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What are the Secrets to Scaling Your Nonprofit with Lauren Cohen
Global entrepreneur and #1 bestselling author Lauren A. Cohen is an attorney licensed in both the U.S. and Canada. Lauren is an expert concierge immigration and business legal advisor boasting a stellar track record of success. Lauren has first-hand knowledge of the visa process, having herself immigrated from Canada in 2001, and later becoming an American citizen in 2012.
In 2008, Lauren started e-Council Inc. an internationally-acclaimed company focused on providing concierge strategic full-service solutions for businesses seeking capital and foreign entrepreneurs seeking access to the U.S. market. In 2017, Lauren established Find My Silver Lining, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping struggling single moms – and parents in general – to find their silver lining in a crowded world.
Continuing in the tradition of sound strategic solutions, ScaleUPCheckUP is Lauren’s newest initiative – an online risk assessment checkup tool for growing businesses in ScaleUP mode with the overriding mission of anticipating challenges before they happen. Designed in response to the challenges faced by so many entrepreneurs that simply do not understand the critical importance of proper professional guidance, and/or are afraid that the costs of protection are too high, ScaleUPCheckUP is poised to revolutionize the professional services industry and the way in which collaborative professional services are delivered.
For more information go to https://www.scaleupcheckup.com
Hugh Ballou: Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh Ballou. My guest today has a fascinating background and a real passion for helping leaders in any kind of organization. We are going to be specific about scale-up check-up and how it is of value to those of us leading charitable organizations. We like to say a “for-purpose” organization. We have for-profit and for-purpose. If you would kindly tell us who is Lauren Cohen, a bit about your background and what led you to doing this particular initiative today. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange, Lauren.
Lauren Cohen: Thank you. I will speak as loudly as I appropriately can without screaming. Hugh, it’s a pleasure to be on your show and to know you. I am excited about our opportunities together.
I am originally from Canada. I moved here in 2001 and became a citizen in 2012. I was doing immigration law outside the corporate transactional work internationally for seven years. I kept seeing these recurring themes among businesses who were seeking to raise capital and for entrepreneurs and businesses who were looking to come into the country. The recurring theme was they were really focused on sales and marketing and getting coaching and moving up the ladder and making money, but they weren’t so focused on getting a strong foundation in place. The reality is that you can’t really scale your business or often even stay in business if you don’t scale up your business.
In response to this recurring theme, I developed this online risk assessment tool which helps companies find their missing pieces, their gaps, and fill the gaps so they can scale up successfully. It is applicable to nonprofits because nonprofits need to scale as much as for-profits. At the end of the day, we’re all about making money. It’s about where the money goes that is the main difference between a for-profit and a nonprofit. As a social entrepreneur with a social consciousness, I am very focused on helping businesses be able to scale up successfully without hitting all these roadblocks along the way. Not to say that they won’t hit any roadblocks, but the roadblocks are going to be a lot more manageable, and they will be able to respond to them more effectively because they will have the right professional team and structure in place to be able to do that.
Hugh: Russell, this is Russell Dennis who has jumped on the call. You can tell the difference between us because I have more hair. That’s it.
Lauren: That’s the only difference I see.
Hugh: Russell, you guys got snow out there in Colorado, didn’t you?
Russell Dennis: A little bit. We got a little bit out here. It wasn’t a great deal, more in the mountains, about an inch or two here in Aurora.
Hugh: Lauren is jealous. She is in the Fort Lauderdale area, and she didn’t get any snow.
Lauren: I think I mentioned I’m originally from Canada. I grew up in Toronto, and I definitely know snow. I have a lot of good friends living in Colorado, including in the cannabis industry and outside of the cannabis industry.
Hugh: Lauren, tell us a little bit about- You are trained as an attorney. What kind of attorney?
