Thoughts on Law and Life

The Official Blog of Astrab Legal Services LLC

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.

Advertisements

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