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Paul Attaway

Paul Attaway

[00:00:00] Miriam: I’m excited to have Paul Attaway here to speak with us today. He has had a diverse life and I’m really kind of happy to get into some of the various places.

Intro. Paul

[00:00:10] Miriam: He was an attorney for a several years. He spent a huge amount of time in Phoenix, Arizona at a certain point in time. He moved to the holy city in South Carolina, which I wanna hear more about that. You were a 30 year entrepreneur, you sold, raised and sold several businesses. You were a consultant. Then you transitioned into being a writer and there are so few people who can do that and be successful. So all of these are great topics for us to push into.

[00:00:44] Thank you for sharing your time and what did I miss or what do you wanna highlight?

[00:00:48] Paul: Thanks for having me on your show. I guess what you missed is what I failed to tell you, and that is along the way. My wife and I raised three F. Children now, young adults and we have two grandchildren as well. So those [00:01:00] are those were the most demanding task, but also the most rewarding.

Becoming an Attorney

[00:01:03] Miriam: Why don’t we start with some of the early spaces. What, what would you say caused you to get out of the attorney space?

[00:01:12] Paul: Actually being an attorney is what drove me out of being an attorney.

[00:01:16] The high school debate coach went to the sixth grade teachers and said of your kids moving to seventh grade, who do you think would be a good debater?

[00:01:25] And my name kept up. They kept saying this kid just won’t shut up. And so for the time I was basically seventh grade on, I was told, “you should be a lawyer.”

[00:01:35] I go to law school, I loved law school. And then I was actually an attorney. and you know, there’s a joke the only happy attorneys are judges and ex attorneys.

[00:01:46] So about 12 months into it, I realized there’s no way I could do this for the rest of my year. Now that being said, I do not regret for one moment, my legal career.

[00:01:56] It taught me to think very critically. Legal matters [00:02:00] don’t scare me. I’m able to assess them and go, this is important. This is not important. So great education. I don’t regret it, but I also don’t regret, you know, leaving the practice.

[00:02:13] Miriam: What was it like when you made that transition? I think many of our, my listeners are in midlife and they’re kind of saying, do I wanna do this for the rest of my life?

[00:02:23] And yeah, maybe I wanna go out into entrepreneurialism. maybe, Ooh, that feels scary. You know, talk about that transition.

How to Learn

[00:02:32] Paul: It was scary in that I was, I was, you know, going from something that basically for as long as I could remember, this is what I was going to do.

[00:02:41] And then you get there and you’re going, ah, I don’t wanna be here. So that’s, that’s disruptive

[00:02:46] my wife and I were recently at a dinner a couple nights ago. We were speculating. How many of us ended up where we saw ourselves when we were, you know, at that young age?

[00:02:57] So I think when I made that [00:03:00] transition, I had to take to heart something that we had preached to our children. And that is when they said, why do I need to learn this?

[00:03:07] We kept saying, you’re learning how to learn.

[00:03:09] The business of business can be figured out fairly quickly.

[00:03:13] At that point, then it takes a lot of hard work tenaciousness you know, good decision making along the way, but actually understanding business is, is both the hardest thing in the world to do and the easiest thing to understand- it’s just the execution that’s so difficult.

[00:03:30] So the transition was a bit scary, but once I kind of got into it, I realized, okay, I can learn this. I can learn how to do this. And then you, you know, then you apply yourself.

[00:03:40] Miriam: I appreciate the confidence that you knew. You could figure it out. And a thought leader that I really quite like says that “Confidence is not knowing everything- confidence is knowing you can figure it out.”

[00:03:53] Paul: You can figure it out.

Entrepreneur Mindset

[00:03:54] Miriam: And I do think that many entrepreneurs have that at their core, [00:04:00] whether they’re actually in business for themselves or not. I haven’t actually looked up the meaning of the word entrepreneur, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a business. It’s more of a mindset and it can become a business.

[00:04:12] Paul: I like that. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but I liked the way you put that. And the thought that popped into my head was. You know, we we’ve all read how young people today are gonna have, you know, 30 jobs- our parents had one or two, you know, this, this idea that you worked for one person

[00:04:30] you have to reinvent yourself again and again, and again.

