Owners and founders of closely held businesses often involve married couples. Therefore, a consideration that all owners of these businesses should consider is the need for premarital agreements or “prenups,” which come in all shapes and sizes under U.S. law. A well drafted premarital agreement will take into account the particular needs and interests of the parties it is intended to protect. For business owners considering a prenup, there are a few areas of concern that deserve particular attention, issues that their counsel have a responsibility to keep in mind during the negotiating and drafting phases; particularly, the following:

 

  • Providing adequate financial disclosures regarding the value of the company and its business to counter any potential legal challenge that may be brought later;
  • Protecting any confidential information to be disclosed during the negotiations;
  • Restricting spouses’s access to the company’s material business documents in the event of a future legal dispute; and
  • Trying to ensure that the business owners retain exclusive rights to the ownership and management of the company in order to provide for the succession of the

 

  1. Disclosure Regarding the Value of a Closely Held Business

The value of a closely held company (and its business) may not be easy to determine, and under Maryland law there is no obligation for a spouse to obtain a formal appraisal for purposes of negotiating or entering into a prenup. Generally, a good faith statement of value stated as a range or estimate of value is adequate where an exact value is not readily ascertainable; provided, however, that when the value is stated as book value the premarital agreement should include an acknowledgement that the value may be higher. See Head v Head, 477 A.2d 282 (Md. App. 1984).

A business owner who assumes that because his or her spouse has knowledge of the business means that his or her spouse also knows the value of the company/business is making a regrettable, and an avoidable, mistake. There are a variety of options available to provide adequate disclosure in order to avoid any confusion or future legal challenge based on inadequate disclosure. For example, a business owner can provide in the prenup information such as gross and net revenue of the business, ownership interests and percentages, compensation paid to insiders and others in the business, and financial statements, such as income statements or tax returns, cash flow statements and profit-and-loss statements to support his or her spouse’s knowledge, whether constructive or actual, at the time the prenup was executed. The bottom line is that when accessing the value of a closely held business for purposes of a premarital agreement, the business owner who fails to provide meaningful and adequate disclosure of all known data and material facts does so at his or her own peril, and may jeopardize the validity of the prenup itself.

 

Counsel drafting a premarital agreement for a business owner can best serve his or her client by taking the time to get familiarized with that client’s business and the business organization, management,

 

and relationships with relevant third-parties like CPAs and financial advisors. As a part of getting to know its client, counsel should also inquire as to the existence of any past appraisals conducted on the company and its business or any of the major assets used in the company’s business.

 

If prior appraisals have been obtained, counsel should have a full understanding of those appraisals and their results. Other recommended inquiries include whether the business has received any purchase offers, whether there are any plans to conduct a public offering or other material reorganization, or whether the controlling business owner has made a personal statement of net worth. Information gathered during that process will be helpful in developing a plan for the statement of the company’s value. Furthermore, counsel needs to remain cognizant that the existence of contemporaneous documents and information will be discoverable in the event of future litigation. Accordingly, the valuation, conclusions and disclosures in the premarital agreement should be reasonably consistent, and not materially conflict, with other valuations or statements of value conducted around the same time on the company and its business.

 

1.Waiver of Financial Disclosure

Parties may waive financial disclosures by agreement. And a waiver should include an acknowledgement that the recipient had the opportunity to ask for more information or documents and that the recipient either declined or acknowledged that he or she was satisfied with the information received from the company and her spouse, and that he or she received sufficient relevant information to make an informed decision prior to signing on the dotted line.

2. Addressing Privacy Concerns and the Disclosure of Financial Data

Disclosures regarding a business can often include information that the owner would prefer be kept confidential from current and/or future family members, or from the public at-large in the event of future litigation. Concerns such as these can be addressed in advance, and possibly prevented, by utilizing a few approaches, such as the following:

  1. Disclosing each party’s net worth in the aggregate without an itemized list of
  2. Providing Business and financial records for inspection but not allowing the other party (or counsel) to retain any copies. In these circumstances, the agreement should identify each of the documents provided for review and the receiving party should be required to sign a waiver acknowledging their examination and
  3. Including a provision requiring both parties to maintain confidentiality of all financial information received from the other party, and for the disclosure schedule to be submitted to a court in any future dispute under seal and with a protective
  4. Counsel for a business owner should strongly consider requiring the execution of a confidentiality (or non-disclosure) agreement prior to making any material

3. Bulletproofing the Agreement

The same legal standards that apply for validity to a premarital agreement executed by a business owner as by any other contracting party. A business owner however must take into consideration his or her unique vulnerabilities when it comes to potential future challenges. When there is a big disparity between the parties, not only in wealth, but in experience, education and bargaining ability, a business

owner can be opening the door for claims of duress or undue influence. The following steps and actions can help prevent such allegations:

 

