Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Build Your Team of Trusted Advisors

As a legal blogger, I am a fan of other lawyers who write about my practice area. Twitter is a wonderful tool to connect with other like minded lawyers. One of my favorite Business Law bloggers is Scott F. Gibson out of Phoenix, Arizona (which happens to also be one of my favorite towns.) Scott believes in educating the business owner and those general practitioner lawyers who advise them. Scott recently posted a blog entitled "Avoid the Hidden Hazard and Lurking Liabilities" wherein he discusses the importance of putting together a team of trusted advisors. The subject matter is something that I discuss with all my clients and with Scott's permission, I am re-posting his piece on the Outhouse General Counsel Blog.

Your business is under attack from every side.

Your "To Do" list is long and detailed. It includes hiring, training, and motivating employees. You must pay your vendors, collect your accounts receivable, and price your goods or services competitively and profitably. If you do not obsess about marketing and client service, your business cannot survive. And don't get me started on the legal issues that business owners face every day.

If you dwell on all the ways you are under attack, you will start to feel overwhelmed. Eventually, you may feel like curling up in the fetal position and crying yourself to sleep. That strategy might provide you some temporary relief, but it will not lead to long-term success.

You need a comprehensive plan if you are going to avoid the hidden hazards and lurking liabilities that can destroy your success. As part of that plan, you must rely on trusted advisers who can help you successfully navigate your business. Your team should include the following advisers:

Look for a banker who will get to know you and your business. If you call your bank and ask to speak with the bank president, does he know who you are? Will he take your call? If not, you should consider moving to a different bank. I regularly recommend that my clients work with one of the excellent community banks in our area.

Accountant: Most business owners have a relationship with a bookkeeper or accountant who handles the company's books and records. When you start your business, it may be sufficient to let your neighbor keep your books in her off hours, but as your business grows, you will need a more sophisticated source of financial advice. Make sure that your business has not outgrown your financial adviser. You need competent, thoughtful financial advice.

Insurance Broker
If your business is not properly insured, you are asking for trouble. Depending on the nature of your business, you will need workers compensation insurance, health insurance, life insurance, general liability insurance, property insurance, auto insurance, and malpractice insurance. Your insurance broker can help you minimize your risks, protect your business, and save you money.

Payroll Service: One of the quickest ways to kill a business is to mishandle payroll or payroll taxes. For very few dollars a month, you can avoid the wrath of the IRS by using a payroll service. You cannot afford to handle payroll in house.

Legal Counsel
Your lawyer is a critical member of your team of advisers. Interview candidates and hire a lawyer before a legal crisis arises. Make sure he understands your business model, your target market, and your long-term goals. Develop a comprehensive plan that will promote your business objectives and take your business from where you currently are to where you want to be in five or ten years. Meet regularly with your lawyer to review the legal health of your business, compliance with employment standards, and efforts to protect your intangible assets. Set up and properly fund a buy-sell agreement with your business partner. Consult with your lawyer to avoid legal disputes before they arise.

Avoid the hidden hazards and lurking liabilities that cause many businesses to stumble. Choose the right team of advisers, and your business will boom.

The demands of owning a business can be overwhelming. You need an effective plan to grow and succeed. Learn how BizBuilder™ can help you systematically and continuously attack the most demanding legal challenges your Arizona business faces.

Who is Scott F. Gibson?
For 23 years, he has practiced business law in Arizona, the past ten as the managing partner of Gibson Ferrin & Riggs, PLC. They help businesses and their owners preserve, protect, and promote their their business and personal objectives. His practice focuses on the intersection between intellectual property law and employment law. He helps businesses prosper by properly managing their intangible assets.

While Scott's blog is focused on Arizona law, this piece is applicable wherever you decide to start a business. If you are in Arizona, I encourage you to contact Scott. I would like to thank him for allowing me to re-post his piece on the Outhouse General Counsel Blog.

As always, you can contact me at [email protected].

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