Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode 24 · 10 months ago

Entrepreneurial Inspiration from Unexpected Places

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On Episode 24 of Decision Dialogues, Mark Willoughby and Mindy Neira are joined by Terry Lyons, founder and managing partner of Lyons & Associates, P.C., a firm specializing in divorce and family law. Terry talks about the shift that occurred in her life that caused her to leave the big firm where she worked previously and start her own firm, and how the inspiration from that shift came from a very unexpected place. She recalls important decisions with massive financial impact that she's made, both good and bad, and analyzes the reasons for each of them.

Get the full show notes and more resources at ModeraWealth.com/DecisionDialogues

Are you paving the way for the life you want, facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by Modera Wealth Management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs, thys, for joining us the decision dialogs for thrilled to have you along. My name is mark, will it be, and I'm a principal and wealth manager of modera wealth management. To ellas the today, my colleague Mindy Neira, Senior Financial Advisor, and I will be chatting with Terry Lines, managing partner of lines and associates. Terry's a certified matrimonial attorney and a founding member of the firm. Welcome everyone to the show and I'll hand it over to mindy. Thanks, Mark and Harry, thank you for being here today. No problem. Thank you. Let's jump right into it. I know you've told me your background and a great story behind how you started your firm. So I'd love to hear how did you come to this decision to start your own firm? I'd like to tell people that I am part lawyer, part human. Besides being a lawyer, I have a master's degree in social work. In my personal life, I'm a foster and adoptive parent. I've had five children in my home total. For of come through the foster caress them to have been reunited with their biological families. To we've out up adopting and one child came to us not through the foster care system but through a mentoring program. We met her when she was three. I was nineteen and somewhere between three in high school. Her Birth family moved to Florida and she moved into our home and we raised her. This young woman, remarkable young woman, first person in her family to ever graduate high school go to college. She's now getting her MBA. When she was nineteen, herself a freshman in college, I was working at the big firm. I enjoyed quite the successful trajectory. Everything that you're supposed to have, everything that you're supposed to want, going for that brass ring happen to be some random Tuesday night eleven o'clock at night. I'm there in my fancy office with books and papers piled everywhere, making a kajillion dollars, and my phone rings eleven o'clock at night. Turns out to be this young woman who herself is now freshman college, and she said, Terry, I need to talk to you. It's about something very, very important. Given this young woman's challenges in life, a lot of things jumped into my head. Was She and crisis? Was She dropping out? Where was she on the journey? And I'm like, okay, what is it? She says, when I first met you, you were a freshman in college and you were so poor that used to take me for ice cream and I had to choose between two scoops of ice cream or one scoop of ice cream plus sprinkles. At this point I'm getting mad at her, like this is why you called me, like what's the point? She says, and I loved you. Then what do you do into yourself? And I hung up the phone and...

I sat back and I looked around my fancy office with all the trappings of everything that's supposed to be success, and I realized that that young woman was supposed to be out enjoying her own journey and adulthood, and the fact that she was concerned about me really caused a shift within me. I decided to then start my own GIG, left a little while later to the big firms. Credit, everyone there incredibly supportive, still on my side to this day, eighteen years later. They taught me how to be a good lawyer, they taught me how to be a good professional, and I'm out on my own now, forging my own path and I have a lot more time to go get ice cream and thankfully I'm not so poor. It's actually worked out that I still you know, I can now get two scoops plus sprinkles. Without that intervention from someone that I thought I was mentoring, the turned around and mentored me right back, I wouldn't be the entrepreneur that I am today. Very inspiring, Terry. Thanks for sharing that. Terry, just let me ask you, how does it make you feel that she has so much wisdom to have made the intervention she did with you? One of the really cool things about being a foster and adoptive parent is you're forced very quickly to come to this realization that children do not belong to us we are given the gift of time with children. We are not given the gift of ownership. That's been simultaneously hard, raking and liberating, and so when those moments of wisdom come up from these children that I've fostered or mentored, it feeds the liberation and doll's the heart ache a little bit. You know less. So it's a good it's a good thing, it's great thing and amazing. Yeah, and I'm I'm grateful for the journey. Wonderful. Yeah, when you started your firm, what decisions did you make when you were starting? I remember US talking about you didn't want to be the typical law firm in New Jersey. There were some differences between how you started your firm and the other so I said about to change the way the legal industry operates. This is suicide. Twenty years ago, whenever I started, I said we're going to have a law firm with no dress code. I don't care that we handle multimillion dollar clients. You'll see I'm in a fleecy today. I'm actually wearing sweatpants. Our lawyers have unlimited paid time off. We have toys in the waiting room. People come to see us if they have children or grandchildren and tow I have toys. In the Waiting Room I have candy and every single room, I'll show you right now. You're candy. In this room there is Chocola Terry Right. Yeah, there is chocolate. There is a right now. MM's twixt, butterfinger crackle. Sometimes we have Swedish fish to a lot of people like Swedish. No, Milky Way, no, me see. I have a babe bruise, three muskets here. I can send you some milky are you a Milky Way Guy, mark, yes, man, oh my gosh, here we go. Milky Way. I got Wilky way...

