The concept of BAIL is not new but certainly is not considered by many when starting, reopening, or reevaluating their business idea or opportunity. It is a concept of partnership in which the business owner surrounds him or herself with a select group of individuals who will offer advice and guidance during the formation or evolution of the business idea. This paper is a short introduction to the BAIL concept for small and medium-sized businesses.
B – Banker
A relationship with your banker can be one of the most important of this partnership. Often the business owner has a business bank account but not much else with their chosen financial institution. True business banks and credit unions will have dedicated business bankers whose sole purpose (aside from making profitable loans for the institution) is to act as a free counselors to the commercial customer. Keeping a relationship with your banker, even if you have no loan requirements, can pay dividends when you need them.
A – Accountant
Most business folks don’t like to deal with the minutia of accounting but if you neglect this discipline, you might wind up with gibberish when you want to see your profit and loss statement. Your accountant can make sure your revenue and expenses are properly set up in your system but they can do much more for you: help you minimize taxes, work with your banker to make sure your loan gets through, and provide a bookkeeper to help you with the debits and credits and be a sounding board for upcoming projects.
I – Insurance Agent
That is a commercial insurance agent! They make sure you are covered for commercial risks which may be significantly different than homeowners, auto, etc. You may need coverage on equipment or commercial real estate to get a loan from your banker. You certainly need liability insurance to protect you against lawsuits, etc. The agent is a good companion to your banker as some banks have policies about minimum insurance levels to get loans. Make sure you meet with your agent at least once per year.
L – Lawyer
You won’t need a lawyer as much as others here but when you do… Find an individual or firm that fits, more or less, the size of your business. Also, look for a lawyer that has some experience with your type of business. Use them to help you evaluate any kind of document you may need for your business. Yes, they charge by the hour but it becomes inexpensive when your lawyer points out that the contract you are about to sign is all in the other guy’s favor! And don’t forget wills, organizational documents, buy & sell agreements, etc. You don’t want to do that through the internet!
M – Mentor
OK, so it’s not part of the acronym but a SCORE mentor can be a great 3rd party mentor when you need some guidance along the way. Check out SCORE’s website for information on webinars, mentors, etc. Besides, BAILM isn’t even a word!
Today’s business environment is complicated and you don’t have to navigate it alone. Use the team approach to help you solve issues that are sure to come up. And the last word: if a partner isn’t holding up their end, change partners! You can interview others to find a compatible fit. Good luck!