Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is Crowdfunding the Best Strategy for Your Startup?

In the last few months, there has been a new trend in startup investing that has gotten the attention of the VC world.  Taken from the idea of crowdsourcing - crowdfunding allows the smaller investor to get into investing into a potential startup by mitigating the risk with a group of people.

As Blake Coler-Dark mentions, crowdfunding is.. “The ability of many individuals to fund a specific project or individual.”

This is what makes crowdfunding so appealing to many people - it gives people the opportunity to fund a project that they really believe in, with minimal risk. This engages a much wider group of people, who want to be in the forefront of great ideas or projects but may only have $20 to contribute. Crowdfunding lets everyone get in on the fun of investing in a new project.

One of the more popular crowdfunding sites is Kickstarter. Kickstarter’s funding process is simple. You’ll be given an opportunity to pitch your business to the Kickstarter community and if the crowd likes what they see, they’ll start providing the funds.

Don’t get this wrong. This isn’t free money; these are considered investors according tax law who expect to be paid back. But it’s a good way to get capital fast, especially for startups who have not had success in the traditional financing route with bankers.

How is this a good strategy for your startup? Consider these potential benefits of crowdfunding:

You’ll Get Instant Validation of Your Business Idea

Setting your business up for crowdfunding investment means you’ve really got to put yourself out there. Think of this as a kind of audition for your company. If you’ve got a great idea whether that’s for a restaurant, a dog grooming business or cleaning service you’ll know right away if yours is a good idea for this investment community. If no one bites, it might be time to rethink your business idea.

You’ll Sharpen Your Marketing Strategy

Many crowdfunding sites allow you to post videos or photos as part of your business pitch. Just like you’ll be instantly told whether your overall idea works you’ll also have an instant response to your marketing campaign. Yes, your pitch isn’t the same thing as a television commercial but you’re still tossing out what you think is the best approach to selling your product. The amount of money you receive will tell you if your pitch worked or not.

You’ll Get Help

By tapping into crowdfunding you are basically taking on many new business “partners.” This doesn’t mean that all the investors are going to be chiming in with how you should be running your company but there could be a vast amount of knowledge that you can tap into besides the investment.

For instance, a restaurant owner who is looking to expand their business might find a former restaurant owner among the crowd who can offer sage advice. There could also be a contractor which might offer a good deal on the work. The bottom line is that you just don’t know who might be in your crowd that will be a help for your business.

You’ll Get Better Organized

Anytime you seek out investors for a business you have to be organized. Investors want to know their money will be put to good use. This means providing a business plan and opening up your books for inspection. If you’re not organized then you’re not going to attract any type of investor. Knowing you’re going up on “stage” will get you organized rather quickly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How's Your Elevator Pitch?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could conduct all of our business in the time it takes to ride in an elevator from the top floor to the parking garage? Imagine how quicker decisions would be made.

Actually, that’s exactly the approach you should take when developing a pitch about your company to potential investors. Can you communicate what your company does in 60 seconds or less?

Here are some tips to help you develop a stronger “elevator pitch” that can help with your small business fundraising plans.

1)      Watch the Clock: Any pitch you make for your business should be concise and impactful. The goal would be to get the perfect description of your company, its benefits and future plans all down to a 30 to 60 second pitch. Remember the goal is to interest the potential investor about your company in 60 seconds. All you want is to hear are those three magic words: “Tell me more.”

2)      Offer a Solution: Your business should be built upon the premise of solving a problem. Whether selling a cleaning product or an accounting software program, you have identified a problem and most importantly you’ve created a viable solution to that problem. That’s what should be in your pitch: What is missing in the marketplace and how your business can fix that.

3)      Stay Genuine or Keep it Simple: By the time you get a face to face meeting with an investor they’ve heard plenty of pitches. This means they’ve heard all the “business speak.” You’re not going to impress anyone with buzz words. Tell the story of your company and its successes in plain English. You’ll get a lot further that way.

