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Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations?

Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations

It’s a really important question – and one that business owners’ return to time and time again. Do I need PR or advertising to grow my business? The answer…it depends! As like most things in life, it’s situational and really depends upon your goal, budget and target audience.

In this blog, I break down some of the most common scenarios businesses face and whether ad or PR is the better strategy to address each. Let’s go!

I want immediate and guaranteed publicity for my business.

You want to start with advertisingWith advertising, you get what you pay for, rarely will it be more or less. The benefit of guaranteed media placement is that you can count on it showing up when and where you want it to. If your business needs this immediate boost in publicity and can’t risk anything less, advertising is the way to go – at least to start. Where PR can come in, is when you want to complement this with the power of organic media exposure that, when done right, can garner a whole lot of media attention for a fraction of the cost of paid placement.

I have a limited budget, but a great story to tell.

You want to start with public relations. If you have a naturally great story to tell, your business will do well with the boost of some public relations. PR thrives on taking a great story and bringing it to the forefront of media and before your target audience. With advertising, you have limited space to tell your full story, so it might not have the same impact if you try to fit it into a 15 second commercial spot or on a bill board. With PR, you gain the platform, like a featured segment on the morning news, or several paragraphs in print or online to really dig into the meat of things.

I can communicate my core message in less than 8 words.

You want to start with advertising. This is the reverse scenario of what we described above. Maybe your business is able to fully articulate its unique selling proposition in 8 words or less. In this case, you might better be suited for a strategy more focused on advertising. A short message can be easily communicated through digital ads, short commercials, sponsored social media posts and billboards. Once you determine this short message, you can advertise it consistently throughout these various facets to benefit from repetition.

I want to promote the charitable angle of my business.

You want to start with public relations. Even if your business is for-profit, you can still hitch your wagon to the promotional power of charitable giving. If your business or organization has a genuine charitable component (people can easily tell when you’re not being sincere!), this unlocks a lot of PR opportunities. Your story will more easily be picked up by local media and often TV stations or digital community calendars offer free promotion of such activities. Sure, you can also pay for this promotion, but why? When it’s charitable in nature, think PR first.

My business has some negativity publicity it needs to counteract. 

You want to start with public relationsIf you find yourself needing to counteract negative sentiment toward your business, this is a job for public relations. It’s important to add the “human” element to your business in such circumstances. For example, you may want to pitch your CEO for a media interview, host a press conference or issue a press release to address the issue. You can also implement some strategic activities to repair your brand, such as a free community event, open house or giveaway.

People are familiar with my brand, now I need to keep it top of mind.

You want to start with advertising. If you’re an established brand and your target audience is aware of who you are and what you do – congratulations! You’re ahead of most businesses out there. But seriously, this puts you in a prime position to benefit from paid advertising, because what you now need to focus on is maintaining this awareness and staying top of mind. Carefully placed digital, radio, television and/or outdoor advertisements with help you to continue to capitalize on what you’ve worked so hard to create.

What I hope is an obvious disclaimer is that every business and its particular situation is different. While I hope to provide some helpful, general advice and a starting point for your strategizing, it’s important to seek the help of experienced ad/PR professionals who know your market, understand your target audience and can help direct your messaging through the most effective channels.

Do you have another question related to how advertising and public relations are different, yet also work together? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

As a sole proprietor, you can feel like a “one man band” in your business. While there are certainly perks of running a lean operation where you answer only to yourself,  when it comes to growth, it can be hard to figure out the right way to scale your business.

After all, many people would suggest the solution is simply taking on more employees or infrastructure. But that isn’t your only option to grow. Learn from my tips for growing a business without growing your overhead.

Know Your Target Market

As a business owner, we often look at our target market in the broadest possible sense. But when you feel like you’re just about at maximum capacity for workload, you need to get smarter about knowing who your true target market really is. Quite literally, you need to raise your standards. This means focusing on people or businesses who are most likely to engage with you at a higher level, sign you in to larger, longer contracts and allow you to become efficient in the work you do from them because it’s predictable or residual.

When marketing to new clients, or when prospective clients approach you, it’s important to walk away from something that isn’t a good fit and risks pulling your attention away from clients who are.

