Not that long ago websites for businesses were the exception to the rule. In 2016, having a website for your company is almost a mandatory requirement when launching a business or growing your customer base. A website is the hub of your business. It contains not only your content, but your logo, tagline, color palette, and access to information about your customers. How do small businesses protect this information? Let’s take a look at steps you can take to protect your company and website.
- Trademark – All business owners and leaders should file for trademarks for their brands and services. It is quick and relatively cheap to do. In most cases, you do not need the expense of a lawyer or any other service. Trademarkia is one of many sites that owners can use to search over 7 million trademarked logos, slogans and names. Most of these sites will offer free searches and alerts if someone is using your logo or slogan. There are also trademark and statutory protections against people registering domain names identical to or similar to your brand for the purpose of confusing people or diverting traffic from your site. Protect your online products, photos and images using a Creative Commons license. You can get one set up in seconds for free to protect ebooks, images and other materials for that extra bit of security.
- Protect your Content – If you have a blog, social media channel, podcast or video associated with your website, you will want to protect the content as well. Talk to your business lawyer about copyright infringement and intellectual property to protect your content. If you have a WordPress site, try a plugin called WP-Copyprotect. This ‘locks’ your blog so text and images can’t be highlighted, copy and pasted. This works on the assumption that anyone wanting to steal your blog post or text from your website will be too lazy to re-type it out for themselves.
- Monitor others in your Field – Set up an alert system online to monitor via Google or other search engines when competitors are using ideas or brand information. TrackMaven and Rival IQ are two of the more advanced tools for tracking your brand online, but simple tools such as Google Alerts and Twitter searches can help, too.
- Use IP Protection – According to Arthur Ebeling of Koi Creative, Inc. “if you are seeking to establish a brand, it is critical to secure the proper intellectual property safeguards. These IP protections can include trademarks, copyrights and patents. It is important to determine which protections are relevant to your brand/company. Invariably, if you are trying to establish a brand name, it is wise to trademark that name. It pays to consult an IP attorney.”
Not too long ago, business owners had to decide if they wanted to market their company on the internet via a website. Now, that is almost a prerequisite of opening a business. The updated questions, now, for business owners includes: what type of social media platform do you want to market on and, is podcasting and adding videos to your site something you want to invest in? Let’s examine audio podcasting and what it can do for your business.
What is podcasting? Podcasting allows for the distribution of information in the form of audio to an audience when they want it, where they want it and how they want it. Businesses use podcasts for a variety of purposes, including sharing information about new products, company information, or general information related to the industry. Incorporating podcasts into your marketing plan offers numerous benefits to the company.
According to INC online, podcast subscriptions on iTunes surpassed 1 billion last year. Clearly, people are tuning in. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago.
Podcasting has many added benefits to your company. Let’s look at a few of them here.
- Ease-of-Use – Podcasting is easier than video. Many companies believe that running video on their website can be helpful to the growth and awareness of your company. However, video is not for everyone. Therefore, podcasting may be the next best thing. If you’re not comfortable on camera, it can actually hurt your reputation depending on the business you are in. Additionally, there are lots of variables to think about with video; the camera, lighting, background, sound, etc. There is substantial equipment and training needed for a videocast. An audio may be the way for your company to go if any of these factors put you off. The equipment is a breeze and the ease-of-use is remarkable.
- Personality – Podcasting brings out the personality of your company. When people hear your voice and your tone, it can be so much more powerful than just reading your words. Not only do they get the benefit of your words but they get a feel for your personality.
- Growth of Brand Awareness – The familiarity and consistency of regular podcasts helps develop your company’s brand to make it a household name. For example, if you are in the graphic design field and you are discussing the newest technology for design, your company will be not only seen as an authority but also bring awareness of your business services.
We have all fantasized about it: our feet in the sand on a beautiful stretch of beach with a cocktail in hand, or maybe on the back nine of a well manicured golf course having the time of our lives. The fantasy is our retirement of course! Unfortunately, for many, this fantasy is a long way from becoming reality due to lack of planning. Are you ready for your retirement years? Let’s look at the sure-fire signs that you are well planned and ready for your retirement years.
Signs You are Ready for Retirement . . .
- You Have Crunched the Numbers – Let’s face it, a lot of what retirement boils down to is money-in and money-out. Have you met with a financial planner to see if your retirement savings and pension will cover your month-to-month expenses? Have you examined what your expenses will be and the type of lifestyle you would like to live during your retirement years? Have you examined your retirement portfolio?
