Tag Archive: business_structure

8 Tips for Starting A Business

Seniors start more businesses than people under the age of 30! I know, I was surprised, too. It may surprise you even more that the ones started by seniors have a greater chance of success than those started by the young. These two facts taken together should show you that you are never too old to start your own business, and should also suggest that there may be more opportunities for seniors looking to fund a new business.


Here then are 6 tips to help you get started:


1. Pick something you are passionate about. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon of a product or service that is supposed to be “the next big thing,” instead, pick something you are passionate about. A new business will take a lot of time if you do it right, and you want to spend that time doing something you love.



It is also true that if you are passionate about something and you know that area well, then that experience will be a big leg up. It is also a major reason why senior entrepreneurs are so successful.


2. Don’t take a big risk when funding the business: When you are older, you have less time to make up for financial mistakes. Because a startup is, of course, somewhat risky, one way to hedge against that risk is by being prudent where



So, for instance, don’t look to take out a second mortgage on your home to finance your venture, and you shouldn’t tap into your retirement account. Instead, consider these options:

  • Talk to your state Department of Commerce and see what grants and loans may be available to senior entrepreneurs; you might be surprised.
  • Also, consider crowd funding sites like Kickstarter. If you have a unique idea, getting friends, family and the public to fund it is a more preferable way to go.

3. Come up with a strategy and/or business plan: Even if your plan isn’t to become a major global corporation, you need to treat your business venture as a serious proposition. This means that you need to sit and come up with a plan and a strategy. Your business plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, but you do need to have a strategy for how you plan on getting from A to B to C.


Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


4.  Learn to love the Internet and social media. Like it or not, the internet and social media networks have become the place for word of mouth marketing and business promotion. Forget placing ads in print magazines or making flyers, because that is yesterday’s news. You will get a far better response using, for instance, a Google or Facebook ad. So, take some courses online or at your local community college, and research just what is available to you in internet marketing.


5. Embrace the mobile revolution. I was recently at an Internet marketing event and they said that 60% of all email is now read on a mobile device. Similarly, almost half of all searches now are done on a mobile device. Whatever business you start must be searchable and findable by a mobile device.

Mobile is not only the future, it’s also the present.


6. Become a lifelong learner. One of my favorite business authors (Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job), says that one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is that you have to become a lifelong learner. If you develop the habit of always learning about business and what is coming down the pike, you will be well prepared to serve your customers.


The bottom line is that as a senior, you have valuable experience that translates well into the world of entrepreneurship. Use it wisely.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.


You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small BusinessOpening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

While pop-up stores—businesses that set up or occupy a retail space from a few days to a few months—exist only temporarily, the trend may be here to stay. A 2011 report from Specialty Retail Report showed that this segment of the market grew by over 14 percent in just six months. It’s not surprising, given the allure of short-term leases and the variety of retail settings. Although the start-up costs can be high in some cases—which is why big businesses have taken the lead in this tactic—many small business owners might finally find the return on investment is worth the expense. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Operate professionally

Pop-up retail stores can be set up to test new products, sell off excess inventory, ignite a quick spike in sales, and spread awareness of a small business. A pop-up store may be short-term, but the regular protocols of business still apply.


“Temporary doesn’t mean unprofessional. Temporary doesn’t mean bootstrapping. You really have to put the effort in to make sure the consumer experience is what they are expecting,” says Christina Norsig, CEO of PopUpInsider, the first online national marketplace for temporary spaces, and author of Pop-Up Retail.


Before founding PopUpInsider in 2009, Norsig opened eight of her own pop-up stores in New York City, the largest one in a storefront across the street from Macy’s that was formerly a Payless shoe store. The experience allowed her to see which items were popular, work out a pricing structure, and even figure out the most productive hours of operation. “When I had the store across from Macy’s, [peak traffic] was early in the morning to late in the afternoon,” Norsig says. “But for my store in Soho, there was no need to show up before twelve because no one was there.”


