Seven Key Ground Rules for New Entrepreneurs

Becoming an entrepreneur can involve a very steep learning curve. One of your top priorities should be to learn how to operate your business legally. What this will mean in practice will depend on your business sector. There are, however, certain areas most new entrepreneurs will need to address. Here are seven of them.

Paying your taxes

First of all, you’re going to need to register to pay taxes. That in itself usually involves a decision. Are you going to register as an individual or as an incorporated company? There can be a lot of factors to consider here. This means that it can be well worth getting professional advice before you make it.

Secondly, you’re going to need to deal with the (digital) paperwork involved in filing tax returns. Basically, this means that you need to know what documents to keep. You also need to know if you can keep them electronically or if they need to be on paper. If you’re not sure about a document, keep it and keep it in its original format. Then get professional help.

Thirdly, you need to do the actual filing or have an accountant do it for you. Fourthly, and finally, you need to archive your tax documents for as long as required by local law. It’s impossible to overstate how important it is to file and pay your taxes correctly. If you have any doubts or confusion about it at all, get professional help.

Dealing with health and safety

Health and safety is massively context-dependent. This means that you need to do your own research on what is expected of you. Again, you might want to get professional advice, especially if you’re employing direct staff.

Even if you’re currently exempt from health and safety laws, it can be a good idea to comply with them anyway. If you end up injured or sick, then you’ll carry the full cost of the lost productivity. At the very least, make sure you set up your work-space ergonomically, so you minimize the risk of back pain and repetitive strain injuries.

Marketing within the law

Whatever product or service you’re offering, you’re going to need to get the word out that you’re offering it. You need to do this without making any false or misleading claims, even accidentally. This means that, regardless of your business sector, you should always be prepared to back up any claims you’re making with compelling evidence.

If you’re operating in a highly-regulated sector, like finance, law or medicine, then you need to be particularly careful. In fact, by far the safest option is to enlist professional help. For example, if you’re operating in healthcare, then look for a proper medical marketing agency. They will know how to get the best results while staying clearly within the law.

Organizing effective data security

There are two aspects to effective data security. One is the legal aspect and the other is the commercial aspect. The legal aspect relates to data protection laws and compliance programmes such as GDPR. The commercial aspect reflects the fact the many companies will have data they do not legally need to protect but still very much want to protect.

Complying with data-protection laws is, of course, mandatory. These laws are, however, minimum standards rather than targets. Legally, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from implementing stricter controls. In fact, it can be very desirable to do so. What’s more, it can be even more desirable to advertise the fact that you’ve done so.

Going the proverbial extra mile and qualifying for industry-led certifications (like ISO certifications), can be a real selling point in some industries. It can also help to keep you ahead of the game as data-protection rules are updated.

Protecting your brand

If you understand how to protect the third-party data you hold, then you should be able to understand how to protect your own commercial data. You do, however, also need to think about protecting any intellectual property you own.  

Sometimes intellectual property protection is granted automatically (e.g. copyright). Sometimes you need to apply for it (e.g. trademarks). You need to make sure that you know which is which. You also need to know how to go about applying for protection in the right way. Again, it can be helpful to get professional help with this.

Understanding contracts

You probably sign contracts regularly without even thinking about it. For example, your everyday utilities, banking and financial products are probably all linked to a contract. Business contracts, however, can be rather different. In particular, they can be significantly more complex and/or for much higher values.

Even in the personal world, you should never sign a contract without fully understanding it. This certainly holds true in the business world. Never be afraid to walk away from a contract if you’re anything less than 100%.

What may be a challenging experience for new entrepreneurs is creating your own contracts. Sometimes it can be reasonable to adapt templates you can get on the internet. GDPR notices are a good example of this. Sometimes, however, it’s useful, if not vital, to get proper legal advice.

Getting the right insurance

Getting the right insurance can be a legal requirement. For example, if you have third-parties enter your place of business, then you may need public liability insurance. Also, some contracts may stipulate that you need a certain level of insurance. Even if, however, you are not obligated to have insurance, it may still be worthwhile to have insurance cover.

Some forms of insurance are specifically designed to protect you in the event of legal claims being made against you. The obvious example of this is professional indemnity insurance. Other forms of insurance include a certain element of legal cover as part of the policy. For example, public liability insurance may offer cover against personal injury claims.

You may have every intention of following every applicable law to the letter. It’s certainly advisable to do so. It is, however, also often advisable to have a Plan B, usually in the form of insurance. Mistakes do happen, as do nuisance lawsuits.