Lauren: I am. I have been a corporate and immigration concierge attorney doing international law and handling international people through advisory services for longer than I care to acknowledge. I am licensed both in Canada and the U.S. I have been working with local entrepreneurs all over the world. You name it, I have been there. Europe, Israel, South America, and Canada, and the U.S. even. Mexico. It’s been an interesting ride. I have always felt a calling to the entrepreneurial side of my psyche. As much as I love being a lawyer and that training was great, I don’t love sitting behind a desk. I love being with people and helping people and making deals happen. The M&A lawyers who are on Wall Street, I am that type of mindset, but with my own clients and having a much more hands-on approach to working with clients and making sure all their moving parts are moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, there are so many different things that entrepreneurs and small business owners have to deal with in nonprofit and for-profit. They just don’t know who to trust and who not to trust. I became this trusted advisor on an ongoing basis and decided to turn it into a larger-scale opportunity to help these businesses scale and grow successfully. It’s a nice system. I am happy to share all of the steps with you. It’s a nice system that helps you get your structure in place as a blueprint to success. It’s like a business plan.
Hugh: Great. Do you have a volume control on your computer?
Lauren: I do, and I have it all the way up.
Hugh: That won’t help. I will bring you up when I do the edit of this. Let’s talk about the word “assessment.” Everybody uses it. I’m not sure any of us have a definitive paragraph or sentence that we can say to describe it. What is an assessment? Why is it important? why is it important especially for nonprofit leaders?
Lauren: Our assessment is quite different than a traditional assessment because we are assessing various foundational issues. Do you have your corporate minutes in place? Have you set up your structure properly? Do you perhaps have trademarks? A lot of these nonprofits are sitting on potential trademark or licensing opportunities that they may be overlooking. Did you put a business plan in place? Do you have an exit strategy in place? For nonprofits, an exit strategy is much different because you have to have an exit strategy for an IRS requirement. It’s a matter of looking at all the various components of getting your structure in place and making sure your structure is sound so you can scale and grow.
What happens, you will agree with me I’m sure, is I find all too often these small business owners, these accidental entrepreneurs, came up with this idea and suddenly grew. They didn’t pay any attention. It’s like building your dream home on a sinkhole. Suddenly, the sinkhole collapses, and your whole home collapses with it. I am here to make sure that doesn’t happen. I am there to help you get your business on a solid foundation and make sure you are not building on a sinkhole before you start spending all this time, money, and effort to scale your business. At the end of the day, you can only scale so far, and it will come crashing down if you don’t have that foundation. That could be assessed.
We are assessing your foundational infrastructure. We have a customized score report that we provide, and we have an analysis of what that score means and how you can improve your score so your foundation is stronger. We also have a quiz that I’ll share with everybody on the call. It’s a freebie, a free online quiz that helps you to see initially how committed you are and how committed your business is. Our mindset might be 100%, but our business may not be ready to match our mindset.
Russell: A lot of people mistake assessment and evaluation. They look at it as, It’s something I have to do to get somebody off my back. It could be the government or a donor. We are doing this because we have to. They talk about some aspects of their work when you ask them how they know you’re effective, “Oh, you can’t measure this.” How much of that do you see, and how do you address that when people come at you?
Lauren: If you can tell me the answer to that, I will have the idea that will get me on the front cover of Entrepreneur Magazine, which is where I’m going. It’s challenging. What I’m dealing with, and when I go on stage, I am making broccoli great again. It’s about that. when I am building the broccoli of your business, it’s not the ice cream, it’s not the fun stuff, it’s not the dollar dollar dollar, but at the end of the day, it really is. Even for a nonprofit, helping you get your structure in place will allow you to get more donor dollars, allow you to have a stronger valuation, allow you to potentially grow your business successfully, and this adds zero’s to your bank account. My new messaging is all about show me the money. If you have a strong foundation in place, you will be able to see more money, if it comes from donors, buyers, or both. Certainly a nonprofit can offer for-profit products and services and make money. It’s about what happens to that money that separates it from a for-profit business.
Hugh: You have a nonprofit yourself?
