When Do I Need a Business Lawyer for My Small Business?
Among the countless worries for entrepreneurs who are starting or are already running a small business is the question of whether they need a business lawyer. The perception is that attorneys charge high rates and many small businesses don’t have much, if any, extra capital with which to pay lawyers. As a result, most small business owners only hire an attorney experienced with business matters when confronted with a serious legal problem (e.g. you’re sued by a customer). However, legal help is a cost of doing business that often saves you money and helps your business in the long run.
While you certainly don’t need an attorney for every step of running your business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. This article will explain when you can cover legal issues on your own or with minimal attorney assistance and when you will definitely need a business lawyer.
Issues You Can Handle on Your Own
There are certain matters that are fairly straightforward and/or not unduly difficult to learn and therefore do not require the services of an attorney who charges at least $200 per hour. There are enough expenses associated with running a business, why not save yourself a load of money and do it yourself if you can?
The following is a list of some tasks that business owners should consider taking on themselves (with the aid of self-help resources, online and in print):
- Writing a business plan
- Researching and picking a name for your business (previously trademarked business names can be researched online)
- Reserving a domain name for your website
- Creating a legal partnership agreement, limited liability company (LLC) operating agreement, or shareholder’s agreement (see Choosing a Legal Structure )
- Applying for an employer identification number (EIN), which you will need for employee tax purposes
- Applying for any licenses and permits the business requires
- Interviewing and hiring employees (there are federal and state antidiscrimination laws which regulate the hiring of employees)
- Submitting necessary IRS forms
- Documenting LLC meetings
- Hiring independent contractors and contracting with vendors
- Creating contracts for use with customers or clients
- Creating a buy-sell agreement with partners
- Updating any partnership, LLC, or shareholder’s agreements under which you are currently operating
- Handling audits initiated by the IRS
The above is not an exhaustive list of legal tasks which small business owners can do on their own. It should be stated that if your business is well-funded or you feel that you need the assistance of an attorney, you can always retain a lawyer to help you with everything listed above.
Issues Where You Will Need a Business Lawyer
Most of the issues outlined above can be handled by any intelligent business owner (if you can run a business, you can certainly fill out IRS forms or fill in boilerplate business forms). There are times, however, when a business faces issues that are too complex, too time consuming, or fraught with liability issues. At that point,the wisest move is to retain a business lawyer.
A few examples include:
- Former, current, or prospective employees suing on the grounds of discrimination in hiring, firing, or hostile work environment
- Local, state, or federal government entities filing complaints or investigating your business for violation of any laws.
- You want to make a special allocation of profits and losses or you want to contribute appreciated property to your partnership or LLC agreement
- An environmental issue arises and your business is involved (even if your business didn’t cause the environmental problem, you may be penalized)
- Negotiating for the sale or your company or for the acquisition of another company or its assets
An Ounce of Prevention
While you certainly need to retain an attorney for the serious issues above, your emphasis should be placed on preventing such occurrences in the first place. Prevention does not necessarily involve hiring an attorney, though consulting with one wouldn’t hurt. By the time you or your business is sued, the preventable damage has been done and the only question that remains is how much you’ll be paying in attorney’s fees, court fees, and damages.
For example, by the time a prospective employee files a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination based in part upon questions posed at the job interview, all you can do is hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit. If, on the other hand, you had done your own research on anti-discrimination laws, or you had consulted an attorney beforehand, you would have known not to inquire as to whether the applicant was pregnant or planned on becoming pregnant. The small effort at the beginning of the process would save you an enormous headache later.
To prevent unnecessary attorney costs at the inception of your business as well as tremendous costs after a lawsuit has been filed, you might consider a consultation arrangement with an attorney. Such an arrangement would entail you doing most of the legwork of research and the attorney providing legal review or guidance.
For example, you might use self help and online sources to create a contract with a vendor and ask an attorney to simply review and offer suggestions. Or from the previous example, you might research types of questions to ask during an interview and then send the list to an attorney for his or her approval. This way, you prevent the potential headache later and the cost to you is minimal because you’ve already done most of the work and the attorney simply reviews the document.
Find the Right Attorney for Your Business Needs
You won’t need a lawyer for each and every legal issue that comes up in your business. But when you do, it’s good to know where to find the right one. Check FindLaw’s legal directory for a business and commercial law attorney near you.
#small business magazine
5 Must-Read Magazines for Your Small Business
You may be asking yourself, why am I soliciting print advice from a digital marketing resource center? Well, we at Get Busy Media find value in content that helps small businesses solve problems and grow; regardless of how and in what format this content is packaged. Today we’re going to take you through our five favorite small business magazines and why you, as a business owner, need to be consulting these resources.
