Charles George grew up in Germany and moved to the US in his early teens. Soon after, he entered the family business and helped transform it into a multimillion-dollar company before selling and entering the world of investment banking. Another career change later in life then inspired Charles to open George Law Firm LLC.
How did working in your family’s business prepare for becoming an entrepreneur?
At 14 years old, I started training to become a machinist with the family business, George Disposables, which built machinery that made diapers, napkins and food packaging. I was treated just like any employee and received no special considerations.
My mother is German and my father is American. They were true team members, and I got to see them build the business all on their own. Both of them lived through World War II and the Great Depression, so their experiences were instrumental for me when I was growing up. They were the best teachers I ever had. I learned how to succeed in a business that was worth more than $100m when we sold it.
What do you remember from your childhood in Germany?
My mother comes from the countryside south of Munich. Every morning, as a child, I would wake up and see the foothills of the Alps. We lived in a village called Buchloe, which was surrounded by dairy farms. We had a farm there too, and those simple days were the best of my life in terms of feeling safe and happy.
Were you entrepreneurial from a young age?
I always tried to find ways to make a Deutsche Mark or a buck, but it wasn’t just making the money that I enjoyed. It was also the planning of how I could make it happen – being entrepreneurial is in my nature.
How did education support your early development?
I was a teenager when I moved to South Carolina, and I didn’t find the schools particularly challenging, so I went to the University of South Carolina at 16. During my first semester studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, I ran it like a business. I kept my notes organized and remained diligent, but I would also give myself a day off to relax. But I didn’t go out and party like some of the other students because I had a greater mission: I had to take care of my family – this was important to me then and it still is now.
When did you decide to start your own law firm?
After a successful career working in my family’s business, which we sold, I became an investment banker and specialized in fixing distressed assets. I would find companies that weren’t doing well and figure out how to make them successful.
I went to law school later in life, and that’s because I became burned out working constantly in investment banking. I was 50 years old when I passed the South Carolina Bar exam, which I sat at 49. I’m 54 now and have taken two other Bars in Florida and North Carolina. I also plan to take the Bar in Georgia, Texas and DC.
As soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to open my own law firm. The reason was simple: as an older guy, I’m more knowledgeable than the average graduate. I’ve got a lot of life experience and I didn’t have the time to go and work for someone else.
Were there any major challenges in establishing your law firm?
It was mainly the learning curve in first year, but I had the advantage of working with a very good friend called Gary English. He’s an experienced lawyer and helped me overcome the early challenges – we still help each other to this day.
You still work as the president of your investment banking firm, MSI. Is it tough balancing your professional responsibilities?
I learned a long time ago that I’m not the smartest person out there, so I’ve surrounded myself with talented people. I pay them well and some of them even earn more than I do.
I also have an excellent lieutenant in Michael Walters, who’s responsible for overseeing the day-to-day leadership for me. I’m still the president and give my seal of approval for major decisions, but the key to that working is having great people you can trust.
How has Regus helped to support your office needs?
Thanks to my business background, I know how to keep my costs down and stay flexible, which my clients appreciate. I find that Regus is a tool I can use to better serve my clients by having the ability to meet them anywhere. In Atlanta, I can choose from 10 different locations.
Regus centers are very professional and easy to use. You can meet clients anywhere Regus is based, and you have everything you need there – even staff to take notes during meetings.
Charles uses various Regus facilities to do business in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more about his law firm by visiting MaritimeLG.com.
Top tips from Charles
Find an idea that makes sense: don’t be a solution in search of a problem. As an investment banker, I encountered many businesses that would have solutions but no problems to fix.
Believe in what you do. If you have an idea worth pursuing, you need to work hard and put your integrity into the business – good ideas take off if you persevere.
Be open to accepting help. Your good idea might become a grand idea if you work with other people or entities. Having a share of something is better than owning all of nothing.