Small Business News
October 2017

 

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It’s Time for Your Small Business Legal Checkup

Risk taking is an essential part of the entrepreneurial spirit. Success is about knowing which risks to take and which to mitigate. The real danger is that the greatest risk to your business may be something you never considered. A legal checkup helps you identify potential liabilities. As a LegalShield small business member you have access to attorneys who can help you plan for challenges and limit risk. Carefully review the following questions and call your LegalShield provider law firm if you need legal assistance. You may contact your law firm at the push of a button using the LegalShield mobile app. If you have not downloaded the app yet, click here for instructions.  

  • Is your business structure the right fit? There are several types of business entities to choose from when starting a business or when your business undergoes changes. It is important to consider tax treatment and benefits, sale of interest in the business and limiting your personal liability. For example, sole proprietorships put your home, personal savings and other assets at risk in the event your business is sued or cannot repay a debt.Partnerships expose you to greater liability because you are also responsible for certain actions of your partner(s). LLCs and corporations may protect you from certain liabilities but they have specific tax and reporting requirements. Talk to your LegalShield provider attorney to determine the best fit for your business.

  • Are your workers properly classified? It is your legal responsibility to establish whether someone working on your company’s behalf is classified by the IRS as an employee or an independent contractor. Making the wrong determination can have serious financial and legal consequences. Visit the IRS website to learn more about the guidelines for classifying workers.
  • Are you compliant with wage and hour laws? Once you have determined that a worker is an employee, you must also determine whether or not they are exempt from wage and hour laws established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA also governs the payment of overtime, which is a frequent point of contention in labor disputes. The DOL offers valuable information on employee classification via their website. Keep in mind some states and localities have different wage and employment laws that may exceed FLSA standards. For example, some states and cities have higher minimum wage requirements. Contact your LegalShield provider law firm if you need more information on the laws where your business operates.

  • Do you have adequate insurance coverage? There are many insurance options for small businesses, including general liability, professional liability, product liability, commercial property and home-based business insurance. It is important to carefully examine your potential liabilities and make sure you have the right coverage. Your LegalShield provider law firm can help review a policy before you sign to make sure you understand the fine print.

  • Have your contracts received a thorough legal review? Small business owners frequently sign contracts with employees, vendors, banks and contractors. It is important to make sure your contracts are enforceable in a court of law and are free of potential surprises. One of the greatest challenges LegalShield provider attorneys face is attempting to resolve problems with a contract that has already been signed. Have your LegalShield provider law firm review any new contract before you sign.
  • Are your records up to date? No matter the size of your business it is important to accurately maintain your records. Keeping copies of contracts, sales receipts, employment records and invoices will help you stay organized and keep you on the right side of the law. Well-maintained records will also help you accurately prepare your tax filing.

  • Is your intellectual property protected? The best way to protect your innovations and creations is through effective enforcement of intellectual property (IP) law. Copyright laws protect the intellectual property of artists including written text, photographs, paintings and designs. A copyright is established when a work is completed. Trademarks protect the design, name, words and phrases used to identify your business and products. Patent law exists to protect innovations or inventions from reproduction without permission or compensation. Both trademarks and patents require registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Visit the USPTO website or call your provider law firm for more information.


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8 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation

How should you protect your business from poor online reviews? The best way to manage and improve your online profile is to focus on building an excellent reputation through great customer service. This will help you build a base of positive reviews on a variety of platforms. Here are several tips designed to help you avoid common pitfalls and find ways to turn a negative review into a catalyst for improvement. Here are several tips designed to help you avoid common pitfalls and find ways to turn a negative review into a catalyst for improvement.

  1. Monitor your online reputation. There are online tools such as Google Alerts and Social Mention that allow you to monitor reviews and social media content regarding your business. Read both positive and negative reviews to continually refine your customer service.

  2. Verify your business. Google and other search engines and review sites like Yelp allow businesses to verify they are legitimate which can improve the way you appear in a search. Click here to verify with Google. You can verify your business with Yelp here.

  3. Never stop promoting your business. Do you have a Twitter account or a Facebook page you have not looked at in months? Stale online content is like leaving the window on a storefront broken, it doesn’t look good to prospective clients. Get out there and promote your business with information about your services or positive interactions with clients. Set a reminder to update or add something each week.

  4. Do not dismiss constructive criticism even if you disagree with the reviewer. Look at a negative review as an opportunity to improve. Why do you think the reviewer sees it differently? Getting to the root of the concern may help you uncover things you did not know were a problem and work on improving your business.

  5. Keep your emotions in check. The best way to resolve the situation is to keep calm and remain professional. Turning a negative review into an open argument will only make matters worse.

  6. Respond and take action to resolve the matter. If possible, address the customer directly to resolve their concerns. It is vital to make an effort to win back the customer. Satisfying an unhappy customer may create a loyal customer and ultimately generate positive publicity for your company.

  7. Do not respond to harassment, vulgarity or threats. If a reviewer is harassing you and your employees or using inappropriate language, you may contact the website administrator and bring the review to their attention. Many sites do not allow inappropriate language, threats or harassment in reviews.

  8. Do not break the rules. Many sites penalize companies that utilize review schemes, such as creating fake positive reviews. The best way to counter negative reviews is to improve customer service.


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