Is your business or non-profit structured properly? Is it built on a solid foundation?
These seem like simple enough questions. You set up your business or non-profit, and as far as you know, things are going smoothly (or at least as smoothly as they can be in the world of entrepreneurship). But what problems might be lurking just beneath the surface?
There are certain things we look for when talking to a new client to make sure the business or non-profit at least has a basic foundation in place. Without this foundation, none of the other legal work we do will matter.
Do you have a written business or strategic plan?
I always tell people that I work harder running this law firm than I ever did while employed for someone else. There’s a ton of stuff to keep track of (on top of doing the actual work): clarifying your target market, studying how you compare to your competition, identifying the big picture, defining your strengths and weaknesses, updating your marketing and sales plans, focusing on your best products and services, cleaning up operational or administrative issues, improving the organization’s finances, developing your staff and leadership team, and on and on and on. There’s simply no way to keep it all in your head.
Have Articles of Organization or Incorporation been filed with the Ohio Secretary of State?
Seriously, if you don’t know, go check right now. If you’re not sure what to file or what should have been filed, schedule a consultation right now. If you’re thinking about forming a subsidiary or social enterprise or just a new venture all together, get established with the Secretary of State before you do anything else.
Do you know what licensing requirements and other regulations apply to your business? Are you keeping up with changes to those regulations?
A great source for checking out some of the basic requirements that might apply to your business or non-profit is Ohio’s 1st Stop Business Connection.
Are you planning to share the business or strategic plan with others?
Perhaps you’ll be seeking new investors this year or entering into a strategic partnership. Anytime you plan to share confidential business information with someone, you should have a non-disclosure agreement in place before any confidential information is shared.
Do you have an operating agreement or bylaws in place?
Perhaps more importantly, is the document up-to-date? Does it truly reflect how you operate? When was the last time you had it reviewed by an attorney? Laws change, and banks are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to what they expect to see in your governing documents.
If you have business partners, these documents are even more critical. So many of the disputes that we see between business partners can be summed up pretty easily: either there wasn’t an agreement in the first place or no one was actually following the agreement.
Bonus Questions for Non-Profits
There is a lot of information in this post. Put it on your calendar or to-do list and really work through this checklist. And if this checklist raises any questions or concerns for you, then schedule your consultation right away.