Businesses to gain free legal insights at Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday event

Businesses to gain free legal insights at Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday event

Innovative legal firm, iLaw, has once again been invited to attend Small Business Sunday, or #SBS, as it prepares for its 10th-anniversary event in February.

The London-based practice is a long-time supporter of the annual #SBS show and this year will be extending its help further by opening a free legal clinic, where guests can speak to members of their experienced team.

#SBS was created by Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis in 2010 to recognise up and coming entrepreneurs by sharing their stories online.

Every Monday night at 8pm, Theo selects his favourite six entrepreneurs from posts that used the #SBS hashtag.

These six winners are then re-tweeted to nearly 500,000 followers, giving them a free marketing boost, entry into the #SBS network of like-minded businesses and access to the free annual event.

Now in its 10th year, the show will be held on Friday 28 February 2020 at a secret location in Birmingham known only to SBS winners. It will offer a day of advice, networking and an opportunity for winners to collect a certificate and get a picture with Theo.

Justin Ellis, a Director at iLaw, said: “It is incredible to think that for the last 10 years business up and down the country have been able to benefit from #SBS.

“Theo has worked really hard to create a network, consisting of thousands of innovative businesses, and we are excited that we can play some role in advising them and helping them on their way to success.”

As a provider of legal services to a number of start-ups and established businesses in the tech, media and film sectors, iLaw has proudly sponsored the #SBS campaign since 2013.

Thanking the firm for their support, Theo Paphitis said: “The annual #SBS event is a key date in my calendar, as is a brilliant litmus test to see how the UK’s small businesses are doing.

“Having businesses like iLaw on board as our sponsor means that the #SBS winners get a brilliant day full of advice and networking – and all for free!”

To find out more about Small Business Sunday and the upcoming event, please visit www.theopaphitissbs.com

8 important elements to creating a successful employment contract in the tech sector

8 important elements to creating a successful employment contract in the tech sector

Hiring staff can be an exciting part of running a business and is often an essential element in the growth of a company.

The tech sector is no different and with a growing pool of talent out there for businesses to tap into you may be chomping at the bit to welcome your next team member.

However, when employing a skilled professional it is important to put the right foundations in place to properly protect you and your business.

This is where the creation of an employment contract come into play. An employment contract ensures that both you and your employee have an understanding of what is expected from each of you during the term of employment.

Having a robust contract in place can help to prevent disputes arising in future and will give your employee a better appreciation of their rights, as well as their responsibilities and obligations.

Disputes can be costly, lead to a loss of productivity and damage to the reputation of your business, so creating a ‘water tight’ contract is an essential part of being an employer.

Whether you are a new employer just starting out or an experienced entrepreneur or owner, here are some important elements that you should consider within your employment contracts.

 The Basics

 Every contract of employment must contain some basic information, such as job title, the length of employment, working hours, probationary periods, the company or department in which the employee will work and to who the person should report. Although this may seem obvious it is this that confirms the employee/employer relationship.

 Remuneration

A contract should also lay out how the person will be paid for the work they provide, including any pre-agreed arrangements, such as pay increases after a certain period of time or the offering of bonuses and shares. These will probably have been agreed prior to the commencement of work, but it is important that they are included within a person’s employment contract and updated regularly to reflect any changes.

Benefits

In the modern tech work force, the benefits offered to an employee can be important as pay, so they should also be included in a person’s contract.

These could include gym memberships, the provision of a mobile or laptop or arrangements for working from home or flexible hours of employment.

It is important that these are included and clearly spelled out so that staff understand what they are being offered and the limitations of the benefits provided.

Obligations and responsibilities

 Employments contracts should outline each employees’ responsibilities, their roles within their business and their relationship to the business, i.e. whether they are a temporary employee, a self-employed person working on behalf of the business or even if they are being seconded from another company.

It could also outline expectations for appearance, including clothing requirements and your obligations to them.

Firms such as Uber have faced legal action due to the misclassification of workers and with the more informal nature of some tech firms it is easy to get caught out if you aren’t clear and transparent in work contracts.

Confidentiality

It is important that you protect your business and its ideas. Including a confidentiality agreement within a contract of employment is therefore important and will make an employee liable for action if they give away commercially sensitive material.

It is also important to consider their period after employment with your business and the prospect of them moving to a rival firm.

It is therefore useful to include clauses and covenants that are triggered in this scenario, this can include, but are not limited to:

  • Garden Leave – a garden leave clause in a contract of employment allows an employer to require the employee to not enter into new employment for a period of time in exchange for the continuation of pay and benefits.
  • non-competition covenants – restricts a former employee working in similar employment for a competitor;
  • non-solicitation covenants – prevents the stealing of clients/customers/suppliers of the former employer.

