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Pandemic Restrictions May Provide An Exit From Contract Obligations

August 13, 2020

Pandemic Restrictions May Provide An Exit From Contract Obligations | West Coast Franchise Law

In what is probably an unprecedented decision, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois has ruled that governmental shutdowns and restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 could be considered a Force Majeure event and give a business a valid reason to exit from contract obligations during the pandemic.

On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court held, in In re Hirtz Restaurant Group, that the restaurant’s lease had a force majeure clause that permitted either party to suspend performance of their obligations if they were “prevented or delayed, retarded or hindered by . . . laws, governmental action or inaction, orders of government….”

In this bankruptcy case, the restaurant argued that they could not pay rent because of government-enforced restrictions that prevented them from serving customers. The court found this argument persuasive but since the restaurant was still using 25% of the space for takeout orders, they were assessed a portion of the rent.

The ability to cancel contract obligations during this pandemic would be a huge financial relief to debtors who are struggling under the weight of unpaid bills as they experience serious revenue contraction. But before a debtor tries to walk away from performance of a contract they need to work with an attorney to carefully investigate what the force majeure clause covers.

Many force majeure clauses excuse performance, except for the payment of rent.  So while a government forced closure due to a pandemic excuses performance of things like making repairs or being open for business, they do not excuse payment of rent.  This provision was supposed to work with business interruption insurance, but as many business owners have learned, business interruption insurance excludes pandemics (only insurance lawyers could have envisioned all this).

If a force majeure provision doesn’t allow complete cancellation of performance during a pandemic, it may be prudent to investigate if it will allow underperformance as the business owner may be unable to meet minimal guarantees as required in the contract.

As many businesses are forced to file bankruptcy due to restrictions and closures, there is still no nationwide gold standard for handling force majeure contractions during this pandemic. Each bankruptcy court will need to assess individual cases based on that state’s interpretation of contract law.

If you have any questions about how to exit from contract obligations during the pandemic or other small business and franchise issues, please contact the experienced franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.     

Tips To Renegotiate Your Lease Due to COVID

June 23, 2020

Tips To Renegotiate Your Lease Due to COVID | Franchise Attorney Nate Riordan

Rent Relief:
How To Renegotiate Your Business Rent During the Pandemic

If you are a retail business, there is perhaps nothing more critical for reopening or continuing operations than your lease. During this time of quarantine and reopening, both landlords and tenants have been casting about trying to find solutions. No one really knows what to do or what will come next. You will benefit immensely by taking the lead in your discussions to renegotiate your lease with your landlord about how your business can return to a healthy existence, return to being a great tenant and how the landlord can help make that happen. If you have not taken the lead yet, it is not too late. Your landlord is facing an uncertain future with many unknowns and simply trying to sort out their best path forward. 

Key Terms in Rent Negotiation

Here are a few terms you should know before talking to your landlord to renegotiate your lease: 

  • REIT is a real estate investment trust
  • Rent abatement is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant that provides a period of free rent
  • Rent postponement or rent deferral requires payment of your rent at a later date; it does not automatically forgive rent payment unless your landlord agrees to that
  • Rent relief is any change to your current lease
  • PPP is the federal Paycheck Protection Program 

We recommend that you do not simply stick your head in the sand, send a check for less than full rent or no check at all without contacting your landlord. We propose that you take a reasoned approach to solving the problem. The best approach is to do what you have done all along to be successful in business which is to assess your situation and make a plan.

Guidance for Rent Relief Requests to Renegotiate Your Lease Due to COVID 

If your small business has been hurt by COVID, here are some tips to renegotiate your lease or ask for rent relief or rent abatement:

1. Slow down and assess your needs

Figure out what you can actually afford and figure out what rent relief from the landlord will actually make a difference. If you are a multi-unit operator, think in terms of both the unit economics of any particular store and also the overall business. Even if you have one particular store that can afford the rent, consider asking for rent relief anyway in order to keep the overall business healthy. You may also want to consider whether a weak store that you’ve been considering closing is something that you should close.

