Small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs eager to set their own courses – that’s where the action is in the current economy. Each day, new businesses open their doors to deliver products or services, either onMain Streetor on the World Wide Web.
The question is, are you legal? Have you met all the legal requirements to perform the services you advertise? Do your products comply with local, state and federal regulations? And is your company structure legally sound?
You can have the best idea, the best products, the best staff and the best chance of reaching your business goals, and still fall short of your company’s objectives. Why? Because your business lacks certifications or licensing, or your policies don’t assure non-discriminatory practices, like equal pay for equal work.
You may know your business and understand the buying practices of your market demographics, and still fail – all because you cut corners early in your business design and decided you didn’t need legal advice.
Your Attorney Is a Valuable Resource
Yes, attorney fees can tap into your start-up capital and, with any new business, cash is king. But an expert in business best practices may eliminate a disaster scenario six months down the line – after you’ve invested months of hard work and business capital on your entrepreneurial dream. New business owners know their businesses, but they may not know the legalities of offering products or services as a legal entity.
Attorneys can prevent problems before they become problems. Addressing a cease-and-desist notice from the local zoning board will probably cost a lot more to remedy than the cost of legal counsel to prevent that zoning order from being issued in the first place.
An attorney can provide consultation that’s in your best business interests, and when you’re about to open for business, you want to be legally compliant in all areas of business activity – from rental agreements to federal tax law. An attorney can guide you, protect you and prevent a catastrophe that closes down your dream.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
You may know infant furniture because you’ve been selling it for 10 years, so you decide to open a brick-and-mortar store in a nearby strip mall. The “BABY LOVE” store sign is up, the space has been leased and inventory is arriving every day. However, you’ve structured a business model that exposes your juvenile furniture store to litigation risk. What if one of your customers is injured using a product you sold? You’ve got a problem. A legal problem. And potentially a BIG legal problem.
An attorney can identify risk exposures early in the delivery of your business products or services, and can mitigate that risk through regulatory compliance, business risk insurance and by re-designing the organization of the business. You still sell juvenile furniture at “BABY LOVE.” But now you sleep soundly at night knowing that your new business is following all the rules and regulations developed by private and public entities.
What Can A Lawyer Do For Your New Business?
Most of all, a lawyer can help keep you out of trouble, which can come at a new business owner from all sides and at any time. You’re new. Playing by the rules, getting it right, prevents problems, but it can also create opportunities and options that add value to your fledgling enterprise.
So, what advice should you seek from your legal advisor?
- Have your attorney read through the lease agreement for your business space to make sure there are no surprises in the fine print. Have the attorney break out the key points and potential problems, such as an unresponsive landlord who rents out a strip club next to your baby furniture store. You know that’s not going to boost business. What are your options?
- Ask your attorney to analyze your corporate structure to ensure you meet tax regulations, obey laws on hiring practices, and are positioned for opportunities that add value to your business without legal ramifications.
- Protect what’s yours. Make sure your company name is legally registered with your state’s Secretary of State office, that you have a Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN) if necessary, and that all your intellectual properties, from patents to trademarks, are protected from IP theft – especially if you own a web-based business – a lawless frontier for new business owners.
- Have your attorney read all contracts with suppliers, vendors, sub-contractors, lenders, venture capitalists – any company or individual associated with your business. If it’s in writing, have your attorney cut through the legalese and explain the terms and conditions in words that you understand.
Choose a lawyer knowledgeable in both business and tax law. Look for a pro-active attorney – one who provides regular contact, easy access to legal counsel and experience in business development. Don’t rely on your second-year law school student neighbor to provide the assurances that your business is in compliance in all areas of company activity.
Interview a couple of attorneys to find one with whom you’re comfortable. Expect to pay the attorney’s going rate for vetting prospective legal counsel and in the end, you’ll find the right attorney for your new company.
Then, you can get down to business faster and with more confidence, knowing that you and your company’s activities meet legal requirements in your best interests.
The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.