In A World Podcast – Sheila Seck – Seck & Associates

Sheila focuses her practice on assisting entrepreneurs as they launch their business and encounter change as they grow. She works closely with growing companies, established businesses, and investors to develop solutions to the broad range of challenges they encounter in running their businesses.  She works with clients on managing founder relationships and ownership issues, corporate governance for new and established companies, protecting intellectual property, financing issues, including state and federal securities laws, and preparing business owners to sell their companies.  Sheila works with many companies as they prepare to sell their business or acquire new ones by advising them through the buy and sell process, including the often complex allocation of risk in mergers and acquisitions.

Sheila combines her legal experience with a practical understanding of the needs of her clients.  She has developed a culture at Seck & Associates where attorneys develop an in-depth understanding of the firm’s clients so that practical solutions can be applied to meet client’s goals and objectives.  The firm doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach to providing legal or consulting services. Sheila also connects clients with many resources in the business community, including investment bankers, capital resources, bankers, and HR resources.

https://www.seckassociates.com/sheila-seck

 

 

 

 

 

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-Transcript-

Brad Burrow: This is Brad Burrow and I have a very special guest today, Sheila Seck. Sheila, thanks for joining us. So first of all, let me just say, Sheila and I have known each other for, we were talking before we started here. Gosh, it’s been 2004 or something like that.

Sheila Seck: 15 years.

Brad Burrow: 15 years. Yeah. And it’s been pretty amazing 15 years if you look back. Even some of the things that you and I have worked on together.

Sheila Seck: Exactly. It’s been a great journey for both of us.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, so really cool. So I was just going to read a little bit of your bio here, and then we can get into some things I want to talk about. Some of the things we’ve worked on together, and the impact you’ve had on our business has been awesome. So, I’m really excited to have you. Okay, so Sheila’s the managing partner of Seck and Associates. When did you guys… when did you start? What year?

Sheila Seck: 2007.

Brad Burrow: Okay. So I was working with you before?

Sheila Seck: Right. In my prior law firm.

Brad Burrow: Okay, I see. I’m learning stuff. I was reading through your bio. I’m learning stuff. Okay. So Sheila, focuses on practice on assisting entrepreneurs as they launch their businesses and encounter changes, they grow. That’s something you’ve helped us with. So I’ve got experience with that. She works closely with growing companies, established businesses and investors, to develop solutions to the broad range of challenges they encounter in running their business. I can relate.

Sheila Seck: Yes, you can.

Brad Burrow: Pretty funny. I was reading through this is like where this a lot of this really, really… I think you wrote this bio with me in mind, I’m pretty sure. She works with clients managing, founder relationships, ownership issues, I know about that. Corporate governance for new and established companies, protecting intellectual property, financing issues, I’ve worked with you on some of those things, state and federal, securities law, preparing business owners to sell their companies. All kinds of things. Man, that’s a lot.

Sheila Seck: It’s a lot.

Brad Burrow: And I just don’t… I did half of your bio right there. So the rest of it by the way, is going to be… is on the website, so you can read through all that. And you have done a lot of really cool things. I’ve highlighted some things that I want to talk about, but tell me about your practice and when it was just this idea and you decided, “I’m going to do this.”

Sheila Seck: Right. Well, I have worked for a large corporation and while that was a great experience, I really love working with small startups and growing, rapidly growing companies. So, launching my own firm has been a great fun. We get to work with clients when they’re launching their companies and we work with them all the way through selling their companies. We have in fact two years ago launched a new business called Seck Advisor Group, which represents companies for sale. So, we help clients position their companies for sale, do all the heavy lifting to get them the right buyer and help them get their deals close so that they can transition their baby to the next donor.

Brad Burrow: That’s a good way to say it because, man [crosstalk 00:03:27].

Sheila Seck: It is your baby. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad Burrow: Yeah. So that’s got to be a niche that… did you just come across that in doing deals and like, “Wow, we’re pretty good at this.”

Sheila Seck: Yeah, and that’s exactly what happened. Is we do so many mergers and acquisitions where we were seeing the kind of services that our competitors offer, and we felt like we could offer something more sophisticated, more user friendly to the founders and bring a legal perspective too that a lot of other people in this space don’t provide.

Brad Burrow: So, do you get in and really get down to the books and the numbers and look at things that way, or how… what does that process look like?

Sheila Seck: Right. So typically, the first thing is we talk to the company who’s selling and we say, “Hey, what’s the goal of this?” Do you want to exit fully? Do you want to keep some equity in and work with the new owner, but continue to have maybe a second exit? That’s a popular model right now. And once we figure out what the owner wants, we recast financials, help them understand the valuation that they can expect from buyers, and then target specific buyers that might be great fits for their company.

Brad Burrow: Do you find that people look at the, especially the founder of a company, they look at their business and are maybe unrealistic about what it’s actually worth?

Sheila Seck: Often they do. Yeah. As we all would I think.

Brad Burrow: And so, you’ve had to become a little bit of a psychiatrist maybe-

Sheila Seck: Oh, absolutely. All entrepreneurs are psychologist at heart.

Brad Burrow: Your business, is it quite worth that really?

