I recently sat down for lunch with a “prospective” client, and our conversation prompted me to write two posts. This is one of them. I say “prospective” client, using quotation marks, because I am not entirely convinced that his business operations are the right match for me, nor I for his business.
At any rate, I regaled him with a tale of how my recent representation brought one client a net savings (after legal fees) of over $100,000 in just four months, and moved the business dramatically closer to the expansion that eluded them when working with another attorney. And so he asked,
How can a lawyer possibly help accelerate growth, other than drafting funding documents?
This was followed by a hearty laugh. Clearly, I had amused him. In truth, it’s a good question. Here’s 5 ways that can happen.
Shielding You From Distractions.
Be it a ridiculously unsupported invoice from an outside vendor, or allegations of wrongdoing, distracting situations can drain valuable energy away from the business of getting business done. My clients don’t benefit from pouring energy into avenues that don’t move their ventures forward, rehashing with family and friends how someone tried to get over. When a client comes to me with a particularly draining distraction, my job is to make it my problem, not theirs. Key to this role is being acutely attentive to the core reasons this bogus invoice bothers them more than, say, that other bogus invoice from another vendor.
Facilitating Business Negotiations.
In one case, a client struggled for nine months to close on a second facility (which would serve as its new, flagship location). The situation was bleak. A stiff monthly “rent penalty” had already been imposed, and the sellers were ready to walk away, along with the hefty ernest money deposit that my clients had already paid. Six weeks after being staffed on the matter, they went to closing.
What was the difference? Honestly, I’d have to say it came down to 3 things:
(i) listening to outside parties (title company, lender, insurance company, etc.) on what they considered to be the issues, and digging deep on how true those were,
(ii) paying attention to the buyer’s and seller’s core grievances (not stated wants), and
(iii) identifying and tying off non-contentious issues so that they wouldn’t continue to be revisited.
It also helped that I had excellent clients who stayed in the game and trusted me to help them through this process.
Shoring Up Dangerous Weak Spots.
One thing I quickly realized is that many businesses do not start with ideal circumstances, including from a legal standpoint. So, immediately, I brought in my internal investigations experience at large law firms and modified it to create a Legal Compliance Audit program for entrepreneurs and smaller entities. Attorneys familiar with this process understand how to review a business’s affairs for high-risk weak spots, and shore them up so that it doesn’t crater future progress or wipe out assumed value down the line. After all, it’s pretty hard to catapult forward when standing on quick sand. Examples I’ve seen: inflated equities given to absent founders when loans were viewed as capital contributions, or failure to trademark early on despite growing use of a similar trademark by someone operating in the same field.
Priming Legal Work for Easy Scaling to Future Business Uses.
A business that’s ready to expand needs more than an even footing. It also needs legal advice and representation that will easily scale for future business use. This can impact everything from the way contracts are drafted, to moving forward on protecting copyrights & trademarks that may take months or even a year to secure, to reorganization of business structures and organizational documents so that they can easily work for what’s next. The point is that the legal representation will end up facilitating growth, instead of delaying it.
Introductions to the Right Professionals for that Next Step
Planning on seeking a loan down the road? If you’re dealing with a mediocre accountant or financial planner who is maxed out on her capabilities, then it may come to bite you in the future when trying to aim for that expansion. Get introductions to people now. Be open about where you are and where you want to go. Small Biz expert Melinda Emerson recently gave this piece of business advice: “Always know your next hire.” It’s true. If you know that you want to be at a certain place in the following year, don’t wait until you’re there to start bringing in the people who are perfectly suited for you at that stage. Nearly every business out there has an entry level option. If you’re having a hard time making the plunge from good to great, then use those entry-level options to start incorporating your new team now. It’s embarrassing at times the amount of time I spend working to find that perfect introduction for a client’s next step, but to me it’s essential for that client’s future growth, as well as mine.
About the Author: Lenore Horton is an attorney, consultant, and serial entrepreneur whose goal is to help entrepreneurs, business owners and investors avoid needless failure in their ventures. She is the Managing Partner of her own New York-based law firm, and founder of KETNOI, a Washington DC-based consulting, coaching, and training firm. Tweet her @LenoreHorton.