  1. The party seeking to establish the prenup should make his or her requests well in advance of the intended date the agreement is to be executed;
  2. The party seeking the prenup should encourage the other party to obtain counsel. Appropriate representations and acknowledgements should be put in writing and made throughout the negotiating and drafting process, especially where the receiving party fails to act or refuses outright to obtain any legal representation;
  3. Ideally, the business owner should make an adequate written financial disclosure to his or her

4. Protecting Exclusive Rights to the Business

Parties to a premarital agreement can agree in advance to whatever substantive terms they desire with respect to the disposition of property upon divorce unless the agreement is deemed to be unconscionable at the time of execution. So long as an agreement is not deemed to be unconscionable, then nothing should prevent parties from agreeing to terms, and entering into an agreement, that permits one party or the other, or both parties, to retain exclusive rights and interests in an existing business, or even to any business that is acquired in the future. It is extremely difficult to prove unconscionability at execution, however, because under Maryland law the challenger must prove both substantive unconscionability (extremely unfair terms) and procedural unconscionability (an extremely unfair process).

 

A business owner will be best served by engaging counsel who tries to balance everyone’s interests and make the process between the parties (i.e., separation and divorce, if it comes to that) as fair as possible at the time the agreement is executed. Counsel should take adequate steps to document and record the efforts that were taken in this regard in case of any future legal challenge. Finally, the terms of a premarital agreement should take into account any economic disparity (potential or real) between the parties and include provisions that create economic security for both sides, making it harder to bring later any challenge alleging that the agreement is unconscionable. Simply because there is a disparity between the parties may not be sufficient in itself. An agreement that perpetuates an existing disparity is not unconscionable. It is imperative that a party to a prenup engage appropriate legal counsel to ensure the parties’ arrangement and premarital agreement is tailored to the needs and wants, and protection, of that party.

 

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.

S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC
www.saslawoffices.com

 

www.OfficeWithoutWalls.org/blog

Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com;

Twitter: @SAS_Law;

IG: SahmraStevensonEsq;

Facebook: @SASLawOffices;

 

(Making the transition to full or part-time remote/virtual office work takes some courage and the willingness to get uncomfortable.  While my transition was more of an overnight experience, the gradual approach of slowly breaking-away from relying on the four-walls of your office tomb can be beneficial to anyone unsure of what they need to make their virtual office work for their goals.  This week my posts will explore four simple ways to baby-step your way into thinking about working without walls: 1. Identifying and starting with high productivity days; 2. Explore alternatives to in-person meetings; 3. Establish and out-of-office communication and workflow; 4. Clearly define your workspace in advance.)

Part2:_ Explore Alternatives to In-Person Meetings

Most in-person meetings are productivity killers in my opinion. Unless being run in drill-sergeant fashion with a strict eye on the clock and the agenda, they often veer off into side conversations about semi-related subject matter that has no immediate utility and derails productivity.

Video chats and conference calls are some of the more obvious work around options. Most know about services like FreeConferenceCall.com, Google Hangouts, Uberconference.com, and Zoom.com that allow for free connection options by both voice and video chat. There are a host of others, both free and paid that can easily be explored in a Google search. But even conference calls can be a drag on your day and time. How many times have we all been on a call that could have very well been an email?

And emails are great, but one less discussed option is the underutilized traditional voice memo (not to be confused with voicemail which nobody uses anymore either). It’s more personal and less time consuming than an email, but also doesn’t require the person to be present in the exact moment, so you are able to communicate your thought or idea effectively in your own space and time. Most cell phones have an app built in for voice this function or you can explore Apps such as SimpleMic, and QuickVoice Recorder, that work for uploading straight from phones, tablets and accessories like the Apple Watch.

At #SASLaw we rely on software options and online collaboration tools that virtually eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings during the day. There are a host of options to explore based on your team’s size and needs. Some have overlapping feature; however each offers a different type of service from task management to instant messaging to document “templating.” For team work and project management I rely on Asana (Asana.com). Comparable platforms like BaseCamp and Slack are also offer good team organization and communication options. You can also collaborate with apps like Trello which have an online function too if you want to work from the computer instead of the phone.

Adopting these practices does not need to wait until you’ve physically removed yourself from a brick and mortar office. These are simple ideas you can start playing around with today. If you’re going to be making that leap to remote life it is still important to meet in-person with your team on a routine basis (see my article Five Easy Ways To Keep Your Remote Team Mindful & Motivated ). However, you can increase your productivity by 30-50% when you incorporate alternatives to the traditional face-to-face interactions with your team.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.

S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC

Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

Making the transition to full or part-time remote/virtual office work takes some courage and the willingness to get uncomfortable.  While my transition was more of an overnight experience, the gradual approach of slowly breaking-away from relying on the four-walls of your office tomb can be beneficial to anyone unsure of what they need to make their virtual office work for their goals.  This week my posts will explore four simple ways to baby-step your way into thinking about working without walls: 1. Identifying and starting with high productivity days; 2. Explore alternatives to in-person meetings; 3. Establish and out-of-office communication and workflow; 4. Clearly define your workspace in advance.