Keep Your Bandwidth Clear

I’ve written about bandwidth before and I’ll say it again here. The most common way I see people waste time, and as a result turn away new jobs, is because they allow tasks, that can and should be completely quickly, consume their whole day or week. Every day I outline the core tasks that “must” get accomplished that day in order for everything else to stay on track. Usually this is no more than two or three items – very doable. But I stick to it! I don’t let these tasks slide into the next day just because they technically can. I wrap them up and clear my bandwidth for the next day because, more often than not, a new project comes across my desk and I’m then ready to capitalize on the extra income.

Raise Your Rates

It can make business owners uncomfortable to be faced with the decision to raise rates in order to increase income. In fact, I see most business owners try to do anything else but raise their prices, even if it means using more of their time or decreasing their margins. That doesn’t really make sense!

As I’ve found out from experience, if your project workload is so full that you don’t think you can take on one more client, you need to raise your rates. Why? Because you’re priced almost too competitively if every business around town is knocking down your door. It means you’re a steal of a deal. In most cases this isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to make more money without taking on more overhead or employees, you need to get comfortable with raising your rates to naturally eliminate your lower paying clientele.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know that these are the clients that eat up most of your time anyways. By raising your rates, you put yourself on a new playing field where you can charge more for your time and do more of the work you love for you the clients you’re passionate about serving.

Work Smarter

My final piece of advice, and it’s something you’ve likely heard before, is to work smarter, not harder. If you want to create more time in your day, you need to carefully examine your current processes and work style in order to identify the things that are sucking up time without producing results.

Maybe you’re putting way too much time into creating client proposals. Make this more efficient and streamlined! Maybe you’re giving away hours of your day at coffee meetings and networking events. Learn the art of saying no and focus on only the activities that stand to bring in direct income. When you make a conscious effort to clean up your business’s processes, you’ll be surprised by how hard you’ve been working, without really being smart about it.

Are you a sole proprietor or simply a business owner looking to maintain a lean operation? Share the ways you plan to strategically grow your business without taking on more employees or overhead!

 

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How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

It’s becoming more and more common for people to work from home, either full-time or even just a few days per week. If your career allows you to work virtually, it’s likely you’ve found yourself trying to be productive at home only to be derailed by a myriad of different distractions.

For the last seven years, I’ve grown my public relations business while working exclusively from home. During different periods of time, that included juggling work with infant babies at home and trying to schedule conference calls around nap times. The good news is, I survived! And throughout my experience working from home, I’ve developed quite a few tips and tricks to that have helped me to stay focused and productive.

Here are my go-to tips for staying focused and making the most of your time when working from home. Take a look!

Make a Mental Commute

When you work from home you don’t have the benefit of a commute. Maybe you’ve never viewed a commute as a benefit, but think about it for a moment. Physically moving from one place to another gives you the mental separation of work and home. During your commute you can get yourself in a “work” mindset. When you work from home, however, you have to make a conscious effort to change from your “home” mindset to your work one.

One tip I highly recommend is having a dedicated office space that feels separate from the rest of your house. This allows you to “commute” to your office and on that commute you can clear your mental space and walk into your office ready to work.

Stick to a Routine

Sure, working from home gives you extreme flexibility in your schedule, but this can also be a trap. To be effective when working from home, it’s so important to stick to a routine. There will certainly be days where this routine will be disrupted, but for the most part you must establish a core routine and stick to whenever you can.

Pick a routine that fits your personality and workload. Are you more effective in the early morning or do you thrive in the afternoons? Unlike a traditional office environment with a strict 9-5 schedule, you get to set your own schedule. However, once you set one, let it give your day structure and stability.

Set Your Work Hours

Along with setting a routine, you also need to establish your work hours. When working from home, it’s easy for work and personal life to blend together. If you’re not careful, you’ll find that you’re never fully present in either space, because you can’t separate the two. By setting work hours, you’ll know that from 7am until 3pm (or whatever you choose) is the time to focus exclusively on work-related tasks. Outside of that time, you must train yourself to put work aside, stop checking emails and shift your focus to friends, family and yourself.

