Only five years into her career as a notary, and she’s accomplished more than some people have in their entire career. To call her ambitious would be an understatement. From a very young age, Ana’s always been resilient, hard working and aware of her ability to set goals and achieve them. Born in Moldova, she came to Montréal at 13 years old with her mother, she studied in the best university in Montreal, and shortly after opened her own business. We can all learn a thing or two about hard work from this Queen B!
What made you decide to chose a career in law?
I remember when we first came to Montréal we went downtown to fill out paper work, my mother and I. We took the bus and the stop was on Sherbrooke street in front of the gates of McGill University; the old buildings looked majestic, just like what I used to see in Hollywood movies. I just decided then and there that one day, I would go to McGill. You know it’s funny in life looking back now it’s almost like I paint a picture in my mind of how I want it to look like and then I find out how to make it happen.
I applied to the McGill faculty of Law straight out from college. Out of roughly 170 places available in the law program each year, only about 20 were offered to students without at least an undergraduate degree. Needless to say, the competition was ferocious. Although my English was by far not perfect, I applied and went through the process, sending them my grades, my CV, two sealed letter of references. I was quite astonished to get a call for a formal interview.
What was the interview process like?
They want to make sure that you’re able to be more than just a student with good grades. Good grades are a must, but besides, you need to have been able to have a part time employment, participate in extra curricular activities and be current with world news. So they started by asking me about the BP oil spills that happened back in 2010 and the related legal issues. I remember this older maritime law professor sitting there silent and observing, then he randomly asks : whales are dying [because of the BP oil spills]. How much does a whale cost? So I give a reasonable answer “you know, you can’t put a price on that…”and then they continue to another question. Later, he asks again: “ok, wait a second, but how much does a whale cost?” And I can’t give the same answer, so I keep my composure and give a slightly different perspective each time. He asked me the question eight times. By the end, I was so frustrated – I was 19; I didn’t understand what in the world they wanted from me ? Then, one of the professors asks me in a very sympathetic tone: you’re competing with doctorates, you’ve done most of your studies in French and the program is in English – are you sure this is the right place for you? In my last effort to stay composed, I said: ‘I came to Canada 6 years ago not knowing a word of French. After 6 months of classes, I graduated top of my class. I gave lessons of French grammar to Francophone students in college. Don’t tell me I can’t compete with undergraduates and doctorates.’ I remember when I left the interview and got into my moms car I started crying. I was so frustrated, humiliated and discouraged. It felt like they brought me in there just to show me I’m not enough. I went out for ice cream with my friends later that day and was so distraught that I got into a car accident – the first and only one in my life. I really thought I dreamt too big and was blaming myself for it.
The next morning when she woke up, there was an acceptance letter in her email.
What do you think that moment taught you the most?
All stages of life are full of little moments like that. There will always be bumps along the way. I learned to persist and make it happen. I believe that it’s not your moments of greatness and your achievements that define who you are, but rather every time you failed, when you fell down or something didn’t work out how you planned. What defines us is the courage, strength and grace to get up and try again.
What challenges did you face in law school?
First, I had to learn the language – I didn’t speak English well enough for a law degree and most of my classes were in english. I used to read Supreme Court cases out loud in my bed until 2am to get better. Also, I lived in Laval. All my friends would get cute apartments downtown on Doctor Penfield while I was doing a one hour and forty minutes commute to get to class and one hour forty minutes to come back home. I had two jobs. I worked at Revenue Quebec after classes and at my parents flower shop on Saturdays. I was reading on the bus, while I ate, whenever I had a break. And still, I completed my Bachelors of Laws in three years instead of four.
What made you decide to become a notary?
Initially I wanted to be a lawyer, until I realized it would feed my ego and it wasn’t for me. My mom is a mortgage broker, so she guided me towards becoming a notary. I started my Masters for Notarial law right away and then I completed my professional stage.
Did you open AP Notary right away?
I worked really hard to put money aside because I wanted an office in Centropolis Laval. After months of planning, negotiations, loan agreements with banks and endless constructions I finally opened my office. I needed a secretary so I hired my first employee. She was a paralegal with a law degree from Moldova. I am incredibly grateful she believed in me and accepted the position. I still have her to this day and she’s our office director. She was there from the very beginning. I know that my business has grown because of my team. I don’t take the credit for any type of greatness. I built my team, but it’s my team that built my business.
What was the biggest lesson you learned as a business owner?
What school doesn’t teach you is your entrepreneurship skills: how to deal with employees, how to handle internal conflicts, how to get clients, customer service, all of the internal work. I though my job is to do my professional job. Yet, what I didn’t realize from the start is that my job will be five different jobs.
Five years into your career, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far?
Don’t be naive. Don’t expect things from people. Don’t rush things. Don’t ever lower your standards. Learn from your experiences, good or bad.
How do you find balance?
I delegate and I build systems to be able to delegate further. I think that every person is good at certain things. As a leader, it is my job to see what each employee’s skill sets are and place them in the right position to reach maximum productivity and level of satisfaction. Each year we do a pie chart of time allotment for each employee in order to know how long it takes to do each task. My concept is that people have to get rid of responsibilities they don’t like, tasks that don’t help them grow. Those tasks are assigned to new employees, and that’s how we grow. I don’t want to have expectations of people as in “you have to do this job or you won’t get paid”. We just find the right person for the job. I’ve built all my business like that. I’ve never advertised. My name is there in the Russian and Romanian community newspaper, but that’s about it. We’re a team of ten and growing!
What are your goals to keep growing with your business?
I want to bring my business to a point where I can have a life balance. For me, going on multiple vacations a year is mandatory. I want to have time for my family and I want to have kids. So the goal is bringing the team there. How I’m going to do that is by hiring more people, training them, and delegating further. My priority is to keep my team happy. I don’t want the work to be a stressor in peoples lives. I want them to feel valued, because that way they do a better job. It’s a machine and we need each person in their specialities to give their 100% in each file. We are already growing out of the current office, something I wouldn’t have expected 5 years ago. So the next step would be acquiring a bigger office and expending the team even more in order to touch new areas of law and to better serve our clients.
When will you stop chasing your goals and really just be content with what you have or feel like you accomplished your goals?
I don’t need more. As long as I keep my employees happy they know what to do. For me, it’s never enough. But my goal is not the money, it’s growing in a natural way. It’s the challenge of doing something that has never been done before. We will always set higher goals and achieve them, but they are not the defining factors of my happiness or self worth. I believe the energy that you put out will come back to you. It’s also important for me to work on my personal goals, always bettering myself and making sure I bring positive change in the lives of people around me.
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