First things first….

Part 1.: _Start With A Few High Productivity Days.

No matter how easy it is for you to try something new, you will undoubtedly run into speed bumps and hurdles along the way.  If you want your virtual or remote work to work for you and to truly benefit from the experience, position yourself accordingly. Start by working remotely for one or two days a week to ease yourself into a new routine and ween yourself off your traditional comforts and surroundings.

If it’s up to you, try and choose days that best guarantee you experience a good outcome with your off-site work day, or days of the week.  The days of the week can change as you find your rhythm and start identifying the benefits and goals of remote work that are personal to you but stick with the same one or two days for several weeks in a row to give yourself enough time to collect data about what works for you and what doesn’t.

If you are accustomed to the standard M-F week and you are just getting started with working off-site one or two days a week, maybe lean towards what you know until you get comfortable with your new normal. When choosing your high productivity days consider staying away from Mondays and Fridays as a jumping-off points because of their tendency to blend into the weekend.

As your new working world and style begin to evolve and you become more comfortable working without walls you’ll notice a reduced reliance on tangible items that weigh and slow you down like paper, files and supplies. You’ll notice an increased reliance on the basic skill-sets like writing and research that make you a good practitioner to being with, and you’ll see a positive difference in your attitude and approach towards work and billable hours which translate into better business and a happier you.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2: Exploring alternatives to the time suck of in-person meetings

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.

S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC

Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

Five Easy Ways To Keep Your Remote Team Mindful & Motivated

Do you rely on work from employees who spend some or all of their time working away from your office? If you’re like most business managers the answer is undoubtedly “yes.”

More American employees are working remotely according to a recent Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults.  According to the survey, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely. An increase in remote employees means a related increase in the need for effective remote office and employee management.

Big growth of remote work presents big challenges to traditional management styles. Often, these center around face-to-face conversations and observing whether an employee appears to spend a lot of time at his or her desk. How can you make sure remote employees stay on track when you don’t see them every day?

The answer is a combination of changing management practices and adopting technology that gives managers insight into employee activities and vice-a-versa.

Here are some tips for successfully managing remote workers, from Your Happy Family Law Attorney:

  1. Focus on what, not when.

We all work differently. Remote workers are no different.  Many remote workers create tailored schedules based on when they are the most productive.  I tend to do my best work at the very beginning of the day during the early morning hours when most people are still asleep. An then again later on in the evenings around the time most of the “normal world” is siting down to dinner.

Rather than micromanaging when employees are getting work done, focus on what they are doing well, and consistently achieving. If deadlines are being met, and work quality is up to par there are more important things for you as the boss to be thinking about.  Not only will you end up with better productivity in the long term, but also happier, more engaged, trusting and confident employees.

  1. Share and streamline activity tracking.

Why has the number of people working in a virtual office space has doubled in recent years? Because it’s easier than ever to work from home and use software to collaborate online and keep your team focused, organized and on task.

Just because you’re in a different city or even time zone doesn’t mean you can’t still communicate and work together as if you were in the same room. My team and I rely on Asana for our team collaborations and project tracking.  Asana looks and acts like an email inbox but groups projects with the ability to add due dates, “likes” and stars for essential items in one place. It integrates with some other third-party sites including Google Drive and Slack. Many well-known organizations like Uber and The New Yorker use Asana, so that’s a good sign that this tool is pretty popular.

Other virtual tools to explore include:
For task management -Proof Hub, Trello, Basecamp;
For Project/Task Management -Wrike, Slack, NutCache, Teamwork.com
For Collaboration/Communication -Sococo, GLIP Kanban Tool

  1. Make sure everyone knows they are a part of the team.

Keeping remote employees in-the-loop is essential.  How you do so will vary based on the number you have, whether you have on-site employees as well and your overall management style. Important things to keep in mind include having a quick and easy means of communication available, remembering to ask employees for their input where appropriate and including remote employees in important processes and decision making for the business.

  1. Establish a time and method for regular check-ins.

Obviously, individualized work schedules, not to mention time-zone differences, if applicable, can make it difficult for other employees to reach remote workers when they need to. The solution, is to work with remote employees and establish some times when they will be consistently available to respond to phone calls, email, or other messages–rather than try to shoehorn them into an established schedule that may not be the best for their work patterns or home situation.

Weekly one-on-ones are a must for effectively coaching all your staff, but they’re especially important for remote workers. They don’t have the same opportunity to pop into your office or have happenstance encounters in the break room to ask a quick question. In addition to a scheduled time to talk, find mutually beneficial ways to check in at other times. That may include chat, text messages, or looking for times that are convenient for a quick talk.

How often should you check in with each remote worker? The right answer will vary depending on the remote worker’s job, personality, experience on the job (or lack thereof), and your company culture. In general, I think it’s a better idea to err on the side of check-ins that are too frequent because if they prove unnecessary you can always cut back. Whereas if they don’t happen often enough, increasing the frequency may lead to an awkward conversation about why more monitoring is needed.

