Business Attorney Stacey-Ann Taylor, Esq. Discusses How Entrepreneurs Can Avoid Common Business Mistakes

As a new business owner or entrepreneur, you will make mistakes along the way. It’s almost inevitable, but many mistakes can be avoided saving you time, and more importantly, money. On today’s show, we are excited to welcome attorney Stacey-Ann Taylor, Esq., owner of the Law Office of Stacey-Ann Taylor, LLC, to help us navigate through some of the common mistakes that we see entrepreneurs and small business owners making.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks so much for joining us, Stacey, on the show today.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So I’m sure that you see all of these people come in and they come into you oftentimes too late. And you say, well, if you’d just come in before you had ventured down this road, we could have avoided all these things. You have a practice right here in Atlanta, I might add right here in the Metro area. So talk to us about what you’ve seen out there, some of the most common mistakes that first-time business owners and entrepreneurs often make?

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
There are a range of mistakes, and I’m going to talk to you about mistakes regarding just obtaining legal services or even just getting an accountant. Everything from that to just not having solid contracts in place. There’s a wide range of mistakes that people often make because they don’t have the proper amount of information. But I would say, honestly, one of the biggest mistakes that I see is that people don’t conduct market research before they launch their business. And that is a very, very big mistake because just because I like something does not mean that my potential customer will like the same thing. So, that is very key.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yup, absolutely. No question about it. If they do the market research and comes back, yeah, there’s absolutely a need for this and there’s not enough providers or solution provider out there, and you feel that you’ve built a better mouse trap as they say, what are some of the first things that you tell entrepreneurs to cover, whether it be trademark or incorporating or partnership or things like that?

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Great question. Well, honestly, the first thing should be a consideration of the brand name, and along with the brand name, really you should consider registering your trademark. Or at least starting the process, at least having an attorney file the trademark application. And yes, I would recommend having an attorney do that rather than trying to do it yourself. It can be very challenging if it goes wrong, and you file it yourself, it’s going to be way more expensive than if you just hired the attorney in the first place.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
So, trademark registration is a big deal. That’s a key part of it. Just really making sure that you form your business properly as well. That’s a key part of it as well. So you’re going to register your brand name, hopefully file the trademark application. Just make sure that you speak with an attorney to figure out what kind of business entity you should be forming. Not everyone needs to form an LLC. Yes, LLCs are very popular, and that’s for a good reason. But it may or may not be the right business entity for your particular business. So that’s a component as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
There are small business owners that say, well, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t know if my business is going to be successful. Do I have to go through all of that now or can I do that later when money’s coming in in a big way? Do I have to really create a trademark for my brand even though I haven’t sold the first one yet?

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
That’s a really great question. And my answer may surprise you. My answer is obviously this is your business. And so, you have to decide what’s best. But as an attorney, I would definitely advise you to consider, to strongly consider filing a trademark application. Especially if you’re selling products. I find this is particularly true for product-based businesses. I feel very often you may be able to get away with filing a trademark later in the process if you have a service-based business, but if you have a product-based business, and especially if it turns out that someone has the trade name already, the trademark name already registered, the brand name, it definitely can be very problematic. You can be the recipient of some nasty cease and desist letters, the whole nine. In my opinion, it’s just part of the proper due diligence process.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. And in some cases, what will happen is an entrepreneur will build a business and say, well, we can get into franchising, we can now go into other states and such. Only to find out that, oh, you just started to build a brand that is now on a regional basis that somebody says, I have the trademark rights to that. And now you’ve got to rebrand your entire company, which is like starting over and creating a whole new audience.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
And that does happen. People may be surprised to find out that actually happens more often than most people realize. They say there’s nothing new under the sun. So quite frankly, your name may already be in use somewhere. And really the only way to find that out, you can certainly do a trademark search yourself. But trademark attorneys, business attorneys, they have access to other resources that are more comprehensive for a trademark search. So that’s why it’s just an engaging one.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. How has this pandemic that we find ourselves in the middle of right now, how has that impacted from your standpoint working with entrepreneurs and small business owners? What are the things that they should look for specific to the pandemic, whether it be in hiring, firing, changing things around in their company, what are some of the high points?

