Thoughts on Law and Life

The Official Blog of Astrab Legal Services LLC

Know When to Say When

Hello from the world of the small business owner. Summertime is traditionally a slow time for many businesses due to many factors, many legitimate. There is no reason, however, to slow down prospecting activities during this period. There are always potential avenues for new business out there, and now that summer is coming to an end there are also no more excuses for not getting out there and seeking out new clients, customers or accounts.

A positive mindset is critical for achieving new business growth. If you believe you can do it and reinforce yourself each day with positive thoughts about building your business, then good things will come your way…it is when one slips into a negative, excuse-driven mindset that slowdowns, or at worst failure, will occur. I am not saying that thinking happy thoughts will bring in oodles of new business, but it is a start. Having a positive mindset will allow you to get up each morning and seek out new clients or brainstorm new ideas. A ‘woe is me’ attitude is a blueprint for slacking and transmits itself subconsciously to new business prospects.

What should you do? First of all, don’t sleep in – get to bed at a reasonable hour and get up at the same time each day. If you need coffee to kick-start your mind, set the pot the night before to have fresh java waiting for you when you get to the kitchen or the office. Shake off any negatives that may have occurred the previous day and re-affirm for yourself the reasons you started the business in the first place. Have a plan for the day, be it cold-calling, letter-writing or delving into busywork…try to schedule these activities as you would a client or prospect meeting and commit yourself to that time block. Don’t make exceptions – the first exception will snowball into another, and so forth. I cannot stress enough that remaining in a negative mindset or setting aside scheduled activities for non-business larks will kill your business in the long run.

Another key thing to think about is exit strategy – sometimes despite your best efforts a business plan will not work. You must know when to say when before you dig yourself and your family into a hole from which you cannot recover. I don’t mean to counteract the first three paragraphs of this post, but financial survival is critical…if despite your positive attitude and daily attempts at business development things don’t seem to be working out it is time to sit down and re-evaluate the business plan that you developed at the start of your venture. Analyze what your plan was, look for deviations from that plan and work to find why things aren’t going the way you believed they would. Seek out trusted friends/advisors to discuss your business efforts – listen to their feedback carefully. Look at your prospect ‘pipeline’ and determine if those individuals can be converted into paying clients within a reasonable period of time. Do NOT resort to measures such as financing your business through credit cards or home equity loans – you are doing nothing but incurring debt to potentially maintain life support on a dying proposition for a short period longer. Make a go/no go decision and stick with it.

The bottom line is that small business ownership is indeed the lifeblood of this country but that it is not for everyone. Do not destroy your family and your financial life over a business…in the end it is not worth the grief that will be brought. A lot of business gurus will tell you to never give up and never give in, but failure is indeed an event that every business should plan for and make efforts to avoid or alleviate.

Know When to Say When – it may be the best business decision you’ll ever make.

Michael K. Astrab is the principal attorney for Astrab Legal Services LLC, a general practice law firm located in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at (216) 577-0013 or via e-mail at astrablegal@sbcglobal.net. This blog is designed for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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August 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Centers of Influence

Any successful small business owner is going to need to establish several Centers of Influence (COIs) in order to maintain long-term success.

  • What are Centers of Influence? They are individuals well-established in their particular practice area or social sphere. A COI can be an attorney, a CPA, a financial planner or simply a ‘social butterfly’ who knows everyone.
  • Why are Centers of Influence important? COIs are important in all aspects of a business. They can help jump-start a new venture by providing instant referrals. They can assist a business owner with practical advice on a particular topic or by simply acting as a sounding board for ideas or rants. They can be your very own unpaid sales force if kept in the loop of your business.
  • How do I find Centers of Influence? COIs can be individuals already existing in your business or social pipeline or they can be individuals sought out after careful research. They don’t have to know that they are a ‘center of influence’ for you…the term Center of Influence is not really a title that is bestowed upon someone officially…it is more of a relationship that develops on its own over time.
  • Do I need to repay Centers of Influence with referrals or gifts? That depends on each individual relationship…some folks like to help out and expect nothing in return. Others have a ‘quid pro quo’ in mind when giving advice or referrals, and this is an area where the start-up business owner must be careful, as that expectation is often implied but seldom demanded. If a COI expecting a return referral does not receive that benefit from you, then your relationship may suffer over the long-term. My best advice is to simply ask the person in some variation of the following: “Thanks for sending Bob over to me…is there any particular type of business that I should be looking out to send over to you?” If the person responds affirmatively and gives you some examples, you should darn well be on the lookout to return that favor in the future. If you don’t ever come across that particular target, make sure that you take the time in the future to remind the person that you are looking, but nothing has come up. This will reassure them that you understand that they are looking for help as well.