Sheila Seck: Yes. I think there is some truth telling that has to be told. But in sometimes they’re all very open minded and willing. They’re more… they have a little shame. They say, “Gosh we don’t really know anything about this.” And I usually say, “Well, I also don’t know how to run a media company, for example, or we don’t know how to run a manufacturing company, but we know how to sell your company.”

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Is it hard coming up with a real valuation that is actually accurate and somebody is going to actually want to buy at that price? It seems like a hard thing to do.

Sheila Seck: There is, but you know there are a lot of standardization in business modeling and there are some ranges of values, so I think just setting the range of expectations for sellers helps through that process. And also the market will also tell you what it’s worth when you start getting offers.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. So you start high and then come down or is that… what’s that process look like?

Sheila Seck: We actually try to be realistic because I think having very high expectations and have your client later discount those as harder on the relationship, it’s better to have more appropriate expectations going in.

Brad Burrow: So your staff’s been growing?

Sheila Seck: Yes.

Brad Burrow: It was just you when you and I… I’m pretty sure it was just you, right?

Sheila Seck: It was. Right.

Brad Burrow: So you’ve got a staff of how many now?

Sheila Seck: We have five, but can I do a little pitch right here? So-

Brad Burrow: You can.

Sheila Seck: If you’re a business lawyer in Kansas City or St. Louis, that would love to work for a growing entrepreneurial law firm, give me a call. Brad will have my contact information on his website.

Brad Burrow: That’s right. Look right under… right on the webpage here.

Sheila Seck: Yeah, exactly. So I’m going to put that pitch in if that’s okay. Yeah.

Brad Burrow: So you’re really growing?

Sheila Seck: We are. We are. There’s a lot of demand for… entrepreneurship is growing in the Midwest, particularly in St. Louis and Kansas City where we have offices, so we would like to meet that demand and be a part of that entrepreneurial ecosystem. And then as people then have… a lot of tech companies in year four or five are getting offers to sell, so sometimes we’re just managing that process when buyers come knocking.

Brad Burrow: And you’ve got some pretty amazing companies. I don’t know if you can talk about any of them specifically, but in the startup areas, you guys are doing very well.

Sheila Seck: Right. Yeah. Like one company that I’m pretty sure they won’t mind that I said, Dynamic Logistics is the number one ranked company in Inc’s fastest growing 500 in Kansas City. We’ve represented them since they’ve launched, and so that they’ve been great to work with. And why I probably shouldn’t name too many others, we had quite a few on the Ingram’s fastest growing, Business Journal’s fastest growing, Inc’s fastest growing. We’ve had… it’s fun to see our clients end up on those lists.

Brad Burrow: That’s got to be pretty satisfying to see some, because you’re playing a part in their growth really.

Sheila Seck: Right. And that’s the difference between working with a large international company like I was before. I didn’t really feel like I had an impact on my client. Where we can have a strong advisory role with a lot of our startups. And we do think it makes a difference in how their business grows.

Brad Burrow: So are you helping them like with obviously raising money and financing and things like that as well as connecting them to people that you have relationships with?

Sheila Seck: Yes, and a lot of times, we’re evaluating the term sheet. Does that make sense? Is the cost of your capital too high? Connecting them with outsourced CFOs if they’re not ready to bring that talent inside. So we try to bring a pretty broad range of resources.

Brad Burrow: So, I was looking through your bio and I did not realize that you had a masters degree in business.

Sheila Seck: I did. I’m a Rockhurst grad.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: So, went to school locally here and got my MBA. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad Burrow: So you have a pretty good understanding of business in general obviously, but accounting and some of those things, I wouldn’t think that a lot of attorneys have that.

Sheila Seck: Right. So we try to… we also have a… one of our attorneys has an LL.M. in tax, so we can bring a lot of business and after so many years of practicing, we’ve just seen so many small businesses, and their growth trajectories, and many of the things that they struggle with as, you and I have talked about highs and lows over the years, and no matter how… if you’re number one on the Inc 500 growth, you’ve had a lot of the same issues as the person who’s really struggling to even get some revenue. Every body has their stuff to deal with in the entrepreneurial ship or entrepreneurial world.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you about a little bit is, one of the struggles that I’ve had, being completely transparent as a small business owners, working in the business as opposed to working on the business.

Sheila Seck: Yes. Amen. Yeah. And that is a struggle.

Brad Burrow: Well, and I’ve seen you transition from that same issue because you used to be… you are doing the work in and out doing all of the networking in all that stuff and it seems now that you have, you’re focusing on running the business and not actually doing the work as much. Is that true?

Sheila Seck: That is true, but based on my current pitch, it’s very busy and so what do owners do when it gets really busy? We jump back in and we start doing the work.

Brad Burrow: Right.

Sheila Seck: But ideally, I love working on the business and not always drafting documents on my… it’s not the best efficient use of my time though. So, I think there is a lot of value in focusing. I think that’s MBA 101, but definitely something we all should work towards.

Brad Burrow: Well, so I’ve follow you off obviously on social media and stuff and you’re out… I’m always blown away by how many events that you’re at all the time. You must go to events at least three or four times a week, would you say?

