Reasons to Have a Small Business Attorney in Your Corner
If you’ve just made the decision to start a new business, or you have been navigating uncharted territories for years and now just fell into a pit, RICK STOCK LAW can help with your small business needs.
Running a small business can be both the most exciting time of your life as well as the most stressful. As with anything else there are highs and lows. Some nights you may not be able to sleep because you are excited for a big deal that is coming today, or you may not be able to sleep because you are terrified about something that happened the day before. One thing is for sure, running a small business is hard work. When people are inspired and motivated, they tend to wear rose colored glasses and overlook small details or minimize their importance. This is a critical issue for many small business owners and is easily preventable if you have the right lawyers working with you.
RICK STOCK LAW represents numerous businesses, both large and small. Whether it is a mom and pop cleaning company to a bank with hundreds of employees to a municipality with tens of thousands of taxpayers. One thing remains the same…our unfettered loyalty to our clients cannot be replicated. We are here to help whether you woke up this morning thinking you needed an attorney, or if you are finding out the hard way….when something bad happens and you feel like you have nowhere to turn. The list below addresses just a few of the ways we provide business development advice to business owners.
- Make your ideas a reality. So you decided you want to start a business? Before you “hang a shingle” as they say in the lawyer world, there are many decisions that you would benefit speaking to a lawyer about? Even the decision as to what to call your business. Checks need to be ran to ensure that your new name is available before you get too attached. How will you market the name to your customers? A lot Even before you officially open your doors for business, you have several decisions to make that will affect your daily operations going forward. Will you rent a space or purchase real estate? Are there going to be any issues in finding a startup location? Is the property you are looking at going to be able to run the type of business you want? Should you run the business on your own or get a partner? Do you need an accountant? What about a financial advisor? What about a banker? Do you anticipate needing employees? What sort of equipment would you need for your business and how will you budget for it? A Montgomery County Business Attorney can assist you with cementing your dreams and setting up a solid foundation, a key to success.
- Brining on a partner. Small business owners are faced with two immediate issues right from the start. First, how will they find enough hours in the day to work their business and keep it open while managing the other obstacles that life throws at them and second, where will they get the money to pay an employee when they are just starting out? Many small business owners just immediately to “finding a partner”. Sometimes having a partner is a good thing and other times it’s the worst decision that small business owners make. Discussing options and the plusses and minuses of having partners is something that should not be taken lightly. Is the person reputable? Are they going to work as hard as you? What is going to happen when there is a dispute? How will they help contribute towards costs? How will they be bringing in revenue? These discussions are serious and should not happen without speaking with legal counsel.
- What type of legal entity will you start with? So how do you know if you should set your business up as a sole proprietorship? What about a limited partnership? What bout a limited liability company? How about a corporation? Who figures out what the best sort of entity is for your situation? That’s right, a lawyer can help with that too. Depending on what type of business you set up, there may be other requirements such as documents that need to be prepared in order to start your business and advertising requirements in the local newspaper and law journals explaining your intent in opening a business. This should happen before you start operating the business. A lawyer will be able to help guide you through this process to making an informed and calculated decision.
- What’s the best way to set up a business bank account? What’s best for your business? Depending on the business set up you have in mind, you may need one or multiple business bank accounts. You may also want to explore lines of credit or business credit cards. You should always keep your business assets and debts separate from your personal accounts. A lawyer can assist you in not just choosing what type of bank you should go to, but can help you determine what your financial accounts should look like from an operating standpoint so that you don’t end up accidentally comingling business and personal assets.
- Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes. No one likes to pay taxes, but it’s just part of life. Taxes present all sorts of legal obstacles. What are the taxes businesses need to pay? When do those taxes get paid? What type of CPA should you speak with? Your lawyer can work hand in hand with your accountant to ensure that you are in compliance with not just federal and state tax laws, but local as well. Choosing the right tax options will set you on the proper start from the beginning.
- Trademarks, Oh My. Trademarks can be valuable toosl that safeguard profits from competition. Many businesses who come up with great names or slogans want to protect those names and slogans so others can’t profit from something they are building. Trademarks are not cheap. When to trademark something is an appropriate conversation to have with a lawyer. Applying for a trademark can be very challenging. Before choosing a name you should always research the term and find out if anyone is using it already in the United states. Then you have to file paperwork, pay fees and wait for the government to process the application. This can only be done at a certain point and often it’s after you’ve already fell in love with your business name. Finding out that you are getting sued because you are using a name that someone else already has trademarked after investing $10,000 into marketing that name is something that happens far too often. Whether or not your business name or service can be trademarked is an issue of its own that should be discussed with an attorney.
- Contract Review. Business attorneys review contracts every day. Whether it’s a lease for the office building you are looking to go into or a contract to purchase 10,000 widgets, you should meet with an attorney to make sure you understand the important aspects of the contract presented to you. The right time to have the contract reviewed is before you sign it. Unfortunately, many small businesses wait until there is an issue after signing before they speak with an attorney. A good small business owner is not just reactive but is proactive. It is significantly cheaper to have a contract explained versus litigating terms of a contract after they’ve been agreed to. Every small busines owner should have contracts drafted or at least reviewed by an attorney before signing.
