As a small business owner, ignoring the potential for legal issues can be a costly misstep.
The savvy small business owner will consult with a business and employment attorney not only at the inception of starting their business, but routinely as part of their trusted advisor circle. Consequently, many small business owners have found the cost of remedying legal issues far exceeds the fee for a twice-a-year consult with their attorney.
We’ve compiled three bits of business legal advice for small businesses that every small business owner should prepare for no matter what phase of the business cycle.
Small business owners need to first ensure they are compliant with registering their business in the state in which they operate. Next, obtain any licenses, permits, or registrations applicable for your service or product.
“Tell the world that you’re an LLC,” said Doug Moseley, lawyer with the University of Akron Law School’s SEED Legal Clinic. “When you represent yourself to others, and this could be on a business card, or your website, display prominently on that card or website your full business legal name, including the letters LLC so that you are telling everyone you are dealing with a with a business here, not ‘me’ as a person personally. When you sign a contract, the party to the contract is your business name, not you personally. You have to sign it personally, but the party and the responsible entity is, in fact, your business.”
Your attorney will guide you through the paperwork, filings, and other legal matters that could impact your business. Some small business owners rely on internet searches, friends, or other colleagues for their legal advice. While the idea of free legal advice can be attractive, it is not the step you want to skip or an area where you want to cut costs.
Understanding fair trade practices will help your small business avoid unethical legal issues. Fair trade covers matters involving copyright infringement, false advertising, unfair or deceptive practices among others. Small business owners should register with the Better Business Bureau, which shows good faith in business dealing and resolving customer complaints.
Another piece of business legal advice for small business owners are ethical considerations with non-discriminatory selling. The selling is not limited to your end user. Selling your products on wholesale should be on equal terms and the pricing should not vary unless there is an economic explanation. An economic explanation for example would be bulk purchasing or paying in cash.
Health and Safety
Oftentimes, small business owners do not realize they must register their business if they have a physical location with OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration). And, if your company is in the business that involves work with hazardous materials, workplace hazards, or any other employee safety issues, you must ensure compliance. Bypassing the law when it involves the health and safety of employees will land you and your business into a legal issue.
Another aspect of health and safety is with the building and property in which you operate your business. It is your responsibility to know the building codes in the city in which your business operates. Equally important, remedy any building code violations that may lead you to a legal issue.
Learn more about business legal advice for small businesses with BizChat Ohio podcast guest Doug Moseley.