Resist Chores and Errands

During your set work hours, resist any and all temptations to dive into tasks that are not directly related to work. I’ll admit that when working from home, I’ll throw in a load of laundry, put away dishes and tidy up some rooms as I walk through. These are small and necessary tasks that shouldn’t divert you from more than a few minutes of work time. The tasks I’m addressing here are the ones that can sabotage your work productivity for hours. Tasks like sorting out your closet, reorganizing a room or running personal errands can steal hours away from your day and can reasonably wait until the evening or weekend.

Give Yourself Small Breaks

Although you want to squeeze the most you can out of every work day, you can only accomplish this by giving yourself small breaks. Why? Because no one can be productive 100% of the work day. We all need mental and physical breaks in order to return back to a task and be even more productive than we would be otherwise. Trust me on this one. Allow yourself short, timed breaks where you can get some fresh air, stretch your legs, get a snack or cup of coffee and then return to your desk ready to work again.

Close Up Shop!

Finally and most importantly, when you’re done for the day – be done! Don’t linger around refreshing your inbox and fishing around for people to ask you for something. Disconnect, go offline and enjoy your time off. After all, you’ve earned it! The best part of having a productive work day is that you can close up shop knowing the most important tasks are taken care of and everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Do you work from a home office? How do you stay focused throughout the day? Share your tips and best practices by leaving a comment below!

 

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5 Things My Clients Have Taught Me About Public Relations

5 Things My Clients Have Taught Me About Public Relations

Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, sure I’ve taught my clients a lot. But what’s been most surprising is how much they’ve taught me in return! Working in a wide range of industries has afforded me the ability to track some powerful trends and spot inconsistencies that require us to rethink strategies.

It should be obvious, yet all too often it’s overlooked at larger firms, that every single organization must have its own unique public relations strategy if they want to see the best return on their investment. Even for businesses in the very same industry, no two strategies should be identical. It simply doesn’t work!

So what are the most valuable PR lessons my clients have taught me along the way? Here are the top PR “best practices” I have learned, not from a textbook, classroom or industry group, but from my clients!

  1. Public Relations is a lot more than writing.

When earning my Public Relations degree it felt like the vast majority of what I was doing was creating content in some form or another – pitches, press release, op-eds, video scripts, media talking points, website content, social media content – and the list goes on infinitely!

However, now as a PR consultant in “the real world” I see that content is only the starting point. My clients have taught me that the real value I bring to the table is what I do with the content I create for them. Never should this fall on their shoulders! Rather, I take the lead with our dissemination strategy, never giving up until we get the full attention the content deserves.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.

My clients have also taught me that I cannot be (nor should I desire to be) a one-man-band of solutions. Rather, I’ve learned to rely on my network of fellow contractors and consultant who serve in a variety of fields and specialties. These counterparts lend advice and expertise to the unique challenges my clients face from time to time. Whether that’s monitoring new SEO trends, understanding advertising best practices or learning how to save some money on the way we design and print a marketing piece, having a network of trusted professionals is what allows me to see my own blind spots. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know!

  1. There is no template or formula that works for everyone.

I love the vast variety of industries my clients expose me to. It’s challenging yet rewarding to be able to develop a mini expertise in so many different categories.  What this has taught me, more than anything else, is that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating a public relations strategy. Everything I do must be custom built. Sure, some similar tactics may carry over, but they will be heavily tailored so that no two email blasts, no two direct mail pieces and no two press releases will ever be the same.

Even the same event for the same client, year-after-year will continue to morph until it’s almost unrecognizable from its first year. That’s a good thing! Through this, my clients teach me that there are no shortcuts, no templates and no magic formula. The value of what I provide is complete customization in everything I do.

  1. Complacency will kill your business.

I love when clients come to me with new ideas for how they can revamp their communications efforts! It shows they value the power of communications and also that they’re keeping their eyes and ears open to new trends. What they’re also teaching me is that complacency is a business’s worst enemy. I learn from example. This same passion and drive for trying new things is what inspires me to also try new things! It’s the kick in the butt I need to always strive to take my offering of services to the next level, to forge power partnerships and to restructure business relationships so that everyone benefits.

