As the owner or primary executive of a business, you have a vested interest in protecting the business's reputation and assets, as well as your own. A properly formatted business plan, as well as the right legal structure for your company, can drastically reduce your personal liability for issues that the company may experience at a later date.
However, protecting yourself and your personal assets may not be enough. Taking additional action to protect your business and its interests is also important. You want to reduce the potential for anyone to take legal or financial action against your company.
The right kind of business contracts, including vendor contracts, client contracts and employment contracts, can reduce your company's potential liability and help make expectations and promises clear to the people you work with or hire.
Boilerplate documents don't do much to protect you
A quick internet search will undoubtedly turn up dozens of sites offering downloadable templates for a variety of business contracts. One of the easiest mistakes to make while running a company is to assume that a generic contract will adequately protect your interests.
Those generic contracts available online are arguably better than no contract, but they won't truly protect your business in the way that you need. You need contracts that clearly delineate the responsibilities and expectations of each party signing, with as much detail as is necessary to avoid future conflicts.
The more explicit and specific your contracts are, the easier it will be to enforce them. Perhaps more importantly, a highly specific contract will help ensure that the other party knows what you expect of them or what you will provide to them. In other words, details in a contract can reduce the potential of serious miscommunication between you and someone with whom you do business.
What do you need to include in a contract?
Many people feel confused about the proper way to structure a business contract. After all, if you aren't sure what details to include, it's much easier to make an otherwise preventable mistake. The exact needs for your contracts will vary depending on the nature of the contract and the work your business performs.
Still, there are certain pieces of information that belong in any contract. These include accurate identifying information for both signing parties, dates for all obligations and expectations, specific details about the terms of the agreement and options for dispute resolution if problems arise. For example, including a mandatory arbitration or mediation clause for disputes with staff members can reduce the potential risk of someone filing an unnecessary lawsuit that does damage to your reputation.
Working with an experienced business litigation attorney can also be beneficial, as an attorney will have relevant experience and can offer advice on the issues that you most desperately need to address in your contract. Getting good advice early on and ensuring an accurate and enforceable contract gets signed is one of the best things you can do to protect your business from future liability.