Passion, Drive & Starting a Business at 12! | Podcast #1
Join us for our first podcast episode with Neil Fridman Esq., Managing Partner and Founder. Watch Neil talk about starting his first business with his grandmother to eventually starting his own law firm. His advice to entrepreneurs weighing the security of their 9-5 jobs with the potential risk of building a startup? GO FOR IT!
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My name is Neil Fridman, Esq., Managing Partner of Fridman Law Firm. This is Episode 1 of my podcast. Believe me, I never thought in a million years that I’d be doing a podcast or creating content. But I started in school with a JD MBA and have always been interested in business and learning about finance, very entrepreneurial from the beginning. My parents and the other male members of my family had their own small businesses and when we would get together for family holidays or dinners, we would always be discussing business issues -- how is my uncle’s business doing? How is my dad’s? My grandfather’s? They had a unique story. My grandfather for example, was a Holocaust survivor, had been in 4 concentration camps and came to this country with nothing in his pockets. He worked in chicken farms in upstate NY and eventually lived in Brooklyn and started a mirror and glass store in Queens. He worked so hard in the store and was eventually able to buy the owner out just from saving and learning as much as possible.
That’s where I get my strength from. It’s my grandfather. And my father who was forced into the Russian army and then escaped with his family to Israel and was in the Israeli army. I get my passion and drive from them and that strength to take a risk essentially, especially at this stage of the game.
My background was in finance and I then pursued a career in law: corporate and real estate law. But something was missing working at two full-service Midtown Manhattan firms. I just did not like when things were done inefficiently and not with a technology solution in mind because I’ve always loved technology since I was a kid. I had the entrepreneurial drive. I started a 1-900 sports information and stock quote telephone service when I was 12 years old with the help of my grandmother. I then went on to start a hair care company with my best friend. I started a sporting goods company that turned into a kitchen knives and hunting knives e-comm site when I was in high school. So I’ve always had that drive and working for other people when I knew that things could be done more efficiently, with a technology solution, was something that I always wanted to strive towards. And working for other people just didn’t fit right.
The reason why I want to tell you about my journey is because a lot of people have this idea that they want to take a risk, that they want to pursue a career in business but like the security of their 9-5 or 9-6 job. And I have had both in my personal life and friends, who have told me that they like the company they work for and then all of a sudden, their manager leaves, a new manager comes in or gets put above them and the manager drives them NUTS. They can’t tolerate working there but they don’t know what to do so they suck it up. And they like that security… and I was there! I worked for “the man,” so to speak, for let’s say almost 10, 11 years now before starting my own firm in August of 2019.
And I always knew that I wanted to venture out, I never thought in a million years that I’d be running a law firm but when I was working at my last law firm, which was a full-service firm. They were a little reluctant to bring on startup clients. I had the opportunity to do so and their bread and butter niche was working with mid to large-sized companies. So they didn’t want to take on startup clients that have inherent risk because most fail. They can’t pay the fees, or they ask for discounts, fee deferrals, or equity… things that that firm that I worked for wasn’t set up for and didn’t really have a need or want or desire to do that or to be in the startup market or space.
So, I left and I began working with startup clients and I eventually wanted to make the transition to the business side, working in a startup doing business development. And I quickly realized that it’s really hard for a lawyer to make the transition. I spoke with many other lawyers that tried to make the transition and I tried for about two years to do that. And I got through final rounds of interviews and was told over and over again that there was someone they were taking from another company doing the same job and that it was more of a plug-and-play fit. And I get that. But at the time I didn’t. I was pissed. I was mad at the world. I thought that I was just working my regular job looking for other jobs and doing everything I could: networking, going out there and not achieving the success I wanted.
Eventually what I did was I started taking on some startup clients as a consultant and advising them. Eventually, because they know you’re a lawyer, they’ll ask you legal questions, to look at documents and draft documents. And that’s how things started. I never thought that this would turn into my own firm but I’m so glad it did. In little less than nine months, I’ve been able to acquire a tremendous amount of clients. But not just the number of clients that is important, it’s the quality. Some of them are some of the most phenomenal people and entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, that are operating in absolutely insane, exciting spaces from AI to augmented reality, extended reality, to e-comm companies, to e-sports… It’s really exceeded my dreams and expectations in so many different ways. Because while I wanted to work with startups on the business side, I am getting to run my own business -- marketing, advertising, providing excellent client service while working with some of the most amazing startups on the east coast.
Part 2 of Podcast #1. I’ve been given the opportunity and have met some of the most amazing founders that I could have ever dreamed of. So I’m fulfilling my dream, albeit completely indirectly from how I originally thought that I would be going after this dream. In that, I wanted to work on the business side in a BD role or as a COO from the start with a startup. Now, I’m working with so many different types of startups with some amazing founders and consulting on all sorts of decisions from very high level to the most minuscule day to day questions about: What service providers should I use? Carta for Cap Table Management or this software provider? Or who do I use for payroll? So I’m getting involved and I’ve been involved in so many different decisions from regular day to day operational to very high level strategy decisions and I couldn’t have asked for a better circumstance.
