Why Good Companies Face Preventable Lawsuits


In this interview, Alan Olsen, CPA, MBA discusses with Alex Gertsburg why good companies can face preventable lawsuits.  Alex is the Managing Partner of Gertsburg Licata.


Alan Olsen

Welcome to Alan Olsen’s American Dreams Show. My guest today is Alex Gertsburg, Alex, welcome to today’s show.

Alex Gertsburg

Thanks, Alan. Really, really great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alan Olsen

So, you know, you have a very interesting background, you’re an attorney. But for the listeners, walk us through how you got to where you are today and what you’re currently working on.

Alex Gertsburg

Sure, yeah. So Dan Sullivan, would say, Alex, you’re not an attorney. You’re an entrepreneur who happens to know, attorney, the attorney? Well, very well, specialty and legal. And I think that’s right. So the short version is that my I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. But I am the first to be an entrepreneur, and go to college. And in the United States, I actually was born in Moldova, which most people have no idea where Moldova is, it’s right next to the Ukraine and Russia, and the Black Sea. It’s Eastern Eastern Europe.

And I came over when I was four, my dad my dad, I guess he was the first non US entrepreneur but he was a grown up already when he came here. And so spent my my youthful years in East Cleveland, what to college on an Army ROTC scholarship, served in Iraq, I decided long before that, after watching a whole lot of La law that I wanted to be on the backer, and the divorce lawyer and La law, because he just had a ton of money and dated beautiful women and I got to enthralled juries with his his magic.

And so went to law school, here in Cleveland as well. Worked for a couple of large law firms, in the beginning of my career, went in house and serve as general counsel to a large telecom company, halfway through my career, and then the most recent third. So I’ve been practicing for 22 years, has been as manager, an owner of my own law firms. Kurtzberg makhana is is a business law firm. Here in Cleveland.

We’re a global firm, but our our main offices in Cleveland, we have four companies here, the law firm, g l acquisitions, which is an m&a, consultancy, and brokerage, g l talent, which is an executive search firm, and we have a company called cover my six. So, Alan, fun fact, there are only six plaintiffs who can sue a business, its customers, vendors, employees, shareholders to government competitors, there’s no seven plaintiffs.

So if you know that there’s only six people who can sue you, then you can reverse engineer the things they can sue you for how to protect yourself from those lawsuits. And this will cover my sections.

Alan Olsen

You know, it’s a very, very unique name, catching, in terms of you know, the first thing you think, oh, what does that mean? And thank you for the running through the explanation, because easy to remember, especially if I’m working with you is an attorney to cover my six. Yeah. Let’s let’s move into a little bit about the I think you’ve had coined some crazy anti litigation attorney. You’re along there. But let’s talk about why do good companies get hit with totally preventable lawsuits?

Alex Gertsburg

Yeah. Most of them are set up to be reactive. Most companies get big by starting small. And when you start small, you cobbled together your solutions, one problem at a time. And you generally, as you’re building your company, are calling your lawyer reactively. Right. I just got a summons I have to show up in court. I just got a cease and desist letter from a competitor.

I just got a demand letter from a plaintiff’s attorney for his clients slipping and falling in my store reacting right so now you hire your lawyer, your lawyer comes in, they settle the case or they go to trial or they help you fix that one problem. And that is the way that businesses tend to grow is reactively one arm at a time. The problem is that it is a totally inefficient way to grow a business. By being a business in the United States of America, you are inherently a lawsuit magnet. There are and have always been way more law students in law school, then there are practicing lawyers.

And then there are actual claims to get those lawyers paid. So they’re all hungry. And there’s a ton of plaintiff’s lawyers that are just scrapping for work that are just looking for ways to sue companies so that they can collect their third. And so when you have that kind of demand, there’s a lot of targets for those lawsuits. And companies are just sitting ducks, they’re just waiting. So they don’t act proactively. They don’t go to their lawyers and say, Hey, how can I protect my business from all plaintiffs?

That’s just a question that companies don’t ask their lawyer, because they’re not calling their lawyer proactively. And that’s fine. If you want that kind of result for yourself. And so what happens, you wait, so then you get sued, you manage that, that one problem away, and then the next one comes in, and then the next one comes in. And that was a real opportunity for a couple of my six, because we are able to go to our clients and say, Hey, if you’re gonna wait to react, you’ve already lost, it’s only a matter of time before you get sued for something.

And when that happens, it’s gonna get expensive, distracting, stressful, it’s a it’s a huge waste of your time, it’s all very public. So it’s just, it’s not a good place to, or good strategy to manage risks. Let’s get proactive. Let’s look at the six plaintiffs who can sue you. And let’s take those plaintiffs one at a time before they come after.

