Three Types of Business Development Legal Advice Your Home Business Needs This Year

Three Types of Business Development Legal Advice Your Home Business Needs This Year

With the start of every new year, home based business owners have an opportunity to reflect on the success of their business. Some home business owners have to think about throwing in the towel, while others have to deal with unexpected growth. If you are planning for growth, you should consider obtaining business development legal advice before you launch plans to obtain new clients and customers for your home based business this year.

Home Business Growth Legal Help

Home business owners wear many hats. The hours can be painfully long as you work to fit it all in; bookkeeping, record keeping, production, marketing. For many small business owners, sales calls are a dreaded chore. People who struggle with finding and closing prospective customers sometimes seek a coach or course to help them overcome their reluctance to sell, but another important component of business development planning is to seek business growth legal help before you implement new sales goals for the year. Why? There are several pitfalls you can avoid by talking to a Colorado small business attorney before you take steps to grow your Colorado home based business. Here are three things that come with growth which require the advice of a small business lawyer:

  • Independent contractor contract
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Review of company documents

The Independent Contractor Contract: Avoiding Liability

The purpose of creating an independent contractor contract between your business and someone who performs work for you is to establish that the worker is not an employee. For many home based business owners, the costs of employing workers is too high, both from a paperwork and planning perspective, and from a tax liability perspective. But a poorly worded independent contractor contract can rob a small business owner of the benefits of working with independent contractors. Furthermore, certain ways of assigning work to an independent contractor can bring into question the validity of his or her independent contractor status.

The penalties for treating employees like independent contractors are severe. A good, local small business lawyer will not only review your independent contractor contracts, she will also ask you to explain how you assign work to your contractors, how they are paid by you, and how you manage their tasks and assignments.

Non-Disclosure Agreements: Protecting Your Business

It may sound like overkill – if you are a small, home based business, why would you need a non-disclosure agreement? Confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements are often associated with new and potential employees. These agreements protect your proprietary information. But small business owners, especially those who consult for clients, can benefit from having new customers sign non-disclosure agreements as well. If you have worked hard to create your business, you don’t want to give it away to a client who may become a competitor. Talk to your Colorado small business attorney about the benefits of having your clients, not just your employees and contractors, sign non-disclosure agreements.

Review Company Documents to Save Money and Heartache

It’s a new year, and you undoubtedly have new business goals. One of the most important things you can do at the start of this year is meet with a Colorado small business lawyer to review company documents. Does your business structure still make sense? Are your non-disclosure and other legal documents still protecting you as originally intended? Are you in compliance with Federal tax rules and Colorado state law? Will you be impacted by any new Colorado or federal business laws this year?

An in-person business planning consultation with a Colorado business attorney will provide you with advice relevant to your Colorado home business that no legal help website can. Talking to a small business lawyer on an annual basis can do as much toward helping business owners succeed in the long-run as a great new product or fantastic sales can in the short-term.

If your home business needs business development legal advice, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Why Your Small Business is Just the Right Size

Why Your Small Business is Just the Right Size

Many business owners, who start small, dream of huge success and growth. However, higher profits and expansion do no mean the end of your small business status or the control you have over the product/service you set out to provide. With a broad definition and many variables, a small business may be classified as a company with under $7 million in sales and up to 500 or more employees. Basically, there is plenty of room to grow while remaining a small business. Choosing the best business structure is critical to the success of your small business regardless of your future goals. A small business attorney will help you with every aspect of your business formation and transformation. This post will discuss the benefits of being labeled “small” and review the most common types of business structure for small businesses.

3 Small Business Benefits

As a Small Business Owner, You Are in Good Company

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 30 million small businesses in America. In Colorado, small businesses make up 97 percent of all businesses. A Wall Street Journal article says “small business is big business,” citing that small business employs about half of the people in the workforce and accounts for 86 percent of companies with 500 or more employees. Technology has streamlined everything from bookkeeping and payroll to staffing and marketing, making it possible for small business owners to operate like big corporations. While hefty competition is viewed as a deterrent to some, others see marketplace opportunity and a culture of collaboration.

