Sunday, 21 April 2019

Let's Get Down to Business: Irene Dallas, Dallas and Co solicitors

Let's Get Down to Business: Irene Dallas, Dallas and Co solicitors

IRENE DALLAS is the founder of Dallas & Co solicitors in Bell Street, Henley. She was born in Northern Ireland and lived in Ballymena until 18 when she went to Aston University in Birmingham to read law and business. Irene qualified in private practice in London where she stayed for 15 years before opening her own practice in 2003 when living in Pangbourne. She came to live in Reading Road, Henley, in 2016. Irene has three children, James, 27, a stockbroker, Catherine 26, a head of human resources, and Jack, 21, a student at Manchester University.

Describe your business

We are a small firm of commercial lawyers specialising in dispute resolution and advising businesses on their commercial contracts, such as terms and conditions and shareholder agreements. As well as our UK clients, we work with many international organisations.


How many people does it employ?

There are three of us: myself, Alice, who joined me seven years ago when she was still at university (and who will be qualified in just over a year), and Diane, who helps with our admin. We met on Henley Rowing Club’s “learn how to row” course.


What did you do before you started your business?

I started my career at a small shipping law firm in the City where I qualified before moving to New York in the late Eighties. I returned to the UK in 1990 and joined Herbert Smith where I was a partner in the litigation department. In 1996 I moved to Oxfordshire so that I could actually see my children and worked locally before setting up my own practice.


When did you start your business?

In 2003, initially working from home.


What was your objective?

To have a fulfilling career and look after my kids.


Who or what influenced you?

Working in an office was easy when my children were small but as they got older it became more challenging. I thought that teaching might be a good option but was advised against it by my eldest son on the basis that I screamed at my own children so probably was not best placed to manage other people’s!


Do you have a mentor or role model?

Not really, but I learned a lot from one of the senior partners at Herbert Smith. He was unflappable.


What would you do differently if you could begin again?

I would probably have hired help earlier.


How is your business doing?

Really well. All the effort we have been putting in to get to know the area and market is helping to grow our business.


How do you market your business?

Lots of networking. We go regularly to the Henley Business Partnership’s monthly 3FM meetings. We go to Business Network International meetings and to a network group called Open Doorz which started in Oxford and is now setting up in Henley. We also sponsor some events at Henley Rugby Club. Networking has also enabled me to make many new friends in the town and opened up a really enjoyable social life.


What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Flexibility, especially in terms of how I make decisions and use my time.


What’s the most challenging aspect?

As with every business, managing work flow and cash flow.


Where is your business headed?

We want to grow in terms of people and skill sets to enable us to offer a wider range of services and expertise to the commercial market.


How important are online sales?

These days an online presence is a must and consequently we have just updated our website. Obviously we do not sell our services online, our website is for marketing and information.


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Don’t ever think you are too busy to be able to stop marketing. You must constantly be generating new business and new clients. If you are too busy to do so then recruit extra people.


What would you advise someone starting a business?

Don’t ever think you can do it all on your own. Never be complacent. Hire a good admin person.


What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Not doing some of the above!


What three qualities are most important to success?

Being well organised, self-discipline and having a sense of humour.


What’s the secret of your success?

Hard work. I enjoy people and genuinely enjoy what I do. If I was starting again I’d do exactly the same.


How are you planning for retirement?

I hope that when I wish to retire the business will be at a point where I can still be involved but not working full-time.


How organised are you?

Reasonably, especially with help from other people!


How do you dress for work each day?

I think it’s important to bend yourself in the shape of the person you are meeting and dress in the way they would expect you to. If in doubt it’s always better to be overdressed.


What can’t you be without every day?

Alice!


Lunch at your desk or going out?

It’s either no lunch or go out.


Do you continue to study?

It’s a requirement.


What do you read?

I enjoy autobiographies. At the moment I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I read the Guardian every day and the Henley Standard every Friday evening from cover to cover at the kitchen table with a nice gin and tonic!

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