Hiring employees is often an exciting time for small businesses and nonprofits. But not every new hire will turn out to be a great fit for your organization. Perhaps an employee’s performance simply isn’t up to par. Or an employee commits a major violation of some company policy. Or maybe an employee keeps repeating the same relatively minor infraction over and over again (like spending a little too much time texting while working). Regardless of the size of your business, at some point, managing people means having some tough conversations.
Perhaps you’ve already tried dropping not-so-subtle hints to get an employee back on track. When less formal measures don’t seem to be working, it’s time to turn to more formal disciplinary policies and procedures for addressing employee misconduct. Your employee disciplinary policy is not about becoming a stereotypical corporate overlord and ruining the collegial environment that makes working for a small businesses or nonprofit so appealing. Instead, having a formal disciplinary policy is all about maintaining your organization’s standards in a way that is fair and maintains morale, all without getting you and your company into legal trouble.
Most of us now have access to the internet 24/7 no matter where we go or what we should really be doing with that time. And that includes your employees.
You want employees to spread the word on social media about your great products or services, but you don’t want an employee to say the wrong thing and spark a public relations crisis.
You want your employees to work hard and be productive, but you don’t want to micro manage how they spend every single working moment.
You want to be known as a great place to work, but you don’t want your employees to take every grievance with management to the court of public opinion.
How should your HR policies address these issues? What do you tell your employees about their use of the internet, email, and social media while working for your organization?
Small businesses and non-profits have had a lot to worry about this year. Not surprisingly, many small business owners and non-profit directors have been asking about ways to protect themselves from lawsuits related to COVID-19. Will a customer or employee try to sue us if they get COVID? Will a waiver protect us from this type of litigation?
In response, the Ohio General Assembly passed H.B. 606 “to make temporary changes related to qualified civil immunity for health care and emergency services provided during a government-declared disaster or emergency fund and for exposure to or transmission or contraction of certain coronaviruses.” So what does this mean for small businesses or non-profits who are wondering about their potential liability if someone claims they were exposed to COVID-19 at your place of business? And what other liabilities are out there waiting to trap the unwary?
You’ve put together your website or app offering your Great New Service™, but now you’re trying to figure out the dreaded Terms of Service. Everyone clicks the box to indicate they agree before signing up for the service, but no one really reads these absurdly long agreements. What do you really need to put in your small business’s terms of service, and, perhaps more importantly, why do you need one in the first place?
Just like you shouldn’t do business on a handshake, you shouldn’t operate your business on a handshake either. But too many entrepreneurs regularly go into business without any formal documentation. If you have business partners, so-called “silent” investors, or took money from friends and family, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the terms of these partnerships documented in a formal written agreement. Otherwise, it’s just a dispute waiting to happen.
If I had a dollar for every time a client or prospective client told me that their business partner/best friend/family member would never sue them, I’d be writing this article from a beach in the Caribbean right now.
There are a few critical questions that every company operating agreement* should answer.
A licensing agreement is a contract in which you, the licensor, gives someone else, the licensee, permission to do something that they otherwise would not have the right to do. There are many situations in which a small business might use a licensing agreement:
While licensing agreements need to be customized to fit your particular business situation, there are some common terms that most licensing agreements should address.
You’ve been diligently pursuing your marketing plan, and your dream client is finally interested in working with your business. You take some time to hammer out the details, maybe trading multiple emails and phone calls, sometimes even text messages. At some point, the haggling concludes and you get to work providing your service. At this point, one of two things often happen:
If you’ve ever found your business in one of these situations, you’re definitely not alone. These situations illustrate exactly why you need to use written contracts in your business and not just rely on a handshake and a few emails.
This week we continue our series on raising money from investors. In Part 1, we covered why this complex area of law matters, even if you’re just raising money from friends and family. Complying with securities laws requires that you register at both the federal and state level or comply with an exemption (again, at both levels). In Part 2, we explained the common exemptions to registration at the state level. In Part 3, we looked at the common exemptions at the federal level. As we explained there, some of the federal exemptions leave quite a bit of room for interpretation, causing some businesses to rely instead on certain “safe harbor” provisions.
Just what are the "safe harbor" provisions? Can you ever advertise that you're seeking investors? And is an offering document really necessary?
In Part 1, we covered why securities laws matter for small business owners who are trying to raise money to start or grow their business. Remember, anytime you raise money by promising some sort of return on investment, then securities laws apply. And if securities laws apply, then you must either register at both the federal and state levels or be exempt from registration. Not surprisingly, most small businesses try to fit within an exemption from registration to avoid some of the legal complexity. In Part 2, we discussed common exemptions to registration at the state level. This week, we turn to some of the common federal exemptions.