[00:04:33] And so you, I don’t know what the definition of entrepreneur is either. I used to joke- It meant you were unemployable. And you had to create your own job. But I think that really, what I look at is, is problem solving. You have to learn how to solve problems, and you may be in an, have an entrepreneurial mindset and be a very valued employee within, within a company.

[00:04:55] So being an entrepreneur does not mean you have to go start your own business. I think [00:05:00] it’s simply how you approach whatever challenge you’re looking.

[00:05:04] Miriam: It’s a way of thinking.

[00:05:05] Paul: I found that that the legal practice there are, there are some aspects of it where you absolutely have to go and get expert help. Tax law, securities law, any sort of regulatory issue, environmental legal, et cetera. But I would sit down with people and they would be intimidated by the idea of drafting a contract.

Write it Down

[00:05:27] And I go don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t just. Write down what you two agreed to just write it down and the exercise of having to write it down while actually crystallize your thinking. And you’ll find the things you probably ought to think about before you enter into it

[00:05:42] I think what really helped though was in law school, I learned how to read and write how to really read critically.

[00:05:50] And how to write, say what you mean, mean what you say and reduce it to as few words as possible.

[00:05:58] Miriam: That actually feels like good [00:06:00] parenting. Mean what you say and say what you mean and say it in those few words.

[00:06:04] Yeah it’s just possible.

[00:06:05] Paul: Yeah. Cause, cause they’re gonna throw it back at you. yeah.

First Time in Business

[00:06:09] Miriam: Tell me about the first business you got into

[00:06:12] Paul: I was an unhappy attorney and I was speaking to my father who was an entrepreneur.

[00:06:17] He was an engineer, started his own business. And if you remember, you could go through the Sunday edition of the newspaper and it’d be businesses for sale.

[00:06:26] So I found one and I sent the financials to my father to get his input, cuz he had bought and sold some small businesses along the way. And he was like, what in the world’s going on? You know, I paid for law school and I just said, dad, I’m miserable. And he goes, well, you owe me come to work for me. And that was when I said, all right, dad what is it exactly that you do?

[00:06:47] I mean, he manufacture building materials. And so I went to work for my father and I learned more in that five years. And so I, and it was, it was a great experience.

[00:06:59] And so [00:07:00] he he manufactured building materials, architectural standing sea model roofs. Metal treatments for flat roofs expansion, joint systems that accommodate movement, be it thermal and or seismic in buildings went to work for him in the process we met.

Learning From Mistakes

[00:07:16] I met a very, very smart man in Phoenix, Arizona, and we hired him. He had ideas on how to isolate structures from earthquakes. So long story short, I ended up buying the division from my father that I started for him in the field of seismic engineering and my partner and I went out on our own. We raised a little family and friends money and we started ended up starting two businesses together. We had a an unfortunate business breakup, a classic, you know case study on what can go wrong in a partnership. And. We ended up parting ways part of the business, there was simply no way I could do it without [00:08:00] him, because there, it was a specialty.

[00:08:02] And he was one of the few people in the world really out of a few dozen who really knew this. So I, I sold that division. The other part of the business. I was able to continue it on. And that business, we were isolating petrology equipment and high end microscopes from micro vibrations that would frustrate the operation of this equipment.

[00:08:22] These are microscopes that magnify images a hundred thousand times,

[00:08:25] I got burned out and I got burned out on that. I was traveling to Southeast Asia and Germany and, and and I, I sold that.

Real Estate

[00:08:32] And then later that year if you remember the, you know, the, the real estate world collapsed, particularly in places like Arizona. Yeah. And so I became a private real estate lender and I was introduced to a gentleman who understood how to value real estate and knew how to find the borrowers. And I knew how to raise money and sort of manage money.

[00:08:54] And so the two of us came together. We had really complimentary. Skill sets.

[00:08:58] In my first [00:09:00] partnership, I was younger and my my certified smart guy engineer was older. And the second partnership I was the older one and my new partner was younger. But I learned so much from my failed partnership that I sat down with him and I said Hey, we’re getting along great here.

[00:09:16] This is our honeymoon period here. These are all the things that could go wrong. And we hammered out a, a partnership agreement on the front end, so that about five years later. I was older and was ready to do things, some things different and differently, and he wanted to keep going.

[00:09:34] We had an agreement in place that allowed us to separate the business and, and buy each other out, et cetera. That was ended up being a successful exit for me. And he continued with the business and we’re still friends.

