TOP 50 STL Person of the Week: Brian Rogers
Brian Lunt: Today we welcome Brian Rogers of Blue Maven Law. Brian, welcome to the program.
Brian Rogers: Thanks Brian. Thanks for having me.
Brian Lunt: So, Brian is an independent attorney highly focused on helping small business owners and future small business owners achieve their dreams by safely buying and selling their businesses and in some cases, starting a business or businesses from scratch. Brian, can you tell us a little bit about your history in the legal field and then I’d like to talk a little bit about why you started your own firm.
Brian Rogers: Sure, I started out in a large corporate firm in downtown St. Louis, Thompson Coburn. It’s a firm that has several hundred lawyers and services mainly large corporations. I worked on large mergers and acquisition transactions, helped people with securities compliance with the SEC, and basically just general legal work. Somewhere along the way I realized I kind of had an entrepreneurial bent. One instance that brought that home to me was a couple of brothers were selling their business that they had grown from nothing and they were selling it for a nice, eight figure sales price; and it was the culmination of their life’s work together. So, they brought their spouses to the closing and when the wire hit there were tears of joy and it was so fulfilling to be a part of that; what can happen, how emotional it is for folks. It’s a people-centered experience and it’s the people that really matter. So, I started focusing my energies and my thoughts to my own future on working for individuals and small business owners instead of corporations where you have a hired CEO from outside. I realized I really have more of a heart for the people who owned and ran their business.
Brian Lunt: That’s great. It sounds like you really have an opportunity to meet with people more on an individual basis as opposed to in a kind of, business or corporate setting. It allows you to maybe get a little more intimate with your clientele and understand what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. It seems like corporate attorneys, I don’t know if they get a bad wrap or it just seems like there’s a layer between the client and the corporation. I think when you go out into your own firm there is a level of intimacy there that I think is important especially when you’re dealing with somebody’s life work or their individual business.
Brian Rogers: Absolutely. You delve more deeply into their goals and their business objectives and what they’re trying to do. It’s not just a transaction that you’re helping them work on, but it’s something that’s meaningful to them and for their own success in life and in business. It is very personal. And one thing that I’ve learned along the way is that behind every deal, every transaction, every contract, it’s people on either side of it and that’s one of the more fulfilling parts of it.
Brian Lunt: It’s refreshing to hear an attorney say that they like working with people because it is a people business and it’s not about the issues in between, it’s about what people are trying to accomplish. I love that while you’re helping other small business owners, you yourself are also a small business owner. I’m sure that gives you a better understanding for the clients you’re serving. What would you say are some of the challenges of starting your own business?
Brian Rogers: I would say the biggest challenge I have is just time. When I was an associate at a big firm, my role was to just do legal work and bill hours basically. So, from the beginning to the end of my day almost everything I did was that. I remember in one of my job changes along the way I had a little less support and didn’t realize that until my office plant was dead a couple of months after I had arrived. It just hadn’t dawned on me that it wasn’t being watered and that was my job now. As an entrepreneur and, in particular, a solo practitioner absolutely everything is my job. All the way from going to the bank to the smallest administrative detail, everything initially at least was done by me. Fortunately, I’ve got a part-time employee to help me with some of it and more of that to come, I hope. But, that was the biggest surprise; just how much work there is to do, just the mundane things. It’s easy to water a plant but it takes time to go to the bank and everything else that’s involved. Doing the legal work is the easy part.
Brian Lunt: I can definitely relate to that. Honestly I see that as an asset because I think you get to understand certainly small business owners much more deeply when you understand where they’re coming from and that might be what I was alluding to earlier, that level of intimacy that you get with your clients. It’s a deeper level because you truly understand what it is that they’re going through because you’re going through it yourself. And sometimes at the corporate level, because you’re so specialized, you don’t have it quite as personal as it becomes.
Brian Rogers: Definitely and also some of the nuts and bolts of the legal work that I do; with a larger transaction, a lot of times the clients have people on their staff who do things that now I find myself doing for my clients. An example is if you buy a business through an asset sale, you’ve got to transfer all the assets from the selling company to the buying company. If they have vehicles, for instance, those vehicles have to be re-titled into the new name, the name of the new company. How does that happen? Before I started working on very small deals I never really had to deal with that issue because someone else did it. But, now that I’m working on smaller deals, I’ve got to advise my clients on how to do it because it’s new to them. They don’t have someone on their staff that does mergers and acquisitions to help them do those mundane things. And also I mentioned that I recently hired and employee; well, I’d never had to register myself to withhold payroll taxes and to pay him and all that. That whole experience really does inform my knowledge of what my clients go through.
Brian Lunt: It just makes you better at what you do and better able to advise because you yourself are going through the process of learning about all the minutiae. So, there have been a lot of stories lately that St. Louis is a great place right now to start a business and that start-ups are really fueling business growth in the city. What would you say are some of the reasons why St. Louis has been able to take advantage of this somewhat recent entrepreneurial energy that’s building?
Brian Rogers: That’s a good question. I think part of it is there is a lot of talent in St. Louis, both younger talent coming out of the schools, a lot of excellent schools in St. Louis. Part of it is the consolidations in the corporate world where people in various management positions in the larger corporations that have been either consolidated or merged or bought, they find themselves needing a job so do they try to find a new corporate job or do they follow their entrepreneurial dreams that have been percolating for a long time? I think part of it is that the consolidation has unlocked a lot of talent that was locked into the larger corporations. There also has been a phenomenal development in the ecosystem of organizations that support entrepreneurs and help them succeed, from incubators and co-working spaces to organized angel investor groups that provide funding. There just has been recently a lot of growth in the quality of the ecosystem. So, people who are starting businesses now in St. Louis have a lot of support that they wouldn’t have had five or ten years ago.
Brian Lunt: Yeah, that brings to mind for me a lot of the new breweries that have opened up in town. They all say that they used to be AB-InBev guys and they’re finally launching out and now we have this great ecosystem of breweries. And marketing firms are the same thing. It’s kind of a result of the AB-InBev break-up and people escaping and going off and doing their own thing.
Brian Rogers: That’s a great example.
Brian Lunt: So, what is the best way for people to get a hold of you if they’re interested in your legal advice?
Brian Rogers: Well, I’m on Twitter as The Contracts Guy. But, my website for my law firm is bluemavenlaw.com. So, if you go there you can find me.
Brian Lunt: Brian, thank you for coming on the show today. It’s great to know we have some tremendous resources in St. Louis to support the growing entrepreneurial spirit in town. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Brian if you’re looking for top-notch legal advice for your business.