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PROTECTING THE INTERESTS OF ORDINARY FOLKS WITH BIG LEGAL PROBLEMS THE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING REAL PEOPLE
A s an attorney who works with small and mid-size business owners from all walks of life, I consider it a privilege to represent each and every one of my clients. I’m lucky to be able to serve real people whose
when her house, way out in the sticks, burned to the ground. The insurance adjuster came out to take a look, determined that it had been an accidental fire, and assured our client that she’d receive the compensation to which she was entitled. As the claim moved up the chain of command though, the insurance company did a 180 and said that the fire had, in fact, been the result of arson, meaning it wouldn’t be covered by insurance. Worse yet, they accused my client of setting the fire! “IT’S INCREDIBLY GRATIFYING TO WORK IN THE LAW AND ACCOMPLISH SOME CONCRETE GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE I REPRESENT.“ The insurance company’s about-face was clearly in bad faith, especially since the only person who actually inspected the site of the fire – its own adjuster – had already declared the fire a freak accident. We found out later that the fire department had reached the same conclusion … twice! When our client came to us, her life was literally in ruins, her beloved home and everything in it turned to ash. We weren’t about to let these corporate bullies push her around. Eventually, with her insurance company unwilling to see reason, we took the case all the way to a jury trial and secured a big verdict for the client, hundreds of thousands of dollars that went toward putting her life back together. That was just one instance from over 26 years spent protecting the interests of regular people who suddenly have to face disaster. It truly is a point of pride for me that we’ve been able to achieve real results for so many ordinary folks. I can’t imagine a better reason to come to work each morning.
FORMER JUDGE, DAVID GIBSON
businesses are on the line, rather than big, faceless corporations with hidden agendas. Beyond helping people secure their livelihood and provide for their families, I just enjoy getting to know them, learning their stories, struggles, and world views from all across the globe. I’m one of those rare (odd?) people who wanted to be a lawyer for most of my life. Pretty much as soon as I was old enough to realize I didn’t really want to be a train engineer or a firefighter, I set my sights on the law. Aside from my penchant for debate, I’m not sure where I got the idea — there’s not another soul in my family who pursued law school. But I’m certainly glad that I did. It’s been an incredibly rewarding journey every step of the way, from my time as a civil trial judge in Dallas to managing my own team of attorneys here at GLG. It’s incredibly gratifying to work in the law and accomplish concrete good for the people we represent. Though we don’t get many insurance cases these days, I remember one case that I tried about 10 years ago that really captured what it means to me to help real people.
Our client, a little old lady who lived on Cedar Creek Lake and drove into town every day for work, was going through an ugly divorce
–David Gibson GIBSONLAWGROUP.COM
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THE ART OF SAYING NO
Business owners can find it hard to say no. If you say no, you can be left with thoughts like “What if I miss out on an amazing opportunity?” or “Can’t I take on just one more project to hit my revenue goal this month?” However, saying no can be extremely empowering and good for your business. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing that you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I am actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
However, there are certain instances in which saying no is completely necessary to the success of your business.
Regardless of your niche, there is a saturation point at which you cannot take on more work. It happens when you are working long hours, when you rarely spend time with your family, and when your health and sleep habits are suffering. Suddenly, you don’t enjoy work anymore, and you are constantly stressed. When your work-life balance is slipping away, it’s time to say no. Your business serves a specific demographic. But what about when you get a new offer from a prospect who falls outside your normal arena? Ask yourself, does it conflict with my demographic? Do I have enough expertise to be able to do the job? Does it hurt the image I’m trying to create around my brand? If you can say yes to these questions, say no to the prospect.
It can be tempting to jump at every new opportunity or challenge presented to you, especially when you are dedicated to growing your business.
WHY YOU ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NEED A CONTRACT
When it comes to creating or dealing with other small businesses, most people would prefer to avoid a huge pile of documents and legal red tape. When you’re starting out, it might seem easy to skip contracts altogether, sealing every agreement with nothing more than a handshake. In fact, we see this all the time — usually in expensive litigation, business owners trusting one another to hold up their end of the bargain based entirely upon a verbal understanding.