Lauren: I do.
Hugh: What’s it called?
Lauren: It’s called Find My Silver Lining. I established it in 2017.
Hugh: You used this assessment yourself?
Lauren: I did.
Hugh: When you talk about this, there is a strong element of enthusiasm and passion. Was part of the inspiration seeing so many people get stuck in the mud or walk in the wall or fall off a cliff?
Lauren: I want to say around February of last year, I have been a part of this coaching program. I offered to review some client agreements at no charge as a gift. In doing so, I realized that there were many business owners in that program that didn’t have their ducks in a row. Many had been in business for many years. I’m not saying that that’s not possible; it’s very possible. But once you hit a certain threshold, you’re not a mom and pop anymore, so you could be a target, not just for the IRS, but for litigation, potentially bankruptcy. People see opportunities. People want to challenge you. If you have a disgruntled employee, whatever the case is. As soon as you are starting to scale, your target becomes bigger. I kept seeing this. Oh my goodness, these amazing business owners are exposing themselves to risk. There has to be a way to address that risk and provide a solution. Ultimately what I am building is a home advisor for profits and nonprofit business owners to provide a resource of certified, vetted professionals like you guys who can provide a range of services: strategic services like legal, financial, accounting, insurance, business planning, exit strategies, all high-level B2B services that they are just finding on the Internet.
Finding these resources on the Internet is like going in the Yellow Pages. We all used them. AAA, so they would get to the front of that section. It’s the same as Google Ads. The more you pay, the higher you rank. That is where they will get the most traction. It doesn’t mean they’re the best. Does it mean they have been vetted? No. Because they are at the highest ranking, you are going to call them first. I am trying to be the antithesis of that. We won’t talk about the companies out there who are especially providing legal services that you have no idea what you’re getting. I have a client now who applied for a patent in June. They didn’t even know what a patent was. There is no guidance. There is nobody holding their hand.
What I have been doing for so long—I wrote a book called Finding Your Silver Lining in the Business Immigration Process. Everything is about finding the silver lining. Part of the reason is because to find a silver lining through adversity, my nonprofit is for single moms and single parents to help them find their way through the clouds. It’s all about that. In everything you do, if you have somebody to count on, a support system, entrepreneurs and small business owners are often running on empty. We are running on our own. We are isolated. We are trying to have an impact. It’s very hard to have an impact without the support and trusted advisors around you, so that is what I am building.
Hugh: You’re an attorney. You look at things differently than an ordinary person. You look at it as part of a risk assessment.
Lauren: That’s a good way of characterizing it, yes.
Hugh: You’ve seen people get in trouble unnecessarily.
Hugh: You’re looking at the holes. We’re looking at the donut; you’re looking at the hole. You see the silver lining, but you realize there are some holes. You’re talking about a corporation, be it for-profit or nonprofit, and that corporation is a liability shield. Without the right documents in place, people can sue you and come for you personally if they can pierce that corporate veil.
Lauren: Very big deal. People don’t realize that. They think if they have a company, they’re protected, and they’re not because people can come for you personally. That is another dimension of the problem.
Hugh: The compliance piece- recording your contracts, putting them in the corporate record book. Any agreements or expenditures. It’s about liability protection. It’s also about, you mentioned empower donors. Russell, it would occur to me we don’t always protect ourselves from audits, but it would make us audit-worthy if you had your records filed. What are you hearing here, Russ?
Russell: For me, the first step to building a high-performance nonprofit is having that solid foundation. There are a lot of things that go in there. If you don’t have the right legal protection or the right structure, moving forward, you have to have the right structure. For nonprofits, succession planning is critical, too.
Lauren: Big deal.