Some customers may take longer to feel comfortable in or trusting of a temporary pop-up store. Having a well-trained sales team who can communicate your business’s message and build excitement for your products can bridge the gap. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Inevitably, even well-planned stores will encounter unexpected problems. For example, landlords will often give priority attention to businesses with long-term leases. In Norsig’s store on 34th Street, she didn’t anticipate the heavy volume of product she needed and struggled to get containers in. “I was sharing the dock time with stores that were there all year round, so they got priority on the loading dock,” she says.


Norsig often finds that some small businesses don’t even have a defined business plan yet before they ask her to look for space. Rather than inundate landlords with requests for available listings, Norsig questions the small business owner to make sure their idea is complete. “That’s not to say that you have to have a warehouse stocked with merchandise,” Norsig says, “but you have to be ready to pull the trigger and open up a store and be ready to go.”


Personalize the experience

Pop-up stores offer small businesses great flexibility in setting up a space quickly, whether it’s a kiosk, mobile store, store within a store, or its own free-standing retail space. Whatever space you use, experts say focusing on the customer experience is key.


“If you can go out and demonstrate to the customer how they can use the product, how it will benefit them in their life, and how they will be impacted from their purchase, that is how these pop-ups can be very successful,” says Jennifer Davis, director of client services for Medallion Retail, a New York-based agency that specializes in retail marketing.


Every type of business is suitable for a pop-up retail store, according to Davis. For small start-ups that don’t have any retail experience, a pop-up can give them the chance to try something new in the marketplace efficiently. Pop-ups can sometimes break the patterns of customers who never stray far from their usual shopping neighborhoods if the incentive is there. “You need to give them a reason to come to your shop,” Davis says. “You need to personalize the experience for them. That’s really what retail is about these days.” For example, the type of fixtures and store signage in a pop-up will contribute to the overall customer experience.


Small business owners also need to figure out what they can afford to pay. While rents vary because of neighborhood and length of lease, Davis explains that the flexibility of pop-ups can fit almost any budget. “You could do something as simple as taking your product and setting it up at a park or a playground or something much more mobile,” she says. “Or you can have four walls within a space. Regardless of your budget, there is a way to get your brand and your product to the consumer in really unexpected, unconventional ways. It allows the customer to have a sense of discovery and make a connection.”


An integrated strategy

In addition to the growth of pop-up stores themselves, companies that specialize in finding space seem to be on the rise, too. Case in point: Republic Spaces, a New York-based agency that launched in early 2013. While they concentrate primarily on finding space in the metro New York City area, they have plans to expand their coverage to include Los Angeles next, then major European cities.

For many businesses with a wholly online presence, having a pop-up store has become part of their overall strategy. “For the brand to get to the next stage, they need to be offline in certain respects,” says Republic Spaces’ founder, Angela Wang. “Designers offline get to connect with new customers, test different markets, and create a tactile experience that’s a lot more engaging for everyone.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Obviously, the location of a pop-up is critical, but small businesses also need to market their new location ahead of time to build awareness. Wang agrees with Norsig and Davis that pop-ups that give customers a good in-store experience can propel sales.


While Republic Spaces is still a relatively new company, they seem to have discovered at least one truth about pop-up stores. “A lot of brands are formed pretty fast online these days,” Wang says, “but to be successful, you need a very integrated offline/online experience.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements

Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.

Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements. It’s a story that can induce a million nightmares: the disgruntled employee who quits your small business only to take both your trade secrets and clients and start his/her own competing company—and within your own neighborhood, no less! Unfortunately, without proper legal safeguards in place, like a non-compete agreement, which prohibits an employee to work for a rival or launch a similar business within a certain timeframe and geographic radius after leaving your company, such a nightmare scenario is tough to avoid.


For small business owners whose revenue may hinge on proprietary or confidential information (e.g. a secret recipe or software application), having employees sign a non-compete contract may be a no-brainer. However, the agreement could be deemed unenforceable by the courts if the provisions are considered too draconian in scope, such as preventing an exiting employee from pursuing his/her livelihood in the same region and industry sector for five or 10 years. Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.


If you’re a small business owner contemplating having your employees sign a non-compete, it’s imperative you heed these important guidelines well before anyone signs on the dotted line—particularly if you want the agreement to hold up in court.



