Thoughts on Law and Life

The Official Blog of Astrab Legal Services LLC

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!

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June 25, 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

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

Blog Slacker

Sorry all…I’ve been extremely busy on multiple fronts for the past few days and just have not had a chance to update the blog. I’m working on ideas for new content and want to continue the small business series, so please stay tuned for updates!

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

Personal Budgeting Assistance

A practice area that I am currently developing is a ‘family budgeting’ practice wherein I plan to work with individuals and families on structuring and maintaining a personal budget designed to help them meet savings goals, pay off debt and develop life-long good cash management habits. I will not be providing investment advice but simply acting as a coach of sorts to help folks understand their cash flow in a difficult monetary environment. I plan to utilize three primary steps:

  1. Comprehensive Review of Assets/Liabilities
  2. Estate/Education Planning Review
  3. Goal Discussion & Setting

Clearly there is a lot more to the process than this, but I’m not one to give out too much of my proprietary processes, so you’ll have to call me for more information on how I plan to assist my clients.

My plans are to offer, among many other services, regular in-person meetings with clients, assistance with tax-time document gathering/explanation and 24/7 availability for budget questions/concerns. This practice area fits into my ‘holistic’ concept, which I believe is the future of the practice of law…attorneys must learn to move beyond being viewed as transaction-based and evolve into trusted advisors to their clients. Today’s clients deserve more than a document and an invoice…they deserve personalized attention and constant contact.

If your present attorney is not helping you in these areas, or if you feel he or she is more interested in billing hours than actually listening to you, please call me at (216) 577-0013 or via e-mail at astrablegal@sbcglobal.net.

 

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.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | Financial, Law, Life, small business | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment