This is probably one the most commonly asked questions I get from business owners…when should they call me. I can almost equivocally tell you that whatever you’re thinking, it’s generally later than it should be for in most situations.
More often than not, a business owner tries to work through a particular problem until it gets to a “scary stage” when they throw in the towel and now decide they need to talk to a lawyer. It’s human instinct, we all want to see if we can resolve an issue ourselves before we get professional advice or help. But when it comes to the law, my STRONG recommendation is to not follow your natural instinct and get help sooner than later.
This is particularly true when it comes to a variety of issues, such as business transactions, employees, structure, agreements, and others. In almost every circumstance where there is the potential for something to blow up or go from bad to worse please get some input. This doesn’t have to be a big project you are working on, it can just be issues and problems that come up throughout the month. There are almost always some of these because you are in business.
”Egos” generally get in the way
I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know all the reasons why this is the case, it just is. My experience has shown me that “egos get in the way” of rational thinking at times. Everyone feels like they can do more than they “are qualified” to take on. Comments like, “I know how to do this or whatever I don’t know I can figure out, just like I do with the rest of my business. After all, I’m the owner and no one knows my business better than me so I should be able to figure this out.” This usually doesn’t turn out well…at least not to the degree the owner thinks it will. Then they punt and call in a lawyer.
What I have found is that when a business owner gets a lawyer involved early, they usually end up saving more time, money, and stress than when they try to resolve it themselves. Often times many issues can be squashed quickly or diverted to something much less severe when the business owner gets some insights and legal advice early in the process. Time is not your friend when you let it go too long, but it is your friend when you shorten the time between issue and getting some legal advice.
An Example…Going from Bad to Worse
Let me give you an example to help illustrate how this works, or doesn’t work. There was a situation where a business owner wanted to acquire a small company that was a complement to what they were already doing. The owner knew the owner of the small company and they already had a friendly relationship. He decided to take it upon himself to start working through the acquisition with the new owner, thinking he could “avoid a lot of legal costs” if they did some of this work upfront and before getting “the lawyers” involved.
As you can imagine from me telling this story, things didn’t quite go as planned. Once the two owners got involved in more detailed discussions, they started to uncover “the warts” of each other’s businesses and then it started to get a little more intense with each discussion. Egos took over in many areas and it became a wrestling match between the two of them as to who was better in what area. It wasn’t going well for either one of them…so they punted and called in the lawyer…me.
Unfortunately, they were at a point where it took me a lot more time to figure out how they got to where they were than it would have if I was involved up front. I had to begin by unwinding where they were and get back to a place where we could start to have some rational and reasonable conversations. This cost both of them time and money…time and money they didn’t need to spend if they had gotten me involved at the beginning of their discussions.
If they had called me in at the beginning, we could have laid out an easy plan that both would have agreed to and we could have moved this transaction along smoothly in much less time, less stress, and of course less fees. Once they saw what this looked like, they both agreed this really got off track and commented, “I wish we wouldn’t have let our egos get in the way and called you from the beginning, this really got out of hand and it didn’t need to…thanks for getting us back on track.”
My Advice…get a lawyer involved early in the process
My partner Matt and I created Your Concierge Counselsm specifically to solve this exact situation and help everyone avoid the excess costs and time invested in almost any transaction. We designed it to be a service that allows a business owner to call us whenever they have something going on and are “beginning to think” about the issue. Through this service, we are available at any time for the business owner to call and talk to us early and ahead of the issues. We are literally “on call” to the business owner.
The primary reason we created this was to help our clients save time, money, and of course, stress. Now they can get their questions answered early and we can both determine if a particular issue is going to need more focus or it it’s something they can get resolved quickly and move on…before it becomes a major issue. It was designed to eliminate “calling in the lawyer too late” syndrome. It works incredibly well and short circuits more issues than you can image.
Regardless of whether you decide to use our Your Concierge Counselsm service or not, my recommendation would be the same…contact a lawyer much earlier than you normally would. It can save you incredible amounts of time, fees, and significantly lower your stress when you have a well thought out plan in advance of all the issues starting to happen.
What to do next…
If you ever have any questions about this or any other aspect of your business, just ask and we’ll be happy to answer them. Or if you want to understand succession planning in more detail and how you could start planning for a successful move, I’d be happy to meet with you (complimentary of course) to discuss it further for your own particular situation. And if you found this helpful and are thinking of someone you know who could benefit from this post, please help them out as well and share this with them.