Category Archive: Legal Considerations for Business

The Biggest Business Mistakes I’ve Made – and the Lessons I’ve Learned

~by Haley Lynn Gray~

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What I’ve learned in business is that there will be plenty of failures and a few successes. Sometimes the greatest success is learning from the failures, because those will frequently teach us the most profound lessons.

I think that because I have such a fabulous education in business, I was able to avoid a number of business mistakes. But I made others because I never learned about those in school. If only it were that easy.

Here are some common business mistakes … I hope you can learn from them as I did.

1. Think carefully when choosing a business partner. If you do end up with one, make sure you have solid, legal agreements in place about each partner’s responsibilities within the business and who will pay for what and when they will pay for it. Also decide what happens if one of you wants to leave the business and under what conditions that they can leave. Every new business usually starts as a honeymoon period, but when things get difficult or uncomfortable, or even if they go incredibly well, someone is inevitably going to want or need to leave. Negotiate those terms and conditions before you start doing business.

In my case, there’s no horrible story to tell. My former business partner is really an amazing woman and still a dear friend. But we made a mistake. When she was no longer involved in day-to-day operations and had no idea what was going on, we didn’t realize that she needed to be done and leave the company.   

business mistakes2. Watch those personal guarantees.  You incorporate your business to separate your personal and business life, but this can backfire on you. Unfortunately, banks will often want you to sign a personal guarantee for any loans your business has. Landlords may want you to sign a personal guarantee, and may insist on it. This can expose you and your family to liabilities if you aren’t careful. We learned a pretty nasty lesson from a company credit card after I sold one of my businesses. Instead of the bank being willing to negotiate the balance down or have my business partner (a minority owner) pay a minority amount, they essentially forced her to pay the full amount due.

Not only do you need to watch for a personal guarantee, but you also need to watch for what KIND of personal guarantee it is. Make sure they can’t put a lien on your home or anything that may cause you to lose everything (if you aren’t careful).

3. Hire only the employees and contractors you desperately need. Over hiring and paying too much in salaries cost me a LOT of money. That was my mistake. Once you hire someone, if they aren’t 150% subscribed, they will tend to do less and less work, even while trying to convince you that they are fully engaged. They’ll come in late and leave early if they think you aren’t watching. Sales staff may not do the work they’ve been hired to do at all — and may spend a tiny fraction of the hours they are supposed to be spending in sales, actually… Doing sales!

4. Be a strict pain in the butt with your employees.  It’s your money; spend it wisely. If you have someone who doesn’t show up and doesn’t perform well, then let them go. If they are awesome, reward them appropriately. You won’t know until they’ve started working for you, unfortunately, so make sure you fire quickly if you need to. Many times you’ll find people who come in late, surf the internet, talk on the phone, take long lunches, and leave early. Then they get upset when you track those things.

I held onto people I should have fired long before. I did this despite being advised otherwise and knowing I was being too loyal to people who weren’t loyal to me or the company.

5. You need processes and procedures, in addition to customers.  Don’t underestimate how much marketing you will need to do to grow your business in the beginning. People will want to do business with you, so make sure you are available. I tried to hire sales people while focusing on the operations. I learned that you can usually hire for operations more easily than you can hire for sales.  

6. Watch how and where you spend money to grow your business.  It can be seductive to spend money on advertising, after all, money in yields money out, right? Well, sometimes. Not always. I invested heavily in certain things that did not yield any clients. The most obvious ways of growing your business don’t always work according to plan. It can be incredibly tempting to try to buy your way into getting lots of customers instead of focusing on the face to face marketing piece.

business mistakes7. Pay your taxes to the IRS on time.  The IRS gets really testy if you don’t pay your payroll taxes on time. Their customer service sucks and they want their money, like now. This is one debt you can’t ever get out of, and it can bankrupt your company.