Alan Olsen

Okay, are there any yet in any tips of, you know, walking me through the process of how do you prevent losses? How do you become proactive, just taking it as a big picture, not as, you know, not gonna tell the approach but,

Alex Gertsburg

sure, so what we usually do is we start with low hanging fruit, okay. So regardless of what industry you’re in, regardless of what kind of accompany you are, and what you do, and how big of a company you are, there’s some things that we just know that we can help our clients do to eliminate or reduce risk. Number one, every single contract that you have, with your customers, with your employees, with your partners, with your landlord, every single one of them should have what we call a five step waterfall dispute resolution provision.

Courts love dispute resolution provisions, because they kick the case out of court, and they send them into a Private Mediation, or into an arbitration. We love those because mediations and arbitrations, although there’s lawyers who disagree with me on this, they’re confidential, and they can be expedited, you need it, you need to think of lawsuits as something to either avoid or get through as fast as humanly possible so you can get back doing business.

So what the waterfall dispute resolution provision says is, you customer or new employee, or you landlord, before you can sue me in court, you have to go through five steps, you have to give me written notice, you have to and that means a detailed explanation of what your problem is, then you have to give me 30 days to fix your problem. You’re not allowed to do anything until that no going to core, no publishing anything. It’s confidential, and I’m going to fix your problem if I can.

Step three, if steps wanted to fail, we’re gonna have a face to face meeting with leaders of our companies. Step four, if those fail, we’re going to have a confidential mediation and step five is a confidential, expedited arbitration. Okay, five steps go through all of them, no courts until that happens. I’m telling you, Alan 99.5% of the time, that parties will resolve their dispute and there is no courtroom, and that’s low hanging fruit. The other thing that’s low hanging fruit is having your lawyer talk to your insurance agent. This is so overlooked.

If you are just relying on an insurance agent to cover you without having that agent really understand your business from a legal standpoint, meaning knowing who the plaintiffs are and knowing what claims that they’re gonna bring Knowing what you do and what exclusions you need to avoid and what riders you need to buy, you need your lawyer involved in the process.

So we say insure yourself to the hilt in conjunction with your, your cover my six, deep dive because if you are relying on just one and not the other, then you’re you’re fighting the legal battles with one hand tied behind your back. So two pieces of low hanging fruit. And those apply across the board. And then beyond that, now we start looking at industry and size of company where you’re selling your products, what law applies, creating good checklists, good templates, good playbooks, and keeping your record.

Alan Olsen

I love it. You know, the thing is for an attorney to take that proactive approach and help to make sure that homework is done upfront, obviously saves a lot of a lot of time and a lot of headaches if something happened down the future. Alex, I want to ask the question of getting through life, how would you define a well lived life?

Alex Gertsburg

A life well lived? It’s one of my favorite phrases, Alan? So I’ll tell you something. I spend a lot of time thinking about that question and talking to our employees about that question, talking to my family about that question. And learning, learning how to how to optimize and how to grow. And I know you I know you have to. So my favorite way to articulate that is something I learned from our friend Dan Solomon. And that is by constantly expanding your freedoms, right? Relationships, purpose, time, money, and I also add health in to.

And so if I can deepen my relationships and expand freedoms there, then that is one of the five that I use. And if I can really, really focus on my purpose, and really focus on how I spend my time, and Bas and obtaining enough money, not for the sake of having money, but so that I can have the freedom not to worry about, you know, can I afford this? I use those five freedoms to really I score myself on, like, quarter, you know, how am I doing? Am I on a scale of one to 10 on each of these freedoms? How am I doing?

And if I’m not a 10? And it’s a question of, okay, what do I need to do to get to a 10. That’s my goal for the next quarter or the next year. To me, that’s a life well lived. And it’s also really just staying grateful. There’s this amazing book, have you ever read this book, it’s called solve for happy

Alan Olsen

soul I have not. I have nuts I

Alex Gertsburg

O mo moga.mobi.he was a Google engineer at a tragedy happened in his life, the solution that he kicked, so he approaches life’s problems as an engineer with a crazy algorithms. And the solution that he came up with for happiness is happiness equals the difference between your expectations of life and the meaning that you give to things you want your expectations to be low and the meaning to be I. That’s how he said that and that difference equals happy. So I have low expectations for life. I am happy to be alive.

I’m happy to be living in a place where I’m not dodging bombs. I’m happy that I don’t have cancer today. Right? I low expected, I’m happy that I’ve got loved ones around me. And then I have a high meaning for life. I believe that life is here for life is here for my benefit. The universe is conspiring in my favor, right? Everything that happens is here for my benefit. I’m either going to learn from it, or I’m going to enjoy it. And that difference is happiness to me.

Alan Olsen

I love it. I want to move into relationships that you have any thoughts on the secret to a good relationship? Yeah,

Alex Gertsburg

yeah. So my fiance and I are really exploring this a lot right now. So I’m divorced. And, you know, great learning there. Right, a lot of really great opportunity for growth. And one thing that we have been really exploring is deepening our communications with each other. I really am doing this a lot with my kids to improving listening skills, I think is one of the most listen, I think, really good listening skills are like the most underutilized meta skills anywhere, right?