4)      Know Your Investor: While it is true that you never know who you might end up in an elevator with, chances are you’ll know who you’re pitching your business to. Do your homework so that you understand just who this investor is and what they are looking for. You might have to adjust your pitch to fit an investor but that shouldn’t be a problem once you’ve worked it all out in advance.

5)      Speak From the Heart: Yes, the bottom line is crucial but so is passion. An investor wants to know that you’re going to be working extremely hard with their money. Don’t be afraid to show them your passion and commitment; just don’t take it overboard.

6)      Have a Call To Action: If you sell the “idea” of your business then your investor will want to know what’s in it for them. Every pitch should end with a call to action. Even something as simple as “Can I send you a business plan?” should be followed up instantly with “And when would be the best time to reconnect?” Unless you get turned down in the room, you’ve got a door open.

It will be up to you if you can walk through or not!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

4 Mistakes That New Bloggers Make When Starting a Blog

With the changes that Google has recently implemented to their search algorithm, content marketing has become the newest buzz word. Instead of driving traffic using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, websites that post a lot of great content on their website are becoming more successful in getting higher rankings.  Having a blog on your website has become one of the best tactics any marketer can use to stand out from the crowd and also attract the attention of search engines.

 Much like a Twitter or Facebook account, a blog is another way to reach out to a vast global audience. Blogs can also lend great support for a business not only to direct new customers to a web store but also provide great content to keep loyal customers coming back for more.

However, just because it is easy to set up a blog doesn’t mean every blog will be a success. Here are some common mistakes that new bloggers make and you should avoid:

Copying Content

There is an abundance of resources available all across the internet to support your blog but that doesn’t mean you should just be cutting and pasting a bunch of articles. You should always strive to have original content.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by an article or video to write a post. In fact, you can even use that post as link on your site. Many search engines want to provide their users with quality content, and they check if the information that you provide isn’t a duplicate from another site. If you’re running a business blog and don’t fancy yourself  good at writing, there are plenty of talented writers who can help create 100% original content for your blog.

Diving In Without Research

To get the most out of a blog you need to do a little research. From a technical standpoint you could literally start a blog within seconds by registering a name on one of the easy blog sites like Wordpress or BlogSpot. Then what?   Find out how a blog works in terms of links, pings, tools and how to drive traffic. You should also be looking for the various blog networks that you can plug your blog into. This will help you spread the good news of your blogging efforts.

Cluttered Layout

A blog is not a scrapbook. Yet, some new bloggers try to crowd as much of the “whiz bang” features onto their blog as possible. Take it slow. Just as you should be researching where your blog should live, you should also research the various templates you have at your disposal for layout options.

Start with what appeals to you. Is it easy to find what you’re looking for on a site? Can you quickly access archive material? Is the font pleasing to view? What’s great about blogs is that the layout designer will also get credit. Look for that credit at the bottom of your favorite blog and use that for a reference for your own blog.

Boring Headlines

A blog is the sum of all its posts. Those posts begin with a strong headline. Consider every time you pick up a magazine or newspaper: Isn’t it the headline which first grabs your attention? That’s what you should aim for with your own blog posts. Asking questions is always a good way to pull a reader into a blog. Keep it simple but make it original.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are Canadian Courts Adapting with New Technologies?

The cornerstone of any free society is a thriving court system which takes the approach to justice very seriously. For a court system to truly serve its constituents it has to keep up with the technology and the Canadian legal system is no exception.

Fortunately, the modern technological advances that have been woven into the Canadian courts have proven to not only be cost effective but also to serve the greater good.

I see you!

There is a practical aspect of adapting technology to court use and that has to do with geography. Beyond our vibrant urban cities, Canada is a vast land of abundant resources and environments. The current population stands at 30 million + but we are scattered all across the Canadian landscape. As such, it’s not uncommon for a judge to be issuing rulings 1,500 miles from the main courthouse. This is where video conferencing has made a huge difference in terms of expediting court cases.