Sheila Seck: I do, but I’m a pretty extreme extrovert, so I like that and it’s interesting and there’s a lot of interesting events during the week. Kansas city has so many things. Sometimes I’ll see on my own social media feed, other cool things that I didn’t go to, and there’s just a lot of fun stuff happening right now.

Brad Burrow: Do you think that can be attributed to the growth of Seck and Associates? Just being out and being visible?

Sheila Seck: Absolutely. Being top of mind with clients as you know, is very important, especially when they’re thinking, “Hey, I met Sheila Seck at this event and it seems like she does some really cool stuff and it’s what I’m looking for.” So, certainly.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Talk about your staff a little bit. You’ve got an incredible staff.

Sheila Seck: I do. I have several attorneys who do mergers and acquisitions and tech startup law, and all the work that are broad range, but last year we brought in an attorney, Jessica Kimbrell, who does only estate planning, if a lot of our business clients needed that, especially as they were.

Brad Burrow: So that came out of a need that you were seeing?

Sheila Seck: Yes.

Brad Burrow: People are asking you about this and you said, “I better meet this need.”

Sheila Seck: Exactly. And it’s worked fabulously. It’s been a great growth area for us.

Brad Burrow: We think somebody is selling their business, they’re probably-

Sheila Seck: Needing.

Brad Burrow: Needing that service too, right?

Sheila Seck: Right. And a lot of entrepreneurs, we think of the typical entrepreneurs being like 30 year old and they’re working at a shared workspace, and we do have a lot of clients like that. But there are a lot of people in suburbs or even in Kansas City, typically Johnson County, where they’ve sold one or two companies and they’re on their third startup. They’re pretty fully funded, but those people, we want to make sure that they have all of their estate planning in place too should something happen.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah. I wouldn’t even have thought about that as a potential service that you could offer.

Sheila Seck: Yeah, it’s been great. Yeah.

Brad Burrow: But it makes sense. It makes a lot of sense.

Sheila Seck: Yeah. Our clients have really been glad to have that service.

Brad Burrow: And you guys have been out in OP for some time now.

Sheila Seck: We are.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s been the same area or same?

Sheila Seck: We are, but we’re considering a move closer in.

Brad Burrow: Oh, yeah.

Sheila Seck: We are.

Brad Burrow: Is that because you moved?

Sheila Seck: Yes. I personally moved to the The Plaza so I want to be closer. We loved being in Overland Park, but I think there is something about being closer into more clients. I think it might help us with hiring of attorneys too.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah. And that makes sense. I also wanted to talk a little bit about… we’ll probably be all over the place a little bit here. We’ve been a part of the Women Who Mean Business. Well, we were a part of it when Joyce was ruling it for probably, I think I did at 18 years. I haven’t done it for a while, but you’ve been in that group. Has that been a helpful thing for you?

Sheila Seck: Oh my gosh. Women Who Mean Business has been a life altering group for me.

Brad Burrow: Really?

Sheila Seck: There’s a… I think you meet all these people who are your peers, who are also going through a lot of the wet things that women business owners or women executives go through, and a lot of them need is a business attorney, and don’t have one, so it’s been a great networking client development place for me, but also a source of companionship, mentorship, friendship, sharing about health, our own families. So, it’s a really great organization. Organization being the wrong word because it’s really just not. It’s a Business Journal sponsored event program, not really an organization but-

Brad Burrow: But all of the ladies actually get together and go on trips together-

Sheila Seck: We do. We do.

Brad Burrow: And do things like that.

Sheila Seck: It’s always is I think men had done many times before on golf courses or football games. There’s a lot of just very casual talk about business or deals or getting to know people that you might want to use later as an attorney or an accountant or as a social media advisor.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: Videographer.

Brad Burrow: Right, right. So relationships, that’s everything-

Sheila Seck: Oh, everything.

Brad Burrow: In your line of business. Well, in every business really. If you think about it, even our business, relationships are key in H&R Block. As a matter of fact is I’m working with them because Poppy is friends with a buddy at school whose dad is leading the training department.

Sheila Seck: So perfect fit for you.

Brad Burrow: So we’re having dinner and he’s like, “So what do you do?” Well, let me tell you and I didn’t even know what he did, and next thing you know we’re a getting a master services agreement signed with them and we’re doing a ton of work with them. And it’s like you can’t plan that stuff.

Sheila Seck: Right, but it’s great.

Brad Burrow: Crazy.

Sheila Seck: But also it was like, it’s not just the customer, not the relationship to get the client, there’s that too. But then we’ve had a strong focus this year on what’s the client relationship once they become a client or second associates? How do they feel about that? Do they feel like we are being responsive? Is substantive work good enough? All of those things that make people feel good about working with us. We really had a focus on that this year to really have a high touch relationship with our clients.

Brad Burrow: So what are some of the things you’re doing in that area? Because that’s… it’s interesting you mentioned that too because I’m starting to have those same discussions with our teams. Like we need to be in constant communication with all of our clients that we’re working with, especially on the retainer ones.

Sheila Seck: I think the one-

Brad Burrow: Guess what’s going on this week, here’s this month, whatever?

