Most Businesses Need Partners

The simple fact is that (almost) none of us are perfect. We all have special talents and skills. And we all have certain limitations. One person may be an outstanding technology person, but have no idea about marketing. Another may be a whiz at accounting and finance, but not really understand how to manage and motivate people.

What we talk about in this conversation is what the most important elements are for a successful partnership. The first requirement is trust, and the second is good communication. People can learn from others – but only if they listen and are open minded to the advice the other person has to offer.

Many people will tell you that partners will let you down, and partnerships almost always fail. It’s not hard to find articles from business magazines telling you why it’s foolish to count on partners to help you succeed in business. Here’s just one example:

https://hbr.org/1986/11/when-partners-fall-outhttps://hbr.org/1986/11/when-partners-fall-out

But there are a number of conditions that can promote the success of a partnership. Here’s a great article from “Entrepreneur” magazine that speaks not in terms of “things to do”, but rather behaviors to adopt to enhance your chances of working effectively in the confines of a team environment.

This may not come naturally to many entrepreneurs, who may be used to working alone – at all hours of the night! – until they get something “just right” and to their liking. But working with partners requires mostly respect and communication. For additional insights, check out the linked article:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247407

When you’ve found the right partners to start your business, that’s the first step. But to ensure that the way the business is really operated once it’s open and underway, make sure you spell everything out in a Shareholders Agreement or an Operating Agreement. Everyone starts a business with hope and enthusiasm.

Having a legally enforceable agreement that is like the “ground rules” for how the business will be run avoids a lot of problems further down the road among the partners. Spend a few dollars more when you’re starting out in business, and you’ll avoid spending a LOT more later on, if your business winds up in a messy divorce, because the partners didn’t really agree on the roles at the very beginning.

For more advice, or help setting up these kinds of organizational documents for your new business, contact me at mattvanrynesq@gmail.com or call me at (315) 877-1741. Thank you.

The Life Cycle of a Business

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of being on a panel to discuss how to start, grow and protect your business. We also discussed what to do, or how to plan ahead for when your business partners may want to break up.

We certainly had a great time, thanks to our host, Vicki Brackens. Here is the link for your information.

I have cut the show into a series of short videos, by topic, capturing this discussion of things you can do to effectively manage and grow your business. I hope you find this playlist to be informative and enjoyable.

For more information about how to set up your new business, how to buy or sell your business, or how to protect your assets and investment, feel free to contact me at (315) 877-1741 or mattvanrynesq@gmail. Thank you.

Clients Need Your Understanding

Right now, small businesses all over America are at risk. Risk of eviction, loss of employees, not enough emergency funds in the bank. Suppliers facing shortages, past due bills piling up. The list goes on.

The one thing that service providers can – and must – do in these hard times is be understanding and try to be helpful. Many of our friends out there are suffering right now.

Some of my small business owner friends are leery about applying for emergency payroll and disaster aid assistance, because they worry about how they will pay back the money.

But you can only suggest things to your clients; sometimes they don’t want to do something that seems obvious to you to be in their best interest.

In those instances, I don’t push too hard and I try not to disagree too much with clients, because in 30 years of practice, I’ve learned that sometimes there are issues behind the scenes that they may be unwilling to share, especially during hard times.

Past experiences of the business owner may make them particularly sensitive to taking on more debt, or they are worried about the unpredictability of a possible lawsuit, or they hesitate at the idea of breaking a lease where the landlord refuses to give any concessions on the rent in a shopping mall that has been closed for two months.

Every situation is unique. You have to follow your client’s lead. All you can do is present them with options and information. In the end, you always have to remember that it’s their decision.

But in the meantime, if your business is facing hard times, now is the time to get some advice and see what your options may be. I’m here to help. Call me at (315) 877-1741,

Coronavirus Disaster Relief Funding Information

Hello, friends. I hope everyone is doing well in these difficult times. Social distancing is helping to slow the spread of the virus, but its collateral damage to local businesses has been swift and hard for some people to manage.

Government funding is available, as many of you know. But the various advice and newsletters that you may be receiving in your email leave you unsure what to do. So far, I have had a few of my clients obtain relief funding from the government.

