At the beginning of a business, there is often very little at stake: Businesses often start up with little initial capital, few assets, and a handful of employees, if any. What happens from that point depends on the hard work of the owners. Because there is so much to worry about at the beginning, many entrepreneurs fail to spend sufficient time working through the legal requirements of opening and operating a business. The result is often disaster: After years of sweat and toil, a successful business falls apart because of a dispute between business owners, a challenge from state or federal officials, commercial litigation, or a personal injury lawsuit.
Before you invest your time, energy, money and life into a business, make sure the basics are covered. From the start, you need to consider:
Business format: What will work for you? Sole proprietor? Partnership? Corporation? Other? One of the most popular formats today for new small businesses is the Limited Liability Company (LLC). Why? The keys are limiting liability and maintaining flexibility. Whatever your needs, there is a business form that will make the best sense for you. Make sure you start out with the right form from the start by coming in to discuss the available options.
Liability issues: What is your exposure? What are your insurance needs? What can incorporation do to protect the personal assets of the owners of the business? There are steps that you must take to protect yourself and your business associates from risks involved in operating a business.
Accounting and taxes: What will need to be done? What can you do yourself? Do you have an accountant?
Regulatory or licensing issues: What activities will be business be involved in? What types of approvals do you need? What states will the business operate in?
Employees: Employment is one of the most complicated areas of business. It is also one where mistakes can be devastating. Seeking professional advice before you take on employees is critical to the long-term health of your business
Business plan: Who will be your customers? Who are you competitors? Where will you start? Where do you intend to go? What happens in ten years? Twenty years? What about retirement?
Startup Costs: Our commitment is to keep your costs at startup as low as possible. Too much debt at the beginning can doom a business to failure. There are many ways to keep costs from getting out of control without jeopardizing the success of your business.
Do you have written agreements with your employees? Are your business assets protected? What happens if a key employee opens up a business across town to serve your customers?
Are you constantly losing money on contracts or sales that go wrong? Do you have trouble collecting money your business has earned? Are you loosing money on hidden “gotta clauses” in the leases and other contracts you enter into as a part of your business?
There are many areas in your business where an attorney can offer advice and assistance that can help you protect your investments and maximize your profits. Look for legal service from on the following:
- commercial contacts
- employment agreements
- confidentiality agreements
- real estate transactions
- Evictions, and other landlord/tenant matters
- debt collection
- maintaining corporate requirements
No one sets out in business to end up in court (except lawyers, that is). The truth is, however, that most businesses end up involved in litigation at some point. Some businesses are in litigation almost continuously (think landlords). There are things you can do ahead of time to protect yourself from litigation, and limit your exposure, but when you end up in court, you will likely need immediate legal assistance to guide you through it.
Litigation should not be the end of your business. We have seen business owners who end up so soured by a legal battle that, win or loose, they want out. Our goal in representing a business in litigation is to let the client get back to business with as little interruption as possible: Let us focus on what we do (litigation) and you focus on what you do (run your business).
If you are contemplating legal action, or someone has commenced legal action against you, the time for action is now. You need to know what your rights and responsibilities are before you take the next step.
Big corporations do not worry much about transition. One group of management hands over power to another and the corporation continues. Small businesses are not so easily transferred. Many small businesses are so depended on the owner(s) that transition is seemingly impossible. Whether you are wanting to sell your business, buy someone else’s, or pass a business on to your children, there are solutions out there for you. Some common areas we can help:
- Buy/sell agreements
- Tax and estate planning
- Sales contracts
- Transfer of licenses and permits
- maintaining corporate requirements