21 December 2018 6 min read

As 2018 begins to draw to a close, the Hybrid Legal team have been reflecting on the key themes we have seen when working with our clients this year.

And seeing as we celebrate our 5th Birthday, there are 5 of them.

1. The Merry Month of May

The EU General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, became law on the 25th May and introduced stricter data protection requirements and new obligations for any business that processes EU citizens’ data. GDPR was followed up with the Data Protection Act 2018, which will mean all the key proposals (and possibly even more) will still apply post-Brexit.

There was much hype about the subject, and many entrepreneurs saw this as unnecessary red tape and hassle getting in the way of business.

Hybrid took a pragmatic approach. We delivered educational presentations to 500+ business owners and developed a service that helped our clients get on top of GDPR to ensure their businesses were protected.

It may well have been all quiet on the Information Commissioners Office front, but our advice is not to be complacent. Sooner or later the ICO will start to enforce the regulation – can you rest assured that you’re covered?

2. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”

Something in the air? This year we’ve seen many clients who’ve come to us because there’s a change afoot with the shareholders and directors of the business.

Some have been acquiring a new business or restructuring the shareholding in the existing firm. Some have been seeking to sell part or all of their business or have found new external investment.

But others have experienced a more common change. Two or three shareholders have simply decided that they no longer wish to work together for a whole host of different reasons and it’s time to go their separate ways.

Whatever the story – one thing has been more clear than ever.

Having the correct and up-to-date legal documentation which sets out exactly what happens in these circumstances makes a huge difference to the process and a consequent reduction in the stress and pressure of the situation for those involved.

After all, breaking up is hard to do – why make it even harder?

3. “F*** You, Pay Me”

Gosh, that’s a bit racy for a law firm, isn’t it?

But those aren’t my words. They come from two sources. Firstly, one of my favourite films of all time – “Goodfellas.”

Secondly (and connected), they come from a presentation delivered by the American design creative and author, Mike Monteiro, which is a very popular Creative Mornings talk with over a quarter of a million views on YouTube.

It’s about how many creatives and designers experience challenges in getting paid for the work they do, the ridiculous excuses clients give for not paying, and what can be done about it.

In our experience, this continues to be one of the most time-consuming and irritating challenges small to medium-sized business owners have to deal with – getting paid and on time.

The key to removing the stress and pressure of dealing with this problem lies in that age old saying – prevention is better than cure.

Businesses need effective and well-drafted terms and conditions that protect them commercially. It’s amazing how quickly customers will respond when faced with additional interest or late payment charges.

Do yourself a favour – let the legal documentation and process take the strain for you.

4. “The Great in Great Britain”

One of the great things about this country is our entrepreneurial spirit and creativity.

In 2018, Hybrid worked with many start-ups, especially in the fast-moving retail goods/food and drink sector.

We’ve helped some great start-up brands over the years, one of our favourite examples being Jimmy’s® Iced Coffee. That R symbol after their name means registered trade mark, and we helped the team at Jimmy’s secure it.

But not all business owners get this.

Imagine. An entrepreneur has toiled to come up with a brilliant idea, developed a brand, sourced a manufacturer and developed and executed a sales and marketing plan.

But after all that, they fail to protect their intellectual property and leave themselves open to someone else copying them, or they discover that they have inadvertently infringed someone else’s intellectual property rights. They also miss a trick to bring gravitas and presence to their brand and business.

The answer is quite simple and a lot less expensive than many entrepreneurs think.

Protect your intellectual property.

5. “You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business”

We always ask prospective clients – what is your biggest challenge? Over this past year, the most common answer has been connected with employees or staff.

It might be recruiting the right people or bringing out the best in millennials. Or it might be that a business needs to increase the productivity of its team and the best way to do that is increasing engagement and motivation. Equally, it could be around less positive aspects such as managing under-performance or a disciplinary matter.

The two biggest expenditure items in most businesses are buildings and people. Buildings are pretty constant, but people…well, that’s a different story.

One of the foundations of a great people strategy is making sure your HR and employment resource is in order, whether it’s ensuring your employment contracts and staff handbooks are up to date or your processes for managing holidays and sickness are clear and simple.

Laying these foundations will free your time to focus on the more important people issues – like getting the most from your team.

Two final thoughts. Firstly – whether you employ 5 people or 500, these principles are just as important. Secondly – getting professional help needn’t cost the earth and also doesn’t have to tie you into a long-term commitment.

So that’s the 2018 key themes from Hybrid Legal; we can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

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