Top Legal Documents You Must Have to Start a New Business
By: Colton Powell
Are you thinking about finally starting the business you’ve always dreamt of? Perhaps you’ve already got it set up but aren’t sure what’s required to keep it running? At Windrose Law Center, we help business owners, with businesses both big and small, with a wide range of matters including: structuring your business, operating agreements and bylaws, articles of organization or incorporation, filing annual reports, contracts and agreements, trademarks, etc. Follow along as we discuss the range of services we offer to the business owners who make our local communities vibrant and unique:
Incorporation or Organization Documents
Our list of top legal documents you must have to start a new business begins with making it official with the state. When first starting your business, one of the first orders of business is to determine how it will be structured. But should you choose a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation? Perhaps you want a simple partnership with your business partner where everything is split 50/50. On the other hand, maybe you would like the liability protections that come with forming a limited liability company (LLC). Alternatively, you could structure it as a corporation with directors and shareholders. There are a number of different possibilities, and we can advise you on which entity will best serve your interests.
Operating Agreements & Bylaws
Next in our list of the top legal documents you must have to start a new business is operating agreements and bylaws. Once you’ve actually formed the business entity, now you will need to lay some ground rules. For a partnership or LLC, these rules will typically take the form of a partnership agreement or an operating agreement. For a corporation, the governing rules are called “bylaws.” Regardless of the name, they all share various things in common: establishing the members, managers, or directors of the business; how often meetings will be held; how to go about bringing new people into the business; etc. Why is it crucial to have such a document? Because if you don’t, you will be left to the whims of the default rules set forth by Arizona statutes, and that could lead to unintended consequences or results that could have easily been avoided. Furthermore, in 2019, Arizona overhauled its laws regulating LLCs, leaving a new maze of default rules for business owners to navigate.
Now, let’s say you’re ready to get investors involved to get your business off the ground. Or maybe you are ready to hire your first employees. We can help you create an employee handbook to govern workplace relations. Perhaps you have a great new idea, but you’re worried about someone taking advantage of it as their own. In that case, we can draft non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or non-compete agreements to protect your ideas and interests. Each business will have its own list of business agreements that it needs.
Intellectual Property (Trademarks)
Once your business is up and running, with any luck it will become a brand of its own with a reputation to be managed. Now it’s time for you to consider protecting your business with a trademark. The purpose of a trademark is to identify the product or service you are offering and distinguish it from your competitors. Registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can protect your business’ brand and reputation from competitors and give you an opportunity to pursue legal action if someone infringes your trademark. After all, you wouldn’t want potential competitors stealing your ideas or naming their business or products similarly to yours in an attempt to poach your customers.
Last but not least on our list of the top legal documents you must have to start a new business is meeting minutes. It will be important to make sure to treat your business as its own separate entity, that is completely separate from you as a person. This will help preserve liability protection. Businesses hold meetings to document important decisions and to establish and maintain a paper trail that the business is its own separate entity, separate from the identities of its individual owners to enhance and preserve liability protection. Taking good meeting minutes and holding meetings regularly is an important part of establishing that paper trail.
Starting a business is no small feat. As you can see, there are numerous important considerations when you are getting your business up and running. Let us focus on the legal issues while you focus on growing your business. Give us a call today to see how we can help you take your business to new heights!