Once you’ve survived the initial launch of your business, it is time to turn your attention to phase 2: growth. This phase of your business often involves locking in key employees, borrowing, solidifying vendor relationships, growing your real estate footprint, maintaining strong relationships with investors, and resolving conflict.
I work hard to protect you and your company in each of these areas. I am a small business owner just like you. I know how frustrating it is to see a good deal get over-lawyered and watch it die as relationships sour as a result. There are two cornerstones to my negotiating and drafting style: Keep it simple, and keep it fair. You are not hiring me to crush your key employees with an oppressive employment agreement. You are hiring me to express on paper a deal with the most important relationships in your business. I’m tough and I’ll fight for you. But what I will not do is treat your suppliers, employees, lenders, shareholders and landlord as the enemy.
- Locking in key employees. This involves drafting fair and balanced employment agreements, understanding the nature of compensation as a motivator (note: it rarely is the key motivator to employees). The precise wording of employment agreements is more critical than ever right now. Courts do not like enforcing non-competing agreements, so I stay on top of the developing trends in enforcing employment agreements to be sure I am drafting documents that will stand up under court scrutiny.
- Borrowing. Getting a loan is often part of growth. You need inventory, you need to secure the ability to make payroll, you need equipment. Understanding the various options available in the various scenarios where lending can help is important. Once the right type of credit is chosen, the documentation can be genuinely dizzying. I work hard to be sure you understand the commitment you are making when borrowing from a bank or private lender, and to negotiate a deal that is fair in the current lending market. If you do not understand your lending package in plain English before signing, then I haven’t done my job.
- Solidifying vendor relationships. Vendor contracts vary widely in terms of their sophistication and fairness. Honestly, most vendor contracts I review are mostly fair (or at least try to be fair). I use a very simple system to give you my thoughts on changes to be made, and key clauses you need to understand. It’s efficient, and grows more efficient over time as we get to know one another better.
- Growing your real estate footprint. Leases for commercial and retail space can contain some of the most surprising language my clients will ever see. Beyond price, clients are often shocked to find out they are responsible for a decades-old HVAC system that breaks down weeks after signing the lease, or even worse, the roof. Commercial spaces are incredibly expensive to repair and maintain. Missing these critical clauses in your lease can literally shut your business down. I will ensure that you know exactly what your lease says, and work hard to be sure you’re actually getting the good deal you or your broker worked hard to get.
- Resolving conflict. Entrepreneurs like to make people happy. But conflict is inevitable. When I am working with a client to resolve conflict, my philosophy is to lay the cards on the table early. If you have leverage over a vendor, shareholder, customer or employee who is causing you trouble, you need to let them know it right up front. There is no value in attempting to hold back a smoking gun in an effort to create a dramatic “Law and Order” moment in a courtroom. To be blunt, once you walk into a courtroom it’s hard to win. By the time you pay for your courtroom victory, you’ll feel like to lost. When conflict arises, you hit the opposing party hard and hit them early. Let them know right up front that their best option is to behave themselves and work with you fairly. If litigation is needed, I have strategic partners who can bring your case before a judge and fight hard for you. But my primary objective is apply pressure the right way to bring conflict back into proper alignment, and avoid litigation where possible.
There are certainly other keys to the growth phase of your business. Having working in corporate America, and owned my own businesses, I understand the keys outlined above and more. I love using my business experience to help you thrive during your growth phase, and avoid the pitfalls that would stall your progress.