  1. Get to know remote employees as people.

A remote office culture can only be built with intention and consistent action.  Without daily in-person interactions to rely on, getting to know your remote work staff is going to take some effort. Engaging for purposes other than discussing current projects is a good start.

As a boss or manager you should be in touch with what drives or depletes their passion and enthusiasm, as well as their aspirations short and long term.  A healthy working relationship is one that allows both employers and employees the opportunity.

  1. Schedule regular face-to-face encounters.

Scheduling face-to-face meetings with remote workers at least once per quarter is a good minimum guide, Grosse says. “n-person interactions with the broader team help build better camaraderie and eliminate mistrust. I like to host what I call family dinners with my team. We work and support each other like a family and its important that our off-duty interactions incorporate similar principles. Beyond that, our get togethers are a great time to focus on career objectives and performance, and ultimately form a stronger bond.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq. (“Your Happy Family Law Attorney”)

S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC

Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

 

A Parents most important job is to demonstrate to their children how to live a fulfilling and happy life.  Here are two simple suggestions that might boost your happy family practices overnight.

  1. Nurture Your Happiness

While we can’t control our children’s happiness, we are responsible for our own. And because children absorb everything from us, our moods matter. Happy parents are likely to have happy kids. Consequently, one of the best things you can do for your child’s emotional well-being is to attend to yours: carve out time for rest, relaxation, and, perhaps most important, romance.

Nurture your relationship with your spouse. If parents have a really good, committed relationship the child’s happiness is more likely to naturally follow.

If you and the opposite parent are not in a romantic relationship at this time, tend to your “co-parenting needs” instead, such as: cleaning house and communicating grievances; updating each other on emergency contact lists and other important documents; planning ahead for school and summer vacation time and access…. the start of the year is a perfect time to embark on some of these.

2.     Practice Habitual Gratitude

Happiness studies consistently link feelings of gratitude to emotional well-being. Research at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere has shown that people who keep daily or weekly gratitude journals feel more optimistic, make more progress toward goals, and feel better about their lives overall.

For a child, keeping a journal may be unrealistic. But one way to foster gratitude in children is to ask that each member of the family take time daily — before or during a meal, for example — to name aloud something he or she is thankful for. The important thing is to make it a regular ritual.

Happy parents truly do raise happy children. How can you experience more joy today? How can you set a great example of happiness for your children? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.
S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC
Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com;
Twitter: @SAS_Law;
IG: SahmraStevensonEsq;
Facebook: @SASLawOffic
es;
www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

 

 

Civility In Family Law: 5 things that can keep your clients on the right side of the line

Set Reasonable Expectations by Educating the Client:
Clients need to know the likely outcomes of the parenting and financial issues based on statute and case law. It is much easier for a client if they know what is likely to happen at the beginning of a case rather than being surprised in court when the judge makes a ruling. It is also more efficient to negotiate final settlements if the client knows the parameters of the possible outcomes at trial.

Client education should begin at the very first meeting and does not end at the conclusion of your case. Completing your job sometimes requires follow-up on important issues that the client likely has no idea how to predict (e.g., opening a file with the Office of Child Support Enforcement so that support payments can start; or completing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order and what to expect when awards from a former spouse’s pension finally pay out).

Lastly, an educated client is easier to work with and more likely to return. If clients recognize your advice as being valuable, worthwhile, and easy to follow, they are more likely to follow your lead as you shine a light on the best path. If you are in the practice of sending out newsletters to keep clients up-to-date, or establishing your social media presence and brand, identifying yourself to your clients as a trusted advisor, (hint hint) during the representation is an important place to start.

Avoid Dramatic & Over-the-top Pleadings:
It can be tempting to turn on the dramatics when drafting a pleading, especially with a set-of facts that get you fired up or maybe where you feel a need to embolden a less assertive client.  I rarely meet a client who isn’t on board with being aggressive in pleadings. But coaching clients to maintain a civilized tone in a Family Law case can reduce conflict between the parties and enhance your client’s image before the court. Focus on the facts and thoroughly explain the facts to the court without too many negative opinions, assessments and judgments.

I like to remind clients that their pleadings are a matter of public record and that potentially anyone can get their hands on them I the future. I ask them if they really want their business “out in the streets” and impress upon them that litigation is a process with a time and place for everything including detailed storytelling, which is best done in the courtroom in front of the trier of fact.

In submitting statements to court, a civil attorney should ask their client to simply tell the court what the person did without all of the pejorative terms. For example, accusing someone of having “violent tendencies” when the person has never engaged in violent behavior is inflammatory. Courts also find unpersuasive extreme statements, like calling someone a “liar” when there is no clear proof of this and stating opinions, such as saying “he doesn’t really care about our children” or “she is a psychopath.”

But what about when these kinds of statements are hurled at your client instead?

