Legal Nuggets For Entrepreneurs: Strategic Positioning for Future Opportunities – By Tolu Oni

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Tolu Oni

Read Tolu Oni’s useful hints on “Entrepreneurs – Strategic Positioning for Future Opportunities”

The future is now because yesterday’s tomorrow is today.

The diligent entrepreneur who has written his business plan, conducted feasibility studies on his type of business, registered his business or incorporated his company and has in fact started growing his business progressively needs to know that beyond all that, certain legal and statutory requirements must be adhered to from the start. The truth is that the benefits of doing it right may not come to the fore in the first few months or even years. You know the saying that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Every entrepreneur needs to be prepared for the coming opportunity. Let’s keep it simple, below are important to dos to have a competitive advantage when opportunity arises:

Customised business account/Registration with tax authorities:

After you register your business or incorporate your company with the Corporate Affairs Commission, no one reminds you to ensure you open an account with your business name or company name and to register with the appropriate tax authority. The advantage here is that your business will be perceived by third parties as being corporate compliant from its start up. There will be no need for you to cook up documentation when the need arises. Note that start up businesses are usually tax exempt for about the first 6 months of commencement of business and you get your TIN for free

Brand name and logo:

Many entrepreneurs have fantastic trade names and logos but never put legal ownership to it. Two years down the line your business begins to boom and your trade name, brand and logo start having widespread recognition. Suddenly, another business similar to yours appears with business name, trade name and brand close to yours or even identical with yours. This new business goes further to make its brand a little more attractive than yours. Your target customers begin to believe you are one and the same with the new business and you have no opportunity to let them know otherwise. You try to wage war only for you to realise that the new company has legal ownership of the brand names and logo because it registered first with the Trademarks registry. It becomes another story of you doing the dirty work for the new company to thrive. Whether or not your business has started, once you have any trade name, brand or logo, make sure you get it registered. Take legal ownership of

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Compliance with applicable laws:

Registering a business name or incorporating a company does not end at the point where you get your certificate. There are further obligations attached to it. Make it a point of duty to ask a lawyer to help you know what is expected. Some of the obligations are filing statement of account or annual returns, holding statutory meetings etc. When you comply from the start, it makes your book clean. If you find reputable persons or company knocking at your door for your services, you will not have to run helter skelter to show evidence that you are in full compliance with all applicable local laws.

Documentation:

Most entrepreneurs end up being burnt by contracts that start well but end up with a sour taste because there were no proper documentation. Gone are the days when you rely on verbal conversations in business even with family and friends. Learn to document and clearly spell out the terms of engagement and conditions of contract. Understanding the intricacies of the services to be offered and getting a sound lawyer to pen down a standard contract to cover all likely risks that the business may encounter is the way to go. Binding agreements have been the life-saver of many entrepreneurs who almost indirectly got cheated by larger companies and third parties they did business with. In other instances, these third parties provide the contracts which contains a lot of onerous clauses and most entrepreneurs are just trigger happy to execute the project. They pay no attention to the apparent and hidden wordings of the contract. When the problem arises, the third parties are quick to show them the clauses that protect them and it is another business partnership with a bad ending. It will cost close to nothing to get a professional to vet that document compared to the untold hardship you may face if you do not do so. Beyond contracts, it is important to capture discussions with third parties in minutes and send by email to the third parties shortly after such discussions and minutes. This way all that was discussed and agreed are cast in stone.

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Best Practice:

I call it the golden rule. No matter how inviting it is, do not cut corners, just do the proper thing within the ambits of the law. When you cut corners, trust me it will someday haunt you. When you do the right thing, you have absolutely nothing to hide. You do not have to always think what story to tell (the lie or the truth) in impromptu situations. As your employee base grows, make it a habit to comply with applicable laws like deductions and contributions of pensions, Remittance of PAYE, WHT etc. Look at what entrepreneurs ahead of you are doing, emulate standards in other African countries and the international community

What makes a great entrepreneur whose business has strong scalability potentials is in acquiring information and knowing where to get help to ensure the information works for him. A lot of information and knowledge lie in books and in seeking counsel

Tolu Oni is a Legal Practitioner at Health Plus Limited. She is a graduate of both UI and Unilag

Contact: 08135978121; bluecrestsolicitors@gmail.com

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