Scaling your business doesn’t happen overnight, and it is neither a one-man show. How do you ensure that your business is ready to move to the next level? In this episode, lawyer, expert advisor, entrepreneur, and ScaleUP Strategist Lauren Cohen reveals an assessment system she has perfected for the seven areas of risks that your company should be protected from. This system allows you to look at every angle of your company to make sure that you have a solid foundation and a bulletproof business to scale. It is a fact that if you want to run your business as a business, you’ve got to stop looking at it as a hobby and get all your safety nets ready.
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Scaling Your Business with Lauren Cohen
We will be talking about scaling up your business because scaling is important. You want to grow sustainably and even better yet, as you’re building this asset, why not prepare it for sale? It’s scale for sale. I have an expert with us that is the ScaleUP strategist. Lauren Cohen is an internationally licensed legal and business advisor who has developed a system to assess business risks and gaps paving the path to increase profits and a lucrative exit. For over twenty years, Lauren and her team at e-Council Inc.com and ScaleUP Enterprises have advised US and international businesses, providing concierge-level, professional guidance in many areas critical to success, including professional business plans, financing, legal and compliance matters, insurance and licensing, and operational systems and security. Lauren is also a non-profit specialist both in terms of setup and ongoing operations and compliance. We have a great guest. Lauren, welcome.
Thank you, Penny. It’s such a pleasure to be here.
I’m excited to talk about scaling to sales. I’m working on some programs to help people look at their business from a different perspective and understand why companies are failing to scale. Before we get to that question, I just want to get some background about you. What made you want to become a lawyer. How did you get to where you are now?
My first recollection of wanting to be a lawyer was when I was eleven years old. I was reading the newspaper at my grandparents’ apartment in Toronto, which is where I’m from originally. All these classifieds were about divorce. I said, “I want to be a divorce lawyer.” I remember my grandmother asking me why. I said, “I want to help people that are not treated well and make sure that the kids are protected.” I don’t even know where that came from. I never ended up being a divorce lawyer, although I work with many. I ended up becoming a corporate lawyer. I’m doing a lot of mergers and acquisitions and transactional work.
In doing that, I also ended up working in the immigration field extensively here in the US. I worked with many different companies that were on the verge of scaling or bringing their businesses in the US. They needed to scale in order to keep their visas and businesses that were fledgling. They were trying to figure out why and not understanding what was missing in their formula from allowing them to scale, going to these coaching programs that are $20,000 to $30,000 a year. I’m getting all this coaching, but nobody asked me about the corporate structure, insurance and all that stuff that can sustain you as you’re continuing to do your sales and marketing.
I realized that there was a missing piece. These businesses need something to help them put that foundation in place, to help them to look at these seven risk areas that I cover and figure out where the gaps are and how to fill them. I created this assessment, which I will be happy to share with your readers. It’s a pretty cool assessment. It’s fun. It’s an eye-opening assessment because the most common response I get when I ask people, “What did you think of the assessment?” It is eye-opening because it makes you think about things that you didn’t think about.
I think it is important. Business owners are wearing many hats. Something’s going to fall through the cracks. We know that everything that works, works up to a point and then we hit a plateau. It’s not only the systems and structures that we have, but it’s also the systems and support people that we’re working with, people we surround ourselves with. It’s important for everyone who’s reading to think about what got you here, celebrate it and be grateful for it. We also need to think about when you want to scale and take your business to the next level, who do you need to surround yourself with? What kind of support systems, coaches and consultants do you need? We don’t get there on our own. The best way to get there is to compress time and to use people that have the expertise that put you on the right path right away. It’ll save you countless hours and thousands or millions of dollars.
The challenge is that when we are entrepreneurs, we do try to do everything ourselves. For example, 50% of my clients and those who want to be my client, at some point, have downloaded a legal document off the internet. It has a certain name. Let’s call it a consulting agreement for example. They can say, “That’s a consulting agreement. I can use that for my new independent consultant.” Not so much. It’s a big problem.Stay in your lane. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about that. I want to hear about that. A lot of people think that they can use a standard contract and that will be fine. Why is that not fine? Let’s explain.
