Seven Common Legal Pitfalls of Owning a Business And the Proven Ways to Prevent Them – Pitfall #6

Owning a business is exciting at times, frustrating at others, but always demanding.  There are so many decisions to make on a daily basis, and often, as a business owner, you not only have to make the decisions, but must also roll up your sleeves to make those decisions bear fruit.  One decision you should make early as a business owner is determining who will be your trusted advisors to guide you through the legal and accounting issues your business will encounter.  Selecting a professional to assist you with legal and accounting decisions is vital to launching and maintaining a viable enterprise, because decisions made early in the formation of a business can have far reaching consequences down the road.

In my practice, I often see clients who chose to handle matters without engaging attorneys and accountants early in the process, and later failed to recognize issues as they arose during the day-to-day operations of the business. Those decisions can cost business owners far more money down the road than hiring the appropriate professionals in the beginning, and can have a significant effect on the ultimate success or failure of the business.  I have found those mistakes fall into seven basic categories. This is Pitfall number 6 of 7 common pitfalls I see businesses owners make. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing all 7 of these pitfalls and proven ways to prevent them.


Pitfall # 6 – Failure to Understand Personal Guarantees

Often a business may not be creditworthy on its own, and lenders and trade vendors will seek a personal guaranty from an owner, officer, manager or affiliate of a company. It is important to understand the type of guaranty an individual or affiliate of the business is being asked to execute. Most business owners think they will only be liable after all resources of the company have been exhausted when they sign a personal guaranty. They are surprised to learn that today most commercial guaranty agreements are unconditional, unlimited guaranties of payment. Generally, that means the guarantor is also primarily liable for the debt and can be looked to for payment of the debt without the lender first seeking collection from the company or its assets. Close attention should be paid to any request to execute a personal guaranty.

Also, many trade vendors include a personal guaranty provision at the end of their business contracts. Accordingly, many times owners end up signing a guaranty, without fully understanding the import of what they are signing. All business owners should be looking for personal guaranty provisions contained within a contract and looking for a separate signature line when signing vendor contracts. If a business owner is unsure of what the vendor is asking for in the contract, he or she can always ask to have the document reviewed by an attorney before signing.

About the Author

Ashley Rusher

Ashley focuses her practice on Outside General Counsel Services and Business Bankruptcy and Creditor’s Rights Practice Areas. She is an effective, results-driven advocate for her clients.  Her background of 30 years in business bankruptcies, distressed debt workouts, problem loan recovery, and real estate title and commercial litigation provides her with a solid foundation of general business, accounting and legal skills.