2. Make a plan

You should make projections and be ready to share them if you are asked to do so. You will set yourself apart with your landlord by having a plan, as many other tenants will not even try to plan. Take comfort now in the understanding that no matter what your projections are, they’re going to be wrong. Rest assured that the landlord and everyone else knows that. You are setting yourself apart by being a planner, and by extension, someone who can react when the plans need to change.Renegotiate Your Lease: Download Our Free Forms Emergency Forms for Rent Postponement or Abatement of Rent

3. Communicate

You need to pick up the phone and contact the landlord to renegotiate your lease. Remember that you are talking to a person who is assessing what to do, has their own fears and curiosity. By talking to your landlord about your situation and what you’re seeing, you’re providing the landlord color commentary on what’s going on out there, commentary the landlord is frankly dying to hear. Open a dialogue and do what you can to avoid acting unilaterally with respect to your rent.

4. Ask For Enough to Make a Difference

Ask for what you need, communicate the problem clearly, and let them know how your revenue is down, let them know if you are completely shut down. Spell out what you need from the landlord specifically to keep the unit that services the lease healthy, or spell out what you need from the landlord as part of the plan to keep the business healthy. Make your requests to renegotiate your lease specific and outline whether you are asking for deferment of rent or abatement of rent. If you are asking for deferment, spell out the terms of the repayment that you propose. If you cannot accommodate this request make sure that you have some kind of a plan to show the landlord as to how you will use your revenue when you open. It is likely that you have capital needs that can only be met by using initial operating revenue and by not paying rent.

5. Don’t throw out your strategic brain

For each lease you have, think about what you need in the future. Will more options need to be added? Do you need tenant improvement money for an upcoming upgrade that is required by your franchisor? Were you planning to close the unit early? Do you have concessions from your bank and/or your franchisor? If so, let the landlord know. People let to be part of a crowd and they really like it when others go first. If your bank and your franchisor have signed off on concessions, then your landlord is more likely to think that those concessions are a good idea and follow suit. You want to position yourself as a partner with your landlord and if you have an upcoming request such as a plan to extend the lease, make sure the landlord knows about that.

6. Don’t give up too much

Don’t give up options, extra time on the lease, or a personal guarantee if you are just asking for rent relief. Make sure that what you are being asked to give up are equivalent to what you’re getting. Some landlords want to add terms that make it clear that any murky portion of the lease that has to do with the COVID-19 situation is cleared up and gets entered in the lease as part of the amendment. Resist doing this and consider consulting with an attorney if such a request is made because you may need those things as leverage later if things get worse instead of better.

7. Assess your landlord

Consider what you know about your landlord. If your landlord is a REIT and you’re dealing with a bureaucracy, tailor your approach to that bureaucracy. If your landlord is a retired couple living on the income generated by your property, consider that when you ask for rent relief. Does your landlord have a large mortgage? Is the property free and clear of any debt? Does your landlord have many properties? Has your landlord historically been difficult to deal with? All of these are things to consider when deciding how you are going to approach your landlord for rent relief.

For example, the retired couple may need some cash to live on. They may need some kind of small payment. The REIT may care less about not getting rent right now so long as the total rent they receive over the life of the lease is the same. That REIT might agree to no rent now, so long as it all gets paid back eventually over the lease term.

8. Take the lead and give them something that’s simple to sign.

Give the landlord something to sign if they agree with specific dollar amounts that cover all relevant discussed issues. Make sure it is short, simple and easy to read. The most important point is to get it any agreement in writing. If nobody’s going to sign anything, at least get it confirmed by email. Make sure there is no discussion later about what was agreed to and what would be done. Renegotiate Your Lease: Download Our Free Forms Emergency Forms for Rent Postponement or Abatement of Rent

9. Think like a lawyer

Don’t offer financials unless asked. Start with topline revenue in your presentation and keep it simple. If the unit economics look bad, just work with that. If the unit economics look good, stress the overall effect on the business. If the business looks good on paper and you’re still asking for rent relief, stress the uncertainty going forward.

Never play hide the ball or mislead but at the same time don’t fall all over yourself volunteering information.

