Meet Business Mogul and UC Law Student G. Austin Allison '11
At the age of eight Austin Allison started his first business — successfully selling bird houses — in addition to doing the usual kid activities. Sixteen years later at the age of 24, Allison is the co-founder and CEO of The DotLoop Company, a multi-million-dollar software design firm, while working through his second year in law school. Very few people would undertake such a challenge. However, Allison thrives on it, enjoying the classroom work and, literally, applying the business lessons he is learning on the job each day.
It All Started with Selling Homes
A Maineville (Ohio) native, Allison was bit by the entrepreneurial bug many years ago. After buying his first house when he was 17, he became a licensed realtor at 18 and began working at Duke Realty Corp. There, he managed multi-million-dollar construction projects and facilitated some of the largest commercial real estate transactions in Greater Cincinnati. In addition, he entered the University of Cincinnati as a student in the construction management program. It was there that Allison met his mentor, UC Law graduate Dan Ruh ‘97, who was managing the Cincinnati office of Duke at that time.
"The mentors ahead of me were all UC Law graduates. I've accomplished many of the things I have in life because I was inspired to do so. Dan was one of those people who I looked up to. He was a perfect example of how to be a consummate professional in business, while still enjoying what you do in life," Allison said.
As head of the office at Duke, the largest owner of commercial real estate property in the tri-state, Ruh used the knowledge and skills he learned at UC Law to successfully run the Duke portfolio.
"Dan showed me that you may not necessarily become a practicing attorney," Allison said, "But the skills, knowledge, thought patterns and lessons you learn at law school will help in whatever you do."
Meanwhile, the UC student and Duke employee was actively selling property across Greater Cincinnati — and having issues with the logistics. It is from that point that a business was born.
"Anyone who has bought property knows that it involves a lot of paperwork — whether it is a home or commercial land," he said. "In between my classes, I was very busy driving across town to meet my customers in parking lots and sign paperwork on the roofs of cars. It was crazy, highly inefficient, and very frustrating."
It also spawned a pretty good idea.
Allison eventually teamed with local web designer (and current business partner) Matt Vorst to develop software that would eliminate paperwork for real estate agents by letting buyers and sellers trade offers and counter-offers without printing, faxing, or e-mailing updated contract versions to all parties. Documents are signed electronically, and contract changes are time-stamped to provide an audit trail for every transaction.
The concept took off like wildfire during DotLoop's first year in 2009. The firm now employs more than 30 people and has forged a national footprint in 20 states. "Entrepreneurship is an interesting thing," Allison said. "I hope to see more of this in the business world, especially during a recession. It is during tough times like these that the most interesting innovations begin."
Combining Business Expertise with Law School
"Law school is like academic boot camp," laughed Allison. "You learn to think at a level no one else thinks at."
After graduating from the university, he realized that law school would make him better prepared to become a successful entrepreneur - even though he was already running a successful business. "Law school has given me the opportunity to further my education from a business perspective. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and so are lawyers. I've learned to think differently, especially about problems and ways to leverage my resources for the best solution. I am a better decision-maker now."
A Corporate Law Center fellow, Allison enjoys applying the lessons he's learned in the classroom to real-life business experiences.
"Now I can speak in the language attorneys are comfortable with. And I have a much more robust understanding of what they are saying," he commented.
It's All UC
"My mentor Dan was a UC Law graduate. And when I looked at him, I knew that was where I wanted to be at his age - 30 or so - and leading a company. I saw law school as a way to get there.
"I was also impressed by the reputation and prestige of UC Law. It is a very well-known, well-respected institution. And it is hard to get into! You definitely have to earn it."
One of the most challenging things about law school, Allison added, is the time commitment. It is all-consuming. But he has learned to be resourceful and efficient.
"I'm surrounded by brilliant people who are driven to be a success," he said. "It is challenging, but also very beautiful and inspiring to me."
Since its launch, DotLoop has grown exponentially. It is now used by RE/MAX Unlimited — the tri-state's largest RE/MAX franchise, the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors, Keller Williams, Prudential and HHB Partners. Growth has been faster than expected, according to a recent Business Courier feature article about DotLoop. This has resulted in revised sales projections of $2 million-$5 million this year. Meanwhile, he will continue his studies at UC Law, though perhaps at a slower pace.
"It's becoming harder to juggle two full-time jobs," he concluded, "work, and school!"
For more information about DotLoop, please call (888) Dot-Loop, visit www.DotLoop.com or send an e-mail to info@DotLoop.com. Also, be sure to view Allison's recent appearance (see photo) on the Fox Business Network program, "Happy Hour: So You Think You're An Entrepreneur?"