There are two ways to run a business – the right way, and the wrong way. The right way involves being honest and compliant, while the wrong way involves being sneaky, devious and likely operating on the wrong side of the law. Sometimes, the benefits of doing things on a ‘not exactly by the book basis’ can seem tempting, but they should never be considered. There’s only one way anyone should run a business, and that’s to the benefit of everyone with a stake in it – not just yourself and the investors.
There are far too many shortcuts on offer to businesses in the modern age. ‘Tax relief’ and dodgy employment practices and contracts number amongst the most obvious, but there’s a lot of ways that a business can actually be quite malevolent and destructive. Ideally, you won’t be anywhere near that. The best idea is to always take your time, do your research and ensure everything is done by the word of the law.
One of the first things you need to master in business, especially so if you are just starting up, is copyright law. No matter if you are developing an app, writing textbooks or selling pastries – you can get into serious legal trouble if your business encroaches on the intellectual property of other companies. If you steal work, ideas, branding or patents, you will face the courts, even if you believe you are innocent. Patents are a good case to examine as companies simply patent ideas and schematics in the hope that someone will infringe upon their idea. The best way to avoid issues with ideas is to simply research concepts thoroughly and establish them with legal grounding. In actual fact, the best way to proceed in business is to assume anything you use or conceptualize is already protected by copyright and trademark laws unless proved otherwise. This can prevent a lot of issues in the future, especially when items can be copyrighted even when posted on the web and especially so if there is no clear copyright notice. It is also important to note that assumption should never be a decisive factor when using ideas or concepts from other parties.
What happens if you do run afoul of copyright law? In the first instance it will likely be a complaint or notice about your use of unauthorized material or concepts. This is a good time to temporarily remove the offending material. Not every complaint needs you to shut down your work, but they should all be treated seriously and while the removal of the potentially copyrighted material might not be a permanent issue – you should prepare for the fact that you might have to work without it in the future.
How else can you run your business well? By ensuring you’re on the legal side of a sale. Every single sale in a business sense is a contract between you and a client and customer. The basis of this contract is your terms and conditions of business and if they are legally sound, it will protect your business in the event of an after sales dispute and limit your liability. Terms and conditions can also protect your customers on the back of a solid legal policy. A good set of terms and conditions almost automates the process of any single dispute and helps simplify any eventual legal process.
One of the biggest areas to get right is your human resources efforts. How well you treat your staff and how legally you treat your staff are huge points of consideration. Your employees are protected by law, and if you defy the law in their welfare and treatment at work, your business will be in trouble. Employment law and legislation have ensured that are more reasons than ever before for why an employee might be disgruntled in the workplace. Every solid company with multiple employees needs human resource or HR staff that have a solid understanding of the legal side of business and employee management. Ellis Whittam are a great choice and services that have a grounding in law will be able to serve both parties (employer and employee) more fairly and effectively.
It’s not just management of employees that needs your care and due diligence, though – hiring and firing employees is a huge area where one wrong move can result in a court case or tribunal.
In the first instance, every business needs documentation or policy that works as a basis for any hiring that goes on. These can come in the form of application forms and general recruitment processes that will ensure your place of work doesn’t discriminate job applicants on areas like race or gender. What these processes also do is ensure that you can choose the right applicants for your business needs by ensuring they meet certain criteria.
When an employee is hired, it is up to the manager or the business owner to evaluate the performance of the employee to assist with their development during their time at the company. This performance evaluation can also be the basis of dismissal if an employee doesn’t meet the expectations of the business and doesn’t provide a satisfactory level of performance. These evaluations are usually monthly or yearly and should be kept on file for legal purposes.
Firing employees and terminating contracts is a messy business and no-one truly wants to do it, but it is a necessity. What is essential is that the dismissal of employees is done right and with purpose backed up by documentation and policy. The usual initiation of this is that a manager decides that an employee is not working out for the business. In nearly all cases this is after an employee has been warned and been given opportunities to improve their work performance via the evaluations mentioned above. What is key is that all of this is documented before decisions are made, and any dismissal is based upon multiple points that can be evidenced. The reason for dismissal also needs to be noted. It is key that employee dismissal isn’t an emotionally charged decision and is planned out. It is also important that any dismissal follows company procedure as an unfair dismissal case can come from this.
Another point to note is that a workplace needs to be a respectful environment that can harbor employees of all races and creeds, from any background imaginable. Sexist and racist language or anything that could be seen as discriminatory needs to be removed from the office and any behavior that walks these lines needs to be shut down the instant it occurs. Frankly, there is no room in the workplace for these behaviors anymore, and any business that fosters attitudes of sexism or hatred will deserve all the punishments that come to its door. Employees have a right to feel safe in the workplace and while some detractors of this will point towards a more sanitized workplace full of ‘red tape’ and ‘PC culture,’ they likely aren’t the people facing any kind of discrimination at all. Ensure that all types of people can work in your business and feel comfortable while doing so.
There’s a big long list of law to consider when running your business from trademarks right through to discrimination but it is so very important that the word of the law is always followed in the workplace. Your business might very well come crashing down if the law is not taken seriously – so run a business the right way.