Guest post by Zac Swan, Content Coordinator, LawPath
Legal concerns are the last thing any entrepreneur wants on their mind. It’s very easy to get stuck worrying about the boring stuff (i.e finances, compliance and liability) rather than on growing your business.
The beginning of a new year is an opportunity to re-evaluate your business. Here’s some key things you can do to improve your business.
- Review Your Business Structure
Startups often want to get going straight away, and for many of us this will mean operating under a simple business structure (such as a sole trader or partnership). This is a great way to operate in the early days however with 2017 set to be your best year ever you should seriously consider company registration.
Registering a company comes with a variety of benefits, but the key differences you should be aware of are that it limits your liability (protecting your personal assets), taxes you at a flat rate of 30% and provides a more recognised framework for hiring employees and bringing on investors. If you plan on growing your startup, registering your company now is a no-brainer!
- Document Everything
Given the high-profile founder breakdowns that have happened over the past decade (Facebook, Snapchat) you’d think that getting agreements in writing would be commonplace. Unfortunately, we deal with businesses on a daily basis who avoid creating agreements with business partners, employees and service providers, only for it to end in costly disputes and hefty legal bills.
Our tip: get everything in writing! Ensure that you’ve got written agreements in place for every single function and individual within your business. You’ll then have records of the responsibilities of each founder in your business, the key numbers and dates for each of your employees and above everything else, peace of mind.
- Protect Your Secret Sauce
With a growing business comes a growing amount of intellectual property. We often think of intellectual property as just a brand name and logo, but it concerns everything from your user database to the processes and ways that you conduct business.
New competitors will enter the market, and will call on successful and established businesses for creative inspiration. You can protect what makes your brand unique by registering a trademark, which secures your business symbol or name and will ensure you’re not having heated exchanges with competitors.
Now that you have registered your company (see point 1), it’s crucial that you have assigned all of the IP (business processes, website content and copy) to your company – you can do this using an Assignment of IP deed. When it comes time to doing your first investment fundraising, the first thing potential investors will ask is: who owns the IP?
- Legislation Changes – Keep Informed!
You’d be amazed with how often business owners are found to operate illegally due to new legislation changes. Changes to legislation relevant to your business occur frequently throughout the year. Let’s just take the last few months: is your business aware of the unfair contract terms legislation that came in on the 12th of November 2016, or the association incorporation changes in September?
One government subscription that is underutilised by business owners is the Federal Register of Legislation. With reminders of upcoming changes hitting your inbox you’ll be better informed of updates that impact your industry.
- Build Trust Online
If your business operates online it’s crucial to ensure you’ve got the right protection. You’d hate to have all the dedicated time and resources that went into your website to go to waste as you deal with an expensive lawsuit from an irate customer!