Sheila Seck: You just said it. Communication. I think communication is by far. Whether it’s communicating about the status of a project you’re going to… whether it’s questions following up, it’s all communication. 100%.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. And I guess from an attorney standpoint, I would think that that would be happening already, but maybe that’s not the case. You have to be intentional about it.

Sheila Seck: You do. I think most people who complain about their attorneys when we’d get feedback, all the people haven’t communicated enough or often enough, or been timely enough. So we really had a focus on that year and I think it is very helpful. And I can feel. And as, I think when things have gotten sideways with a client even at our firm, it’s because somebody hasn’t felt like we were interested in their project or engaged enough in their project.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Well, sometimes when you get busy it’s really hard and you-

Sheila Seck: It is very hard.

Brad Burrow: And you’re juggling so many different things at the same time. It’s not like this is just one client that you’re working with, that’s not easy to do.

Sheila Seck: Right. But we want that client to feel that way.

Brad Burrow: Yes.

Sheila Seck: We want them to feel like they’re our only client. So as you know, it’s fine if you have one client, but as you grow and get more business, how do you manage that? How do you continue to make people feel like that? Your only client? So that’s something we’re focused on and I can’t… it’s always an iterative process. We’re working on it.

Brad Burrow: So what are some practical things that you guys do to make that better? Do you have anything that you can say, “Here’s the best practice that we’re trying to implement,” or something like that?

Sheila Seck: Yeah. So I think for us, we’ve done… we’ve tried to make everything much more process driven as much as we can. For example, we have a very specific onboarding process which welcomes not only do we have people sign our engagement letter, which is the business deal between us, but then we welcome them, continue to reach out, and we want them to say, not only are we appreciative that you’ve signed our letter and you’re going to pay us, but welcome to the firm. We want to be available resource, and then so constant early follow up as we bring them on board. Because a lot of entrepreneurs quite frankly don’t. And even sophisticated people don’t know really how to use an attorney. And they’re like, “If I sign this engagement letter, do I owe you a lot of money?” There’s a lot of uncertainty, and because our fees are not inexpensive, there’s a lot of anxiety around that.

Brad Burrow: Right. Yeah.

Sheila Seck: So we’re trying to reduce the anxiety about hiring an attorney.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. And so do you talk them through that process or what does that look like once they engage or here’s how this is going to work?

Sheila Seck: Absolutely. So a lot of sharing and just talking about how it will work. And often I think sometimes giving a budget, like we think, when we’ve done deals of this size, the cost has been this. And sometimes they’re like, “Oh, good, that’s so much better than I expected.” And we say, “There’s some things that we can’t control. It might be more, but we would expect it to be in this range.” And so I think anytime people get more information about the project or feedback, I think the better they feel about it. Because what if they go, “Hey, help me sell my company but we have no idea what this is going to cost us.” I think that’s very hard for clients.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. You just need to know. We need to know. Right?

Sheila Seck: Exactly. Certainty. A little certainty, a little planning. Getting a big legal bill is, I’m sure, frightening and terrifying on the wallet.

Brad Burrow: Makes your heart… your blood pressure go up a little bit I guess so.

Sheila Seck: Exactly.

Brad Burrow: So I want to talk a little bit about… so you’re on some boards and different things like that. That’s pretty cool.

Sheila Seck: Yes.

Brad Burrow: AlphaPoint was one that… are you still involved with them?

Sheila Seck: Oh, I am. I am.

Brad Burrow: So, tell me a little bit. That’s a very interesting organization. I didn’t know anything about them until I started researching your backgrounds.

Sheila Seck: Yeah. So AlphaPoint is, Oh my gosh, a $60 million company. It’s one of the top 25 manufacturing companies in Kansas City, ranked by the business Journal, and it provides work and jobs for blind and visually impaired people in Kansas City, New York, and some other smaller cities. So it’s pretty national kind of organization, but it’s not very well known in Kansas City for some reason.

Brad Burrow: Why is that?

Sheila Seck: I think it’s because it’s had a very long and committed board of directors and that’s turning over to some people who are much more engaged in the community. Not that those people weren’t, but I think AlphaPoint was their sole focus and they had been very longterm board members and had lived with the organization through a lot of growth, but there’s been a lot of transition and growth of the organization merging with the New York, not for profit, a couple of years ago.

Brad Burrow: Did you help in that?

Sheila Seck: We did. It was very, very interesting process and-

Brad Burrow: You had done?

Sheila Seck: Yeah, so it’s a great organization, but you’re right. It’s working to raise its level of recognition in the region for sure.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. So I mean-

Sheila Seck: Maybe they need a new media company.

Brad Burrow: Maybe. Yeah.

Sheila Seck: Let me see what I can do about that.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. We’re doing a… this is not a podcast about us by the way, but we are doing-

Sheila Seck: We can talk about you.

Brad Burrow: A little bit. Just a little bit, but Brothers in Blue is a really cool new thing that we’re donating time to right now, which is basically a prison ministry, believe it or not. And it’s these guys that are really trying to turn their lives around and they’re about to be released and they’re being trained basically through biblical things and… but really, really interesting deal. So we just did a project where we actually showed the reconciliation of somebody that had committed a crime. He gets somebody else and-

Sheila Seck: The victim?