Russell: Moreso maybe than exit planning. Everybody plans to operate in perpetuity. That doesn’t always happen. But to have a succession plan so that you know how things are going to flow, no matter who is in the building at any given time, that structure sets a nonprofit up for success. Mitigating risks. I don’t think a lot of nonprofits think about risks, but risk is there. You have natural risks. You have legal risks just like any other entity. The thing that came to mind was a question because you deal with this so much on the structural side. We talk about it in terms of strategy, but we defer to legal experts, accounting experts, experts who have that critical knowledge in their field that will keep us in compliance and keep us operating correctly. When it comes to scaling, I know a lot of times growth comes out of nowhere. You catch fire. You go viral. All of a sudden, you have all of this money and donors and people approaching you. When it comes to being prepared in this, what would you say is the biggest gap that you see nonprofits have? What is the most common mistake they make when they are that point in time?
Lauren: It’s common for both nonprofits and for-profits although nonprofits are more guilty of this. Nonprofits think that because they have this designation, they are immune from challenge, or they are litigation-proof, or something along those lines. That just isn’t true. Nobody will come after us; we are a charitable organization; we have a 501(c)3 designation. Whatever the case is. Why would they come after us? We don’t have deep pockets. Really? A lot of them have deeper pockets because of the fact that they can distribute the income to their shareholders or the dividends or whatever. As a result, there is a lot of nonprofits out there that are extraordinarily successful. United Way, Red Cross, Jewish Federation. There is a huge amount of donors, very large businesses.
There is a colleague of mine in this coaching program who runs a nonprofit. He came to the coaching program, and he was looking to raise $2 million. That was his goal for the year. He ended up raising $20 million because he created this licensing program and sold it to other nonprofits, which is amazing. That is where there is an opportunity. It’s not just about assessing legal risk or legal vulnerability. It’s also about the opportunity that this presents to you. I was talking about trademarks, and a lot of nonprofits have access to trademarks but don’t know about them. In my report, I talk not only about risk, but also about hidden fortune. There is a lot of possible fortunes that these businessowners or executive directors might be sitting on that they could be making a great deal of money giving back to the community and making an even broader impact. I think that is where that missing link is. They don’t think about a nonprofit as a business. They think about it as a charity.
A lot of lawyers are guilty of this, too. Lawyers and service providers. Lawyers run their business as fee for service. I have developed this professional resource success plan, which outlines all the professionals that are needed to fill all the gaps in your armor and to potentially help you to scale and grow. We talk about mindset and coaching and opportunity and where do you want to go and your exit or your business succession plan.
You’re right. Every business needs a succession plan, whether it’s an exit or a legacy. No matter what, in order to be successful, in order for a for-profit business to be successful at due diligence or a nonprofit to be successful in their succession planning, they need that structure in place. they are just not paying attention it. They are coasting along, thinking about how much donor money they can get this year, and are they meeting your budget, and are their donors happy. This is all great stuff. But think about the potential of greater impact if you are able to get those pieces in place and make that difference. It’s like night and day.
For both of you, once we have the opportunity to work through this with some of your client base, you can see how much of a difference it makes. They are coming out exposed, and then they are going back in and getting their hair done and makeup. Now they are ready to show themselves to the public. You are not getting too much hair done over there, Russell. It is a completely different mindset.
I hear a lot of entrepreneurs work in their pajamas. I can barely work sweatpants even if I am working from home because that is not the mindset I want. I want to be in work mode no matter where I am. It’s important. I think it’s the same for for-profit business owners who are running a sole proprietor. They are not looking at it as a business; they are looking at it as a hobby. Until you make that transition, and look at it as a business, you’re going to stay at a certain plateau. You may scale; you may make money. But at a certain point, you’re eventually going to collapse.
Russell: As you talk about that, one of the things that comes to mind when you talk about opportunities and other things businesses have access to, a business revenue comes to mind. Opportunities for mission-based revenue. You also have unrelated business income, as far as, it’s money that’s possibly left on the table because people don’t think about bringing a valuable service. When it comes to revenue generation and protecting your intellectual property is important, it should separately be maintained and protected. Everything should be walled off. There is another discussion. When it comes to revenue, whether it’s business-related or unrelated, when you see organizations that have one or both, what are some of the biggest pitfalls you see them fall into?
