Stephanie LaCroix, co-owner Engine 5 Bakehouse, Waterville (March 2019)

Stephanie LaCroix Stephanie LaCroix

I got a lot of help, a lot of encouragement from New Ventures of Maine. Even over three years ago, I started doing research and going to as many workshops as I could find. I really had a good relationship with that organization and went to a series of intensive business workshops. For a three-month period, I drove to Brunswick every week. Through that program I was introduced to so many other people, speakers that would come in and talk to us and give us advice.

In my mind, it’s don’t give up. You will be only as successful as you allow yourself. There really isn’t any end point. Your business is always going. You are not going to reach a certain point and say, “Now I am going to sit back and relax.” You have to keep things fresh and keep them moving. Your business is a living entity.

I don’t know where I picked it up along the way. I have seen it in books and probably heard someone say it, was that you need to work on your business, not necessarily in your business. I have always had that in mind. You can say it all you want, but the reality of being able to do that is a challenge. Industries like mine, where you are baking, or a more creative outlet like photography, you go into it because this is what you love to do. But the reality is, if you want to be successful, you will spend very little time doing it. You have to step back and look at all the aspects. And little by little you have start to hand the reins over to other people. It’s not that I have a hard time letting go, it’s difficult to find people who understand your way of thinking. You can’t expect other people to think the way you do about your business. To them it’s just a job.

David Auclair, owner of Auclair Cycle & Ski, Augusta (September 2018)

David Auclair

The best advice would have been: Don’t go into small business because it will wreck you. Small business is extremely challenging, and it’s more challenging now. The advice I probably got along the way was just to be wary of the kinds of competition that’s out there. But, you know, you get settled into a way of doing things, and that’s the way it is.

A number of people made comments about it. A lot of people say, “You’re so fortunate to have your own business,” and other people think, “Are you kidding me?”

It is a bear, I got to tell you. It is a bear and it is a wonderful experience. I can’t complain because I made my big-boy decisions and here it is.

Walter McKee, McKee Law, Augusta (November 2018)

Water McKee

Always, always, call it like you see it when it comes to giving advice to clients. That’s general wisdom I’ve learned.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard about attorneys who have told clients, “You have an excellent case,” when they don’t, or “You don’t have to worry about anything,” when clearly that is not the case.

I tell every client I meet with that I will review their case, and then at the appropriate time I will tell them exactly what I think. It is really no different than going to a doctor. You would want your doctor to run all the tests and complete an evaluation and then tell you exactly what he or she believes is the problem and how best to address it. As much as it would be nice to hear from a doctor that “you’re totally fine,” when that is not the case you want to know what the problem is.

Being up front and honest with clients — whether their case is good or bad — is critical and countless times I have had clients tell me that they really appreciated me being candid with them right from the start because, after all, it is their case and not the attorney’s case. They deserve to know the real deal.

But I also received two other pieces of great advice from my former partners.

Sumner Lipman taught me years ago that whether you as the attorney want to try the case or not, it’s really not up to you; it’s up to your client. While you may not want to try the case for whatever reason, it’s the client’s call and sometimes you just have to give the client advice about what to do. Then, if they want to have a trial, just go ahead and try the case. It seems so very simple, but often I see attorneys pushing clients to settle cases when what the client really wants is his or her day in court.

Roger Katz taught me about resolving cases in the best way possible. Roger is an incredibly talented trial lawyer, but he was also exceptional at figuring out a solution so that complicated, messy disputes did not have to be tried to the detriment of all parties. Roger’s advice was that more often than not, there was a way to work out an agreement that can be a win-win for both sides. He was right.

I often say, Sumner taught me how to fight the war, and Roger taught me how to make the peace. Invaluable lessons.

Bill Sprague, Sprague & Curtis Real Estate, Augusta (November 2018)

Bill Sprague Photo by Chris Bolduc

The best advice I ever got came from my father (Bill Sprague Sr.). He said you have to give back to your community. If you are working and making money, he said, you can’t just take; you’ve got to give back.

In my life, I have always been involved, either with my time, or donating money or energy and helping my community. And with that, there’s sort of a twofold. You are doing something good and positive for the community and second, there’s a great sense of fulfillment in making a positive changes. I can always look back now and think on the dozens and dozens of things I’ve been involved with over time. I’ve met wonderful people, but also you look back and see positive changes, and I have been a small part of those things. Over the years, the Y, the Chamber (of Commerce) the Board of Trade, the hospital, the new (YMCA), the new high school, the new bridge — I was on some committee or some board.

It made sense to give back some of the nice things that happened to me.

Carolynn Taylor, Sweet Carolynn’s, Gardiner (August 2018)

Carolynn Taylor

Relax. It’s all going to be fine. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and if I have any need for any help, I just have to ask them (from neighboring Water Street business owners).