Brad Burrow: The victim. And they came together and asked for forgiveness.

Sheila Seck: I bet that was very powerful.

Brad Burrow: Oh my gosh, unbelievable. But we love doing stuff like that as a company. And so we donate all the production for that in City Union Mission, things like that. But I love giving back to the community. And I think that when you start doing well, you need to start doing things… you probably should do it all the time, but-

Sheila Seck: Right. It’s easier though when things are going better.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: But I think it’s… we’re such busy professionals. I think it’s a great way to get filled back up.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: From the drain of work. Like there’s some positivity about sharing in that way.

Brad Burrow: Maybe we get more out of it than the actual-

Sheila Seck: I think so. Do you think so?

Brad Burrow: Yeah, we’re giving too. So you’ve been on that board for some time [crosstalk 00:22:09]-

Sheila Seck: A couple of years. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And we donate, we have some other favorite causes like Head for the Cure, Harry and Kris Campbell.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: So that’s another organization we’re very fond of and obviously Go Red for Women, another organization that does a lot of great work in Kansas City and other cities across the US for women’s heart health.

Brad Burrow: That one is, they’re huge.

Sheila Seck: They are.

Brad Burrow: It really is quite an event that they have every year.

Sheila Seck: Right. This year, I’m really involved or more involved in Women’s Foundation that Cindy McCain’s going to be their speaker, I think it’s next month. She’s coming to the Coffman and so that’s going to be a cool event.

Brad Burrow: That’s a really cool. STEMs… I was looking at AlphaPoint, and so… oh, I know. Go Red, Hope House. That was the one I really wanted to talk about too. That’s really an awesome.

Sheila Seck: Yes. I haven’t been on the board for that for a couple of years, but I was a very long term on the board. And what a great organization. MaryAnne Metheney is just killing it over there in Eastern Jackson County and doing such great work for women who are living… need to be in a safe place with their families.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah, what an amazing thing they’re doing-

Sheila Seck: Exactly.

Brad Burrow: To help people. What would you… and NAI too. I didn’t… I had no idea you’d been involved with NAI.

Sheila Seck: Well, when I was at Honeywell Aerospace as a general counsel, they sublet. When they very first moved to Kansas City, they sublet space from Honeywell, and so I got to know Jim [Carr 00:23:39], the CEO, who’s lovely, and so I was on one of their committees at one time. So it’s very cool.

Brad Burrow: Do those background experiences impact what you do at all? I’m just curious.

Sheila Seck: I’m not like everybody. Either we bring all of our experiences to what we do every day, whether they’re personal or business connections, of course.

Brad Burrow: And you’ve got a pretty diverse background in a lot of different experiences that you’ve gone through-

Sheila Seck: Right. It’s funny.

Brad Burrow: Doing your job. That’s pretty cool.

Sheila Seck: Right. Before I went to law school, I was a mechanical engineer and I did work and-

Brad Burrow: Another thing I did not know by the way. Yeah.

Sheila Seck: I worked in a manufacturing company. So that comes up quite a bit in practicing law. When you’re… I’m working with manufacturing clients or any kind of manufacturing or technology-related that’s something that-

Brad Burrow: So you understand it?

Sheila Seck: Exactly.

Brad Burrow: Not every attorney is going to be able to sit down with somebody and really understand what’s happening from that side of it.

Sheila Seck: Right. Right.

Brad Burrow: That probably helps you a lot, doesn’t it?

Sheila Seck: It does. That has been pretty valuable through all of my practice of law.

Brad Burrow: And that was at Rolla?

Sheila Seck: Yeah. Missouri School of Science and Technology. Update yourself.

Brad Burrow: Well, where are you originally from, Sheila? I don’t think I know that.

Sheila Seck: Yeah. I’m from a very small town in Southern Missouri, south of St. Louis, Potosi, Missouri.

Brad Burrow: Okay.

Sheila Seck: So where am I. I have a twin sister who still lives there.

Brad Burrow: So is that how you got to Rolla?

Sheila Seck: I did. It was about an hour away. And so from a fairly young age, every science and math teacher I had said, “Sheila, you better go to Rolla.” So by the time I was ready to go to college, I actually just pretty much knew I was going to go there from a very-

Brad Burrow: [crosstalk 00:25:20].

Sheila Seck: Exactly.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: And it was a good experience. It’s pretty-

Brad Burrow: It’s a great engineering school, isn’t it? And it is one of the best in the country.

Sheila Seck: It’s really good. I think you have to think if you’re going to go to a small school that’s so narrowly focused. You know what? Is that a good fit versus having a broader college experience, but it has served me well.

Brad Burrow: We’ve been working with a couple of people that have come out of government in Kansas. They’re wanting to build this new initiative around kids not having to go to college. Like a lot of-

Sheila Seck: Trade schools and coding, that kind of thing?

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m really curious what your thoughts on something like that? Because I see a lot of kids and not everybody needs to go to college, and you come out of it with a lot of debt.

Sheila Seck: Right.