This is pretty basic advice, but I hope that it serves as a starting point for thinking about broadening your social networks to ensure that a lot of people know who you are and what you are doing!

Don’t ever hesitate to send me an e-mail or refer my blog to your friends, family members or business associates.

Mike Astrab is the owner of Astrab Legal Services LLC, a general law practice located in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area. Mr. Astrab is working to concentrate his practice on business consulting, estate planning and criminal defense. More information can be found at www.astrablegal.com.

This blog post is for informational purposes and should not constitute legal or business advice that can be relied upon by the reader, as each individual or business has unique issues that must be explored before concrete advice is offered!

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Legal, Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Back on Track

Things have been hectic over the past few weeks, and I truly have neglected by blog posts, which were a stalwart of my business plan. I am promising myself to get back on the wagon again and start posting, as professional and personal consistency are necessary prerequisites to any successful business person.
I ask those of you who read and enjoy my posts to comment and yell at me if nothing come up for a while…while ultimately the postings are my responsibility, it does not hurt to have others kicking me in the rear end when I slack off!
For today’s post I urge all of you to look at your own businesses and planning – Are you being consistent or have you also slacked off in certain areas? In order to succeed, each and every one of us must have not only a viable plan but also the internal drive to maintain that plan and modify it where and when necessary…by ‘modify’ I don’t mean drop things if they become an inconvenience, but to take a hard look at what is working and what is not working. If you are not doing something in your plan but have no data to show that by not doing the item you are helping or hurting your business, then you need to start it up again until you can gather enough facts to make an informed decision.
With my blogging, I honestly and simply slacked off – I had a seemingly consistent group of readers that was slowly growing, so there was no reason (nor any excuse) to stop. That is why I am going to get back up on the horse and start riding again!

Mike Astrab is the owner of Astrab Legal Services LLC – his company’s website (currently under construction) is www.astrablegal.com.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Legal, Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Susan Boyle

Just a quick post for today. I have to comment on the Susan Boyle phenomenon. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, she is a 47 year old woman from Scotland who recently sang “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent. She is not an attractive person and was initially treated with derision by the audience and clear doubt by the judges until she opened her mouth and began to sing. What followed was an incredible performance that immediately won over everyone in the crowd as well as what is quickly becoming one of the largest You Tube audiences ever.
The bottom line here is obvious: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Ms. Boyle had a dream and she pursued it despite the odds against her due to her physical appearance.
We can learn some lessons from Susan in the business world – Do not let anyone take away your dream…keep fighting and one day you’ll have your Susan Boyle moment!

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog Followup…Contact me for some suggestions!

As I put out my diatribe, it occurred to me that many readers may be unsure about what to do with their investments. Although I am no longer in the field of offering investment advice, I am willing to discuss working with you to find a financial advisor that shares my beliefs. If you have any questions regarding your present advisory relationship, give me a call at (216) 577-0013 and I’d be more than happy to help you find someone that is willing to sit down and work with you over the long term!

