Most growing businesses would be pretty embarrassed if they didn’t have a strategy. A sales strategy. A marketing strategy. A financial plan. They’ve moved from start-up mode, where ‘winging-it’ was OK, to scale-up, where plans, strategies and processes are critical to helping their business grow.
But there’s one area where many businesses are still trying to wing-it. Where they’re happy to leave things until something goes wrong.
And that’s their legal.
Legal is often ignored or overlooked in favour of more exciting functions (we get that not everyone finds legal as interesting as us!). Until, of course, something bad happens. A disgruntled employee sues or a client refuses to pay, so legal specialists with sky high fees have to be parachuted in to fix the problem. And it all costs huge amounts of money and management time – completely unnecessarily.
So, what’s the alternative? How do you avoid wasting time and money? And how do you get your legal to grow up with the rest of the business?
Try this 3-step process:
1. You need to think differently. You need to see legal as a part of your ops team, and not treat it as an afterthought. Set the tone from the top of your organisation that legal is important and valued. You simply can’t afford to ignore it any more.
2. Have a legal strategy, budget and plan so that you can protect and make the most of your assets, as well as drive your revenues. Think about the big business milestones you might have coming up, like attracting investment, going into new markets and offering new products and services. Make sure your legal strategy helps achieve these.
Be aware of key potential risks and make sure that you are addressing these before they snowball. Do the thinking ahead of time, to minimise nasty, expensive surprises. And make sure that you get the right legal strategy and support to help you – having a lawyer with in-house experience and a commercial approach is critical. They can help you understand what you need to worry about and what you don’t. Also, make sure you have legal as a line item in your budget and ensure your lawyer sticks to it.
3. Finally, look at your processes. Do your processes make it easy for you to do business? Are customer contracts closed out quickly and effectively? Ineffective contracts can slow down your sales cycle and reduce revenue growth, whilst bad or unprofitable deals cost money and management time.
Do you know exactly what you’re required to deliver in that big contract you just signed, who’s responsible for what and what the risks are if you don’t deliver? Do your team know what they can or cannot sign and what they should escalate to you? Make sure that you have the right processes in the right place to make selling effortless and growing your business easy.