Shawna Dye Culik
Luck O' The Planners: Securing Your Pot of Gold. 10 Ways to Plan for Your Business.
We had the pleasure of co-sponsoring the Charlotte Area Chamber Women in Business event this morning with Latosha Woods-Carter of First National Bank, and Cathie Sherer of New York Life. In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day and the love of green, the theme was how to make planning purposeful for your business to protect and grow it safely. From the legal side, we had some fun with the topic yet emphasized that luck really is planning. The more you plan, the more business confidence and strength you have, bringing more luck and security in revenue, growth, or relationships. Here are the highlights:
The rainbow is a network of rules. Know them.
You’re walking around in a network of rules; they come from contracts and laws and accounting and all sorts of other areas. If you know what they are because of good advisers or you wrote/signed contracts that you know what the terms are, you’ll know if you’re protected (or the things you need to be aware of). But if you don’t, you’re putting yourself and your business at risk.
This applies no matter if you own a business or work in one. Everything you do in business or life has some legal implication, whether that's contractual or non-contractual (negligence, unfair business practices, misrepresentations). Most of the time, things go fine. But how attorneys like ourselves help businesses is to help mitigate risk with proper planning.
Pots of gold are heavy, get a network of people to lift it up.
Build a team and put the right people around you. Put experts on your team. Consult advisors to mitigate risk. Find people that will lift you and your business up. It’s not just attorneys that will help you avoid legal issues. Make sure you established long-term relationships with business bankers, insurance brokers like Zach Ligon with Community One Insurance or Shonna Splain with Star Insurance Group, HR/Payroll companies, and financial advisors, and get your personal estate plan in order.
For example if you’re starting a retail business or own one, connect with someone like Patty Dowdy from Pedal – an incredible company that specifically works with retailers to find the best space, negotiate on your behalf, and help you plan for the big brick-and-mortar step.
Luck and romance can be fleeting; use the prenups of business.
This is where a lot of clients get tripped up. They go into business with a friend or partner, and think, what could go wrong? They’re afraid asking a customer to sign a contract or change order will lose them the business. They’re using a contract they grabbed off the Internet, which may or may not apply to them.
They went into a business relationship without establishing the rules. In any relationship, your business enters into, use what we call the prenups of business – contracts, partnership agreements, and operating agreements. This also includes change orders, renewals, and amendments. Decide what the rules of the road are at the beginning. Check in at least once a year for changes in your business and consult an attorney to amend contracts to be in line with those changes.
Don’t be afraid to stand your ground; customers or partners that don’t want to establish that mutual understanding and know the rules for themselves can be a red flag relationship.
If the limerick is yours, lock it down.
If you have an idea, logo, name, product, or good idea – make sure it’s protected. Plan to establish a trademark (for logos and designs), copyright (for creative works) or a patent (inventions and processes). This means consulting with a business attorney to assist with the proper filings and licensing but also making sure you have non-disclosures (NDAs) in place, and aren’t spreading the word about your good idea without protecting it first.
Know the value of your gold.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you are running a business or working in one, make sure you understand the competition, what you're signing up for, what you need to protect your business like a non-compete. The rules on non-competes are constantly changing so make sure you are aware of what applies to you and how these agreements may benefit you.
What's your business worth? Stay in the know about where your finances are, make financial planning goals, and do an annual check-in on your business value. If you sold your business tomorrow, what would it be worth? Planning in the back of your mind to build value into your business can overall make your business stronger.
There’s no need to fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down.
How are your life and business insured? What happens if things go awry? Whether you own a business or work in one, know what coverage you have for things like general liability, workers' compensation, disability, cyber coverage, and auto coverage. We see clients let policies ride for years without a peak at what’s actually covered. They can grow their business, and add new types of employees, all without modifying their coverage.
Put insurance professionals on your team who can advise you on mitigating problems, claims, and lawsuits. Review at least annually to make sure your policies are in line with your needs.
Pick your battles at the pub… and in court.
Problems and disputes can arise even with the best planning. When this happens, having an experienced business attorney on your team can help you weigh the costs between litigation, mediation, arbitration, or negotiation. Rather than acting or responding without backup, take a minute to plan your course of action considering the outcome and costs.
Having a business attorney on your side who handles cases in state court, federal court, small claims, and superior court can also help you with options.
Better to blarney than bash.
It really is true that, in most cases, it is better to take the high road or at least never say something or write something you can’t back up in court. This includes reviews, responses to reviews, social media, texts, blogs, comments, conversations, etc. And, having an actual conversation can go a long way in easing tempers. (Then back it up with a written confirmation of your understanding of the conversation).
Everything you put out there in writing can come back to haunt you (there's almost nothing that can't be found or subpoenaed), so for both legal planning and marketing planning, make sure it's something favorable to you and that you can defend. Consumers' minds can be changed even on a bad review when the business has followed up graciously.
Forgetting a debt doesn’t mean it’s paid.
And by debt, we mean something that needs your attention. Debts, court complaints, demand letters, and complaints don’t magically disappear by not responding. Respond! Don’t stick your head in the sand. For most things, there is a timeframe and failing to respond to something like a court complaint can lead to a default judgment against you. Your attorney also needs time to investigate and properly represent you.
By not responding, you lose your voice and often your opportunity to plan a response that best protects you.
Luck is believing you are lucky.
Have the courage (luck) to do things that push your business or life forward, and one of the best things you can do is to take the time to plan. Luck (and good planning) really is a motivator and gives you the confidence to take your business to the next level.
We're here to help and would love to be on your team if you're starting a business, doing a check-in with your business planning, or setting goals to scale your business to sell. Connect with us to set up a consultation