know, I already know what I’m doing. I’ll just do two cases and before they know it, that’s the majority of their practice and they hate it. So rather than saying yes to every opportunity is there whizzing by have the discipline, which if you’re an entrepreneur and a business owner, you know we all like to think we have to Do you have the discipline to say no? And say, No, that’s not the right opportunity? No, I can refer that to somebody else that’s in my industry that I know will do a great job at that. And then you see the one that’s yours, and you’re like, Alright, now I can really grab a hold of this, because I’ve said no to these other things.
Aaron Spatz 50:17
That’s a solid, man, I love that. It’s great, great visuals, in terms of just understanding what that what that looks like. And I love the way you built on to the, to the scenario to kind of play out for people just things to think about and what that could look like for you down the road, not just in the immediate near term, because a lot of folks are focused on the near term, like, Hey, I, you know, I got bills to pay. If, if, if they have, if their money is green, I’m taking it type of type of situation, versus being being thoughtful, and I get it, there’s going to be maybe a little bit of a transitional period in that. But being as thoughtful as you can, in terms of your what, what is your core product was your core service that you’re offering your clients? Like? Do you know what that is? And so I mean, I think that’s, I think it’s terrific, and it’s, it’s really, it’s really cool to see your story and I just, again, like we’re we’re wrapping up here but like, so one, I just want to thank you for for being so raw and open with your with your journey. And the wisdom shared I think is incredibly insightful, but not just insightful thing is actionable. I think people can take take a lot from this conversation and really apply it to their own lives. I’ll, I’ll be sure that I hyperlink the book Good to Great in the show notes. And I’ve actually, I pulled up score, I’ll look for those. The business plan and financial plan templates and see what they have there and hyperlink to score as a resource to people. But how can people find out more about you Aaron? Like how can they how can they get in touch with you what’s what’s the easiest way for people to get connected.
Aron Phillips 51:46
Um, if you just want to find out, you know, what my firm does a Phillips at, sorry, a Phillips law office.com. And otherwise, that you can email me at a Phillips at a Phillips law office.com Or Call my firm at 817-903-1414. And that’s just going to be my law firm, you can set up a consultation, and if you’ve got some issues or whatnot, you want to talk through, I’d be happy to talk through them with you. But um, yeah, that’s, that’s me at this point.
Aaron Spatz 52:17
Awesome. Now, this has been a it’s been a true been a true joy. And I just, again, I just wanna thank you for spend some time with me today. Thanks for sharing your story. And just for the insights and everything else that you’ve been through, I’m cheering for you, man. I think you’re I think you are like, you’re plowing towards the right direction. It’s not even you’re not just like, you’re not just, uh, you know, meandering towards it. I feel like you’re I mean, you’re, you’re you’re headed there, man. It’s really it’s really cool to see your story and your journey. And I’m, I’m excited to see what the future holds for you. So, again, thank you so much.
Aron Phillips 52:49
Thank you. Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it. And I’m excited to see all that you’re doing over there to America’s entrepreneur with with a little
Aaron Spatz 52:59
Yeah, man. Sounds good. Thank you. Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course, you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us. That’s a Ron at Bold media.us So thanks