Sorry for the pun, but as a New Year resolution, can I urge you to avoid giving lawyers lots of cash by not putting in place that paperwork that you always promised to get around to. Put another way, lawyers like us make more money from sorting out a mess than from preventing a mess happening – and while we’re always happy to accept your generosity, bear in mind the other consequences of things being “not quite right”:
- The business may go down the tubes as you spend all your time arguing with former colleagues, seeing your accountants and lawyers and so on
- The bank may not like what is happening and call in their loan (and that guarantee you signed years ago…)
- Your competitors may take their eyes off the ball, and start out-manoeuvring you.
So – what is to be done? Some things are predictable (death, for example) and some can be anticipated (serious injury, shareholder disputes or divorce). I think it best to prepare for the worst in the hope that it won’t happen. So:
- Do you have a Shareholders Agreement in place? If not, shouldn’t you? Disputes, death or divorce can (often) mean that otherwise successful businesses fall apart
- What happens on death or serious injury? If you don’t have wills and Powers of Attorney in place, sort that out – now. As a personal example, a friend in Australia had a stroke and couldn’t deal with family finances – but the bank wouldn’t/couldn’t take instructions from his wife. That’s bad enough at a personal level – but what if that happened to your business and suppliers couldn’t be paid?
- Plan ahead. We are all guilty of cracking on with the day job and getting our heads down, without pausing and working out what we want to do. In other words, the business does what we want, and we don’t react to the latest crisis. I got some good advice some years ago – which, of course, I haven’t followed – to find some time to look out of the window and think.
This is, inevitably, a counsel or perfection. It would be nice to find the time to get things done properly but today’s crisis is….. But, if you don’t start, you certainly won’t get there. So, why not come into our office for a coffee and at least get what should be done onto a piece of paper. The tasks can then be prioritised and, if they can’t all be done this year, let’s make sure that this time next year there is at least one less on the list.
Good idea? Unless, of course, you want all that hard earned money to go to lawyers or accountants…!