After law school, I planned to spend six years in New York City, building my skills and resume. Then, I expected to open my own firm in a smaller city. After all, if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere. Right? Little did I know that I would be launching The Law Studio 16 months after I was sworn in to practice law in New York, or that I would be doing it in The Big Apple. Youth, energy, and naivete have their benefits. Had I realized how much I still needed to learn about running a small business, I might have waited. I might have waited so long that it never happened. So, I am grateful for the powers that aligned to have me leap before I had the net. However, I also appreciate all the resources I have accumulated to get me through some of the roughest times. Seventeen years later, I still call on them, and they are especially useful in navigating the uncertainty brought by the pandemic. Some are books. Others are people, courses, and tools. Please feel free to call on them, too. We will get through this. Together.
How I Structure My Resources
Among others, I have been influenced by Michael E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited and Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Having come from a corporate background before law school, I tend to think in terms of the organizational chart when identifying which roles I need to fill at various times. I use a combination of employees and independent contractors or freelancers, depending on the needs of the business. Although I teach regularly about the perils of worker misclassification, I am not opposed to hiring truly independent businesses and entering contracts with them for services I don’t provide in my business. Most business experts will tell you to hire people better than you at the work you hire them to do, and I agree. I am competent at quite a few tasks, but if you want excellence, you probably don’t want me to code your website or take dictation. I sometimes sacrifice excellence in my own business when I need to cut costs, and I can usually see the consequences.
When planning your small business resources, think like a Fortune 500 company. There are usually at least five departments under the Chief Executive Officer, each focusing on critical functions like Diversity, Finance, Information, Marketing, and Operations. In ideal situations, the officers that oversee each of these departments are supported by managers, technicians, and assistants, but you will often fill a lot of these roles when starting up.
Identify the areas in which you lack competency and fill those positions first. Many will be filled by outside, licensed professionals and remain independent for the life of your business.
Contracting with Licensed Professionals
I recommend that you interview at least three people or firms for each of the roles you need to fill. Below are some of the professionals I have relationships with. Among other things, you will need to ask them about their experience in your industry, with businesses your size and tenure. If there is a specific issue or project you want them to work on, ensure they have experience with similar ones and are willing to discuss with you how they will approach it to your satisfaction. Also, read their reviews online and make sure you feel comfortable discussing some of the most challenging issues in your business. These relationships are dependent upon mutual trust and respect.
Joseph Calvo, CPA, Joseph Calvo & Co. P.C.
Allan J. Rolnick, CPA
Terrell Turner, CPA, TL Turner Group
Gabriella Callender, Go Gabby Bookkeeping
Kelly Gonsalves, Totally Booked Bookkeeping
Jon Blumberg, Profitas LLC
One caveat with outsourcing your bookkeeping services: Make sure you know whether the bookkeepers assigned are employees of the business you contract with, rather than independent contractors the business does not control. This is especially important when you are working with them virtually. Don’t give access to your bank accounts and other financial information to just anyone!
Evan White, Esq. or Joseph Harris, Esq., White Harris PLLC
Kevin Doherty, Esq. or Joel Greenwald, Esq., Greenwald Doherty LLP
Joseph S. Brown, Esq., Hurwitz & Fine PC
Jeffrey K. Davis, Esq., Davis & Associates PC
Everett Carbajal, Esq., The Carbajal Law Firm PC
Michael Einbinder or Terrence Dunn, Einbinder & Dunn LLP
Intellectual Property Attorneys
Renee Duff, Esq., Nolte IP Law Group
Amy B. Goldsmith, Esq. (Patents), Tarter, Krinsky & Drogin
William R. Samuels, Esq., Warshaw Burstein LLP
Michael D. Steger, Esq. (Trademarks)
Natasha A. Moskvina, Esq., Moskvina Law PLLC
Ebru Craft, My Risk Manager
John Shelonko, Risk Management Consultant
Michael Wiebe, Wiebe & Associates LLC
Yvonne Cort, Esq., Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld LLP
Workers Compensation Attorneys
Under your WC insurance contract, the carrier has a duty to defend you, which means counsel will be assigned for any litigated claims against your business. This benefit alone often makes the cost of the insurance worthwhile. More importantly, you are required to provide Disability, Paid Family Leave, and WC insurance for your employees–including those you mistakenly classified as independent contractors. Penalties for not providing the mandatory insurance accumulate at a rate of $2,000.00 for every 10-day period you do not have insurance. So, it’s far wiser to get the insurance than to risk the penalties and cost of claims, which often exceed $60,000.00 for medical expenses and lost wages.
Contracting with Other Independent Businesses
I defend a lot of employers who get the independent contractor relationship wrong. By the time most of them come to me, their penalties have accumulated and are $16,000.00 or more. Few have that kind of money in any cash reserves, especially right now. So, I created an online course to help employers self-audit their worker classifications. I’ll still help resolve the penalties, if you get a penalty notice, but let’s do everything we can to make sure you’re in compliance and never have to deal with that. Okay?
Hiring W-2 Employees
Notice that I described employees as “W-2 Employees”? Please note that there is no such thing as a 1099-MISC Employee. Your workers are either on your payroll and provided DB, PFL, Unemployment, and WC insurance, or they are independent business owners with contracts to perform services your business does not.
I’ve made my share of hiring and management mistakes with employees, but I’ve learned to continuously improve. So can you. Of course, if you need help at anytime throughout the employment relationship, please reach out to me or one of my trusted Employment Attorneys above.
Getting Free and Low-Cost Services
I am a big fan of taking advantage of free and low-cost options before you pay for someone to take something completely off your hands. That will require more effort from you, but your understanding of how all the moving parts come together can make a huge difference in your decisions going forward. There are a lot of people branding themselves as experts. You are less likely to waste time and money on them when you’ve done your homework, including by learning the basics of key business areas. Some of the places you can do this are:
- My Third Ear Conflict Resolution online school
- New York City Small Business Services
- New York City Bar Association
- Small Business Administration
- Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Want a do-it-yourself conflict tool?
Need more guidance on worker classifications?
Need one-to-one coaching?
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She helps managers and business owners have empowering conversations about emotionally-charged issues such as gender, race, religion, and disability. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018 & 2019), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).