The popular sentiment is that New Year's resolutions are best kept at the beginning of the year and begin to wain soon thereafter. In order for resolutions to sustain, new habits must be formed, periodic reviews of progress undertaken, and commitments to institute the resolutions reaffirmed. So, let's see how you are doing so far on your 2016 resolutions to address some of the often delayed and sometimes forgotten requirements of owning and operating a small business. How many of the following resolutions can you check off as either in progress or completed?
- Notice and hold annual meetings of the shareholders and directors, or managers and members, of the business and to prepare minutes of those meetings promptly.
- Prepare minutes for all those past meetings that have been held, but which have never gotten into the minute book.
- Review and revise standard forms of contracts, invoices, terms and conditions, and other documents to assure that they are adequate to accomplish the matters for which they are used and to protect the business.
- Protect the intellectual property of the business by implementing a system to protect trade secrets, by requiring employee confidential information and invention agreements, and by registering my patents and trademarks.
- Deliver annual reports, financial statements and tax preparation information to the shareholders and members promptly after year-end
- Update records of shareholders' or members' information and have those lists available at my principal place of business.
- File with the California Department of Business Oversight Notices of Transaction under Corporations Code section 25102(f) (or other appropriate filings) for issuances of securities to shareholders or members, and to make any similar filings that may be required with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Meet with equity holders and agree upon a buy-sell arrangements so that efficient transfers of ownership may take place when an equity holder withdraws, dies or otherwise desires to sell his or her stake in the business.
- Meet with the insurance agent to discuss the adequacy of insurance coverages and, in particular: (1) key man life insurance to fund potential buy-outs of equity holders under the buy-sell agreement and (2) employment practices liability insurance.
- Meet with the accountant to discuss: (1) tax return preparation (before the eve of the filing deadline) and (2) the adequacy of current accounting methods, policies and systems.
- File my federal and state income tax returns, sales and use tax returns, and property tax returns before their respective due dates (without extensions!).
- Adopt or update my employee handbook to reflect current employee policies and benefits and to address labor and employment law requirements, and post updated posters and notices to employees as required by state and federal law.
Congratulations if you are still on track with your small business resolutions. For those matters that have not yet been addressed, what is holding you back? Is it a lack of information or expertise? If so, seek out mentors or professional advisers who can help get you moving in the right direction. If it is personal inertia, print a copy of this checklist and post it where you will see it every day as a reminder of your commitments to improve.
The failure of a business to regularly and timely address structural or organizational aspects of its operation may lead to its foundering. A business with a proactive approach to planning and operating, however, can assure that it is prepared for the future and any challenges that may be encountered along the way. Resolve now to make your business the best that it can be.