Glynis Wright started her boutique family law firm five years ago. It specializes in divorce, disputes over children, pre and post nuptial agreements and any legal issues arising from relationships or their breakdown.

She has a team of five lawyers (including herself) and their hard work paid off when her firm won three awards last year, including Law Firm of the Year 2015 awarded by the Leicestershire Law Society. It’s the first time such a new and boutique practice has won this prestigious award and (quite rightly) she’s incredibly proud of this.

Glynis was also shortlisted for our SME Business of the Year (Growth) Award and Inspiring Leader of the Year Award (The Midlands), so we asked her about her experiences so far.

Forward Ladies: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

GW: I came up with the idea of retraining to be a lawyer when I was 40. At that time, my long term ambition was purely to become a partner in an existing legal firm. I was made a partner within three years of qualifying as a Solicitor, but I soon felt it was not enough and I began itching to go it alone.

Two years later I started my own legal practice. I felt there was a need for a highly specialist boutique family law firm, with fresh branding and an ethical approach to working with families in divorce. I was right and we’ve grown meteorically since I set the firm up five years ago.

Forward Ladies: What were some of the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

GW: The biggest challenge was my own fear of failure, having no income and learning to manage that anxiety.

I had a mortgage and a 13 year old son to support so the fear of not having a secure pay packet was considerable. Fortunately, the desire to run my own business and the excitement of coming up with ideas about how to make it work were so motivational, it allowed me to push through the barriers to take the plunge into the business world.

One of the most empowering experiences of my life is when a challenge is really tough and it’s just me at the helm. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Forward Ladies: How did you fund your business?

GW: I got a start up loan through a bank geared towards new businesses for £20,000 and a loan from my dad for £10,000. The rest had to be income from my business which I hoped to generate in the first 3 months.

I asked a friend to exhibit her fantastic artwork in my office to create ambience, my father painted the office, I tacked down the carpet tiles and sourced cheap but attractive furnishings, my nephew chose my plants, my son took my first marketing photographs – one of which was so perfect I used it for my magazine advertising for at least two years after the business was set up – and my partner and close friends gave me all the encouragement and support one could ever hope for.

My business was funded by way more than a bank loan. It was funded by those around me who encouraged and supported me throughout, and shared in the excitement.

Forward Ladies: What is your top tip for growing your business?

GW: It sounds obvious but total commitment and dedication. If you really want to earn your income from a business, you have to live it and breathe it in the early years.

You have to love what you do to such an extent that your enthusiasm spreads to those around you. They’ll naturally gravitate towards you and use your services and then recommend you to others.

Enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. Since I set up my business five years ago, the support I have had from other business owners has been unbelievable. Another top tip is not to be too proud to draw on the expertise around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Forward Ladies: Why would you recommend that people build their network and find the support they need to start and grow their business?

GW: You absolutely cannot do everything yourself when you set up a business. You’ll be able to deliver within the range of your expertise but it’s essential to do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) so that you know what you do best and what you absolutely must delegate to others.

Since I only had one part time secretary supporting me in my first year, I had to look at other businesses and build a network. I joined business networks to make sure that I had access to skills and expertise in areas that I wasn’t trained in that would help my office run smoothly (from installing the IT to fixing my plumbing).

The great thing is that it works both ways – you also get to support businesses within your community so it’s a win/win situation. They benefit when you use their services, and more often than not they’ll want to work with you too.

Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?

GW: I’ll be totally honest and say that I don’t have a balance.

I love my business and attending business events in the evening (which I often do), on top of an intense working week. I’m also committed to my community, so I do additional charitable work along with being a trustee of an education academy and a business ambassador for a charity.

I’ve also just taken a place on the executive board of the local Law Society. I know it seems like a lot, but It doesn’t feel like work to me. I find it uplifting to be with other business people, particularly women who have taken the same path as myself to run their own show. I have an incredibly strong network of businesswomen around me who are a constant source of inspiration and support.

The key thing for me is to have a long term plan in place for succession. I’m working on this now even though I don’t plan to retire for a number of years yet! Succession can happen in phases, and I’m getting to the point where I’ve recruited such amazing staff that I’ll soon be in a position to gradually step back, eventually allowing them to take the reins.

Forward Ladies: How has mentorship made a difference in your business?

GW: It makes a huge difference and you should never underestimate the impact a great mentor can make. When the right word of encouragement or the piece of advice is given at a key time, it can be crucial to a business.

My best mentor was my mother. She wasn’t a business woman, she worked in factories, but she guided me. When I was agonising over whether or not to run my own business or take a golden opportunity to run the family law department of a large corporate firm of lawyers, she explained that the very fact I was struggling with the decision was already the answer.

It was obvious that most people would want the security and status of a partnership in a big law firm. The fact that the offer was not enough for me showed that I couldn’t accept it. I turned down the job and set up on my own thanks to my mum.

Since then, I’ve had the benefit of so many female mentors who have helped me along my way and in turn, I’ve now become a mentor myself to other women in business. So far I’ve run 6 seminars called Inspirational Women in Business, which bring together amazing and successful women to talk about their personal journeys and to share ideas with others.

Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Glynis, you’ve been great!

Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised, just like Glynis’ has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!