Small business owners are often intimidated when faced with the task of finding an attorney to represent their business needs. It is vital for a small business owner to have an attorney ready to represent their interests when the need arises. As you interview potential law firms, here are five tips to help you find the right attorney for your small business.
TIP #1 – SPECIALIZATION.
Attorneys, like ice cream, come in all flavors. Attorneys are highly skilled in their area of expertise. They are experts in the law, not necessarily in business. You want to find an attorney that focuses their practice on small businesses, because they understand business practices and work with a client base of small business owners. As my Mother used to say, “You don’t order steak at a fish house”. Do not let the criminal defense attorney who fixes your speeding tickets represent your small business interests.
TIP #2 – FEE STRUCTURE.
We live in a litigious society. Small business owners are served with lawsuits every day. Negotiate your fees before the lawsuit arrives. Once sued, you have 20 days in which to respond to the lawsuit. This is not the time to be negotiating fees with your attorney. Agree upon a set fee structure up front, and in writing. So much anxiety and uncertainty come with legal issues that you want to have something concrete and transparent. It will reduce your stress level in a time of crisis.
TIP #3 – ADVISORY TEAM.
Your attorney, along with your CPA, insurance agent, advertising agency, financial planner, and other management consultants, is part of your advisory team. When looking for a good small business attorney, consult your advisory team. Their purpose is to advise you. Are there attorneys that your CPA works with? Can your other advisors recommend an attorney that understands small business issues?
TIP #4 – ACCESSABILITY.
How easy is it to reach your attorney? Will they return your phone call the same day, or next day? Will it take a week? Can you text them a question? Do they answer email? Your attorney needs to be accessible. You have every right to question the attorney as to their level of accessibility. A business owner might be frustrated if they can only talk to a receptionist or a voice mailbox.
TIP #5 – REFERRALS.
Ask other small business owners which attorneys they use for their legal needs. Some of the best referrals can come from other business owners who have firsthand knowledge of working with a particular attorney. Business owners can also steer you away from an attorney that might not be the proper fit for your type of business or industry.
Every service business has one major problem: You only earn money when you are performing your service. In a business that sells services, there is a limit on how many you can perform a day. Even when business is booming, you only have 24 hours in the day that you can work. Whether you are an interior designer, accountant, or window washer, you have the same problem.
THE SOLUTION: PRODUCTIZE YOUR SERVICE.
What does it mean to “productize” your service? It means to take some aspect of what you provide as a service company and put it into a tangible product. Take the knowledge and expertise in your field and create a product based on this knowledge. You can sell your product online 24 hours a day, without you as the service provider being there in person. Here are a few examples: The interior designer could create a DVD series that helps people to decorate their homes. The accountant could write a “how-to” book for small business owners that would teach them how to use financial accounting software. The window washer could create their own brand of window washing solution, formulated to work in our climate conditions. All of these solutions help to grow the brand of the service company. Brands demand more money in the marketplace. If your service business creates and grows its own brands, it will ultimately be worth more when you decide to sell it or merge it with another company.
As an expert service provider in your field, what kind of product could you come up with to promote your business? Productize your business today!
Last week my washing machine broke down right in the middle of a load, and I needed to call a repair service. I Googled appliance repair and up came a list of a dozen companies in my area. I clicked on the first one that looked promising and visited their website. Their website was cleanly designed and effective. I was pleased to see that they listed that they worked on LG front-loading washing machines and I felt comfortable that they could solve my problem. Wanting to get this fixed right away, I placed the call to them and got the following recorded message: “We are not accepting service calls right now” then it hung up on me. There was no “leave a message at the beep” or anything else. It seemed as though they were out of business. I thought they should at least take down their website if they were not in business anymore.
I clicked on the next repair service that had a website. Now I use the term website loosely because it only had two pages. One of the pages was a home page where they listed their services and contact info. It was very basic and not well designed. The other page contained a coupon that you could print to save $10 off your service. I liked that, so I printed the coupon and called the number listed on the site. This time my experience was very different. I got an actual person on the line and was able to explain to her the problem with my washing machine. She quickly took down my information and said that she had a technician in the field and he would call me back to schedule a time most convenient for me to have them to come and look at my washing machine. Within 10 minutes, I received a call from an appliance technician who verified my address and set a time that evening for the service call. The service tech kept his word & arrived on time at my home for the service call.
What was the difference in these two service experiences? One of these businesses got my money because of positive experiences with their touch points. A touch point is any point of direct interaction between a stakeholder and a business. In this case, I experienced 4 touch points: the website, the initial phone contact, the phone contact with the tech, and the actual service call with the tech. All of these were positive which makes me a happy customer.
How does your business touch your customers, potential customers, employees, vendors, etc. How do you treat you customers at these touch points? Do you make them feel welcome, assured, and confident that they are doing business with an honorable and competent firm, or do you make it difficult for them to do business with you? How you design your touch points makes all the difference in keeping customers happy and willing to refer other business to you.
No amount of money you spend on your marketing efforts can help if your customer service touch points fail you. By the way, the company that I called first is actually still in business. For how long is anyone’s guess.
Manage your Small Business better