Priori partner Alice Chin is Founder and CEO of Your Other Half, which provides Human Resources and operational support to growing companies. She has a front-row seat to the problems facing small businesses at all stages, so we recently sat down with Alice to discuss what entrepreneurs can do to keep their businesses running smoothly and out of legal trouble.
Priori: Let’s start with how Your Other Half came to be. Can you give us the background of its history and mission?
Alice: Absolutely! Your Other Half started out about six and a half years ago as a part-time business born out of my professional experiences and interests. After college, I worked as a Human Resources Specialist but soon realized I wanted experience working with smaller organizations, where I could see my impact more directly. I began consulting with small companies in a project management role. I found my Human Resources experience immediately came to bear because every project was ultimately about people. How do you get people to work together? How do you hire them effectively? The other thing I found was that a lot of entrepreneurs found tactical things like operational tasks – accounts receivable, contracts, and government reporting – incredibly confusing. It turns out most entrepreneurs are fantastic superstars in their content area but didn’t realize how much infrastructure was actually in place to support their work in the corporate world or how to replicate that for themselves. I started Your Other Half in order to work with small businesses and create lasting solutions for these issues.
Priori: What are some of the most common solutions that you’re providing to businesses?
Alice: When we first start working with a business owner, we quickly discover our clients are concerned about more than just the issue they knew to ask about. Most have this nagging feeling that they should be doing something they don't even know about, and usually they’re right.
We developed a product called the Business Blindspot Detector that helps our clients think critically and systemically about all aspects of their business – how they are handling their finance, legal, HR, insurance, and internal operations. It's really important for them to understand what kind of structure they need in order to be successful. By structure, I mean goals and plans for the next one, two, or three years and how to build a company that can operationally and structurally support those plans. We at Your Other Half don't really believe that having a plan longer than three years is terribly useful because in a growing business, a longer-term plan is probably going to change based on the market and what you’ve learned. We believe that small business growth is constant and iterative and want to create structures that support that for our clients.
We also ask questions like, “How are you tracking revenue?” and “How are you tracking your progress against goals?” Out of these questions comes a report that outlines all of the things we think are potential business liabilities or opportunities. Then we put those in priority order because prioritization is something a lot of business owners struggle with. For example, “Do I really need to have a contract, or is it just more important that people pay me?” There’s a dichotomy when it comes to making choices, and having items put in priority order makes it easier for our clients to move forward with clarity.
Priori: Is there one liability you see in these reports that commonly poses a big risk to companies?
Running an internship program legally is one of the big things I run into reguarly. Another problem I often see is most people have either legal contracts or insurance but not both. Part of our Business Blindspot Detector product is our specialized approach “The Four Pillars of Protection,” which looks for both of these items and also includes a strong legal foundation and regulatory requirements, such as state filing requirements. It’s incredibly rare that a business owner actually has all four pillars in place. Most people usually have one or two. People don’t really take care of these issues until it’s a real problem.
Priori: How do you advise clients on working with attorneys?
Alice: It depends on what stage of business the client is in. Honestly, if you are a brand new business and have no money, I will let you know that if you go with a cheap or free solution, you will have to do it twice – once now the cheap way, and once later the right way. That still might be a legitimate decision if you’re very new and have no money, but you need to know that as soon as you make money, you have to go back and fix it.
Priori: What’s the biggest challenge small businesses have when it comes to working with attorneys?
People are always afraid of attorneys–the cost and the process of finding the right one. As a result, I find a lot of small business owners have legal work done by somebody who's not an expert in what they're doing. This is one of the reasons why I love Priori. My clients need to work with people who are experts in their subject area. When I would try to find the right attorneys for them, I’d find that the people who were working with small businesses wanted to work on a retained basis as a general counsel for those businesses. But to be perfectly honest, that’s rarely useful for the type of small businesses I work with. The other thing is entrepreneurs don’t always understand the difference between a general counsel type small business attorney versus an IP attorney or even understand the different types of work. For instance, they don’t know if they need a copyright or a trademark and if those require different attorneys or not. They have little understanding of all the different areas that attorneys can advise on and when it's critical to have not only one adviser but sometimes even two.
Priori: How has Priori been useful for your clients?
I was very excited about the product that Priori’s co-founders Basha Rubin and Mirra Levitt had put together because it basically takes care of two huge pain points for small businesses. One is finding someone who’s actually an expert in the area you might need help in. Previously, the attorneys I was finding who were willing to do transactional work in the small business world were not necessarily experts in the areas that were critical to my clients’ businesses. I knew experts would save them money and time and would get it right the first time, which is really critical.
The second thing is Priori takes some of the mystery out of the process with the free consultations. Those consultations allow business owners to see if the attorney will really understand their business, which removes barriers and gives business owners access to these experts in a way that’s meaningful and affordable. The discounts that are available through Priori really just make it unbeatable in my mind. It’s hard for me to recommend other lawyers.
Even when someone is going through something big that might involve multiple attorneys, Priori has a solution for that with a build-your-own kind of model. I love the flexibility. Priori has built a product that’s ideal for my clients.
Alice Chin is the founder and CEO of Your Other Half, a solution that partners with small businesses to improve efficiency, growth, and compliance.