- Got Property? You probably need insurance! No one likes unexpected problems or concerns. Whether it’s a business vehicle insurance policy, or health insurance plan comparisons, cyber insurance, or even premises liability, having a lawyer assist you with your insurance plan review can go a long way in saving you money. The Attorneys at Rick Stock Law can help you differentiate amongst the plan options to ensure you are picking the right one for your entity.
- Contracts, Permits and Licenses. Depending on the type of business you are running you may need to review local permits, zoning ordinances and municipal regulations before starting. You may also need to obtain a variety of local permits to prevent your business from getting shut down before you even hit the ground running. The “red tape” should be explained to you by an attorney and the lawyer can help you navigate through the paperwork to help you present the most successful argument as to why you should be able to move forward.
- Debt, Debt & More Debt. Let’s face it. Everyone has debt at some point in their lives. However, Small businesses have debt even before they open. Managing the debt is something many small businesses talk to attorneys about. As their business grows, they look for ways to cut debt and to increase profits. Discussing those options with an attorney save a lot of sleepless nights. If the debt gets overwhelming, talking to an attorney about restructuring options and/or bringing on a partner is a typical conversation. Even before bankruptcy is on the table, debts can be discussed as to whether or not they can be written off or negotiated down. Speaking to an attorney goes a long way with debt management.
- Employee Hiring. Before bringing on employees, you should speak with an attorney to discuss the laws with regard to advertising open positions. You should speak to an attorney about interviews and what is okay and not okay to speak about at an interview. You should speak to an attorney about your growth plans and how to be successful in operations. You should speak to an attorney about the cost of employee benefits. You not only have to know employment laws before hiring employees, but you have to abide by them as well. Not only that, by bringing on employees, you will face issues with classification, record keeping and taxation. You should speak to an attorney about whether or not you could just subcontract out work versus hiring an employee. What’s an independent contractor and what is different about them versus an employee? All of these discussions should take place before you decide to hire an attorney.
- Employee Policies and Handbooks. They key to success when managing people is to give them clearly defined objectives and expectations and to have them in writing. Many small business owners are faced with debt issues as referenced above and will make the mistake of assuming that anyone they hire will just “know what is expected” and “have the same goals in mind as the owner”. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Finding the employee is only step one. Having a thorough customized handbook with clear policies as to what is expected is step 2. Quite a bit of planning and documentation goes into how you want your business to run. Relaying that information to the employees is crucial to success of your business. There’s also the question of what sort of information can go into your handbook. Even businesses that don’t have handbooks after being in business for 20 years, should still be contacting an attorney.
- Writing Up and Firing Employees. Whenever a small business owner hires someone they want to believe that person will be loyal to them and work as hard as they do. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if you have an employee that is not doing what they are supposed to do? Yes, Pennsylvania is “at will” employment, but what does that really mean? What happens when you randomly let the employee go and they say they were never written up or they file a wrongful termination action against you? The right way to let an employee go is very important in the success of your business. If an employee isn’t following rules, before “writing them up” you should speak with an attorney to ensure that the write up is clear, informative and effective. This will help you if any unemployment challenges coming down the line.
- Disputes and Lawsuits. Business owners do not want to get sued, but chances are that it’ll happen. Not even a perfectly run business can be immune from a lawsuit here or there. The best time to approach legal disputes are with competent legal counsel BEFORE the lawsuit is filed. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible. The court has extremely strict deadlines for responding to lawsuits and if you fail to respond, you often lose by default. A lot of times business owners will go to an attorney to settle a claim or dispute. Other times they will vehemently oppose settling out of principle and to preserve their businesses reputation. Deciding whether a lawsuit should be defended against or settled is something be done without speaking to an attorney.
- Planning an Exit Strategy. Decisions should be made from the very beginning as to how to develop a business that can one day be profitable…but what if it’s not? Is there an exit strategy in place? Will you shut the business down if it fails? Is selling it an option? What does the busines actually own? Is there value in the name? How can you make the business valuable? What’s the business plan look like? Is there value to a customer list? What is business goodwill? Speaking to a lawyer about an exit strategy and planning appropriately from day one will go a long way and provide a backup plan if things go south.
SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY AT RICK STOCK LAW
Having a lawyer doesn’t need to drain your bank account. It is always cheaper to use your lawyer to plan for success instead of defending against your failures. Costs are predictable. Advice is reasonable and not hasty. It’s a better product and experience overall. Don’t wait until you are already in the weeds before speaking with someone. Whether your business is just an idea floating in your mind, or you’ve been in business for 100 years, there’s never a better time to start a longstanding relationship with an attorney. Having a proper team of professionals support you will allow you to keep moving forward and growing your business and minimize the issues caused by the red tape and legalities. If you’d like a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your business and help you get to the next step, contact Charles Rick for a free consultation.