Navigating Business Partnerships

[00:09:49] Miriam: People that I have talked with have said any form of business partnership is like a marriage and you better wanna be spending that kind of time and you’re gonna have those kind of [00:10:00] misunderstandings.

[00:10:00] And you know, when you say, when you use the term, the first one was like a classic. Partnership breakup. Can you talk about basically what went wrong? Yes. You fixed those in the, the later version.

[00:10:16] Part of this podcast is practicality wisdom and practicality for business and life. And there are many people who are in partnerships that are struggling.

[00:10:29] And it doesn’t have to even be business. There are some common things to working together with another person and where they can go sideways and where they can really do well.

[00:10:39] Paul: Yeah. I’ll touch on some high level issues or some high level concepts.

[00:10:43] Okay. Communication. So I was you know, I was a successful, you know, high school and college debater, I could win any argument. You find out when you get into actual, meaningful relationships with people winning every argument- it’s not a [00:11:00] great way to, to go about.

[00:11:01] So I met a gentleman back in Phoenix, Arizona who became my life coach – he taught me that communication goes nowhere unless you have somebody who can actually listen to you. And so he talked about giving me the gift of listening Hmm. I call thinking out loud, but when, when, whether it’s a constructive process or you’re battling with somebody, if you can put ’em on hold when they start to talk, and you can say, hold on, what I think I hear you saying is, and then you, you repeat it.

Think Out Loud

[00:11:38] That does a couple of things. One, they get to hear what you heard and they go that’s, that’s not what I said this, oftentimes we hear what we want to hear. Yeah. And the person goes, that’s not what I said, or the person goes no, but I can see why you would think that. Yeah. So this process gets you to really break, break it down.

[00:11:58] And then [00:12:00] oftentimes instead of arguing with somebody, when they hear what they’ve just said, they may go well maybe that’s, you know, they may actually come back.

[00:12:08] So this, this process of communication of, of really listening to the other person, and if it’s volatile that people are angry and their feelings have been hurt, or they’ve misunderstood, this is a de-stressing process that can really pull people back from the ledge.

[00:12:25] And sometimes they just wanna be heard. The other person goes,” I had no idea that’s what you thought. Well, no wonder you’ve been so angry at me. I would’ve been angry too.”

Active Listening

[00:12:34] So this other half of communication, not just the talking, but the active listening, something that my.

[00:12:41] In my next partnership – we did this and it, it, there were times when, you know, he would be angry at me because I X, Y, and Z and vice versa. And when, and we’d come in and go, Hey, we gotta talk. And airing it went a long way.

[00:12:58] When you stop [00:13:00] talking to your partner, I guarantee you there’s something going on. And the longer that silence builds the taller those walls get you know, it’s kind of like nip it in the bud, have the hard conversations as soon as you can. Cuz if you don’t, you’re going to, and they’re gonna just be even harder. I have learned over the years is just, you gotta, you gotta be able to listen to other people.

Similarities in Business Relationships and Other Relationships

[00:13:25] Miriam: Yeah, that’s well spoken and that holds true in business partnerships and in marriages and in friendships and parents and children and the whole nine yards -humanity. Yep.

[00:13:37] If you can’t listen, well, you’re gonna misunderstand and you’re gonna destroy the relationship for sure.

[00:13:44] Paul: It is. And, and in the world, in which we live, that’s dominated by cable news and social media- social media is the absolute worst way to resolve a conflict because basically speaking has become [00:14:00] a way of attacking and no one ever hears what the other person says.


Family Business

[00:14:43] Miriam: You worked for your dad. And you your brother was also involved, a lot of entrepreneurs hire family members.

[00:14:52] What can be done to help avoid pitfalls – the word on the street is don’t hire family, don’t

[00:14:58] hire family members. Right. [00:15:00] Right. So, but

[00:15:00] everybody does because they actually trust those people and that’s who they know. And blah, blah. Yeah.

[00:15:07] Paul: Well, that’s why there’s a whole cottage industry out there of dealing with family businesses.

[00:15:12] From the consulting to the therapeutic, to the business, breakups, dealing with family businesses, they are both the best and the worst of all businesses. And course also depends upon the size of your business. If you’re talking about a five to 10 person office and you’ve got two or three family people that that’s a whole different dynamic, if you’re talking about a, you know, you know, a billion dollar enterprise and your third generation family, that’s a whole different situation.

