If you’re a business owner, you should know that you are special. After all, not everyone wants to dream big, take the risk of opening their own business, and be their own boss.
But here you are. You worked hard, you got a great idea, you opened your own business, and you’re finding success.
As successful as your business may be, it’s important that you help your business stay grounded by taking simple steps to protect yourself legally. Having the right business legal protection can keep your business going strong, boost your sales, and significantly limit your liability.
Think About What Kind of Business You Are
As you look for the right type of business legal protection for your shop, you need to really think about what kind of business you are. The type of business you have will determine how you file taxes, set up various legal protections, and limit your liability.
Protect What’s Yours
If you run a successful small business, there’s nothing worse than running your business, having success, and finding out that another company somewhere claims rights to your trademarks.
If you’ve worked hard for years to establish a brand, then losing it could be bad for your business. To avoid such a scenario, make sure to look into whether or not somebody is already using a trademark that you might want before you even open your business. This way you don’t find yourself burdened with lawsuits or potential lawsuits.
Once you’ve done the necessary research, make sure you register your business accordingly so that you can retain the rights to any names or trademarks that you want.
If you’re looking to register trademarks for your business, here’s how you can pull it off in a few simple steps:
- Make sure you’ve got a truly unique trademark and check that no one else has the one you want or something similar.
- Make sure you register trademarks you’re going to use.
- Prepare and file all the right paperwork. It’s a fairly simple process and you can even do it electronically.
- Enforce your trademark: After you’ve filed paperwork and your trademark is approved, you legally own it. But it’s your responsibility to protect others from infringing on it. For business legal protection purposes, it might be a good idea to have a Cease and Desist letter at the ready in case you get wind of anything fishy going on.
Get Good Insurance
Another important step to good business legal protection is making sure that you have good insurance.
In everyday life, you do everything you can to remain a citizen who abides by the law and tries to avoid accidents. But when it comes to business, accidents can happen quickly and without warning.
For example, a customer in your establishment may slip inside your store and want to sue you for damages. If you find yourself in such a situation, there are lots of good lawyers who can help you. But you can also help yourself by getting good insurance. If you’re unsure what kind to get, general and limited liability insurance can protect you in many cases and will usually cover legal expenses if you get hit with a lawsuit. This also applies to out-of-court sentiments if you have to deal with an insurance company or you have to deal with personal injury lawyers.
Even if you’ve been in business for 20 years, you don’t want to risk losing everything you worked for and your entire livelihood because of one lawsuit. Getting good insurance and limiting your liability is essential and if you don’t have insurance yet, you should get some as soon as possible.
Spell Everything Out
If you’re a successful small business owner, then you know that a lot of business these days is done on websites and a lot of communication is done via text or email, or even social media.
Client contracts however, are different story.
Crafting business contracts can be a very delicate subject. If a word or sentence is phrased wrong, the whole contract can become very ambiguous and potentially useless. Taken a step further, this can lead to a whole host of legal issues, particularly as it relates to employees.
So how do you avoid ambiguous contracts? The answer is simple. You can hire good bookkeeping and tax services to spell everything out clear as day, black and white. This way there’s no room for error or questions about what a certain word or phrase might mean in a contract.
Another route you can take for business legal protection is to find some contract templates to help you as you go about drafting contracts yourself. This can help you get used to creating legally accurate and precise documents, whether you’re drawing up employee contracts, privacy policies or NDAs.
Protect Your Documents
When you run a business, you have an obligation to help your business succeed. But you also have an obligation to your clients and your business partners.
When you’re talking about business legal protection, that means you need to take extra special care of your data. You need to focus on improving your company safety measures and educating any and all employees on the proper use of technology, especially computers. With antivirus software, data backups, and even the use of cloud computing, you help protect your business against potential data breaches.
Studies from the Pew Research Center indicates that more than 22 million people watch the evening news. Now think about how often you’ve watched the news in recent years and how many stories you have seen about large and successful companies being the target of cyberattacks. You don’t want your business to end up in the same boat. By taking the time to create a plan to protect your files, you’ll save your business a lot of stress and protect the strong relationships your business has with its associates and its customers.