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Quite frankly, I have seen a wide range of I guess outcomes with regards to the pandemic. There are some business owners who are obviously having a very, very challenging time, particularly for certain service-based businesses, special businesses especially. However, there are some business owners who really have struck gold during this pandemic. And that’s to me somewhat surprising, but I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised. In terms of what people need to focus on, yeah, streamlining your employees. Just many people have had to reconsider whether or not someone is really essential to the operations of their business, whether they’re getting a proper return on investment for continuing to employ a specific person in a specific position. These are very difficult decisions that business owners have had to make.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
However, some business owners, as I said, have had the opportunity to expand, to expand their businesses to add additional positions. And so, it really runs the gamut. That is a message that I think I kind of want to harp on. There is no one outcome for this pandemic. There is a wide range of outcomes for businesses.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And it should be said that for small business owners, they need an attorney in their corner, to just be able to pick up the phone or email their attorney and say, hey, here’s what I’m thinking, is this the right move or the wrong move? And while sometimes you might think, well, that might be expensive to do, I’ll just go ahead and do it myself, many entrepreneurs and small business owners will tell you don’t make those mistakes in times like this because they can be very expensive.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
This is the thing. Most people do not have access to an unlimited amount of capital. There are priorities. You as a business owner, this is an executive decision, that’s why you are in charge of your own business. You have to decide what you want to spend money on. Some things you may not have to spend money on right away. Some things you may have to spend money on it. It really just depends on the kind of business that you have, what your focus is, how deep your well is that you’re drawing from. I take all of these things into consideration when I am speaking with potential clients and clients, I understand that you can’t spend money on everything. It’s up to you, when you speak with professionals like attorneys and accountants, to be able to prioritize, that’s what it means to be a business owner.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. And all too often, you’ll see entrepreneurs that I’ve spoken to, I’ve made the mistake myself, in fact, opening up businesses where you put the money aside for the rent, you put it aside for the office equipment, a little bit of marketing money. You put it aside for some of the people that you may hire. But you don’t necessarily account for a good accountant’s retainer or an attorney’s retainer. So therefore when that comes up, you go, where’s that going to come from? So business owners, if you hear anything, make sure that you hear this from Stacey and myself through many trials and tribulations out there, make sure you account and set aside that money in your budget before you start your business for the professional services that you are absolutely going to need.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Switching gears a little bit once again here, a lot of people want to go into business with a friend. We’re going to be partners and everything’s going to work out great. We’re going to do everything 50/50, and everything’s going to be phenomenal. We’re going to be like Ben and Jerry. Everyone is going to be just so happy about our product and we’re all both going to make millions of dollars. But you and I both know that it doesn’t always work out that way under a partnership. Talk to us about some of the pitfalls and things people should look for before jumping into business with a friend or a relative. That’s right.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
That’s right, a family member. Well, honestly, I know that dating is used sort of as an analogy for a lot of circumstances, but being in a business partnership is like dating or a relationship or marriage. Every adult human being pretty sure has found themselves in a circumstance where they are in a relationship where it’s just not going well. And usually there are warning signs. There are a little red flags, and because we’re human, we choose to ignore them.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
My first piece of advice would really be to try your best not to go into business partnership with someone that you don’t know fairly well. You have to be able to, especially if it’s going to be a partnership where both of you are engaged in daily operations, you really need to know this person’s strengths and weaknesses because it could absolutely torpedo your business. It could absolutely torpedo your business if you two do not get along suffering. The business casualty, not just your relationship with each other, the business will be the casualty.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I went into business with a friend of mine and he was my partner and we landed a couple of accounts. We were in a business about three months and maybe four months. And I said at lunch one day, “Isn’t this great? Can you imagine when we’ve got just an entire office full of people and we’re landing accounts and we’re servicing them and we’re growing the business?” And the guy goes, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, wait a minute, Jim. What are you talking about?” And I said, “What do you mean? Growing the business.” And he goes, “Oh, no, no, no, no, that’s not at all what I had in mind.” He said, “I thought it would be just you and I, maybe one or two other people. We’d pick and choose the accounts we want to work with. And that’s that.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And that was completely different than what my vision was for the business. And needless to say, just within maybe 60 days of that, I ended up buying him out, he’s still a very close friend of mine, because he didn’t want all of that. He’s like, no, I don’t want 100 employees running around.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Which is fine. Which is fine, you just can’t be business partners.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I made the assumption because we never sat down and said, okay, what does success look like. Those conversations are very important because you-