With video conferencing, a judge can review, cross examine and make a ruling on an applicant who might be several miles away. By adapting video conferencing there is also a great reduction in the need for prisoner escort costs. In some cases, a video conference is a benefit when a hardened criminal can remain incarcerated without the chance of getting contraband passed to them outside the confines of the jail. This is definitely a case where swift justice can prevail.

Shuffling papers…

Another positive use of technology is with case management, especially the large amounts of paperwork to manage. New software and systems have been created that allow documents to be created, edited and stored virtually on secure servers. It allows court clerks instant access to case files and removes redundant data entry.

As with the video conferencing, upgrading to a case-management system for certain court documents is a cost saver not only on paper but also physical storage space. The caution is to insure that these documents are secure. Safeguards need to be put into place to make sure only designated court personnel would have access to these types of records. By the same token, these files have to be properly updated to insure that an innocent party has their record expunged.

Efficiency is the key

During the actual trial, technology can play a role when it comes to evidence presentation. A power point presentation is easy to compile and understand. It’s also helpful when it comes to reviewing that evidence if it is kept on a single file as opposed to scattered over dozens of charts and placards. Many courts have upgraded old transcript recording to new digital recording methods. Once again technology proves to streamline a process while reducing costs.

Clearly, the Canadian courts are putting technology to work. The question then becomes how dominant will that technology become and will there be safeguards to protect privacy?  Ironically, the answer to that will be decided by the courts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5 Entrepreneur Blogs You Should Follow

Becoming an entrepreneur means you are entering into a new club of like-minded business professionals all with a common goal in mind - success. Although competition might be fierce in some circles, overall the majority of working entrepreneurs are happy to share their knowledge. Here are the top five entrepreneur blogs based on survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal.

Get Elastic: This is a blog dedicated to all things e-commerce. Started by Elastic Path Software, a technology company that provides online brands with ecommerce software solutions, the blog was created to showcase their expertise. However, you won’t see Elastic Path pushing their products in the blog. Any start up business can benefit from the vast amount of content detailing aspects of digital commerce, social media, web design and conversion optimization. If you’re unfamiliar with any of those categories, you’ll quickly become educated on Get Elastic.  Most interesting article : 9 freemium mistakes to avoid.

Seth Godin’s Blog:  Don’t be dismayed by the simple title - this blog is all substance. Seth was the founder of Yoyodyne which was an interactive direct-marketing company that Yahoo scooped up back in 1998. Seth has been in the entrepreneurial business ever since as a bestselling author and insightful speaker. With 183,000 Twitter followers who read his daily tweets, he is considered one of the most innovative minds in marketing. Although his blog posts aren’t long, they are poignant and have great insights into the world of consumer marketing. One of our favorite blog post is Understanding Stuck. Among some of this book titles are “Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync,” “Small is the New Big,” and “Purple Cow”. In the dynamic world of online business, it’s hard for a startup business to stay ahead of the curve. Thankfully, is standing by to provide readers with all the valuable tools any entrepreneur will need to help make their business a success. The title of this blog says it all - Killer resources for entrepreneurs. The founder, Carson McComas, has been involved in the online marketing world since 1998, having started and marketed various websites and he shares his expertise of how you can make an online business successful.  Most interesting article that we like: Bootstrappers, this is the golden age of the internet frankenstartup.  Clearly, there is a lot to learn from blog writer Carson McComas.

Drew’s Marketing Minute: If the success of a business is built on a strong marketing campaign then you could greatly benefit from following Drew’s Marketing Minute. Drew McLellan has 25 plus years as marketing veteran and as his bio states, “…he lives for creating aha moments for his clients, clients’ customers, peers and audiences across the land.” It’s worth checking in with a blog like this at least once a day to catch up on the latest marketing trends and to become inspired. A blog post that we like: What you can learn from a small town.