Here are our top 5 small business magazines (and their tablet companions) :
Inc. is the veritable bible for small business owners. If you were stuck on a desert island selling widgets and had only one magazine to consult from, I would recommend Inc hands down. This magazine is chock-full of amazing statistics, case studies, interviews and reviews about small business owners and startups who have found success and why. Too many young readers today are inundated with stories of successful tech startups. Rest assured that Inc. will provide you with a wide variety of successful small business stories. They will provide you with stories of why learning to tell jokes is good for business to a who’s who of crowdfunding platforms and which ones small businesses should leverage depending on their specific needs.
- Get Real by Jason Fried – co-founder of 37 Signals (software company that created Basecamp) and author of Rework pens this column that normally appears between pages 35 and 40
- Crunching the Numbers – I love the charts and graphs that are included in this section. For instance, did you know that the cities that experienced the greatest increase in the number of jobs at companies with fewer than 100 employees from August 10 to August 11 were Orlando, Atlanta and Greensboro, North Carolina (who would have guessed these cities?)
- Tech Trends – John Brandon does a great job with this column. He reviews all the latest gadgets and new technology that make your life as a small business owner easier.
iPad app: Appears that as of February, 2012 Inc. does not have an iPad app based on my extensive searches in the App. store that returned no results for this magazine.
Entrepreneur magazine is a must have for anyone looking to start a small business. Entrepreneur’s target is more narrowly focused than Inc’s but that’s what makes it so great. Within this magazine you will find every pain point imaginable to starting and running a profitable business (economy, work/life balance issues, co-founder discord, death of a co-founder, production issues, supply chain problems, to name just a few). You will find articles ranging from how a 14-year old kid started his own candle company based on manly scents (fresh cut grass, steak and wood chips, to name a few) to how two guys pivoted and turned their failing lifestyle website into a flash deals site and made a profit in the first month.
- Lead Gen – Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs.com and Co-Author of Content Rules authors this column that speaks to the power of great content and how to reach your customers through online content.
- Linked – Chris Brogan. Founder of Human Business Works and co-author of Trust Agents is one of the preeminent experts in relationship and digital marketing. If you have enough time to read only one column in this magazine each month, read his.
iPad app: This app needs some work. When you zoom in to read on the iPad, the text becomes difficult to read. The abundance of ads on this app is also bothersome and takes away from the overall experience.
Cost. Free (comes with Entrepreneur print subscription)
3. Fast Company
Of the three magazines we have reviewed thus far, Fast Company is certainly the edgiest and hippest. To be honest, there’s a reason why this publication is #3 on the list behind Inc and Entrepreneur. A salient example for those who like sports, is that Fast Company is to ESPN The Magazine what Inc. is to Sports Illustrated. SI is the preeminent resource in sports journalism in the United States, much as Inc. is widely regarded as the benchmark for publications for small businesses and startups. ESPN the Magazine on the other hand is flashy, heavy on images and graphics and appeals to a hipper, younger generation than Sports Illustrated. By no means is this a bad thing, but I felt that I should use this example to illustrate the difference between Fast Company and their approach versus Inc.’s approach.
One aspect of Fast Company that I enjoy much more than the previous two publications on this list is their long form feature stories. Fast Company’s featured stories tend to be much more content-rich and just plain longer in general than its counterparts. I love that I can sit down and read one of these stories and am captivated for 20 minutes.
- Tech Edge – authored by Farhad Manjoo, this column is very similar to Tech Trends in Inc. just with a little more irreverence.
iPad app: Appears that as of February, 2012 Fast Company does not have an iPad app based on my extensive searches in the App. store that returned no results for this magazine.
Wired is an incredible magazine. I don’t care who you are, this magazine is always, always visually stunning and filled with incredible content about science and technology. There is no doubt in my mind that Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired. sits down with all departments within the company to ensure that design, content and layout all flow and play nice together. While this magazine tends to be very science and tech heavy, there are amazing pieces of information here that are applicable to small businesses, especially those who are progressive and technology-oriented.
- Dear Mr. Know-it-all – this is an awesome column where Mr. Know it All fields questions from those looking to navigate their issues in the 21st century. Some questions may surprise you, but you’ll find the answers even more interesting.
- Test – they test everything from Universal remotes to solar charges to ultrabooks – very neat column.
iPad app – amazing layout (which is par for the course for Wired) but loading the iPad edition by my count takes between 6 and 8 minutes (depending on the length of the issue), which in my opinion is tired not wired.