  1. Persistence is key.

Finally and most importantly, I’ve learned that in order to see the greatest return on your investment when it comes to public relations strategy, you have to remain persistent and consistent with your efforts. We live in a society where instant results and instant gratification are expected. However, communication takes time! It also takes many touch points with your target audience for them to really start to pay attention to what you’re saying.

Through having many of my clients serve as examples, I’ve been reminded time and time again that investing in forming real, meaningful relationships with your target audience always yields the great return – and this simply takes persistence!

In your own industry, have you found that your clients or customers have actually helped you to learn things you didn’t know before? Share your story by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

Love it or hate it. Everyone, at some point in their life, will be faced with having to speak to a group of people. This could be a crowd of thousands, or a small group setting. But in order to be effective communicators, which is essential in both personal and professional life, we must embrace, not avoid public speaking.

Truly the best way to improve your public speaking is to do it often. Only then will you be able to assess and refine your skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean booking paid speaking gigs at large conferences. No, this simply means giving a presentation to peers, speaking up in a work meeting or telling a story to a group of friends – but doing so on a regular basis!

The good news is you likely already possess many qualities of a great public speaker, you just need to be intentional about utilizing them. No matter how you would rate your public speaking skills, there’s something to be learned from these 11 tips.

  1. Understand what motivates your audience

Your audience, no matter the size, will have some sort of shared motive. Consider the reason for them to gather together in the first place. Is it a conference? A work meeting? A social function? There is a motive for people showing up to any of these (i.e. something they hope to gain). To prepare for public speaking, give thought to the shared demographics.  Once you’ve pinpointed the shared motive of the group, be sure to speak to this in your presentation.

  1. Know your content – but don’t memorize it

It’s so important to prepare your presentation so that you appear confident and knowledgeable. However, it is absolutely possible to over-prepare to the point that you sound “rehearsed” and not in a good way. By memorizing, word-for-word, what you want to say you risk losing the emotional aspect of your delivery. It can sound cold or robotic. You also remove yourself from living in the moment and adjusting your presentation to your audience’s reaction – a huge missed opportunity! Instead, aim to use your talking points as a reference guide, but don’t rely upon them so heavily that they become your script.

  1. Have back up plans for technology

When it comes to presentations, technology follows Murphy’s Law. I’ve seen so many different hiccups in presentations from a power point presentation that wouldn’t open, to lost internet connection, to a laptop that’s not compatible to the projector – and you get the picture. If you plan to incorporate technology of any kind into your presentation, expect the unexpected. Scout out the meeting location in advance, talk to someone in charge of the room’s technology and most importantly, take matters into your own hand. With a little research, you will find that there are plenty of free resources, like Google Slides, that give you easy access to your audio/visual elements wherever and whenever you need them.

  1. Set the tone of your presentation

Do you want this to feel like a casual conversation among peers? Or do you want your presentation to be highly polished and professional. In my own public speaking, I make sure to set the tone early in my presentation. This can be done by simply opening with such a statement like “I want this to be a fun and informal discussion where you feel welcome to jump in with questions at any time.” A more formal presentation would obviously not begin with such remarks, but might start with a bold attention-getter or an introduction of your credentials to establish your expertise. Setting the tone early will give people a feel for what’s to come.

  1. Get out from behind the podium

This is highly dependent upon your setting, but I feel my speaking is far more engaging when I set away from the podium and give myself the freedom to move around as I speak. First, you feel closer to your audience and as a result you will tend to engage them more. Second, you look less like you’re giving a middle school presentation and more like a confident speaker, which brings me to my next point.

  1. Convey confidence, but be likeable

Confidence is important. So is being relatable and likeable to your audience.  Someone who comes across overly confident risks looking arrogant. As a result, you will create distance between you and your audience and it will be a lot harder to engage them. Smile, make a joke, tell a personal story or share your background/hobbies so people start to feel like they are listening to a real person, not some talking head.