Blog Maverick: It’s rare to get access to a successful entrepreneur because they are so busy with their next venture. However, it’s not the case with Mark Cuban – one of the most outspoken entrepreneurs in the US. Mark started from extremely humble beginnings and has grown an empire that includes a NBA basketball team, entertainment companies and business investments through the popular TV series Shark Tank.  With every post on Mark’s blog, readers are encouraged to join in on the conversation.  Most interesting post: Facebook IPO , post mortem killer but not for the reasons you think  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Facebook's IPO Lawsuit: What Went Wrong?

In many ways, the Facebook IPO can be looked at as the perfect storm of how not to launch a public company. Leading up to the stock sale, media outlets were breathlessly hyping how much money founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team would be making. Nearly every news program was offering tips on how the small investor would have to wait in line to buy their handful of shares and be a part of this “history-changing IPO.”

Then reality hit and Facebook fizzled. What went wrong?

Right out of the gate there were problems. The U.S. stock market rings its opening bell at 9:30 a.m. The IPOs usually start trading about an hour later. However, Nasdaq informed everyone that Facebook trading wouldn’t start until 11:00 a.m. It actually didn’t start until 11:30.

In that first wave, close to 80 million shares were being bought and sold in a matter of seconds. And in that same blink of an eye, traders were complaining that their orders weren’t being properly processed. In some cases, they were getting shares at a higher price.

The NASDAQ would blame all of those errors on a technical glitch but it left a bitter taste for most traders. But even all that sloppiness isn’t why some newly-minted Facebook shareholders are suing the social media giant. They claim the fix was in.

As reported by Reuters, the lead underwriter for the IPO, Morgan Stanley, was provided with some pertinent information regarding the true nature of Facebook’s financials. Namely, they weren’t so hot. Coming upon the heels of GM backing out of a $10 million Facebook advertising campaign, this report apparently let the big players in on a dirty little secret - when it comes to generating dividends base on profits Facebook might just turn out the be the Emperor with no clothes. Suddenly that $100 billion valuation wasn’t looking so accurate.

Reuters went on to report that a few hours after Morgan Stanley got the news it was apparently shared with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Bank of America. They all reduced their earnings outlook. When those numbers were publicized, the stock price took a hit and kept on sinking. The disgruntled shareholders claim this was a classic case of insider trading and they were the ones left holding onto a stock that dropped like a brick.

Naturally, the big brokers claim they are innocent of any wrongdoing. Are they right? At what point does it become insider trading?

 Were the people jumping on the Facebook bandwagon misinformed intentionally or did they merely buy into the hype only to be smacked by reality? Obviously, this will be an issue addressed by the courts. Meanwhile, the stock is still trading. Zuckerberg still became a billionaire (on paper), got married and went on a honeymoon.

And Facebook still has millions and millions of users. In the grand scheme of things, not much has really changed for those users.

Everyone is just waiting for the next move.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are Trade Shows Necessary for Your Small Business?

A successful business can’t form in a vacuum.

In other words, for a business to thrive and survive it has to get out into the world and “strut its stuff.” Nowhere is this more important than with startups and small businesses.

However, tough economic times have many businesses reviewing how their marketing dollars are being spent. As business owners seek more ways to increase ROI, activities that generate a higher return are kept whereas ones that don’t provide any traction are on the chopping block.

A trade show is considered to be an expensive necessity for many industries, but for a small business like yours, is it worth it?

Regardless of the industry you’re in, it’s a pretty safe bet there will be some kind of trade show occurring within the next several months. Whether you’re going as an observer or as an active participant with a booth, your trade show experience can become a major boost for your business.

Here are some of the focused benefits you’ll get from participating in a trade show.

Finding leads

You’ve got a product to sell. You know who your end customer should be. However, there are some very important middle men you’ll need to find before your product ends up with all those valuable customers. These would be the distributors and other partners that could benefit from having your product as part of their catalog.

Suppose you’ve come up with the greatest flavour of popcorn. Wouldn’t you want to go to the trade show where all the movie theatre executives will be hanging out?

A trade show is the most efficient method where you’ll find your leads all in one place.

The freebies

It’s one thing to describe your product or service on your website and quite another to be able to provide an actual demonstration or sample. Participating in a trade show lets you put your product into the hands of decision makers who can be placing orders the next day.