10. PPP Money

The terms of PPP use and the changes to the PPP forgiveness regulations are beyond the scope of this article. Everyone’s situation with respect to PPP is different. Address the issues with PPP head-on with the landlord. Explain how much you have and what you’re using it for. This is a tricky conversation and if you have a significant amount of PPP money, we strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney about how to approach your landlord in terms of what you’re doing with your PPP money and what you are proposing to pay the landlord. You will want to stress that you need to adhere to the constraints of the loans to maximize forgiveness, which makes only a certain amount available for rent and expenses other than payroll and that you have other necessary expenses competing for the money with rent. (You’ll need to think of what those are of course). This one can get tricky. Don’t make promises you will take back later and call in a lawyer if it gets too confusing.

11. Don’t forget about your franchisor in the development agreement

If you are a franchisee with a development agreement that requires you to open new units, you should consider asking for extensions and getting those extensions in writing now. If you’re going to have to close a store and your development agreement required you to have a “net gain” of stores, get that store closure excluded. Now is the time to ask as economies start to reopen and panic and uncertainty recedes, these requests will be harder to obtain.

12. Force majeure

A lot has been written about force majeure clauses in leases and a discussion of your force majeure clause is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that the issue is complicated and for the most part force majeure clauses don’t help the tenant as they require the tenant to continue to pay rent while excusing the obligation to be open. If you think your force majeure clause might be a help to you in dealing with the landlord we strongly encourage you to contact an attorney right away to discuss that force majeure clause and what can be done.

13. Business interruption insurance

We strongly encourage you to apply for business interruption insurance. While it is almost certain your application will be denied, there is so much litigation and discussion around what should happen with business interruption insurance that you might as well get the denial anyway. You may have a claim later and at the very least you will have the denial to be able to show to your landlords and other stakeholders so that they know that that insurance is not currently available for helping with the business. Do not let your agent dissuade you from making the claim.

Asking your landlord for a rent abatement or to renegotiate your lease is a lot to manage. If you’d like to discuss any of this with us as part of a free consultation, please do not hesitate to call or email! 

Contact the experienced franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.     

PPP Loan Forgiveness Expands

June 6, 2020

PPP Loan Forgiveness Expands | Franchise Attorney Nate Riordan | West Coast Franchise Law

PPP Borrowers Get More Time and Flexibility

On June 5, 2020 the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010) was signed into law.  H.R. 7010 will loosen the restrictions on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness and give borrowers more freedom to use funding for expenses other than payroll.

Here’s what you need to know about what H.R. 7010 will do for PPP loan borrowers:

  • Triple the time PPP loan borrowers have to spend PPP funding from 8 weeks to 24 weeks or until December 31, 2020.
  • Loosen standards for how much of PPP funding must be allocated to payroll in order to qualify for full loan forgiveness. PPP loan borrowers must spend at least 60% of their funding on payroll instead of 75%.
  • Employers with PPP loans will now have until June 30, 2020 to rehire or suspend reductions in employment, salary, or wages in order to qualify for full forgiveness.  Otherwise, loan forgiveness amounts will be reduced accordingly.
  • H.R. 7010 will remove penalties for a reduction in headcount for business who are unable to rehire former employees, unable to hire similarly qualified employees, or who is unable to return to the same level of business activity due restrictions placed on them such as capacity limits or social distancing requirements due to COVID-19.
  • PPP loan terms have been extended from two years to five years.
  • All PPP loan borrowers will get access to the payroll tax deferral provisions of the CARES Act.

If you want to understand how you can get the full benefits of the PPP loan program, please contact a knowledgeable attorney today.

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.     

Best Practices For Reopening Your Business Post-Quarantine

May 29, 2020

The U.S. has bled millions of dollars in business since COVID-19 shuttered millions of businesses and forced consumers indoors. But now that many states are slowly reopening their economies, you need to understand the best way to move forward to ensure the safety of your workers and customers. Here’s what you need to know.

Understand The Rules

Each state has its own rules and guidance for reopening businesses. It’s important that you understand when you can open and under what conditions. In Washington state, Governor Inslee has unveiled a four-phase approach for reopening the economy. As of the date of this newsletter, most of Washington is in Phase 1. Below is a chart explaining all four phases.

Washington state four-phase approach for reopening the economy

Washington counties will be measured by four key areas before they are allowed to move from one phase to the next:

  1. Healthcare system readiness
  2. Testing capacity and availability
  3. Case and contact investigations
  4. Ability to protect high-risk populations

In Washington many counties are advancing to Phase 2.

Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman counties have been approved for Phase 2.