Cost. Free (comes with Wired print subscription)
5. Bloomberg Businessweek
Bloomberg Businessweek is obviously a behemoth in the business and financial news sector. While this periodical isn’t tailored specifically for small businesses and startups, there’s a ton of information you can cull from Bloomberg. The great thing about Bloomberg is that it’s laid out in a format that is easy-to-read and digestible. A few sections I particularly enjoy are the Technology and Companies and Industries sections. Both contain information that is pertinent for small businesses.
iPad app – I haven’t played around much with the app on my iPad but from my limited experience, this seems like another great app for the iPad
Cost. Free (comes with Bloomberg print subscription)
What do you think of my list of the top small business magazines? Who did I miss? Do you disagree with any of my choices? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.
About Jim Armstrong
Jim Armstrong is the Co-Founder of Get Busy Media and a paid search specialist. Since 2008, Jim has built his knowledge around emerging media and leveraged several experiences to develop a keen understanding of internet marketing. His core competencies include search marketing, SEO, email marketing, social media marketing and online reputation management. Jim currently works for Google, as an account manager. When not diving headfirst into his next project, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and writing. Jim on Google+
I love Forbes online and have followed some of their contributors in particular.
#naming a business
Picking a killer name for your business is harder than it might seem.
One of the things to think about when choosing a company name is how it will look in the subject line of an email, according to cloud-based analytics company DataHero. Then there’s how it will sound when it’s said aloud. A number of leading companies in recent history have chosen names with between five and 10 letters and at least one hard consonant: Google. Starbucks, Verizon.
Before naming your company. check out these tips from entrepreneurs who have been through the process, some of whom have even named the same company more than once.
1. Don’t rush the process.
There’s no set amount of time it should take for you to settle on a name for your company, but know that it could take six months of iterating before you make a final decision. An important thing to remember is to continue working on other aspects of the business as you get closer to picking a name, says Charlie Miner, founder of furniture and lighting e-commerce company WorkOf. “You don’t want the process of naming to prevent you from moving the business forward,” he says.
2. Think about your audience.
Venture capital database CB Insights was initially founded under the name Chubby Brain, something co-founder Anand Sanwal says represented his attempt to come up with a name that was cool, funky, and “startup-sounding.” Sanwal’s philosophy changed after he heard from the investment banks and other institutional clients that would be citing his startup’s data in their marketing materials. “Nobody wanted to put ‘Source: Chubby Brain’ at the bottom of a deck, because it’s not a real big credibility builder,” Sanwal says.
3. Make it easy to spell.
It’s okay to use unique spelling, a la Chick-fil-A, but don’t make your company’s name so unconventional that it’s hard to remember. “I’ve seen some startup names where I’ll think, was that four ‘E’s’ or three?” CB Insights’s Sanwal says.
4. Short is better than long.
Not every company can have a short, simple, one-syllable name like Box, Dell, or Lyft, but if you come up with a great long name and a great short name, you should probably go with the short one. Acquiring the rights to short web domain names, however, can be pricey, if not impossible, so make sure to check the availability of your desired URL first.
5. Factor in search engine optimization.
Making your company easy to find in search engines is an important consideration when picking a name. If you’re going to use a proper noun for your name, you should think about how that decision will impact SEO. Choosing a common term like “Bell,” for example, would make it hard to place your company on the first (or second) page of search results on Google.
6. Enlist a focus group (or groups).
Once you have a shortlist of names you like, it’s a good idea to see how other people respond to each one. “Survey as many people as you can,” says Bridie Loverro, co-founder of QuadJobs, an online marketplace connecting college and grad students to local employers. “The name to choose may not necessarily be the one people like best, but the one they remember most.”
7. Keep your options open.
Having to change your name after pivoting from one business model to another isn’t the end of the world, but if you can pivot and still retain the brand identity you’ve already built up, that’s ideal. Picking a name that doesn’t pigeonhole your company to one specific service will help. “The goal is to create something that is broad enough to intuitively answer who you are and that speaks to your core customer base, but also gives you room to grow into other areas,” says Logan Sugarman, co-founder of wellness concierge service Refresh Body.
8. Keep mobile in mind.
If customers can buy your products through a mobile app, you might want to factor in how your company name will look on a mobile app icon. A friendly sounding name like Shopify might also lend itself better to mobile users compared a three-letter acronym that doesn’t convey anything about your brand.
9. Don’t obsess over a descriptive name.
The name of your company doesn’t have to make it clear what your business is. While it helps to reference the spirit of your brand in some way (think: food delivery company Seamless), avoid a name that sounds specific to an entirely different industry. As Neil Patel, co-founder of web analytics company Crazy Egg writes, the name NomNom suggests food, and therefore doesn’t work if you’re starting a financial services software-as-a-service company.
