Day 1: Buying Just 1 Hour of Time

with Your Company's New Attorney, Intellectual Property Counsel, Accountant, and Business Consultant


By: Terry Collison, Blue Rock Capital



At the outset of your venture you as the entrepreneur and founder have the unique opportunity to spend money that can help keep you out of trouble trouble which is usually truly costly to fix (maybe even impossible) later on.

Here's the suggestion: at the moment you begin, start by identifying:

(1) a business attorney who is familiar with the special issues involved in young entrepreneurial companies;

(2) an intellectual property attorney who understands logos, copyrights, trademark registration, and, if relevant to your particular company, patents as well;

(3) an accountant who will help you find a qualified bookkeeper for the day-to-day stuff and who will keep you straight on the big issues (financial statements, tax filings, local fees and permits) and can assist in financing issues; and

(4) a business consultant (sometimes known as a Venture Consultant) to help you with converting entrepreneurial opportunity into Strategy and then converting Strategy into Operations.



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Buy 1 hour of time from each advisor and do the following:

1. Basic Facts and Info

Take 5 minutes to describe who you are and what your new company is involved in doing. (Remember: if you spend more than 5 minutes, you will have less than 55 minutes left to hear what your professional advisor has to tell you. Listen. And learn.)

2. What can you do for me?

Ask your new professional advisor to describe what he or she typically does with young companies such as yours. Remember: the second dumbest question is the one you leave unasked. The truly dumbest question is the one you ask but don't remember the answer to. It's your nickel. Have fun. Hey, you're the client here. (If your idea has flaws, here is where you find out.)



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3. Who do you know?

Ask what other companies like yours (or situations that may be similar to yours), your new professional advisor has worked on. What did he or she actually do? Can you speak with one or several of those clients? (NOTE: If the answer is "No," you may wish to find a professional advisor who is comfortable having you speak with current and former clients.)



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4. What am I supposed to be doing?

You already have lots of ideas and tasks running around in your head. Probably more than you can figure out how to get done. But what if they are not the right ones? What if you have left out something? What if you could actually eliminate one or more of these tasks and actually be better off? What if, by changing the sequence in which you address certain issues, you would end up with an easier process? Or a more effective result? Ask your new professional advisors. They have experience that you don't yet have. And they have specific expertise that is different from yours. That's why you picked them, right?!? Use them.



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5. How do you want to work with me?

It is important to get solid guidance. Find out how it will be done. Even if it is only 1 hour per quarter. Done regularly (no kidding), it is invaluable.

6. What's this going to cost?

You've got to end up knowing this. You might as well find out now. (But note that this probably isn't the most useful initial question.) And the answer might surprise you. Pleasantly. It certainly won't be (should not be) zero. Most professionals work with entrepreneurial companies because they enjoy the process and truly believe in its importance. There are degrees of pricing and billing flexibility that usually make it entirely workable. Always pay professional advisors (A) on time (you expect their advice to be on time, right?) and (B) with real money (not stock). If things don't work out, you want to be able to make a change. A fired advisor who owns stock isn't pretty.

7. When should we next get together

See Question #5.


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8. Fire Alarm! Fire Alarm! Fire Alarm! Fire Alarm!

Something totally unexpected pops up. It could be either good news or a seeming disaster. It's not yet time for the next scheduled meeting. What should you do?

You might as well discuss this possibility and agree on a procedure right now. It costs lots less money to chat about a possible issue today than to fix a Big Problem tomorrow.

Some issues, even ones that initially seem minor, can become life-threatening for fragile young ventures. Like yours. Don't mess around with such risks.

And don't try to "tough it out." You and your new professional advisors ought to be able to agree on how surprises should be handled. Advisors hate to get an entrepreneur's phone call that begins "Maybe I should have talked to you before I did this but . . . ."


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Hey, the hour's up.

Wasn't that interesting? Feel like you've now got a better handle on what to do? Was that first hour's worth of money well spent? If so, go use your experience with another entrepreneur and convince him or her to "do it right." And Best Wishes for the success of your new venture.


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