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“We’ve got a lot of small business people on Marco Island,” said Bill Morris. “I know – I’m one myself.”

There’s a lot of information people need to know to help them do the best job running their businesses, he said, but paradoxically, they are too busy running the business to learn. Stepping in to help fill this void, the longtime Marco Island attorney is hosting a series of seminars, “Small Business – Big Issues,” designed to help those who own or run businesses on the island.

The sessions are being held on Tuesdays at the Marco Island Center for the Arts. They start at 5:30 in the afternoon, after business hours, and during the slow summer months, when business people are not swamped with the frantic pace of the tourist season.

Morris teamed up with financial advisor Kevin O’Fee of Edward Jones after O’Fee asked him to speak at an estate planning seminar he was putting together. Now, drawing on other local professionals, they have a lineup of seven 90-minute presentations.

“We’ve got some very talented speakers,” said Morris. “I wanted to draw on some of our local experts.” Attendance at the seminars is free.

The presentations roughly follow the arc of the existence of a small business, from startup concerns to eventual succession and retirement. The first two sessions were held on August 22 and 29, and the series will pick up again on Sept. 19 and 26, before concluding with three programs in October.

O’Fee moderated the first seminar on startup considerations, which featured Morris speaking on how to structure your business, contracts for purchase and lawsuits, CPA Scott Shepard on tax issues including withholding, sales tax and IRS record retention, and Vip Grover of Advanced Insurance Underwriters discussing insurance issues including liability, property damage and business interruption.

The second seminar on Tuesday evening, moderated by Morris, focused on business operation. Speakers included Officer Clayton Smith of the Marco Island Police Dept., commercial real estate agent Paul Tateo discussing business leases, government requirements and licensing, and a team from Iberia Bank covering banking relationships and identity theft issues.

Smith also covered identity theft, while touting Marco Island as one of the safest cities in Florida. One key to effective law enforcement, he said, is “community policing,” getting out among the population.

“You can’t measure how many crimes you stop just by being out there,” he said, and that, not the pastries, is why you will see police officers at Dunkin Donuts. “We don’t even like donuts any more.”

Commercial leasing, said Tateo, is “a fairly dry subject – you don’t know about it if you don’t do it on a regular basis.” Nevertheless, seemingly obscure provisions can take on great importance, such as whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for problems involving air conditioning systems, sewage backups, and parking issues. The biggest mistake businesspeople make, he said, is accepting unquestioningly a lease they are presented, assuming the conditions are standard and don’t need to be negotiated.

“People assume whatever lease document a landlord gives them is fine, and they sign it,” he said.

Lori Buhs, Keith Dameron, and Laura Schneider of Iberia Bank all spoke to different areas of banking as it relates to small businesses. Business banking relationship manager Buhs pointed out that at her bank, basic small business checking accounts are free, and said that the old days of people balancing their paper checkbook each month are gone.

Dameron noted that while yes, Marco Island is a safe place to live, the safety statistics do not track non-violent, intangible crimes, and identity theft is rampant among the older population of Southwest Florida.

The Sept. 19 seminar will focus on bookkeeping and record keeping, presented by Tania Mustachi of Business Matters Now, computer equipment and software presented by Alan Ciurzynski of Network Minds, and contracts. Morris will moderate, and also give the presentation on business contracts.

Tom Norton, who works with his wife Georgann, a psychologist and therapist, said he has been to both presentations so far, and will be back again.

“It’s tremendous information. You have industry leaders sharing with you. There’s a lot to learn,” he said.

For more information on upcoming presentations, call the Law Offices of William G. Morris at 239-642-6020, or go to their website, wgmorrislaw.com.

If you go

What: Small Business – Big Issues

Where: Marco Island Center for the Arts, 1010 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island

When: 5:30 until 7 p.m.

  • Sept. 19: Business Operation II with Tania Mustachi of Business Matters Now; Alan Ciurzynski of Network Minds and William G. Morris, attorney.
  • Sept. 26: Employees and benefits with Bridget Escobar, payroll expert; Vip Grover of Advanced Insurance Underwriters and Kevin O’Fee of Edward Jones.
  • Oct. 3: Employees and Policies with Tania Mustachi of Business Matters Now and William G. Morris, attorney.
  • Oct. 17: Marketing and promotion with Val Simon; Heidi Berge of WAVV, Tim Philbrick of The Print Shop and EZTOUse.com.
  • Oct. 24: Exit and Retirement with William G. Morris, attorney & Kevin O’Fee of Edward Jones.

Information: 239-285-2760 or wgmorrislaw.com.

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