Thinking about starting your own business but not sure where to start? I am here to help! Having worked with a lot of start-ups in a variety of businesses, I have developed the following framework based on what I have seen go wrong for others.
The best things in life are free right? Not in business! It saddens me when a start-up needs important legal documents, but they cannot afford it because poor (or no) budgeting has left them legally exposed. Investigate the costs you need for the various start-up phases:
- Start-up costs – what do you need to get the business to launch?
- Third party costs – who do you need to involve and how much will they charge you?
- First two years – what will your ongoing costs be?
Show me the money!
Where will the money will come from? If you need to raise funds from third parties, think carefully about the arrangements you make. For example, if you loan funds from friends and family, you should be clear about whether it is a loan, or whether they own a percentage of the business. This is especially important if you want to find investors in the future.
What are you doing with your IP?
It is important that you understand very early on, if you are creating or have intellectual property that you need to protect. If you start negotiations or talking to others without protections in place, you may lose your intellectual property. Registering intellectual property rights can take up to a year, so this is something you need to consider early on.
Where are your risks?
Now we are getting into the nitty gritty. Did you see my blog about disclaimers – you can’t remove your risks through disclaimers! I encourage clients to sit down and brainstorm about the worst possible thing that can happen in their business. What is the worst case (even if not realistic) scenario of something going wrong? Once you know this, you can then think about how to reduce that risk, through legal documents, exposure or other risk management strategies.
can change structures at any time, but having particular plans for the future may give you clarity to get your structure right from the start. Intellectual property needs to be owned, so you may need to move your IP into the right structure. Structuring is one way to manage risks, so if you’ve thought about all of the above factors first, they will help you to have an informed conversation about what structure is right for you.
What legal documents do you need?
- Non-disclosure agreement: protect your intellectual property and business plans through having third parties sign a non-disclosure agreement.
- Confidentiality agreement: this protects information exchanged by two or more parties.
- Client agreement or customer terms and conditions:this is the legal document that will govern your relationship with your clients.
- Refund policy. If you sell products you will need a refund policy.
- Website user agreement. A contract with all users who visit your website to govern the use of your website.
- Supplier agreements. If you are a retailer or distributor, you will need contracts governing the supply of the products you sell.
- Copyright licences. If you create intellectual property you need to ensure it is protected from misuse, by way of a licence or if you are transferring copyright, make sure you do it legally.