Lead By Example -Take the High Road:
One of the most difficult aspects of family law arises when the opposing party or their lawyer engages in high-conflict behavior, such as making insulting statements in court or in pleadings, involving the children, spewing misinformation to third parties, repeating unfounded accusations, providing details of indiscreet behavior to others, calling a person’s workplace, and/or not complying with court orders. The client’s first reaction might be to demand that the attorney make the opposing party or the other attorney stop or perhaps to retaliate by engaging in the same sort of behavior. It is always better to advise a client to “take the high road.”  To reduce conflict and keep matters civil, the Family Law attorney should advise the client that those behaviors do not assist in settling their case and usually make things worse. In addition, those tactics and choices will greatly increase their attorney fees.

Explain and Encourage Alternatives:
Explaining the alternatives to trial can bring a huge sense of relief to the client. Clients should know about these alternative processes so they can make informed choices. Often once the legal process starts, communication between the parties deteriorates quickly and the client has a hard time focusing on where they want to end up.

Parties can participate in a collaborative law process or use early mediation to resolve their family law disputes. The parties can also jointly hire or consult with neutral financial and/or parenting experts. Some options may not be advisable if there has been domestic violence or other issues that would make a cooperative approach unworkable.

Limit Family Input:
To be able to proceed in a civil manner, the family law attorney should limit declarations and involvement of grandparents, parents, and new romantic interests unless absolutely necessary. It is important for clients to understand that when we ask a family member to write a declaration or testify in court for our client, we are likely jeopardizing that person’s future relationship with the other spouse or partner, and as a result their relationship with the children when the children are with the other spouse or partner.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.
S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC
www.saslawoffices.com

www.OfficeWithoutWalls.org/blog
Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com;
Twitter: @SAS_Law;
IG: SahmraStevensonEsq;
Facebook: @SASLawOffices;

 

 

 

 

 

Leaders Leave Legacies:

Most leaders don’t leave legacies. When they leave an organization or other leadership position, their memory leaves with them and their names are never to be mentioned again.  Others leave negative legacies, and we all know who those folks are, even though sometimes we would rather not.  So what about the ones that leave powerful, lasting impressions on others? The ones whose legacies live on well beyond their tenure?

5 Ways To Leave A Positive Legacy:

We live in a culture that is constantly asking “what have you done for me lately?” You may not be remembered long for your results as a leader because success is a moving target.  Next year, next month, next week, there is always another goal to reach whether you’re there or not.

This serves as a gentle reminder that creating a positive impact is more about who we touch than what.  Impressions are deeper when we take the time to connect, develop and inspire.  Caring about this is a higher mission as a leader.

Creating a positive impact doesn’t happen by accident and it does not happen overnight. The following 5 strategies are examples of how you can work towards leaving your own impressions, however meaningful you wish them to be.

  1. People over results

Most of us are familiar with the quote by Maya Angelou… “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As a matter of fact it’s the first thing that pops up when I google her name, so that seems like a healthy place to start.

In a few months, your team won’t remember whether you hit this week’s goals, some probably won’t even care.  What they are going to remember is how you made them feel while trudging the happy road to victory.  Pay attention to any habits you’ve built when speaking to your team. Are you constantly focused on the business of things, or do you take time to ask “how are you?” A team member that feels you’re invested in their future is more likely to be genuinely invested in yours and the future of your business.

  1. Connect in person

Because I manage a virtual and mobile practice, technology is a necessity for me on a daily basis. But no matter the advancements in technology that are to come, I don’t believe there will ever be a substitute for actual human interaction.  I’m talking about that good face-to-face, reach out and touch somebody interaction.  People know the difference and appreciate the added effort it takes, especially given that we all have a wealth of alternatives that can probably produce a passable substitute to in-person meetings. Balance is the answer and awareness is the key.  Your positive legacy can only be perpetuated by positive human interaction.

  1. Investing time and money

Investing in the personal and professional growth of your team is fundamental.  When you invest time and, even money where appropriate, your team will be able to have more success and make an even bigger impact.  Ask your team to propose areas they would like to develop and follow-through with making it happen. It’s a win-win all the way around.

  1. Control less; empower more
    With some things, you just won’t know until you let it go. This is true when it comes to leadership and control.  You can’t know what your team is capable of unless you’re willing to let them take responsibility for their work.  This might scare you, but it’s the kind of behavior that separates the boys from the men.

You might be convinced that stepping out of frame will result in everything falling apart. But what if it doesn’t? What if your example is enough. Teach your team to make intelligent gambles, think critically and help them improve along the way. Work will become more enjoyable and less burdensome for everyone involved.

  1. Model behavior you want to see

Your team learns more from watching what you do than from listening to what you say.  Invite them to attend meetings and include them on calls so they can get a feel for what you do and how. Make sure you’re modeling the behaviors you’d like them to embody. Be humble enough to allow them to give feedback, you would be surprised what others can see that you can’t.

