Business Lawyers, Accountants, and Insurance Brokers — and the 1908 Chicago Cubs

wrigley-field-stadium-in-chicagoI’ve written before about the need for the owners of small businesses to have at least three professionals:  a business lawyer, a tax accountant, and an insurance broker. Because it has been a while, and because the advice is so important, I decided to write about it again. Thinking about a group of three professionals led me to consider analogies to other groups of three people.

The first thing that came to mind was the traditional English nursery rhyme:

Rub a dub dub,
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
All put out to sea.

I never really knew what that meant. I always assumed that “tub” referred to a boat, probably because they were “put out to sea,” but then I read an earlier version:

Rub a dub dub,
Three maids in a tub,
And who do you think were there?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
All of them gone to the fair.

That’s very different! Who are those three maids? After all, when this rhyme originated, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker were almost certainly all men. And with no reference to the sea, the “tub” begins to sound more like a bath tub. Is the poem about an 18th century hot tub party? But what is the significance of the three tradesmen having gone to a fair? That evokes an image of a peep show with three upstanding members of the community watching three young women take a bath. No, I definitely don’t want to connect that rhyme with business lawyers, accountants, and insurance brokers.

Another idea came from a well-known Christmas song.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar.
Filed and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

I like that song, but it goes too far to imply that lawyers, accountants, and insurance brokers are kings. In addition, I recall a sermon from many years ago in which my pastor said:  “There weren’t three of them; they weren’t kings; and they weren’t from the orient.  Other than that it’s a good song.” So I rub-a-dub-dubbed that idea off my list, too.

Finally I found a trio I like. Between 1906 and 1910, the Chicago Cubs won four National League pennants and two World Series. Their infield, which included Joe Tinker at shortstop, Johnny Evers at second base, and Frank Chance at first, became famous for making double plays.  With a runner on first, a ground ball would be hit to shortstop. Tinker would field it and throw to Evers at second base, picking off the runner coming from first. Evers would turn and throw to Chance for the second out. That happened so often that the three were immortalized in a poem written by a columnist for the New York Evening Mail, who was also a fan of the Cubs rival New York Giants.

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
A trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double,
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Tinker, Evers, and Chance were three professionals, each doing his own job but working with the others to produce results. You’ll see the same thing in the speech I give my clients who are starting a business for the first time:

You need at least three professionals:  a business attorney, a tax accountant, and an insurance broker. Establish relationships with all three as soon as you can, before you’ve made decisions that will be hard to change later. It will cost you some money up front at a time when cash may be hard to come by, but not investing the money now can cost you a lot more money down the road.

Don’t rely on any of the three professionals to give you advice you should get from another one. Don’t get your legal advice from your accountant, and don’t rely on a lawyer to tell you what insurance policies to buy.

Even so, sometimes you’ll need more than one of us for a particular problem or decision. For example, I can tell you the primary differences between taxing a limited liability company as a partnership and taxing it as a Subchapter S corporation, but only your accountant can tell you how those alternatives will affect the amount of tax that you actually owe, given your specific circumstances. Once you’ve made your decision, I can write the operating agreement for your LLC to make sure it is implemented correctly. You should expect your professional advisors to work with each other to give you the best advice they can.

Next time, maybe I’ll finish my speech with a reference to Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.