Spokane, Adams, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, Kitsap, Island, and San Juan counties are eligible to apply for Phase 2.

To find out more about how Washington is determining which counties can reopen and in which phase, please visit: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/SafeStartWA_4May20_1pm.pdf

Whether your business operates in mostly a retail environment or an office building, it’s important that you consider all key guidance points to make your workplace safe for employees and clients/customers.

You should consider the following:

  • Prepping workspace
  • Workplace cleanliness
  • Physical distancing
  • Mask policies

A small amount of planning will go a long way in keeping you aligned with government rules and building trust with employees and customers who may be reluctant to resume in-person contact with people outside their household.

Prepping Workspace
If it has been several months since your worksite has been occupied at full capacity, it’s important that you test all systems to make sure they are in working order. One of the biggest issues some people may overlook is that some buildings that have had low- or no occupancy for months, weeks, or even just days may experience the growth of mold anywhere there is moisture. Your building should be checked for mold before reopening. If left uncorrected, mold growth can cause respiratory illness in employees. Another issue that you should check for is the growth of bacteria in your plumbing system. Standing water in a plumbing system can increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella, bacteria that can cause Legionnaires disease. People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to developing this disease if exposed to the bacteria. One way to reduce risk is by flushing your water system before employees return to the worksite.

The CDC offers a comprehensive guide to prepping your building and preventing/fixing these hazards.

Workplace Cleanliness
The understanding of this novel coronavirus is currently evolving but as of the date of this publication, it’s understood that the virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets and by touching surfaces that is hosting the virus. However, in the past few days the CDC is saying that the virus isn’t spread as easily through surfaces as initially reported. In any case, businesses that are reopening must take into account the hygiene of their physical worksite and their employees. Here’s what you should know:

  • Sick employees should remain home. While it is true that some employees may not be sick with the novel coronavirus or just have allergies, employees who are showing signs of illness should not be allowed to work on-site.
  • Shared tools and workspaces should be disinfected after each use. This includes keyboards, mice, and cash registers. Employers should put into place protocols for disinfecting workspaces. Make sure that these protocols are followed every time an item is used. Having even just one infected employee could shut down your business and make other employees refuse to return.
  • Employee personal hygiene should be encouraged. Employers should provide hand sanitizer, soap and water, and give ample time for employees to sanitize their hands regularly. And if your employees are working directly with the public, employers should provide facemasks/coverings—more on masks later.

Physical Distancing
Government and health authorities are recommending that people keep at least 6 feet distance from each other. This is true even if they are wearing masks. The 6 feet rule is especially important for employees working with customers/employers daily for multiple hours.  Here’s what you should consider:

  • Allow some employees to work from home so you can reduce your onsite numbers.
  • Assign cubicles in a way that allows employees to maintain 6 feet distance from other workers.
  • Institute policies that reduce or eliminate face-to-face communication. Consider video conferencing, email, or Slack channels for most or all communication between employees.

Considerations For Restaurants

For employees working directly with your customers, consider the following:

  • Contactless payment. Encourage or even require that customers pay for purchases via credit card, debit card or through online apps. Some restaurants are offering a discount to customers who order online.
  • Clearly mark how much distance customers should maintain from others when waiting in line. Some restaurants are using blue tape on the floor to mark 6 feet of distance between customers.
  • Provide face coverings and plastic sneeze guards for employees who are working the cash register.
  • Consider giving bonus pay especially if you want to keep your best employees working.

Customer Guidance

  • Don’t allow customers to use their own containers such as reusable cups.
  • Use disposable utensils and plates when possible.
  • Don’t allow unmasked customers to dine-in at your restaurant.
  • Post your requirements on your website and on your front door.

A Note On Ventilation
If you are in Phase 2 of reopening, make sure that you increase ventilation by opening windows and doors in your dining hall. And when possible, consider serving customers outdoors.

Mask Policies
As of the date of this newsletter, Washington has a public directive stating that all residents should wear face coverings when in public settings when they can’t easily maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from other people. To be aligned with this policy, employers should require employees to wear face coverings especially when working directly with the public or in enclosed spaces.