Lauren: One of the things is that there is a limitation, but you still have to stay true. If you are a nonprofit and are providing for-profit services and products, you still have to stay true to your mission. If you start making millions of dollars and use it as a sham, so you can pass through income at a tax-free rate, or through a nonprofit to get the benefits of that, or raise money to do advertising, that is where the problems happen. The separation needs to be clean. If you start paying an executive director, suddenly they get a 100% salary increase, where is the money coming from? Where is the money going to? Are you circumventing the rule of putting the money back into the directors’ pockets? That is where the problems happen.
There is also an issue of fiscal sponsorship, as I’m sure you’re familiar with, and renting your nonprofit to another entity. There are ways to do it that are legal and kosher, as long as you follow the rules. But if you are just using your nonprofit as a sham or as a front for what you’re really trying to accomplish or for your for-profit business, you will lose your designation. It’s as simple as that.
Russell: It’s important to put your structure. You have to have a separate structure, especially for unrelated, but also business income, and mission-based revenue. You have to make sure the vast majority of those funds are going into your programs and operation of your nonprofit to keep from creating a tax event. Unrelated business income, you file separate returns. You pay taxes on that the way you do with others.
What happens is people can get distracted. People who approach a nonprofit can get confused. Do you find that nonprofits that are successful with generating large amounts of mission-based revenue, or maybe a substantial amount, a good percentage of the revenue they generate, do you find that they have difficulty getting donors because they see, “Well, they are making plenty of money. I don’t need to write them a check.”?
Lauren: It’s definitely a challenge. However, it depends on your mission and how impactful it is and how broad it is. I think that what happens with some nonprofits, and this is what should happen, is as they become more successful financially, their mission expands beyond their original intended scope, demographically or in terms of the people they are helping. There is room for that within the IRS code. As long as that happens, I don’t see it as a problem. But as soon as that is not happening, or once there is a compromise in that, it does create challenges.
Russell: The key is to structure and make sure everything is compartmentalized and appropriately reported. It’s about the systems you have in place. In order to scale, you have to have really good strong systems. What are the ones that you think are essential for them to have first? If you had to set systems up in a specific sequence for nonprofits, what would that be?
Lauren: Operating systems are critical for any business; I don’t care what business you are. You have to have an operating system for everything that happens from the time you answer the phone to the time you deliver the service until after that, all the way through, for the life of that relationship. You have to have a system in place for every single touchpoint with the prospective donor, with the donor, with following up with the donor, with if the donor moves. You have to have operating systems for all of your internal processes. They should be externally driven, one for your outbound touchpoints and one for your inbound stuff. How do your people work with each other? Who is responsible for your bank account? How many people are signing checks? What is the check and balance there? How does that all work? Every single thing should be documented.
When I started this, I didn’t realize how few businesses have systems. The only systems they have are the ones they pulled offline. That is the exception, not the rule. This is true of legal documents too because everyone goes online and pulls documents from there. It’s like filling out the 1023, the IRS 501(c)3 application. Oh, this is easy. I can do this. It’s just some forms. If that were true, there wouldn’t be all these businesses doing that. It’s very complicated. Even the 1023 form should not be done on your own. You need to make sure you are following the rules, and whatever you put in there is going to be systematized within your organization. What happens if the executive director quits someday? I’m sure this has happened to your clients. Uh oh, now what?
One of my messages is about dealing with the Uh oh, now what? You don’t want to wake up in the morning and say, What is going to happen today? I cannot imagine going to work today. Steve is doing this, and Joe is doing that, and Nina is doing this. Nobody is talking to anybody. We don’t have group meetings. Things are falling apart. The donors are frustrated. They don’t know what is going on. They are going to move their money elsewhere because they don’t know if they are getting their donation receipt. It’s a mess. One thing leads to another leads to another. I wish it was as true for the good things. The messy things have a more quick and efficient domino effect.
