Benjamin Franklin famously said that the only two sure things in life were death and taxes. Right behind though would be that at some point, no matter how hard you try, your small business will face legal challenges. There are several modern factors that have made this even more likely than in the past. Rising safety and disability standards have created a lucrative market for unscrupulous lawyers to shake down small businesses. The internet has shrunk the distance between business owners and customers (for better or worse). Many new businesses are started by immigrants, whose grasp of legal standards and even English can complicate simple conflicts.
Here are five tips that will make legal complications less likely than otherwise.
1) Put contracts into writing. Before you enter an agreement or contract, at least memorialize the details in writing—then date and sign it. This serves as a reference point for later and helps clarify the understanding of the parties. When you put something in writing, make sure that it is written in a language and style that is easily understood. Even if you don’t run the agreement past your attorney, at least having it reviewed by a third party can expose obvious errors or ambiguities.
2) Keep employees legal. Don’t take shortcuts with your employees. While the cost of workman’s comp continues to rise, the consequences of skirting the law outweigh the benefits.
3) Be genuine. When you make a mistake, own up to it. Many issues can be avoided by simply addressing the matter up front. It’s easy to focus on the initial customer service experience, and then forget about proper follow up.
4) Be Insured. Insurance is expensive, but worth it. The right policy will not only help cover your liabilities, but also pay for an attorney to defend you.
5) Incorporate. When all else fails, having your business incorporated will contain the damage to the corporation and protect your personal assets. A corollary to this is that the type of corporation must be appropriate for your business, and corporate formalities must be observed for the corporation to be effective.
The Law Office of Quinton J. Miller is a general practice law firm with an emphasis on Estate Planning and serves clients throughout Sacramento and Northern California. We assist clients with estate and long term care planning, and small businesses with transition planning, litigation, and general business needs. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us at (916) 714-1717 or visit our website at www.quintonlaw.com.