296: The Importance of Legal Guidance for Entrepreneurs – with Elisa Ruer

296: The Importance of Legal Guidance for Entrepreneurs - with Elisa Ruer

Meet Elisa

Elisa has been practicing law for over 20 years specializing in business and corporate law. Elisa helps you with all aspects of your business from forming an entity, starting a business, buying or selling a business, drafting, reviewing, and negotiating all types of contracts. Are you starting a new franchise or buying or selling a franchise? Definitely connect with Elisa. Assisting with real estate transactions involving leasing, buying, and selling, she’s got you covered.

When is it important to find an attorney when starting or buying a business?

I think as soon as you know that you want to start, you just want to form your entity or you’re looking to buy a business or start a business. There’s a lot of steps, there’s a lot of information on the internet, and it’s all valuable. But you really need to hook up with someone who can make sure that you’re protected in terms of making sure that your structure is right, that you filed all the correct forms, that you have everything you need so that you’re not scrambling at a later date for documents or for what you need. So the sooner the better is always what I tell people.

What do you say to people that just say they’re going to Google for the templates for these contracts?

It’s a great resource, but there are two drawbacks. The biggest one came up for people during PPP, I had a lot of lenders calling me because they had people that started their own business, and they went ahead and filed their articles online. They might have gotten the EIM because they had an accountant or CPA, but they didn’t have their operating agreement or their shareholders agreement and you needed that to get some of the PPP money. So I drafted a lot of those for people, a lot of times people follow the instructions, but they don’t think it’s necessary, or they’ll use a template for an operating agreement or a contract and it doesn’t always fit their situation. The biggest issue comes up when people are doing a lot of research and they’re cutting and pasting from different sources. Then you have a contract that at the end of the day conflicts within itself. That does not help anyone if an issue arises between partners, members, or if you’re sued. So Google is a great resource, but you’ve got to know where you’re inserting it, how it’s used, and how it relates to other provisions within a contract.

Do you recommend getting an attorney up front and not just when you’re actually ready to sign a contract?

There’s a lot of different aspects to it when you’re looking to buy. First of all, there’s a lot of people you need that are involved, that need to look at things. So when people come to me, one of the greatest benefits with my network in the last few years it’s the best of the best that I get to work with. So if you come to me at the beginning, when you’re starting to look, we can get you with the right lender, we can get you with a CPA, there are other people to look at the documents. So when you take us first, we might do a letter of intent, we might do an asset purchase agreement or stock purchase agreement, but you want to make sure that everything’s in there, so that you can do your due diligence, and that we’re bringing other people on. CPAs are great at looking at the financials. So the sooner you bring an attorney on or someone in your network on like a CPA, that will hook you up with the other people like the insurance people, the lenders, the better because you can waste a lot of time and money, a lot of time too just trying to see where you’re at. Whereas once you get the attorney or you get somebody that’s going to work with you, you’re able to move forward on it and see whether or not it’s actually a viable purchase for you.

Word on the street is you’re literally available 24 seven, why are you so accessible?

I am. With what I do, no one’s going to die, and no one’s going to jail. Now my firm partner does criminal so yes, some people do go to jail. But most of the time when people are calling me at unusual hours, meaning it’s 11 o’clock on a Friday night, it’s because they’re up and they’re worried about something. I always think that I’m up, and my phone rings, and I can pick it up, I might as well pick it up and see what’s bothering you. Chances are, it’s not that serious. I understand that at the moment it is for you, but we can resolve it. So I just feel as if there’s no need for people to have to wait till eight o’clock on a Monday to call me. Sometimes if you just call me I explain to you why you should be worried or you shouldn’t be worried, or what we’re doing to make sure that nothing negative happens. A lot of times I have clients where we’re working on matters for them and it is forefront in their mind. They’re not going to lose their house, they won’t lose their job, but it’s all-encompassing. So if I can help you for just a moment remember that nothing bad is going to happen it helps people feel better. So I am pretty much 24/7. There are a couple of other attorneys on LinkedIn that I’ve gotten to know and other states that are the same way, so I’m not the only one. My firm partner does the same thing, mostly because he does criminal law and we have to be able to respond to those people right away.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you had?

So I just started networking about two and a half years ago and it is amazing. You get to reach out and meet the most incredible people that can help your clients. It isn’t so much about gathering leads for yourself, it’s more who can I meet that I that can help my clients? My best networking story is a LinkedIn one about a year and a half ago. It was Labor Day and I was at work and heavy hitter at the time on LinkedIn posted a picture of himself about a business and he had cotton candy. I realized it was Labor Day and I had not had any cotton candy all summer. I commented, “I haven’t had cotton candy all summer, I’ve been in my office,” and within five or six minutes, he responded and said, “Somebody get this girl cotton candy!” Within another four or five minutes, I’m one of the top producers of organic cotton candy, who actually supplies to Disney, called me and messaged on LinkedIn that he was sending me a case of his cotton candy, and he did. I was just blown away. There were a bunch of attorneys out in New York that caught onto that because they knew who he was and they thought it was kind of amazing situation because it’s little Elisa from Wisconsin, and all these big-time attorneys and these people out in New York, and one of the attorneys works in Miami, and I am licensed in Florida as well as Wisconsin and he and I have been doing business now. So to me, that’s just amazing.