There are so many reasons. When I talk about the seven secrets to scale-up success and the seven risk areas to avoid, one of the secrets is not to download random internet resources and it also is within the seven risk areas to avoid. There are a plethora of reasons. A document you find online that called X may not be X. Maybe X for a certain type of business, but not X for your business. It may be that consulting agreement is not for the type of consulting that you’re contemplating. It could be in a different state or a different country and have different laws. It’s not always plug and play.
We’re wired to think that we can just plug and play everything. That’s an important point that it’s completely out of context. There’s going to be risks involved with using that.
In a lot of ways, you end up putting yourself more at risk by downloading a document in that way and purporting to use it as your agreement of record. You’re not having anything because of the napkin agreement that can be as binding as any other agreement. The difference is you are recording those provisions yourselves as opposed to taking something and making it yours. I saw a document as a precedent that I was looking at. It was for a government entity. The government entity would not have worked for my client. It was a disaster because it had all of these provisions that it would meet certain criteria and qualify with the school system. It was crazy. It’s a big ongoing problem. That’s one of the many challenges that you have by not working with an attorney.
Let me ask you a question on a contractual basis. People are selling products online, do they need to consult a lawyer to have proper agreements in that context as well? People think that lawyers are expensive. How can I have a standard common person to work with me legally that I can afford to hire and only have a certain amount to pay? How could that work for me as an entrepreneur?
There’s a couple of answers to that. The first one is not all lawyers are super expensive. If you’re selling products online, absolutely. Not only are there contractual requirements for the products and services that you’re selling online, but you need to have your website reviewed in a major way. There are website provisions, terms of service, ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and GDPR compliance. If you have anybody looking at your website in Europe, there’s compliance up the wazoo that people are not complying with. What’s happening is X down the street that is jealous of you or I have a small hotelier down here in Florida. She has five very small almost like Airbnb, but they’re her own-brand hotels. One of her colleagues was fined $12,000 because her website did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s a lot of money for a small business.
It would seem like a small technicality.
It’s not and the challenge is it is the Federal government. The federal government has a Whistleblower Law that encourages people to report violations because they get 30% of whatever the federal government recovers. This is a big deal.
I’ll get a new job and be a whistleblower. That sounds pretty good.
This is a big issue that’s not going away. As our websites continue to be our main calling card, it continues to be a growing problem. The challenge is that there aren’t many lawyers that offer a package solution. I have a colleague that I work with, my affiliate, who has packages of templated documents. I love these packages. I would be happy to share them with any of your readers that want to speak with me. If you’re working with myself on that, we can make sure that they meet what your needs are. You don’t want to just pick something and think that it meets your needs. You want to make sure that you’re working with somebody that has your back.
That’s the key. You said somebody that’s got your back. If you use somebody once, it’s not the same as having a real legal partner. Most entrepreneurs need to have one. They just don’t know or they don’t feel they have the funds to do so. That’s a great offering.
That is why I developed what I did. There is a demand for something that goes beyond some of the multilevel services that you have like to access a lawyer and get a will or having a law firm on call which most entrepreneurs don’t need and can’t afford or don’t want to afford or bringing somebody in-house to work in your firm. What most entrepreneurs need is an in-house lawyer without the law firm price that’s available on speed dial to be there for the what-if’s that do happen. We’ve gone through six days of complete chaos down in South Florida because of a hurricane that we didn’t know whether it was coming, when and where it was coming. It’s been crazy. Businesses are put in a state of disarray. It’s not just the insurance that you need to have in place. If you don’t have the insurance in place for your physical business or if your business was interrupted because of the hurricane, you’ve got no coverage for that.
That can put a lot of businesses out of business.
