If you own or are starting a business, there are ten essential things you should know; Charles Bowen told us about these key points on Wednesday morning. Charles has a degree in Psychology and Political Science from Mercer University and a law degree from Georgetown University. He has practiced corporate law as a part of the Bowen Law Group in Savannah since 1995.

Charles told us that if we have a successful business, the probability that, at some point, we will be sued is high. So, protect yourself and your assets, he said, and here is how to do that.

  1. First, incorporate; an LLC is appropriate, to protect personal assets such as your home. Do not proceed with a simple DBA.
  2. Protect your business assets; buy insurance. Sit down with an insurance agent, and take out as much insurance as you can afford. A million dollars is a minimum.
  3. If you have a business with a high probability of lawsuits – your insurance agent will tell you – transfer your main assets before you are sued. If you transfer assets to someone other than a spouse, be sure they have a will which leaves those assets to you if they die.
  4. Keep business contracts simple. They should be written in easily understandable English. Any disclaimers should be boldly evident. All contracts should say that this is the complete agreement and it cannot be changed except in writing signed by both parties. Simple straightforward understandable contracts are more likely to be followed.
  5. Engage in good business practices; do not conduct disreputable business actions and do not do business with those who do. Do not put your good name at risk, and if you make a commitment, keep it; stand by your word.
  6. If you commit to doing something for someone, make an agreement in writing. It is difficult to sort out oral agreements, they cannot be enforced, and the burden of proof is moot. Do not deal with anyone who does not want a written agreement.
  7. Avoid losses which can be avoided by prudence: follow the law that applies to your business, e.g., business licenses, fees, etc. Ignorance of the law is no defense.
  8. Communicate with your clients. Don’t ignore problems – happy people don’t sue; clients with ‘hurt feelings,’ call them, sit down with them, sort it out. Once they sue, communication ceases, it’s too late.
  9. Forge a relationship with a business attorney, somebody you feel comfortable with, there are a thousand little matters to be attended to.
  10. Last but not least, avoid “crazy” people – there are plenty around – they are argumentative, will treat you poorly, never satisfied, etc. Make an excuse, I’m busy, busy for the next several months, as a last resort, recommend your competition(!)