...dark. Are you darker? Regular? Just wanted a mistic mission. There was no discrimination going on at your laws firm. Understood, understood. I really set about to redefine how lawyers operate. People want lawyers who are smart. Most time, when people come to lawyers, it's because they're at an inflection point in their lives. Equally, if not more, important, I believe that lawyers need to remember that were humans first, and be surprised how this is resonated with our clients and their clients to choose US specifically because we are really, really smart and can handle multimillion dollar issues and I meet them and sweatpants. It also has resonated with our employees and our workspace. People now seek us out to work here. Thing my greatest honor, putting aside while the other bougie accolades I've received, my greatest badge is that we were chosen by NJ. Biz Is the number two best places to work in the State of New Jersey. People like coming to work here. People feel like they have a purpose. It's a good gig. Great congratulate him, by the way. That thank you. It sounds great. You've built a great firm, but along the way I'm sure there have been ups and down. You'd love to hear about some of the decisions you made that you let's start with decision that you made that maybe you regret or what a mistake, one of the common mistake that I see many entrepreneurs make, including myself. Most entrepreneurs have a healthy sense of narcissism. We wouldn't start our own businesses if we didn't feel like we had some ability to control the world. We also have this and nate sense that we can fix anything. Again, if we didn't have that sense that we could fix anything, most of us wouldn't start businesses. It's probably one of the biggest mistakes that I made was failure to meet the moment when market housing crashed in two thousand and eight, nine and ten. I made the mistake of failing to meet that moment when every other business was cutting salaries, reducing staff, cutting expenses. I narcissistically thought, well, I don't care that the market is retracting, I'm going to make sure that every single one of my employees gets a raise. I'm going to make sure that I keep spending if I'm spending. Long Story Short, I wound up coming out of that recession completely maxed out with all my corporate debt and I was twenty thousand dollars away from losing my entire business and all those jobs that I thought I was protecting by being kind to them during the recession. I think the tragedy of that is that once the recession was over and every other company that had met the moment, that had shed expenses, that had cut back and done what they needed to do, those companies were poised for growth. I I was not poised for growth because I was still saddled with the debt and all the bad mistakes I met because I failed to meet the moment. Not only did I lose the opportunity, I've lost two or...