Social Media Policy

Social media plays an important role in the lives of individuals, but also in the reputation of businesses. It is, therefore, critical that employers spell out their expectations when it comes to how employees interact with the business online. This may vary from role-to-role, but its ultimate aim should be to prevent reputational damage or sharing of sensitive data via social media platforms.

IT Policy

Similar to a social media policy, firms should also include a detailed outline of how IT systems should be used and what is and isn’t allowed.

This can include the steps that employees should take to ensure that client data is properly protected and the use of computer equipment for personal tasks.

Other considerations

An employment contract is just one of a number of documents that should be presented to new employees. Businesses should also consider the employee handbook that they offer, which should outline rules surrounding harassment and discrimination, and the training that needs to be offered.

Failing to prepare an appropriate employment contract could leave you and your business exposed to a tribunal claim, reputational damage or the loss of valuable information, expertise or clients to a competitor.

This is only a basic guide to drafting an employment contract and employers are strongly encouraged to seek professional advice. While a number of employment contract templates do exist online, these are not likely to be tailored to the specific needs of your business.

To find out how our employment team at iLaw can help you with the drafting of your employment documents and policies, please contact Julian Cox by emailing  julian.cox@ilaw.co.uk

Pitfalls of franchising and how to avoid them

Pitfalls of franchising and how to avoid them

By Matthew Poli, Director at iLaw

Starting a business from scratch can be stressful, so it is easy to see the appeal of joining a franchise. Similarly, if you already own an existing brand and want to expand, but don’t necessarily want to take the risk on your own setting up a franchise can be an effective way of growing your business.

Of course, each of these scenarios brings with it some unique challenges that aren’t faced by those operating on their own.

To help franchisees and franchisors gain a greater appreciation of the challenges they face, we have put together a list of some of the common pitfalls that they face.

Research 

Franchisees

Entering a franchise can feel like stepping into the unknown, even when it is an established brand. The level of investment required can differ greatly from franchise to franchise, so it is important to find out the total start-up and franchise fee. You need to be clear on how much you are willing to put in and anticipated returns.

Franchisors

It may seem like franchisors are willing to just let anyone join as long as they have the required capital, but this is rarely the case. You are, after all, handing your brand over to someone who is unknown and it is easy for them to devalue or compromise your intellectual property. You should take time to find out about the person looking to take the franchise; whether they have previous business experience and whether they have been successful or not. If it doesn’t feel right then it is OK to reject their application, as long as it is on legitimate grounds.

Talk 

Franchisees

Franchisors will often offer to introduce you to other franchisees. This will be a good opportunity to find out more about what is involved, but take everything with a pinch of salt. They are likely to only want to introduce those who have achieved success. Ask existing franchisees what the franchisor’s support is like and if the turnover/profit projections are realistic. If possible, try to speak to less successful franchisees to find out if it is an issue with them or the franchise itself that is holding them back.

Franchisors

It is strongly encouraged that you open up a clear dialogue early on with those interested in joining your franchise. This is an opportunity to learn more about them, their level of risk and their ability to continually invest in the franchises they hope to open. You need to ensure that you can work with them regularly; a clash of personalities may be an early sign that things may not work out.

Support 

Franchisees

Most franchisors offer training and support to ensure the business has the best chance of success, but this can vary in its intensity, and may be charged for. Make sure that you are being offered sufficient support and training by the franchisor to meet your needs and level of experience.

Franchisors 

Training is an important element in protecting your brand and reputation. It is one area where you can ensure that the message of compliance is driven home, so ongoing support should be offered alongside a regular schedule of assessment. The most successful franchises, like of McDonalds and KFC, do this particularly well and have invested significantly in their support structures.

Be Aware of Fees and Costs

Both parties 

As well as an upfront fee, franchisors tend to charge a management service fee, which will usually be collected either as a percentage of monthly turnover or via the supply of the raw materials used to produce saleable products. They may also impose conditions on the sale of the franchise, for instance the requirement to pay a fee to obtain their consent to transfer the business.

Both parties need to clearly understand the structure and level of fees and agree on them. This should include a breakdown of what the franchisee will receive in return.

Many franchisees are surprised at the cost of getting their business off the ground and tend to fail to consider the cost of training and marketing, which are often part of the fee structure within franchises.

Franchise Agreements 

Franchisees

Franchises are often built around a strict set of guidelines and rules, which tend to be agreed upon via a franchise agreement. This will also include details of the fee structure that has been agreed and will often also mention expectations of the franchisee, such as not bringing the brand into disrepute.

These legally binding contracts can run for a term of five years or more. As such they can contain procedures for the early termination of the franchise relationship, similar to a break clause that will allow a franchisor to remove the right to operate under their brand.