[00:15:40] There’s the, there’s the advice: Never hire someone you can’t fire. Yeah. And it’s hard to fire family members, so there’s a reason not to hire them. Okay. But that doesn’t happen cuz we, we don’t heed that advice cuz we think that our families are strong enough or et cetera, et cetera. We can, [00:16:00] we can overcome that. Okay.

Give Them Time 

[00:16:02] Then I think a practical bit of advice would be don’t hire them right out of school. Don’t have it be their first job. They need to go, you know, they need to go learn how to work elsewhere and develop those habits and gain some confidence in what they’re doing. And then they, then when they come back in, they’re not necessarily the boss’s kid, they’re still the boss’ kid, but they just spent X number of years over here.

[00:16:29] But they come right into the business. It’s not only tough on them. It’s tough on the parent. Some of the employees are not gonna be happy about it.

[00:16:38] Miriam: Yeah, I would agree too, as someone who has done coaching with numerous companies who have hired relatives, I’ve watched the, “I can’t fire them- they’re my spouse. They’re my kid. They’re my brother. They’re my cousin.” And it is problematic. Yeah.

[00:16:56] And. Sometimes, eventually [00:17:00] they end their working relationship. There’s a lot of hurt feelings. The business does do better.

[00:17:06] Yep. And What can I say, family gatherings are pretty awkward.

[00:17:10] Paul: Yes they are. Yeah. Yeah.

The Risk of Working with Family

[00:17:11] Miriam: And many of the other ones I have watched for years and years, and they will not, even though this other person is really sabotaging their company culture or their bottom line, their revenue stream, whatever they won’t get rid of ’em.

[00:17:27] Yeah. And it’s very difficult to move forward. It just, yeah.

[00:17:30] Paul: And in those, those extreme toxic situations, You know, the, the, the business world for them is simply the platform put upon which all their other issues are playing out. You know, this isn’t the, the the business troubles are simply a symptom.

[00:17:47] You know, the, the repercussions of the fact that. They can’t stand answering to this person or, or what other, whatever other dysfunction is going on. Yeah. And yeah. And I would agree. Yeah. You need a [00:18:00] family therapist. You don’t need a business coach in that situation.

[00:18:04] Miriam: no, it’s so true. I actually am a family therapist and that’s what I, that’s part of my, you put two hats on.

[00:18:10] Yes. I’ll say sometimes you need this one and sometimes you need this one and I can do both. But yeah, this is not where your MBA is gonna help you out, right. In that particular instance.

Becoming an Author

[00:18:21] Miriam: So let’s transition into your writing career. One of the things that I hear from so many people is that they have a book inside them I wanna hear a little bit about how you helped you be disciplined enough to finish a book? Yeah. And then how did you make that transition from letting it be your livelihood?

[00:18:42] That’s a, that’s a scary cliff to jump off.

[00:18:44] Yeah, no,

[00:18:44] Paul: it is. In 2015, 2016 is when my partner and I separated and I needed a break. I was, I was exhausted. And we had just become empty nesters. So my wife was really hoping that I wouldn’t [00:19:00] wanna start another business. And it was a very easy promise to make. I said, honey, don’t worry. I’m not doing that again. I was, I was tired. But I, I didn’t wanna do nothing. I couldn’t do nothing.

[00:19:09] So I became a consultant. An executive for hire. And I found that I didn’t really enjoy it. After you’ve been the boss for all those years, it’s exceedingly difficult to just, I mean, I just couldn’t do it

[00:19:23] I’d finish a book and, and sometimes I’d go, that was a fantastic book. Wow. What a great book, or I’d finish a book or I’d put one down and go, that’s terrible, I could do better than that. And so I think my wife, I joke she got sick and tired of hearing me say it. And she says, well, either write the book or just shut up about it.

Do It Yourself

[00:19:39] So I read, I read books on how to write books.

[00:19:41] I read blogs and how to write books. And I had a stack of legal pads, you know, this high of all these ideas, all these ideas. I would walk up the street about six or seven blocks to this very cool old library.

[00:19:54] And so I would sit in the library and literally day one, you know, I’m, I’m staring at the [00:20:00] blank sheet and I had no idea what I was doing and it, like, I had no idea. So I, I met, I met we were introduced to some people living there and this gentleman was older than. And he had had a, a very full career as a film editor.