8. Be wary of all people who come bearing money.  Factoring Loans and other high interest loans can seem like a godsend to keep your business going just when you need it. The loan providers will set up auto drafts on your accounts and pull the money out when you least need them to pull it. They can also use some very heavy handed tactics to collect money, which can technically be illegal in some states. I had one case in which I backed out of a loan because they misstated the interest rate. I was told 10%, and it was actually just over 40% when I read the fine print. Oh, and yes, always, always read the fine print.

9. Never keep your personal and business accounts at the same bank.  I had a friend who learned this one the hard way. If the business is late on a payment for anything, then the bank might help itself to your personal accounts. That caused her a great deal of pain when trying to pay her mortgage after the bank had just sucked all of the available cash out of her account.

10. Separate your personal and business finances.  It can be very, very difficult to separate them if you don’t keep track of expenses, and you may lose a great deal of your deductions if you don’t track the expenses. Separate your personal and business finances as far from one another as you possibly can.

Accountants often have it right when they suggest being as conservative in your business as possible. I’ve made most of these mistakes or have seen them made. It is funny how, despite the best possible education, it is still quite easy to make mistakes and do them with a great deal of flair.


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Meet the Author: Haley Lynn Gray

Haley Lynn GrayHaley helps female entrepreneurs create a strategy plan for their businesses – so they can make enough money to spend quality time with their family, pay for their children’s dance lessons, pay bills – and not worry about where the next client is coming from.

Haley is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Leadership Girl. She helps other entrepreneurs build their businesses by sharing the benefits of her business education and experience through Business Coaching.

Whether you want to get a new business off the ground or expand an existing business, Haley can assist you.

Connect with Haley:


Permanent link to this article: http://www.leadershipgirl.com/biggest-business-mistakes-lessons-learned/

Business Finances: How White Collar Crime Can Affect Your Company

~by Lizzie Weakley~

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White collar crime can create a huge amount of problems for any business. All it takes is one bad employee or external associate to wreak havoc on your business. This makes it essential that every company have steps in place to prevent crimes from happening. This  includes having clear policies to inform employees of all legal requirements and also monitoring employees and records to identify any discrepancies and other potential signs.

white collar crimeHaving mechanisms like these in place can go a long way towards helping your business prevent fraud, embezzlement, extortion, theft and other common white collar crimes. Even if your business is small and you only have a few employees, it’s essential that you take white collar crime seriously. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing any or all of the following problems.

Potential Fines and Legal Troubles

If any relevant authorities suspect your company or one of your employees of committing a crime, it’s likely that you’ll soon be facing a detailed investigation. Even if you or your employees were unaware you were breaking the law, you still could be facing a court case and potentially huge fines should the investigation uncover any crimes.

If your business is under investigation, it is vital that you fully cooperate, otherwise you could potentially be facing a charge of obstruction of justice. Still, the very first thing you’ll want to do is contact a white collar crime attorney to help lead you through the process. Not only will this prevent you from unintentionally incriminating yourself, but also give you a much better chance of fighting the charges if the case goes to court.

Loss of Profits

The potential fines and legal fees aren’t the only financial consequences a business can face as a result of white collar crime. Theft, embezzlement, extortion and other white collar crimes also have direct impacts on overall profits. In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that fraud alone reduces the average business’ yearly profits by approximately five percent. Therefore, it is important to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place, as they can seriously cut into your business’ bottom line, even if no court case results from the crime.

white collar crimeRuining Your Reputation

While the fines and loss of profits are bad enough in the short term, white collar crime can also harm your business in the long term and potentially even force it to close. Should your business be charged with a crime, the information will quickly become public knowledge. Even if the charge was due to the actions of a single employee, the scandal that results from the criminal charges and fines could be enough to ruin your company’s reputation for good.

The negative impact that white collar crime can have on a business really can’t be overstated. Even the biggest, most profitable companies have been brought to their knees due to the reckless actions of an employee, their financial advisor or other business associate. Therefore, it’s essential that all companies have plans in place to identify and stop white collar crimes before they can potentially wreck your future.