Now get to work! Legacies don’t create themselves.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.
S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC
Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

 

 

 

Team Building 101:
If you brand it they will come. But what if they don’t?

If you’re expecting a post about the simple synchronicity between team building and business branding, and all the success I’ve had with it so far you can stop reading here.  What I can offer is a brief account of how a project I had intended to be focused on team building became one that was rich in opportunities for character building instead.  I’ll also tell you why my business, and my resolve to keep I growing and living “without walls” is stronger today as a result.

The backdrop:

Last Saturday I ran a 5K race in Baltimore City, Maryland with my legal assistant Kamilah.  We ran it as a team, though it wasn’t the team I originally had in mind.  Let me tell you why…

Working without walls doesn’t mean working without structure.  So how do you organize a team without the traditional boundaries that define and give structure to team building? How do you create cohesiveness among a group that works predominately virtually and remotely, having little direct or face-to-face contact?  You make the space for bonds to grow….or at least that was what I had in mind when I suggested that my staff run the Baltimore race as a team last week.

There are four of us all-together: myself, my paralegal Sam; legal assistant Kamilah; and intern Fernando.  The idea was clear. We would train separately, keeping track of the number of miles we each ran for three weeks leading up to the race.  Adding some purpose and positivity to the mission, I vowed to contribute $1 for every mile run to a “family pot.”  The pot would be contributed to Kamilah’s efforts to raise money to study abroad.  So that everyone had a chance to profit, I also announced $100 bonuses for the best time ran on the day of the race, and the greatest total miles run in training.  Team shirts were printed, emails with carefully drafted rules and guidelines were sent out, social media posts announcing the mission were posted, hashtags created, etc., …I thought my plan was flawless.

So what happened?

Well…. nothing.  There was no response to my oh so great email for more than a week, and when a response did come it was only one of the team members inquiring as to whether walking was an acceptable form of training.  After 14 days my intern officially went AWOL and stopped returning my texts, and my “gentle reminder” messages to the group seemed to go unread.

It was around this time that one of my least favorite character defects began trying to formulate a response: control. When I’m in that space I find myself in my head, thoughts racing: How can I make them respond? How can I make them see how hard I’m trying? What combination of text, emails and calls will lay the perfect guilt trip trap to make them work towards the outcome I’m so attached to?  I mean I ordered team shirts for Pete’s sake! Where’s my photo finish!?

REALITY CHECK: You can’t make anyone do anything. When we try to defy this rule we ultimately push others away or end up with an outcome that we weren’t looking for and/or that doesn’t last.  I can’t make my team develop a bond just like I couldn’t make them answer my emails. I can inspire, I can lead, I can make suggestions, and I can keep coming bac to the table to try again.

When character defects show up its an opportunity to check my motivations, strengthen my resolve to stay aware of how they influence me and reevaluate the tools I’ve put in place to make sure they don’t take me, or the team, off course. And that’s pretty much what I had to do in the final days leading up to the race.  The most important questions I asked myself over and over were “where are my energies going? Where do I want them to go? Is what I’m wanting to do next a practical use of my time?”

On the day of the race Kamilah was the only person that came out. We ran for 4 minutes and walked the rest of the course. We talked with each other the entire way. She confided in me. I learned about what was going on in her world and how she wants to grow in her role on the team. There was no photo finish and no best time.  Just two people engaged in fellowship and reaching a finish line together.  That’s teamwork.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.
(s.stevenson@saslawoffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @S.A. Stevenson Law Offices)

 

Mobile Printing: Discover your mobile style to keep your workforce moving

Whether you’re on the road, making a scrap book or just want a printer that’s small enough to move from room to room, there’s a compact printer for you. Grabbing a portable printer isn’t likely to be at the top of your list when packing up for a trip, but you never know when you’re going to need to print a contract, photo or invoice. When the moment calls, you want to be ready regardless if you are printing from a computer, laptop or smartphone.

 Your mobile style

Portable printers serve two main kinds of buyer. The first is the business user who works on the road—often, out of a vehicle—and needs a means of outputting bills of sale, contracts, proposals, and other hard copy on a moment’s notice. If your line of work involves visiting clients and getting them to sign on the dotted line, on the spot, a portable printer may be a tool that you didn’t know you needed in your box.

The second is the photo enthusiast or snapshot hound seeking to print from any locale and pass out his or her prints right away. This could also be a photo professional who wants to hand off samples of his or her work. Maybe it’s a scrapbooker who wants to generate quick prints at a meet. Or it could simply be the photo buff in your household who wants to hand Aunt Jeanie and Uncle Joe mementos at the next family gathering. It’s especially useful for shots taken right at the time and made for relatives who are less tech-savvy and thus less likely to print out their own keepsakes from digital files.

Because of these two very different kinds of buyers, portable printers come in two main classes: business-centric inkjets, and photo-centric inkjet or thermal-dye printers. My list takes the best portable printers that can fit into a backpack and squeeze onto a hotel or office desk, and organizes them according to mobility styles. What mobile printer fits your work style?

