Being a business owner is exciting and really puts you in the driver seat of your career. However, there are a lot of responsibilities you have as a small business owner. Not just with your own life and livelihood, but with your employees, partners, and investors as well. As a responsible business owner, you’re going to need two key things no matter what field you’re in: an accountant and a business lawyer. You probably already knew that accountants are pretty important to run a business. But what about a lawyer? Successful business owners always make sure their expenses are taken care of, and are doing everything legally.
Your business might not be constantly facing legal challenges, but you should definitely have a go-to guy to discuss the legal implications of your business decisions. A business lawyer isn’t meant to tell you what to do with your business, that’s your job. However, a business lawyer will tell you how to legally execute all your ideas. We’ve gathered tips from some experienced business lawyers about what your business needs to succeed, and how to avoid lengthy legal battles.
Take Another Look at Your Budget
Figuring out your business’ budget will determine how much money you need to borrow. Do this by figuring out where your money is coming from, and where it’s going. Next, you want to separate yourself from your business. Most businesses lawyers will tell you to separate yourself and your earnings away from your business. How you structure your business and your own personal expenses will determine your business’ financial structure. This can affect how you’re paid, your taxes, and how you pay out all your expenses. This is how you build a budget for yourself and your business. After you figure this out, you’re going to want to budget more for a few things such as your legal expenses.
You won’t be facing legal issues constantly, but there are a lot of legal proceedings that are sure to occur. Upon your initial consultation with your business lawyer, you’ll likely receive a quote for their services. Ask your lawyer if the fees will also go towards unexpected legal expenses such as a lawsuit. Legal proceedings, especially ones that require a lot of attention from your lawyer, can add up very quickly. To avoid running your business or even yourself into the ground from unexpected costs, ask your lawyer to budget in emergency or additional funds into your budgets. And there’s no need to worry if you don’t end up using that budget. You can always reinvest the money in the following year!
Get the Right Type of Lawyer
You may work with a firm that has multiple lawyers or paralegals working with your business. It’s pretty standard to work with multiple people on one legal team. But each person might be charged a little differently. To avoid paying the same price for someone that costs less than someone else on your business’ legal team, make sure you ask for an itemized receipt of the work each team member did. That way, you’re never overspending on any expenses.
Make sure that you’ve hired the right lawyer, or legal team. If you’ve already established your business, you’re going to want someone who specializes in small business law. A small business lawyer will have different qualifications than a lawyer meant for corporate or startup law.
Get All Your Licenses and Permits In Order
Depending on your business, you may need more than just a single license. Especially in food and liquor industries, your licenses are vital to your business. You cannot provide services if your business isn’t properly licensed. Some licenses you can get before you open shop, but others require an established business to apply. Your business lawyer will help you organize and file for all the licenses you’ll need. They’ll also notify you if there’s a problem or a license needs to be updated. Having all the correct licenses and permits is your first step in avoiding legal repercussions.
To protect your brand and your business, remember to work out copyright and trademark agreements. Part of your marketing strategy is to create a business unlike similar competitors. To do this, you’ll need to trademark your company’s logo, your brand, and product name with the Trademark or Copyright Office. These contracts will also include confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.
Make All Your Agreements and Contracts Written
If there’s one thing that could get in a lot of trouble is lack of records. A good lawyer will tell you to make sure everything is written and signed. This goes for all agreements, even the ones that may not necessarily need a written contract. For instance, let’s say you verbally ask an employee to work a couple of extra overtime hours because someone is sick. Even if the employee finds no issues taking on the extra hours, you should still get a record of written consent from the employee. This will protect both you and the employee if anything were to occur during the shift.
Even if your small business has very little to discuss regarding employee agreements, you should still create contracts for all employees, vendors, partners, contractors, and managers. The contracts and agreements will need to follow the minimum guidelines by your state and federal standards. A business lawyer will help you create contracts that cover things such as:
- Duties and responsibilities of signee
- Terms and conditions of the employment roll
- When and how the signee gets paid
- NDA’s and online content agreements
- Health and safety standards agreements
- Stockholder and investor agreements
- Union agreements
Create copies for both you and your signee. The first step in preventing internal conflict is by creating a mutual understanding with all involved with your business.
What are You Doing for Human Resources?
It’s inevitable that some internal conflict may arise such as a disgruntled employee needing a pay raise. As an employer, you should be open to growth and change with both your business and employees. Not every small business is large enough to join a union, or create its own HR department. But even the smallest businesses can work Human Resource agreements into their contracts, and provide solutions to problems that may occur. A lawyer can help you create a contract regarding employee safety and health. Your business needs to have a way for employees to report issues without fear of losing their job.
Have More Questions?
Even a quick consultation with a business lawyer can give you a better understanding of how to protect your business from legal repercussions. Every business is a little different, so depending on your situation, there may be other risks your business should address. You can call one of our Premier Partners for free legal advice on your small business.