How One Entrepreneur Started His Law Firm With Just A Few Thousand Dollars And Grew It to A Multi-Million Dollar Business

Newly married, unemployed, straddled with $200K+ of student loan debt, and with his first child on the way, it’s safe to say that 2014 was off to a rocky start for Lem Garcia. Without any prior experience running a business or practicing law, he took a leap of faith and started his own law practice, Lem Garcia Law.

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Born and raised in West Covina, California, Lem is the son of two hard-working parents who immigrated from the Philippines shortly before he was born. From a young age, he knew he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help others. After obtaining a journalism degree from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, he went on to get his law degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton. Upon graduating, he worked for various law firms for just a few months before deciding to open his own personal injury law firm.

“Had I known how competitive the industry was, I may have reconsidered,” Lem says with a chuckle. Fortunately, he forged on ahead, the first few years were hard as Lem navigated fatherhood and being a first-time business owner. He scrimped and saved to afford office space and slowly but surely his warm, personable approach filled his client list.

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Just a few years later, Lem Garcia Law is a multi-million dollar business. According to Lem, there were a few crucial things that contributed to his success and that may be applicable to entrepreneurs from any industry who are just beginning their first endeavor.

  1. Tell yourself that you can do it – over and over again. “When you’re building a business, you’ll have to overcome a lot of self-doubt. All of the negative opinions you or anybody has ever had about you will be on your mind. You’ll have to push these thoughts aside and repeatedly tell yourself that you can do it. You don’t need anybody else to tell you that you can do it. All you need is yourself.”

  2. Don’t listen to other people telling you that you can’t do it. “When other people tell you that you can’t do something, they’re really revealing their own fears and limitations. Don’t let other people’s thoughts about themselves stop you from taking action. It’s unlikely that they have your best interests in mind anyways.”

“Very few people actually have your best interests in mind – this can even extend to your family and your closest friends. If you’re lucky enough to have anyone in your life that is truly happy for you when you are doing better than them, keep that person in your life. Most of the closest people in your life want you to do well, but not better than them because they’re actually competing with you. The next time someone tells you that you can’t do something, use it as motivation. Write it down and prove them wrong.”

  1. When you don’t have resources, be resourceful. “You don’t need to have a lot of money to start a business. Don’t let the lack of money stop you from taking action. There are so many free resources out there that you can use to build your business. Take advantage of all of the free information out there before you pay for anything. All of the answers to your questions are probably just a Google or Youtube search away. If there are some books that you want to buy, get yourself a library card and borrow the book from your local library.”

“When I first opened my office, I only had $3,000 to cover everything: rent, computer equipment, computer software, furniture, office supplies, phone line, internet, and everything else. To save money, I negotiated all of my office furniture off of Craigslist for $200 (bonus tip: negotiate everything when you have more time than money). If I wasn’t smart with the money I had, I would have used it all up too quickly.”

  1. Invest back into your business aggressively. “As your business grows and begins to generate more income, don’t improve your lifestyle, improve your business first. Don’t be so eager to show off that you made some money.”

“It’s fun to buy cool stuff and do cool things, but you’ll be much better off in the long run if you take your money and invest it aggressively back into your business. By putting more money into your business, you’ll be able to attract more customers and grow your business. If you use the money for yourself, you’ll end up with some cool things and experiences, but your business will suffer.”

“For several years, I poured every dollar I could back into the business, living under my means. When the business started picking up, I didn’t change my lifestyle at all. I didn’t buy myself a fancy car, an expensive watch, or go on any lavish vacations. I just kept my life simple, kept my head down working, and continued to invest money back into the business to help the business grow.”

  1. Discipline is more important than motivation. “It’s great to be motivated and feel like you’re ready to take on the world, but let’s face it, you’re not always going to feel motivated. If you want to succeed, you have to do things even when you don’t feel motivated. Don’t rely on motivation. Develop discipline and rely on that. If you only work on your business when you’re motivated, your business will fail. If you want your business to succeed, you have to work on it even when you’re sad, tired, or depressed. In the long run, discipline will get you much further that motivation. Motivation wanes. Discipline endures.”

  2. Show your gratitude by realizing your potential. “I believe that we were all put on this planet with a certain amount of potential, and no matter how much potential you have, you should show your appreciation by realizing it. It doesn’t matter if some people have more potential than you. What matters is that you appreciate all of the gifts that you were given by taking full advantage of them. They were given to you to use - not to squander away.”

“When I need a little extra motivation, I remind myself that it is my duty while I am alive to do my best to reach my full potential. I imagine that one day, when my time here is done, I am going to meet my creator and I will be shown what my true potential was. My goal is to see that I will be looking at exactly the same person.”

  1. Sacrifice to set yourself apart. “Running a business is very competitive. If your business is going to succeed, you have to be prepared to do more than other business owners are willing to do. You have to make huge sacrifices with your time and your money to grow your business. If you’re not ready to give up your weekends, work more than eight hours per day, and sleep less than six hours per night, then growing a business is not for you.”

“You have to be prepared to lose sleep, money, time with your family and friends, and even time to yourself. This is a high price to pay, but it will be worth it in the future. The longer you’re able to delay gratification, the more successful your business will become.”

  1. Embrace failure even when most people run away from it. “You have to be willing to fail in order to succeed. Failure is a stepping stone to success. If you run away from opportunities because you’re scared of failure, you’re not even giving yourself a chance to succeed. Give yourself a chance to succeed and put your time, money, and ego on the line. If all you do is win, you’re not pushing yourself hard and far enough. To discover your true potential, you have to go through the cycle of taking action, failing, learning from your mistakes, and then back to taking action.”

  2. Be humble. “It’s natural to start thinking highly of yourself after you work hard and start seeing positive results, but don’t let yourself get arrogant. I see too many people getting arrogant after they get a little taste of success. This is harmful because that kind of attitude turns people away from you and it destroys the drive that propelled your success. When you’re humble, you acknowledge that you still have plenty of room for improvement and growth, which you need to strive for to continue to succeed.”

  3. Lead by example. “If you’re leading a group of people and you expect them to follow you, you have to lead the way through hard work and diligence. Don’t expect others to do anything that you’re not willing to do yourself. Show everyone that you’re willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed. Some of that attitude and determination will rub off on everyone else and take your business to new heights.”

  4. Be committed to doing whatever it takes to figure it out. “On your journey, you’re going to encounter a lot of challenges and obstacles. You’re going to think that they’re too daunting and insurmountable. You’re going to doubt yourself and your abilities. But if you’re absolutely committed to achieving your goal, you’re going to have to figure out how to make it happen, and then you’re going to have to go out and do it. If you’re not committed, you’re going to make excuses and then quit. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes to figure it out, you’re going to fail. Every next level in your life requires you to do things you never have before.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “In my early days, mentorship and community were crucial. In law school, I worked for another attorney, developing rapport and cultivating that relationship. After I opened my firm, I continued to return to him for support and guidance. As I continued to seek out people in my industry that were further along in their careers, I would cold-call other attorneys to ask for advice. Surprisingly, people were more than willing to help. I got the occasional “no” or hang up but this only strengthened my resolve. Rejection will happen, it’s part of the process, but I’d rather be rejected by a peer than make a mistake in my business.”

  6. Find the right partner. “Last, but certainly not least, it would be best if you find a partner that supports you and propels you forward. You need to have a partner whose goals and values align with your own. If your goals and values don’t match, it’s going to become much more difficult for you to give your business the time and money it needs to grow. Luckily, my wife is the best partner in the world I could ever ask for.”