  1. Asses your audience and adjust

This is where you need to understand how to read visual cues such as facial expressions and body language. This is a highly valuable indicator of whether or not your audience is engaged with what you are saying. Does your audience seem distracted? Bored? Annoyed? Their face and body can tell you this. These cues can also tell you if you’re saying things that resonate with your audience. Smiles, nodding heads and people taking notes are positive indicators that you are doing exactly that. If you’re seeing negative feedback, take note and adjust your delivery or move to a new point that you think is more interesting.

  1. Share anecdotes

Everyone loves a good story. Do you have one to share that relates to your message? Practice telling it so you can fine tune your delivery and ensure it remains concise. A story worth sharing is one that elicits emotion. Stories with a funny or happy ending or ones that teach a good lesson will not only wake up your audience, but studies show it will be one of the top things people remember about your presentation.

  1. Anticipate questions

At the end of your presentation, you’ll want to end with the option for your audience to ask questions. Depending upon your audience and the setting, there is likely to be a handful of questions to facilitate discussion. However, that may not always be the case. Even the best presentation can come to an awkward end when the speaker say, “Okay, so who has some questions for me?” and then all you hear is crickets. Rather than slink off stage in silence, step in with your own question so that you’re sure you have at least one more thing to say. I’ve had to do this once or twice and when I do, it usually inspires another question from the audience. Sometimes you just need to be your own wingman!

  1. Stick around after you’re done

So long as your schedule permits, stick around for a little while after your presentation. During the next break, members of the audience may wish to ask you a question in private, offer a thank you or provide feedback on your presentation. These are all valuable opportunities to form relationships and improve your public speaking.

  1. Actively seek more opportunities to speak!

This may be the hardest piece of advice for anyone who doesn’t enjoy public speaking and that’s to get out there and do it as often as you can. There’s no way around it. It’s the only way you’ll get better. I speak from my own personal experience when I say I used to be as nervous as anyone before stepping up in front of a crowd. Now I regularly present to a wide variety of audiences – and not only have my nerves calmed, I actually look forward to sharing my passion and putting on a good “performance.”

How do you feel about public speaking?

Moreover, how would you rate yourself as a public speaker?

Share your public speaking experience and the tips you’ve found to be most effective for improving your skills!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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A Day in the Life of a Mompreneur

mompreneur 2

For many types of careers, you can quickly gather what a typical work routine might look like. While day to day tasks and interactions will continuously change, more traditional career paths have fairly predictable hours and work locations. Moreover they usually focus on serving one industry or a certain type of clientele.

What I want to share with you, in stark contrast, is the typical day of a mompreneur.

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More than me choosing the mompreneur career path, it chose me. I began as a solo entrepreneur, prior to marriage and children. When these things eventually came along, I didn’t want to halt growing my business nor did I want to put a pause on personal life. So I buckled up for the wild ride of being a mompreneur – running my own Public Relations firm while raising two young boys, often simultaneously. The result? An utterly chaotic, but flexible, ever-changing, but rewarding lifestyle that suits me well.

How do I get it done in a day? Truly, every day is a different routine. Some days are more work intensive, some are more family intensive. What I’m about to show you is a single snap shot of a recent Monday schedule for me.

4:00am – No, this is NOT part of my normal routine. However my youngest son found his way down to our bedroom and mom duty is 24/7. So I spent the next half hour snuggling, reading, rocking, singing and coercing him back to bed because “the moon is still up…and mommy is TIRED.”

6:00am – Alarm goes off and I slowly transform from zombie to human with a large cup of coffee. I click away on my keyboard to clean up emails that came in over the weekend. I send out a statewide press release for a client and promote my weekly blog post that went live a few minutes ago. I’m wrapping up my last “early morning” work session when…

6:40am – Tiny feet come loudly stomping down the stairs. “Hi Mommy!” smiles my older son. While there is more work to be done, I close my laptop and switch into mom mode. The next hour or so is a whirlwind of making breakfast, making beds, changing two tiny bodies, breaking up fights, packing lunches and finding a moment to brush my teeth.

8:00am – Today I take both boys with me to the YMCA where they’ll hang out in the kids’ room for about 2 hours. It’s free childcare, they burn off some energy and I get some more work and personal time. At this stage in life, my YMCA membership is my ticket to sanity.