The reality is that once you lose power, you can be put out of business and it’s a big challenge. Why not work with somebody like myself that are going to look at these seven areas like an in-house lawyer does. This is to make sure that you’re covered in all seven of these areas. We want to develop a successful plan so that you can scale and grow by ensuring that these seven areas are covered as you move forward with your business and that you’re protected throughout the process. You don’t want to have your business interrupted and not have the means to respond to that or the backup plan.
In your opinion, are these seven areas the reason why companies fail to scale?
There are so many reasons.The challenge with entrepreneurs is that they always try to do everything themselves. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about the seven areas.
There are funding and capitalization.
Cashflow is the number one thing that sets businesses out of business.
Business planning, which includes mission, vision, and exit. I am a strong proponent, to begin with, the end in mind and have an exit strategy. We saw and heard from Michael Gerber who’s all about having the exit not at day 500, but on day 50. Branding and marketing, legal and compliance, financial and taxes. You’ll notice that these are all twos. It’s really fourteen but I condensed it into seven. Financial and taxes, operations and system security, which are your backup systems and insurance and licensing. I am not an expert in five of these seven areas at all. There are only two areas that I’m an expert in. One is legal and compliance. The other is business planning. I’ve been writing business plans for many years.
I know who to-go-to when it comes to systems when it comes to operations. I know who to-go-to when it comes to financial and taxes. That is not me. I’m not going to be the person to be comparing the books, looking at your financials, developing a financial plan for you and working on your taxes. I’m not going to be the one that’s going to do your branding and marketing. I’m going to be the one that’s going to say you’re missing something. You may be the one to trademark huge potential boon for your business, but you’re not even looking at that opportunity because you don’t see the forest for the trees.
They are so caught up in their business. This gives them the ability to step back and look across all different areas of their business. What I like about that is very often, you’ll go and you’ll talk to somebody who’s in branding and marketing. They’re biased. They’re looking to sell their services. I like that you cover one or two of those areas, but you don’t cover all of them. You’re going to be able to be unbiased in your review of my business. You’re not looking to sell me something in that space. People get freaked out sometimes when they’re like, “Everybody’s trying to sell me something.” That’s where I see a huge value in this assessment. You’re getting an ability to step back and to see things from a broader perspective.
I love these seven areas because there are things that you don’t think of on a daily basis, on a weekly basis and sometimes not even a monthly basis. You may not be looking at your cash flow and your profitability and how you were making sure that you have enough cash flow to cover future investments for contingency. Cashflow is needed if for some reason your business operations stopped. You need to be thinking of having cashflow in reserve. Is this assessment an online thing that I can take? How would people get this assessment?
It’s online. I created it and it’s my baby. Once they take the assessment, they can opt for a strategy session or a mini-session with me. The strategy session would give us a chance to go through the results of the assessment and figure out what the gaps are and how to fill them. I do have strategic partners in most of these areas that can fill most of the gaps. It depends on what you need. We can work together to make sure that you implement it properly. I have a three-step process, assess, diagnose and deliver.
In the assessment phase, that’s the assessment itself. We have quizzes and then an assessment that assessed the gaps. Diagnose is the element of preparing a success plan to fill the gaps. It’s diagnosing the solution to fill those gaps with the success plan that I’ve created. That’s phase two. Phase three is the delivery. That’s where you deliver on the elements identified in the success plan as the ways to fill the gaps. In between those two steps, diagnose and deliver, is where I’m going to come in as an outsourced legal advisor/coordinator of these seven elements to create an implementation strategy with you as the client. I’ll figure out what the priorities are and how to make sure that the gaps are filled with those parties as quickly as possible, create a strategic plan and move forward. I work with you on a six to eighteen-month basis on the implementation of that. I become your outsourced in-house person.
That’s the three-step plan that you work with people. If people aren’t ready to work with somebody for a twelve to eighteen-month basis, getting some experience in identifying where the gaps are and where the risks are is a great first start. You got to start somewhere. That’s a great place for people to start. I am into assessments as well. I do distraction assessment. I help people to find out where they are if they are a squirrel or a time zombie or a wizard. The reason that these assessments are important is that they give us a heightened awareness of where we are now. A lot of times we know, but we don’t own it. The assessment helps us to own it, put a number to it and get clarity of how bad or what level the risk is. In your experience, how has that served people that you’re working with to create this heightened level of awareness?
