Thomas Feiter: Two careers, one goal

Learn how Wells Fargo customer Thomas Feiter has grown his law firm with the help of an SBA loan while maintaining an active military career.

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Published: April 14, 2016

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It is very difficult managing two careers — not only having your small business, but also being an active reservist with the military. Just knowing that you could be given orders to go back on active duty any day is a little daunting.

A lot of what I learned in the military has taught me the keys to success in running my own business. In the Army, you learn real fast to wake up early and start work early. Plan your work, then work your plan. You cannot just do things day by day without a plan in place.

So about a year and a half after starting my own law practice, I was given orders to deploy to Afghanistan, and this was going to be a major disruption, obviously, to my practice. Fortunately, I was able to find and hire people to help me who are likeminded, who also want to work hard, and help build a business. The judges, the local attorneys, my service providers, everybody was willing to show their support until my boots were back on the ground here at home.

I was getting busy, and I needed more space for other people to help me run the business, like paralegals, receptionists, and so forth. So I realized I'd better start saving some money and start looking into getting a small business loan so that I could purchase a building.

I think planning for an SBA loan is a lot like planning for college or law school or any major undertaking that one wants to endeavor in. And what that requires is planning.

So when I decided to apply for the SBA loan, I decided to figure out what I needed to do well in advance of applying so that when it came time to actually submit the application, I had all my ducks in a row. At first, when I realized all the documents that I would need for a small business loan, I was just really overwhelmed. But fortunately, I was put in touch with a really good loan specialist at Wells Fargo, and he helped guide me through the entire process.

We did have to submit a business plan as part of the application process, and I think the business plan itself is very important because it shows the bank it's not just fly by night. I wanted them to see that I was building a brand that was marketable, and I wanted them to see that I was working hard.

Planning your expenses when you have a small business is very important. It's critical to the survival of your business. So when you have a good month, when you have a good quarter, I've learned that it's very important to save that money. You have to have a buffer. You have to have enough money in your operating account to sustain the business when times aren't good. One of the things we do is rent some of the unused office space to other attorneys or professionals in the community. That extra income helps us to offset our credit obligations as well, which is very helpful.

When the clients walk into an actual building that is owned by the attorney, I think that gives them a sense of comfort knowing that this lawyer has been in the community for a long period of time, and they're not going anywhere.

My name is Thomas Feiter, and I am an attorney. I am a small business owner, a reserve soldier, a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a coworker of some really awesome employees here at the Fighter Law Firm.

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