Small business owners can be particularly vulnerable to potential legal issues. First off, small businesses don’t generally have teams of lawyers at their disposal. Secondly, legal disputes can happen for any reason, and there is no way to totally eliminate the risk of being involved in one. A person could walk on the sidewalk in front of a small business, twist their ankle, and decide to sue. So, paying attention to these five tips for keeping your small business out of legal hot water might save you a trip to the courthouse.
1. Create a Professional Website
2. Keep Up with Licensing Requirements
One of the primary reasons that small business operators get into trouble is with local and industry licensing regulations. A daycare owner who lets their license lapse would not be legally authorized to take care of children in a commercial environment. That same daycare owner could not only face big fines, they might also end up being charged criminally. Sometimes, licensing issues occur because of minor oversights and just plain forgetfulness. So, if you are hoping to keep your small busines out of legal trouble then you should ensure that your license is up to date.
3. Have a Great Liability Insurance Policy
Whether your business has a physical presence, or operates solely online, you can’t operate without liability insurance. Realize what liability insurance protects you as a business owner from. Anyone who is accidentally hurt while patronizing a brick and mortar business can sue for medical expenses, negligence, and emotional distress. Online retailers and service providers can sue for similar damages if they receive faulty items, or potentially even for fraud if they don’t feel that they received products or services as they were originally described. Legal defense is expensive, and legal awards and settlements can be costly. Have liability insurance protection for your small business if you want to avoid getting into legal trouble.
4. All Employees Need to Sign an Employment Agreement
Another area where a lot of small businesses get into trouble involves employees and wage disputes. You may not yet be to the point of needing a large staff or even full-time workers, but as soon as you hire even a single person, you should be aware of the risks that can come with employees. To help avoid having a future dispute concerning wages or wrongful termination, have your staff sign an employment agreement. This employment agreement has to be written within the confines of state law, meaning that you can’t include provisions, clauses or terms that will not hold up in court. If you live in an at-will employment state, mention this in your employment agreement and have a basic definition attached.
5. Talk to a Business Law Attorney
You can think of all of the areas in which you hope to protect your small business. Alternatively, you can just sit down and have a thorough discussion with your business law attorney and have great reassurance that you have covered all the basics. If you operate a small business, no one expects you to also be a legal expert. Attorneys with expertise in the area of small business offer consultations, and will even work with small businesses on an hourly basis. Get helpful advice and personalized suggestions on how to better protect your company, by way of a trained lawyer.
Legal troubles are not always avoidable, but there are numerous ways to keep risks to a minimum. With the right protections in place, you can insulate your business and ensure that your investments stay intact. Know that there will be something left of your company to give to future generations by staying out of legal trouble wherever you can.