As a small business owner, you wear multiple hats. Making sure your business is compliant with laws and regulations is a top priority. These 9 legal questions every small business owner should ask will help you evaluate where your business stands in the current landscape:
1. Should I keep this on file?
If you are questioning whether to keep a file or piece of paper, you should probably error on the side of keeping it. Proper paperwork and records are key if you were to ever be sued. Examples include employee paperwork, financial documentation, and completed contracts. A typical timeline of keeping the items is around three years, but that will vary based upon the item.
2. Is our employee handbook up to date?
A second legal question every small business owner should ask relates to the employee handbook. Your employee handbook is not only an important reference for your employees but also for you as the employer. However the information can become out of date or inaccurate. Take time to review the entire handbook and make a note of anything that needs to be updated or added. Once updated, distribute the new document to each employee either by hand or on your internal portal as applicable.
3. Do we have the proper registration for expansion?
You filed the appropriate trademarks and other protections for your business, but now it’s time to expand. Do you have the proper registrations in place to expand and still be protected? Make sure you check your previous trademarks and other registrations to see if they need to be clarified or if new filings or approvals need to be filed.
4. Are we missing out on tax deductions?
Proper planning throughout the year will make tax compliance time easier. There are a number of tax-related legal questions business owners should ask. Have you looked at each item as a potential tax deduction? Regular communication with your accountant and attorney will save you time and money.
5. How can I protect my business name?
Many small business owners know to protect their business name, but what about your logo or other identifying characteristics? These questions are essential for small business owners to ask in order to protect your business and its intellectual property from competitors or infringement. Registered trademarks should be in place to protect your business and brand well into the future.
6. Is my business set to be passed down to my family?
You have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your business. It is only natural to want to pass your business or the assets to your family once you are ready to walk away. The Boston Globe reports that 8 out of 10 family businesses have no family succession plan. Start with a conversation with your family to see if there is an interest in succession and then meet with an attorney to ensure the proper measures are in place to achieve those transition goals. For more on this topic, refer to our recent blog on Business Succession Planning.
7. What happens if my business is too successful or not successful enough?
Most business owners worry about what to do if their business doesn’t make it. However, a business owner should be prepared for both best-case and worst-case scenarios. Proper business planning can provide you and your business flexibility and protection in either occurrence. An attorney can help you select the appropriate options that are best for you and your business.
8. Am I compliant with recent Health Care legislation?
The Affordable Care Act and Health Care Reform regulations and restrictions continue to change. The complexities of these laws require businesses to remain engaged with their advisers in order to stay in compliance. Stay on top any changes in regulations by meeting with your benefits provider and attorney. If any adjustments need to be made, make sure proper communication is made to your employees.
9. How do I prepare my business for the future?
Does it look like growth or expansion is on the horizon? Make sure your business is ready and in compliance with legal real estate-related requirements. State and local requirements and compliance should be reviewed when entering a new jurisdiction.
These questions are a starting point for small business owners interested in legal compliance in the coming year and beyond. If you have specific legal questions for your small business, contact us. As a full-service Michigan law firm, our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of business law.