Consult an attorney

Whether it’s a non-compete or a non-disclosure agreement, unless you’re a trained lawyer (and even then, only if you’re an attorney specializing in labor and employment law), you should always consult with a legal professional first before having your employees sign any document. Not doing so could open you up to a lawsuit filed by an ex-employee.


Sharron Senter, founder of the Boston-based Senter & Associates, a marketing consulting firm, strongly echoes this best practice. Prior to striking out on her own, Senter was the co-founder of  Visiting Geeks, a small computer networking and security company that was sold in 2011. Having her employees, which at their peak numbered up to 10, sign non-competes was a necessary strategic move that protected the interests of her company, she says. It also provided her with the experience and insight to impart several lessons learned to small business owners when it comes to drawing up non-compete agreements, one of which is always use a lawyer. Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.


“[This is for] two reasons: one, what you may be asking could be illegal; and two, why upset a valuable and well-trained employee over something that isn’t enforceable by law?” she says, adding that most small businesses cannot afford to take legal action on a violated non-compete.


“Generally speaking, the responsibility of proof falls on the employer,” notes Senter. “This said, what’s the good of the non-compete? It helps keep some employees honest.”


A non-disclosure might suffice rather than a non-compete

Small business owners who are concerned about employees leaking a trade secret might be better served having them sign non-disclosure agreements instead of non-competes. Or they can have them sign one in conjunction with the other. It all depends on the situation and what will give the small business owner better peace of mind when it comes to safeguarding the future of his/her business. Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.


Todd Kulkin, a White Plains, New York-based lawyer who specializes in small business cases and has drafted a number of non-compete agreements, says employers need to assess what they’re trying to protect.


“For example, if you’re worried that someone who works in your factory, who’s kind of low in middle management is going to go off to a new employer and give away all your trade secrets, then maybe what you really want is a non-disclosure,” explains Kulkin, adding that nondisclosures are usually easier to enforce than non-competes. “If on the other hand, you’re worried that this person will learn everything they can about what you do and then go down the street and start their own firm or business doing exactly what you do using your secrets, then a non-compete makes sense.”


For most instances, Kulkin feels a combination of both types of contracts is the best solution. “The reason why you have a noncompete in conjunction with a nondisclosure if you’re a small biz owner is to protect your trade secrets,” he says. “The trade secret is a form of intellectual property, which doesn’t have a lot of tangible protection. It’s not like a trademark in which you can register or a copyright where you have certain rights.”


Noncompete_PQ.jpgOnly high-level employees should sign noncompetes

Making everyone in your business, from the vice president to the guy who works the french fries station, sign a non-compete agreement is ridiculous and contrary to the purpose of the document. Plus, according to Kulkin, it will never hold up in court due to the disparity in power between the employer and the low-level worker. (Although in that instance, again, you might be better served having these workers sign non-disclosures to eliminate your insecurities). Only those who are high up on the corporate ladder should sign  Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.noncompetes.


Be fair and reasonable

When putting together a non-compete agreement, avoid using draconian language and excessive terms. Think about if it were you signing the non-compete. Wouldn’t you want to pursue your livelihood eventually instead of being prevented from doing so for an inordinate length of time?


Kulkin offers an example of a client who had signed a prohibitive non-compete contract: “He was forced into a non-compete that kept him from using his own intellectual property in the New York area for five years,” he recalls. “It was completely unenforceable. He didn’t know what he was doing initially. It was like, “Oh [no], I signed this thing and I’m completely going to regret it!”


Joshua Weiss, CEO of TeliApp Corporation, a mobile application development firm based in Linden, New Jersey, says that small business owners have a duty to protect their survival and ought to take whatever measures necessary to ensure that—within reason, of course. Weiss, who founded his company in 2010, currently has a staff of 16 full-time employees, all of whom he had sign non-disclosures, confidentiality agreements and non-competes the day they were hired. Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.


“I have had ideas stolen from me in the past and had to learn the hard way that as much as I’d like to think that all the people I choose to work with are trustworthy and good, some may not be,” he says. “It really shouldn’t be a big deal for an employee to sign a non-compete so long as it is fair. For instance, I have software developers and if the company lays one off, or if one gets an offer from a competing firm, I have to make sure that none of the ideas in development at my company are used elsewhere. But the employee may believe that it is not fair for me to limit them to working for a competing company to one year after a termination event, since the job market in software development is difficult. So I have language that prohibits the developer from working at a competing firm that either has or intends to develop software that would be in competition with us.”


