Separation – The Accelerated Entrepreneur

Near the end of my VT KnowledgeWorks start-up meeting for the incorporation of my new enterprise, my LeClairRyan attorney Peer Segelke said:

“You have to separate yourself from your company.”

I immediately began to reflect on the myriad implications of such a profound statement, but he called my attention back to the bound corporate documents and legal business guide he would give me.

“If you take only two points away from this meeting, it’s this and this.”  Peer put a red sticker on each page, then pointed to the first one.

“Get used to signing your name ‘Anne Giles Clelland, President.’ If you sign your name just ‘Anne Giles Clelland,’ you’re personally liable.”

Uh-oh.  I had signed my first contract as a business just the day before.  I had felt proud and excited as I penned “Anne Giles Clelland.”

Sans “President.” Legally, then, I actually hadn’t signed as a business.  I had signed as an individual.  Uh-oh.

Peer pointed to page with the second red sticker.

“Open a separate bank account for the company,” he said.

Every single adviser I had consulted since the start-up process began had given me this advice. 

Why had I moved it down on my entrepreneurial to-do list?  Fear that I had too low of an Earnings Before Income and Taxes (The EBIT Ghoul) to have enough funds to open an account.

“Don’t mix your funds and the company’s funds,” Peer said.  “If there’s a problem, who’s liable becomes unclear.”

That’s when I felt dread.  I’ve written before that I am willing to invest my time and heart into this venture, risking both in the process.  I am not willing to risk the enterprise I share with my spouse.

And the cats, the cats, who would care for the cats?! 

I hadn’t realized I had put us all in such peril.

I needed a nap, cat on chest, to recover from the meeting with Mr. Segelke.

Then I made the phone call to our VT KnowledgeWorks bank contact, Susan Shephard, BB&T Financial Center Leader, a lovely person I met at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center picnic

I had wanted to enter her office as a woman of means, as someone she might be glad to have as a client because of the deposit I could make.

As I mentioned here and here, I was raised to be a genteel Virginia woman.  Talk of money was not the done thing.  I felt embarrassed, and cornered, into asking her the hardest question:

“How much?”

Let’s just say Susan Shephard’s VIP-treatment answer started with a very small number, included a lot of use of the term “free,” and had a very heartening reference to “no minimum.”

If I had made a deposit of $100,000 instead of a deposit with a lot fewer zeros, I couldn’t have been treated with more warmth and professionalism than when I opened my first incorporated company’s first bank account at the Blacksburg, Virginia branch on Price’s Fork Road of BB&T.

At 10:00 AM, I met with my attorney, Peer Segelke.  By 4:00 PM, I was signing BB&T documents.

“Anne Giles Clelland, President.”

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