I never thought that going down this path would lead me to where I am now but I’m very thankful for the team that I’ve assembled at Fridman Law Firm. We have some great talented associates and a creative team. We’re doing interesting things with technology. We’re a completely paperless office that uses technology solutions to make things more efficient, such as project management tools and practice management tools. This is only going to continue to grow. We’ve only been operating for nine months but we’ve assembled a list of amazing startups that I am so blessed to have had the ability to work with and represent along the way. I just wanted to say to people out there who feel that they’re stuck in their current position. Although you might be in a crappy circumstance, in that you feel like you’re not doing things to your potential or you’re prevented from doing things to your potential by your boss or manager or whoever it may be at the company that you’re working for - there is always something that you can learn and master in those circumstances that will pay off down the road.
I never realized that something that’s even minuscule that you’re asked to do, if you do it with mastery, you might learn something from that that might not be completely relevant or important to what you’re doing today. But should you go to another company or start your own company or go to a startup or whatever it may be, that skill set may turn out to be one of the most useful things that you’re bringing to the table in your next job. I know that being in a situation that you don’t want to be in is against human nature. And you’ll hear Gary Vaynerchuk talk about this all the time about going out on your own, pursuing your passion and things of that nature. I’m totally in agreement with what he says on that topic. But I also want to remind people that things that you think are completely inane, innocuous, that suck right now, can end up being part of your toolkit in your career later down the road. That doesn’t always give you solace when you’re in a shitty situation. But I would love if people could take a little piece of what I’m saying and remember that if they are feeling that they are in a bad situation. Because you never know if that skill will be something that you’ll be using in your next career move.
So this is Part 3 of Podcast #1. I think that these are all random musings by Neil Fridman. I hope that some people find this useful but I’m talking from my experience. I’ve been in finance, I’ve worked for a startup... My first job was with a renewable energy startup that still exists and is thriving today. I’ve worked in investment banking, worked for law firms and now I have my own firm. A question that people always ask me is: What do I think is the most important thing? Or what do I think will be the startup that makes it? What is the most important thing a startup has that will make them successful? It’s usually a question of the team -- management team, founding team or product. I always say it’s the management team. You could have an amazing product and it could be the next Facebook, or the next electric vehicle like Tesla, whatever it is… But if you don’t have the management team that can execute and deliver this product and take it to market and do so in a way that beats the competition, addresses a market need and is able to control costs (among many other variables), then you can have that great product. But you’re not going to have a successful company.
Both from wearing my attorney hat and also wearing an investor hat, the companies that I’ve invested in have always been the ones that have an excellent management team and not necessarily the most unique product. I obviously do look for phenomenal products or services but there could be players out there in the market now that have a similar product but just don’t have the execution or don’t have the management team.
An entrepreneur and someone who is going to drive the company forward has to be a little bit crazy, right? Because to be an entrepreneur and a founder and part of a management team of a startup, it’s a huge risk in the face of incredible odds. Because so many startups fail. And you have to be willing to give up so much of your life to drive forward day after day in the face of rejection, product failures, and problems with staff… Whatever problems you can imagine or can’t imagine, those will happen to you as a startup founder. And you have to have the fortitude and the vigor to push forward because you believe in your idea, product, service, whatever it may be, so much that no matter what happens, you’re pushing forward! And that might mean that you have to pivot, or take a different stance, or go into a different market - but you keep moving forward towards this goal that you see for your company being successful. And that takes a person who is willing to give up a lot, willing to give up their weekends partying with their friends, or times with their significant other. And that is a lot to give up and I get it. But if you feel that you are someone that doesn’t want to work for another person, that wants to go after it, that has an amazing product or service that you want to bring to market and you feel that you, and you alone can do this, then YOU SHOULD GO FOR IT! But for many, the startup or entrepreneurial life can be as many other commentators have said, a lonely life. Because when you’re running that company, you’re dealing with problems all of the time. You’re dealing with good stuff too but you’re dealing with issues when you don’t have a lot of cash to burn, when you haven’t made a name for yourself in the market when you’re a first time founder and you may not have that operational experience. But someone who believes that they can do it in the face of adversity is definitely someone who is poised for success in contrast of someone who kind of has an idea… “I can bring it to market. It’ll be great. It’ll be a success…”
If you’re focused on that and that alone and the money aspect of it, then you’re not going to be successful. You’re going to realize early on that there’s going to be failures that make you think that you’ll never achieve success. But the founder that puts their head down and just grinds forward forward forward and really understands that the goal is the one that they set up for themselves in the beginning will be successful.
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