10 Ways to Protect Your Business
Written by Lisa Montanaro | September 25, 2009

In honor of my speaking engagements this week in Denver for the IRIS Conference for interior redesigners and home stagers, I decided to post some of my best articles for entrepreneurs. Here is the first one. Hope you find them useful for your own business!

“It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.” ~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Regardless of what stage your business is in, chances are you can use some reminders of vital ways to protect your business. The following is a list of 10 ways to protect your business regardless of size, location, or stage of your business. Use it as a checklist to measure your business protection quotient against. If you are doing all of these, then let this serve as validation. If not, then add these tips to your list of business items that need focus. 

  1. Think Big – Do not get caught up in the thought process that your business is too small to incorporate. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake that because the business is a one-person show, it is too small to have a structure that provides protection. Think “big” even if the business isn’t big. Even the smallest company can incorporate or form an LLC.
  2. Put it in Writing – If you are an entrepreneur offering services, develop a basic written agreement to use with clients. An agreement promotes consistency of policies, exudes professionalism, and clarifies the understanding of the parties. It does not need to be fancy or long, but should be understandable.
  3. Make Friends with Tax Deductions – Try to familiarize yourself with all of the basic business tax deductions so that you can maximize your tax write-offs. Even if you use an accountant to prepare your taxes, it will benefit you greatly to be aware of the various deductions that are permitted. It will certainly force you to keep better records!
  4. No Commingling of Funds – Do not use business funds for personal expenses or visa versa. Keep separate bank accounts and credit cards for business and personal. The IRS likes to see the bifurcation of business and personal finances. Give the IRS what it wants, and keep ’em separated!
  5. Proceed With Caution When Hiring or Retaining – If your business is growing and you want to hire an employee or retain the services of an independent contractor, proceed with caution. Be slow to hire. Take your time to interview, check references, do a background check (with permission), etc. It will be time well spent.
  6. Classify Team Members – If you have individuals that work for your business, you need to determine whether they are employees or independent contractors. The IRS has a wealth of information on this topic on its website at www.irs.gov, and you can also check with an accountant. Get the answers you need. Do not guess because if you are incorrect, it will be a costly mistake.
  7. Pad Your Bank Account – In this time of economic uncertainty, it is wise to keep extra funds in the bank “just in case.” If your business should suffer a down turn, are you financially set for several months? Will you be forced to close shop? Think through and be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and then when it does not occur, feel relieved.
  8. Be Insured – If you are in business, you need business insurance. Period. If you do not have business insurance, do yourself a favor and take a look at it. Work the cost into your budget. Yes, some industries are not as high risk as others, but why take the chance? It is generally considered a valid business tax deduction, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing your business is protected.
  9. Get Credit – If you create a fixed work through your business, give yourself credit. Use a copyright symbol on your fixed works to let the world know that you are the owner. You can get even more protection if you file the copyright with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov), although registration is not required.
  10. Snag Your Domain – If you do not own the domain name for your business, buy it now. If you wait, it will most likely be taken. Then, your choices are to pay a lot of money to buy it, wait until it expires, or think of another domain name. For those of you that already have the domain of your business name, buy your tag line, slogan, moniker, or any other name that you feel embodies you or your business. In the world of domain names, you snooze, you lose. Play it safe and act now!  

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.