Claudia Zanes Nov13 with Non AttorneyZanes Law, with offices in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, helps people put their lives back together after an accident.

Ah ha’ moment that led you to launching this business: This is a different answer for me because our law firm had already been launched by my husband, Doug, a lawyer.  But my “ah ha moment” came when I realized I could leave my job and still cover my salary and benefits three times over, and do so from an entrepreneurial standpoint rather than an employee one. So, I joined him.

Measuring success: I measure it by my happiness – if I am happy, then I have achieved success.  I know I am happy when others around me are happy and successful. When I think about early successes, I think about small successes that truly impacted and moved me as a business owner – having a client achieve stability and balance in his or her life again after working with us. No matter how many clients we have with that story, it never ever gets old. I  feel so happy for them.  I also measure success by remembering  the first 100 teachers we helped give school supplies to or the first 100 turkeys we gave to families. I remember how amazing it felt to have money to actually help the community and make an impact.

Biggest struggle: Early on, clearly it was the fact that I am not a lawyer. I struggled significantly to overcome that and probably gave it too much worth in my own mind. When I was asked, “Are you a lawyer?”  and I would say “No,”  I doubted myself. I thought I had to be a lawyer to be successful. But then I learned that I had to attach value to my strength, which was being a business woman – and a darn good one at that.  I realized that what I had to bring to the table was far beyond being an attorney. I finally learned to value that and honor it and build an empire from it. I overcame it by realizing and believing that there was always a way. When you think there is no way, go back and make sure that you have explored every option. It occurred to me that my true option and potential was always there – I always had a knack for business but I was limiting my options to only being an attorney.

Surprise!: What surprised me the most about running my business was how it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not that hard. In fact, I was surprised at how fun it could be, especially early on in the growth stages. When you don’t know, you roll the dice. You’re not stuck in the details – you have faith and no fear. And if you have fear, it’s the good, adrenaline kind.

Two things you wish you would’ve known:  As a business owner you need to know everything but you don’t have to do everything. I tried to do everything on my own early on and I set myself back. I had a million reasons why I was going to do this or that on my own – and truthfully,  a lot of it was rooted in wanting to stay in control. The truth of the matter is you stay in control and have a successful business by leveraging people around you to do the things that you don’t need to do. Get smarter people around you. Also, I wish I would have surrounded myself with teachers and mentors a lot sooner.  Being around more successful people and people who are smarter than you makes you more successful and smarter. The amount of time I could have saved myself and the learning curve that I could have overcome is tremendous. Had I stopped trying to recreate the wheel and just gotten out there, I would have learned it from someone who had already done it.

What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?:  After I have reached my goals,  I think about what’s next and how I’m going to reach that bigger vision and if is it doable. Can we help, employ and serve more people?

Biggest business goal over the next year:  To dominate the market in Phoenix. There is more competition and more risk, but with that there is so much reward and that is what we are aiming for.  Additionally, we are equally focused on growing the Tucson market in which we are already a top dog. We are set to do this with a team that is motivated and dedicated to bringing their A-game to the table.

Must-reads:  I keep an eye out for articles from Inc., Entrepreneur, Success and Forbes magazines and anything my peers are recommending.

The absolute best part of owning my business is:  The importance I feel because I have created jobs and careers for people. The stuff in between my ears has created 40 or so positions for people to support themselves and their families.

If I had to start over again, I would have: Invested back into the business more – and sooner. I would have set the vision and the outcome and made that the priority.

I never imagined: The responsibility of being a business leader as well as a community leader and how difficult that would be. I didn’t set out to be a community leader, but a significant part of my role has become just that. All I wanted to do was build a business. In the same vein, I never thought that being responsible for people in general would be so difficult. I am a very self-driven and self-motivated person but I quickly learned that not everyone around me was the same way.  There were many times where I found myself wanting something for someone (success, a raise, pursuing a dream) more than they did. The challenge – and later, the liberation – was instead to encourage someone along but not to be so emotionally invested. They had to want it more.

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: Do it. Don’t look away. Don’t look back.  Don’t look left or right.  Look straight ahead and go do it.