Many people start new businesses in January or they begin to expand their existing business. As you plan to grow a business there are several things you should be thinking about to protect yourself.
Get An Operating Agreement
The number one thing to do if you have partners is to get an operating agreement of some kind. While many businesses don’t have one, it is important even in family businesses. If your partnership ends for any reason and you don’t have an agreement prepared, then you will likely be headed to court to work out your issues. An agreement is also required if you want to get a loan or investors.
Protect Your Property
Another often-missed item that leads to legal problems is the failure to trademark the company’s logo or to protect other intellectual property that belongs to the business. A trademark is fairly inexpensive at the state level, which is a minimal measure to protect your logo from being used by someone else. If you do not protect your logo, even if you have a small business, you risk customers being unable to find you because they got you confused with a competitor.
Check Your Lease
If you are renting space for your growing empire, make sure to involve a professional, even before the lease is drafted. Negotiating for a space starts with a letter of intent where your agreement with the landlord is memorialized. Getting an attorney or strong real estate professional involved after the letter is signed makes it difficult to change major lease items like rent price or length of the lease. At that point it is often too late for adjustments. However, you should always have your lease reviewed because many pitfalls can still be avoided.
Employees Need Guidance
An employee manual that sets forth your policies is also essential. Discussing vacation and sick time, ownership of cell phones, emails and social media policies are just some of the things you need to be thinking about to protect yourself. Once you develop these policies, you need to publish them to your employees. Also check that your worker’s compensation coverage is correct and that you are following other applicable laws for employees.
Contracts and Invoices to Get You Paid
Businesses often begin with documents from the Internet. However, it is important to have specific invoices – especially if you do not use contracts with your clients – and to make sure the language in your contracts protect you. Adding things like late fees, attorney fees and provisions about what happens if the contract is not followed can save you a trip to court or at least help you get paid in a timely fashion.
Growing your business is exciting. Do not cut corners while you are doing it and you will save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run.