071: Left school aged 16, uni late 20s, took over husbands’ 1-person law firm in 2012 with $460k in debt - paid it off in 3 years. 1 FTE to 14 in 2 offices, $500k to $2m+ sales p.a. and works 10 hours a week with 8 weeks holidays (Caralee Fontenele)

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In this episode, I interview Caralee Fontenele, the founder and director of Collective Family Law, a Gold Coast and Brisbane-based law firm specializing in family law. Caralee left school at age 16, went to uni in her late 20s, and in 2012 aged 34, graduated in law. She started working in her husband’s one-person law firm and he soon gave up leaving the business in $460,000 debt, which she worked hard and paid off in 3 years. She has grown the business from one full-time employee to 14, and $500,000 in year one to now over $2Million per annum.

She only works ten hours a week on the business, not doing any billables herself. The firm now focuses squarely on family law (Divorce and separation). 70% of people don’t retain a lawyer during separation and divorce, so in 2018, they launched an online product to target that market. They also launched the Scalable Business Society, which helps service-based businesses scale as she has done. Tracking metrics around billables and marketing allowed sales to jump from $1.2 Million to $2Million+ per annum, and half of their sales came from Google Adwords.

Caralee says she felt she has succeeded when finally there was money in the bank and believes that the hardest thing about growing a small business is getting out of your own way. The one thing she says she would tell herself on day one of starting out in business is, “Those goals you set yourself are just shit, and you need to rewrite them and stop putting limiting beliefs in your way” Ladies and gentlemen, help me in welcoming Caralee Fontanelle to the show.

This Cast Covers:

  • Helping people through their worst moments in separation and divorce.
  • Their client avatar: 42 years old, married or in de facto relationships, and those whose separation or divorce has a property component.
  • Creating an online platform that eases the process of learning all about separation and divorce.
  • Starting the Scalable Business Society to help service business owners to get off the tools so they can work on their business rather than in it.
  • The frustration of leading underwater and taking over a business that was $400K+ in debt.
  • Sustaining a slow, manageable, and profitable growth year on year.
  • How the pandemic opened up a whole new world of great opportunities.
  • Achieving effective marketing by measuring your data.
  • Sheer hard work: The only funding option that one can exploit to get out of debt.
  • Freeing herself up in a big way by taking one of her lawyers to a leadership level.
  • The one thing she did to change things up for the better in her business.
  • Enjoying the fast growth and learning tons of things from different people and areas.
  • Showing up again and again, and investing in yourself to thrive in small business ownership.
  • Building a great culture by implementing structured team meetings every week and allowing team members to do their work without being micromanaged.
  • Being happy with every aspect of your life instead of focusing so much on the ever-elusive work-life balance.
  • Investing in different forms of professional development.
  • Focusing on referral marketing, organic marketing, and paid marketing (Google Adwords only)

Additional Resources:

Music from https://filmmusic.io "Cold Funk" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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