...three years of growth that I could have had coming out of that recession. I also was hampered and that I then, for those next two to three years post recession, could not give my employees the same raises, make the same expenditures and everything that other of my competitors were doing. So now is at a disconnect and it actually hurt morale in the long term. None of my employees remembered, nor would they right we all live in a what have you done for me now, society. Don't blame my employees when all their friends were getting raises at their jobs in two thousand and eleven and twelve and I couldn't do it. They didn't remember what I had done through eight, nine and ten. So the biggest mistake that I made as an entrepreneur, and I see a lot of my other colleagues is entrepreneurs making, is failure to meet the moment and failure to make hard decisions. And yes, we can control the world most of the time, but when certain circumstances come around and we cannot control the world. We have to do a better job pivoting. I can tell you I did not repeat those same mistakes in this last recession. I did everything we needed to do and I'm proud to say that now we've come out of it strong. All my employees their salaries were frozen. I cut back expenses. People were happy just to have a job. I met that moment and now that we're coming out of it, now all my employees are getting raises and now I'm poised for growth, and now I'm about to open a third office. So by meeting the moment sooner rather than later, it's better for everyone in the long run. That's not a big mistake that I made. I think I know what the answer is, Terry, but if you had the finacial crisis all over to do again, what would you have done and how would you have done it? Two things. One, I would have reacted more nimbly when the crisis hit. The second thing that I learned was the importance of paying attention to data ahead of time. I actually knew a recession was coming this time. I had no idea it was going to be a pandemic. But I knew a recession was coming because now I pay attention to indicators so in retrospect. So you are aware, and your listeners are aware, about a thousand families a year come through my company in one capacity or another, and we get all kinds of data on these people as they come through our companies. And why did the market crash in two thousand and eight, nine ten? It's because the housing market people at overleveraged their homes. So Two Thousand and eleven twelve after I kind of recover, I say, Huh, what was I missing? I actually went back then and I looked at the data of all of my clients, my thousands, you know, a families a year that came through my office in six, seven and eight, and I saw how there's patterns there. What people bought their houses for, how much they all want it, how many mortgages they've taken. And if I had paid attention to that data ahead of time, I actually also would have known it was coming. I actually had saw a number of indicators at the end of two thousand and nineteen that I believe the recession was coming. I knew nothing about covid anyway, so...

I think the two things that I tried to get better at as a business owner is, one, reacting more nimbly when crisis does happen and to pay attention to the weather forecast and the data points so you're better prepared when a storm may be coming. It's a lot easier to withstand a hurricane if you already have your batteries and flashlight and extra water then it is if you try to go out in the middle of it to get those resources. Those are the two lessons that I've learned. I spend most of my day just ferociously looking at data, looking at trends of human behavior. Yeah, it's great. It's not too different from how we have our clients right, having a plan, starting that plan early, starting it and sticking with it and being nimble and making changes along the way. So it's very common right, and I think what you do is so terribly important, not only to have a plan but to help your clients execute and a nimble and long term capacity. Some people see those goals as an opposite. They don't have to be if you do it well. Very true. So let's tie this to your personal life. How have the decisions you've made with your company and act in decisions you've made in your personal life with your family now home. So to start my business, the first three years I owned my business I took out a mortgage against my home. I paid myself a hundred and twenty five dollars a week gross of taxes for three full years, and I did that because, much like your industry, I had an intention of not building income but instead building wealth. And there's a difference between building wealth for tomorrow and building in comfort today without my family making those sacrifices. You can imagine a lawyer that went from a big firm making a good jillion bucks to now putting a mortgage on my home, making a hundred and twenty five dollars a week gross of taxes. How well that went over at home. I will say in my experience every successful entrepreneurs at a spouse at his or her side. I'm lucky. I have a wife at home. We've been together for thirty four years. I like to joke. This is probably very unpolitically correct if you have to edit this out, forgive me. I tell people I'm just as miserable as every straight man I know because I have a wife at home, without her calling me to task where I needed to be called task and supporting me in those sacrifices. It's easy to say, oh, make the sacrifices, but when you can't go on the vacations you want to go on, or you can't buy the cars you want to go on, or you can't get your kids the extra curricular activities that you want to it's really easy to say do the sacrifices until you have to live it. Fast forward. Now I'm fifty two, when I could retire today, I went from that to my wife and I could retire today and close up shop and have enough money to live. So most successful entrepreneurs live a few years of their life like most people won't, in order to live the rest of their life like most people...

