A successful business starts with a vision, but it doesn’t end there. Turning that vision into a reality requires more than just hard work and dedication. It also involves countless practical and legal considerations.
As a small business owner, you’re probably familiar with the many challenges that come up in the course of starting (and running) and business. Many of them involve legal matters. The biggest obstacles – the ones that can make or break your business – include:
- Contracts: Well-drafted (and strategically negotiated) contracts play a big role in most businesses. They may involve any number of parties – employees, vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, retailers. A solid contract establishes clear expectation, anticipates potential problems and paves a way for resolving disputes. Poorly written contracts, on the other hand, can lead to costly litigation.
- Internal disputes: In many ways, a small business is like a family. Complex interpersonal relationships and emotional dynamics can lead to heated disputes, especially between business partners, co-owners and co-founders who work closely together on a day-to-day basis. These disagreements can quickly escalate into legal battles. If not properly handled – or if allowed to fester – they can derail the success and vision of your business.
- Intellectual property rights: Intellectual property is at the heart of many business ideas. Although not tangible, this property can be worth thousands or millions of dollars. Even your branding and trade secrets play a valuable role in giving your business a competitive edge. However, protecting that property can be a challenge. Securing patents or trademarks involves a cumbersome process. Likewise, enforcing your rights and putting a stop to infringement may require taking legal action.
- Failure to protect your own assets: Ideally, your business should be completely separate from your personal life when it comes to property and finances. Forming the right business entity – such as a limited liability company (LLC), limited liability partnership (LLP) or corporation – and carefully observing certain formalities are essential to shielding your personal assets from business liabilities, and vice-versa.
- Employment issues: Employees may be critical to your business’s growth. However, when you take on employees or independent contractors, your business also takes on another level of complexity. It can be tough to sort through the tangled web of employment law, especially with regard to issues such as employee misclassification, wage and hour laws, discrimination, retaliation and the like.
The key to successfully tackling this issue is simple: Don’t do it alone. A trusted business lawyer is indispensible – someone who understands your business, and who you can rely on for guidance whenever legal questions arise.