8:40am – After getting in some cardio, I take a quick break to knock off a few work tasks before heading into my workout class.

9:00am – Maybe the best hour of my day – I put aside all thoughts of work or kids and focus on re-centering myself with a really good workout.

10:00am – I have ½ hour of child care time remaining that I use to check in on my clients’ social media postings for the day. I also have a standing client phone call every other Monday that takes about 15 minutes. I knock this out and go pick up the kids. It takes us about 15 minutes to make it to the car, but I finally get everyone strapped in safely without forgetting anything. Mom win!

10:30am – We arrive back at home where our live-in Au Pair is now on duty. Karen starts an activity with the boys while I grab a quick shower. I have to step in to address a tantrum, caused by an Oreo cookie, before grabbing my lunch bag, kissing the boys goodbye, explaining (3 or 4 times) where I’m going and when I’ll be home, and then I jump in the car with a deep breath. I made it out of the house before 11am!

11:15am – I drive a quarter mile to Messiah College’s library where I’ve been doing a lot of my work lately. It’s free, comfortable and very close to home. Unfortunately, my home office isn’t an ideal work space when they boys are being watched in our home. Plus, it’s nice to be a new setting for a few hours.

2:30pm – I’m finally caught up on emails and tasks that have come in throughout the morning. I’ve scheduled three client meetings for later this week, booked a great deal on a Mexico vacation for later this year (we’ve earned it!), wrote a new blog post and reviewed my presentation that I’ll give at an educators’ conference in Altoona tomorrow. Coffee break!

3:00pm – I do a phone interview with a client to gain more information for a promotional article I’m writing for them. I wrap up the call and pull together the article quickly, since it’s fresh on my mind. I’m well ahead of my client task list this month, which is good because I have a few additional projects and clients I’ll be taking on later this month that will require extra time. Over the next week, I’ll also spend 3 days on the road presenting to 18 school districts at three different conferences. This is why I work hard to clear my bandwidth as quickly as possible so I can jump on extra opportunities as they present themselves.

4:00pm – I’m in a good spot to put away work for the rest of the day. Most days I head home early to spend some extra time with the boys. Or sometimes I’ll run an errand. Today I need this extra time to catch up some reading for our church group that meets tonight. This is a relaxing way to ease out of the work day.

5:30pm – I get settled back at home while our Au Pair, Karen spends time with the boys outside. I call everyone in for dinner. Before Karen, dinnertime was really stressful with kids wanting to play and mom needing to cook. Having an extra set of hands in the evenings is so helpful – and it allows me to be more present with the boys.

6:15pm – We leave as a family to go to our friends’ house where five couples from our church meet bi-monthly. The kids play with Karen and another sitter downstairs while the adults get some meaningful time to talk and discuss our current book series “Love and Respect.”

8:30pm – We are back home and it’s straight to bed for the boys. It takes a little time for them to wind down, but with enough books, songs, kisses and glasses of water, we close their doors for the night.

9:00pm – For the next hour, my husband and I spend undivided time together. Sometimes this is catching up on our favorite TV show, sometimes it’s sitting on the front porch and talking about the day, other times it’s the necessary evil of taking care of some household tasks or making decisions on things to keep the household running smoothly. No matter how we spend this hour, I’m grateful to spend it together.

10:00pm – No later than 10:00pm, we’re in bed and recharging to run a different, but equally busy schedule tomorrow. Here’s to hoping there’s no 4:00am wake up calls tonight!

Now that’s you’ve seen a glimpse into one of my many different daily routines, does it feel similar to your own or completely different? It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve had a strict 8am-5pm work schedule. Even before kids I remember it not meshing well with my personal work style. I imagine that would only be amplified now. I love the freedom and flexibility of being a mompreneur, but I accept that it comes with unique challenges, constantly changing schedules and a lot of juggling.

What routine have you found to give you the best work-life balance? Is it something you currently have or want to have? Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below!

 

 

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5 Common Legal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Startup (Contribution from Michael Deane)

The following post comes to us from marketing entrepreneur, Michael Deane, who is the founder three businesses and currently working on his next startup venture. Be sure to learn more about Michael in his biography at the end of this article.


legal mistakes

Alan Moore once said that ideas can change the world.