Brad Burrow: So there’s a burden that comes with that. And these days, for example, in Wamego, Kansas, you can get a job as a welder right out of high school, and with a couple of years of experience and they’ll train you, you can make 100,000 a year.

Sheila Seck: Right. So think if you go to college and you start out a marketing job probably for 30 or a lot of jobs for 30. So I think that’s a great idea. I have a lot of construction company clients and they are desperate for people on their trades. And if people don’t want to sit and [crosstalk 00:26:40].

Brad Burrow: This is not for everybody.

Sheila Seck: It’s not for everybody, so why not have skills, have avenues for kids out of high school to go to alternatives, successful careers?

Brad Burrow: Have you ever looked back just to see what you actually spent on your education? And you have a pretty massive pedigree. That’s awesome.

Sheila Seck: It seems pretty much because I’m currently paying for somebody to go to Vanderbilt.

Brad Burrow: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

Sheila Seck: It pales in comparison.

Brad Burrow: That’s right. Well, Briley, my son is playing baseball at Hannibal-LaGrange, which is on the other side of St. Louis from where you grew up.

Sheila Seck: Right. It is.

Brad Burrow: And, yeah, but we were fortunate that he got a baseball scholarship so, that helps a lot believe me.

Sheila Seck: It is. College is so expensive compared to when I went. I feel like what I paid for in Rolla is just minuscule compared to what I am seeing now.

Brad Burrow: When you look at… even in NAI school. I think NAI schools are actually more expensive than state schools, but in average, and the average degree’s going to cost you 35,000 a year.

Sheila Seck: Yeah. And I think Vanderbilt’s double that.

Brad Burrow: Is it? I’m so sorry. I didn’t even know. I’m giving you heartburn.

Sheila Seck: You are. This is why I tell my staff I’m just going to work until I’m 90.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, you better get out and get some new clients. That’s what I tell people. I can’t stop doing this. I got to pay for things.

Sheila Seck: But I also love it. So isn’t that the blessing, and I know you do too-

Brad Burrow: Yup.

Sheila Seck: But like how great to be excited to go to work every day?

Brad Burrow: Well, there’s been times and you know the ups and downs that we’ve been through here, some pretty pretty [crosstalk 00:28:12].

Sheila Seck: We’ve been together.

Brad Burrow: It’s amazing we’re still here actually. If I’m being completely honest, some of those things are… it’s by God’s grace that we’ve made it through. Okay. But, I look at it and I’ve thought about this many times, like I could sell the business or I could try to do something else. What am I going to do? This is what I know.

Sheila Seck: And what you love.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I love storytelling, I love interacting with people, all those things.

Sheila Seck: I think I always get that you have such a passion for people and the projects that you could do for them and how that could help grow their companies. Ever since we’ve met in like 2003 or something.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah. So what… you’re the same way.

Sheila Seck: Yeah.

Brad Burrow: So it’s like, “Okay, I could go do something else or I could… what am I going to do?” Same thing. So let’s just battle through and make it work.

Sheila Seck: I know. I know, but I think that your story is a little bit what could happen to any companies that are at this point where like, “Do we close? Do we sell?” It’s so seems so dire right now, but it’s like you’re one client away or one event away that can really transition your business. One different business decision. The path is so circuitous. It’s rarely a straight line.

Brad Burrow: It’s one of those things too I think that you’re not giving up.

Sheila Seck: Endurance is the key.

Brad Burrow: It’s just like sports. It’s so close to the sports analogy.

Sheila Seck: It is.

Brad Burrow: It’s like you can be in tennis. You can be down match point and-

Sheila Seck: And battle back.

Brad Burrow: And win the match.

Sheila Seck: Right.

Brad Burrow: In business, it’s kind of like that. You just keep fighting as long as… and this is something that I think you’re really good at too, is you’re a learner. Would you agree with that?

Sheila Seck: I agree, yes. I agree that you need to keep learning and kind of getting feedback, and all the things that become… the things you have to learn as your business changes. What you have to do when you have one client is a lot different than what you have to do when you have a hundred clients.

Brad Burrow: Right.

Sheila Seck: So if you don’t learn, or you can’t delegate and let go of that early methods, I think that stifles your growth a lot.

Brad Burrow: Do you talk to your, especially your startup clients, about things like that? Because I don’t imagine.

Sheila Seck: All the time.

Brad Burrow: Probably a lot of them don’t have that much business experience. Right? Is that true?

Sheila Seck: No. Especially if they’re technology-focused, or science-focused and they’re… that’s where their strengths lie, I’d say generally it’s hard. A lot of startups aren’t finance-focused or finance-driven, so getting the right financial rigor in place early are things that we coach all the time. Getting processes in place, making the right hires, using cash effectively. So, it’s a lot of discussion and counsel around those issues.

Brad Burrow: Well, that’s the thing. To me it’s I see a lot of people… what those a lot of people will have, “Oh, I’ve got this great idea, I want to start this business,” but you haven’t thought about how it’s going to cash flow.

Sheila Seck: Right.

Brad Burrow: Have you thought about your target audience? Have you thought about who’s going to pay for this service or this product?