10. Make the name visually distinctive.
After you pick your name, you should consider adding a custom feature that makes the brand more than just the word or words in the title. Some examples include unconventional capitalization, combining two words into one, or adding a unique design touch, like the curled “C” in the first letter of the bedding startup Casper. “It’s about developing a more fully fleshed out visual identity,” says WorkOf’s Miner.
What You Need to About Small Business Templates
There was a time, long ago, when the company opened a new process which was relatively unexplored. When you look back to the colonial times it was not very many businesses. The town Baker was not very competitive because it was probably the only baker around. Fast forward to today, and the small business has become a very big business. Small companies have already started so often that there are many small business templates available when starting a business or perform functions within the company.
There are templates out there today to help a person in the process of launching new businesses. If you look at the franchises available today, many of them are opening every store in a certain way. It help investors to rationalize certain functions and marginal costs. If you do not do something the same way every time you all can do it much faster and often save a lot of money at the same time.
Small shops, where the ownership remains in the hands of large corporations are well known to the following pattern. They are able to benefit even more from the individual store, because the corporation owns a very small store fronts. Many times they ensure the creation of new shop windows and buy in bulk. This saves even more money. Creating a cookie cutter store and perform the same function, and save a lot of time.
Why Your Business Phones Need an Upgrade
The big issue for business is staying on top of its communications requirements. New technology is driving old phone systems beyond their design capabilities. The need now is for business phone systems which are scalable and customizable to manage real business operational needs.
The simple fact is that the baseline needs of business commercial systems are expanding. They need to be able to do a lot more, and manage much bigger demands. The office in your pocket approach to mobile systems alone is creating a reciprocal need for much better phone systems in-house. The big shift in commerce to eCommerce is adding a gigantic extra load on its own.
The point here is that more business equates to more demand for communications and increasing diversification of the need for different services. The time is long past since the days when a simple phone system of the old type can handle the multi-level range of communications a typical business experiences every day.
If you put all your different communications through a single stream system, the result is a range of obstacle courses. The new approach is to create dedicated servers (also known as private servers in the communications industry) to separate and manage the workloads. This is infinitely more efficient and far more productive than the stunningly slow and seemingly procedurally-obsessed single stream systems can ever be.
Consider this situation:
- A call center receives 5000 calls a day for multiple clients.
- On the receiving end of these calls are specialists, trained to manage specific tasks.
- If these calls are managed on a single stream basis, the result is instant inefficiency. It s an entirely inappropriate system for a big call stream.
- The calls need to be efficiently split up into their proper streams by definition.
This is just a bigger version of the basic issues for any business phone system. Whether you re NASA or a local grocery, you need your calls to get from A to B ASAP. It s impossible to justify the sheer waste of time and money in a phone system which effectively creates delays and a working backlog of business which could and should have been done a lot faster.
Upgrading for Better Business
The new options for telephone systems include two fundamentally different improvements. These are significant upgrades by nature, and they can set up a business system to operate on a fully customized, business-specific configuration with almost no effort required.
- Private Servers: These are the real fixers for any business phone issues. Dedicated servers are not simply more efficient . They re real managers of communications workloads. They improve response times and service quality dramatically.
- Contact Centres: The contact centres will ring more than a few bells with project managers and other businesspeople who know what managing a very diverse range of business operations involves. Contact centres are virtual phone systems, configurable to any operational requirements. They can literally create a working call center out of a box. If that sounds a bit different, you can also see the instant business applications.
Add both private servers and contact centres to your phone system, and you’ve achieved a major upgrade, scalable and appropriate for your business, both now and in future. This is good business, and these are the communications systems of the future.
Kushal Tomar is a valued contributor for CosmoBC’s TechBlog. You can follow him through the buttons below. View all posts by Kushal Tomar
10 Influential Business Books You Need To Read To Be Successful
10 Influential Business Books You Need To Read To Be Successful
Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.
I d bet they re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that s how they got to be where they are today.
Jealous of them? You don t have to be. You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here s 10 of my favorites.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime. Read this book and you ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.
2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy
Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.
Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.
3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Creating a me-too product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.
In essence by making the product different you ll be building the marketing into the actual product development which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.
4. Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
If you ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.
5. Man s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel
It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work. Man s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.
6. 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.
Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.
7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.
To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits .well you can get where I m going with this.
If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.
8. One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard
If you re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.
9. Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries
Before you create any sort of business you ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.
10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar
The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you re passionate about.
Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it s not likely to work. This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you re heart isn t into.
Set a Goal For Yourself