At the link below is a new government web site that gathers together links to all the various program under the CARE Act, which includes the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Disaster Relief Loans from the SBA, emergency help with utility bills, and how to file for unemployment, among many other programs. https://www.usa.gov/disaster-financial-help

The fastest way to access these government programs for business owners is through your local banker, or your accountant. You accountant will advise you as to what business records will be required (payroll expenses, tax returns, etc.), and then the banker has the application forms that she or he approves and then submits through the SBA website.

Here is the link to the SBA Disaster Relief website: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

Most of these business programs consist of loans, but unlike the usual SBA Loan quagmire that bogs down applications, due to the uncertain times facing most business owners, the SBA has temporarily eliminated requirements for collateral and personal guarantees. This is the closest thing to “free money” than any business owner is likely to see in our lifetimes.

If you need assistance and don’t have a personal relationship with a business banker, let me recommend two professionals who I have known and respected for years. From a finance and management perspective, you can contact Jon Verbeck, and from an accounting and tax perspective, I highly recommend Alan Sherman. Their contact information is below.

Jon Verbeck, Verbeck Associates: https://www.verbeckassociates.com/

Alan Sherman: Email asherman@ajhodes.com

Alan shot a video while working from home to take you through the workbook calculations of qualifying for the Paycheck Protection Program. Here’s first hand evidence that while accounting isn’t fun, it is the lifeblood of every business. This is very useful information. I hope you find it to be helpful.

Finally, I wish you all the best during these difficult times. Remember, local businesses have the greatest impact on our local economy. To the extent that you can, please try to continue to patronize our local businesses, because they create the most jobs, employ the most people, and help make up the heart of our community.

Thank you and good luck.

Matt

Subscription Plans Disrupt Traditional Billing Models for Law Firms, Give Clients Greater Control

Lawyer “Subscription Plans” – that’s what the American Bar Association calls it in this article.

http://www.abajournal.com/web/article/law-firm-subscriptions

Subscription models are changing billing practices for large and small corporations.

Businesses are hiring key consultants – whether they are lawyers, accountants or other professionals, as the circumstances require – on a part-time contract basis.

Has your business grown to the point that you now need a corporate lawyer to be your firm’s acting General Counsel? Has your company reached a new milestone, such as negotiating the lease for new office space, thinking about a costly software contract to modernize your operations, or do you want to offer your employees a stock option plan to try to keep your most talented performers?

As your company approaches new milestones, it may be the right time to obtain some additional support and counsel for your growing business.

You can save a substantial amount by hiring someone on a part-time basis, paying a monthly fee for 25 to 30 hours of the lawyer’s time. Usually, firms will offer a discount on their standard hourly fee for the commitment to a “bucket of hours” from the client each month to handle whatever legal issues may arise, as they come up.

Having “on demand”, “as needed” counsel is beginning to disrupt traditional strategic consulting firms, as corporations are asking for new billing arrangements that ensure the consultant gains an in-depth understanding of the client’s business while still keeping legal expenses predictable.

You never know when a legal issue might arise – business can change in the blink of an eye. Rather than having to hire someone who knows nothing about your business, make a small investment in having someone literally “on call” who knows all about your business.

Fortune magazine says that 23% of all businesses who fail do so because they didn’t have to right team to lead the business. If your management team doesn’t have all the skills you need, then get outside help. It may be a lot more affordable than you realize.

https://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/

Start building your team of advisors today! Fractional Executive Services for growing companies. http://MattVanRynLaw.com (315) 877-1741 mattvanrynesq@gmail.com

For more information, call or email me at the link below. Thanks very much.

Outsourcing Legal Services Expected to Grow By Over 30% in the Next Five Years

A recent article from Yahoo! Business says that companies are moving to outsource legal services to hold down costs. The authors see more than 30% of corporate spending on legal services moving to part-time executives in the next 5 years.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/global-legal-process-outsourcing-lpo-181400393.html

The reasons are obvious, especially for growing companies. As companies scale up, their need for sophisticated, experienced professional advisors grows with the complexity of the business. But as you’re still growing, it can be expensive for a “scale-up” business to bring on a bunch of full-time executives.

