Running a Small Business – Why good advice pays for itself

Date: Nov 01, 2009
Document Type: Newsletter

THE PROBLEM

As a small business owner, it’s not unusual to encounter situations when the burden of a legal problem or paperwork creates stress and a desire to quickly remove the issue. However, there are important benefits or savings you may be missing out on in seeing these situations as mere annoyances. These situations might take the form of:

  • daily paperwork;
  • threats of legal action; or
  • negotiating and implementing business contracts.

 

 

THE SOLUTION

Receiving qualified and independent legal advice is key to running (and growing) your business smoothly. Successful business owners develop a working partnership with their solicitor and understand that a good solicitor can find a way to either reduce the scope of a legal problem or find ways to implement business ideas that you have but might be unsure of how to develop.

 

EXAMPLES

 

Sally the Sales Star

Sally is the sole director of a telemarketing company in Brisbane. She often finds that a huge part of time is occupied in staff turnover and monitoring individual employee performance. This leaves her with little time to focus on growing her business and even less time to worry about formalities with running her company. She tends to delegate a lot of corporate paperwork to her accountant and happily signs statements to “get them out the door”.

Sally would benefit from seeking some independent legal advice about her duties as a corporate director. These duties require her, among other things, to avoid delegating responsibilities to her accountant and to have a full understanding of the financial state of her business.

By understanding these responsibilities, she could gain a different perspective on her company and find ways to improve it. Alternatively, she could obtain legal advice on improving her employment contracts and aligning her employees’ benefits to with what actually drives her company’s success. A qualified solicitor will ensure that these contracts comply with relevant employment legislation and can advise Sally on what she can legally do to work with problem employees.

 

Bill the Builder

Bill is a builder working in New South Wales. He undertook extensive building work for a developer on a new apartment block ten years ago and was very pleased with the results. Given the scale nature of project, he employed several sub-contractors to help him complete the job. As it was his first major project, he didn’t keep extensive records regarding his sub-contractors or any additional correspondence or documents he completed while finishing the building.

Bill later receives a telephone call from the building body corporate manager. The manager complains about a developing crack in the basement car park ceiling and threatens to sue Bill. Bill might simply ignore the building manager or attempt to deal with the problem himself (he is not interested in spending money on a situation he sees as not being likely to do with his work). There are real risks that either course, while an easy decision to take in the short term, will create even larger problems later.

If Bill were to seek the advice of a reputable construction solicitor, he would gain an outsider’s perspective on his situation. This could help him assess any real legal risks that might flow from his work on the apartment block and provide a professional means of dealing with the body corporate manager. If Bill has some legal liability, an offer to rectify the problem or settle before going to court will be easier to negotiate through a solicitor. Alternatively, Bill’s solicitor could advise him on any protection he may have under New South Wales laws that limit his liability. In any case, seeking legal advice early on will save Bill time and money in dealing with this issue.

 

HOW TO GET ADVICE

When choosing a solicitor or law firm, try to research the area first. Then take the time to choose a solicitor who understands your business and will work with you. A good lawyer will be able to explain an issue to you in simple English, so don’t feel intimidated in getting the explanation you need.

Importantly, avoid choosing a solicitor solely on the basis of cost. Remember, you’re looking to form the same sort of partnership that you would with an accountant or a supplier. If you keep these things in mind, you find that the benefits from this relationship more than justify the price.

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