So you have decided to start a small business – you’ve got a great idea, you’ve defined your target market, and you’re excited about striking out on your own. After all, isn’t that what the American dream is all about?
After you have filed your entity formation documents with the Secretary of State, set up shop in the perfect location and daily operations are underway, you are probably wondering what potential hazards lie ahead. What should you be prepared to handle and what did you forget to do or just didn’t know you were supposed to do? Such concerns are common for any small business owner, especially those starting out for the first time.
There are a number of published books and free guides out there that provide invaluable information for someone starting a business for the first time. The North Carolina Secretary of State publishes several guides to incorporating your business and can be obtained online for free at http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/Corporations/. Additionally the Small Business Administration is another good source of free information on starting and managing your business and can be accessed at http://www.sba.gov/.
However, all the books and free guides cannot alone ensure the future success and prosperity of your business. Garella Law regularly advises and represents all types of small businesses and, more often than not, the primary reason we end up assisting a new business with a problem is because they cut corners trying to save money.
Starting a new business is an expensive endeavor and it is understandable that, when money is tight, you can’t afford every luxury you might like. Unfortunately, the startup expense many new owners forgo is seeking the advice of a qualified attorney.
One area a new business simply cannot afford to forgo legal advice is with contracts. Contracts are the lifeblood of every business and govern the manner in which goods are sold, services are rendered, and daily operations carried out. Some new owners, overcome by formidable startup costs, make the ill-advised decision not to have an attorney draft or review their contracts.
Perhaps they blindly enter into a complicated commercial lease, purchase an employment agreement for $19.99 from one of those legal form websites, plagiarize something they found on the Internet, or worse, draft it themselves. All these solutions work just fine until a problem arises. The fact is that most non-lawyers, even the extremely smart ones, don’t contemplate the necessity or effect of a contractual provision until it’s too late.
Who incurs the risk of loss in a shipment of goods when the terms are “FOB origin”? What can you do if an employee leaves taking customers with them? Can you remove the lighting fixtures you installed in a leased space when you are ready to leave? The answer to all these questions: it depends on the terms of the contract.
One of the best decisions any new business owner can make is to first sit down with an attorney and have him or her at least review all your contracts and business documents. It is not necessary to go to the biggest and most expensive law firm in town – many small to medium size law firms are equally as capable and charge very reasonable rates. Bring a list of questions and ask the attorney how you can ensure that both you and your business are protected. For a few hundred dollars, not only will you get peace of mind, but you will also build a relationship with an attorney who knows your business. Should you need legal advice in the future, or should the day come that your business is faced with litigation, an attorney you already know and trust can be an invaluable asset. Think of it as insurance – as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Garella Law, P.C. is a Charlotte, NC based law firm representing individuals and small businesses with a variety of business related matters. To schedule a consultation, call 980-321-7933 or visit us online at http://www.gljustice.com.