“Every cell in your body is telling you that this is wrong.”
That’s how Ian Aldridge felt – right before making the best decision of his career.
Find out how Ian nearly lost his soul at a corporate law firm, only to break away and start a business that aims to provide fast and affordable legal services to small business owners. From legal horror stories to the ins and outs of business ownership, this episode of the #AmplifyYourBusiness Podcast is packed with goodies for the hungry entrepreneur.
Length: 68 minutes
Ian is a career lawyer turned entrepreneur. After slaving away at high-ticket corporate finance cases, he broke away and started a law firm with a new business model – one for the modern entrepreneur. Progressive Legal throws aside the slow and costly old method in favour of a fast and affordable service that meets the needs of today’s business owner.
“I was always a right arguer!” Ian laughs. Always having been interested in humanities and especially words, Ian decided to become a lawyer in year 9 when schools start encouraging students to think about their career path.
“I also had terrible science teachers.” Ian remembers. His family is mostly involved in medical and scientific careers, so he’s a bit of a breakaway.
Well, not quite. While in uni, Ian had his first go at a business – a service helping night clubs promote events. “Just like everyone’s first business, that went absolutely nowhere,” Ian chuckles.
From Uni, Ian worked his way up the ladder of corporate law. A few years in Australia, and he went to London to work at a massive law firm called UBS.
Ian worked high-pressure financial law cases during the tricky GFC era, and has a few horror stories from that era.
“The bigger [the firm] gets, the more you feel like a small cog in a big wheel,” Ian remembers. There’s more politicking, there’s more back-stabbing… and some law firms are famous for encouraging that kind of behaviour.
You have no client contact, so it becomes about the people you’re working with – and they were miserable.”
After two years, he came back to Australia at wit’s end.
Back in Australia, with no mortgage and no dependents, Ian thought now might be a good time to break away and start a business.
“The thought of going to a recruiter made me vomit in my mouth,” Ian says. He couldn’t imagine working at another corporate law firm.
So he took the biggest risk of his life and made the leap to owning his own business. But it wasn’t easy.
Ian puts it perfectly in saying that “The longer you spend in your career track, and the more successful you become, the harder it can be to leave it.”
In our culture, there’s often the mistaken assumption that you’re trapped. We’re trained to always look for higher earnings and higher status. It’s easy to get caught thinking you can’t or shouldn’t leave the shelter of a steady job – even if that job is killing you on the inside.
All the same, it was a change he knew he needed to make.
“At a certain point, you realise when you’ve spent 10 years in an industry – do I want to do this for the rest of my life?” Ian pondered.
Ian recalls looking up at the lawyers above him, and watching them call home to say things like ‘Sorry Danny I can’t be at your birthday tonight, I’ve got to work on a case.’ He watched lawyers lose their lives to the industry, and he watched their co-workers cheer them on when they did things like miss family events and come back to work the day after giving birth.
But despite how painful his job had become, leaving was still hard. It’s hard no matter what industry you’re in.
“People need to know this,” Ian insists:
“I’ve worked for big fast-paced law firms… and nothing compares to the stress, anxiety and responsibility of owning your own business.”
If you own your own business, be assured that this is the biggest undertaking you will have in your life, and it’s very normal to feel stuck on a roller coaster of ups and downs.
The risk and responsibility of owning a business are intense. There will be learning, there will be challenges, and there will be failures.
But there will also be incredible epiphanies and growth experiences.
The rewards – personally and financially – of owning a business, are massive.
But there are legal risks that often catch owners by surprise. As a lawyer, Ian is keenly aware of this.
(At least in Australia!) Don’t quote Ian on this, but it’s his opinion that business law could serve the modern entrepreneur much better than it currently does.
Stats say around 60 – 70% of small businesses in Australia don’t have a lawyer they can trust for timely and affordable advice. They’re getting overpriced and incorrect advice, at a slow pace, from firms operating in a method that no longer suits the modern business world.
Ian thinks we’re going to see a very big change in the legal industry in the next 5 – 10 years. Law is the ‘last bastion’ of the old way of doing business. The changing business world will hit the legal industry very hard in the near future.
Ian thinks we may start to see artificial intelligence impact financial decisions in business.
It’ll take a while, but we’re already seeing AI replace grunt work – the boxes of paper that young lawyers and accountants would search for are now indexed automatically by software.
Blockchain may mostly affect the jobs people don’t want to do. The soulless, monotonous jobs.
“I’d love to have a robot go through our documentation and flag items of concern for our clients,” Ian gives as an example.
For the most part, Ian’s reading, watching and listening time is consumed by what he needs to know to run his business.
But he does study his clients on Social Media, learning heaps about who they are and how their businesses run.
Ian can’t say enough about how important it is to get good advice, and as much advice as you can. Think about mitigating your risk, understand your limitations before you try new things – in terms of strategy, marketing and investments. Use your finite time as well as you can to learn as much as you can.
Wall-E. It comments on how important it is to take care of our surroundings and look to the future.
Ian is a big fan of swimming. Being a super-driven entrepreneur, having a distraction that also gets him moving keeps him healthy and productive. Ian even undertook The Big Swim, a 2.5k open-water challenge in Macquarie, NSW that’s not for the faint of heart (or lung).
Connect with Ian:
Other Things Mentioned: