You can’t fight the law. Once you decided to open a children’s gym, you raised a number of legal questions about how and where you’ll operate that gym. The time to review and resolve the legal issues that surround opening a children’s gym is early on in the business planning process. You’ll discover that your answers to certain questions will impact other business and legal decisions you’ll have to make.
Put together your “board of advisors”
Don’t try to tackle this legal stuff alone. In fact, you don’t want to tackle your business on your own. Every business has a board. Some, like large public corporations, are required by law to have a board of directors to advise and guide the business. Small businesses don’t have formal boards, but you increase your chances of success when you put together a small band of trusted, expert professionals to guide you. Your board of advisors should include:
- Legal advisor(s): Your board of advisors should include at least one attorney. Your gym will have a variety of legal issues to address. There are firms with attorneys who specialize in small businesses and will have expertise in the wide range of legal needs you’ll face.
- Financial advisor(s): You need to access professional advice on accounting, tax, and financial planning. A comprehensive gym software management system that integrates with QuickBooks or other trusted small business accounting software can give you the help and information you need on a daily basis. However, for legal and long-range financial issues, you need to engage the experts.
- Insurance advisor: Finding an insurance broker you trust and who is proficient in dealing with the insurance needs of a kids’ gym will be worth their weight in gold. Gold you won’t have to pay out because you’re covered!
- Business mentor: Ideally, you can find a mentor or business coach with experience in the children’s gym business. If you can’t think of someone in your network with the experience you need, you may be able to connect with a business mentor online.
You don’t need to convene an actual meeting of your board (although that could be beneficial). It’s not that kind of board. But do be in touch with them regularly. As your business grows, new issues will arise where you’ll need your board’s help. Whenever you’re planning to make a big change to your business, consult with them first so it can be done right.
Common legal issues for a gym startup
There is a myriad of legal details you’ll have to sort out. We’ll focus on the big five legal issues here:
- Deciding on the legal structure of your business. If you do nothing on this issue: Congratulations, you’re now a sole proprietor. You don’t want to be a sole proprietor. You want your kids’ gym to exist as a legal entity separate from you and your finances. Otherwise, you’re personally on the hook for any taxes, legal liability, or other financial obligations. Every state has a variety of small business structure options and your attorney can step you through your options.
- Identifying and securing any required business licenses. The type of business license, if any, required will vary widely state to state. Some may just require a business register with the state. Others may require a license and impose certain requirements that must be met to get a license. There may be a more precise type of business license for a gym in your state, which could carry additional requirements. You’ll also want to find out whether there are any licensing requirements that people in certain roles might be required to have.
- Local zoning and permitting. Where your gym is located impacts the size of your local market and your gym’s revenue potential. However, you can’t just open a gym anywhere. Is your preferred location zoned for business or a business that will run from early in the morning into the evening? Will you need any building permits? Can you build on the location what you imagine building? What sort of signage can you put up? What are the health and safety inspection procedures? These issues are handled at by the local government.
- Getting your gym and yourself properly and fully insured. Breaking it down to the most general framework, you have three areas that require insurance: your business (e.g. someone gets hurt and wants to sue the gym), your physical location (e.g. there’s a fire or your gym gets robbed), and your people (e.g. healthcare and business owner liability protection). State or local law may specify insurance requirements in terms of coverage types and minimum amounts. Your insurance broker will help you find the balance between sufficient legal and desired coverage and premiums and deductibles so you have peace of mind.
- Protecting your gym’s brand. Everything from your gym’s name to signage to logo is all intellectual property (IP) you want to protect. These are valuable assets of your gym. An IP lawyer will file the necessary registrations to protect your use of your visual brand, which will prevent others from using it without your permission. Your IP lawyer will also run the necessary searches to ensure you aren’t inadvertently stealing someone else’s intellectual property.
Taking that legal leap
Legal issues can seem daunting. Yet setting up your gym’s legal organization the right way, right from the start, is a great stress reliever. Take the time – early on in your business planning process – to sort out your legal issues. Find a good board of advisors. Rely on them and keep them close, as you’ll be regularly consulting with them – especially when it’s time to expand!