Yes, it’s a major investment to give away samples but it’s an investment that can pay back in very positive ways.

Build your brand

A business is built on its brand.

Just like the adage – if a tree falls in the forest, but, if no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If no one is aware of your company then it can’t gain a foothold. A trade show will be plastered with banners, bags, T-shirts and other give-aways that have all kinds of company brands imprinted on them. Get into that game and you’ll be able to spread your name in front of the people that matter.  

Scope out your competitors

You’ve got competition. Yes, you like to think that your product is truly unique and the only one needed by the consumer.

The harsh truth is you will always have competitors. Guess where they’ll be?

At a trade show.

This is a perfect opportunity for you to check out the competition. You’re not spying as much as seeing what they’re offering and how your product is different. Who knows? Seeing what the competition is up to might inspire you to make some beneficial changes to your business.

The press

Trade shows are covered by the media. Depending on the show and industry, that media could truly be global. This is a wonderful chance for you to get some very positive exposure. Seek out the media reps and offer them a demonstration/sample.

Don’t wait for them to come to you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Closing the Sale - Sales Tips for Small Businesses

It would be nice if your business could always “corner the market” on whatever product or service you are providing. Unfortunately, the very nature of business dictates that you’re going to have competition. Instead of taking a passive approach to your business, you need to be proactive and make sure you and your sales force are an effective team. Even a small business can benefit from a smart sales strategy. One popular sales adage is the ABCs of selling: Always Be Closing. That’s a nice sentiment but it will take some work to get there. Here are a few helpful hints that can help your small business close the sale.

Avoid the Hard Sell

Despite what you might think about being an aggressive sales agent, that person on the other end of the line doesn’t really appreciate the hard sell. Just tell it like it is: let your potential client know what you’re offering in simple terms and how it can ultimately help their business. Go for the pleasant conversation versus the unrelenting pitch.

Keep Your Ears Open

You might have perfected your pitch and could even be reading from a script of helpful talking points (not a bad idea) but you also have to be fully engaged in the sales call so that you can recognize when your customer might be on the verge of closing. This can happen if they start asking questions about things like delivery time or shipping costs. Even something as simple as positive affirmation from them about what you’re saying can be a good indication. Make sure you respond to these comments in a positive way.

Ask Questions

The best way to understand a customer’s needs is through asking a lot of questions about their company. Learn about what they do, ask them about the challenges they’re having. Find out what problems they need to solve immediately. The goal is to keep them fully engaged and that can only happen if you are asking them to respond to you. Listen to their answers. Delve deeply. By asking questions, your prospects open up and will give you various opportunities for you to find solutions.

Make Them a Special Deal

Everyone likes a bargain. If you can offer a special deal to a customer it could make all the deference between closing the sale and getting a firm “no thanks.” This doesn’t mean you have to give away free stuff but there is probably a lot of “wiggle room” when it comes to processing fees, shipping costs etc. If you are making a special offer, make sure they know it’s just this one time.

Be Specific

As you zero in on the final moments of your pitch, you want to make sure you lay out the deal in very specific terms. This means providing your customer a direct “how many”, “how much” and “when will it arrive” statement.

When you’ve closed the sale, don’t pop the champagne cork right away but instead take a moment to recognize what worked and what didn’t. Then use that knowledge on your next call: ABC!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Intellectual Property: Tips on How to Protect Your Business Online

Intellectual property is anything that you or your business creates that is the property of your business. Each of the super heroes in the smash hit movie, Avengers, are the intellectual property of Marvel Comics. This means you can’t use The Hulk to advertise your spring sale. When you or your company creates a piece of intellectual property whether it’s a slogan, a character, a recipe or logo you are well within your rights to make sure that property is protected. In this age of social media networking, keeping up with that protection can become a challenging and full-time job. The following are some insightful tips on how you can protect your intellectual property and what to do when someone steals it.