Russell: This is true. We call them internal controls, what you talk about, for the IRS. How do you control who handles what? What is your record-keeping like? That gives you the scope of any audit you do. The scope is based on several things. One is the corporate records. I know you mentioned that. I’d like to ask you to speak to that. As an auditor, when I walked into a corporation, I wanted the internal control polices. The corporate minute book was the first thing I reviewed.
Lauren: Was this on the for-profit side?
Russell: The for-profit side, yes.
Lauren: It’s similar. When you submit for a nonprofit designation, you submit all these bylaws, including a conflict bylaw. I can’t remember the title.
Russell: Conflict of interest policy.
Lauren: My brain went dead. This is so big in the nonprofit world. It’s almost like insider trading in the for-profit world. If you have created a bylaw and implemented it and approved it and ratified it, and it’s part of your corporate record-book, and you don’t adhere to it, it’s as good as throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks. This can put you in more harm than not having it in the first place. You’re purposefully going around what you implemented. That’s not cool. Your minute book depends on your state because some minute books, Delaware is strict on their minute book requirements and updates. Florida is less strict. The nonprofit requirements are different. But you need to follow your policies. Your bylaw policy said, We are going to have a board of directors meeting once a quarter. You need to have it and put it in the minute book once a quarter.
I will tell you something that you probably don’t know, and I shouldn’t say it out loud. If there are businesses out there that want help with their minute books, we can fix them after the fact as long as it’s before the auditor comes in. You just have to get everything up to date and in place. That’s important. You can’t fudge it, but it’s okay to do it after the minute you’re supposed to do it as long as you get it done. Let’s get together. Call us, and we can get it done with you so that we can make sure you won’t have a problem if the IRS or any other entity shows up at your door. Today, they’re not coming so fast because they’re still unfortunately on shutdown.
Russell: The greater likelihood over the few years is a state regulator will walk in your office because of the reduction, and the money has been moved out of regulation. That’s another discussion. It’s true with the 1023. There are certain things you represent that you’re going to do. What the auditors do is they look at your books and bylaws: Are you doing what you say you’re going to do? I know there are laws out there. But we go by what you say that you are going to do. That is a huge portion of what an auditor would look at as to determine if you are on track, if you are in compliance. Are you doing what you say you’re going to do? These are important to put on the table. With good systems in place, and it takes a little time to do this, the operation smooths out. Am I on track with that?
Lauren: Hopefully. It’s just like anything. You could have paper in a book or online. Then it’s a matter of implementing and enforcing. Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of creating a policy where the consequences are not consistent. Like my child. They’re not consistent, so his behavior is not good from time to time. It’s my fault because I am not consistent in enforcing a consequence. Same with a minute book. It’s the same concept. A lot of people, just like setting up a nonprofit and using it as a sham, put thing into place to cover their you-know-whats. That’s it. It sits on the shelf. They do it to be in compliance. If they are not honoring it and adhering to it, whatever operating system or control you have, it won’t matter. You can’t suddenly say, “I can’t have a policy for it.” If you haven’t enforced it in the past three years, and the person has been doing whatever they have been doing, or their brother has been sending them money, I am far-fetched here. The reality is there is a lot of this that goes on. As more for-profit businesses set up nonprofit entities, this is an ongoing problem. I think it’s all a matter of training. If your people are not trained properly on what your policies mean, it’s only a piece of paper. You need to have the policy, create the manual, create the operating policies, create the training, train your people, get them to buy in, have them involved, and have consequences for noncompliance. It’s a range of things that need to happen. Have a third party designated to oversee that process so it doesn’t fall on the executive director.
Hugh: Absolutely. That’s why you have board members and advisors. They really have fiduciary and governance oversight.
Let’s go back to this assessment. It sounds painful and expensive. What’s involved? If I wanted to go through the process and take this assessment, what’s involved in doing it? What do I get from that? Does it help me figure out how to do all this? It sounds scary right now.
