Corporate bylaws are the legal rules a corporation is operated by after the business is formed. Once the organization has a legal entity that has been filed with its state, the board of directors will typically decide on the bylaws by which the company will live going forward. Some examples of bylaws include listing a registered agent and defining the classes of stock for company ownership. To see what bylaws look like, you can see Microsoft’s at this link.
One of the main reasons LLCs became so popular for small businesses is that bylaws and other corporation complexities are not required. Instead, the business creates an operating agreement at the time the legal entity is formed. Many states don’t even require an operating agreement for an LLC to be formed and start operating. If you’re interested in forming an LLC you can learn more about your state’s requirements by checking out our State Startup Guides.
Bylaws help ensure that your corporation runs smoothly. These rules outline the internal rules of your business, from a legal standpoint. The bylaws outline how decisions are legally made, who gets to vote, and the structure of how it works. If your business is very large, or you plan for it to be, then this will be helpful to make sure there’s organization to the chaos of both making big decisions and having a large ownership structure.
The bylaws are important for all corporations to have, especially if you end up becoming a publicly traded one. This is because the bylaws outline how the official books are to be kept and what the reporting timeline looks like. Anyone wanting to invest in your business will want strict rules around how they’ll be able to keep up to date with what’s happening inside the organization’s performance.
The bylaws also outline how the stock of the company is going to be divided up. It’s important for any business that plans to sell stock or take on investment money in the future to have a strategy behind the various classes of stock and how those stocks are transferred between owners. There also needs to be set rules around qualifying stockholders and knowing exactly who has a right to make business decisions and who doesn’t.
However, the main reason you’ll create bylaws when you’re still a smaller company is that it’s required for all corporations to do so. What many small business owners don’t know is that you can start out as an LLC, which has more relaxed rules, and then as you start to grow you can switch to a corporation later. If you’re unsure of what the success of your business might be then this might be your best bet.
Note: As of the date of publication, the only states that require your LLC to create an operating agreement are Delaware, New York, Maine, California, and Missouri.
All states have rules around how businesses are meant to operate and interact. If you’re not required to create bylaws or an operating agreement for LLCs, you might still want to in order to counteract some rules in your state.
For example, some states might have a default rule that all profits are evenly distributed or that the legal responsibility for a company’s actions is evenly distributed among shareholders. In many cases, you can actually get around these rules by having very strict bylaws that say the profits or legal responsibility is broken down much differently than the state’s rule.
Bylaws are pretty straightforward, like most legal contracts. The bylaws are not registered with the other incorporation documents that you provide to your state, but they can be equally important to operating your business. While you don’t legally file the bylaws with your state, it doesn’t make them any less enforceable. The bylaws are binding as soon as a majority of the board of directors votes them into action.
The size of your corporation’s bylaws will heavily depend on the size of your business. You may want more relaxed bylaws early on and then you may want to enact more strict rules right before you take the company public. Things like the number of directors the business has are also subject to change as time goes on and you grow in both revenue and employee count.
Typically whatever the bylaws say is the law for your business. Legal entities typically have the right to operate internally in any way that the majority of shareholders agree to. This means that while you’re legally bound to your bylaws, you have a lot of flexibility in how you can set up your business to operate the way you need.
The creation of bylaws is simple from a legal standpoint. All you have to do is draft them and get a majority of the board of directors to vote “yes” on enacting the document. There aren’t a lot of rules that restrict you on the actual creation of your bylaws in terms of what can be included in them, but there are many common things that you should include to make the legal operation of your business clear and concise.
Some of the most common corporate bylaws include:
This list isn’t all-inclusive for every business. If you need complex bylaws, you should partner with a lawyer that is experienced in setting up businesses and enacting bylaws for many different types of businesses.
The real answer to whether or not your business needs bylaws is that it really depends. If you’re starting a corporation then you’ll need to draft a set of bylaws. However, if you’re a smaller business or unsure of what direction you want to take your new business, then you may benefit from starting out as an LLC, which means you won’t need corporate bylaws. We do recommend that you still craft an operating agreement, even if it’s not required in your state, especially if your business has more than one owner.
Whether you’re getting started with your corporation and need to enact specific bylaws for your business, or you instead want your legal entity to be an LLC, we can help. My Company Works has completed tens of thousands of business formations and our packages include an Operating Agreement (for LLCs) and Bylaws (for a corporation).
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2019 at 2:40 pm and is filed under Incorporation, Corporate/LLC Compliance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.