[00:20:15] And so I, I share with him that I’m trying to write a book and he he knew a thing too about story. And he said, quit trying to write a book. You’ll never do it. If you’re trying to write it from beginning to end, it’s never gonna happen. He said, just write. Just write scenes. Just write and it will happen.

[00:20:36] And then you can stitch the story together later. So I said, okay.

[00:20:40] So I went back to library the next day and, and I just started and I had an idea or two and I just, and, and he was right. So I committed myself. And it was about eight months later that I, I finished my first book.

[00:20:55] Miriam: Wow. Really? It’s almost like a pregnancy.

Low-Pressure Writing

[00:20:57] Paul: We were in a position to where I didn’t have to [00:21:00] feed the family. With proceeds from book sales. So I didn’t have that hanging over my head. That would be an entirely, just different decision process. For me, I was fortunate. I didn’t need to go right out and find another paying job. I could take this risk and I’m, I’m glad I did.

[00:21:23] When I sat down and I write the second book, I at least knew that I could write a book.

[00:21:28] So that was, that was good. I had, and the second book it’s a sequel to the first book, but I wrote it so it’s a standalone book. I had some characters developed. So I had, I had a bit of a, a launching pad.

[00:21:39] Yeah. The first book I joked that I was about a third of the way through it and I go, this is boring. So I had to, I had to kill somebody, so killed someone and now we have a murder. And so it became more interesting, I think, after that.

[00:21:52] So the books are there’re suspense, thrillers, family dramas, you know, set in Charleston, South Carolina in the [00:22:00] 1970s.

[00:22:01] When I sat down to, to get into this writing I read a lot of books and on how to, how to write a book. And I have a style. But storytelling, I think is something that you can learn and you can get better at it. And so a lot of, you know you know, a good story, you know, there’s, you need, what’s called an inciting event, you know, you’ve got your characters and then something happens to them.

[00:22:26] So I focus on, on building a story with hopefully meaningful character arc.

Using Books to Escape

[00:22:33] Miriam: Yeah, you write them the way you can and that’s what makes your work identifiable as being written by you, just like an artist paints their way and yeah. Yeah. What do you, what, what would you like to in your mind accomplish by writing these books?

[00:22:53] Paul: I’d say a couple of things. I write fiction. I would hope that it would be escapism. [00:23:00] That you’re going to read the book and you’re going to go, wow, that was a fun. You know, I enjoyed that ending. That was wow. I didn’t see that coming. So just simple escapism.

[00:23:12] I think at the same time though you know, I have a worldview and some of my characters share my worldview. And and so, you know, my worldview is, is Christ- centered. Now I don’t beat people over the head with that. At least I try not to, but I try to show real life characters that are very flawed. That are challenged by the, by their children, their spouse, their career, whatever bad thing happens to them that they’re not perfect. They’re not holier-than-thou, but how it is that they you know learn to trust through that process.

[00:23:49] So I I want people to enjoy the, the the escapism. But I might take a little liberties to just sort of show maybe what I feel about [00:24:00] something through my books. Yeah.

Find Paul’s Books

[00:24:01] Miriam: I love it. Why don’t you just share the titles and where people can get them? Yeah.

[00:24:06] Paul: So the first book is called Blood in the Low Country and the blood is because one, there is a murder, but two it’s about family and blood is family.

[00:24:15] And the second book, which just came out this year in May, is called Eli’s Redemption. And it is a bit of a sequel though. Again, it’s a standalone.

[00:24:25] . So my name is, is Paul Attaway and you can find them on you know, Amazon, the evil empire.

[00:24:32] And you can go to my website, Paul attaway.com. And then I’m on I’m on Instagram and Facebook

[00:24:38] Miriam: Very good. I appreciate the time and your wisdom. You gave some great practical tips and, you know,

[00:24:45] going along with that vein of story, I think I mentioned to you before we got on that. We like to do a gift in your name to a charity and you chose Mercy Ships and their story is remarkable as they have doctors and dentists and [00:25:00] physical therapists volunteering their time giving underserved people, surgeries for free.

[00:25:06] Yeah, that’s amazing. Thank you. Thank you for your choice with that and thank you for your time and what a joy to meet you.

[00:25:13] Paul: Well, thank you. I very much enjoyed it.

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