Just because a field is rooted in history and regulated by stringent and defined codes of conduct does not exclude it from innovation. Charles Lew—of his namesake Firm, The Lew Firm.—proves this with his Law practice and his entrepreneurial career path. As a practicing lawyer Charles represents an impressive and diverse clientele list in the entertainment and sports space. He has simultaneously opened several successful hospitality businesses, including Stout Burgers & Beers, Boomtown Brewery, and Third Wave Market, and acts as Los Angeles’ Small Business Commissioner. We caught up with this multifaceted businessman to pick his brain and learn about his unconventional path to success.
Yahoo!: What drew you towards the field of law?
Charles: My older brother is a lawyer, and a great deal of my early decisions concerning my career path were molded by him and through his guidance. I have also always had a fascination for law, particularly the evolution of it through history and its malleability, or sometimes lack thereof, to provide for a constantly changing world.
Yahoo!: Can you summarize your career path?
Charles: My career path has been unpredictable. I always think about this Steve Jobs quote, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Yahoo!: What made you want to get into public office—is this something you were always interested in?
Charles: My appointment to Los Angeles small business commissioner was a surprise and an enormous honor. I moved to Los Angeles in 1998 and feel that it is the greatest city in the world. It is still a city of dreamers, the city where nothing is set in stone, and where there is no such thing as a “wild dream,” only aspirations.
Yahoo!: What do you hope to achieve in your role—what impact do you want to make on the small business sector?
Charles: I want people to understand that business and politics do not have to be mutually exclusive. Legislation can be designed and curated to consider the trials and tribulations of small business, and that unparalleled growth can occur when public and private efforts align.
Yahoo!: Tell us about your entrepreneurial ventures? What drives you to get into a new business—is there some specific thing or “spark” you look for?
Charles: I try not to think of trends anymore because I believe you will then spend your energy trying to catch them, which will inevitably arrive you terribly late to the party. I try to look at sectors that have been unresponsive to change, such as the legal industry, and address problems within those fields.
Yahoo!: What is your work or business mantra?
Charles: I was asked this question years ago while speaking at a university and my reply then would be echoed today: “Every day, try to take definitive action in furtherance of a definable goal.”
Yahoo!: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Charles: At a certain point you have to throw caution to the wind, but I always like to qualify that statement by saying “measured” reckless abandon, or jump in the deep end of the pool, but first make sure the pool has water in it and that there is a lifeguard on duty.
Yahoo!: Is there one experience that taught you a valuable life lesson that has stuck with you since?
Charles: I feel like everyone has their lowest respective point as the time for their life lesson. For me, I recall the consummation of a very successful business transaction and how it left me not feeling complete, but rather curious as to what was next.
Yahoo!: Are you currently working on any new ventures?
Charles: We have two new technologies we are very excited about launching. One is a regulated industry POS agnostic auditing system. The second is an APP based litigation mitigation program, which we believe can drastically reduce the prodigious number of wage and hour, and other predatory employment claims that are threatening the very existence of small businesses.
Yahoo!: Any future plans you want to share, or anything that hasn’t been covered yet?
Charles: We are continuing to explore and aggressively pursue opportunities in the field of legal technology. We have multiple restaurants opening this year which will ensure that there is never a dull moment, and finally we will be working closely to continue to grow and expand our charitable efforts including Mental Health America Los Angeles, and AdoptTogether.