Three Risks for Small Businesses
If you’re a business owner assessing risks and legal problems, there are three concerns that should be at the top of your list. Appropriately preparing for these risks can help you to avoid drawn out litigation and financial catastrophe.
1. Ownership disputes
Unfortunately, small businesses are more prone to ownership disputes and corporate freeze-outs than larger businesses. This is for a host of reasons, but one of them is because small businesses do not always adequately document their ownership structure. This can even be true in situations where there’s only one owner.
If you have a 50/50 business arrangement, do you have adequate safeguards in place to allow for what happens in a deadlock? Even with a larger board of owners, what happens when you have a tie? Or what happens when the board room becomes increasingly heated, and one group of voters feel that they’re being frozen out of the company by virtue of not having sufficient voting power? In all of these situations, expensive lawsuits can result, and the discord that goes along with such a lawsuit can kill your business success.
To avoid these problems, it’s important to have a sufficient operating agreement or bylaws to document contracts with highly compensated employees and ensure that frequent communication keeps your boardroom out of chaos.
2. Contracts with vendors
All too often, small-to-medium sized businesses rely on “course of performance” contracts, which are essentially unwritten deals between the business and its vendors. This can be acceptable when the deals are small and the amount of money being risked in each transaction isn’t enough to sink your business. It becomes very serious when large customers suddenly stop paying or large suppliers breach on essential terms of the contract and refuse to work out even a partial refund for their failures.
Businesses often find themselves in the difficult position of having to decide whether to bring an expensive lawsuit without clear contractual remedies to recover their attorneys’ fees and other costs. A business attorney can advise you on how to draft good contracts with your vendors that don’t tie anyone’s hands, and which allow for flexibility as your business relationship matures. This is another area where having a dedicated corporate council can be extremely helpful.
Is your business properly insured? Having general liability and business insurance is important not just for slips and falls and delivery drivers, but also for situations where someone accuses you of using their artwork on your website, sues you for trademark infringement, claims you’ve violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more. Obtaining proper insurance means not only that you are covered for any damages that you are found to have caused, but more importantly, a good insurance policy will ensure that your attorney is paid by insurance and not out of your general operating budget.
Running a business doesn’t have to be risky
These are just a few legal risks you should consider regarding your business. Give us a call today to speak with one of our attorneys about how we can protect you from legal risks and help you maximize your business success.