- You Have Paid off your Home – Obviously we all need a place to hang our hats, but living mortgage-free during retirement means you can cross that expense off your list or use what would have been that payment in other ways such as travel.
- You Have Investigated Insurance – Healthcare can be incredibly costly, and early retirees should have a plan in place to cover health costs during the years after retiring and before becoming eligible for Medicare at age 65. Find out what type of plan you will be eligible for, especially if you have any underlying health issues.
- You Have an Exit Strategy at Work – Leaving a career that you have dedicated your whole life to can be difficult. Have you made plans to hand over the reins? Whether you are a business owner or manager, planning the succession of your position is critical.
- You are Emotionally Ready to Retire – Have you thought about what will keep you happy mentally, emotionally and socially after retirement. You really don’t want to retire and realize that working was what gave you purpose and drive. If you are not ready to call it quits then you are not emotionally ready to retire.
For many family business owners, retirement seems like a tiny speck on the distant horizon. But alas, time marches on steadily and planning for the transition of leadership of the business you worked so hard to build and maintain should be on your mind regardless of how far from retirement age you are.
The Entrepreneur magazine says, “More than 50 percent of all small-business owners are 50 or older, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. That means many of America’s 28 million small-business owners are coming to that point in their lives when they need to think about a transition for their businesses.” Family businesses account for a staggering 50 percent of the gross domestic product of the U.S., and it is not just in small storefronts or website businesses: 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies are private or public companies that are controlled by families. That means that not only for the sake of your family, but the sake of the American economy Succession Planning is critical. Here are some tips on planning your family transition for your company.
A Legal Succession Plan – Fidelity suggests that: “At a minimum, a business succession plan should address the systematic transfer of the management and ownership of a business.” Management succession planning may include:
- Development, training, and support of successors.
- Delegation of responsibility and authority to successors.
- Outside directors/advisors to bring objectivity to the process (when necessary).
- Maximizing retention of key employees through equitable compensation planning for management, family/non-family employees, and active/inactive shareholders.
Set a Timetable –
Determine how and when the control of the company will be shifted to your successor. Ease your successor into the position and avoid the impulse to routinely overrule his or her decisions during this transition phase. Ease your successor in through training both formal and informal in nature.
Plan for Taxes and Legal Changes – Talk to a specialized lawyer for business succession planning that will help with taxes and probate issues. It’s important to understand that the value of your business may continue to grow between the time you plan your estate and when you pass away, and that the taxable estate will include the value as of your date of death.
For more information on Business Succession Planning:
How to Create a Business Succession Plan
Forbes: Creating a Business Succession Plan
Entrepreneur Magazine: Now is the Time to Think about Succession Plan
Did you know that approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month? According to the Washington Post nearly half of those will fail within the first five years. This is a staggering number. Are you considering starting a new business venture and are frightened at the possibility of failure? One of the best things you can do is research what others have done to be successful in launching a new business. Here are just a few ideas compiled from the professionals at the U.S. Small Business Association, Forbes Magazine and Entrepreneur.
- Plan, Plan, Plan – “Planning carefully before launching a new business is not limited to preparing a business plan”, says Bruce Bachenheimer, clinical professor of management and director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University in New York City. While writing a business plan is certainly helpful, the real value is not in having the finished product in hand, but rather in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a systematic way.
- Know the Market – This goes hand-in-hand with creating a comprehensive business plan. Ask questions, conduct research or gain experience to help you learn your market inside and out, including the key suppliers, distributors, competitors and customers.
- Make the Right Contacts – Get in touch with people who can assist you all along the way. The U.S. Small Business Association has helped many business people launch successful businesses. They even have a step-by-step program to follow and experts to guide you. Read More.
- Cash Flow and Financing – While there is not enough room in this blog to get into the nuances of financing your new venture, be sure to have all your ducks in a row including understanding your cash flow, how to keep costs low and where to turn if you need financial help in a bind. Entrepreneur online offers that they have, “Never seen a startup business where expenses were at least 30 percent more than initially planned or anticipated, and revenues are at least that much less.”
- Have your Marketing Plan Ready to Fly – Too many new businesses are focused on the plan, financial issues or other issues to get the marketing plan set to roll the moment they are on the ground. Be prepared with a website, social media marketing, digital marketing and traditional marketing methods to kick off your new business.