You Can Find Your Niche

The limitation in scope and reach for some small businesses lends itself to niche marketing. Your small business enables you to focus on a portion of the market that other businesses overlook. This gives you opportunities for specialization and integration into your community. As Denver has experienced an influx of migrating millennials, niche products and services are in demand more than ever. This is a generation that monitors and shares via social media on a daily basis and, in turn, shapes and influences where people shop, eat, and buy.

You are Creating Your Legacy

Perhaps this is why you started your small business – to not only provide for your family, but to leave something for them, whether it be the actual business or the values it embodied. Staying “small” can also afford you more time with the people who matter most and opportunities to engage with the community where you live and work.

Start your Small Business Right – Business Entity Formation

Each of the three most common business structures has its own characteristics and limitations, affecting your liability, taxes, and income. As these have been covered in previous blog posts, here is a brief review.

Sole Proprietorship

One of the most prevalent and simple business forms, a sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned by one person. This is an inexpensive and informal way to conduct a small business. A freelance photographer or someone who handcrafts jewelry, for example, would be considered sole proprietors. The main drawback is that you assume full personal liability for your business.

Partnership

When there are two or more partners who own the business, it is a partnership. This can be a husband and wife who share everything equally (general partnership), or it can be you and a friend who only contributes and receives partial profit (limited partnership). As with sole proprietorships, there is more flexibility and control than in a corporation as partners are able to define their relationship and roles. Partnerships, however, have more ability to raise capital than a proprietorship.

Corporation

A corporation is a legal entity that is independent of its owners and has its own legal rights. There are different types of corporations (C corp, S corp, B corp), and even a sole proprietor can incorporate. In a corporate limited liability, shareholders are only at risk for the amount of money or other investment they make in the corporation. Investors are willing to invest in a corporation more than any other type of business organization because of the ability to protect personal assets from the creditors of a corporation. There are restrictions associated with the different corporations, and not all small businesses qualify for each type.

Your Denver-based small business attorney will help you select the right structure for your small business today and ensure it is still working for you in the future. If you need help with your business formation, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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How to Start and Stay in the Retail Market

How to Start and Stay in the Retail Market

Starting your own retail store takes a lot of initial planning. There is so much more to it than simply choosing a place, setting up your goods, and opening your doors. After the early planning stages, it is hard work to stay at the top of the retail market. Denver has one of the most vibrant retail scenes in the nation with its lively downtown shopping district, strong regional anchors, and eclectic neighborhood businesses. So, where do you fit in and how do you stay in? A small business attorney will help you with every phase – from planning and daily operations to maintaining and expanding to helping you sell when the time is right – throughout the life of your retail business.

Start on Solid Ground

As a small business owner, you will hear again and again how crucial it is to choose the right legal structure for your retail store. Your business entity affects everything from the taxes you are required to pay to the permits and zoning laws that govern your business. Determining the right products and services as well as location are also business planning essentials. You may have a passion for your product, but you have to figure out how and where to sell it in order for it to be profitable and make sure you have the right market for the product you love. For instance, you may love meat and be the best butcher around, but a meat market in a highly vegetarian area is a recipe for disaster. Before you commit to a lease, consider if the ideal location for your product is ideal for your budget. Sometimes, second best is better. A great space that costs too much and causes you to close is a lot worse than a pretty good space that allows you to thrive. A business attorney can guide you through state and city laws as well as review and create contracts and agreements.

Establish Good Vendor/Wholesale Relationships

Once you have settled on the right product(s), it is time to find the right vendors. In order for your retail store to offer products at a price and time that suits your customers, you have to partner with vendors who understand your needs and vision. Communicate your goals and expectations at the start of the relationship. If your vendor knows that timing, cost, and consistency are important to your business, then they are likely to focus on those areas. Other areas to keep in mind when selecting a vendor include returns, defective items, credit, and payment terms among others.