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Lizzie WeakleyMeet the Author: Lizzie Weakley

Lizzie is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky, Snowball.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.leadershipgirl.com/white-collar-crime-affect-your-company/

Corporate Law: Why Your Business Needs a Lawyer for Stockholder Disputes

~by Lizzie Weakley~

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There are a variety of reasons for stockholder disputes. The two most common disputes for small companies arise when stockholders are deadlocked with no majority, and when a minority stockholder believes that the company isn’t being run in its best interests.

stockholder disputesThe Deadlock

Deadlocks are usually seen in small 50/50 corporations. The partners might not realize it, but in the governing documents of their corporation and stockholders agreement, provisions could be in place in case of a deadlock. Those provisions may well be subject to interpretation. They might involve a buyout, mediation or even winding up the corporation. These disputes can be resolved either privately or publicly in a court of law. In whatever way they are addressed, you will need the involvement of a seasoned commercial lawyer to advise you on your rights, obligations and remedies. You’ll want to know your full range of options. If all roads lead to litigation, a trial law firm with a successful history of representing stockholders in disputes should be considered.

Minority Stockholders

Disputes involving minority stockholders often involve allegations of being treated unfairly or oppressively and being squeezed out or frozen out. A squeeze is an attempt to get the minority shareholder to sell their shares at a low price. In a freeze, the minority shareholder is treated as if he or she no longer exists. As opposed to the 50/50 corporation, this might be seen in the 51/49 entity. Again, a stockholders agreement might control a situation like this, but according to commercial courtroom attorneys, many small closely held corporations have no such agreement.

stockholder disputesColorado Law on Minority Stockholder Oppression

Colorado has enacted broad legislation for the protection of minority stockholders. Without those protections, minority shareholders could be at the mercy of arbitrary and capricious decisions by the majority stockholder. The rights of all stockholders are protected, particularly those with a minority of stock in a company. Regardless of which side you’re on, you’ll want an attorney or law firm that can invoke and protect your rights.

It isn’t unusual for minority or majority stockholders to file lawsuits against each other. That involves complex litigation and extensive courtroom experience. You will need a lawyer or law firm that understands deadlocks and stockholder lawsuits and how to effectively resolve them or litigate them. Once that lawsuit is filed, your ability to resolve such a dispute on your own diminishes exponentially.


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Lizzie Weakley


Meet the Author: Lizzie Weakley

Lizzie is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky, Snowball.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.leadershipgirl.com/business-needs-lawyer-stockholder-disputes/

6 Tips for Establishing a Solid Online Reputation

~by Dixie Somers~

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As a business owner, you may understand that information posted on the Internet about your company can make or break you. People respond well to positive reviews, and they’ll carefully avoid companies that have a negative reputation online. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to safeguard your company’s reputation and encourage more positive information online.

1. Monitor Facebook

online reputationFacebook is the single largest social media site with 1.44 billion people actively using it every month. You can use your Facebook business account to get your information out to customers, improve brand awareness and promote a positive image.

2. Respond to the Bad Reviews

No company can please every customer every time. There will come a point when a bad review is posted about your agency. It may be deserved, or it could be the result of an unreasonable customer. Either way, you need to respond to it.

Start by reviewing the complaint to be sure that you understand the issue. If necessary and possible, reach out to the customer privately for clarification on the problem. See if there is any middle ground between what the customer needs and what your business can do. When dealing with the customer, agree with them as much as possible, and avoid the use of any negative words. If you’re able to come to an agreement with the customer, then ask them kindly to remove or update the negative feedback.

3. Ongoing Activity at the Website

One of the most important things you can do is to put plenty of your own positive content out on the internet. This makes it harder for people to find complaints about you. Update your website regularly to improve online branding. Consider buying additional domains that contain your brand name and then use them for blogging. You’ll improve your brand recognition, website traffic and your online reputation.

