As women business owners, we often wear a lot of hats—from CEO to HR Manager to Vice President of Sales. And then of course, there’s that one hat we all have to reluctantly put on from time to time—head of legal.
For a lot of small and growing organizations, it makes sense to rely on an outside expert to help navigate the complex legal landscape for businesses. At NAWBO National, for instance, we never make a move without the experienced consult of our partners at Frost Brown Todd Attorneys, and they’ve never steered us wrong (thank you!). Other companies are large enough to bring on board in-house counsel to do the same…just from the inside.
Whatever approach you take to legal, there are so many issues that should rank high on your list of priorities, so that a small legal headache doesn’t grow into a crippling problem that impacts your company’s bottom line. Here are some of the most common legal issues facing small businesses today for you to consider:
In America, employees have far more rights than other countries, in the form of unions and reasons for “wrongful termination.” If you terminate a non-performing employee, make sure he or she signs documents carefully drafted by an attorney to make the terms crystal clear.
The legal ramifications of alleged discrimination/harassment can cause your company serious problems. Make sure your HR and legal team members are equipped to handle these issues should they arise. Be sure to actively observe co-worker relations and ensure discrimination/harassment on a smaller scale is not occurring.
Copyright and Patent Issues
Companies often sit on patents for years, hoping that other companies inadvertently violate them to get easy money through patent and copyright lawsuits. In your product development phase, make sure your research and development team members thoroughly research patents and copyrights to avoid a legal mess.
Customers who are dissatisfied can file class action lawsuits against your company, in which they gather in large consumer groups and attack your company over faulty products, services or promises. Be proactive and keep a finger on the pulse of your customers, and be prompt to address any issues.
All this—not to mention other legal issues like setting up the right business structure, agreement terms and conditions, tax laws and litigation, vendor contracts and disputes and more—is a whole lot to think about for a busy woman business owner. That’s why the theme of this month’s NAWBO ONE is “Legally Speaking.” It’s packed with everything from top legal questions every woman business owner should ask to a roundtable discussion featuring several NAWBO member attorneys. Additionally, you’ll find a new H.R. 5050 white paper, sponsored by our partners at PNC, in honor of Women’s History Month and the 30th anniversary of this game-changing legislation. It highlights how H.R. 5050 transformed the course for women entrepreneurs as well as opportunities that lie ahead.
So read on before you have to put on your next hat!
—Kathy Warnick, 2017-2018 NAWBO National Chair