It goes both ways. Some people get a heightened level of awareness and they stick their head back in the sand. Others are like, “It’s time to take action.” The latter is less common, but a few months later when they’re ready to move their business forward, that’s when they’ll say, “Now, I’m ready.” They may not be ready when they take the assessment, that’s when they do that eye-opening exercise. A few months down the road, when they need to scale or bring in a joint venture partner or potentially an investor or past due diligence or consider an exit, that’s when they start realizing, “Now, I’ve got to take action.”
Isn’t it too late sometimes? What’s the cost for a company when they wait too long?
It can be huge, especially if you create legal problems for yourself. That’s the difference between hiring a lawyer as an insurance policy and hiring a lawyer to put out the fire. Most people, unfortunately, wait until the fire happens so that they are then putting out the fire. Unlike here in South Florida, most of us ordered up our homes. I have impact windows. I spent that. I put that insurance. Granted that the hurricane didn’t come our way, but we still got ready. The people that didn’t get ready, that’s probably their call, but who knows?
As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” We know that because we’re strategists. Even if it doesn’t happen now, it’s going to happen. You’re going to get that letter in the mail. You’re going to get that lawsuit at your door. You’re going to get that complaint. You’re going to get that stuff that you can’t stick your head in the sand anymore. You’ve got to come out of the ether and realize that this is real. If you want to run your business as a business, you’ve got to stop looking at it as a hobby. You don’t want to expose your family as well. That’s a whole other dimension of risk that you need to avoid. This is why it’s so important to work with professionals.
When you do get yourself into and you are hiring somebody to be more the firefighter, the emotional stress that you have at a time like that because I was thinking about productivity. This show is partially about how to be more productive. When you have the right resources supporting your business, then that enables you to be more productive, to take that mind share and give it to someone else. If you’re worried about what might come up or what risks are there in your business, give that over to somebody else. I was thinking when something goes wrong, our productivity goes down to zero. We’ve got not only this problem to deal with, but we’ve got all the stress that’s associated with it. Often, people don’t think about it and how that can create problems with our health as well.
Our personal health and our business’s health.If you want to run your business as a business, you've got to stop looking at it as a hobby. Click To Tweet
What’s the productivity tip that you would give since also this show is about time management, productivity, how to compress time. What’s something that you do that makes you more productive in your day-to-day?
I do not try to do everything myself. I stay in my lane. There are times when I am a typical entrepreneur and try to do too many things that are not in my wheelhouse. My four favorite words stay in your lane. I think that outsourcing, delegating, bringing in professionals and realizing that there’s no I in team is essential to having a productive, scalable and ultimately a saleable business. Productivity and scalability are definitely interconnected. You can’t be productive without covering all of these bases. You cannot have a scalable business unless you’ve improved your productivity and efficacy throughout the process. That would be the most important thing.
Rely on professionals. Don’t be afraid to talk to us because you’re afraid of what the price ticket might be. Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Some of us are available to you. We’re not just here to take your money. We’re here to help you because it helps us and enhances our business. There’s a way to create affiliate relationships, joint venture relationships, and cross-marketing relationships. Use and work with people that are collaborative so that you can build something together that’s for the ultimate good of the client and for you.
Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your seven areas of risk. Can you go through those one more time?
Once you take the assessment, I have a cool online brochure. I can share that with you as well, Penny. It’s pretty cool and it identifies a lot of this. I have also a quick brochure that’s fun and easy. The seven areas are funding and capitalization, cashflow. How well are you funded? Do you have enough capital or you bootstrap? Business planning, including mission, vision, and exit. You must begin with the end in mind. We build your GPS but we can’t build your GPS without a destination. You have to know where you’re going. Branding and marketing, legal and compliance, operations and systems and security, backup, financial and taxes, insurance and licensing. You can’t operate a business without at least some element of all seven of these and in many cases, more elements of most of them.