Here are a few tips on how to help employees overcome the awkwardness of face coverings:

  • Post public health announcements provided by your local government.
  • Educate employees about the risks of the COVID-19 and how face coverings protect them and others.
  • Have a compassionate discussion with employees who are resistant to wearing masks.
  • Understand that some people may be unable to wear face coverings due to health reasons.
  • Show employees that leadership is wearing face coverings.
  • Make it fun: Consider providing a “prize” to employees who come to work with the most creative face coverings.
  • Brand your own face covering. Put your logo on a face covering and give them away to your employees.

As your community reopens, keep your eyes on new directives and guidance. Taking a responsible approach to reopening post-quarantine is just good business.

Nate Riordan Named 2020 Seattle Super Lawyer

May 13, 2020

Nate Riordan | 2020 Seattle Bankruptcy Super Lawyer

Franchise and business law attorney Nate Riordan was named a 2020 Seattle Super Lawyer, an honor bestowed on only 5% of the lawyers in Washington each year. This is the 2nd year in a row Nate has been named a Seattle Super Lawyer for his outstanding work in bankruptcy law.

Super Lawyers® selects attorneys using a rigorous, multiphase rating process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Super Lawyers® is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

About Nate Riordan

Nate Riordan received a B.A. with honors from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1992 and graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1998. Nate practiced law in Minneapolis until 2004, where he practiced in the areas of corporate bankruptcy, workouts, restructures, finance, franchise and corporate and transactional law. In 2004, Nate moved to Seattle and has practiced there ever since.

Nate practices in the areas of:

  • Multi-Unit Franchise
  • Leasing
  • Transactional/Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Corporate/Partnership
  • Commercial Leasing / Sale-Leaseback
  • Franchise Representation
  • Master Franchisor / Area Developer Representation
  • Debt Restructure / Workout
  • Finance
  • Commercial Bankruptcy

Stress Management Tips for Small Business Owners During a Pandemic

April 24, 2020

Stress Management Tips for Small Business Owners During a Pandemic | Bankruptcy Attorney Nate Riordan

We are one month deep into the COVID-19 pandemic and many businesses are feeling the strain of mandatory closures, reduced foot traffic and the prospect of a recession if we’re unable to stem the financial bleed. All these factors can create an underlying and unrelenting amount of stress. But as some business owners know, stress has many negative impacts–psychological, physical, and even financial.

Stress Management Tips for Small Business Owners

Stress can make it harder to think clearly and to strategize a way forward but it can also weaken your immune system making you more vulnerable to illness. This is why we want to offer you a few stress management tips for small business owners to maintain calm and order while wading through this pandemic’s river of chaos.

1. Create A New Routine To Match Your New Life

If you were thinking about “getting back to normal” that is simply not possible right now. Nothing is exactly normal as this novel coronavirus sickens thousands and workers are forced to do business from home as they maintain physical distance between themselves and other people. During this time, having a routine is more important than ever for reducing stress but you will need to create a routine that takes into account how your situation has changed. If you’re working from home this is especially important. You will need to coordinate your routine with your spouse, children, and other housemates. Ask the following questions:

• Where will I and my spouse/partner work during the day? You both need to agree on how you will share the space. Having a clear understanding will reduce the number of arguments you have about how the home is being used.

• When will I work? Decide what “office hours” you will keep and stick to that schedule daily. Sporadic or excessive hours can exasperate your anxiety about being productive.

• How will I interact with my kids? It can be a shock to the system to have your kids suddenly at home all of the time. You need to decide when you will spend time with your kids and when they will need to entertain themselves. Don’t feel obligated to fill all of your free time with your children. It’s healthy for everyone to have some “me time.”

• When and where will I get physical activity? The gyms are all closed so you need a new exercise routine. Determine now which days/times you will work out and make sure you have a dedicated space where you can do that.

2. Maintain Strong Boundaries

If you’re working from home, you need to maintain strong boundaries with your family and your job.  Here are a few tips:

• Create a dedicated workspace. Your designated workspace should be off-limits to others. When people “borrow” and lose the tools you need to work, it can be infuriating. Don’t get your blood pressure boiling, get everyone in your household on the same page now. Everyone must be informed about what they can and cannot access in your workspace. Ideally, you should have a room or desk that is a “no-go” zone for others. If that’s not possible because you have limited space, you should have a list of items that people cannot touch such as your computer, phone, and work files.

