TOP TEN: LEGAL TIPS FOR REJUVENATING YOUR BUSINESS
Rachel Rodgers is the intellectual property and business lawyer for digital entrepreneurs. Her one-of-a-kind practice, Rachel Rodgers Law Office, is run entirely online, making her services accessible and convenient for tech startups, online-based businesses and thought leaders. Rachel co-wrote an entertaining business law guide for entrepreneurs called Small Business Bodyguard: Cover Your Bases, Cover Your Assets, Cover Your Ass. Rachel and her practice have been featured in Fast Company, MSNBC, The Washington Post, Forbes and various other media outlets and publications. She shares with us her top ten legal tips for rejuvenating your business.
- When you were starting out you may have formed a formal business entity, such as an LLC or S-Corp. If you have hired employees, seen a significant increase in revenue or experienced other major changes in your business since then, it’s time to reconsider your business structure. Having the wrong business entity can mean paying more taxes and having less protection for your personal assets.
- Start keeping good business records, which is extremely important in the event of a lawsuit or audit. Simply schedule a date annually to reflect on the past year of your business; be sure to keep track of the dates and details of any major developments such as leasing new office space or acquiring a bank loan.
- Conduct a simple intellectual property audit of your trademarks and copyrighted work. The longer you are in business, the more intellectual property (IP) your business produces and the greater the value of that property. Things like logos, slogans, apps, e-books, classes, written works and visual designs are identifiers of your brand and make money for your business. An audit will help you identify the IP assets of your business so you can protect and profit from them.
- Once you’ve identified the intellectual property of your business, it’s important to take steps to protect your company assets. Trademark your company name, logo and slogan to ensure your company has national rights to each of its brand elements and to prevent copycatters from unjustly benefiting from the brand recognition you’ve created.
- Copyright any essential creative works in your business, such as e-books, your company blog, digital courses, designs, or the music used in your marketing. Registering a copyright is a fairly straightforward process and can be done online with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, you may want to consult with an attorney to confirm that copyright is the best way to protect your specific IP.
- Put your company’s IP to work for you. I have a client who creates a unique skincare product and licenses the formula to other companies who want to put their own company labels on her product to sell in their stores. Another example is a business coach who creates a signature coaching system and permits other business coaches to purchase the right to use her signature system with their own clients. Think about ways that the intellectual property your company has produced can create additional passive income for you.
- Reduce your key business relationships to writing. In this digital world, many entrepreneurs make virtual handshake deals with business partners and hope for the best. Don’t put the health and future of your business at risk by making this mistake. Legal agreements protect both your business assets and your business relationships by making sure that all parties understand their rights and obligations and by foreseeing any potential problems that could arise.
- Review your state and local business filing and licensing requirements. There are a variety of state laws relating to business licensing and annual filing requirements that you must comply with as a business owner. If you don’t, you could wind up paying hefty taxes and penalties. Go to your Secretary of State’s website to review the annual business filing requirements and check with your city or county to determine what business licensing requirements you may need to comply with at the local level.
- Build a relationship with a business lawyer. Having a trusted lawyer means that you can take advantage of opportunities to grow your business and can protect your revenue streams. A good business lawyer will stay on top of your company’s legal needs and keep you informed of each necessary step you need to take to maintain your company’s legal health. Working with an attorney need not cost a fortune. There are plenty of innovative lawyers using creative methods to provide accessible legal counsel for small businesses, from monthly payment plans for a package of services to assisted DIY.