Recruit the Best Employees

Hiring the best sales staff is just as essential to the success of your retail store as having the right product. With the influx of millennials who have migrated to Colorado in recent years, it may be more important to hire someone who fits the culture rather than someone with the highest qualifications. Cultural fit covers a variety of characteristics, including alignment of values, work-life balance, company mission, and customer relations. You may think a college degree is necessary, but someone who lives and breaths your products may put someone who doesn’t love your products but has a degree to shame. Once you have found the ideal staff, be sure to train them beyond their daily roles. You can avoid many costly mistakes and lost customers by ensuring your employees are well versed in your store’s policies and procedures. The better equipped they are to handle the unexpected or uncommon situation (and feel empowered to do so), the better customer service they will deliver. You may let them know that for repeat customers, they can offer an occasional small discount. Not only does this make your employee feel that you trust them, it allows your customers to feel your business appreciates them. Whether you need help hiring employees, drawing up their contracts, or [if things take a negative turn] letting them go, your small business attorney will be there.

Fine-Tune Your Marketing

Your marketing plan should be in place before you open your retail store. This should incorporate promotional, branding, and advertising ideas. Determining not only how your customers shop, but also where they dwell (e.g. social media), will point to where your marketing budget should be spent. Since retail has become an omnichannel business model, you would be remiss not to consider each way your potential customers like to do business – brick and mortar shops, mobile applications, catalogues, FAQ webpages, social media, live web chats, telephone communication, and more. Expanding your channels with a consistent brand and message will expand your reach.

If you need help starting a retail store, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Colorado Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Essentials, Elements, and Errors in Contract Law

Essentials, Elements, and Errors in Contract Law

As a small business owner, you are constantly faced with contracts. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit. You may have contracts with customers, vendors, employees, contractors, and other individuals or businesses. Oral agreements are sometimes used, but formal written contracts provide legal documentation. Contracts are legally enforceable and should be used to safeguard your resources. Small or new businesses may be more susceptible to mistakes when it comes to the numerous types and complex legal terms of contracts. The Law Office of EC Lewis PC can help create contracts, clarify existing or new contracts and agreements, and provide protection before or after you enter into any binding contract, making sure you understand the essentials, elements, and common errors in contract law. This post will cover contracts that are essential to the success of your small business, the elements of a solid contract, and the most common errors made in business contracts.

1. Essential Contracts

Contracts help to build relationships and protect your business. With the right legal documents, you will protect your property (intellectual and actual), avoid contract disputes, and limit your liability. Here are some contracts that are essential to your small business.

Service Contract – outlines exactly what you will provide or be provided by another company
Employment Agreement/Employment Offer Letter – specifies the rights and obligations of every full time or salaried employee; an employment offer letter should include all of the components of the employment agreement
Independent Contractor Agreement – signed agreements should be in place for every consultant or short-term employee
Equipment Lease – use this contract to lease equipment or lease out your own equipment
Business Lease – the lease for your office or retail space should fit your needs, have a sufficient lease term, clearly spell out the landlord’s obligations, and limit the amount of rent/tax increases allowable
Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement – potential employees should sign this before interviews, so your proprietary information does not leave the building
Non-Compete Agreement – prevent a former employee or business partner from competing against you while they are employed and for a specified period of time after leaving your company
Software or Website Terms of Use Agreement – understand and comply with the terms of software licensing and website use agreements to avoid violations and potential fines or litigation

All of these contracts need to be carefully thought out, crafted, and reviewed. A small business attorney will help you through this process and represent you in the event of a dispute or litigation.

2. Elements of a Solid Contract

Entering into contracts with customers or clients for the sale of your products or services is an integral part of your small business. There are key elements every contract should contain. Without them, your contracts may be invalid.

Offer – an offer is an invitation or putting the word out that you are accepting contracts, like an advertisement in a store window
Acceptance – the customer accepts by taking you up on your offer; details of offer and acceptance will vary
Capacity – those who enter into contracts must be of mental, physical, and legal capacity to do so
Undue Influence – negative influence or coercion to enter into the contract is not permitted
Intention – both parties must intend for the contract to have legal consequences
Legality – certain formalities must be followed to make a contract legal; the purpose of the agreement must not be illegal

When key elements are omitted or one party does not comply with the terms, a contract has been breached. Whether you are allegedly at fault or the one who has been offended, a small business attorney will help you through your contract issue(s).

3. Errors Most Often Made in Contracts

Negotiating contracts is daunting, but it means you are in business. It also means you have to make decisions that have real legal implications. One poorly drafted or neglected contract can have devastating results for your business. You can avoid some of the most common mistakes before it is too late.

