If you have recently started up a small business, you most likely consulted commercial lawyers and other professionals to ensure everything was set up legally. Of course there is a lot of information online these days, but often it is difficult to understand, or you may not be sure if certain legal requirements actually apply to your business.
In all the busyness of getting your business up and running, you may not have thought about protecting those intangible business assets, even though you’ve taken out insurance to protect the stock and all those other things you need to run the business.
What are the intangible assets?
- The specific name of your business
- Your logo
- Brand name
- Specific processes and methods to do certain things
- Knowledge your employees have that is unique to your business
Some of these intangibles can be protected through taking out patent, trademark or copyright registrations, while others should be protected by using non-compete and non-disclosure documents that your employees should sign. This will prevent them from using this knowledge if they should leave your company and go to the competition or even start up their own company. It is best to have your lawyer draft such agreements so they are watertight.
It is also essential to have exit strategy documents signed by partners in a company in case one or more of them have a falling out and want to leave, or if they have to leave for any other reason. Such documents need to be worked out by a lawyer and the one who helped you start your business is the best person to go to. They will know what needs to be done and may have advised you to do this in the first instance.
However, many people get so focussed on starting the business they don’t or can’t think about such things. They may not consider it likely that their partner, a key employee or a major shareholder would even want to leave. Or if they are into saving on costs, they may think that leaving those things out will help their budget. What they don’t realise is that the cost of not doing such things is usually far higher.
Of course consulting a lawyer will cost you money, but not having one will cost a great deal more in the long run. You have to realise solicitors are there to help you avoid costly problems and in doing so they also help your business to run more smoothly and your life to be much more stress-free, so they are worth what they charge. So don’t treat your lawyer like a plumber and only call them when there is an emergency. Keep them on hand to help you avoid problems rather than fix them.