• Don’t tolerate interruptions. As mentioned earlier, you must maintain a work schedule but you should also have no tolerance for interruptions during work hours. Think about it, would your kids call or show up to your job to ask what you’re cooking for dinner? No? Then don’t tolerate these types of interruptions when you’re working from home.

• Clock-in and clock-out promptly. Keeping good boundaries around your work hours is critical to reducing your stress levels. If you sit around and procrastinate all day watching cat videos or following the latest COVID-19 news, you will never get anything done and you will be stressed about it. Don’t do that to yourself, keep to your schedule, make a list of critical tasks to complete and do your job just like you would if you were at the office. On the flipside of that, don’t do a lot of 14-hour work benders that will just stress you out, burn you out, and send you to the hospital because you’ve become sick. Stick to your schedule and do your job in an efficient manner.

3. Care For Your Physical and Mental Health

Maintaining a healthy exercise routine, a nutritious diet, and a relaxation schedule is critical to reducing stress. Healthy habits help to keep your immune system strong. It will also give you the physical and mental stamina to deal with the chaos and small ‘dumpster fires’ that are inevitable when in the middle of a pandemic. It’s up to you to keep yourself in the best physical and mental condition.

4. Don’t Allow Short-Term Chaos To Create Long-Term Failure

Don’t allow short-term chaos to create long-term failure by failing to stick to your long-term business plan. If you did your proper planning, your business should have some protocols for dealing with emergencies, this is the time to implement those protocols. This is not the time to panic and start making decisions out of fear. Stay the course and make adjustments as necessary but don’t abandon your long-term vision.

Best Practices For Creating A Successful Home Office

As governors require non-essential businesses to close their doors, many workers are being forced to work from home. At home, many workers are finding all kinds of challenges—rambunctious kids, bad internet connections, and a simple lack of space that threatens their productivity. In this short and simple guide, we will explore some of the best practices for creating a successful home office.

Strong Boundaries

If you are not living alone, having strong boundaries with your family or housemates is critical to working out of a home office.

• Create a dedicated workspace. Your designated workspace should be off-limits to others. If you can put your home office in a room that no one else has access to, that would be ideal. If you have a lock on the door, use it. This is not about not trusting your family or housemates but it is about protecting your business from people who may do unintended harm by borrowing your tools or damaging equipment. If you don’t have a separate room, cordon off a space that will be designated as “the office.” If this space is in the open, consider locking your computer and sensitive business files in a cabinet when not in use. Everyone in your household must be informed about what they can and cannot access in your workspace.

• Don’t tolerate interruptions. You should have no tolerance for interruptions during work hours especially when on Zoom or telephone calls. Nothing is more embarrassing than having your toddler wandering into your office talking about inappropriate things while you are in a Zoom business meeting. If you have small children, there should be someone supervising them while you work—we will discuss more about that later.

• Coordinate with your spouse. If you and your spouse are both working at home, you need to talk with them to come to an agreement about how this will work. The last thing you want is a bunch of arguments about space, internet bandwidth, noise, and access to equipment. You need to iron all of these details out right now. For example, who will get access to the one private room in your home? When possible try to share prime space so that neither of you is feeling left out or disrespected. When coordinating how you will set up your home office workspace, compromise is the most important thing to do.

• Manage your children. This is a big issue for many people working from home, especially if you have small children. If your children are under the age of 10, you might consider hiring a digital babysitter. Some child care providers are taking their services online. Many of them have age-appropriate activities that can keep the child occupied for about an hour. Do not expect your children to remain engaged with a babysitter via zoom for 2 or 3 hours, it’s not going to happen in most cases if they are young. Consider hiring digital babysitters for when you need quiet time for business meetings or some concentration heavy task. When looking for a digital babysitter, you should first check in with your current child care service and ask if they have digital babysitters. If not, reach out to your personal or professional network for recommendations only as it will be difficult to verify the quality of the babysitter if they have not been recommended by someone you trust.

Here are some other tips for keeping your kids occupied:

• Create a homework schedule. Schools are closed but most students are still expected to study and complete assignments. Make sure that your kids are working on schoolwork during your work hours and consider hiring digital tutors for subjects where they struggle. Once again, if you’re going to hire a digital tutor, get recommendations from your personal and professional network or from the school.