Not Having a Contract – do not allow the small or intimate nature of your business to leave you unprotected; contracts are necessary regardless of your business structure or employee relationships
Not Recognizing a Breach – have a clear process in place for dealing with a failure to pay, a product not delivered as expected, poor quality, or bad behavior
Not Providing an Opportunity for Termination – think beyond the breach; every business contract should have a way for both parties to exit the contract
Not Thinking About Dispute Resolution – consider mediation or arbitration before litigation; these are far less costly options
Not Specifying That a Contract Can be Assigned – make sure every contract can be assigned in the event of a merger, sale, or purchase of the company if an acquisition is the goal
Not Considering Intellectual Property – from day one, have everyone in the company sign a contract that assigns the intellectual property to the company

Before you commit any of these errors, a small business attorney can create, review, or revise your business contracts from startup contracts to ongoing contracts and specialty agreements.

If you need help with essentials, elements, and errors in contract law, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

As a small business owner, tax time can be very stressful, especially if you wait until the last minute to try to organize a year’s worth of paperwork. In order to ease the stress and avoid potential trouble with the Colorado Department of Revenue or Internal Revenue Service (IRS), start thinking about tax time as all year round. There are steps you can take throughout the year to make a big difference in your total income and tax liability when it comes time to file. A small business attorney can give you tax advice on the right business structure and paying the right taxes on time as well as provide representation in the event of an audit or penalty. This post will cover 10 keys to getting organized and keeping accurate records to eliminate the anxiety of tax season.

Getting Your Taxes Organized

  1. Appoint time each month to reconcile your receipts, bank slips, statements, invoices, etc. By dedicating just a couple of hours every month to basic bookkeeping, you will avoid dealing with 12 months’ worth of accumulation all at once. You can make a list of steps to be prepared and add important deadlines, dates, and digital reminders to your calendar.
  2. Create a simple filing system for your paperwork. Keep everything in one place, and clearly label or name your folders. Both paper and electronic bookkeeping can be organized by month and type of record.
  3. Separate business and personal finances. Not only will separate bank and credit card accounts for your business make it easier to manage your books, it will enable you to produce legitimate business documents in the event of an audit.
  4. Review your business reports and records even if you have a bookkeeper or an accountant. It is your business and liability on the line, so it is vital to know what is going on. If you are looking to hire someone to do your taxes, the IRS suggests a list of questions to ask the prospective tax preparer.
  5. Prepare for next year as soon as you have filed for the current year. Make a list of steps and possible improvements for the following tax season while the success and/or struggle of the current one is still fresh on your mind.
  6. Keeping Accurate Tax Records

  7. Understand your business structure and how it impacts your taxes. As your business grows and changes, it is important to reevaluate whether your current structure still works for you.
  8. Know how to claim your home office on your taxes. Whether you rent or own, you can claim a space that is designated for your business. It can be a partial space, rather than the whole room, and it must not be used for any other purpose. Once you have measured the space, you may be able to deduct a portion of expenses, like your mortgage interest, insurance, and utilities. The IRS has a home office deduction page with instructions.
  9. Record your mileage and car expenses if you use your car for business. There are two methods for calculating this deduction – one is based on your standard mileage rate, and the other is based on actual car expenses, like gas, repairs, and insurance. Whichever formula you choose, you will need documentation, including dates, mileage, tolls, parking fees, and the reason for your trip.
  10. Remember to save receipts from meals, travel, entertainment, and gifts. While you can deduct 50% of business-related meals, the cost of travel is 100% deductible. Most client entertainment expenses fall under the 50% deduction limit, while a direct gift to a client or employee is 100% deductible (up to $25 per person per year).
  11. Deduct office supplies even if you do not take the home office deduction. Furniture and other equipment, software/subscriptions, and telephone charges are also tax-deductible.

There are endless tips on how to streamline your business tax process as well as how to avoid a business tax audit. From starting a retirement plan, donating, and deferring income to not hiring too many independent contractors and limiting your business loss claims, the possibilities are seemingly endless. A small business attorney will help you sift through the checklists and keep prepared for each new tax season.

If you need help with your business taxes, or just need to find ways to de-stress business tax time tasks for your small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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