Online Business Forms

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Finding business forms online is easy. From stock certificate templates to employee applications to small business incorporations, it's all out there, somewhere. Finding exactly what you need is a bit more time consuming. Close, as they will tell you at a golf course, isn't close enough. Par and birdie and eagle mean pinpoint accuracy.

This applies just as well to corporate documents. The first thing to remember is that business forms are, more often than not, legal documents. All the cautions that apply to the law apply to business. At risk, in the most dire instance, is financial and legal culpability; closer to the shrug category is too high a price on a shipment, worker inefficiency on a project, or a funding proposal opportunity squandered.

Your first criteria for a business forms vendor should not be their prices. Instead, look for a comprehensive library of related articles and reports. Look as well at their client list, if it's available, and it usually is. Look at the companies that advertise with them. All these are indicators of their product quality. This sounds like common sense, and it is to a large degree. However, when you're paying for a product, you want service behind it, right?

Starting a Business

The variety of products a vendor offers might or might not be important. Maybe you're thinking about launching a business or company. In that case, you'd likely focus on business plan forms and templates, incorporation papers, and press release kits. Incorporation forms include bylaws, articles of incorporation, rights of first refusal, stock issuances, and the like.

Being able--if you're in the early stages--to compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships, and corporations would be a godsend. You might be buying a business. In that case, you'll look for noncompetition agreements, due diligence checklists, and letters of intent, to name a few.

Employment and the Law

Maybe you're thinking about human resources and hiring and firing employees and consultants. There's no need to recreate the wheel when it comes to fairly general office or business procedures. Your list might include background check permissions, employee confidentiality agreements, reference check letters, or employee appraisal forms. Sample exit interview forms and employee release agreements are also useful, though circumstances will vary from company to company.

When it comes to corporate policies--such as drugs, sexual harassment, and antidiscrimination--you have a different topic altogether. Management, human resources, and a legal team will pool their resources to draft these documents. A good start to this involved and important process is a sampling of boilerplate policies. With so many legal and financial issues at stake, this is an especially important area where recreating the wheel is a bad idea.

Keeping the Organization Rolling

Depending on the line of work a company or sole proprietor is involved in might narrow your focus on business forms vendors. Your natural inclination might be to go straight to the source for information; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a good example of a federal office that provides the public with clear and detailed instructions, if you have the time and resources to know exactly what you need.

You don't want to go to a CPA, an attorney, or a brokerage firm, however, every time you conduct a financial transaction, sign an agreement, or complete a routine assignment of lease or statement of investment. You might be issuing promissory notes as part of your work. If you're an IT firm, it would be protecting software development ideas and information. You could be completing sales contracts, raising capital, or issuing leases. Much of the work filters down to having the right forms on hand.

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