Starting A Meteorological Business: Answering the Tough Questions Matters

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 9:00 AM
128AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
John F. Henz, Dewberry Consultants, Phoenix, AZ

The ultimate dream of many meteorologists is to own their own meteorological consulting firm. Who can blame them as they follow their love of weather and passion for solving its many mysteries? Yet pursuing that elusive dream requires answering many key business related questions. While this task immediately conjures distain from many budding meteorological entrepreneurs, ignoring it greatly increases the likelihood of failure. There's nothing worse than “a busted forecast” especially when it impacts your pocketbook.

This extended paper presents a framework which can greatly reduce your chances for business failure at doing what you love most. It cuts to the core of the tough questions facing any new small business owner. It covers seven key areas: 1. Choosing the Correct Form of Your Business is critical to Your Success 2. Nothing is Certain in Life except Changing Weather and Tax Laws 3. Obtaining Profession Liability Insurance – do I need it? 4. Determining a Fee based on Case Value 5. Retainers: A key to getting paid 6. Documentation of Hours: does every minute count? 7. Establishing a reputation

Here are some examples of the subjects to be covered: Key elements of getting your business up and running include: • How many professionals are to be part of your your business? • Where is its location and practice region? • What is/are your expertise area(s)? • How will you advertise? • What form will your business take? • Do you have to pay taxes? • Are you independently wealthy or do you have to protect your assets? • How will I get paid and what process do I follow?

Answers to the questions asked above will help you to choose the right form of your business: The options include: • Sole proprietorship • Partnership • Limited Liability Company • Sub Chapter S • Non-profit ( probably won't fly) • Corporation • Intrepreneurship within an existing business

An example will be presented of starting a forensic meteorology firm. Here are some key considerations that need to be addressed: • Initial contact on case: document who, what, where when and why? • When does the work need to be completed; stage of discovery; timing/need for report; do not short yourself. • Prepare agreement on what to do, tasks and approximate costs. • Get “signed”/email notice to proceed. Ask for retainer (~50% of est. fee) before starting if you can. • Do your work in ethical manner disclosing to attorney all evidence and results working in the favor of your side and all things not working in your favor. Challenge yourself to think on the other side – “case saver” concept • Document all data, analyses (discretion advised), etc in organized files – take the time • Communicate with your attorney before writing anything. • Document all your work; keep it off your personal hard drive; use a box and files for all data, analyses, communication notes as appropriate; use separate portable hard drive for your forensic files; after case create case CD and remove from hard drive (DISCOVERABLE). • Meet or beat deadlines established. Use scientific process to determine result. • Prepare report in manner that it contains all graphics you might plan to use in trial except animations. • Listen to other sections today for “the action period”: report writing, depositions, testimony. • Bill promptly and relate time spent to agreed upon tasks; avoid billing surprises; include you FIN on invoice; ask for 1099. • Be prepared to wait for payment.

This paper hopes to provide a helpful roadmap to assist you in focusing your sweat equity in the days ahead.