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
It’s like a relationship. It really is the right analogy. You have to know the person and you have to pick their brain. And quite frankly, you have to, what really helps a lot, especially if you have like a multi-member or what’s called a multi-donor LLC or a partnership, really just having an operating agreement in place, having an attorney draft this operating agreement that spells out how the business is going to be run, who brought what new business, how the votes are going to be counted. All of that kind of stuff can be in a written operating agreement that is signed by the business partners. Everyone’s going to read it, everyone’s going to agree to it, everyone’s going to sign it. And if something really ever goes very wrong, a court of law can look at the operating agreement and say, this is what you all agreed to, this is how it’s supposed to happen.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Sometimes issues will come up in designing that operating agreement that you’re speaking of, which is a good thing, which is a good thing, because you want to iron those out before the money starts coming in, and the expectations are there. And oftentimes, an attorney can work through those and work with you to say, okay, here’s what Bob’s supposed to do, and this is what Sally’s supposed to do. Are we all on the same page here? Only to find out that Bob goes, no, no, no, I didn’t think I was going to be doing that. Or maybe Sally is the same thing. So it’s very important. It’s great advice.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hey, talk to us before I let you leave here, and I appreciate all the time you’ve given us, but talk to us about the Atlanta Entrepreneurs Program.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Thank you for asking, Jim. So, I have a legal subscription program called the Atlanta Entrepreneurs Program. It literally is like a Netflix of legal services. It offers three different tiers. The tiers are named after famous Atlanta streets. So there’s the Auburn tier, $300 a month, the Auburn plan. The Peachtree plan, $600 a month. And then finally, the Piedmont plan at $900 a month. And within each of those plans, you’ll get unlimited scheduled 15 minute phone calls with me so you can ask her a quick business law, just general business questions, and get unlimited review of contracts up to 10 pages. And depending on the plan, the higher level plans will include contract drafting, and at the highest level plan, contract drafting and drafting of cease and desist, what’s known as demand letters.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
So I created this, I’m not the first person to create a subscription program for legal services at all, but I created this because I wanted to basically bridge the gap. There are a number of American bar association studies that show that there is a huge gap in terms of the number of people who need legal services and the number of people who are actually able to get those legal services. Usually cost is the biggest barrier.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right, that’s right.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Usually. So this is really just a program, and I have a number of people, number of clients who are on the program who love it. All three tiers. It’s just a program for entrepreneurs, especially new and not super seasoned entrepreneurs. I mean, if you’re running a $40 million business, this is not for you. If you’ve been in business up to, I would say three to five years, seven years, it’s definitely something you might want to check out. It’s definitely a tremendous value and you get regular access to me. And I also keep up with my clients. If I don’t hear from them for a couple of weeks, I call them or text or whatever.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. That’s great. You become their silent partner that isn’t always silent. For the entrepreneurs that are listening to us have this conversation, this is what we call in the entrepreneur world, a no brainer. For those kinds of numbers that she just rattled off there on those different levels, you spend more on a latte at Starbucks every morning at the end of a month than these legal services on an entry level. And let me tell you, the Starbucks is not going to help you out of a tight situation, and avoid it. I highly recommend that you check it out. Where can they find out more about that? What’s the website?

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
My law firm’s website is staceyanntaylorlaw.com. You just go to the website, you’ll see right up in the top navigation bar, a link to the Atlanta Entrepreneurs Program, as well as my practice areas and more information about me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Fantastic. I want to thank you so much for joining us on the show. I’d love to have you back do a follow-up. I only have about 190 more questions that I’d like to ask you on behalf of the entrepreneurs and small business owners in Atlanta that need answers. This is always a hot topic. Whenever we do a show on legal, it always gets our most views. So Stacey-Ann Taylor, owner of the law offices of Stacey-Ann Taylor. If you’re out there, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re thinking about putting a company together, or you’re a small business owner, you’ve been in business three years, five years, 10 years, and you want to go to the next level and protect your investment, this is the person you want to call. So, thank you again so much for joining us on the show. We very much appreciate it.

Stacey-Ann Taylor:
Thank you, Jim. My pleasure.


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