Starting a small business can sometimes be as exciting as it is overwhelming. With the excitement and stress that comes with starting or running a small business, the more serious legal implications that also come with a small business may be overlooked or put to the side. There may be harmful legal consequences if these legal steps are overlooked during the excitement of your small business.
If you’re running or thinking of starting a small business, consider these legal tips:
1. Pick and evaluate the right business structure for you
It is critical to determine which type of business structure your small business should be registered as. This is because each structure comes with different obligations, legal consequences and tax considerations.
Common business structures for small business include sole traders, partnerships and corporations. It is essential that you refer to your country’s legislation and rules in regards to the legal implications of each business structure before you move forward with it.
For example, if you have entered into a partnership, you must always consider the ramifications if the partnership falls apart. If you have already started your business and have not reviewed all the concerns tied with your business structure, it is suggested you to this sooner rather than later.
2. Do you have insurance?
Small business owners often overlook the importance of purchasing insurance, as it is not seen as critical at the time. Furthermore, some small business owners are not aware of the different types of insurance that may concern them, and some leave it too late (until an accident or negligence occurs) for them to realise. This comes at a costly price.
If you have a small business that gives advice or provides a service, make sure that you have purchased indemnity insurance. This covers the costs and expenses that come with any negligence claims against you. For example, an architect with this insurance would be covered if they were held liable for advice that caused an injury or loss.
Public liability insurance is another type of insurance that all business owners should have purchased. Why is this? As a business owner, you may be held accountable to third parties that encounter your business if damage or an accident occurs whilst you are providing a service.
For example, if you run a yoga business, and one of your students slips and injures themselves during a class, they could potentially sue you and your business. These incidents could occur at any time so it is essential that you have public liability insurance.
3. Protect your brand and ideas
Small businesses can produce big ideas. With increased accessibility and exposure of your brand on the Internet, also comes the danger of people taking your ideas and branding. From a legal perspective, it is advantageous for you to protect your brand presence online as well as offline.
Register any logos, numbers, phrases or aspects of your packaging associated with your brand as a trademark. You should also register and brand your domain name so your customers can find you easily and that your competitors do not purchase your domain.
Finally you should enforce copyright protection on all your content published. This is particularly important for blogs, PDF brochures and information booklets. This is a crucial step for protecting your business so that people do not plagiarise and steal content and claim it as their own.
4. Retail a small business lawyer
There are many more legal situations in which advice from a lawyer will be required during the lifetime of your small business. It is quintessential for you to consult a lawyer in regards to contracts involving large sums of money, leases, company policies and once your small business starts to expand. Lawyers can also assist you with employment contracts and your rights as an employer.
5. Look for help online
Governments and other associations have published a lot of helpful information regarding legal implications that concern small business owners. Take advantage of this.
However, it is essential that the information you look up is for your country, as different jurisdictions have different laws and rules concerning small businesses. For example, the Australian government has published a Legal Help Guide for Small Business. Just look and you shall find!
Monique Goodyer works at Monaco Compensation Lawyers, one of Australia’s compensation law firms. She’s interested in all things online and the latest trends in the Australian startup scene.