Think of any business on the high street and at some point it will have been a start-up. Whether it’s a retail giant like Topshop, a supersize supermarket chain like Asda, or a technological behemoth like Apple, it had to begin somewhere and at some time.
Like your own venture, it is unlikely to have hit the ground running. Its founders will have had to negotiate around the many complexities of building a successful enterprise, including navigating the laws that govern how the commercial world works.
Along the way, they will have learned how best to deal with these, and if you want to follow in their footsteps, you will need to do the same. To help you with this, here are six areas that we recommend educating yourself on to save you a lot of headaches further down the line…
Image credit:forbes.com | modified by makingdifferent.com
#1: Defining Relationships
During the earliest days of your start-up, it’s very important to spend some time defining relationships within the business in order to avoid the sort of Zuckerberg/Winklevoss dispute that arose with regards to Facebook. You may wish to think of this as something akin to a pre-nup, with the key agreements set out in writing and checked over by a legal professional. The resultant document should clearly define ownership, employment, and partnerships, as well as setting out everyone’s individual liabilities and responsibilities with regards to the enterprise.
#2: Business Licensure
Depending upon the service that your start-up provides, you may find that you’re required to obtain a licence in order to lawfully operate your venture. If this is the case, it’s important to liaise with the relevant authorities early on, in order to ensure that you’re not in breach of any legislation. For activities that are more stringently regulated, you may also need additional permits from the relevant bodies.
#3: Meeting Your Tax Obligations
According to a Linkilaw survey, around nine per cent of SMEs run into legal problems regarding their taxes. Luckily, these can be easily avoided as long as you take the time to brush up on the relevant rules and regulations governing this area. Be sure that you’ve registered with the appropriate authority within the set deadline, and if you feel unable to complete the necessary accounting independently, do your research and find a reputable professional to take care of this on your behalf.
#4: Employment Issues
Start-ups with at least one member of staff will also inevitably run into employment law issues unless proper precautions are put in place from the beginning. Therefore, we would always recommend that you seek legal advice before drawing up your employment contracts. Such professionals should be able to ensure that you comply with all relevant national laws, and that the relationship between employer and employee is irrefutably outlined in order to help you avoid any claims for breach of contract, discrimination, or unfair dismissal.
We would further suggest brushing up on your knowledge of any applicable health and safety regulations to make certain that you’re fully compliant with your enforceable duties as an employer. Together, these measures should help you to avoid being amongst the eight per cent of companies who tackle employment issues each year.
Contracts are the foundations of all legal relationships, and are thus essential to those businesses who hope to stay on the right side of the law and have it work in their favour. This is why we recommend carefully and comprehensively checking the drafting of any contracts that you draw up. You may wish to have them checked over by a solicitor too, specifically one who specialises in the field, in order to ensure that you have not overlooked any important points to the potential detriment of your enterprise.
#6: Intellectual Property
Those who create content or design and develop new products or services will also need to brush up on intellectual property law in order to avoid any issues arising from this. One of the best places to start is with the enlistment of a specialist IP lawyer. This professional will be able to help you protect your ideas and identity as fully as possible, so that you neither lose your competitive advantage, nor step on the toes of another company and risk the fallout from such a mistake.
The simplest way to avoid the legal issues outlined above is to always be ready to consult a legal expert if ever you’re unsure of your standing. Although it is also recommended to educate yourself as far as possible on any rules or regulations that may impact the running of your business, never hesitate to enlist the help of a professional where it’s needed. With a suitable support network behind you, and your own willingness to learn to benefit you, your start-up will have every chance to survive and thrive in the competitive world of commerce.