How do you stay in front of and nurture these relationships that you’re creating?

I think a lot of it is just continuously showing up for the networking events. This is a personal statement, I’m better in person, I find zoom more exhausting than when you’re in person. But I think that you have to stay on it even if you’re you know your desk is covered with work and you think, “Well, I still need to show up to this event because other people may need something that I have or may need a contact that I have.” The other part of it that I feel very strongly about and I’ve been very fortunate because a lot of the networking groups that I’m in feel the same way that when we get a referral from someone. Obviously, I treat everyone with the same amount of respect and I’m grateful my phone is ringing, but at the same time, if you refer someone to me, you are really putting yourself out there because if I don’t take care of them, that’s a poor reflection on you. So I think one of the joint feelings that all the people in a couple of my networking groups have is that when we get a referral, we are so grateful that we realize what we do impacts, not just the person that needs the assistance, but the person that gave the referral. So we all treat each other that way and so there’s this mutual respect with these groups of people. I think it just betters all of our clients and it betters ourselves in our own work.

What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?

You have to take chances, you have to be willing to step into some networks that you’re not sure if you belong there or not. You also have to know when to leave, there are some networking groups I’ve been in where I am not a good fit for them, I just know it. So you have to be able to say, alright, this isn’t working for me, or it’s not working for them so I need to move to another group and find another group that works better for you, in terms of what you can bring to the table for other people, and then what they can bring to you for your client base. But I don’t think there’s any shame in moving around and trying different groups and then saying, sometimes people outgrow groups, I’ve heard people say that. I’m in one group I love and I’ve been in it for almost two and a half years now since I started networking. Some people say I’ve outgrown it, and that’s fine for them. I obviously haven’t outgrown it, I think it’s a great group so you have to accept that sometimes maybe you do outgrow things, maybe you don’t.

If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?

I think that I would definitely tell myself I needed to network earlier on. I think the biggest thing I would have told myself is well, one is technology. I’ve never ever been a big technology person I’ve only really gotten into it in the last five to six years and I love it now. So I probably wouldn’t tell myself to take a little more interest in technology. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t have done. I got out of undergrad, I’ve always worked, and going to school full time I got my master’s degree. Then when I had enough money, I could go to law school. So there isn’t anything that I would do differently because it gave me experiences that I had and I met people that have played into my life all along. I think the one thing that’s interesting that I do share with a lot of people is one of the largest transitions that I had was a year and a half ago and I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was working with another attorney who is now my firm partner. He does criminal law and we met through a mutual client and he said we should merge and I’m like, “I’m not merging, I’m better by myself, but I’ll refer to you.” He’s a great litigator and I was referring to him and he said we really should merge. This is after about a year and a half and I’m like I really don’t want to merge my practice, I’m used to just it running on my own, it’s easier. One Saturday, I was sitting at my desk at work, and I got an email and I’m looking to the left at it as I’m drafting a document, I’ll never forget it and he merged us without telling me. I don’t really think you’re supposed to do that. Then he called me three minutes later and said, “I’m at Chase Bank, could you come down?” And I’m like, “What are you doing?” He says, “I just merged us, I don’t care what you think we’re merging, come down here we’re opening up business accounts.” It’s a great story and it’s funny, but the truth is it’s taken us a year and a half to get our act together, but it’s actually working. It was probably one of the best decisions I didn’t make that someone else made for me.

We’ve all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who is the one person that you’d love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?

There are so many people that I would like to connect with. I think that there have been few people that have wanted to connect with that I’ve been able to. There’s one attorney that’s on LinkedIn that posts a lot, and I’ve met other people around him and I really would like to reach out to him. I could do it directly within one degree, but I’m just afraid to. It’s sort of like one of those where the person so high up that you think you just don’t want to do that. But at the same time, I’m only one degree away. So I think I have a better chance I just have to get brave and do it.

Do you have any final words of advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

I think that you just have to always remember that your clients and your customers are very important. And when you’re in your networking groups, you have to look at all the people that you’re with, that they’re your customers, your clients as well, and that you’re both going to work together to help each other’s clients and customers so that their businesses do better. Because when my clients succeed, I succeed. So I just feel like that’s the best way to stay in front of your network and just remember what the purpose is.


Connect with Elisa:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elisa-ruer-attorney/ 

Visit Elisa’s Website: https://www.praktesslaw.com/