Shortly after moving our young family to Tampa, I realized I had just exchanged one big law practice for another. Each big law firm has its own issues. This one was making it very challenging to be present to our large, growing family. As a result, my wife and I agreed I should start my own solo practice.
Thus began a year without a paycheck. We went through our savings, maxed out our credit cards, and absorbed the charity of friends. But it still wasn’t enough. One Tuesday afternoon in 1995, we calculated what was needed to survive another month: $8,000.00. We needed it by Friday or we would default on our mortgage. If that happened, for me, it would mean that it was time to give up the solo practice and find a “real job,” the very job I had left to go into solo practice in the first place.
Before throwing in the towel, I prayed, right there at my desk. I reminded the Lord that I took this risk in a good-faith effort to follow his will for our lives. It was possible that we had confused our own desires for his perfect will. I told the Lord, unless I had $8,000.00 in my bank account by Friday, it was going to be game over. Amen.
As soon as I had concluded my prayer, the phone rang. My side of the conversation went like this: “Yes, I do collections work… One-third, plus expenses… What’s the sum at issue?” “Twentyfour thousand dollars,” said the caller.
I faxed over a retainer agreement and a copy of the claim paperwork came back to me, along with a signed version. I called the debtor company, and, after waiting on hold, was told that $24,000.00 would be hand delivered the next day. It was, and precisely $8,000.00 was in my bank account by Friday.
From there, my practice grew into a ten-person firm, and I never missed another paycheck – until I stopped practicing law in order to start another business, which I am still running today.
My new business experienced its own challenges. Thanks to the Great Recession, we had lost about 40% of our revenue by 2009. Things were tight. We reached the point where bills were due with nothing in the till. If we didn’t have $30,000.00 in the bank by Friday, we would miss our rent and be unable to make payroll.
My instinct was to pray, as before, in the privacy of my own office. But my “better angels” prevailed and I called an “all-hands” meeting. I explained the situation to the staff and asked everyone to bow their heads as I led a heartfelt prayer to our Father. Amen.
As soon as I concluded my prayer, my cell phone rang. The caller was the CFO of a large prospective client. After many months, they had decided they wanted to engage us at the rate of $15,000.00 per month. They had just one question. Was there a discount if they paid for the entire year up front? And so it came to pass that we received $171,000.00 the next morning, and were able to pay our rent, make payroll, and survive the Great Recession.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:15)
While you may think this is a testimony to the power of prayer, the real crux of the story for me was that public declaration of my faith to my employees. Not all of them share my faith. It’s easy to pray at work when you work alone! But there is power in the lamp placed on a stand and the risk we take in putting it there.
Jim Ganther is an attorney, entrepreneur and a founding member of the Tampa Men’s Chapter. He and his wife, Melissa, have seven children.