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10 legal tasks for an import or export business

Your training and experience shapes how you investigate and understand a business. Accountants look for numbers, geeks ask about IT systems, and journalists seek news. As a business lawyer I read contracts. I've reviewed over 5,000 contracts in my career.

This Friday I'm running a hypothetical at an exhibition for importers and exporters. The topic is Negotiating Your Supplier and Distributor Contracts.

In preparation, I created a handout listing 10 legal tasks for exporters and importers.

Notice how the preparation work in the first series of tasks feeds into intellectual property protection and contract negotiation and drafting.

  1. business-start-up-tasks-2Select reliable specialist consultants. Ask about years of experience, reference clients, level of partner contact, availability of templates, and their costs basis (eg fixed fee, hourly rates, and commissions).
  2. Prepare now, there'll be less time when the business is in full operation. Develop a business budget, including for setting up the venture. Develop a plan that sees at least two years ahead.
  3. business-start-up-tasks-3Review available government grants including for R&D, Export Market Development Grant, and Australian Technology Showcase. Develop project plans and keep time records.
  4. For markets abroad recognise the importance of local knowledge and local contacts. Consider cultural considerations relevant to negotiations. This may involve you in using interpretation services and translation services. Markets change rapidly. How will you be monitoring market developments?
  5. business-start-up-tasks-4Conduct a cost/benefit analysis of different options, eg for transport logistics, freight forwarders, product quality checks, payment systems, and product inspection certificates.
  6. Work out how to integrate your business systems. Your business may have to have research, production, testing, marketing, distribution, delivery and communications systems that work in proper integration.
  7. business-start-up-tasks-5Secure intellectual property protections including for names (trade mark registration, domain name, business and company name), copyright ownership, and registrations of patents and designs.
  8. Conduct a feasibility study. Otherwise do thorough planning reviews assessing risks (technical, management, legal, cultural misunderstandings), work flows, and required standardised processes and ways of working.
  9. Work out your commercial needs. They will help shape distribution contract clauses - duration, quantity, quality, pricing, INCOTERMS, compliance with standards, branding and intellectual property ownership.
  10. Maintain records and documentation in preparation for dealing with any crisis that might arise.

Performance of these tasks will secure the business and commercial foundation for your business contracts. They'll be more easily understood and readily accepted. You'll make happy your customers, suppliers, stakeholders and court that review them. It's this that minimises disputes and builds wealth.


To attend this Friday's event, here are the details.

Event: Import/Export Showimport-export-show-logo
Time: 11.00 to 12.30
Date: 16 September 2011
Venue: Rosehill Gardens Event Centre, James Ruse Drive, Rosehill, Sydney


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