Features / If I Knew Then

‘Being in business is all about learning and making mistakes is an integral part of that process’

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Sep 17, 2019

The executive officer at ELM Legal Services, Jim Emsley founded the company in his house before moving into offices in central Bristol.

How did you start out in business?

I was studying law at UWE Bristol as a mature student and, to help the money situation, I was also working in telemarketing selling newspapers. Once I graduated, I started working for one of the largest providers of end of life planning based in Weston-super-Mare.

I went on to focus on getting appointments for their consultants across the UK and then made the decision to apply this resource to book appointments for myself and ELM Legal Services was born.

If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?

Being in business is all about learning and making mistakes is an integral part of that process. There are several mistakes I made at the beginning relating to staff.

Had I had more experience of getting a good team together I may well have avoided issues that created a lot of stress for me personally and cost the business in the short-term unnecessarily.

What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?

The advice I would give to myself would be “get out more”. At the beginning of the business I had converted my terrace house into offices, and I lived in one room downstairs.

Sometimes taking a step back enables you to focus more on the problem in hand.

If you knew then what you know now, would you still be sitting there?

Yes absolutely, I love what I do and being your own boss gives you a lot of freedom that otherwise might not be available. It has been a long haul to get here and I would not give it up.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

How difficult it is to get a good team together, I used to think that everyone thought like me and I only had to run an advert recruiting and I would get them banging down my door. How wrong I was.

What I know now is that if you get a good egg, do your best to try and retain them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

Small goals to achieve big goals. Set yourself an achievable target and once you get to that goal, set yourself another a little way down the road. Over time you can look back and the big goal you thought was impossible will have been achieved and surpassed.

What is your business highlight?

Moving the business out of my house in 2004 and into offices was without a shadow of a doubt a real milestone for me.

What is your business low point?

In 2008, just around the financial crash, we had to cut back to a three-day week to keep the overheads down. That was a really difficult six months, however, the key players understood, and they are all still with the business today 11 years later.

What keeps you awake?

My dog, Trevor, keeps me awake most nights and dare I say my long-suffering partner, Penny, has also been known to keep me awake from time to time.

What’s changed from when you started out?

In the last decade plus, so much has changed. There was the noise from the Government about regulation which came to nothing. The GDPR impacted our lead generation business initially but has now become a positive as it has whittled out the rogues of the industry.

What’s still on your to-do list?

In the main, its to increase our national coverage of estate planners so that we can ensure our home visiting service, to discuss end of life planning and making a last will and testament, is accessible to everyone.

What’s next for you in business and personally?

The next step for ELM is to look at the possibility of setting up a franchise operation for those looking to get into the industry.

Currently our consultants come from a wide and varied background which is essential to connecting with our clients and building rapport.

As for me personally, I have six Border Collies and do agility with two of the boys, Frank and Trevor. I hope to get them to Crufts one year.

Read more: Sector spotlight: legal services

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