Having an employee sign a non-compete can also be a good deterrent to a rogue ex-employee who might depart with less than the best intentions. However, there are steps you need to take beforehand to ensure the legality of your non-compete. Not doing so could lay the groundwork for a costly and time-consuming lawsuit. Employees Signing Non-Compete Agreements.

Esther Dyson Q&A: What makes an angel investor tick?

Esther Dyson Q&A: What makes an angel investor tick?
Posted by SBOC Team in Starting Your Business on Oct 19, 2012 8:04:36 AM

She describes herself as a “start-up catalyst.” Through EDventure Holdings, Esther Dyson places her bets in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and, more recently, Africa. In the U.S., she specializes in cutting-edge ideas, specifically information technology, preemptive healthcare, and commercial space travel. “I don’t want to be redundant by investing in companies that would happen anyway,” she recently told business writer Sharon Kahn. Some of her best-known successes include Flickr and del.icio.us (both sold to Yahoo!) as well as Medstory (sold to Microsoft). She’s also involved with Russia’s leading search company, Yandex, and Nomanini, a South African company that makes and distributes terminals that let small businesses accept prepaid vouchers for products such as airtime, electricity, and insurance.

SK: How did you become a venture capitalist?

ED: I ran a technology newsletter, Release 1.0, for 25 years. In the mid 1990s, a friend said, ‘Gee, you keep telling people that they should invest in technology companies in Eastern Europe, where so many changes were going on. How about I give you one million dollars to invest?’ I said, ‘How much did you say?’

Money goes a lot further in Eastern Europe, but I eventually decided to invest in the U.S. as well. At that point I hired someone to run my newsletter because I became fanatic about disclosing where I might have a vested interest. With all kinds of people now blogging, disclosure has become less of an issue, but I still feel it’s important.

SK: You now specialize in preventive healthcare and space as well as digital technology. Why those areas?

ED: I love emerging technologies in the same way I love emerging markets. Digital technology allows us to know and track our bodies better, helping us change behavior so we can avoid needing health care in the first place. Through their phone and sensors [that read, record, and transmit body functions], people can collect their own data and collaborate and compete with other people in the same situation. That social interaction provides motivation to eat better, exercise, whatever.

I’m also on the boards of several space companies, which represent, literally, the path to a new frontier. I trained as a backup cosmonaut. It’s extremely exciting to be involved in commercial space.

Risky Business?: Small Business Best Practices for Assessing Risk

Risky Business?: Small Business Best Practices for Assessing Risk
by Jen Hickey.

Small business owners are usually well acquainted with risk. After all, starting a business is one of life’s most momentous decisions and often requires a leap into the unknown. However, you can improve the odds for your business by identifying those risks early on and devising a plan to eliminate or minimize their impact. While it’s probably not healthy to think about all that could go wrong, asking “What if?” when it comes to every aspect of your business is key to its survival.
Lay the right foundation

Even before your business opens its doors, there are important points to consider. “First, you need to decide how to set up your company,” says Barbara Weltman, tax and business attorney and author of Small Business Survival Book. “If you’re a corporation or an LLC, creditors can only look to business assets to satisfy claims. Personal assets, like your house, car and savings, are protected.” But these assets are exposed when a business is a sole proprietorship or partnership. Weltman urges anyone thinking of starting a business to meet with a legal advisor to see if your business type requires such entity protection. “If your business deals with the public, it faces potential liability,” notes Weltman. “These require legal steps.”
Match risk mitigation to your specific business

Next, you should select an insurance agent to help you determine what kind of coverage your business needs. “Every business owner should have a business owners’ policy (BOP), which includes protection for property in case of storm and fire damage, as well as liability coverage to protect against claims from customers and creditors,” advises Weltman. Purchasing a packaged policy like a BOP, which typically includes coverage for property, business interruption, and liability, is generally more affordable than purchasing individual policies.

