7 Ways to Legally Protect Your Start-Up Business
Starting a new business is one of the most exciting challenges a person can undertake. However, before you get carried away with creativity, innovation, independence and potential earnings, there are some slightly dull, but incredibly important aspects to consider.
Many start-up businesses are short on cash, and there is a temptation to try and save money by missing out costs which are deemed non-essential in terms of the day-to-day operation of the business. In reality, legal protection and a sound financial strategy could be the difference between a short-lived project and a long-term success.
Here are 7 ways to ensure your start-up business is legally protected.
1. Structure your business
When you go to register your business with the state, you will need to choose a business structure and the choice you make will decide how much you pay in taxes as well as your personal liability. Your options are: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporation, or S Corporation. While your choice will be dependent on many factors, many businesses become an LLC as this separates your personal assets (home, vehicle, savings) from your business assets. You will also need to apply for a tax ID number and ensure you have the appropriate permits and licenses.
2. Get insurance
Although you might think or hope that you will never need it, every business should take out commercial liability insurance. This protects your business financially if your company is sued by a third party such as a customer or vendor. General liability insurance does not cover things that happen to you, your employees, or commercial premises. Additional insurance policies you may want to consider include professional liability insurance (which covers costs incurred because of errors in your work), commercial auto insurance which covers damage to commercial vehicles and property, and workers’ compensation insurance.
General liability insurance does not cover things that happen to you, your employees, or commercial premises.
3. Contracts for employees
Whether you will be taking on employees soon, or in the future, you need to ensure that you are compliant with the law, your responsibilities as an employer, and employee rights. This is a complex topic, so be sure to consult with a legal professional to ensure you have covered all areas including health and safety, code of conduct, discrimination, working hours, etc. If your employees will be working on premises, you also need to ensure that you are providing a safe work environment with all the necessary risk assessments, equipment, and precautions.
4. Working with outside suppliers
If you will be outsourcing aspects of your business to another company, you need to ensure that you cannot be held liable for their actions. For example, if they are not fair to their employees in terms of health and safety, pay, or ethical working practices, you may become tarnished by association.
It is also essential that you read the fine print of any contracts you sign with suppliers, question any points which you are not comfortable with, and do not be afraid to negotiate.
5. Protect your intellectual property
An original business idea may need to be protected by trademark or copyright to prevent another company from taking advantage of your creativity, but this can be complex, so it is best to get advice from an intellectual property lawyer.
6. Pay your taxes
While keeping track of income and expenditure might be simple in the beginning, as your business grows it will be easy to lose track and make mistakes. A professional bookkeeper will be able to advise you not only on what receipts you need to keep and what taxes you need to pay, but they can also complete your tax returns and ensure you take advantage of any tax benefits you can claim.
Whether you are running your business from one computer, several computers, or a combination of devices, all your technology needs to be protected against cyberattacks. You not only need to secure your sensitive data and financial information, but the law is increasingly strict regarding businesses which are not protecting customer and employee data adequately.