Stay Within Your Range
There many steps you can take to give yourself solid business legal protection. One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your business is to stay within the scope of who you are.
What does that mean? It means helping your customers and associates within the scope of what your business is. For example, if your business is in the healthcare sector and you work as a dietitian or nurse or a nutritionist, then obviously you’re qualified to give out medical advice. But that doesn’t mean you’re a lawyer, so don’t give out legal advice or financial advice.
By staying within the realm of what your business is, you save yourself a lot of potential liability. The last thing you want is to run a certain kind of business and have a customer complain because you gave them off-the-cuff advice about something you’re not really an expert on.
Everyone who opens a small business wants to see it succeed. But success doesn’t happen overnight and business owners must manage their expectations, especially as it relates to their employees.
Find A Good Lawyer
Even the most successful businesses need legal help and it’s in your best interest to find good legal counsel. These days, you can never be too careful, and having a good lawyer at your side can help you get out of any legal jams you encounter.
But finding a good lawyer is sometimes easier said than done. For one thing, there are hundreds of good lawyers who specialize in dozens of different types of law. The key is finding the right lawyer for your needs.
Do Some Research
As previously stated, there are many different types of lawyers and attorneys. If you’re dealing with issues involving discrimination or racism, a civil rights attorney can be of great benefit to you. If one of your employees gets injured on the job and may be out for a while, you may have to hire the services of a workers compensation lawyer, who can make sure your employee gets all the benefits to which they’re entitled.
So the first thing you need to do is research what kind of lawyer you need and then make a shortlist of candidates. If you’re unsure of where to start, get some referrals from friends and business associates.
Once you’ve got a shortlist, start evaluating everyone on the list. Be prepared with plenty of questions and take plenty of notes. You’ll want to find out:
- What they’re areas of expertise are; you need a lawyer that specializes in your specific needs.
- Costs; lawyers aren’t cheap, so you need to know how much a lawyer charges or ask if they can give you an estimate based on your needs.
- Communication; how are they going to get in touch with you? How will you get updates on their progress? What’s their response time? These are all important things you need to know.
Let’s face it: some legal issues are very weighty and require experienced lawyers, who know the law inside and out. Let’s say your business is having financial troubles. If you’re on the verge of bankruptcy, for example, lawyers from a bankruptcy agency can help you consolidate your debts, help protect you from debt collection harassment and ultimately try to find ways to keep you in business.
Protect Your Finances
One of the most important ways to afford yourself business legal protection is to make sure you take care of your finances. As a business owner, you want to protect your brand and your products, but you also need to make sure that your relationships with suppliers, banks, and creditors remain good too.
For starters, you need good accountants, who can keep track of all your numbers. Your accountants should be able to tell you what your month-to-month expenses are, what are monthly earnings are, what debts you have, and any other pertinent financial information you might need to know at a moment’s notice.
The livelihood of your business is directly tied to its financial health. So you need to make sure you safeguard your business’ cash reserves. It’s true that cash isn’t hackable like credit and debit cards are, but your employees still run the risk of being robbed if you have them take cash deposits to the bank. For that reason, you can safeguard your company’s cash with a safe. If you need to move any cash, armored cars can take all the guesswork out of it.
Be Aware Of What’s Happening
As a business owner, you’re responsible for every aspect of your business, good, bad, and everything in between. If your business is going gangbusters, make sure to safeguard your cash reserves and protect yourself from potential liability. If business isn’t going so well, consider seeking out legal help to assist in consolidating debt or protecting your business from debt collection.
By taking all necessary legal steps, you’ll ensure that your business, however big or small it is, won’t be caught off guard. You’ll be protected from product issues, customer accusations, and even customers or business partners reneging on deals. Whether you’re opening a small business for the first time, or looking into business acquisitions to expand your company, seeking out business legal protection and legal aid will allow you to focus on doing what your company does best: offering great products and services to your customers.