Why Every Small Business Needs an Attorney


This week, Interise alumni are engaging in Ask an Expert: Law in Small Business, learning from the Baltimore program instructor Nicole Cober, Esquire. Small business owners often think needing an attorney means their business is in trouble, but Cober wants to break this stereotype and show that it is important to have an attorney before something goes wrong. She is discussing what small business owners should seek counsel for, as well as best practices for communicating effectively with counsel, how to hire, and when small business owners need full time staff within their counsel.

What Business Owners Are Asking about Legal Matters

Employment manuals are an extremely vital part of any business. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, at a minimum your employee handbook should contain the following six items: (1) an employment at-will disclaimer (section 1.3); (2) a statement regarding equal employment opportunity (section 2.1); (3) a policy prohibiting unlawful discrimination and harassment (section 2.2); (4) a section that describes the policy for use of company property and privacy rules (section 3); (5) a section on employment classification and overtime rules (section4); (6) a policy on Family and Medical Leave if you have 50 or more employees (section 6.3); and (7) a section on Safety (section 9). You should also consider including a disciplinary guideline (section 8). Please contact an attorney in your state to help you create and review the local regulations that apply to your business and its individual circumstances.

Teaming agreements are not easy but they are straight forward in terms of...the terms. You and the business partner need to first sit down and stamp out the big picture items--what are you going to do, what are they going to do; for how much; when will you begin; when will you end; what will happen if a dispute arises; who has decision making authority, etc. Once you have this important meeting, WRITE DOWN THE DETAIL SUMMARY. Now...you are ready to call an attorney. You have the facts and details together. You will now present them to an attorney and the attorney will take a template and draft or tailor it to meet your specific needs. The more detail you do upfront on the terms of the agreement, the more focused time an attorney can spend on drafting and counseling. You can ask for flat fees for contract drafting too because at that time, the attorney can now look at your detail summary and give a measured answer about how many hours the agreement will take. Also, find an attorney that focuses on small business and contract law. Those will hopefully focus on the small entrepreneur and want to be sensitive about budgets.

"So much of small business touches areas of the law that are relevant to compliance. Whether it be employees that you hire, marketing and advertising laws, regulatory issues, or real estate. Think of an attorney as an advisor or counselor. A wise business owner wants to be proactive in putting a lawyer on their team before they need a lawyer on their team.

I'd encourage business owners to stop thinking of only needing a lawyer after your in trouble, but thinking of them as an advisor at the beginning of a decision-making process. You will save a lot of money, time and heartache working with a lawyer in a "counselor" role rather than a litigation role."
- Nicole Cober, Esquire.

Interise's Ask an Expert series is facilitated by the Interise Continual Engagement program and occurs every month for an entire week. Continual Engagement refers to the programs and resources that Interise offers to alumni of the StreetWise ‘MBA’TM curriculum. It is also a way that Interise works to support partners’ organizational capacity – they can implement programs or best practices from the Interise Continual Engagement team, or gain inspiration to create something that works best for their respective community.

For more, check out Interise's StreetWise 'MBA'TM, a game changing capacity-building program recognized by the World Bank and the US Federal Reserve.

Victoria Washington wins Arkansas 2017 Small Business Person of the Year


Arkansas Small Business Person of the Year for 2017 Victoria Washington (left) Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon (right)

The winner of the 2017 Arkansas Small Business Person of the Year is Victoria Washington (2015 Emerging Leaders alum), owner of Vision Information Technology Consultants LLC. After working for several years as a requirements engineer for the Central Intelligence Agency, and later as a systems engineer for a federal contractor, Victoria Washington decided to start her own business in 2003.

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The Jerome L. Greene Science Center is Columbia University’s newest and New York City’s largest academic science building. It was built with 32% of its construction provided by minority, women, and local (MWL) businesses. 50% of its workforce hours were provided by MWL businesses. Why does this matter? Interise data shows that small business contracting with anchor institutions, such as universities and hospitals, can enable inclusive economic development. The same is true of contracting with government agencies. The more anchor institutions and government agencies realign procurement practices to contract with small businesses, the further we leverage small business growth to create good, local jobs.