Without a written contract, what that understanding actually was is really anybody’s guess. Remember, if a dispute arises in the future, a third party who was not present when the deal was struck, usually a judge or jury, will decide what the deal really was. Plus, by the time a dispute arises no one will remember what was really agreed to in that first meeting. Reducing your agreement to writing solves a lot of these problems. Also, while verbal agreements are usually enforceable in Texas there are major exceptions. A contract for the sale of real estate must, for example, be in writing. So, too, must a real estate lease for more than one year be in writing. Ditto with a personal guaranty. By making a small investment to hire a lawyer and properly document your new venture, you can avoid tens of thousands of dollars of headaches in the future. The bottom line is that a written contract can prevent wasting time and money on a long, expensive, usually bitter — and always stressful — conflict down the road. As you’re working through the initial contract, you can even include provisions to save you money if you do wind up in a lawsuit, like mandatory pre-suit mediation, venue selection, waiver of a jury trial, or limitation of damages. We understand that when you establish a business relationship, it’s hard to imagine it might ever go sour. But the single best way to ensure a partnership stays friendly and mutually beneficial isn’t a handshake — it’s a written contract both parties can easily get on board with .
STARTING A NEW BUSINESS? HAVE THIS CONVERSATION FIRST
It can be tempting to chase a new offer, but think long term about your business and stay true to your mission and goals.
The secret to saying no is knowing not only when to say it, but when to say it right away. Saying no might mean you have to pass on one opportunity now, but it can open new doors for you later down the road. Be empowered by your ability to say no and use it to showcase the value of your work to others and to yourself.
When starting a new business, many people realize the importance of creating an official business entity, e.g., a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership, to minimize their personal liability for unexpected events that they might come across. In the beginning, it can be difficult to imagine the gamut of potential issues you may run up against. Still, it’s important to plan ahead in every way possible — beyond simply filing with the state to set up your business. Among the thorniest of issues that can arise with a budding small business are internal problems, management issues, and interpersonal conflicts. For this reason, you and your business partners should discuss the procedure for such tensions in advance. It might seem difficult to broach this subject with the other owners, partners, or members; after all, no one wants to consider that starting a business can potentially result in a rift between friends or family. But it’s a vital discussion to have. If you set up clear expectations, duties, chains of authority, and even a possible off-ramp for you and the other partners, you may save yourself a heap of stress in the long run. Even in a small business that you start with personal friends or members of your family — perhaps especially in these circumstances — you need to create a governing document to establish each member’s rights and responsibilities. It is crucial that you contractually protect your rights and remedies in the company, particularly if you’re a minority stakeholder in the business. For decades, Texas law allowed a minority stakeholder in a closely held company to sue and seek a buyout when faced with an “oppressive” shareholder. This changed in 2014 when the Texas Supreme Court held that a minority shareholder has “no statutory right to exit the [business] venture and receive a return of capital.” This curtailment of shareholder rights can leave you stuck in a business where you don’t have any management authority.
THE ANSWERS ( )
1550 NORWOOD DR., STE. 402 HURST, TEXAS 76054
GIBSONLAWGROUP.COM 1304 W. WALNUT HILL LN. STE. 212 IRVING, TX 75038 (817) 769-4044
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IN SIDE The Privilege of Serving Real People
The Art of Saying No
Form Contracts to Avoid Business Conflicts Before Starting Your Business, Have This Conversation
A New Look at Leadership
‘BOUNDARIES FOR LEADERS’ Redefining Leadership With
Have you been approaching leadership all wrong? Whether you’re an executive or an aspiring leader, Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the groundbreaking book “Boundaries for Leaders,” might have something to say about it. Marrying the fields of clinical psychology and leadership consulting, Dr. Cloud delves deep into the mind to find rich insights about the psychology of leadership. In fact, he literally redefines the word in the process. Redefining Leadership Dr. Cloud defines leadership as simply “the process of turning a vision into a reality.” Sounds simple, right? It’s also completely accurate. Whether your vision is a successful business or a successful family, you need leadership skills to achieve your goals. But you can’t do it alone. You need to achieve your dreams with people and through people. The most worthwhile dreams are only possible with the help of others who can take your ideas and make them actionable. Plus, they tend to make the journey more enjoyable if you hire the right people and set the right boundaries. That’s why leaders need to invest time and energy into creating teams and workplace cultures that support productivity while maintaining employee satisfaction. It doesn’t take a clinical psychologist to tell you that unhappy
people don’t stay productive for long. Without a sense of ownership — with you stepping over boundaries onto projects they should own for themselves — they won’t have that motivation. Believe it or not, you can maintain that culture while remaining, as Dr. Cloud puts it, “ridiculously in charge.”
What to Do The best leaders set boundaries that empower people and teams to reach goals, while rooting out bad behavior proactively. They have to do this in a way that works with people’s brain functions of attention, inhibition, and working memory. If you’ve never approached leadership from this psychological point of view, it’s a refreshing take that can work wonders on the efficiency and effectiveness of any team. Ultimately, the book encourages you to view leadership as creating the conditions that allow people to use their brains to realize visions in the absence of distraction. That means creating the right boundaries — boundaries that produce freedom without control.
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