Dependently Independent-Part III

July 27, 2007

By James Montague

I’m sure we could sit and debate what relationships are most important to keep you independent.  I have suggested two but to be sure there are many, many others that would take hours to explore.  So what is really the most important thing to remember when wanting to remain independent?  (Oh, and happy.)

One very simple concept; put it all together!  Sure it’s great if you have a knowledgeable attorney, a shrewd accountant, and an investment person on speed dial but are they working against each other?  How can each know what the other is suggesting and how to best represent you in a holistic manner if they aren’t on the same page?  It seems like an odd concept in these hectic times but I promise you it will be time well spent. 

Sit’em down!  Yes all of them together and in one room!  And then you spend as much time as it takes telling them all, at the same time, what it is that you want from them and what your goals are.  The end result is going to be a team of people working together in unison to help you achieve your goals.  Instead of unknowingly sabotaging each other because they don’t have the full picture, YOUR full picture.

Which brings me to my last piece of advice; do YOU even know what your goals are?  I mean have you really sat down in a quiet place and written down your goals for you and your business?  It’s going to be impossible to have any unified direction among your team if you yourself don’t know the direction.  Seriously, write it down!  Putting it down on paper makes it much harder to ignore and gives it the actual weight of being a “plan of action.”  Certainly its going to change over time, any good plan does, so allow yourself to be flexible.  Just write it down and keep it up to date. 

Its pretty straight-forward really; how do you know you’ve arrived if you had no idea where you were going?

Dependently Independent-cont’d

July 25, 2007

By James Montague

On Monday we discussed the importance of the money guy, our accountant.  Sure they are kind of dry at the Christmas party but you won’t find a bigger asset to your independence!  That being said, this next group of people are as important in my mind as the money guys; the attorneys. Ok hold the lawyer jokes at least for a little while, (or better yet post a few of them here for some laughs) while we discuss the attorney’s role in your business. 

Reason one: contracts.  Unfortunately in the world today there are plenty of people looking to get rich the “new fashioned way” - sue someone!  Everyday in our businesses we are either signing legal documents or asking someone to sign ours.  And if we are all completely honest with ourselves how much do we really know about all that language beyond “This contract is between….”?  I fancy myself somewhat of a closet lawyer as probably most of us do but think about it, we are signing contractual obligations each and every day with no REAL understanding what repercussions are!  Sure, hopefully we will never have to deal with the uglier side of tort law but is it worth the gamble?  Find an attorney that understands your business and train them on your needs.  Honestly there are many times that a quick phone call can resolve issues before they ever even arise.  (And some of the time your attorney won’t even charge you for the advice!  Shhhhhh!)

Reason two-business entity structure.  I’m going to take an informal poll; everyone that has their company set up as a sole proprietor raise your hands.  Just an educated guess on my part but more than half of you raised your hands.  And most of the time that structure is going to be fine.  But on the other hand let’s say you did sign something like we discussed above and now someone is knocking on your door saying you are “at fault” for something!  Are you safe?  Can they get your personal assets?  Your savings, your car, your house?  Certainly these are all questions for an attorney but there are many business entity structures that can give you some firewall safety between your business and your personal assets.  Have you had that conversation?

I’ve covered what I consider two of the biggest legal issues facing small business and certainly both can jeopardize your independence.  Maybe you guys can post some other needs that an attorney can address for small businesses; I’d love to hear your feedback.

Dependently Independent

July 23, 2007

By James Montague

Independent.  What does it mean to be independent?  Is it truly the absence of dependence?  I would offer that anyone who calls himself or herself an “independent meeting planner” understands the dichotomy of the word. 

“No man is an island”, someone much wiser than me said some time ago.  And its true to be an independent meeting planner at the top of your game means having to manage a complex maze of relationships.  Accountants, lawyers, bankers, hotel contacts, family, marketers, vendors, etc; not to mention finding time to do the work itself!  So what do you really need to be “independent”?

In this post and those to follow this week we’ll explore the foundational relationships you’ll need to be “dependently independent”.

Arguably the most important, continuing relationship a self employed independent can have is with an accountant.  Without a good accountant April 15th each year can be especially hair-raising!  What makes a good accounting relationship?  For starters one that speaks YOUR language and I mean that in several different ways.  YOUR language means YOUR business!  Does your accountant take the time so sit down and get to know your business?  Every business has its own cycle does he know yours?  Do you feel like he applies a “one size fits all” approach to your business?  Do they offer suggestions on how to make your financial books look better?  Offer short cuts and more importantly suggestions on how to achieve your financial goals?

If you were hiring someone to work for your business you would spend lots of time interviewing, fact finding, reference checking and soul searching.  Yet many of us don’t take the same time and care when looking for our advisors.  Make no mistake about it your accountant is working for you so you should take the same care, if not more, when deciding on which one to entrust with your financial well being.  Spend a LOT of time on this part because you want this relationship to last for years.  The longer you work with an accountant obviously the more they get to know you and your business.  And when you find the right match it’s a beautiful thing!

Unfortunately the other side is also just as important.  When you know the match just isn’t right, don’t delay, make the change quickly.  Sure you’ve gotten to know them and breaking up is hard to do but your independence is just too important to leave to inaction.  Again you have to be the one to manage the expectations of the relationship.  Although we aren’t talking about brain surgery here you do want to treat this as you would your health; get a second opinion.  If something doesn’t feel right or sound right get a second opinion; its just too important to your future to leave to chance. 

Wednesday we’ll take a look at some of the other important relationships, the people we depend on to keep us independent.  And we’ll wrap up the week with how you put all these relationships together to work for YOU!

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