As the end of the year approaches… again I wanted to share five 5 things you can do to ready your business for the new year. I know in my family traditionally during the holidays and as we approach the calendar New Year we spend a lot of time making plans, visualizing how we will achieve them, and setting intentions. I encourage entrepreneurs to take some time and reflect on your business endeavors and set the stage for success in that arena as well. The first two things I will share are not directly related to a specific legal task and the last three are centered around your business and its legal relationships. Once you complete the first two, the roadmap for getting your legal house in order should be clearer to envision and accomplish.
- Organize – If you haven’t already- organize, organize, and organize some more. Clean out your cluttered inbox. Send the follow up emails that may have gotten buried. Ensure your bookkeeping is in order and that you know where all the files are that your accountant will be asking for. Handling this now, instead of next year will give you the freedom to take off running after your goals in the new year and also will let you know what loose ends you need to tie up.
- Make Room to Improve – Next, make a list of all the ways you can improve your business and brand. This can be something as simple as creating a better, more consistent follow up system (see cluttered inbox from list item 1) or as complex as creating a new brand direction. Even if business was amazing for you this year, there is always a next level to achieve. Once you have a list prioritize those you can complete in the upcoming year and create deadlines that you can hold yourself accountable to. Try to knock out the low hanging fruit.
- Perform an Employee Audit– Do you have all of your employee’s current information (see accountant request in list item1)? If you are missing necessary details you can make the end of year the time to attain and update. Not only do you want to make certain you have the proper record keeping for internal employee’s, you also want to make certain you have the right agreements in place. Did you have your hires sign a non -disclosure agreement, a trade secret protection agreement, and or a non-solicit agreement? Do you have strong contractual agreements in place for any contractors you may have hired including but not limited to work for hire agreements and intellectual property rights assignment agreements? Are you planning to hire new employees or contractors based on you improvement assessment done in step two above? That may mean you’ll need to incorporate new agreements into your toolbox that were previously not present. Completing this audit will put you in a position of strength. You’ll know what you need to do or you’ll be able to rest assured that you are armed to go get and have the right protections in place.
- Intellectual Property Audit- Similarly to #3 in our list of five things you can to do to get your business ready for the year, the intellectual property assessment or audit is important to ensure you can protect what matters™ as you do business. Do you have a strong brand? Are you protecting that brand in the marketplace? Do you have a registered trademark portfolio and are they nearing renewal? If this seems complex and you are at the point where you aren’t sure if you even have protectable intellectual property then you may want to take an assessment and then perform the audit. If you are unsure of what intellectual property you may have the United States Patent and Trademark Office offers an assessment. Click here to take it. Browne Law offers 90 minute strategy session’s to help walk you through the IP audit process. We would be happy to assist you in this area.
The last three in our list center around legal relationships. You likely have a legal responsibility to protect and secure both your employee and client data. The degree to which you are responsible will vary and you should consult an attorney for legal guidance and advice. And when it comes to your intellectual property ensuring that it is protected can exponentially increase your companies worth and value. While organizing and finding improvements don’t speak directly to legal relationships, a thorough review in those two areas can reveal weaknesses that can turn into legal issues. On the other hand they can and also provide a roadmap for the next steps you will need to take to secure your business legally and give you piece of mind. Get your legal house in order for the new year by taking these five simple steps.
Do let me know if you have any questions.