Although small businesses face legal dilemmas or issues periodically, the majority of them are reluctant to contact an attorney. Maybe cost is a perceived problem or they’re unsure as to whether using an attorney is necessary. But as a business attorney reminds us today, it’s often lack of preparation for unanticipated issues that get a business into legal trouble.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM WILLIAM MITCHELL, BUSINESS ATTORNEY, CERTIFIED MEDIATOR
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON WAYS BUSINESSES GET THEMSELVES INTO TROUBLE? (2:45 in)
In Bill’s words – Failure to incorporate. Failure to have contracts in place. A handshake deal is not always the best approach.
Tip – Have documents in place for the formation of the business, how the business will run, work contracts, real estate, and what responsibilities each owner will have if there is more than one business owner.
ARE THEIR LIMITATIONS WITH USING ONLINE FORMS? (4:29 in)
In Bill’s words – You need to understand that documentation is only part of the equation.
Tip – Consider issues that may come up related to hiring practices, marital status, previous business relationships, bank loans, required operating records, etc.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A COMPANY WITH EMPLOYEES TO HAVE WORK AND BEHAVIOR POLICIES? (7:30 in)
In Bill’s words – It’s critical that an employer have a well written employee handbook. The person that employs 7 to 15 people may need this more than a large company because the large company is sending out email reminders and annual updates. For small business, the employee handbook may be the only communication they receive.
Tip – Make sure you review your handbook annually or bi-annually. Have a signature page to acknowledge that the employee has received it. Changes in government regulations, use of employer provided equipment like cellphones, and the use of social media demand it.
WHAT ARE COMMON MISTAKES WITH HOW BUSINESSES HIRE EMPLOYEES? (11:40 in)
In Bill’s words – Not establishing clear expectations for work, pay, vacations, personal time, use of company equipment. You have to be careful when you’re asking an employee to not do something that may be a constitutionally protected right.
Tip – Consider whether a non-compete agreement with an employee is appropriate.
HOW CAN A COMPANY AVOID LITIGATION WITH A DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE (15:12 in)
In Bill’s words – Having things in writing. One of the things that sometimes puts employers in hot water is not paying their employees when they terminate their employment.
Tip – Have two people from the employer’s side involved in separation conversations.
WHAT’S THE RECOURSE FOR TROUBLE IN COLLECTING PAYMENT FOR SERVICES? (16:17 in)
In Bill’s words – After 60, 90, 120 days a simple letter from an attorney reminding them of what is owed may provide the right amount of motivation.
Tip – Small claims court is available up to $3,000. Ask yourself how much of your resources do you want to spend to collect payment if going to court appears to be the only option.
IF I’M LOOKING FOR A BUSINESS ATTORNEY, WHAT DO I WANT TO FIND OUT? (18:31 in)
Tip – Inquire about how the attorney works and charges. Can the work you need done be completed on a flat fee basis? Decide on who you feel you’re comfortable with and can trust.