We are still on this mountain called, issues before issues. We arrived here last week and the fact that it a major stopover in our journey to the land of business exploits thorough proper legal counsel; we are here spending another week. Well it is a cozy harbor; to this much, those who hanged out with us last week can testify. If you do or don’t, one fact remains incontestable about our stay here today, we are in for a better time than last week.
Last week we considered it safe to drop the pen after we had examined the credentials of an expert. Without further preambles, we proceed today to discuss the reasons why we, as SME operators need the services of these experts, whose credentials we scrutinized last week. Note that we are going to be focusing on the legal practitioner as an expert that you cannot do without.
Now, don’t think we about to start making a case for experts or lawyers. No! Not all. The truth is that this column is neither for lawyers nor experts. It is for you. The mission here is to make a case for you. We need to labour in this clarification because we don’t want your perception to be wrong. Because once your perception is wrong, you can never be impacted and our joy is only full when you are fully impacted.
Going straight to the issue: why do we need a lawyer or any expert’s advice? Let us quickly run through the following six points in finding satisfactory answers to the question asked:
1. A sign of vigilance:
We live in a selfish world where people don’t do business according to the dictates of their conscience but at the expense of the other person’s ignorance. Our consciousness of this fact helps us to be vigilant in our business dealings. And since we cannot see beyond our knowledge, we may need trained eyes to help us out. Where we pretend to see beyond our knowledge, we may have set a snowball rolling and when we do that, we only know the beginning, the end is never predictable. Did I hear the wise ones say, ‘a stitch in time saves nine.” Well that is a perfect wisdom key for this situation.
2. A viable antidote to lack of integrity in business:
Our nation Nigeria is plagued with the lack of integrity virus. For many business people integrity is not a prerequisite in business dealings. As a SME businessperson, who intent to do business on the platform of integrity we must protect ourselves against the bug of perfidy in business and one of the ways to do that is to ensure that our transactions are documented under the watchful and informed eyes of experts, particularly lawyers.
For example, a young model entered into a contract with a company. The contract was that his pictures would appear on their billboard. He discovered that the picture was used for other purposes. He did not need to fight. He merely contacted his lawyers and he was duly compensated. Why? Simply because the contract was properly documented under the supervision of his lawyer.
3. Aiding the need to keep records straight:
When you employ the services of an expert, it helps you to keep different kinds of records. For example if you engage the service of an accountant, you keep standard financial records; when you use a lawyer all documents of business transactions are kept properly.
4. Promoting image making and prestige:
Perception is very important in business, particular to SME. This is call packaging and image making. It talks about the impression we give clients of ourselves. And you know that as Small Businesses, we have a lot of point to prove. We live in a country where perception is very important. Once you are discussing with a client and you introduce the subject of a lawyer it introduces respect. It gives your business a corporate outlook, which is the language the some of the people you are dealing with understand perfectly. This may sound funny, but the reality is, a principle does not need to sound logical for it to before its veracity is established. Don’t forget we are in Africa where the basis for respect can be sometimes ludicrous.
5. It introduces caution:
When you introduce the issue of legal or experts’ advice, healthy caution is introduced. Those who are dealing with you become aware that they cannot ride roughshod on your rights as a businessperson.
6. It gives you the full view, knowledge and proper legal implication of the transaction at hand, which promotes proper and realistic business dealings.
Having established the reasons why we cannot do without experts’ advice as small businesses, we have almost come to the end of these preliminary issues, but just before that I beg to address one more issue. What is this issue that will keep us on this mountain for few more minutes? It is our inability to stick to experts’ advice even when, we have accessed them. For the purpose of brevity, I choose to speak in points, viz:
Pressure either from within or without will stop us from reaping the benefits of experts’ advice. What is pressure within? This is a self-inflicted agitation imposed by lack of confidence in one’s services or products. When a businessperson becomes a victim of the foregoing, his decisions are propelled by fear and not an adherence to the due process of decision-making in business. External forces, that is, our clients, exert pressure without. It is an effort aimed at getting us to make permanent decision without an opportunity to consider all the factors. The first check against falling victims of pressure in business decision-making is to deliberately think of what you can lose if you don’t follow the due process, which may include experts’ advice.
We are pressured most of the time into unwise decisions when we are dealing with influential client, who may be bigger than us. Now, to be free from pressure, you must guide against what I call, ‘the rain-beating chicken mentality.’ What is the ‘rain-beating chicken mentality?’ Three things characterize the life a rain-beating chicken. The first thing is that it is sickly, it’s fearful and the most significant one is that it is obvious to everybody that it needs help. We cannot avoid presenting ourselves as the weeping child of the marketplace. When we present ourselves a weeping child, we become the whipping child. We must understand that we have rights and obligations. We are in the marketplace because we have identified a need. So we are valuable. And we cannot behave less. To behave or carry ourselves less is to be taken for granted and pressured out of business. Make it therefore a rule of thumb never to make a business decision under pressure.
- Lack to personal integrity and courage.
Now the strength of any expert’s advice is a readiness of the recipient to follow it to the letter. There is no point going for expert’s advice if we know that we will not follow it. Now, no one can follow an expert’s advice through except by the power of courage, discipline and integrity. It is one thing to know what to do. It is another to have the moral courage and strength of character to follow it when the ships are down. Many things stare at us in the face when we want to apply principles. One of which is the fear of losing a contract or how to get another I we lose the one at hand insisting on principle.
- There is always this unfounded and superstitious African belief that business dealing will not always go sore. The reasons for that conclusion are always two for two categories of businessmen and women:
- The mentally lazy and ignorant African Business man and woman, who believe things cannot just go wrong. When you probe into the basis of such assurance, they can’t give facts, either puerile or sound. They forget that business functions by facts and not by fictions. If not so, why do we carry out market research, feasibility studies etc? The question we ask such people is this, does a business deal, which is going to generate problem, have special features or colors? Like a tragic day, business deals that will generate problems do not have special features.
- Religious zealots, who have zeal without knowledge. They say stuffs like ‘nothing will go wrong because I believe in God.’ They simply equate foolishness with faith. Faith in God is a principle that has tenets and except you are committed to the tenets you are not applying faith.
In rounding off these issues before the issues, I ask the question, where are these experts that we need as small businesses? Considering our purse, they are our friends, our neighbors, our family members, old classmates, mentors etc. who recognize the state of our business and will charge us little or nothing for standard advice and are ready to grow with us.
We see next week as we begin to explore the deeper matters of the law as they affect small businesses. Shalom.