Sheila Seck: And if they even want it?

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: Is the idea viable? I think sometimes people are sobbing for a solution that doesn’t have a problem, and I’ve seen people invest a lot of money and then have no sales. I remember early on a client coming to the door and he had invested everything in some technology, and he had done some ad hoc research on, asked some people in the industry if they wanted it, and they said yes. And he came to my door and he said, “No one wants it. No one wants this product.” That was probably 10 years ago and it’s still-

Brad Burrow: After he had probably invested his life savings onto it?

Sheila Seck: Oh, yes. And so that is a lesson in, don’t build it if no one wants it. You have to validate your idea first.

Brad Burrow: Do you talk to people about process when it comes to that? If somebody that’s a startup up potentially that comes to you and says, “Hey, I want to do this thing.”

Sheila Seck: Yes.

Brad Burrow: Do you get in to that level with them?

Sheila Seck: Yes. And there are some companies in town like Crema and some other companies that will do validation for you and help you with that process, absolutely.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, it’s basic. Crema’s… and you’re right. You have to pay them quite a bit of money to do that.

Sheila Seck: Yes, but sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes clients don’t have that and there are some other ways they can do that. There’s a lot of… ScaleUp! KC-

Brad Burrow: Techstars is-

Sheila Seck: Techstar, Coffin Fast Track. That’s more on early stage.

Brad Burrow: Right, right.

Sheila Seck: But there are some things that you can do that will lead you through that process and maybe some self discovery and doing that as well, and feedback from your peers in the group. So I think taking advantage of some of those local opportunities would be it’s alternative way to think through your product.

Brad Burrow: Have you ever thought about being a conduit to people that are starting up businesses to send them to those different places?

Sheila Seck: Yeah, we have.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: We have. We’ve thought about putting together more of a consortium of resources and our own accelerator, but I have several clients doing that, and so-

Brad Burrow: It seems like there’s a lot of those in Kansas City right now.

Sheila Seck: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I see a couple more that are coming along. People are going to do it in different niches and then launch KC’s revamp this year to have a couple of different accelerators. So there was a lot of opportunity to get some coaching in Kansas City. Although you probably should validate your idea before those-

Brad Burrow: You get to that point.

Sheila Seck: I think so.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. How do you do that is the question. The thing is when you’re passionate about something and you have got this great idea, it kind of blinds you.

Sheila Seck: Blinds you. It does. It does. Being blindly in love with any deal, whether you’re buying a company or it’s your own product is having some rational-

Brad Burrow: Have you ever told a client, “Yeah, you should look at this differently.”

Sheila Seck: Yes. [crosstalk 00:33:49].

Brad Burrow: You don’t have to name names by the way.

Sheila Seck: Usually I say, it’s really goes poorly if you fall in love with this deal. We need to continue to think rationally. Now, I must say sometimes am not rational in my own, because we are all passionate. But when you are buying a company or evaluating spending a lot of money on a product, you just have to take… you have to be more rational about it. Unless you want to lose a lot of money.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, exactly. I’ve had people tell me that about Real Media before. So I’ve been so passionate about it and blind that maybe I should’ve cut my losses, but I look back now, that was bad, bad advisors.

Sheila Seck: Bad advice.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: Yeah, because things look like they’re doing great.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, yeah.

Sheila Seck: Which I could be happier.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. So I’m really curious, just a couple more things and we’ll wrap up. Really curious. Can you talk about the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in a deal or something like that and then maybe the worst thing that you’ve ever done and draw to this one here.

Sheila Seck: Well, there’s this many… I don’t know. There’s so many exciting deals because when we fill a business for our company and the sellers get such a great price.

Brad Burrow: That’s got to be a good feeling.

Sheila Seck: Right. And the money gets wired to their account, and then the buyers are going to meet the employees. “Oh my gosh, we’re having champagne in the office.” Well, that’s a great height because there’s so much work to be done to get to that point. And such a win-win, that’s the great thing about doing mergers and acquisitions. But specifically one deal, and the company is doing great in Kansas City. There was a young founder and in effort… he wasn’t my client, but in an effort to do a deal, he had partnered with somebody in Kansas City who had more resources than he did. Well, what he really had done is signed away his business and he had got a job out of it. And so he came to me and he’s like, “This is not what I thought how the deal will structure, but I didn’t really have an attorney and I relied on the other side’s attorney.”

Brad Burrow: Oh my gosh.

Sheila Seck: And so we spent about six months unraveling the deal, and this guy… so this young man then went out on his own. We were able to negotiate a break away from that company, and this company is just… you’re reading about in the newspaper now, it’s just going so well and the client is amazing and we become friends and so, that’s one of my most satisfying because this young man had made such a bad deal, but we were able to negotiate and unwind it and make the better arguments why the agreements were still unprovided as some favor, and so just seeing him go back out on his own and flourish has been really rewarding.

Brad Burrow: So you in a sense helped him change the path of his life through that deal? It sounds like.

Sheila Seck: A little bit, not to pat myself on the shoulder, but I just had got so much satisfaction out of that deal and it’s the kind of thing that you do because that’s where the satisfaction comes from versus him having to just live with the deal that he had entered into probably because he didn’t have an attorney.