Similarly, it may include a clause that allows a franchisee to sell their franchise or depart early, but this could result in a financial penalty.

The agreement may seek to make you personally liable (should you chose to enter into the franchise agreement through a limited company), not only for past-due royalties and advertising fees, but also any damages related to your franchise so you must have the agreement review carefully by a solicitor with experience in this area.

Franchisors

Franchise agreements are an essential part of franchising your business and will dictate how you can manage the franchisees within your group. It is, therefore, essential that they are robust and comprehensive.

Many franchisors have fallen foul of UK competition law by imposing conditions that prevent franchisees from being competitive this includes dictating the prices at which franchisees can sell their products or services or prohibiting them from selling online.

Many websites offer free templates for you to use, but these may not take into consideration the particular needs of your business, so it is best to seek independent legal advice if you are considering creating a franchise.

How iLaw can help

Whether you are looking to establish a franchise as an expansion of your own business or if you are looking to join an existing franchise as a franchisee, you must seek independent legal advice. We have helped with the creation of franchises in several sectors and can help with a variety of matters. Please contact us today to find out how we can support you.

iLaw gets behind innovative art installation at the RSA

iLaw gets behind innovative art installation at the RSA

City of London commercial legal firm iLaw is focused on assisting some of the UK’s most innovative projects and companies, which is why it has pledged its support to a new art exhibition The Enki Experience at The Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

The new art installation will be available to view for the next 12 weeks at the RSA and focuses heavily on the concept of sustainability and purpose beyond profit.

As part of its mission to invest in projects that seek to advance discussions on a broad range of topics, iLaw is excited to be teaming up with sculpture Ellen Mulcrone and Alex Lambie – the entrepreneur and multi-media artist behind the campaign.

The exhibition is made up of a distinctive wooden sculpture, as well as audio recordings and sounds that seek to engage guests on the issues that face the modern world, including the pressures placed on corporate entities to balance the needs of shareholders, employees and the wider environment.

Speaking about the exhibition, Alex Lambie said: “ This installation opens a programme of work to engage individuals, communities and businesses with concepts, tools and practices that offer alternatives to the rivalry and greed through which consumer society has previously perceived problems and sought solutions.

“Our work shares a new prism through which to innovate with a true connection to compassion. iLaw’s support has been key to the development of this installation and further events starting in 2020”

Tom Clark, a Director at iLaw, said: “Commercially astute businesses are increasingly recognising the need to embrace sustainability and are under greater pressure from customers, shareholders and their peers to act ethically and ensure that the environment is considered in their actions.

“The Enki Experience takes a unique approach to this issue and we are proud to be sponsoring this forward-thinking and engaging exhibition.”

To raise awareness of the issues highlighted by the installation, the team behind the project hope to hold an event in 2020 aimed at organisations involved in corporate social responsibility and patrons of the arts.

To find out more about the Enki Experience, please visit https://www.withenki.org/rsainstallation

iLaw assists TV personality and entrepreneur, Spencer Matthews, with launch of low-alcohol drinks company

iLaw assists TV personality and entrepreneur, Spencer Matthews, with launch of low-alcohol drinks company

Spencer Matthews’ The Clean Liquor Company has released its first product, CleanGin, after seeking expert advice from innovative legal firm iLaw.

The London-based practice works with a variety of start-ups and entrepreneurs, assisting with the creation of contracts, the sourcing of funding, and importantly, the protection of intellectual property.

The experienced team at iLaw worked closely with Spencer and his team on a range of issues, including the registration of the brand’s trade marks, to ensure the product was delivered on time.

The firm was excited to work with the former reality TV star who created the “ultra-low” alcohol CleanGin. Bottled at 1.2 per cent ABV and containing only two calories per 25ml serving, the drink has been designed as a new healthy choice for the growing number of people seeking alternatives to high alcohol spirits.

Spencer Matthews, the founder of The Clean Liquor Company, said: “Sobriety is a lifestyle choice I made a few months before becoming a dad. I quickly realised that the drink choices for the sober curious were limited, mainly made of sugary and unhealthy options. So, I worked with a great team to build a premium no/low brand and flagship product that offers a new option for people.”

CleanGin will be available from January in nearly 500 Sainbury’s stores across the UK as well as being served in some of the country’s top pubs and clubs.

Justin Ellis, a Director at iLaw, said: “We work with a wide range of innovative brands that are fundamentally changing the sectors in which they operate. We have a passion for providing proactive, forward-thinking advice and support so it was great to team up The Clean Liquor Company, which is leading the way in the area of ultra-low alcohol beverages. We are delighted to see that the launch has gone so well and we look forward to providing ongoing support to this exciting brand.”