Avoid the Hidden Hazards and Lurking Liabilities

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:

Banker: 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.

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