By Phil Outhier
I devote a significant part of my practice to advising small business owners. It’s exciting to work with an entrepreneur to help bring his or her business concept to life. One of the most frequent questions I get from small business owners of recently formed companies is, “What do I do now?” I have discovered that while lawyers are great at setting up small companies, they are not great at advising owners what to do once the company is formed.
One of my greatest sources of referral is from business owners whose previous lawyer has failed to advise them of the next step. What follows is checklist I have developed to help my clients take the next steps after forming a company.
- Regularly update your corporate records. If you own a corporation or a limited liability company, you should regularly update your corporate records. Evidence of the makeup of your board or managers, together with a record of decisions made by the leadership, grant a company the right to do business in Oklahoma. If you have a corporation make sure you prepare and file all federal and state reports. If you have an LLC, you must pay an annual registration fee to the Secretary of State. Failing to keep current records can jeopardize the very existence of your company and expose the incorporators to liability.
- Secure your trade name or trade mark. Many companies spend effort and money developing a special trade name or trade mark. Consider securing your exclusive use of both by registering your name or mark with the Oklahoma Secretary of State.
- Set up appropriate accounts with applicable government entities. These are the big ones:
Income Tax and Payroll Withholding. Businesses with employees must set up an account with the Oklahoma Tax Commission for withholding and remitting state income taxes from the wages and salaries paid to employees.
Unemployment Taxes. Employers must also set up an account and withhold and remit state unemployment taxes from the earnings of the employees to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. At the federal level, business owners with employees are required to obtain the necessary forms and set up accounts with the Internal Revenue Service to withhold and pay federal income and Social Security taxes.
Workers Compensation Insurance. Employers are required to cover their employees in Oklahoma with workers’ compensation insurance, through an insurance agent. Contact your insurance agent to learn more.
- Apply for appropriate licensing. Find out if the type of business you are operating is subject to special permits or licenses. The State of Oklahoma and most municipalities require some type of licensing. For example, retailers are required to have a sales tax permit. Restaurants are required to have food handling permits and special licenses to sell alcoholic beverages. Businesses that sell cigarettes and motor fuels require special sales tax permits.
- Stay current on relevant employment laws. Be aware of applicable employment laws affecting your business, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and overtime payment standards. If you have employees, you are required to post certain current state and federal laws in a place where your employees can see them. It is your job to ensure they’re aware of their rights.
- Continue to educate yourself. Knowledge is power! Take time to develop relationships with professionals who can continue to educate you in regard to the operation of your business. In addition, consider joining trade organizations made up of businesses like yours. Building a network of relationships permits you to draw on the experience of others.