...can't. I think that I'm really grateful that I had the foresight to make those sacrifices. I'm grateful that my wife was along for the ride. I'm grateful for the colleagues that have helped me along the way, and I think you probably is a financial advisors, have the same conversations with your own client. Some initial sacrifices. Now, when you compound time and strategy probably make a big difference for their life later, and so I can imagine a lot of the difficulties that many successful entrepreneurs face. You probably face and implementing those financial strategies with your clients on a daily basis. And how do you convince someone in their s save money now because I promise you'll be happy in your s? That's not always an easy cell. What you guys do is important. Keep doing what you do. There's so much of that that I can relate to, Terry, because I made a similar career shift, you know, in my early S, where only due to my wife could I make it, because of the financial step back I had to make. But it sounds like very similar to what you did. I wanted to pursue a passion, which is helping families with their finances and investments. It hurts for the first three or four years, but it was the best move I've ever met in my life because to do what you're passionate about, it's almost not like work. Very true, and fifty percent of the world is employed by small businesses. We bring an energy and a character and a sense of self to the greater market place that other large companies cannot deliver. Large companies are wonderful. They provide stability, they help all of our for one case, grow. I'm grateful for larger companies. Equally important to human commerce is US little guys that have that passion and create jobs for the other half of the world. So it's not just the reward that we reap mark as owners, it's also the rewards of the different workplaces and vibes and energies that we provide for our employees. So it's a it's a pretty good gig when it works. We enjoy being scrappy. Are To love scrappy. We like being scrappy and being scrappy on behalf of our clients. It's a good thing. So this this makes me think of one of the questions carry that we are talking about earlier this week is what are you a curious about right now? kind of taking with a different direction, I am curious to see how humanity gets through the next fifty to a hundred years, particularly with technology. We as humans right now we're going through the greatest evolution since Guttenberg invented the printing press, and a lot of the same questions that humans had to grapple with back then we are grappling with now. Historically, the printing press was invented so that...

...they could print the Bible. Shortly thereafter people realized, Hey, you could print more than the Bible. You could print love stories and children's books and science books and born and all kinds of things that may be good, bad or ugly. And then, when there was that explosiveness of information, democratization of knowledge, a lot of the same questions that were grappling with now humans grappled with before. People asked, after the printing press was invented, should everyone learn how to read? Maybe we don't need our farmers to know how to read. How much information is too much information? How can you tell what's true or not true? This book is not true, the Bible is true, in this science book is not true. How can we discern that? So I'll be really curious to see how humans get through this next evolution. I'll be curious to see how we care for each other. Don't care for each other, when certain industries are completely displaced, when million truck drivers are put out of jobs, when AI takes over. I don't think it's a bad thing. I just think it's really exciting. What I'm curious for is how we as humans come out the other side of this, and my advice. I'm sure that you already do this with your clients. I can tell by the way mark and Mindy operate. I'm sure that you are working with your clients to be active participants in this transformation. I'm excited to see what's on the other side of it. That's what I'm curious about. Great Answer. I'll ask our last question, which I did not prepare you for. Are we not talk about this one is what was the last non financial decision that you made today? Non Financial Decision that I made today? Well, I'm actually having a debate right now, and perhaps you can help me. My son and is an elite athlete and Plays High School Football. On the parents going Tailgate, like thousands of people go to these Games, and I'm having a dilemma whether to bring Chili to the tailgate or empanadas. Oh, that's easy, cuts easy. It's got to be in Pinatas I was going to say chilly. I could go for from reilly. Come on, man, dude, this is my non financial decision, but you can see why I'm grappling. Okay, mark, okay, we'll bring both. Oh good now, mark, that's great. You're telling me life is not an either or proposition. But Mark, why I'm panadas pride? Try to convince me. Here's why. My daughter went on a school trip. She was looking enough to go on a school trip to South America because for the pandemic and she had and Panadas and she has never stopped talking about the MPANADAS. All right, and now, Mandy counterpoint. Why Chili? My point is a little more selfish. Yesterday I wanted to go to lunch and get some Turkey Chili. I never made it, so I am still creating that chilly. You know what I need to find? I think I need to find an EPAN, not a place that can stuff it with Chili. That's a...

...great idea. That's that's my current non financial decision. I'll let you know what I do. Maybe I'll tag you on facebook with whatever I decide to do. Let's do that. Yes, good black and good luck at the game for your son. Thank you. Thanks very much to mindy and Terry for letting US listen in on their conversation. We appreciate your time and perspectives and thank you for tuning in. We hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. WWW DOT wellcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has been a production of twin flames studios.

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