By Stanley Harris OBE, managing partner of Lyndales Solicitors.
1. Disputes can be avoided by having the right protection in place in the first place
Fallen out with your business partner? Goods gone astray and customer arguing the toss? If you have thought ahead, you will have other options without taking the “nuclear option” of going to Court or winding up. A partnership or shareholder agreement and the right terms and conditions for your business, both negotiated and entered into when the issues causing the problem do not yet exist, would be so much better.
2. Employment issues - more than half of Tribunal cases arise from correct procedures not being in place.
Non-performance at work by an employee? The luxury of having your own HR Department is often out of the question for many SMEs but having proper contracts in place, the ability to carry out regular appraisals and fair disciplinary and grievance procedures will go a long way to tackling a poor performer without the fear of ending up in the Employment Tribunal. I get more telephone calls on employment matters than on anything else. Employment law is complex, ever changing and at first sight seems to favour employees. Many employers simply do not have proper employment contracts or fair disciplinary and grievance procedures in place.
3. Suppliers, intellectual property and payment issues
You will always have issues and it will always be frustrating if you have not got a clear, enforceable contract that you can rely on. Make sure that all documents including delivery dates and quotations fit your business and don’t contradict each other, so that money owed cannot be legitimately challenged because the content is unclear.
Understanding the concepts of intellectual property and its importance are key to so many businesses and to try and redress the position after the event is very expensive and often unsatisfactory – finding out that you don’t own the IP to a website you have had built is more common than you might think. A formal contract, properly negotiated with terms clearly understood to an agreed budget is so much better.
4. Regulations, regulations….
We live in an increasingly regulatory world. Every business from hairdressing to food hygiene, from the provision of professional services through to financial and retail services, has its own regulatory framework and a host of inspectors, examiners and regulators to enforce them. Better to have systems in place than to face the expense of an investigation and possible fines and penalties.
5. Avoiding litigation
Litigation is invariably the most risky and expensive way to resolve disputes and so often can be avoided by having agreements and processes in place.
So, don’t wait for the storm to hit you and knock you over. Be proactive, not reactive and anticipate problems so that you have the documents, systems and procedures in place for your business to better deal with the complexities of modern day life.