Like any start-up, we faced numerous obstacles along the way, the biggest of which was having the courage to sign a $600,000 lease. We then embarked on a build-out of new space all while trying to work at the same time, marketing and launching a new company that successfully met client demands.
The biggest surprise when starting our business was that the bank wouldn’t lend us $50,000. It came as somewhat of a shock, as we both owned nice houses and had very good credit scores. Eventually, we were able to get $25,000 and Sheila and I made the decision to work like crazy in order to fund the firm with our own money. Needless to say, financing a startup is challenging.
We had a business plan before we started. We prepared budgets and marketing strategies and discovered that people needed better options when divorcing. We used this discovery to our advantage, marketing the fact that we offer all options when it comes to divorce – we litigate, mediate, arbitrate and collaborate.
We first started with 2900 square feet of office space. Over time we expanded and grew and took on different specialties. The biggest change we have made is to rename the firm Griffiths Law and expand our practice to include civil and commercial disputes.
We worked really hard and were profitable early on, though it took strict protocols on spending to ensure that we were successful.
I surrounded myself with very supportive people.
My family was and still is very supportive – allowing me to work long hours and make sacrifices in order to ensure that this venture was successful.
- My partner had the marketing skills that we needed and I relied on her to guide us through that process.
- My paralegal had experience with firms that transitioned in the past and was able to assist with the bookkeeping and overall changes with a new office.
- I also had the support of my best friend who became a partner in the firm. She had the business knowledge and was extremely helpful in making it successful.
The best advice I ever received as a business owner was advice from a client who told me that failure isn’t something that should be in your vocabulary. I kept repeating those words during challenging times.
Advice for women now interested in starting a business?
Follow your dreams – it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be successful. Make sure you have a strong support system and surround yourself with knowledgeable people so that you always have someone to bounce ideas off of and discuss strategy. Watch the budgets and never overspend. When poverty flies in the window love flies out the door. This applies to both marriages and businesses.
Suzanne Griffiths is the Managing Shareholder, CFO, and co-founder of Gutterman Griffiths PC. She was voted Top Lawyer in Family Law in Denver, 5280 Magazine, 2016-2018 and Lawyer of the Year, Law Week Colorado 2016.