Companies with contracts not only create more jobs, they create jobs with higher salaries and more benefits compared to companies without contracts. That’s the #ContractingFactor, an important insight from Interise’s 2016 Impact Report.
Contracting Factor

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StreetWise 'MBA' Alumni Steal the Show at National Small Business Week Awards


Seven StreetWise 'MBA' alumni earned their state's 2017 Small Business Person of the Year award for their strong leadership and community impact. These StreetWise 'MBA' alumni are among 54 small businesses awarded honors by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a part of National Small Business Week.

National Small Business Week, hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration, takes place starting on April 30th with an awards ceremony in Washington DC and continues until May 6th. The awards ceremony will feature a variety of national award winners, chosen from the 54 states' and territories' Small Business Person of the Year awards that have already been announced.

Below is a list of StreetWise 'MBA' alumni who have been named 2017 Small Business Persons of the Year:

  • Victoria A. Washington, Arkansas
  • Dr. Eva D. Littman, Nevada
  • Mario Burgos and David Burgos, New Mexico
  • Pamela Newman, New York
  • Eric Mauch and Carla Dean Schwartzenberger, North Dakota
  • Deborah Paris, Texas
  • Robert W. Dozier Jr., Washington, D.C.

"RWD, a small business that provides facilities, logistics, administrative, and IT solutions to Federal, public, and private clients, increased our 2016 revenue by 46% from the previous year, and ended with more than 80 employees," said Robert W. Dozier Jr., CEO of RWD Consulting in Washington.

To celebrate Small Business Week, there will be events around the country hosted by the Small Business Administration. Each state will present more specific awards as well, which StreetWise 'MBA' alumni are also in the running for!

Interise's proven model for accelerating economic development through small business growth in lower-income communities has had impressive impact across the country, as illustrated in the 2016 Impact Report. Celebrate thriving small businesses #AllYearLong!

See coverage of the events for National Small Business Week HERE!

SBA Emerging Leaders Alumni and Interise Instructor Meet With SBA Administrator Linda McMahon


On Thursday, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon spent the day in Miami, meeting with several Emerging Leaders alumni business owners as well as Interise instructor Orlando Espinosa. McMahon first stopped off at AAA Million Auto Parts to spend time with CEO Joseangel Hernandez, a 2015 graduate of Emerging Leaders Miami.


McMahon continued on to a small business round-table, featuring Orlando Espinosa in addition to four recent Emerging Leaders alumni: Moises Montañez of ALTA Home Remodeling Co., Margaret Anglin of Mr. Wireman Electric, Maria Sandra Pineda of Medical Equipment Solutions Corporation, and Kizzy Parks of K Parks Consulting. At the round-table, McMahon and several small business owners centered conversation around government regulations, finance, and technology. Pointing to the many opportunities the government has to contract with small businesses, Emerging Leaders alumni stressed the importance of connecting these small businesses with substantial federal contracts to achieve next-level growth.

"I can't stress enough the importance of education and capacity building to ensure the success of second-stage growth for small businesses," said Interise instructor Orlando Espinosa. "Without it, long-term scaling is much more difficult."

See coverage of the events from the Miami Herald

Check out the 2016 #ImpactMatters Report for insights about the relationship between contracting with small businesses and creating quality jobs.




Just released: The Small Business Credit Survey published by the Federal Reserve Banks.

The report provides intelligence on the financing needs and gaps of small businesses – “fundamental to understanding and bolstering the sector’s health and growth.” The report is made possible through the collaboration of national, regional, and community partners nationwide “who share valuable insights about small business financing needs.”

Interise, a proud partner of the Federal Reserve, collaborated with the Federal Reserve to promote and distribute the survey to our network of thriving small businesses!