And isn’t that what all startups start out as? An idea that we hope will change the world?

While we are busy brainstorming and developing theories and ideas, coming up with the next product that will shake the ground we walk on, the business side of our business creeps up on us, and lurks there in the dark, waiting to pounce at the most opportune moment.

As a business owner, I can tell you two things: there will be about a million things you would rather do than read laws and regulations, draft contracts, do your taxes and fill out all the finger cramping paperwork needed to register a company. However – and it’s a big however – without the dull stuff, the fun stuff will not quite pay off as you hoped it might.

In order to hopefully save you some of the potential trouble down the line – here are my five legal missteps to avoid at all cost.

Not Knowing the Difference between a Corporation and an LLC

One of the most common mistakes you can make very early on is not even thinking about the different options to register a company. Naturally, the choice you make will mostly depend on where you live in the world, but the actual legal structures are quite similar, no matter what name they go by.

You can go for a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited company, a limited liability corporation, or a full blown corporation. The reason why this is important is quite simple: taxes. There’s also the issue of personal liability, which is again more important than you may initially think.

Weigh your options very carefully before you actually start this process. Some countries offer the option of registering your company online, which involves less hassle than having to walk from office to office to do it. There are also very different fees involved, and the necessary number of signatures can also vary.

As always in business, research is your friend, so do it right, do it early on, and save yourself the legal trouble later on.

Not Bothering to Protect Your Intellectual Property

When I say intellectual property, I don’t only mean secret recipes, production secrets and unique service ideas. Your intellectual property may be something as seemingly simple as a logo or a brand catchphrase. And while it may not seem too important early on, it may become a game changer in later years.

Trademarking any unique designs can protect your assets and save you from intellectual property theft. If you’ve ever seen Dream Girls, you will have heard the two versions of the “Cadillac Car” song – don’t let that happen to you.

If you have also come up with a new production system or even a new blend – patenting it can turn into a valuable asset.

Failing to Grasp the Importance of Contracts

A contract is a legal document in place to protect all of the parties signing it. When you think about it, you would never consider working with a client without one, right?

However, as you are starting out, you may feel it is easier to operate without them. Having to get a client to sit down and read through a couple of pages can be more difficult than chatting about a deal online, and shaking a firm hand.

To save yourself a lot of unnecessary headaches, draft a contract that will protect you – especially in case a client fails to pay an invoice. This happens more than you can imagine, and a contract that ensures you will get paid is a lifesaver.

While there are thousands of ready-made contracts available for download – you will be much better off if you have a template contract drafted by a professional attorney. This way, you ensure that the specifics of your business and the service or product you offer are taken into consideration, and that you are not overlooking a very obvious clause that may not have made its way into an online contract.

Googling for Help

While Google is often our best friend – it is the worst place to go for legal advice. While there are countless blogs and forums that can offer some great business tips, productivity hacks and motivational speeches – don’t ask the internet to tell you how to get out of a particular legal issue.

You will undoubtedly find an answer you will like, an answer you will find helpful and an answer that seems right – but no one can guarantee it will actually do the job.

Take everything you read online with a grain of salt (including this very article) and think things through yourself. We have become so dependent on having all the information in the world at our fingertips that we can forget to use our own common sense to solve a problem.

Being Unclear about Company Roles

Knowing who does what and is responsible for which aspect of the business is not only important from the legal standpoint. The law will need to know who the legal representative of your company is, and who is liable for what. Thinking about this early on is very important.

While there may only be a handful of employees in the company right now – that is likely to change, if the idea I mentioned at the beginning was sound. Figure out who will be the face of the company, who will be responsible for the financial side, and who will be the liable one, in case things go south. This is where the type of company structure you choose comes into play again.

I hope these five tips will help you as you set out to chase your dreams. And that 400 years from now, your idea is still changing the world!


Michael DeaneAbout the Author: Michael Deane has been working in marketing for just under a decade, and has successfully launched three of his own businesses. Today, he runs a small business blog at Qeedle, and is working on his next big venture idea.

 

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