Laura Williams, principal and founder of Williams HR Law Professional Corp. and No. 97 on the 2016 W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, explains how she managed the risks of starting up and how she’s learned to avoid the “entrepreneur’s curse.”

Photo: Nikki Ormerod

Photo: Nikki Ormerod

I’m a labour and employment lawyer, I have been for over two decades now. I started my company six years ago because I really felt a pull to do what I’d been doing a little differently.

“People talk about launching the business as being a risk, but you really don’t recognize how great a risk it is until you’re into it. When you start a business it’s all-consuming, and if you’re not careful you can be consumed. I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a daughter, I’m a friend. When you start a business a lot of these other relationships can fall by the wayside if you don’t intentionally keep them up as you’re working on your business.

“I approached it by working with a business coach. That helped me to look at at all the things on my plate, and to strategize how much I was going to give to really get the business launched.

“When I started, I sat down with my husband and my kids and said, ‘This is the deal. Are we up for it as a family?’ And they essentially bought in. It helped because we put a time frame on it. We agreed that I’d give it my all I for five years, keeping in sharp focus that I had other things in my life as well, and then see where things stood at that point. Once I hit the five-year mark, I really reflected. It had been tough pushing, there were a lot of lessons learned, but a lot of really good traction and a lot of good results.

“Having a fantastic team has made my work a lot easier. But building that team was not always easy. I had to get away from the entrepreneur’s curse of being so busy that you hire out of desperation, which leads to hiring the wrong individuals and is not beneficial to anyone.

“I’ve become a lot more intentional about the culture I’m establishing, and that means hiring right. I’ve also had to get over the fear of calibrating the team occasionally—to say, ‘listen, this isn’t working out,’ which is one of the hardest things any employer has to do. But you need the best talent around.

“If you don’t deal with the tough people-management issues, you lose credibility. And you won’t meet your business objectives over the long run—at least not easily.”

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