Becker & Poliakoff

Four Lessons from Ghostbusters and Unusual Halloween Laws

Four Lessons from Ghostbusters and Unusual Halloween Laws

Becker & PoliakoffAs you get ready to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, I wanted to share with you some strange laws on the books while also discussing how Ghostbusters may be the all-time greatest film for anyone interested in starting a new business. For instance, real estate sellers in Florida are generally not obligated to disclose paranormal activity like ghosts such as what was depicted in Poltergeist or Amityville Horror. But sellers are required disclose the existence of creepy crawling bugs like termites that could frighten us all on Halloween. If Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th fame were located in Florida, the sellers of that property would not have to disclose the murder that occurred on their property since murder/suicide or death are not required to be disclosed when selling property in Florida.

You may be tempted to call Ghostbusters on Halloween if you see a ghost. And Ghostbusters represents one of the best movies in American cinema about the need of adequate legal planning when starting a business.

First, crazy ideas can be highly profitable. Chasing ghosts may have sounded like a crazy idea, but as we saw in the movie, there was an immediate need in the market for ghostbusting services. Consequently, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and his team started a very profitable niche business. Companies like Microsoft, Nike and even failed companies like Blockbuster all illustrate the power of how an innovative idea, or solution to a problem, can transform the market place. Starting a business with a sound legal foundation is often one of the biggest differences between a failed business and a successful one.

Second, all small businesses need capital, especially start-ups. This is illustrated very well in one scene in Ghostbusters when we see Dan Akroyd’s character talking about how he just took out a third mortgage on his home with an excessive interest rate. So when starting a new business make sure you have enough money in the bank to help things run smoothly on a “rainy day.” And if you do need to take out a mortgage, or loan, then make sure to consult with an attorney to assess your obligations.

Third, Ghostbusters illustrates the importance of hiring a good team. There is always lots of angst whenever a small business decides to hire additional personnel. Ghostbusters may have been a very different movie/business if they had hired a different receptionist or opted not to hire a fourth team member. But when bringing on additional team members it is always vital to assess whether they should sign non-compete/non-solicitation agreements and to ensure compliance with all local and federal employment laws.

Which leads us to the fourth lesson learned from Ghostbusters. Follow the law! The real villain of Ghostbusters wasn’t Gozer. It was the EPA. The EPA threatened to shut down the Ghostbusters. And when they finally did shut them down, mass chaos ensued. If Ghostbusters had a lawyer then perhaps they could have avoided being shut down, or minimized the impact to the community as a result of being shut down.

With all of that said, please have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.