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Card Check Legislation

The buzz around legal and small business circles of late has been the Card Check legislation that is going to be introduced into Congress any day now. I am going to write a detailed blog in the next day or so regarding facts on Card Check and my opinions on what it might do to small business if passed. If you have any thoughts on Card Check or unions in general, please let me know by posting a comment and responding to the poll that I have attached.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Legal, Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Business Seminar Ideas

I’d like to hold a working seminar for small business owners in the Northeast Ohio area in the near future. Please pass along suggestions as to concepts/ideas that you would like to see discussed and that might draw you to the event. I’m looking at topics such as business plan drafting, budgeting issues, finding financing, insurance matters, retirement savings, etc.
Just post your responses as comments to the site to allow others to respond as well!

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Legal, Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quick Observation: Grab This Week by the Throat!

A little graphic perhaps, but in this economy you need to be the one stepping up to the plate…Don’t sit around and wait – get out there and make it happen! Grab the week by the throat and take charge of your life and your business!

Very quick post, but it says what it needs to say!  If you can’t figure it out, there’s always groceries to bag…

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Life, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Starting Your Own Business Series (Part III-Be Careful!)

“Work from home! Make thousands of dollars a month just sitting at your computer!”

Too good to be true? Chances are pretty darn good that the ad is either a complete scam looking to separate you from your money or is an opportunity that could work if you sit at said computer 24/7 for ten years. Either way, “opportunities” such as this need to be avoided when considering a start-up business, in my opinion. As I mentioned in my last entry, you should perform some introspection and discover your passion, then find a way to work that passion into your business.

If, however, you are dead-set on working with a “business-in-a-box” type of opportunity, it is essential that you perform due diligence and I would strongly recommend bringing an attorney and accountant into the mix. Before handing over any money, in-depth research needs to be undertaken – I would start with a simple Google search of the company to discover what others are saying about the credibility of the business. The next step are phone calls to the Better Business Bureau and your state Attorney General’s office to determine if any official action has ever been taken against the company or individuals running the business. A call to your local county recorder’s office can tell you if the company has outstanding judgment leins against it, indicating potential financial or legal problems.

If you are still interested following these steps, then it is time to ask the company to provide you with information on its finances, such as balance sheets, tax returns and credit ratings (if applicable). If the company is serious about doing business with you, then it should not be difficult to obtain these documents. If the company sets up roadblocks or outright denies you financial information, these are clearly ‘red flags’ and your interest in the opportunity should stop immediately. If you are able to obtain copies of the financial documents, you should hand them off to your attorney and/or accountant to perform further high-level due diligence.

Another step in the due diligence chain, depending on the level of investment, is a visit to the company’s headquarters. What appears to be a well-run operation in a nice suburban business park could actually in real life be a sloppy mess tucked into the corner of a basement. You’ll never know if you don’t check it out!

Finally, if there are red flags from your due diligence, or if your professional advisors recommend against investing in the opportunity, please listen to their advice and ask more questions as to how they formulated their opinions. If you want a second opinion, get one. I can tell you this – if an attorney and a CPA come to me and tell me that they’ve looked into things and that they do not believe all is on the up-and-up I would most likely drop the thoughts of associating myself with the opportunity at that point.

Once again, I am keeping this very simple, but just passing along the basics to get you thinking about the dangers of failing to properly investigate a situation or opportunity before jumping in head-first. Just think – if more people had properly investigated Bernie Madoff before investing with him he might not have had as many victims.

My office can perform these due diligence investigations for you. I also have relationships with CPAs and can team up to investigate from both a legal and accounting viewpoint. Please contact me at (216) 577-0013 if you are interested in sitting down and discussing a legal matter!

Michael K. Astrab is the principal attorney for Astrab Legal Services LLC, located in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at (216) 577-0013 or via e-mail at astrablegal@sbcglobal.net. This blog is designed for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should ALWAYS seek out the advice of an attorney and financial professionals before starting a business.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Legal, sales & marketing, small business | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quick Observation: Stop watching the news!

Good Morning! Quick thought for today – If possible, take some time away from the news…We all know the economy is in the pooper and the media will take every opportunity to remind us of the utterly worst sides of the story. Don’t let them get you down!

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Life | , , , , | Leave a comment