• Let them play videogames. Yes, it’s preferable for them to go to the park or play outside but if you can’t supervise them, consider allowing them some game time during the day. Age-appropriate videogames will keep them preoccupied for hours, just make sure that they complete their homework first.

• Fun hobbies. If there are things that your kid likes to do such as draw or read, consider giving them projects to do while you work and then reward them for completing those tasks without interrupting you.

Good Location

When you create your home office workspace, you need to pick the right location and make sure that it is set up for maximum comfort and efficiency. Here are a few things you should consider:

• Space
Whatever location you choose for your home office, it needs to have enough room for all your tools, at least the things you will use daily. You can always store less frequently used items in another room.

• Noise level
While it’s probably impossible to get a location that has no noise, it’s important that your workspace have relatively low noise levels especially when doing work-related phone/Zoom calls.

• Light
You need enough light to read your papers and find the things you need. But you also don’t want to get so much sunlight that you are squinting for half the day. If you work near a window, make sure that you can lower light levels when it gets really bright outside. You should also have lamps that you can easily reposition and turn on/off. If possible, install dimmers so that you can have as much control over your light as possible.

• Access
Who has access to this location? Is it a high traffic part of your home? If possible, choose a location where you can keep others out or an area that has very low foot traffic.

Solid Internet

Have you been having more internet connection issues lately? It’s not your imagination. Some households are experiencing a lot of latency issues, dropped Zoom calls and even internet outages. Here’s the thing, if your kids are playing Fortnite, your spouse is streaming a Zumba exercise, and you are doing a Zoom call it may be too much for your internet service to handle. You may experience very slow internet connections, dropped calls, and even an outage. You need a backup plan. Here are some tips:

• Purchase the best home internet you can afford. You won’t regret this investment as it will reduce the amount of latency issues you experience when everyone is using the internet.

• Consider purchasing a Wi-Fi hotspot. This will allow you to have a dedicated Wi-Fi connection just for your home office.

• Consider using your cell phone as a WiFi hotspot if you have a temporary home internet outage. But only do this if you have unlimited data, otherwise, you may end up with an unpleasant bill next month.

Professional Clothes

It can be easy to fall into the rut of spending your workday in your pajamas or workout clothes. Don’t do it. Each day you should get dressed as if you are going to the job. No, you do not need to wear a formal business suit every day at home but you should consider it for Zoom calls if that’s what you would normally wear in the office. As for your everyday home office wear—go business casual. Wear something clean and comfortable, something you wouldn’t mind your coworkers seeing you wear.

As you confidently set up your home office, don’t allow fear or panic to guide you. Make sure that your home office serves your business needs and create a household agreement with our family that respects the important function your work provides.

There are some things you simply cannot control. But one key way to manage stress is to take action to organize and calm a stressful environment. Our stress management tips for small business owners, best practices on creating a home office and tips for keeping the kids occupied while social distancing can help you maintain calm and order.

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.    

Nate Riordan on The Pillars of Franchising Podcast

April 17, 2020

Nate Riordan, franchise attorney and founder of West Coast Franchise Law, was a guest on The Pillars of Franchising podcast.

WATCH: Emergency Advice for Your Franchise During the Coronavirus Pandemic:
What to Say and Do With Your Landlords, Lenders, Franchisor, Taxes and Employees

How Franchises Can Weather the Coronavirus Storm

Your lease is probably the single most important consideration for franchise businesses to weather the coronavirus storm.
You need the lease when you return.

–> Free Download: Emergency Forms for Your Lease or Leases For the Postponement or Abatement of Rent

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.   

10 Do’s and Don’t When Talking to Your Landlord About Rent Relief

April 10, 2020

10 Do's and Don't When Talking to Your Landlord About Rent Relief | Bankruptcy Attorney Nate Riordan

PLUS: How Franchises Can Weather the Coronavirus Storm

Your lease is probably the single most important consideration for franchise businesses to weather the coronavirus storm.
You need the lease when you return.

–> Free Download: Emergency Forms for Your Lease or Leases For the Postponement or Abatement of Rent

10 Do’s and Don’t When Talking to Your Landlord About Rent Relief

1. Do reach out to them. Let them know what is going on and whether you can pay the rent. Do this even if you cannot pay anything.