Listening to your own urge to interrupt and to give advice, just be there, create safe space and listen. And then how you communicate, right? That connection there being available to the other person, making sure that they feel totally heard. And then always, you know, I really learned this from our other friendly Drower. Just showing up and being there entirely for their benefit. I don’t need. I’m not here to get anything from you, I am here to serve you, I’m here to help you achieve your goals. And that is really my number one priority here.

And I try to do that with every relationship I have from employees to family, to friends to strains.

Alan Olsen

Now, that’s an excellent advice. I like, you know, in in relationship building is just make it a gift from your site. Yeah, so, so what, how and why do people self sabotage? And how can they avoid doing that? I mean, we all come into situations in life that are really challenging, but any advice of? Yeah, boy, yeah.

Alex Gertsburg

So I think it’s all about self awareness. One of my favorite tools is journaling. Right? My favorite one of my favorite tools for self improvement and self awareness is journal. And not just journaling about anything but journaling with really good prompts, starting the day with questions for yourself, right. And I pulled those questions out of a lot of great places, James clear as a great newsletter. And actually, Andrew Huber, Ben Kunze, took all of the journal prompt questions from the going back like three or four years, and put them into his own blog.

But there’s, there’s great fonts there that really help you extract your own self awareness and understand your own blind spots. Then there’s this thing that I’ve really been just totally obsessed with lately called Shadow Work. Carl Jung and Carl Jung was the the psychologist who 100 years ago, basically said, every everyone has a shadow.

Everyone has this part of their psychology that they carry around with them. And that’s where all of the traumatic, all of the embarrassment, all of the shame, everything that’s happening in your life, that you have a really negative emotional reaction to all your fears, all your anxieties, all your worries, your resentments. They don’t disappear. They go some, they go into this shadow, and they show up when you’re angry.

They show up when you’re jealous, they show up when you’re having negative feelings about someone like you’re not aware of where those things are coming from, you just know that you’re upset that you’re having negative emotions. And so there there’s these great journals out there called Shadow Work Journal notes that I’ve been really learning a lot about myself from it. I’ve been encouraging friends and family and employees to dig in and people who really are. From a business standpoint, I can’t highlight here, let me grab this book over here.

This is one of my favorite books, right? This is one it’s backwards on the screen, the road less stupid by Keith Cunningham. I got it. You know, this book. At the end of every chapter is thinking time questions, right? And amazing journal prompts. So the answer the answer is self awareness that most people don’t tell you when you’re being a jerk. Right? They just stop doing business with you. Or they stop talking to you or they tell everybody else because people don’t like uncomfortable conversations.

And we all have these blind spots. We don’t explore that. We’re too we’ve got too much ego. We are we are hardwired to, you know to blame other people for problems. Good journaling, good self awareness exercises, works wonders.

Alan Olsen

So Alex has a person reach out if they want to follow up with you and engage in services or get more information about your processes there.

Alex Gertsburg

Yeah. Well, so our companies CoverMySix.com or GertsburgLicata.com.  Certainly anyone who wants to just email me, just email me AG@GertsburgLicata.com

And, but all my contact info is there. I’m on LinkedIn. Yeah, happy to help and volumes gotten

Alan Olsen

Alex is the pleasure having you today on American Dreams

Alex Gertsburg

Thanks Alan it’s been great to talk with you I really appreciate it



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    Alex Gertsburg on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alex Gertsburg

    Alex Gertsburg has been a practicing attorney for over twenty years. His early career was spent with two large regional business law firms, where he represented private and publicly- traded companies and non-profit organizations of all sizes, as well as their owners. In civil bench and jury trials and before arbitration panels across the country, he litigated the entire spectrum of business disputes: commercial and contract, real estate, shareholder and partnership, broker-dealer, employment, unfair competition, and many others.

    In 2003, Mr. Gertsburg proudly served in Iraq with the 762d Army Transportation Company. He deployed with his unit for a year, serving as a platoon leader and convoy commander before demobilizing from active duty in 2004 and returning to the practice of law. By that time, Mr. Gertsburg had trained and served in reserve and active-duty roles with the Army for ten years.

    In 2006, Mr. Gertsburg became the first General Counsel for Broadvox, a large VoIP and telecommunications company. For the next ten years, Mr. Gertsburg served as its GC and Corporate Secretary, as well as an EVP and head of its human resources department. He led the company’s legal department through numerous and varied legal matters, including corporate restructurings; real estate and M&A transactions; negotiations and transactions involving commercial, lender and investor parties; employment matters and creditors’ rights, among others; and he spearheaded the company’s litigation strategy, personally litigating most of its cases himself. Most importantly, while at Broadvox, Mr. Gertsburg developed an acute appreciation for what matters most to businesses: practical and cost-effective results. That same sense of priority and pragmatism now dominates his firm’s governing philosophy.

    Outside of law, Mr. Gertsburg enjoys his family, traveling, mentoring entrepreneurs, hiking, history and his Harley V-Rod.

    Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alan Olsen

    Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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