Six Easy Steps to Protect Your Business in 2017
New Year’s resolutions are so passé. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have plans and goals for 2017. If one of your goals is to protect and grow your business, here are six easy steps you can take to make this year your best year yet.
- Get a handle on your taxes. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how often clients come to us with tax problems. The most common issues revolve around unpaid payroll taxes and sales taxes, but we’ve also seen a number of clients who did not file a partnership return for their LLCs. If you haven’t made an appointment with your CPA for this year, now is the time: most corporate and partnership tax returns are due on March 15th. Payroll taxes and sales taxes are typically due monthly, so if you have questions or problems, bring that documentation with you to the appointment. Another tip: make sure your “accountant” is, in fact, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by checking the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website here.
- Get your business filings done early. We send out reminders as early as possible to let our clients know that they can begin filing their Annual Reports with the State of Florida as soon as January 1st. However, each year we receive numerous calls from upset clients who realize that they forgot to file by the April 30th deadline and that they have to pay a $400 late fee. We don’t like saying, “I told you so.” We’d much rather you file on time. So don’t wait – file your Annual Report now. Better yet, call us and we will file it for you. Also, mark September 1st on your calendar right now. Most businesses are required to obtain a Business Tax Receipt to show that they have registered with their county and city governments and paid the required business taxes by September 30th, and it’s better to file earlier in the month than to be scrambling to meet the deadline.
- Protect your intellectual property. Don’t think you have any intellectual property in your business? I would bet that you are wrong. Most businesses create brands that distinguish their products and services from their competitors, and that means you have a trademark. Or maybe your business involves the creation of an entertainment product such as film or music, or even just your website, in which case your copyrights are critical. Or perhaps you have an invention that you need to protect with a patent. If nothing else, you have your customer lists, a proprietary way of doing business, and other trade secrets that you need to protect. We can help you register your intellectual property, protect it from employees and contractors, and defend against infringers.
- Review your contracts. When was the last time you looked at your contracts with your business partners, employees, contractors, vendors, suppliers, and/or clients? If it has been more than a year, it’s time to take a look with fresh eyes at your master agreements and make sure that they are still using current law. The law changes regularly, and there were several major changes in the past couple of years that affect things like non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, limited liability companies, employment law, and other liability issues. Better safe than sorry – schedule a consultation to have a lawyer review your contracts at least every two years.
- Manage employees more effectively. The best way to hire and manage employees and contractors is to develop systems for doing so. Have a set of forms ready for new hires: an application for employment (or an Independent Contractor Agreement), W-4, I-9, direct deposit authorization, employee handbook (with acknowledgment of receipt), and possibly a non-compete and/or non-disclosure agreement. Review those forms at least annually to make sure that you are in compliance with current law. Make sure you file the appropriate new hire documents with the State of Florida. Once a new hire completes all those forms, keep them together in an employee file that you keep in a secure place. Also, make sure that you keep written records of disciplinary actions – even just a note that you had to talk to an employee about something – so that you can support a termination for cause if need be. When possible, also systemize your processes and procedures and codify them in a procedures manual. It will make training new employees much easier and more efficient. Finally, when it is time to let an employee go, document the separation.
- Review your website. Chances are you hired someone else to build your website for you. But your business could be liable for the content on your site. First, review all of the images and content to make sure none of it was “borrowed” from another site without a proper license. If your website uses a third party’s copyrighted images or text without permission, you could be liable for copyright infringement. Additionally, if your website is publicly accessible, you may be required that your website comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA compliance can be achieved my conforming to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. If you aren’t sure if your site conforms to WCAG, talk to your web developer, use a testing tool such as Siteimprove or DynoMapper, or have your site tested by a service like Usablenet or Criterion.
Have questions? We can help! Call 407-792-0790 today to schedule your consultation.