Lauren: We don’t let it be scary. I am the non-scary lawyer. I have a free quiz. It’s not specifically oriented to the nonprofit world yet; we are developing one now. I’ll be happy to share it with your listeners. It’s ScaleUpCheckUpQuiz.online. You can take that quiz; it’s about 2 minutes. We can set up a quick call to discuss your needs.
The assessment is $47. I can share a $20 coupon code that makes it $27. It’s a customized score that highlights your issues and lets you know how at risk you are. It gives you access to my calendar for a quick call.
The assessment and a strategy session is only $197. That gives you time to go through the assessment results and talk about how they could be improved. How can you improve your score so your bottom in is better?
Our big deliverable item. The regular price is $997. However, Hugh, you, I, and Russell can talk about a special delivery product for the nonprofit world and can get a coupon code. I don’t want to charge that much for people in the nonprofit world. It’s a blueprint that shows you everything you need to scale up your business successfully. Then we create a strategy based on your budget and priorities. If your priority is to get a business plan in place because you want to build a facility, that’s what we will focus on first. That will come out of this analysis and deep dive we do for you.
Hugh: That sounds interesting. The quiz, anybody can take that. We try to convince those that are running a nonprofit, which is a bad word, it’s a misnomer. Those who are in a tax-exempt enterprise, a for-purpose organization, they are really, there is a high level, it’s critical that we establish sound business principles. If you have an organization, you should run it responsibly. It’s good stewardship, if nothing else.
The quiz, we could evaluate it as a tax-exempt business. It’s ScaleUpCheckUpQuiz-
Hugh: That gives them the free quiz. You fill something, and you have a chance to interpret it. Then the assessment could be available through SynerVision Leadership Foundation for people who want to find out how much trouble they are in. Then there is a prescriptive; this is what you do about it.
Lauren: Not exactly. The prescriptive is more detailed in the success plan. The assessment, if they do it with the strategy session, we will give them some ideas and tips on how to improve the score. It’s the success plan that will give you a blueprint of everything you should do to make your structure more sound so you can accomplish your goals.
Hugh: Your basic website is ScaleUpCheckUp.com. There is everything about the products there. There is a toll-free number to contact you. You have this purple branding that is quite elegant.
Lauren: I’ve always been into purple. My existing brand is purple. For as long as I’ve had a brand, I’ve had purple.
Hugh: That’s on your site. People can go to ScaleUpCheckUp.com and can learn about you.
What have we not asked you that people need to know about this whole line of risk mitigation?
Lauren: The real question is: So what if I don’t do it? So what if I don’t get my stuff in place? What happens? How do I get caught? What’s the risk?
There is a huge risk. As Russell knows, having been an auditor, you risk not only for the nonprofit organization losing your designation, piercing the corporate veil, which means they go beyond the business and to you personally. You can lose your own personal assets. You put your family at risk. These are serious issues that people just don’t want to deal with. They want to deal with numbers and money. Numbers and money, this will get you more numbers and money than any sale is going to ever get you. Your sale will be stopped dead in its tracks. All that time and effort on that sale will be wasted because you haven’t done what you needed to do. When you want to create a strategic partnership or synergy, for example, you and I, with SynerVision, if we have a joint venture or strategic partnership, we both want to make sure we both did certain due diligence, with the compliance checks. We have our business in place. Our licenses are kosher. Everything is right and in place. Otherwise, I don’t want to do business with you, and you don’t want to do business with me. They could have a multi-million-dollar prospect on the table.
I had a client I was working with for a short time. They were about to enter into this multi-million-dollar deal, a very big name. Big. Big. One of the biggest. I’m trying to see Russell’s face. I think he’s smiling. I’m willing, they didn’t have their minute book records in place. For three years, they didn’t have a single document. Because this company is so big and successful, they wanted to see that all their I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed. Do you know this company would not pay me to get their records updated? It was $5,000 or something like that. It was nothing. They didn’t want to deal with it. They lost the deal. Multi-million-dollars. It was too late because they could have had it done, and they would have been at the table. This is what happens. You lose your seat at the table. You will have someone come after you and sue you, whether it’s a disgruntled employee or the IRS. You won’t have access to potential huge opportunities with your intellectual property. You are putting yourself at risk every which way and losing out on opportunities to make a fortune.
