Send Lawyers Guns and Money

11. 30. 2013    |    posted by: Ralph Beck

Before you find yourself or your business in a place similar to Warren Zevon's character in the song, "Lawyers, Guns and Money," it might be a good time to work proactively with your attorney and other advisors. Zevon sings, "I took a little risk, send lawyers, guns and money... Well, I'm down on my luck, send lawyers, guns and money."

Pamela Belyn, a Chicago-based corporate attorney and the inspiration for this idea, works with growing entrepreneurial businesses. She gets frustrated as she finds herself part of the bucket brigade where clients wait until they are in dire situations before reaching out to her. When I asked her what proactive advice she wished every client would hear, she answered "Hire slowly, fire fast." Her primary advice is curing a poor personnel process, which one might think would result in diminishing legal fees and a less rewarding experience. But, in reality, the idea of hiring slowly and proactively provides better support for her clients so she can do a better job when the situation arises where they suddenly need their "lawyers, guns and money."

This same proactive approach would help with even larger businesses going through unexpected changes. If we encounter projects that involve either an outright sale or some change in company ownership and structure, old ownership structures and ownership forms add to the complexity. Old infrastructures create tax governance and other issues that if contemplated earlier would make the current decisions easier.

There is a tendency to try to avoid paying professionals hourly to save money. Yet there are no attorneys I can think of who have not, resignedly, said that they feel they could provide better and ultimately less expensive service by being used more proactively.

One client refers to his professionals as his "breakfast board." He gathers his professional advisors periodically to update them with possible plans, as well as asking for advice on developing issues. He recognizes the inherent bias and value in each advisor.  Without expensive and last minute panicking, he gains perspective - and an omelet.

If you currently only meet with your advisors (accountants, attorneys and others) on an as needed basis, try a proactive breakfast. Ask them what would be helpful for them to know about you and your business today and tomorrow. Good advisors know how to leverage that knowledge to help your journey.


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