Lawyer juggling legal practice and entrepreneurship shares business and life lessons

Lawyer Gordon Ogola during an interview at his office in Nakuru. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Running a successful business while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a challenge many professionals face.

For Gordon Ogola, the responsibility of managing his law firm while prioritising his business ventures is something he learned way back while studying law in India.

Ogola is a prominent lawyer who has represented the Independence party Kanu and senior politicians in many cases but has the time to run various successful businesses ranging from farming, automotive, hotel industry, property investment and decors.

If not in on Zoom meetings or court defending his clients he is at one of his businesses, something he says he passionately does.

His law firm Gordon Ogola, Kipkoech and Advocates offers services to high-profile persons across the country. Juggling practising law and business, according to Ogola one needs an efficient and trusted team. 

“It is having trust in the people you deal with. For the law firm, we have partners and everybody has their responsibility. I’m able to balance my diary on what to do and not,” he said.

Ogola goes to court once or twice a month, but the rest of the day concentrates on his businesses and helps bring clients to the firm.

As an entrepreneur, he has businesses in Nakuru and Migori counties.

In 1994, while schooling at a university in India, he would buy bedsheets and bedcovers, which he would later sell back in Kenya during the summer.

“My journey started in 1994, when my friend, who was two classes ahead of me, borrowed money promising to refund but failed to. When I traced him, he was in another town doing business, and he approached me to join him by buying silk bed covers, woollen sweaters and bedsheets,” he said.

The duo bought the package with Sh45,000, which they would later sell in Kenya at high prices, which was an opening.

Out of the investment, the business generated over Sh2 million in profit, which made him change his perception of business.

He chose to venture into the business alone after sharing the profit and continued with the business until he finished college in 1997.

The business-funded his education and upkeep, but things changed when he finished his studies.

“I worked as a bartender at my brother’s bar in Nakuru, later I bought the business from him with Sh250,000,” he said.

The business did well, and he got a monthly profit of Sh20,000.

To him, the business was more of a hobby, and after two years, he invested the savings with an insurance company.

Mixing friendship with business can be a challenge sometimes. Ogola said that he learned this the hard way when he wanted to expand his business.

Ogola approached one of his friends to sell him a property but refused to sell it with allegations that he was from a different tribe.

“I remember talking to my friend to allow me to rent a space within my business premises to expand the business but to my shock, he denied it because I wasn’t from his tribe. We fought but learned from it,” he said, adding that he decided to look for a piece of property where he would buy and own it.

Ogola said that good visibility was something he considered when searching for locations for his businesses.

After the 2007 post-election violence, he built a multi-million hotel using the income from the bar business, some loan complimenting with the law firm money.

Starting a law firm cost Ogola Sh1.4 million in 2009 after a break up with an associate due to politics taught him not to mix politics and business, a mantra which he has since turned to be the company policy.

“The moment you mix business and politics it affects the financial flow which is very dangerous for the business, we have kept politics out of the law firm completely, if someone without an appointment wants to see me they pay Sh3,000 consultations, which hinders idlers from coming,” he added.

Ogola is a former Migori County Speaker and once contested for a parliamentary seat. 

Two years ago, he started a dairy farm in his hometown in Migoro with only ten Friesians, which has since expanded to 40, and he makes his own feeds.

The business, he said needs attention and good management with workers who can be trusted to avoid making losses.

He started Suna Motor Bazaar in partnership with Rift Car Motors after noticing a business opportunity in Migori.

Motor business in remote areas remains a problem as customers believe in importing vehicles from cities.

According to Ogola, profits take time which requires a backup plan.

He advises beginners to conduct feasibility studies by engaging people in the business to learn about the challenges and opportunities. 

He has employed over 70 persons and has a monthly wage bill of over Sh1 million.