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LLC Operating Agreements | Why You Need One and What to Include

By: Jack Nicholaisen author image
Business Initiative

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are a popular choice for entrepreneurs and business owners due to their flexibility, simplicity, and protection from personal liability. However, many new business owners overlook the importance of drafting a solid LLC operating agreement.

This legally binding document outlines the rules and procedures for your company’s management, financial provisions, and dispute resolution.

In this article, we’ll explore the significance of an LLC operating agreement, its essential components, and practical tips for drafting a comprehensive and effective agreement.

The Purpose of an LLC Operating Agreement

An LLC operating agreement serves several vital purposes:

  1. Legal protection: It helps safeguard your limited liability status, preventing any potential personal liability for business debts or legal issues.

  2. Hierarchical Customization: It allows you to customize your company’s management and operational structure according to your specific needs and preferences.

  3. Conflict resolution: It provides a clear framework for resolving disputes among members, reducing the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation.

  4. Clarification: It clarifies verbal agreements and expectations among members, ensuring a smooth and efficient operation of the business.

Consider the case of Gatz Properties, LLC v. Auriga Capital Corp., where the absence of a well-drafted operating agreement led to a lengthy and costly legal battle. Had the parties involved created a comprehensive agreement, they could have avoided this dispute altogether.

➤ TAKE INITIATIVE: Maximize your Operating Agreement

Management Structure

There are two primary management structures for LLCs: member-managed and manager-managed. Your operating agreement should clearly specify which structure your company will adopt.

Member-Managed LLC

In a member-managed LLC, all members are actively involved in the day-to-day management of the business. Each member has an equal say in decision-making, and all major decisions require a majority vote. This structure is ideal for small LLCs where all members are actively involved in the business and want to have a say in its management.

In a member-managed LLC, the members are responsible for:

  • Making day-to-day decisions
  • Overseeing the company’s operations
  • Managing the company’s finances
  • Maintaining company records and paperwork
  • Filing taxes and other legal documents

Manager-Managed LLC

In a manager-managed LLC, one or more designated managers (who may be members or non-members) are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the company. This structure is preferred when some members prefer a more passive role or when the company requires specialized management expertise.

In a manager-managed LLC, the managers are responsible for:

  • Making day-to-day decisions
  • Overseeing the company’s operations
  • Managing the company’s finances
  • Maintaining company records and paperwork
  • Filing taxes and other legal documents

The members of a manager-managed LLC have limited involvement in the day-to-day management of the business and are not responsible for making major decisions. Instead, they have the right to vote on certain matters, such as:

  • Removing a manager
  • Amending the operating agreement
  • Approving major business decisions, such as mergers or acquisitions.

It’s essential to outline the roles and responsibilities of each member or manager, along with decision-making and voting procedures in your LLC’s operating agreement.

Financial Provisions

Your LLC operating agreement should address key financial aspects of your business, including:

  1. Capital contributions: Specify the amount of money or property each member will contribute to the company and the process for making additional contributions in the future.

  2. Profit and loss allocation: Determine how profits and losses will be distributed among members. This can be in proportion to their capital contributions or based on another agreed-upon method.

  3. Distributions: Establish a method for distributing funds to members, such as a regular schedule or upon meeting specific financial benchmarks.

  4. Buyout provisions: Set rules for how a member can sell or transfer their ownership interest, including the right of first refusal, buy-sell agreements, and valuation methods.

Take the case of Fisk Ventures, LLC v. Segal, where a poorly defined buyout provision resulted in a legal dispute. A well-drafted operating agreement could have prevented this conflict and protected the parties involved.

Dispute Resolution

Disagreements among members are inevitable, but a well-written operating agreement can help prevent conflicts from escalating. Your agreement should include:

  1. Dispute resolution mechanisms: Specify the methods for resolving disputes, such as mediation, arbitration, or litigation.

  2. Decision-making procedures: Define the voting processes and quorum requirements for making decisions.

  3. Deadlock resolution: Describe the steps to be taken if members are unable to reach a consensus on a critical issue, such as seeking advice from a neutral third party or dissolving the company.

Practical Tips for Drafting an Effective Operating Agreement

  1. Consult an attorney: Seek legal advice to ensure your operating agreement complies with state laws and addresses the unique needs of your business.

  2. Keep it flexible: Make provisions for amending the agreement as your business grows and circumstances change.

  3. Be detailed: Clearly outline each member’s rights, responsibilities, and obligations to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.

  4. Consider the future: Address potential scenarios, such as adding new members, the death or incapacity of a member, or the dissolution of the company.

➤ TAKE INITIATIVE: Follow our step-by-step process to craft the optimal Operating Agreement

In Summary…

A well-drafted LLC operating agreement is crucial for the success and stability of your business. It provides legal protection, allows customization of your management structure, and establishes a framework for resolving disputes.

Don’t leave your business’s future to chance…

Take the time to create a comprehensive and effective operating agreement tailored to your company’s needs.

Schedule a consultation call with us today to ensure your agreement is legally sound and aligns with your business objectives.


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About the Author

jack nicholaisen
Jack Nicholaisen

Jack Nicholaisen is the founder of After acheiving the rank of Eagle Scout and studying Civil Engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), he has spent the last 4 years disecting the mess of informaiton online about LLCs in order to help aspiring entrepreneurs and established business owners better understand everything there is to know about starting, running, and growing Limited Liability Companies and other business entities.