As all sorts of services move to an “on demand” paradigm, it’s only natural that some companies tire of their current legal arrangements, with outside firms charging big hourly rates, and using your cases to teach young lawyers, rather than you getting the benefit of experienced counsel.

But there’s a better way! Look into hiring a Fractional General Counsel – you subscribe to a certain package of hours per month that the lawyer in on call for you. Keep your legal expenses predictable and within budget.

The lawyer gets the benefit of having a deeper relationship with a handful of key clients, rather than having to juggle 75-100 different client matters at a time, and having to rely on staff to do many of the more mundane tasks that companies sometimes require.

Have a personal relationship with your lawyer by making them part of your team, not just an expense to be managed. Call or email me to find out how a Fractional Executive may be the right answer for your business.

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Matthew Van Ryn, Esq. (315) 877-1741 mattvanrynesq@gmail.com.

Thank you.

Fractional Executives – Have You Heard About This New Trend?

Many companies who are growing get to the point where the founders may need some outside experts to help them with new challenges, or just to manage demands on the executive’s time. One solution that business owners are turning to is the use of “fractional executives”.

Part-Time Professional Services from Experienced Specialists in their field.

Fractional executives are professionals in their fields, typically finance, information technology or legal services, who are experts in working with growing businesses. These professionals offer their time to the company, usually at a reduced fee compared to their usual rates, in exchange for a commitment from the company to purchase a block of their time each month.

The skills you need, when you need them.

This is beneficial to both parties. For the company, they get access to expert advice and services from experienced professionals on an “as needed” basis, usually for a monthly fee that is far more affordable than hiring a full-time CFO, IT Director or General Counsel. The company gets a monthly invoice for access to the service provider, and has a cap on the fees that they pay for the services. So there is no surprise in the bill, and the company can get the advice or professional services they need with a phone call or an email.

From the service provider’s perspective, you find that many fractional executives have a great deal of experience in their industry, but may be working with a handful of growing businesses on part-time basis as they ease into retirement. Many of these service providers are happy to offer a discount on their usual fees in exchange for a predictable revenue stream from a small handful of clients. The business gets expert advice, and the service provider does not have to juggle so many client relationships.

Chosen as one of the Top 100 Corporate Attorneys in New York State

If you would like to learn more about fractional executives for your business, and you would like some recommendations for professionals in my business network who are available for these kinds of service arrangements, feel free to give me a call at (315) 877-1741, or email me at mattvanrynesq@gmail.com .

Panelist at SU Law Entertainment & Sports Law Symposium

Last Friday, I had the privilege of being a panelist at Syracuse University School of Law’s Fifth Annual Entertainment & Sports Law Symposium. The event coincided with the Law School’s Open House for students admitted for the Fall, so the Law School was packed. The panel was held in the Moot Court Room, pictured below, which is two stories tall (!)

Dineen Hall, the graduate law building, at Syracuse University.

My panel discussed the Music Modernization Act, which was passed by Congress last fall, to ensure that songwriters and music publishers get a fair royalty from streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, which now account for almost half of all music business revenue.

Opening Act for the Entertainment & Sports Law Symposium

Following a nice networking lunch, in the afternoon I attended a panel discussion led by ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, talking about amateurism in college sports, recent court cases about athletes’ name and image rights, and some predictions regarding how much longer the current system will stand.

Seth Greenberg on the set of College GameDay (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

On our music business panel, it turned out that two of us both had worked for Martin Bandier, the music business mogul who founded the Bandier Program at Syracuse University in their Newhouse School of Communications.

The program was created with a gift from Marty to the school, so that they could teach students what it is like to work in the music business, from a practical perspective. The head of the Bandier Program at Newhouse, Bill Werde, was a former editor at Billboard magazine, and was our moderator. You can learn more about the Bandier Program at the link below:

https://newhouse.syr.edu/academics/degrees/bachelors/bandier-program

It was a terrific day! I made some new friends and contacts. I admit that I had to “study up” on the latest music business developments to be able to contribute to the discussion, and I even got some CLE credits for the day.