Brad Burrow: Naive, it sounds like.

Sheila Seck: Exactly. So, here’s a pitch for getting a good attorney involved, and sometimes it’s being penny wise and pound foolish. People are really frugal and maybe they don’t have the money, but sometimes you give away a lot of rights that you just don’t quite understand what you’re signing.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: And legal documents can be thick and dense and unreadable sometimes.

Brad Burrow: I just got a project from a company here in town that we’re doing a big training project for, so six figure project, and really awesome deal for us, but they have an in house attorney that has wanting all these things and that it seems like when you’re writing a contract, and I really wanted to get your thoughts on this, is when you’re attorney, you have to plan for the worst possible.

Sheila Seck: Right. Right.

Brad Burrow: And it can tend to, I don’t know-

Sheila Seck: Make the relationship contentious.

Brad Burrow: [crosstalk 00:37:46] yeah.

Sheila Seck: Yeah, it can.

Brad Burrow: And you don’t want it to be contentious, you want it to go smooth. From my side of it, I want to go smooth because I want to get this deal signed and get this cash flow going, get this project going, that whole thing, from a business stand point and it’s like you’re walking this thin line is that, “I can’t agree to that.” But that could be a deal to back you.

Sheila Seck: Oh, a lot of clients, especially when you’re in a growth mode, have that constant balancing act.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Sheila Seck: They’re like, “I want… my little tech startup is going to get in a contract with this huge multinational corporation, but they want us to give up on these really important things.” So you have to balance. They want to [inaudible 00:38:24] of our technology, they want to pay late, they want all these things. And so, a lot of our clients are balancing those things. Exactly. Like what do I give to get this deal done while not paying for it so much later?

Brad Burrow: So as an attorney, how do you have those conversations? Because you’re the one on the front line negotiating most of the time. You’re having those conversations probably with another attorney or staff attorneys, something. How do you do that and not have it get to that contentious level?

Sheila Seck: So, a lot of times I am explaining the risk continuum. So I’m saying, “This is the kind of thing that you’re going to lose your company over. You’re giving away too much intellectual property, you’re giving up too much control, whatever. We can’t possibly give that because this is the ramifications.” But a lot of times I’ll say, “This is what that means. I don’t think that’s very risky in this deal to give it up. This is really risky, let’s go back to them.” So I’m trying to balance with them like it’s all a risk allocation, and so where did the biggest risks lie? What can we really not give up? But as an attorney, I don’t want to be the one who’s crashing in the deal either. We want to be a resource to get the deal done.

Brad Burrow: Don’t you think tone has a lot to do in that?

Sheila Seck: Yes.

Brad Burrow: I don’t know if I’m just an emotional person or what, but it seems like the way that message is communicated is so important.

Sheila Seck: Yes. And when we try to do it in a collaborative way and just explain what interests we’re trying to protect and why it makes sense for our small company to have that protection, and often a big company will be sympathetic to that. I’ve seen… I had a client, tech client, do a deal with Cox Communications. And Cox can squash my client like a bug, but they were very understanding with some issues like limitations of liability and things like that that really provided protection for my client, and I was surprised Cox was that congenial, but we addressed it very collaboratively versus no way line in the sand kind of thing.

Brad Burrow: And so here’s why I’m concerned that-

Sheila Seck: Exactly.

Brad Burrow: There’s a reason that I’m pushing back on this a little bit and here’s why that makes a big difference.

Sheila Seck: Right, right. And that’s also where having some experience and knowing what is going to be the most important or risk, inherent risk, for my client allows us to figure out what we want to… what he’ll defy it over.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. You got to pick and choose a lot of those.

Sheila Seck: Yeah. You can’t draw a line in the sand on everything. You’ll never get anything done.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. There’s got to be some give and take in there.

Sheila Seck: Right.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Great Advice. Okay. So let’s wrap it up, but I want… I’m a business owner and I don’t have an attorney, why am I going to choose you? This is your elevator speech. Maybe I should play some music.

Sheila Seck: Please. Tease the music up. Well, I think we bring a lot of experience in the business space, whether it’s startup, raising capital, protecting intellectual property, we’ve just done it a lot. We care a lot about our clients. We get a lot of personal attention, and I think we just are very compatible with a lot of entrepreneurs in that space with our style.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, I would agree by the way.

Sheila Seck: Thanks.

Brad Burrow: So I need to be an endorser on your webpage I think.

Sheila Seck: Please be. It’s put on that social media.

Brad Burrow: There we go. Well, Sheila, thanks for joining us. This is awesome.

Sheila Seck: Thanks for having me.

Brad Burrow: I’m glad you could be on here and come back. Let’s do it again.

Sheila Seck: I would love it.

Brad Burrow: Maybe we need to get into some winds on some specific entrepreneurial type things or something like that. That’d be awesome.

Sheila Seck: Yeah, let’s do it. Thanks for having me.

Brad Burrow: Alright, and there you have it. In a world with Real Media. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes and Spotify, stitcherradio.com. We’re on all of those, and also on the webpage, you can check us out at realmediakc.com.

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