Best Overall:
Epson WorkForce WF-100

Epson’s WorkForce WF-100 was released a few years ago, but has continued to outshine the competition as an excellent wireless mobile printer. At just 12.2 x 6.1 x 2.4 inches and 3.5 pounds, it’s as lightweight as the Canon, though slightly larger overall. Size aside, the Epson is capable of printing directly from a PC, as well as iOS and Android devices through WiFi connectivity. Printing itself offers both black ink and color cartridges with a rating of 250 and 200 pages, respectively, which is more than enough for printing out the latest invoices, contracts or spreadsheets that might be required on-the-go.

When it comes to true portability, the 20-sheet capacity can handle life on the road by printing 100 black and white pages (and 50 color pages) while operating strictly on the battery. Prior to printing, the Epson requires a brief setup run-through via the small 1.4-inch color LCD display. It’s less than ideal sizing for a desktop printer, but, for a printer built for portability, the LCD display assists with all the necessary functionality.

HP Office Jet 150

HP’s OfficeJet 150 might be a few years old, but this mobile wireless color printer is more than just a battery-friendly printer. It pulls double duty as a copier, too. With print speed of 22 black and white pages per minute and 18 color pages per minute alongside a 50 sheet input tray, the OJ 150 is among the fastest portable printers available in today’s market. At just 6.8-pounds and 14 x 7 x 3.5 inches in space, the OfficeJet 150 offers an excellent machine for road warriors who need a device that’s capable of handling printing on demand without requiring a separate suitcase. The battery life offers up to 500 prints. Additionally, the OfficeJet 150 is ready for up to five black and white and 3.5 color copies per minute. Unfortunately, the 150 does lack WiFi, but it offers Bluetooth connectivity for pseudo-wireless printing directly from a Bluetooth-compatible device.

Best for Portability
Primera Trio

At just 2.6-pounds and 11.4 x 1.8 x 6.5-inches, Primera’s Trio portable scanner tours itself as being the “world’s smallest and lightest portable all-in-one.” It’s capable of printing, scanning and copying documents all while on-the-go in a size that’s compact enough to fit into a messenger bag. The separately purchased battery makes it even more ideal for on-the-go use (the fully charged battery provides up to 350 prints before requiring a recharge). Additionally, the Primera will hold up to 10 pages of standard printer paper at one time, shooting out 3.1 black and white and 2.4 color print pages per minute. As for additional features, the Primera’s ability to copy black and white images at 1.7 and 1.1 color pages per minute won’t make it a speed demon, but that’s a tradeoff for portability. Unfortunately, for the price of the Primera, there’s a bit of a disappointment not to see WiFi or Bluetooth support for wireless printing (you’ll need a USB connection).

Best on a Budget
Canon IP2820

While it doesn’t offer the same compact form factor, Canon’s IP2820 weighs five pounds and measures just 16.8 x 9.3 x 5.3 inches, so it’s still plenty portable. With features such as Quiet Mode, it’s perfect for printing anytime, anywhere without waking up the family or the guests in the hotel room next to you. Additionally, if you’re a Canon camera user, you can sync a captured video with the IP2820 via the included Full HD Movie Print software and turn the results into fantastic looking still photos.

Printing itself happens with a 60-sheet auto feeder that turns out approximately eight black and white and four color pages every minute. Unfortunately, the IP2820 lacks WiFi connectivity, so there’s no printing directly from a smartphone or tablet since it requires a USB connection to a PC or Mac. However, the inclusion of features such as Auto Power On, which automatically boots the printer whenever a photo or document is sent to be printed, is a nice addition at such a budget-friendly price tag

Best for Photos
Canon Selphy CP1200

If printing photos is your main concern, then Canon’s Selphy CP1200 is the absolute go-to printer that’s both stylish and portable. Weighing just 1.9 pounds and measuring 7.1 x 5.4 x 2.5 inches, the Selphy is among the most compact of photo printers that still offers a multitude of print size options. The optional battery handily turns the Selphy into an even more portable selection (there’s enough printing power for up to 54 prints on a single charge). Additionally, the inclusion of WiFi helps enable prints from anywhere in the house or office, plus with features such as AirPrint, printing directly from an Apple device is a cinch.

While the portability of the Selphy is a big draw, the inclusion of prints that are water-resistant and capable of lasting up to 100 years is hard to ignore. Printing itself takes place in around 47 seconds with ink and paper kits that are available to print sets of 18, 36 or 54 photos. All that ink and paper will assist the Selphy with multiple size results including card size (2.1 x 2.4 inches), postcard (3.9 x 5.8 inches), square label (2 x 2 inches) and even a more traditional large size (3.5 x 4.7 inches).

The Selphy also includes additional features to further personalize each print. You can create a collage directly from the printer with a 2.7-inch display guiding the way and even print Facebook and Instagram photos directly from a smartphone or tablet with Canon’s optional Selphy app.