·         Patent, Trademark, and/or Copyright First

You really can’t make a claim against someone who is using your intellectual property unless you first register that property. This will require filing an official trademark or copyright application for your property. A trademark protects your company information from being used by another company. Going back to the Avengers example, the next Batman movie can’t have Spiderman in it because those are two separately trademarked characters and can only be used with permission from the trademark owner. Copyriting typically applies to a work that you intend to publish like a story, article or photo. These can also be created by your business as a way of promotion but can’t be used by other companies unless you give them permission. A lawyer who is familiar with these types of laws can advise you as to which is the best application to file for protection.

·         IP Monitoring

If you are serious about protecting your intellectual property then you’re going to have to invest into some time into monitoring your brand to see if your property is being inappropriately used. This isn’t just about checking into Facebook once a day, but instead dedicating time to conduct comprehensive searches across all kinds of social networking sites and other web portals.

·         Decide If Your Have Been Infringed Upon

Suppose your company creates a brand icon like the Pillsbury Doughboy. After trademarking this icon, it becomes very popular and begins popping up as people’s profile picture or on their blogs. Is that real infringement? Is your business being damaged? Your reputation being tarnished? Only you can make that call but just because someone might be using your icon or other intellectual property in the vast outreaches of cyberspace doesn’t mean your business will suffer. On some level, you can’t realistically chase down every infringement. You have to pick your battles wisely.

·         Taking Action

When it has been determined that your intellectual property is indeed being misused then you can take appropriate legal action. The first would be a cease and desist order. This would be a legal letter sent from your company’s attorney informing the user that they need to stop using your intellectual property immediately. Once you’ve put them on notice and they still keep using the property, you can sue them for trademark or copyright infringement. Proving damages in court can be tricky and costly for you. Often, the cease and desist order will do the trick.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Market Research Leads to Business Success

Every small business starts with an idea. Whether it’s an idea to sell a product or provide a service, that first notion sets the wheels in motion. The very next step should be some type of market research.

Suppose you had the idea to open a franchise ice cream shop business but wanted to find out how successful will it be in your neighborhood? A short drive through your prospective neighborhood will show you if there are any other businesses like the one you want to invest in. It can also give you an indication of the kind of foot traffic you might be able to expect. This is a form of market research at its simplest level.

There are other benefits of market research that you should be thinking about to help your business.

What the customer wants

For a business to grow and become successful there needs to be some form of market research going on. Not only is this important to size up your competition but it can go a long way towards understanding what your customer wants.

If you open up that ice cream shop and feature a chocolate dip special in a neighborhood that is dominated by vanilla lovers then you’re not going to make a lot of sales. That’s an extreme example but if you take the time to do a decent market research survey, it can reveal information that you may have not known.

It could be the specific type of items that a customer would be interested in, whether that’s special offers, different varieties or a better shopping experience. Having a market research project reveal those types of issues can allow you to adjust your business and bring in more customers.

Types of market research

Just because you are a small business with a limited start-up budget doesn’t mean you can’t engage in a market research strategy. There are many forms of market research that you can tap into. At the high end is a market research firm dedicated to delivering you a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of your business. This is accomplished by a combination of phone polling, focus groups and online surveys.

Conducting an online survey is probably one of the most affordable options when it comes to market research. With this type of campaign you can ask visitors to your website to take a survey or send out the survey to a list of customers who have signed up for an email.

Always remember that you’re inviting them to share their opinions to make your business stronger. In other words, empower them to share their opinions.

As you gather your market research data, only you can decide whether or not to act on that information. However, if the numbers provide you with clues as to why your business might be stumbling, then it’s easy to see that using market research can turn your business around and point it towards a more profitable future.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strengthen Your Business Leadership Team

It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, strong leadership is essential to determine success. If you’re fortunate enough to have a great team working with you on your business goals then providing the model for leadership will become your responsibility. There are many effective “tools” you can use to strengthen the bond between the team and encourage your employees to step up as leaders. Consider the following:

Give credit where credit is due

Everyone loves praise! Don’t hesitate to tell others that they are doing a good job and you should acknowledge your team’s efforts when appropriate. But you should also be fostering an atmosphere of contribution from other staff members, those who are in the background and who might not yet be a “star.” When you encourage the free flow of ideas then you might discover a hidden gem among your leadership team.

