Startups, Deadlines and Commitments

Present May 7, 2022 Front Royal, VA

In my last blog, I told a story about a basketball game that got me jammed up on a deadline. Some memories are forever linked in your mind. For me, a late night spent writing summons the specter of time, which has always seemed a variable thing to me. I move fast almost all the time, so like any other marathon runner, I know when I have to keep a pace and stick to it for a certain length of time. For my marathons, that time was about five hours, nothing to brag about, but I didn’t care after I finished each one.

For the past ten days, time has rushed past at light speed. I think it’s relative. I’ve been running nonstop. 

Anyone who has started a business knows what it’s like to go from bell to bell, from the moment you wake until you sleep, and right on through sleep, because you dream about your fledgling business. When it comes to a law firm startup, you need to do even more before you sign your first retainer agreement. Everything must be legal. As in your filings with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), your malpractice liability insurance, your law firm’s setup with the Virginia State Bar, your trust fund account, your operating account—everything must be legally sound. 

Several yellow legal pad scribbled checklists later . . .

Check.

In four days, I got those things done, and that’s when I looked at the calendar and realized it was Saturday, April 30th. I’ve hit my first wall: my website. Any business owner knows you must have a good website. Add to that—good content. I like content. I like words. But I won’t lie. SEO-anything gives me a headache. And it turns out I’m rusty on designing. I’m not a newbie but today, it’s going all wrong for me. 

I’m on WordPress. I’ve got a logo; colors; widgets; sidebars—and my brain is turning fuzzier by the minute. I drag and pull, design and revamp, with two teenagers circling, a third teenager calling every hour on the hour from William and Mary, and nothing to show for all my work. No kidding, whatever I build on WordPress looks like the rambling musings of an eleven-year old. I can’t do this myself, I realize. 

My mind can’t assemble a picture of what I want to build, and as humbling as it feels, I need to ask for help. 

From who? Why, the Matrimont guys. That’s the company my husband has found through his searches online. Matrimont was formed by two local boys. I call anyone under 30 a “boy” or a “girl,” no disrespect meant to Declan O’Reilly and Joe Sladky. Brilliant young men. They understand the Shenandoah Valley market, our blue mountain world, our small town nestled in the ridges so close yet so far from D.C.

I left the big city for a new life and a new home situated on the highest mountain in Warren County: High Knob. No regrets. Each morning, I drive down my “hill” as we call the mountain, and I give thanks for the beauty that surrounds me. The upslope fog, to borrow an aviation term, the turkeys and the deer, the sloped sides of our colorful mountain, the sun streaming through the ash and the oak and the evergreen trees—this is my home.

Back to work. More scribbling on yellow pads. 

From 12-3 PM, I write content for the website. The content will form the basis for different pages on jarvislaw.org.

At 3 PM, I call Matrimont from the car as I wind down the hill. We agree to meet on Tuesday.

I drive around Short Street and Chester Street trying to find Comcast. Waze leads me back up Prospect Street and past the Courthouse on Main Street. I head over to Commerce and realize that Comcast is closed. Frustrated. I pull into the Rural King parking lot and try to get ahold of Comcast. Bots talk me into a phone circle that only leads back to other bots. I need a human, but Comcast will not supply one. I give up on the cable robots and decide to visit my trusty friend at Verizon. 

I walk in and smile.

“What you doing here?” Jessica Cruz is dressed in a natty outfit, and she’s grinning at me. She’s my favorite vendor in Front Royal. She’s with a client, so I wait. I work on my laptop until she’s free. It’s maybe 4 PM when she sits down with me. We talk and work through my options. I ask about her family. She asks about mine. After we talk and pick out phones and plans, I purchase a business mobile, two “burner” flip phones that scream nostalgia, and I start thinking about going home. 

 

Jessica from AT&T

6:45-7:30 PM. The route home takes me over the bridge from the town of Front Royal to Route 66 westbound.  As I drive, I switch from call to call on Bluetooth, and then I stop talking and just drive. The clouds sparkle in the “golden hour” before sunset. 

Apple Mountain sidles up to High Knob off to my right as I speed along 66 West from exit 6 to exit 13. To the left stands Blue Mountain, and with the way the sun hits it, the blue folds of it shimmer and wave. 

I recall the time I visited the Monastery on Blue Mountain with my daughter. We saw a black bear running through the grass, and I climbed up on a rickety wood fence to get a better camera angle. A voice rang out from the walls of the Monastery. “Please get off the fence.” I laughed, took a picture of the rambling bear, and jumped off with an apologetic raise of my hand.

Over the next week, I keep working. By Friday May 6th, I have operating and IOLTA trust accounts set up with Truist, an office space picked out, an agreement to purchase equipment and furniture from the previous occupant of the space, a Vonage contract with four lines for the office, software set up and a database uploaded with all my clients on MyCase, a handshake agreement for leased space, and by Friday afternoon at 3:18 PM, keys to 29 Crescent Street. 

There’s much to do, so much to do still, but I’m on the way and by Monday May 9th, surely Tuesday May 10th, I might even be—officially open for business. 

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