By April Meyers
Business owners make mistakes, there’s no way around that. But, there are some professional snafus that can cost you more than you’re willing to pay. Keep reading for a quick rundown for some of the top issues you can sidestep before you find yourself in a bad situation, brought to you by Acoustic Post.
NOT HAVING LEGAL REPRESENTATION
When you run a small business, you are the face of that business. But, you have to have a team behind you to ensure that you operate efficiently, effectively, and within the confines of the law. This means having not only an on-site team but also ensuring that you have access to legal services and representation when you need them. Having an attorney on retainer is important for businesses for many reasons, from ensuring that your vendor agreements are legal to help you keep tabs on your intellectual property.
FAILING TO REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS APPROPRIATELY
There are many types of business entities, and it can often be difficult to decide which is right. The vast majority of small businesses tend to work best as LLCs. It also offers many advantages at tax time as well as some protection for you, the business owner, against the financial downfall of your organization. Other business structures you might consider include a sole proprietorship, partnership, or S/C-corp. Each of these has benefits and downfalls, although most legal advisors recommend against forming a sole proprietorship.
OPERATING WITH LITTLE MORE THAN A HANDSHAKE
Another huge mistake common among new business owners is failing to create legally-binding contracts. A contract is a document that offers protection for both you and your clients and works to prevent misunderstandings. According to template design service Design Aglow, they are also an excellent way to confirm everyone understands payment terms and how the money will be collected.
MISTAKENLY INFRINGING ON A TRADEMARK/COPYRIGHT
As we become more and more entangled in the use of the internet to promote our businesses, it becomes exceedingly easy to inadvertently violate someone’s copyright or trademark. A copyright is a legal protection against the unlawful distribution or use of original materials. A trademark is a protection that restricts the use of identifiable markings or designs that are designated for a specific company. An example of the copyrighted material would be an image taken by a photographer. A trademark example is a logo or business name.
To avoid issues, make sure you do a clearance search for trademarks before you create your brand and never use images, logos, taglines, or designs in your marketing material that you did not create or commission the creation of.
RUSHING INTO A LAWSUIT
There are many reasons that a small business owner might take a vendor, customer, or other business to court. But, should you? While it is tempting to rush into a lawsuit for every matter, you should almost always find another recourse before calling your attorney. Not only will you be on the hook for attorney fees, which can cost up to $500 per hour, the California Business Journal notes that you also pay court fees, service fees, discovery costs, and any other expenses necessary to collect the resources to effectively plead your case.
In other words, it might not be worth going to court over a $100 invoice that was never paid. You could instead, in this example, turn the collection over to an agency, which will charge a percentage of the money collected.
If you’ve been considering starting a small business, you may not have realized that small legal mistakes can be big trouble for your business. While this is not a comprehensive list of everything to avoid, it’s a great start. If you’ve found this interesting and want to learn more about how to effectively run a business, earning an online MBA is a great way to boost your professional acumen. If you’re still unsure of how to keep your business legal, set an appointment with your legal advisor to discover the next steps.
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April has experienced the benefits of addressing both your physical and mental health and how one impacts the other. She hopes to inspire others to find their own mind-body health solution through her blogs.
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