Risky Business: Limiting Your Legal Risk When Starting a New Business

Business Law

There are many things to consider when starting a new business in British Columbia.  To reduce frustration and significant expenses later on, here are some things to be aware of at the outset:

  1. Choosing a Business Name
    Choosing a business name may be the first and could be one of the most important decisions that you make. You’ll want to choose a name that sets your business apart from others particularly in the same industry. If you intend to operate under a business name in BC, regardless of whether you incorporate, you will need to register the name first. You need to be aware if another business is already using the name you choose, or a similar name, as this could result in legal issues later on. It’s possible to operate under a business name that is different from the legal name of the company. Ensuring your name is unique will help ensure it’s accepted for registration particularly if you decide to incorporate and/or protect your business name with a trademark.
  2. Choosing a Business Structure
    Whether you are operating as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or otherwise, you’ll want to be aware of the costs, benefits, and other implications to your structure. Factors that will affect your choice of business structure may include limiting liability, the amount of revenue you expect to generate, tax considerations, expenses, and your degree of control. Although there is no one business structure that will provide optimal benefit in all of these areas, some business structures will be preferable to others based on your specific circumstances.
    For a more detailed discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation, read this article – Should I Incorporate My Business? .
  3. Licences and Permits
    There are a number of permits and licences that you may require to operate your business at any or all of the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Specific requirements will depend on the location and nature of your business. Though some licences and permits are universally required, such as business licences, others are only required in certain situations, such as when food or alcohol is being sold to the public. There can be legal consequences when proper licences and permits are not obtained.
  4. Real Estate Zoning
    Ensure that the property where your business will be located is zoned to allow you to conduct your particular operations, for example, residential, industrial, commercial.
  5. Employment Considerations
    If your business will have employees, there are several things to address including the requisite payroll deductions, registering with the Worker’s Compensation Board if required, and employment insurance issues. You may want to consider preparing employment contracts to govern the terms of the employment relationship.
    For additional considerations on the benefit of consulting an employment lawyer, read – When Should I Seek Employment Law Advice? .
  6. Tax
    Ensure that you are registered with all of the appropriate taxation authorities in your circumstances including GST and PST.
  7. Legal Relations Among Partners
    Finally, if you are starting your business with one or more partners, consider documenting the legal relationship. If you have not incorporated, this could be accomplished through a partnership agreement. If you have incorporated, consider entering into a shareholder’s agreement. To learn more about shareholders’ agreements, read –  Do I Really Need a Shareholder Agreement?.

This list is not exhaustive and the steps that should be taken when starting a business will vary on a case-by-case basis.