A checklist for your business in the new year

In order to make sure you have your bases covered for your business in the new year, here is a checklist for this month to ensure you’re starting the new year on a good foot:

  1. Ensure corporate formalities are being observed. This is really simple, but it’s good to check in on from time to time. Make sure that all accounts are separate (no commingling personal and business money). Ensure annual reports are filed, annual board meetings (if required) are recorded and all other periodic requirements are fulfilled.
  2. Pay taxes. This is a no-brainer. File state and federal taxes.
  3. Check on the state of IP assignments. Think back on the prior year. If there were any contractors or vendors that produced something for the business, check back on those agreements and make sure the business owns their contributions (or has whatever license it needs for its purposes). For example, if a game developer used 3 art contractors last year, now is a good time to double check that each assigned the rights to their contributions in the contractor agreement.
  4. Check on contract compliance. Year end is a good time to check on ongoing requirements in agreements and make sure they are being observed. For example, agreements with reporting requirements may ask for a year-end report. It is also a good time to check on notice and termination requirements for any agreements that a business might be on the fence about or want to get out of. Some agreements may allow for termination for convenience but only with a very long notice.
  5. Clean up the cap table and ledgers. If they aren’t being managed by a third party (like a lawyer), the new year is a good time for a business owner to revisit the cap table and check that all transactions from the prior year are accurately reflected. Even if it is being managed by a third party, it could be wise to check in with them and see that they are keeping everything up to date.
  6. Consider federal trademark registration. For businesses that derive value from a unique brand identity or product or service name, federal trademark registration can help ensure exclusive rights to that identity or name. If not already registered, application could go into this year’s to do list.
  7. Update (or create) terms of use, privacy policies and EULAs. For those doing business online, or maintaining a web presence, having solid terms of use and and accurate privacy policy is critical, but often overlooked or given scant attention. For businesses selling software or interactive entertainment products, end user license agreements (EULAs) are equally important. The new year is a good reminder to revisit and make sure they are all up to date.
  8. Establish/revise employment policies. Another housekeeping measure might be checking in on a business’s employee handbook. If a business has grown substantially, for example, it might be time to update. Likewise, if the business has changed (say, adopted a bring your own device or unlimited vacation policy), those should be formalized.
  9. Make sure you’ve got your tax information for all of your employees, contractors and vendors. This includes updated W-9s, 1099s and especially any change of address information.
  10. Back up your data. This is a good thing for everyone to do, regardless of the time of year. Back up the information on your cell phone, your computer, your business systems, etc.
  11. Review access to all of your systems. It won’t take more than five minutes – review your commonly used systems or work software, like Quickbooks, and make sure nobody has access that shouldn’t have access.
  12. Think through the next 12 months. Is there anything you should give your accountant or lawyer a heads-up on in advance?
  13. Set goals. Everyone is thinking about exercising more, spending less and losing weight, but it is important to review KPIs and set goals for businesses, too!
  14. Pat yourself on the back. Congratulations on getting through last year! Here’s to making the new one even better!