Attorneys Give New Business Owners a Few Pointers

By Patrick Connelly  – Editor/Reporter, Buffalo Law Journal, Buffalo Business First

Starting a business isn’t as easy as many newcomers may think, particularly when it comes to the legal aspects.

“You want to take advantage of the law in this country and protect your assets,” said attorney Nicholas Pusateri. “If you had to put your personal assets on the line, there may not be so many businesses. You want to take advantage.”

Pusateri and three other associates from Hurwitz & Fine PC offered new business owners an overview Thursday evening of things they should consider while getting their business off the ground.

The event was hosted by Wilcox Financial Group in Williamsville. The attorneys are hoping to make the talk semi-regular, about every 10 weeks, Pusateri said.

Along with Pusateri, attorneys Anastasia McCarthy, Katherine Wood and Brian Barnas covered business formation basics, workplace liability, insurance and how to handle employees.

When setting a business up, they said the first steps are creating a bank account, deciding what type of formation it should be legally and selecting insurance coverage.

“Insurance is your way to manage your risk,” Barnas said. “It’s real easy to skimp on the insurance, but I would advise against that. ... A good policy is certainly a jumping off point.”

Blasdell photographer Deanna Kroll-Haeick said she’s trying to determine if she should be forming her business as an ‘S’ corporation or limited-liability corporation.

“I’m paranoid all the time,” said Kroll-Haeick. “It’s me trying to figure out the best way to protect myself.”

Selecting either can have certain advantages, but both create a buffer between your personal assets as an individual and the new business in case of a catastrophe, Pusateri said.

“Some things you can’t do anything about, other things you can,” Barnas said.

In the nascent days of a new business it’s also crucial legally to keep your own personal a funds and those of the business separate, the attorneys said.

Hiring employees other than yourself can also be a headache, said Wood, who outlined what paperwork and policies are needed in New York state and what the differences are between hourly and salaried employees.

Proper timekeeping is also crucial, she said.

“There are really harsh penalties if you’re found not to be in compliance,” Wood said. “If you’re in a non-traditional business, I would advise talking to an attorney to make sure you’re not in a sticky situation."

McCarthy wrapped up the evening by going over 10 questions new business owners should ask themselves to ensure they’re ready should they be sued.

“A lot of different conflicts can arise when you own a business,” she said. “Defending a suit can be costly.”

A wide variety of accidents can happen at anytime, McCarthy said. When one does, business owners should document everything and have the person who was injured write down their version of the accident.

For the original article that appeared in Business First, click here.

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