My Big Mistake that Changed My Business
PHYLLIS SMITH: Before we get into all the legal stuff yet, and don’t turn off yet everybody because I know when you hear “legal” you’re like - err - boring. Believe me there is nothing boring about this, and it is vital, and you need this stuff if you want to be in business. So, before we get that, tell us if you’ve ever been in a position yourself where one bad decision threatened everything you built.
NANCY GREENE: Yeah, it’s sad to say, but “yes” it even happens to attorney’s that we can make that same slip up and essentially not take our own advice. Yeah, I went into a partnership with another law firm that didn’t documented well, didn’t have the right culture fit to me and that legally put me at risk at both the career I was building and affected a lot of my client relationships.
PHYLLIS SMITH: Tell me more about that. So, what where the dirty details [laughter] on that and what did that feel like for you, especially someone who “should know better”.
NANCY GREENE: It makes you feel like dirt. Not just that, I'm thinking, “Oh my God I made this mistake, and I’m 18 years into the career and I’m at risk of not having a career anymore.” But I know better than that, right? I tell people not to do that.
So, what happened is I made all the excuses that everyone makes when they make these mistakes knowing that I shouldn’t. So, my second law firm at the time was blowing up. We had 2 different offices and the DC partners were fighting with the Virginia partners and I was sort of monkey in the middle.
I was a partner who sat in Virginia, but worked mostly with the DC group and had about 30 days to figure out what I was going to do with my career. And another firm that had been chasing me kind of popped in and said, “Hey, we can do something better with you.” And because of that time pressure that I put on myself and was feeling at the time that I was the primary bread winner and I was the one carrying our insurance. I jumped in with this other firm without doing my due diligence to see if we work - and worse, I didn’t I get what we actually agreed to in writing.
I jumped in with this other firm without doing my due diligence to see if we work - and worse, I didn’t I get what we actually agreed to in writing.
So, as that relationship progressed I said, “Hey, the deal was 6 months and I become an owner, right? And they're like, “Well that wasn’t the agreement.” (or) “Hey, this is what my compensation was supposed to be and - No, that’s not what we agreed to at all!”
I ended up leaving that firm 8 months into it, because there were all these questions coming back and forth about what we had actually agreed to. And some of the emails I wasn’t overly worried about, because I knew I had email traffic as to what we had agreed to. Well, all those emails mysteriously disappeared from my email account that my business partner had control of as well. So, the documents I thought I had - not so much, because I didn’t take the extra steps to protect them. So, that was a nightmare.
PHYLLIS SMITH: Is it because of that experience that you take on the challenge to help others and prevent a similar situation that you were in?
NANCY GREENE: Oh absolutely! I mean a couple things were going on that time. One was being in that situation myself, and what I was starting to do at about the 18 year mark was look back at my career and look at my clients and the problems they were having in common and I noticed more and more women had these problems of getting into these bad partnerships. In my case it was a good friend’s business partner or the husband's good friend or someone they met through church but didn’t really know. So there was that appearance of trustworthiness and relationship that really wasn’t there. It was a secondary or third relationship, and women almost consistently weren’t documenting those agreements and then in the end those agreements were turning around and biting their backsides off.
So, now they’ve built this business with someone and either the business got blown up from the dispute or the other person took out it, or it just became a mess. So, that’s really when I started this focus on it. There’s not a whole lot of information out there for business owners to avoid making these mistakes. If I made it with my background, you know, holy goodness, how is someone else who does not have that background going to be able to avoid this mess. 90% of it should be avoidable. So, yeah that’s where I got really passionate about going out and speaking and talking to people about these mistakes that we justify all the time, “Oh maybe it’s not gonna work.” (or) “Let’s not spend the money.” (or) “I trust this person.” Don’t sell yourself short like that.
The Accidental Nasty Email that Changed My Life
PHYLLIS SMITH: Yeah. So, you made the mistake. You help others avoid those mistakes and you’ve written a book also about this called Navigating Legal Landmines. It’s something is prevalent and it could destroy a business. You have so many great tips that you can offer business owners, but before we even do that, there is something interesting about you that is part of your journey. You’ve lost a significant amount of weight. Why and how is that impacting your business?
NANCY GREENE: So, 2 reasons on the why. First, I actually started a process with Celebrity Science which was the re-branding and the up-leveling of everything. I learned, among other things, “Hey, by the way you’re wearing a size to big.” I started changing how I looked at myself and how I interacted with people.
About 6 months into the Celebrity Science process I was doing and litigating a case that’s still actually ongoing, My opposing counsel, who is male, accidentally copied me on an email that was a very frank and not so flattering discussion of what me naked would be. So, that kind of made me sick to my stomach.
PHYLLIS SMITH: Ouch.
NANCY GREENE: Yeah [laughter], and so that had some issues with that and how that played out. But it really got me looking at myself even more as to how did I want to be showing up? I had always said I really need to get back in shape and be something other than, you know, oval. That was sort of the kick in the pants that finally made me say, you know, enough. Enough. It’s gotta become a priority for me and not just lip service. So, that’s what really started me on that journey.