Horror Stories of Business Ownership: Recap of Seminar
How is the beginning of your November 2017 going? Are you scared there are only 2 months left till the end of the year? Well, speaking of frights, I did a seminar with the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii (BBB) this past Monday celebrating Hallloween. We told spooky stories, well sort of. We discussed the horrors of business ownership. Specifically, I talked about these broader topics:
- structure of entity – failing to plan properly;
- disputes with business partners and managers;
- government regulations – the revoking of permits and licenses; and
- intellectual property infringement.
Lisa Nakao,Director of Operations of the BBB, discussed the resources the BBB offers and how to deal with reviews and complaints by customers hosted on the BBB’s website (I will cover some of this in a Part II to this post). If you could not make it to this seminar do not worry. I will continue presenting seminars aimed at educating business owners about the legal issues. So be sure to check back and follow us.
Some of the Horrors of Owning a Business – Highlights
I’d like to take this time to discuss some highlights of the seminar. While, I will not cover everything from the seminar, as you will just have to come to the next one, this post will touch upon a couple of issues. Particularly the ones that gave good discussion or attendees asked a lot of questions.
1. Managerial Authority in a LLC: Friends, Family Members, and/or Relatives of Friends as Your Manager
I’ve discussed in the past of business partner disputes, but this following scenario is derived on a similar theme. Consider the situation where many small and medium-sized business owners rely on family or friends to help run their business, including relatives of friends. This tight-knit network can be a boon or a misfortune. Especially, here in Hawaii where people tend to rely on local connections the trust and reliance can run high and sometimes too quickly. Specifically, I refer to hiring someone as a manager of your LLC or corporation and giving them access to the company’s bank account and credit cards. Then the business owner discovers the person they thought they could trust is gone the business account is empty and the credit cards are over extended. Worst yet, there is no written management agreement.
Is there Nothing that Can be Done?
While, legally there is a lot to do, such as suing them or attempting to report them to the police for theft – the reality is proof and evidence issues. Many times business owners in this situation rely on a handshake, only talk to their manager on the phone, and their emails and texts refer to managerial duties/obligations obliquely. There is no writing of the contract. Further, consider even if you have a good case, you have to find them and force them to give back the money, which by the time you get the the lawsuit filed, served, and litigated, they’ve probably spent it.
So again, this is an urging to slow it down and think methodically. I get it. Small business owners are trying to get help and tread water. However, consider the following ideas:
- conduct due diligence – find out more about them before you hire them;
- limit their access to the business bank account and credit cards – you do not need to give them unfettered access;
- if you cannot do a full-blown management agreement, then at least tackle the main terms in some of memorandum, letter, or lengthy email;
- as to point 3 make sure you get their signature, acknowledgment, and confirmation!
While, those things will not always save you, the point is getting you into the habit of preparing, doing your research, and record keeping when you finally decide to take an action that may be risky.
2. Shutting Down Business Operations Due to Lost of License or Permit
So I told a story during the seminar of a business owner who relied on their accountant to do the business entity’s Annual Filings with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce Affairs (DCCA). Only problem with that was the accountant was not actually doing the filings; it was not a part of their services. So the DCCA administratively terminated the corporation’s existence. So leaving the account and taxation issues aside, the main focus of this section I want to focus on is government licensing and permitting. See LLCs and corporations are legal persons. They may not be a living, breathing individual like you and me, but they are persons under the law. So often time government licenses and permits, for example liquor licenses, issues to the business entity itself and not the individual owners of the business.
So when the DCCA administratively terminated this corporation the business owner also lost their government license. In this instance, they could not operate the business because it would be illegal to operate without a license. So they had to shutter their business and form a new corporation, then reapply for a completely new government license.
Did they Really have to Close Their Business?
Yes, unfortunately in this case they did. However, sometimes the government fails to follow proper procedure when revoking or suspending a business owner’s license or permit. If the government does not follow its own rules and regulations there may be opportunity to stop the government’s action. However, it depends on the type of permit or license being revoked and the applicable laws and regulations surrounding it. In this instance, the business owner could have saved themselves by routinely checking the DCCA and communicating with their accountant. Finally, catching the administrative termination of their original corporation earlier could’ve resulted in a successful petition to reinstate it.
You should know the filings you need to make with the government and calendar them into your schedule. Further, consider an annual business checkup to assist you in navigating your business’s compliance requirements. If you are interested in an initial consult to begin the process of an annual business checkup contact us today!
There will be a Part II to this post; it will focus on the BBB Reports and Complaints and resources/information they shared. So check back!