The Design Entrepreneurs NYC (http://www.designentrepreneursnyc.com/) program is in full swing. One of the programs’ many offerings is an open classroom “mentoring” evening, where designers in the program can swing by and ask questions of instructors who are there for that purpose. It’s a great and informal way to get multiple opinions, points-of-view and advice on the designers’ company, business plan (which they write as part of the program) etc.
This recent Wednesday evening I was co-mentoring with Shawn Grain Carter, who teaches Fashion Merchandising and Marketing at FIT. The subject, as often happens, was brought up of designers negotiating with big companies – this could mean, contracts, licenses, royalties, intellectual property, employment, or all of the above. Many design entrepreneurs do these negotiations alone. Sometimes they feel they have enough knowledge to negotiate well for themselves. Sometimes they don’t know any better. Sometimes they don’t have the money to pay an attorney to go with them to help and advocate for them (and to keep them out of trouble). We discussed this in class and Shawn and I agreed that an entrepreneur absolutely needs an attorney to accompany them to such negotiation meetings. Or a business person, like an accountant. Or both. And Shawn advised everyone, and I agree, that they should have double A’s – an accountant and an attorney. They both keep you safe in any kind of business negotiation.
It’s a necessity in the fashion business but also in every sector. At the very least, there’s a second pair of ears listening to what’s going on and picking out important points that the entrepreneur might miss. At the very most, your A-team keeps you from making costly, and sometimes business-ending, mistakes. The world is littered with stories of failure because the entrepreneurs couldn’t or wouldn’t bring an attorney or accountant into a crucial negotiation (and, let’s face it, every negotiation when you’re a small business is crucial) with them.
I know you’ve heard me say this before…but repeating it never hurts…always use an attorney and/or accountant in contract reviews, negotiations, any business matter. The fees you pay your Double A-Team are minor compared with the money they save or help you get in the long run.