2. Do make a request. Ask the landlord for what you want them from them in terms of rent relief. How much are you asking to rent or abate? How much are you asking to be deferred or postponed?

3. Do agree to repayment of some kind if you are talking about deferring rent. If you don’t agree upon the exact terms, at least push out the date at which repayment will start for at least 90 days.

4. Do be aware that these terms may need to be revisited and share with the landlord that you “hope we don’t have to revisit the conversation!”

5. Don’t act unilaterally if you can help it. If the landlord won’t or can’t respond and you just have not got the money, then you don’t have a choice. But even if your intention is to send nothing, advance notice and conversation can go a long way.

6. Do have a plan and communicate that plan. A plan for getting re-opened, a plan for operations with reduced expenses, a plan for asking other stakeholders for help reducing expenses, even a plan for making a plan (if you have no plan).

7. Do communicate the details of your situation. There’s no need to overdo it, but landlords will want to know – what are you seeing? Slower paying customers? Fewer orders? Total stoppage? There’s both anxiety and curiosity at play here while the details get sorted out and everyone tries to identify significant information.

8. Do address the emergency assistance from the SBA as part of your plan. Are you applying? Will the funds get here quickly enough? Landlords need to know that while you intend to apply for one program or have applied for another you don’t have funds yet.

9. Do get it in writing. Make sure the details of anything you agree upon are written down and signed.

10. Don’t forget your landlords are human and stressed out too. They’ve got mortgages and business themselves.

BONUS – DON’T FORGET TO THANK YOUR LANDLORD. A handwritten note is never a bad idea.

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.   

Free Webinar: Coronavirus Crisis Strategy for Franchise and Small Business Owners

April 2, 2020

Free Webinar: Coronavirus Crisis Strategy for Franchise and Small Business Owners

Emergency Advice for Your Business During the Pandemic

What to Say and Do With Your Landlords, Lenders, Franchisor, Taxes and Employees by Nate Riordan, Franchise and Business Law Attorney: West Coast Franchise Law

In this free webinar, Nate Riordan, an insolvency and franchise attorney with over 22 years in restructuring and bankruptcy, will bring his experience to bear and offer advice on common financial problems facing businesses during the pandemic and answer questions about what to do and what not to do during this trying time. While the circumstances are new, conversations with lenders and landlords about financial distress are not new or different.

SPACE IS LIMITED – SIGN UP EARLY
REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED 

Free Webinar Registration 

• Monday, April 6
• 11am – 12noon PDT
• Register Here

🔥Please forward to someone who may find this helpful! 

Tune in and listen to Nate:

• walk you through how to think about and approach hard conversations
• answer common questions about asset protection and bankruptcy
• tell you it just isn’t time to file bankruptcy yet

While there are no silver bullets, you will feel informed and reassured about the things Nate will discuss with you.

The webinar closes with Q&A with Nate.

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.  

Insights On the SBA Disaster Loan Application Process

March 25, 2020

One of the professionals in our network reached out to a great SBA loan originator and got some on the ground insight into the SBA disaster loans. It’s not surprising that things aren’t going smoothly as they ramp up a new program with huge demand and lots of questions. Here are some takeaways:

Disaster relief loans are a mess.
The online application process is overwhelmed. Savvy would-be borrowers are going on at 3 am and are prepared to be there for several hours. There isn’t a way to save your application and get back on later. Once you start, you need to finish or your work will be lost.

Be prepared.
It’s a loan application. Have your financial statements, tax returns and proof of expenses like payroll and rent ready. Our advice from the firm – 3 years tax returns, 3 years profit and loss and balance sheets, copies of a recent payroll run, a rent invoice or even your entire lease are what we recommend.

Get ready to be patient.
No one currently has a handle on the timeline for approval.

No one has a sense of how important your current ability to repay might be. In other words, apply for the loan, even if it isn’t clear if you can qualify.

If you have existing loans, immediately ask for payment deferrals.

It’s not clear how repayment terms will be set.

Ask for what you need or a little more, but don’t overreach. What you request should be tailored to your demonstrable need.

We’ll update as often as possible.

Contact the franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 724-0846 to discuss your situation.