Who are you, and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Ron Sandgrund and most recently I‘ve been teaching Philosophy of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado – Boulder. I also work part-time at the Burg Simpson law firm headquartered in Colorado. During the last 35+ years I was a commercial transactions and civil trial lawyer handling banking, real estate, small business, product liability, construction defect and insurance matters. Throughout my career, I also pursued my greatest joy – writing. I have authored a book and dozens of articles, not just about the law, but also about lawyers’ lives, worries and inspirations. I am still trying to get my first short story published – someday!
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
To be empathetic and appreciate how others see the world.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
So many mistakes to choose from! If I had to pick one, it was when my law firm put too many of its eggs in one basket of clients, and when those clients disappeared in the early 1990’s due to changes in market conditions, we needed to pivot significantly. We went from serving national corporations to serving the person next door. By making this change, and assuming the huge risks associated with that decision, my two law partners and I were able to maintain our autonomy by avoiding a move to a large law firm, while also pursuing our passion to help level the legal playing field.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
Society will reward those who are most “agile,” that is, those who are prepared for and embrace a rapidly changing world. More and more workers will become “free agents,” moving from job to job whenever better opportunities present themselves. The chances of securing long-term employment with an organization that pays you your true market value will continue to diminish. Artificial intelligence joined with other technological advances will assume more and more of lawyers’ and other workers’ responsibilities. Lawyers will combine their degrees with other expertise, such as in telecommunications, coding, robotics, cybernetic plug-ins (they’re coming!), social media, AI, and IT. They will use their degrees as marketing tools or a resume “plus” in seeking opportunities far outside the law.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Work hard and put your time in and good things will happen.” I believe these are necessary but not sufficient conditions for success and personal contentment. I think it is critical to seek out a career that dovetails with your core values, including your philosophical and/or spiritual goals. I also think that you need to keep your eye on the constantly shifting economic landscape and, when appropriate, seek change and take intelligent risks that will move you closer to your life goals. Those goals need to include not just “success,” but healthy and enduring relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and others.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Honestly, I say “no” less often. Instead, I’ve tried to adopt a “give first” attitude.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
The first book I assign to my law, business and engineering entrepreneurship students is The Start-Up of You, by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. It is a useful read, if you can get past its plugs for LinkedIn®. And, if you have the time and inclination, Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield provides invaluable insights into the enduring human condition.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Develop an entrepreneurial mindset, skillset and tool kit. By this I mean embrace a growth mindset that seeks to expand your personal and career/business development, while pursuing excellence. Remember that collaboration is key – no one goes it alone. Sharpen your interpersonal skills, even if this means interacting with folks in ways and in places that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Be “present” with others – put away your smartphone and Bluetooth. Relate to people through an empathetic lens – put yourself in their skin. Fail fast and fail often: then learn from your efforts rather than doubt yourself. Strive to provide those you serve a delightful customer journey.
Ignore anyone who suggests you aren’t smart enough or good enough – prove them wrong. Remember that most of what it takes to realize your life goals involves skills they don’t teach in school, plus perseverance and resilience.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
Although it takes many forms, I’ve always liked the following thought: “Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
And don’t worry, that email address will work beyond May 8th.