Depending on the industry your business is in, as well as its location, you may also need specialized coverage in addition to a BOP. “A basic liability policy doesn’t cover professional action or inaction,” says Weltman. “A professional liability policy covers errors and omission.” It protects professional businesses, such as consulting firms, ad agencies, law offices, and medical practices, against lawsuits for negligence or malpractice.

By law, any business with employees must pay for workmen’s compensation, unemployment and, in some states, disability insurance. If your business requires the use of vehicles to transport your products or services, you will not be able to register or operate your vehicle without commercial auto insurance. Businesses that manufacture or sell certain products may also need product liability insurance to protect against lawsuits resulting from injury due to a defective product.

Because some risks are unique to a particular business and often depend on type, industry, and location, assessing your business’s risks might involve taking steps not listed here. To perform a more thorough risk assessment, consult an insurance agent, as well as your attorney and accountant to make sure all regulatory and tax obligations for your business have been fulfilled.
Prepare for the unexpected

While the chances of a natural disaster may seem remote, if affected by one, your business will not likely recover if you don’t have property or business interruption insurance. According to the Red Cross, 40 percent of businesses that experience a disaster will never re-open. As seen when Hurricane Irene hit the Northeast coast last year, but caused the most damage to interior regions, violent weather can wreak havoc in the unlikeliest of places. So, this is not an area where a small business would want to cut corners.

While insurance enables a small business to transfer some risks to a third-party, should a loss occur, it needs to consider out-of-pocket costs. “A way businesses can manage their costs is to pay a high deductible,” notes Mitchel D. Weiss, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Hartford and author of Business Happens, set to publish in December 2012. “You want to be sure to have the cash set aside to cover them.”
PQ_RiskyBusiness.jpgLook inward

You also need to assess the risks to your business you can control, such as operational and human resources. “You can protect your business against internal risks through checks and balances,” Weiss explains, “by having stated policies and procedures and segregation of responsibilities.” For example, the accounting department or your bookkeeper should keep track of expenses incurred by your employees. “One way to protect against internal risks, fraud in particular, is to have good, solid controls in place, so that the person that benefits from something is not the same person that authorizes the receipts.”

Your employees are your greatest assets. But they also can be a significant source of risk without proper policies and procedures in place. “One of the biggest areas for legal action are claims by employees for discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination,” Weltman points out. “Having an employee manual that sets forth procedures for reporting harassment and reasons for termination, for example, will help thwart such action.” Requiring all employees to read and sign a release that they’ve read the manual can help minimize unwarranted claims.

Hiring the best people and creating a work environment so they can thrive can also help reduce risk. “If you’re not investing in your people and putting the right people in the right places, that’s a risk that could translate into a potential failure of your business,” notes Weiss. “In addition to paying them fairly, one of the most effective ways to hold onto your best talent is to invest in their training, so they’re [worth] more tomorrow than they are today.”
Safeguard your business information

Next to its people, your business’s data is what keep it running. Look at possible threats to your company’s computer and network security. Assess the risk for viruses, malware, or outsiders hacking into your system. Your business’s reputation is at risk if you have to notify your customers their personal information and/or credit card numbers have been stolen.

While property insurance will cover the cost of replacing equipment destroyed by fire or flood, it won’t bring back all your business records. “The loss of data could put you out of business really quickly,” says Weltman. “Backing up your data or working from the cloud” can eliminate that risk.
Be systematic to avoid missing trouble spots

Take a look at each of your business operations for risk exposure and assign each a probability of loss and cost. Weiss recommends creating a four-way grid to assess risk: “Those that have the highest probability and the highest impact; those with low probability but high impact; those with high probability but low impact; and those with low probability and low impact.” Then, devise a plan to eliminate or minimize those with the highest impact or costs based on probability first, and then work down the list.

Once you’ve identified, assessed, and eliminated or minimized the most likely and costly risks to your business, “rinse and repeat,” says Weiss. “Risk management is not a once-and-done kind of thing. It’s something you need to revisit to make sure you’re on target. Did you identify all the things that could go wrong or have other things happened you didn’t think about?” It’s important to review and revise your risk management plan (download the SBA’s Insurance and Risk Management Guide here) at least yearly to add any new risks and re-prioritize old ones. Think of it as an anniversary present to your business, one that actually saves you money in the long run.