If you own a small business in the state of Florida, you already know that you’ll sometimes need a lawyer’s advice and services to grow your business and to keep it compliant with the law.

Business lawyers in Daytona Beach help business owners resolve both simple and complicated legal matters. They can also help business owners avoid the mistakes that can hurt your business.

HOW CAN A GOOD BUSINESS LAWYER HELP YOU?

A qualified business lawyer can help you put solutions in place before disputes arise. When a dispute does arise, your attorney can help you keep a minor conflict from becoming a major courtroom battle.

avoiding courtroom battles

What are some of the most common and easy-to-avoid mistakes that small business owners make?

1. the failure to have everything put in writing
2. the failure to plan for the future of the business
3. the failure to use effective employment agreements
4. the failure to properly classify workers as contractors or as employees
5. the failure to use effective restrictive covenants

MISTAKE #1: THE FAILURE TO HAVE EVERYTHING PUT IN WRITING

It’s a serious mistake when a small business owner fails to have everything put in writing. Whether it’s a lease, a purchase order, a storage agreement, or an employment contract, get it in writing.

Yes, it’s inconvenient to get everything in writing every time, but successful, long-time business owners know how important it can be to have every understanding, agreement, and transaction on paper and in black and white. Over time, a casual approach to details hurts a business.

When you have everything in writing, if a dispute arises, you may already have the evidence that you need to prevail. If you don’t have everything in writing, and a dispute arises, you could be stuck with no evidence to prove your side of the dispute.

It’s also never a bad idea to let your business attorney review any contract or any other document that might affect your best interests.

MISTAKE #2: THE FAILURE TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BUSINESS

Businesses inevitably change. People come and go. So do business trends. You can’t wait for a difficult situation to become a legal problem. You need to get “in front of” a difficult situation before it becomes a problem.

What can happen if a co-owner of your business gets married, gets divorced, dies, disappears, declares bankruptcy, is convicted of a crime, or is declared incompetent by a court? What if your business partner simply can’t get along with you any longer?

drafting business plans

Unless your business is a sole proprietorship, one or more of these situations – or something very similar – is almost certain to happen at some point in the future. You need to have a carefully drafted business plan, by-laws, or operating agreement that adequately addresses these scenarios.

If you’re a sole owner, you need written provisions that spell out what happens if you sell your business or retire. Let a Daytona Beach business attorney help you plan for the future, draft the documents you need, and review your current business plan and other pertinent documents.

MISTAKE #3: THE FAILURE TO USE EFFECTIVE EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENTS

Hiring and dealing with employees is one of a business owner’s biggest legal challenges. To protect yourself, offer your new employees an agreement that precisely spells out the duties of the job, the compensation, and any other benefits.

Business owners who are hiring employees on an at-will basis cannot imply in any way that the employment is open-ended. A good Florida business lawyer can create employment agreements that provide you with full legal protection while meeting your specific needs.

Some business owners may also need confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, especially if you have exclusive trade secrets or customer lists that might be valuable to others.

A business attorney can draft confidentiality agreements and restrictive covenants that will, if necessary, be enforceable by a court. Below, you’ll read and learn more about restrictive covenants.

MISTAKE #4: THE FAILURE TO PROPERLY CLASSIFY WORKERS

Who are your employees and who are independent contractors? Properly classifying anyone who works for you is imperative.

For business owners, classifying a worker as a contractor can mean tax savings, partial exemptions from some labor laws, less liability, and relief from providing employee benefits.

classifying employees

These are substantial advantages, but you don’t want someone that you classified as an independent contractor to claim employee status and sue you for any additional compensation or benefits that come with that status.

So who is a contractor and who is an employee? The more control an employer has, the more likely it is that a court will find that a worker is legally an employee. If you have a concern about a specific situation or worker, have an experienced business lawyer review the situation for you.

MISTAKE #5: THE FAILURE TO USE EFFECTIVE RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS

A restrictive covenant may be part of an employment contract, a consulting contract, a purchase order, or a non-disclosure agreement. You may already require your contractors and employees to sign restrictive covenants, but if it’s not enforceable, a restrictive covenant can’t help you.

Florida law spells out a “legitimate business interest” test that the courts must use to evaluate restrictive covenants. Florida courts generally presume that for a former employee, contractor, or agent, a restraint of six months or less is reasonable but a restraint longer than two years is not.

Trade secrets receive additional protection. Where trade secrets are concerned, Florida courts generally presume that a restraint of five years or less is reasonable, but a restraint longer than ten years is not.

Restrictive covenants should clearly specify the legal action that a business owner will take if a breach occurs.

You must establish a restrictive covenant before you share any intellectual property owned by your business. A good business attorney will help you with the precise language necessary for enforceable restrictive covenants that meet your needs.

WHAT MIGHT BE THE BIGGEST MISTAKE BUSINESS OWNERS MAKE?

Probably the biggest and costliest mistake that a small business owner can make is having no legal advice or representation at all. A good business lawyer can help you in numerous ways to avoid most of the other mistakes that business owners sometimes make.

getting a business attorney

If you own a small business in Florida, you must have a reliable business attorney on your team and ready to work on your behalf. That is your right. The future of your business could depend on it.

By: Melody Lankford
After graduating from Davidson College, Melody Lankford earned her J.D. from Florida State University’s College of Law in 2004 and was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year. Ms. Lankford joined Raydon Corporation as in-house counsel in 2004. She worked there until 2012, when she founded the Lankford Law Firm. She is an experienced Daytona Beach small business attorney who offers sound legal counsel and experience-based insights to her business clients.