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Matthew Horn, Esq.

10 Legal Tips that Can Save Your Business

Whether you’re just starting out or have been operating for years, there are many legal issues confronting business owners. This article will identify tips to take that can save your business.

Tip 1: Incorporate

Legal documents must be filed in order to incorporate your business, thereby protecting your business and personal assets. If you are operating as a corporation, you need to file articles of incorporation, and if you are operating an LLC, you need to file articles of organization. Fill them out and file them.

Tip 2: Select an Appropriate Busienss Name

Ensure that your business name is different than the names of existing businesses that offer the same or similar products and services, in order to avoid litigation over use of another business’s trade name. Check state and federal name registries to see whether other businesses have the same or similar names.

Tip 3: Obtain All Necessary Licenses and Permits

Many businesses require licenses and/or permits to operate, whether they are issued a federal, state, or local government. Research the requirements for your business, and obtain them.

Tip 4: Adopt Governing Documents

The structure you choose for your business determines the type of governing documents you need to have in place, such as operating agreements, bylaws, etc. Governing documents should be adopted for every business. These documents identify and set out the company’s structure, ownership, voting rights, responsibilities of directors, day-to-day operations, how profits and losses will be treated, and more.

Tip 5: Implement Written Contracts and Agreements

Many businesses make the mistake of operating without written contracts. This is an antiquated practice. Having written contracts helps all parties understand their rights and obligations.

Tip 6: Market Properly

There are many legal issues that arise relating to the way businesses market and advertise their products and services, which are governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and also by state and local laws. The most basic rule with regard to advertising and marketing is: don’t lie.

Tip 7: Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a creation of the mind. Every business has some intellectual property, whether it is the special method for creating your product or simply your business name or logo. There are specific steps you must take in order to protect your business’s intellectual property, which can be protected through copyright (written and artistic content), trademark (logos and slogans), or patent (inventions).

Tip 8: Comply with Employment Obligations

If your business has employees, you need to ensure that your business complies with a number of federal and state employment laws. For starters, you must pay employees at least minimum wage, operate a safe workplace, and treat employees fairly. If you are not interested in having employees but need help operating your business, then independent contractors should be considered—but they come with their own legal issues.

Tip 9: Get Your Financial Metters In Order

First, open bank accounts and obtain credit in the name of your business, and keep those accounts separate from your personal accounts. Failure to do so may result in a court finding that your business is not a separate legal entity, resulting in you becoming personally liable for debts against the business. Second, ensure you pay all necessary taxes—employment taxes, income taxes, sales tax, etc. Third, get insurance. Fourth, manage your receivables. If someone doesn’t pay you and there’s no basis for the non-payment, pursue them.

Tip 10: Adopt a Recordkeeping Program

As your business grows, you will have to maintain accurate records for your business. A common issue for small businesses is failing to maintain the required records. These records may include minutes of corporate meetings, stock certificates, financial statements, payroll documentation, injury logs, etc. Adopt a record keeping program and follow it.

Regardless of the type of business you operate, you need a trusted attorney to help you wade through the many legal issues you will encounter in the operation of your business. To find the perfect attorney for you and your business, quickly post a short summary of your legal needs on www.legalserviceslink.com, and let the perfect attorney come to you. No time, no hassle, no cost.


About the Author

Matthew Horn, Esq.Matthew Horn, Esq. is the President and Co-Founder of Legal Services Link, a platform allowing those with legal needs and attorneys to quickly and easily connect via email. Matthew is a frequent speaker and author on various tech, business, and legal topics. He holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a JD from The John Marshall Law School.

StrategyDriven Podcast Series

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – Expanding Uncertainty in the U.S. Financial Sector, part 5

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act represents the most sweeping change in the regulation of the U.S. financial industry in over half a century. Contained with the act are 243 new rules that will be developed by 11 different government agencies1; fundamentally reshaping how business is done at financial and non-financial institutions. But do these regulations treat businesses fairly and equitably or do they establish an unfair environment that favors a select few?

StrategyDriven believes the answer to this question is the latter. Not only does the Dodd-Frank Act create an unfair advantage for some businesses, the advantages provided favor those companies responsible for the meltdown of the U.S. financial system.

The financial reform act directs absolute rather than scaled coverage in its implementation. Subsequently, small institutions will be subjected to the same regulatory rules as larger ones and those ‘too big to fail’ institutions responsible for our financial marketplace challenges. While the various audits and forms will inevitably have fewer $000s, the cost to perform these reviews and compile and submit these documents will be roughly the same. For small financial institutions, the high cost of compliance will be passed on to a relatively smaller customer base causing a disproportionally high increase their customers’ fees which will in-turn drive these individuals to the ‘too big to fail’ institutions… the very same institutions whose poor performance necessitated the legislation in the first place.


“Small banks, forced to use their limited resources to comply with burdensome new reporting requirements, will suffer, as will the communities they serve.” 2
 
Bob Corker
United States Senator – Tennessee (R)


StrategyDriven Recommended Practices

StrategyDriven believes the Dodd-Frank Act unduly penalizes small financial institutions not responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008. The full scope of the marketplace imbalance created will take years to be understood as the final details of the many new regulations will not be defined anytime soon. Thus, company leaders must remain vigilant in order to mitigate, transfer, or eliminate the evolving financial industry risks and costs facing their organizations. In this specific case, StrategyDriven suggests company leaders consider the following:

  • Follow the FDIC’s rule making process and understand how these new regulations are impacting financial institution partners; focusing on the changing costs of doing business with these organizations particularly if they are relatively small.
  • Consider whether the relatively higher cost associated with doing business with smaller banks is warranted given other beneficial factors such as community good will.
  • Provide financial advisory programs to employees; ensuring they are apprised of the costs and benefits of maintaining a relationship with both small and large financial institutions.

As always, we’ll provide our thoughts on how business leaders can best prepare for the implementation of the financial reform law and weather the storm in the long-term. We also hope you’ll share your thoughts, lessons learned, and recommended resources with us and the StrategyDriven audience.

Final Request…

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Sources

  1. “Summary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Enacted into Law on July 21, 2010,” Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, July 21, 2010 (http://www.davispolk.com/files/Publication/efb94428-9911-4472-b5dd-006e9c6185bb/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/efd835f6-2014-4a48-832d-00aa2a4e3fdd/070910_Financial_Reform_Summary.pdf)
  2. “Financial overhaul places regulatory burden on community banks,” Cumberland Business Journal, August 2, 2010 (http://ucbjournal.com/news.php?id=95)