So let’s have a conversation and see how we can help you scale your business successfully and not violate your 501(c)3 designation or your company bylaws. I think there is a lot of for-profit corporations that are purposeful. It’s all confusing, right? I try to have a purpose and make an impact, even though I have a for-profit company. There are so many ways we can create opportunity for you as a company and business owner to scale successfully. It’s silly to throw that opportunity away because of fear of the unknown.
Hugh: Yes, it is. This is a huge inventory of important things that people don’t know to ask about. Russell, before we do our closing sequence, do you have another issue we need to bring before this lady?
Russell: I was thinking about a point you made earlier that is worth emphasizing again. There are a lot of tools out there. People find templates and guides to build contracts and agreements with. Nothing wrong with them. The problem is people don’t have them reviewed by someone who has the knowledge necessary to make sure everything is in there to protect yourself. Just grabbing something.
The other thing people don’t do is read the fine print in their own contract. They create something that they are going to adhere to. If they look at it with the eyes of, This will protect us from other people, they may not be protecting themselves from themselves by clarifying what they are agreeing to do.
How common is it that you see people with these boilerplate templates? How can they get them reviewed? They definitely need to do that. Is it something that will break the bank? I think that’s what stops a lot of people from doing that.
Lauren: Thank you for asking that question. One signature speech of mine is “7 Secret Scale-Up Success Strategies.” One of the secrets is: Don’t download a boilerplate template without getting it reviewed. There are multiple reasons to have it reviewed, some of which you addressed. Also, they could name the wrong parties. They could pull the wrong template. It could be perfect, but for another situation. They may think they need X, and they may need Y. It could be covered with legalese that no one understands, including lawyers. I wrote an agreement last week for a nonprofit for a lawyer. I was working with this lawyer. I want it to be two pages. This was a lawyer who was telling another lawyer that this agreement should be two pages. I can make it four. I’m laughing. I saw him last night and was like, “Two pages?” We are trying to condense things and make them concise because you get lost in it.
I can’t give you a flat fee, but we do have packages that include a range of services, including reviewing up to five agreements of up to 10 pages each. We have them on monthly packages, semi-annual packages, and annual packages. You need to grab one of those. Not go to those online services, but have someone you can trust and contact and text, a live person, who can help you look at those agreements and see what’s missing or not. What’s missing is almost as bad or often worse than what’s not missing. You won’t catch everything. No lawyer will catch everything because I don’t know exactly what every single business owner wants to accomplish. But if you don’t have it reviewed, you may as well jump in the ocean without a life preserver.
Hugh: This is helpful information, Lauren. Thank you.
*Sponsor message from SynerVision Leadership Foundation*
What I’m taking away from Lauren’s interview today is there are things about enterprises that we don’t even know we’re supposed to know.
Lauren, what thought do you want to leave people with?
Lauren: Think about your nonprofit or for-purpose business as a business. Take it seriously. It deserves your attention. It deserves the attention of professionals. Don’t be everything to your organization. Bring in the professionals that you can trust to accomplish the goals you need. I am available to speak with any of you about how to scale up your nonprofit. I look forward to working with you, Hugh and Russell, and collaborating with you further. Don’t take the risk of losing all that you’ve built because you’re afraid to make a phone call or send an email.
Russell: This has been an enlightening and uplifting conversation. Here at SynerVision Leadership, we have all sorts of people like Lauren that are here. Come join the community and have a chance to plug into conversations with people so you are not doing things by yourself. We are the source for all things nonprofit. If we don’t have the answers, we know people like Lauren who do.