Making sure your company is legal and approved for business may seem like the most important aspect of setting up your business, but it is really only the tip of the iceberg. Once you have created your business plan, filed your Article of Incorporation, and obtained your EIN (US) or BN (Canada) and appropriate permits, it is time to take additional measures to protect yourself, your business, and your assets.
As an entrepreneur you most likely know a lot about business, especially your own, but you can’t be an expert in everything. If you want to treat your business seriously, then you need to make sure you surround yourself with a strong team of advisers and mentors that can help you along the way. An accountant and lawyer are essential for most businesses and may already have helped you with the legalities of set up. If there are industry-specific associations that are relevant to your business, try to seek out leadership that can help you understand your market. Always be on the look out for smart and talented people and don’t underestimate the impact an expert can have on your business decisions.
Unless you are set on a sole proprietorship, it is important to set up a unique bank account for your business. Not only will it help you with your tax preparations, but it will help to keep the distinction between you and your business in the event of a legal liability.
Insurance is an extremely important component in protecting yourself, your business, and your assets and there is no one-fits-all solution. There are, however, certain policies that all businesses should consider such as general liability insurance and personal umbrella insurance. General liability insurance protects you against any injury that you, your product, or your place of business may unknowingly cause. The last thing you want is to lose your home-based business because someone tripped on your sidewalk and sued your business for damages. Personal umbrella insurance will add additional protection to you if any of your other insurance policies can not provide protection. It is basically an extra security net protecting you when you least expect - but most desperately need it.
Depending on the size of your business, the industry you are in, and the assets you hold, you will also need to consider other insurance policies. If you own property or vehicles, they should each be insured just as you would your own home or vehicle. If you have employees you will need Worker’s Compensation insurance. Depending on what type of information you hold, you may want to consider data breach insurance. And if you are forming a more complex corporation, you can consider insurance for directors and officers that protect you and them against decisions they make on behalf of the business.
If you’re lucky, you’ve already established a competitive advantage for your company and if you’re smart you’ll do whatever you can to protect that. If you have created a new type of product, then you should consider pursuing a patent. A patent will prevent other companies from copying your design, or even from creating similar products that function the same way your product does. If the name of your business or your logo are important for your business’ success, then you should pursue a trademark that will prevent other companies from taking advantage of your name. If you are operating your business out of the U.S., you will want to register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you are operating your business out of Canada, you will need to file for a trademark or patent with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. In either case, it is smart to consult a lawyer or expert who is experienced in the area of intellectual property.
You also need to be careful when hiring experts to work for you. Make sure your employment contracts include intellectual property protection, which means that anything they create on your behalf belongs to your company. If you hire a software developer to create a new way to deliver information to your customers, for example, you want to make sure that they do not turn around and sell that same technology to a competitor.
Protecting your business and assets is crucial to the success of your company and should be viewed as an ongoing process that needs regular attention and maintenance. Make sure to invest in the proper insurance, heed the advice of respected experts, and take the proper steps to protect your intellectual property so that you can remain a competitive player in your industry.
All information provided in this article is for educational purposes and should not be used as the sole resource in making a decision. It is important to consult a lawyer and accountant before all major business decisions. Please refer to our Terms of Service for more details.