Where can they reach you? What’s the website that they can go find this assessment?
The easiest way to reach me is through ShowMeTheMoneyQuiz.com, which is a fun and easy quiz. We also have ScaleUpCheckUp.com. That’s the main website. If you go to ScaleUpCheckUp/money, you can also access the quiz. I’ll share the assessment with you, which is also on the website and I’ll share the coupon code. I am very prevalent on LinkedIn at Lauren Cohen. I have a lot of connections. If I can help with any of the connections you’re looking for, I’d be happy to. On Facebook and all social media, it’s @ScaleUPCheckUP. I’m also an immigration attorney. I have a big profile and I’ve written two books. There’s a lot of ways to find me. The problem is that when you put Lauren Cohen, you get the actress all the time.
Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Penny. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you all for being here because you are the bedrock of this show. At the end of the day, it’s about taking a step back and looking at your business with fresh eyes, looking at the big picture of not just two but all seven components. Planning and thinking about what you’re going to do moving forward so that you’ve got that balance included in each area. One thing that’s so important to scaling your business, running your business efficiently and effectively, growing and building a powerful team inside and outside, is to stay in your lane. Hire other people who are either your employees who are doing the jobs that need to be done that have the expertise or outsource, whether it’s marketing or your systems that support. Stay in your lane and let others support you in doing what they do best so that everybody wins. It’s a win-win situation. Thank you all for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.
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- @ScaleUPCheckUP – ScaleUp
About Lauren Cohen
When entrepreneurs and business owners want to ensure they have a sound corporate infrastructure for growth, need to protect their financial interests, wish to craft a professional strategic business plan, or plan to eventually execute a profitable exit, they call expert advisor and attorney Lauren Cohen.
For over twenty years, Lauren and her teams at e-Council Inc.com and ScaleUp Enterprises have advised U.S. and international businesses, providing concierge-level, professional guidance in many of the areas critical to success, including professional business plans, financing, legal and compliance matters, insurance and licensing, and operational systems and security. Lauren is also a non-profit specialist both in terms of setup and ongoing operations and compliance.
A graduate of York University and Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada, Lauren is also an expert in business immigration law, boasting a stellar record helping foreign entrepreneurs realize the “American Dream” by obtaining EB-5, E-2, L-1 and other business visas and starting a business in the U.S. or investing in an established corporation. In doing so, her clients have raised and invested millions of dollars in capital. Lauren has spoken throughout the world on the topics of business immigration and scaling businesses, and she was recently named to the faculty of the Forbes and INC.-renowned global networking and training program for successful business owners.
Lauren knows well the challenges and the efforts necessary to obtain a U.S. visa. She is Canadian by birth and immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2012. Prior to forming her e- Council Inc.com and ScaleUp Enterprises, she served as corporate counsel in various industries, during which time she became interested and involved in immigration law. Lauren’s best-selling book “Finding Your Silver Lining in the Business Immigration Process” offers a wealth of information and tools for those seeking to access U.S. markets through business immigration, and she also authored a second book entitled “A Burning Desire to Succeed: Striking the Perfect Franchise Match”.
In 2017, Lauren was recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Attorney-at-Law magazine and in 2018 received the “Leader in the Law” award from the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. She was recently featured on the global TV series Unlocking Your Limitless Life and has been interviewed on NPR and NBC-6 and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The South Florida Business Journal, The Palm Beach Post and several other news outlets and publications. Lauren is also a regular featured guest on webinars, podcasts, radio shows and other similar media.
Lauren also serves as legal strategist for many international groups and organizations and has spoken at several regional, national and international events as well as EB-5 Innovation Summits and Investor Conferences. She has also presented at numerous events for attorneys and other professionals, including locations in Canada, South America, Europe and Israel.