Best for Home Office
HP Deskjet 3755

At 5.1-pounds and measuring 15.86 x 6.97 x 5.55 inches, the HP DeskJet 3755 won’t feel as mobile as our overall winners, but its positioning by HP as an ultra-compact all-in-one is worth noting. Far smaller than most traditional desktop printers, the HP won’t fit comfortably into a backpack, but if you’re on a road trip and want something powerful without compromise, the 3755 is perfect for sticking into your car, setting up at a hotel or coffee shop and printing before that big meeting. Additionally, printing using a smartphone or tablet is offered through a variety of methods, including WiFi, HP’s reprint app and Wireless Direct, which offers a direct connection to the printer in the absence of any WiFi signal.

If its size doesn’t win you over, it’s 50 percent savings on traditional ink costs just might. An optional subscription even allows your printer to detect when it’s low on ink and place a new order before you run out altogether. Setup out of the box is a snap, too. Just pull the printer out, power it on, connect to a device and print away. As for prints itself, the 3755 offers a respectable eight pages per minute for black and white prints, as well as 5.5 pages per minute for color copies.

Best Multifunction
HP Officejet 250

If you’re looking for the most feature-rich portable printer money can buy, the HP OfficeJet 250 is your best bet. While its price tag might cause you to do a double take, the OfficeJet 250 is portable printing whenever you need it. Just stick it into a backpack or suitcase and you’re ready for on-the-go prints. Beyond printing, the OfficeJet 250 takes the portable printer feature set to another level with all-in-one features such as scanning and faxing in package that’s just 6.5 pounds and 7.8 x 15 x 3.6 inches. Even with a small size, the OfficeJet 250 delivers added portability with a battery for up to 500 prints when disconnected from a power outlet and a two-inch high-resolution display for selecting the appropriate-sized print.

The HP has a 10-page automatic document feeder and 50-sheet capacity that produces both letter and legal-sized prints up to 8.5 x 14 inches. The included black cartridge is capable of 200 pages and the tri-color cartridge lasts for around 165 pages before requiring new ink. HP also sells a separately purchased XL version of the OfficeJet 250 ink cartridges bumping the page results to 600 and 415 pages, respectively. With added features such as WiFi and Bluetooth, printing from a smartphone or laptop is easy courtesy of HP’s native ePrint app available for both Android and iOS.

By, Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq.

S.A. Stevenson Law Offices, LLC

Email: s.stevenson@saslawOffices.com; Twitter: @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook: @SASLawOffices; www.saslawoffices.com; www.officewithoutwalls.org

 

 

Love tolerance and compassion are the watchwords:

Meet Charley & Lucy. Charlie is a 94 yr old WWII vet and POW survivor. He was captured by Hitler and freed by General Patton. Lucy is a retired nurse who is wheel chair bound after rescuing a man before he jumped to his death from a hospital window some years ago. Truly a ride or die pair, the couple was referred to me after visiting with a colleague who’s office was not wheel chair accessible. 

In May I met with the couple in their home to start working on a joint living trust and pour over wills for their estate plan while they told me some amazing stories about their awesome life experiences. Remarkable evening indeed! Since then there have been a few ups and downs including a medical scare that required executing some temporary estate documents and taking an unexpected trip back out to the residence.

What I admire about Charley and Lucy is that the quality of their partnership is reflected in their presentation and poise.  I’ve now been over to their home about four times and each time that I’m there I’m greeted by a proud and very well put together pair.  I particularly like Lucy’s taste in patterned dresses along with her pearl necklaces, and Charley’s collection of sweaters and bow-ties.  I recognize that it must take the two of them several hours to prepare for my visits, something they don’t have to do at all. Neither can walk without assistance which means they have to assist each other.  Neither can balance without outside help, which means they must take turns offering support. I imagine it must be a process that requires the continuous demonstration of love, tolerance and compassion as each one struggles to help the other.  The narrow hallways of the one bedroom apartment can barely accommodate Lucy’s chair.  Turning around in one of the many many tight spaces is a 5-10 minute ordeal. Having witnessed the challenges with mobility first-hand, it is a mystery to me how some of it is even physically possible at all. Yet the couple manages with grace.

After a few times, it became quite clear to me that the effort that has gone into preparing for my visits is inspired and fueled by the values and commitment that these two share as a couple. As a family.  I think it must be their shared commitment to those values and to each other that makes the impossible possible.  And I think it must be their consistent practice of showing love, tolerance and compassion that has allowed them to perfect the process and make it look so easy.

We aren’t born knowing how to relate to or live with one another. We all come from and end up in very different #family situations. Some are easy to navigate and some are not. Love, tolerance and compassion seem to be the watchwords. When they are applied our challenges don’t disappear entirely, but if we’re consistent we might manage to smooth out some of their edges with a little touch of grace.

#SASLaw #WillsOnWheels #happyfamilies #familyfirst #yourhappyfamilylawattorney