Lawyer Katherine Hawes talks the do's and dont's to avoid landing your business in hot water.

As a small business owner, you are forced to wear many hats, leaving the legalities of your business as a more of a 'nice to have'. However, if you want to protect your business, you need to stay on the right side of the law.

The following five tips can be used to minimise the legal issues that may arise for paint or body shop business:

Understand your business structure

There are four main business structures commonly used by small business in Australia. These are sole trader, company, partnership and trust. In order to determine which business structure is most suitable for your business, you need to consider the license you may require, taxation, whether you want to be considered an employee or an owner, your personal liability, ongoing costs and how much control you have over the business as a whole. In order to find out more about each business structure, you can visit:

Protecting your intellectual property

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sole trader or employ 50 people, you need to ensure that your intellectual property is protected. Intellectual property is what differentiates your business from your competitors and it can be your company logo, design or a new invention. For example, the logo you use on your panel beating website. To ensure that replicates or uses a similar logo, you can register a trademark with IP Australia. For further information on this, you can visit:

Website terms and conditions

Having appropriate terms and conditions on your website is key. Even if every other aspect of your business is running smoothly, a lack of terms and conditions could mean the demise of all your hard work! Terms and conditions fulfil your legal obligations and protect you from legal liabilities that may arise. If you sell any of your goods (such as paint or auto body parts) or services (such as panel beating or car servicing), it is extremely important to have water tight terms and conditions as you will also be collecting payment information. Aim to include the following clauses in your T's and C's.

Privacy policy,
Cookie policy,
Website ownership,
Visitors agreement,
Limiting liability
Third party material
Consequences of use of the website
Amending terms and conditions
Copyright information
Refund policy

Social media rules and regulations

Social media is an excellent tool for advertising and promoting your small business. However it also poses a huge risk because just as quickly as good news spreads, so does the bad! Therefore, It is your responsibility to ensure that the content on your social media profiles is accurate, irrespective of whether you were the original author of it. Remember. If you employ staff, it is important that they do not jeopardise your business through their personal social media profiles. To alleviate this risk, you can introduce and enforce a business wide social media policy that establishes what can and cannot be said about your business online.

Protecting your reputation

Protecting your business reputation is extremely important for a small business. You’ve worked hard to earn your reputation and the clients you have within the car repairs industry so you need to protect this going forward.
Word of mouth reviews can be difficult to track but you can easily monitor what is being said about your business online by doing a quick Google search or setting up a Google Alert for your business. You can also keep track of your online reputation by monitoring your social media pages and checking any comments, responses, shares or reviews.

With over 20 years’ legal and business experience, Katherine Hawes is the founder and principal solicitor of Aquarius Lawyers. To find out more about her fixed rate small business packages, visit

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