About Us
FAQ
Global Advisory Experts Logo
Global Advisory Experts Logo

Find a Global Law Expert

Specialism
Country
Practice Area

Awards

Since 2010, the Global Law Experts annual awards have been celebrating excellence, innovation and performance across the legal communities from around the world.

Top 10 Legal Mistakes Small Businesses Make

posted 3 months ago

By Kelly Bagla, Esq.

In my extensive work with small businesses, I have found a number of common legal issues that come up over and over again. Here are the top 10 legal mistakes made by small businesses:

  1. NO FORMAL INCORPORATION Too many entrepreneurs fail to establish the right legal structure for their company. At some point, this will hurt you. If you haven’t created the right legal structure, you and your assets are open to personal liability when you are sued by a customer or employee. What to do: Consult with a business attorney who can advise on the best legal entity structure that will allow you to achieve your business goals.
  2. NO SHAREHOLDER AGREEMENTS When it comes time to sell the company or a founder leaves, a shareholders’ agreement governs the terms of the separation and the issued stock. Chaos will ensue without such an agreement. What to do: Have a business attorney draft a legal document that states how issues will be decided among shareholders and what happens to the shares if a shareholder departs, dies, divorces or other changes occur.
  3. NO FORMAL HUMAN RESOURCE POLICIES Small companies get into a lot of HR trouble because they do not have employee manuals or human resource policies in place. You don’t want to be surprised by a personnel issue that at the very least distracts from your business goals and could potentially shut down your company. What to do: Seek the advice of a business attorney and a human resource professional (or at the very least, professional software) to formulate human resource policies that fit your company.
  4. INCORRECT CLASSIFICATION OF EMPLOYEES VS. CONTRACTORS To save costs, most small businesses hire independent contractors to perform work for the company. The rules that differentiate an employee from a contractor are very specific, and if you classify either incorrectly, you will be liable for back pay, back taxes, and penalties, to mention a few. What to do: Consult with an attorney on federal, state and IRS rules that determine the proper classification.
  5. NOT PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY – PATENT, COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK, ETC. Many small businesses fail to take the necessary steps to protect their intellectual property until another company steps in and claims it as theirs. You may not be aware of everything you have that constitutes an asset of your company and how to prevent hijacking by someone else. What to do: Seek the advice of an attorney to do an inventory of the company’s intellectual property and to properly protect it.
  6. NOT PROTECTING CUSTOMER AND EMPLOYEE DATA Small businesses are at high risk of having customer and employee data stolen. It could occur inside the company by employees, through online transactions, website hacking, and other incursions. You have both legal and competitive issues with the possible loss of sensitive customer data. What to do: Hire a really good IT company to secure the site and the data as well as building internal policies and modifications to protect customer data. Also, consult with an attorney on the applicable privacy and disclosure laws that govern this data.
  7. NOT ADDRESSING APPROPRIATE PERSONAL USE OF THE INTERNET AT WORK Small businesses can prevent employees from using the Internet at work for personal reasons. What to do: Block inappropriate sites to protect the company and other employees. Frequently monitor website usage of company computers for proper use. Also, consult either a human resource professional or attorney on how to prevent potential abuse of the site that could implicate you in a sexual harassment or creation of a hostile work environment. Both can produce lawsuits and financial penalties.
  8. INSUFFICIENT SCREENING OF OUTSIDE INVESTORS Many small business owners bring in outside investors to support cash flow. They then have disagreements with the investors on how to run the company. The investors then threaten legal action. What to do: Consult with an attorney prior to finalizing any such arrangements to document the appropriate role for any outside investor. And remember, the background and history of the investor is as important as how much money they bring to the company. Choose very carefully.
  9. NOT REMITTING PAYROLL TAX (OR SALES TAX) TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES Small businesses must legally collect payroll and sales taxes. Not remitting these monies to government agencies will get you shut down with fines, fees, and penalties to follow. What to do: Use a payroll service to remit employer and employee taxes automatically. Set up a separate account for the collection of sales and use taxes and review quarterly.
  10. NOT HAVING AN EXPERT SUPPORT TEAM All small businesses should have a team of experts who work together to protect the business and position it for the future. All small businesses should have a business attorney and a tax professional. What to do: Hire your expert support team as part of the earliest set up of your business. It’s better to spend your money now and protect your business than spend hundreds of thousands just to lose your shirt later.

Becoming a business owner, you control your own destiny, choose the people you work with, reap big rewards, challenge yourself, give back to the community, and you get to follow your passion. Knowing what you’re getting into is smart business because the responsibility of protecting your business falls on you.

For more information on how to legally start and grow your business please visit my website at www.baglalaw.com

Disclaimer: This information is made available by Bagla Law Firm, APC for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Author

Join

0
who are already getting the benefits

Sign up for the latest advisory briefings and news within Global Advisory Experts’ community, as well as a whole host of features, editorial and conference updates direct to your email inbox.

Naturally you can unsubscribe at any time.

Newsletter Sign Up

About Us

Global Advisory Experts is dedicated to providing exceptional advisory services to clients around the world. With a vast network of highly skilled and experienced advisers, we are committed to delivering innovative and tailored solutions to meet the diverse needs of our clients in various jurisdictions.

Contact Us

Stay Informed

Join Mailing List

GAE