Remember to be yourself when building your online reputation this way. Post plenty of pictures of yourself and employees at corporate gatherings. Highlight any community events that you attend or support. If you have hobbies and extra-curricular activities that are relevant to your industry, then share that information in order to better connect with customers. The more people in your area know and like you, the less likely they are to put negative information about your company online.

The Internet is full of false information. Companies like ACN are seen as scams due to negative information online, and it can be difficult to overcome the bad reports. However, you can minimize this risk by keeping positive information in your social media accounts, on your personal website and in other areas online.

4. Admit and Apologize When You’re Wrong

It’s important to admit when you’re wrong and to apologize. Everyone makes mistakes, and even the most trusted companies can misstep once in a while. You’d be surprised how far a sincere apology can take you.

online reputation5. Don’t Wait for Problems

Many business owners make the mistake of waiting until they’re having issues to address online concerns. However, this tactic can turn repairing the damage into an uphill battle. Start off on the right foot by getting your positive information out there and updating it regularly. You’ll minimize the risk of serious complaints and make it easier to overcome problems later.

6. The Google Alert

Invest in a Google alert system that will notify you when your brand is mentioned online. This way, you can become aware of complaints right away and step in to limit the damage. You can also keep an eye on your reputation, watch for praise, and thank customers when they share a positive experience.

Remember to always stay positive when online. The Internet has the power to take your words and send them viral. More importantly, many customers report that they will stop doing business with a company following a negative interaction online. Remember this when crafting any type of posts, responses, blogs, or updates to share online.


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Dixie Somers

Meet the Author: Dixie Somers

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer who loves writing for business, finance, and those with an entrepreneurial spirit. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.leadershipgirl.com/establishing-solid-online-reputation/

Do I Need Legal Protection for My Website?

~by Cate Cole~

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Does your website need legal protection?
The short answer is YES! 

legal protectionWebsites are like a room in our house. The one everyone congregates in when they first drop in. 

I always say to people, if the business were bricks and mortar, it would be the shopfront. And, just like any stores, there are always boundaries or rules about the space. 

Unlike buildings, it’s hard to control the “entry”, but we can set down guidelines about how visitors to your website use the space. This is done with a “Website Terms and Conditions”, which is basically a contract between you and your website visitors so they are put on notice about the rules of the website.  

What do website documents cover? 

They can cover whatever you want, but usually they cover:

legal protection1. Website content – This is written to alert website visitors to your copyright and ownership of your content.

2. Disclaimers – Explain to visitors that your website is information and the limits of your expertise.

3. Other legal stuff – Like age of visitors (over 18 years) and other legal requirements.

4. Privacy –  In many countries like the United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, personal information is strongly protected and governments are pretty strict about it. For instance, if you don’t have these protections and someone reports you to your host, your website could be taken down until you sort out all the formalities. Most websites collect all sorts of information, including:

  • Cookies and tracking information in order to remember who you are, plus any settings you choose
  • User Agent, which tells the website what browser and operating system you are using
  • Browser Fingerprinting, which is similar to user agent, but goes more in-depth, such as fonts you’re using and things that make your browser unique
  • Email addresses
  • Names and
  • Other personal information

All this data collection is why you need to remind people about the privacy choices.

All the legal documents can be placed tastefully and subtly (just not hidden) on your your website. So we are informing our visitors on the website what we are doing so they can choose to stay or go. 

If you need to see how they are placed on my site, go to sisterinlaw.com.au and scroll down to the bottom to check it out.


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Cate ColeMeet the Author: Cate Cole

Dr. Cate Cole is a lawyer, mother, wife, and entrepreneur. She runs a business called Sister in Law, which provides legal templates for any business wherever you are in the world. She believes your legal documents reflect your integrity by aligning with your purpose, mission, vision, and values.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.leadershipgirl.com/need-legal-protection-website/