Glen Wieland is a partner at Wieland Hilado & DeLattre. Glen was born and raised in Orlando, FL., and strongly influenced by his father, who was one of the original workers’ comp lawyers in Central Florida. Glen completed his undergraduate studies at Presbyterian College in South Carolina before receiving his law degree from The Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama.
In this Startup Savant interview we get the perspective of a hardworking and savvy lawyer, that like any other entrepreneur, left a secure position (as a clerk) and formed his own firm, hired his first employee, tackled the marketing animal, won his first client case, and built a successful brand (practice). Enjoy!
In 1987, I’d been practicing law for about 5 years and was approached by a good friend I went to law school with who asked me if I wanted to join him in his law practice. I discussed it at length with my wife as I was already working for a law firm where I’d been for over 10 years. This firm hadn’t yet decided what my future was with them yet so I decided it could be a good opportunity and took the leap to start my own law firm.
At the time I found courage by looking around at other lawyers and their firms…listen, if they could do it and be successful so could I!. Even with tremendous support of my wife it was a bit of a trying time though because we had a three-year-old.
In looking for support staff to build our team, I asked my long term legal assistant if she’d be willing to take a chance and join me in this new endeavor. She agreed and that started a process of acquiring a great support staff.
I then hired a young girl to work part-time who was in high school and needed a job as part of her program at school. I’d interviewed a few people who just didn’t seem to be the right fit for our team, but she was an excellent assistant. We then needed an office manager and this young girl told me that she had a sister who had bookkeeping experience. We met with her sister and hired her and she’s still with us today.
They came from a large but very strong family. We then ended up hiring another sister who’s still with us today. So, simply put, I’ve found the key to building a good team is to look for people willing to work as a team in helping to support each other to get the job done.
When we first started our new firm, most banks didn’t want to do business with us because we had no track record or financial history. We met with some folks at a smaller bank who were willing to take a chance because they believed in us and what we were doing (one of the benefits of smaller banks).
We borrowed enough money to acquire the equipment and furnishings we needed for our new office to make it look very professional. As young lawyers, we believed it was very important to have a nice professional office setting that provided a level of confidence for the client to show them that their case will be handled in a professional manner.
It’s hard to say what the most important tips are to be successful in business. I’d say you must focus on customer/client service. Be responsive, call them back, answer their questions and keep them informed. Don’t be lazy and have your staff make all the calls to the clients. I’d also say having a well-trained and professional staff that can also provide good customer/client service in a very pleasant and compassionate manner is good.
To make sure this happens, it’s very important that a business owner show respect and appreciation to the people that work in the business. Remember they’ve got families they care about and when you allow them to attend important events for their family, including school plays, children’s games or recitals, it helps build loyalty and respect for the business. Loyal and happy employees are some of the most productive and important assets!
The most joy we have in our practice is when we garner success for our clients and they express sincere appreciation for what we’ve achieved. They’re relieved and understand what we’ve done may change and improve their lives.
Our initial client base was formed by marketing to long term friends, other lawyers and professionals to let them know what we were doing and the types of cases we could help resolve for their friends and families. We have kept it growing by trying to take care of our clients and sending them periodic newsletters and information about our practice.
Refrigerator magnets to hang children’s artwork and grocery lists to keep the name of our business in front of our clients on a daily basis are other tools we use. Nothing over the top so far, but effective nonetheless.
I can’t identify a role model for our firm and its vision other than my parents who always gave back to the community and constantly helped others. We were always active in our church which helped us to understand the concerns of our clients and be able to relate to what they were going through and how an accident affects the entire family.
We’ve been able to overcome and modify our practice to deal with legislative changes in the law that have drastically affected the rights of those who have suffered injuries and accidents due to the negligence of others. Since 1988, the Florida legislature has been dominated by elected officials who favor passing laws to protect businesses and take away rights of those who are injured and need help.
In the work that we do, we’re constantly trying to help our clients not lose all their life savings and property. We work long hours but we also have families. We have always had a firm policy that family matters are just as important as work and to balance this, I was able to coach my sons’ teams as they grew up by working after they went to bed. I tried to make it to all of their school functions. It’s tough but important to keep the family and work in perspective.
If you’re going to start a new business in Florida, I recommend you first research all the laws and regulations that apply to your business to make sure your business is compliant with all local and state laws.
Next, you should determine what help you need and then build a team that will work well together to help you accomplish your goals.
Make sure your team knows your goals and stress that customer service is vitally important. Happy clients refer you new business, unhappy clients post bad reviews and can hurt your business.