Beautiful way to spend a gorgeous Friday in Syracuse.

When Does Business “Take Root”?

I read a really interesting article in Forbes recently, which is linked below. We’ve all read the statistics about how small businesses account for the vast majority of job growth (and innovation) in this country. But when does a “start-up” turn into a “scale up” – that is, a business that is truly growing and dynamic? What are the milestones and challenges facing these business owners to move your business out of the garage and into bright, shiny new offices?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancamillercole/2019/02/27/when-does-a-start-up-become-a-scale-up/#30e1ad71636d

According to Forbes, small to medium enterprises (SME’s) account for 60-70% of all employment growth worldwide! As bigger companies downsize, they have been seeking out subcontracting opportunities with smaller firms who can take over back office operations cost-effectively for the downsizing larger firm.

But when opportunity knocks on your door, you need to be careful to manage your growth. One of the following milestones usually signal your company’s leap from “Start Up” to “Scale Up”:

  • Moving to a Bigger Office
  • Rapid Increase in Customers
  • Launching a New Website or Social Media Presence
  • Starting to Do Business Internationally
  • Implementing a More Reliable Payment System
  • Hiring an HR Service to Offer Employee Benefits
  • Investing in Customer Experience, and Not Just Products
It Takes a Leap of Faith to Cross the Chasm

These changes do more than give you a bigger office – sometimes they transform the culture of your business. This happens in so many small ways that sometimes we don’t even notice until after the change has already happened. Bigger offices means you might not see your employees as much during the day. Feedback may become more formal. Your interactions with customers may be changed, as well. It’s up to you to make sure you manage this change for the better, and not sit by as a passenger to what’s happening around you.

I have 30 years of experience helping companies grow from “start-ups” to “scale-ups”. If your business is hitting one of these growth milestones, it’s time for you to identify a trusted legal advisor to help you navigate these next phases of growth for your business.

For advice about growing your business, feel free to send me an inquiry or give me a call at (315) 877-1741.

Thanks very much, and I look forward to working with you!

Calif. Gov. Proposes Law that Consumers Be Paid “Data Use Dividends” by Tech Companies

I saw a really interesting article this morning on C/NET. California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a new law that says that tech companies have to pay you a dividend based on how much money they earn using your personal data. This is part of a big consumer privacy / consumer protection initiative.

https://www.cnet.com/news/california-wants-silicon-valley-to-pay-you-a-data-dividend/

It will be interesting to see how far this bill gets in the California legislature. California, of course, is the home to Silicon Valley titans like Alphabet (Google, YouTube), Apple, Oracle and many other data-centric businesses. You can expect a big lobbying effort against any substantive disclosures of how these companies are crunching our data, since it is the very basis for these billion dollar businesses.

The real “Big Picture” implication here is that all the data they have collected about our collective behavior is now being used for Artificial Intelligence applications that are going to shape our future.

Europe has long been at the forefront of consumer and data privacy laws. Last year, the EU passed a sweeping new data collection and protection statute that could have a big impact on the US tech giants whose services are worldwide in scope. (I’m looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg!) Here is an article reporting on the UK Parliament’s report on social media and the need for greater regulation:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/02/digital-gangsters-british-lawmakers-torch-facebook-accuse-zuckerberg-of-contempt

At the link below, you can get some good insights into this new data collection standard. At its heart is a necessary concept – all data collection must be done with your consent, and the consent must be “real” and must be “informed”.

https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/04/16/602851375/europe-s-sweeping-privacy-laws-prompt-new-norms-in-u-s

The consequences could be severe, and not just in terms of fines levied for non-compliance. Tim Berners-Lee, the actual inventor of the World Wide Web, is concerned enough about the degree of control of the Internet held by these companies (Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.) that he is openly talking about how they need to be broken up. Monopolists are extracting too much money and exerting too much control over the Internet.

https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3065558/tim-berners-lee-warns-that-tech-giants-may-need-to-be-broken-up

Google and Facebook are currently destroying the news and publishing business. It’s just as bad as the consolidation of our other media, and it limits the number of voices we hear, and the opportunities for new businesses to gain traction and create new disruptive technologies to further change our lives.