Sharing space and expertise: Lessons learned from my attorney

Tammy and CortneyBy Cortney Piper, President 

I would imagine it’s quite rare for a small business owner to share office space with her attorney. But for Tammy Kaousias and me, it works.  

In 2008, I met Tammy, the owner of Kaousias Law Firm and Inner Space Yoga & Meditation Supplies, when I was running for the Knox County Commission. We lived in the same neighborhood and got to know each other through my campaign and our local neighborhood association. A short time later, I wanted to grow my business and hire someone, but I needed my own office space. Thankfully, Tammy had room available, and we have been sharing an office and working together ever since.

Our relationship has been instrumental to my professional and personal development. It is also incredibly unique – I see her both as a close friend and trusted advisor. Not every small business owner is privileged with easy access and a baseline of trust with their business lawyer. 

As my lawyer, Tammy has been a strategic asset in advancing Piper Communications. I firmly believe that for a small business, legal professionals can help you understand your business, start a business, grow your business and advocate for your business. 

But Tammy has also taught me so much more that isn’t just focused on the nitty-gritty of contract negotiations. Over the years, she has taught me several lessons and “soft skills” that may be beneficial for other small business owners.

Effective communication is key

One of the best parts of my relationship with Tammy is our direct communication style. We’re not afraid to get straight to the point. We don’t worry about hurting each other’s feelings or tiptoeing around sensitive subjects – I find this incredibly refreshing.

Put simply, in any professional relationship, effective communication is key. If you cannot get your point across to your lawyer, accountant or your own team, how do you expect to thrive? Or, if the advisors you surround yourself with aren’t listening to you or focusing on your best interests, how can they help you? Good communication is essential. Don’t overlook it.

Surround yourself with experts you can trust

One lesson I learned early on was the importance of understanding my working style. I am someone who gets in, gets the job done and gets out. Yet, I realize that not everyone operates this way. As a result, I surround myself with experts like Tammy who help me see things differently and explore new possibilities.

Don’t be afraid to bring in experts when you need them – I know Tammy’s advice has helped me evolve as a business owner and appreciate new ways of thinking or operating. However, with any professional situation, it’s equally important to make sure these experts are people who you can build a firm foundation of trust and respect with. 

Everything is negotiable: Advocate for yourself

Like I mentioned, I’m very much a “roll your sleeves up and get the job done” kind of person. This determination has served me well as an athlete, small-business business owner and mother. But at times, it has tempted me to move through a contract negotiation process too quickly, so I am thankful for Tammy who will step in and remind me to slow down, identify potential risks and advocate for myself.

Put simply: Tammy taught me that everything is negotiable. Though it depends on how you frame any request or change, I know it’s essential for small business owners to push back and position themselves for success, not merely get to work and sign a contract that could hinder you down the line. 

So many new businesses and startups don’t feel like they have the agency to push back, especially when interacting with major corporations or agencies. But in a business context, embracing that discomfort is critical to growing your company. Tammy taught me to advocate for myself and Piper Communications – a lesson that I could not be more grateful for.

Find out more about Cortney Piper, Piper Communications’ President, here.