Monday, 06 June 2022
Launching a business takes guts, resilience, patience and long hours. It demands hard work and real sacrifice. For some entrepreneurs, the journey is tougher still. Your Business Magazine spoke to Gulnaz Raja, Founder and CEO of GNR Solicitors, who have achieved success despite facing obstacles on the way.
I never wanted to be just a cog in the system – I know I wanted to a leadership role and to start my own business. My first job, as a trainee solicitor in a startup law farm, was quite unconventional. I had exposure to clients early on and found I was good at sales. It was a small firm that rapidly became successful. It was very exciting and inspiring to be part of that growth.
My mother was an immigrant who came to the UK in the 1960s. She got a job in a packing factory, went to night school to learn English and helped my dad with his own business. They earned enough to send me to private school. I detested it, but never dared to tell them. I stood out like a sore thumb, not to mention my "common" accent and huge hair. Being one and only a handful of Asian girls meant there was a lack of role models, but I was determined to forge my way authentically. My hard work paid off. I started working in banking and financial services as a regulatory counsel for eight years. But I often felt there was a queue for promotion, and I wasn't willing to wait for someone to recognise my achievements. I was determined to drive the next chapter of my career, without relying on anyone else.
My mum. I have her to thank for my strong work ethic. She made me feel feel that nothing was impossible and that's what drove me.
Initially, I set up a legal consultancy during the pandemic to support startups with commercial law, intellectual property and HR. Everything seemed to shift as we headed into the pandemic; employees realised they had rights. I came up with the idea of starting my own law firm specialising in employment and immigration law. Immigration often get a bad name but there are many talented people out there who can make a huge difference to our workforce.
Realising you don't just need a business idea, you need a good understanding of the essential building blocks for starting a business, from marketing to business development.
How much you need to have an entrepreneurial flair. It's not enough to have an idea and a legal skill set. You need to be prepared to market yourself and be hungry for it. A nine-to-five job can never prepare you for being a business person.
Starting a business in a pandemic can mean your business is at risk of stinking at the first hurdle – yet it also provided opportunities as startups sought legal advice. I was able to offer them support as well as a first-hand experience of what it really takes to grow a business.
All the doors it has opened! I'm now a lecturer, an ambassador for a leading private female members' club and a podcast host! I'm financially independent, have a good business support network and I'm lucky to have a portfolio career.
Get out of your own way and grow your network. You're the only one who can achieve your career goals. You are the only one who can achieve your career goals. You need the right mindset; you need to be patient and sometimes you need to see the bigger picture to find other ways of having a successful career.
No, I used my own savings and have been careful with how much I've spent. I still work remotely, so I have kept my costs as low as possible.
To grow my law firm by taking on two employees in the next 12 months. On a personal note, I'm in the process of writing my own memoir, which I hope to complete in the next two years around running my businesses.
Not yet! When I wake up, I'm really excited about the day ahead and for me that's key. I don't feel like I'm even going to work any more.