Support the families

If your team members have family obligations, you should honor those by offering support. Is it really going to hurt business by letting a dad go watch his son’s soccer game or letting a mom attend a parent/teacher conference? Probably not. However, when you support the importance of your staff’s family then you’re acknowledging why they’re all working on the same team: to provide for that family. That is going to promote stronger loyalty and leadership.

Delegate responsibilities

As the saying goes, “Some men are born to greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Translation: a leader can be born or made. You won’t have a chance to help your team strengthen their leadership skills unless you provide them with the opportunity to put them to the test. A strong leader often leads from behind and allows their staff to take charge.


You might have a handful of strong leaders already working on your team. If so, then encourage them to seek out protégés they can mentor. Leadership skills work best when they are shared. Think of this is an on the job leadership training program, just a less formal one.

Formal leadership training

Speaking of leadership training, you could solicit outside help to strengthen your leadership team. That help can come in the form of qualified leadership trainers. These trainers will assess the needs of your company and set up a series of workshops and training exercises for your staff to participate in. This could mean a weekend retreat or a day lone seminar. In either case, you might be amazed at what can be revealed when your staff is taken out of their “comfort zone” and challenged to expand their own leadership qualities.

Use incentives

You might think that a weekly pay check for a job well done is enough incentive. In today’s tough job market that might be true. However, you shouldn’t discount offering some form of incentives for your staff if they can meet certain goals. Even something as simple as a paid company lunch away from the office can get employees fired up and working stronger as a team. When that happens, leaders will rise to the top and you’ll be able to cultivate them for future assignments.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Getting Incorporated: Tips on Incorporating a Business

There has been a lot of talk recently about whether or not a corporation can be considered a person. While pundits debate those points, the courts have already decided: a corporation is a legal entity that can enter into lawsuits, be taxed and buy land just as any individual will. As a small business owner you might soon discover there is very little space between you as a person and your corporation. The biggest advantage of incorporating is that it can protect your personal assets. Those should always be kept separate from your corporate umbrella.

The following are tips to follow as you head down the road of incorporating your company.

1)      Decide Where You’ll Incorporate

The three options for business incorporation would be within your own state or province, within your own country or in a foreign country. Most small businesses start out by keeping it simple and incorporating within their own region. However, it is worth exploring other options if for no other reason than the possible tax breaks you might receive. Once you are incorporated all the general laws will apply no matter where your company chooses to file the paperwork.

2)      Decide Your Board of Directors

The next step is to create a pre-incorporation agreement. This agreement will establish who will be on your board of directors and in what position. It will also have you establish the value of your company stock. Note that these stock shares have more to do with position than actual trading. For instance, when Facebook started up, investors and employees were offered stock options as part of their compensation. Years later, Facebook is finally going to go public and those original stock options will hold true value based on what the market decides.

3)      Decide Your Company Name

You’ll next have to file an official registration name for your corporation. Before doing this, you’ll have to research your name to make sure no other corporations that have the same title. You could simply file without the research but if your company name is rejected then you’ll have to start all over again.

4)      Decide on Your Articles of Incorporation

This will become the bulk of your incorporation paperwork and is not something you’ll be able to handle without a corporate lawyer. The procedures for creating these articles will be based on the rules and regulations that have been established in the region where you’ll be incorporating. When these articles have been filed, you’ll be sent an official certificate of incorporation. Once you sign that, you’re an official, fully recognized corporation.

Along every step of the way, there will be filing fees and legal costs you’ll have to pay out. There are some law firms that specialize in filing incorporation papers and offer affordable packages for start-up business. After you’ve completed all of these incorporation steps, you’ll need to hold your first board meeting and set up your own bylaws.