SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

7 Common Legal Issues Entrepreneurs Need to Consider When Starting a Business

When it comes to starting a business, you might be a pro…

But, what about when it comes to working through all the legal issues you must Entreprenuerconsider as an entrepreneur when launching your start-up?

The world of business can get complicated quickly when you add in all the laws that apply – liability, finances, trademarks…

The list goes on. 

Most entrepreneurs get caught up in the midst of starting their business and quickly forget about the legal aspects that need to be considered.

To ensure that you avoid the negative repercussions of an avoidable mistake, there are a few common legal issues you should be aware of:

1. Non-disclosure agreements.

It seems like a given – don’t talk about anything that is considered “top secret.” But, it isn’t that obvious to everyone and to some, it just isn’t a priority or even a concern…

Particularly those outside of your business who might become involved with you in some way.

Anyone who interacts with your business – from the business side, not your clients – should sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure they won’t run and share your ideas with the competition. 

2. Future of the business – the what if’s?

Life happens. Unfortunately, sometimes people leave this world too soon. If that is the case, what will happen to your business?

It is important to invest in a will kit to ensure the assets of your business are protected and have a designated owner should you become unavailable. 

Have your attorney send your will kit to the post office for easy pickup.

3. Vesting.

Finding the right co-founder for your business is quite the task…

Who do you trust? Who will make a good fit and lead your business in the right direction?

It is important that you have a similar work ethic and timelines for investment – you need to have chemistry. 

Instead of getting all your shares at once, once option to consider is vesting. Your equity can be vested over time so that if you don’t have the chemistry you thought you did, there is a fair solution. 

4. Intellectual property.

While your business is still small, it is hard to imagine that you could potentially face the issue of people infringing on your intellectual property assets (or vice versa)…

But, it can happen easier than you think.

It is worth the investment of both time and money to get your trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets legally registered. It will be a lifesaver if, or when, an issue arises. 

5. Trademarks.

You just thought choosing a business name was difficult…

But, did you consider that even as creative as you might have been, someone else might still have thought of it first? 

Invest in performing a killer search to ensure your business name is not already another company’s trademark.

6. Compliance.

There are corporate compliance laws in place that affect companies in various industries. The laws that apply specifically to your business will vary based on the type of business entity you are, the state you do business in, and several other determining factors.

Do some research, and consult the help of an attorney, to ensure you know what documents should be generated and maintained by your business to remain compliant. 

7. Business structure.

There are several different business structures…

Partnerships, S corporations, corporations, sole proprietorship and a limited liability company.

All business structures hold very different meanings and offer a variety of different benefits. You should consider if your business is going to remain privately funded, if you plan on taking on investors, and what type of growth you expect your company to have in the future. 

You’ve already put in all the leg work to get your business up and running, don’t let a simple – and costly – legal mistake cause you to lose it all.

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7 Mistakes First Time Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them

We have all seen it happen to at least one good person…

Rather it is in politics or small business – someone makes a huge mistake and loses it all.

But, the ironic part about the entire situation is that the mistake was totally MistakesbyFirstTimeEntrepreneursavoidable. And, as an outsider, you could totally see that.

However, the person making the detrimental mistake is an insider – they don’t see what you see, hints as to why they didn’t avoid the mistake in the first place.

So, as you look into beginning your entrepreneur journey for the first time, I am here to be the person that offers you the advice you need to avoid those big, obvious mistakes…

As an entrepreneur for the first-time, a few big mistakes you can make (and also avoid) include:

1.    Falling head-over-heels in love.

Mistake: Young, or just first time, entrepreneurs often fall into one trap – they get bit by the love bug of the business industry. Don’t fall completely in love with your business idea; you will lose focus. Falling in love with your business idea could blind you and keep you from seeing that it might not have any profit-generating avenues.

How to avoid it: Be subjective. Always keep a list of your pros and cons, to remind yourself that if or when the pros outweigh the cons, it is time to move on to a new idea.

2.    Lacking support.

Mistake: This can encompass lacking technical, emotional, and/or financial support – trust me, you will need it all. While you can’t always get everyone in your corner, there is always someone. Especially financially, you will need this support to even get started.

How to avoid it: Create your own support group. Only keep the people you trust in your close circle, but be sure to keep it free of all the “haters.” Discuss business with people who truly believe in you and foster those friendships.

3.    Working with friends.

Mistake: Friends are just that. Friends. Friends and business should always remain separate. When working with someone so close to you, a level of respect is often lacking in your relationship which could lead to issues and tension in the workplace.

How to avoid it: Scout out talented people at networking events. Ask other people in the industry for recommendations – maybe some of their former employees would be a good fit. Always look for neutral parties to add to the team.

4.    Attempting to capture everyone.

Mistake: There is a big sea of people out in the world, and capturing the attention and likings of them all is impossible. You will never make everyone happy and intrigue everyone enough to buy your product, so why waste your time trying?

How to avoid it: Designate a target audience, then, refine your message and target specific niches that relate to your target audience.

5.    Using personal credit cards for business expenses.

Mistake: Several experts in entrepreneurship say you should only risk what you can afford to lose. There is no guarantee your business idea will work, so don’t risk it all just hoping that it will. Putting business expenses on a personal credit card is a good sign you can’t afford whatever you’re doing – and now, you are paying interest on your debt to credit card manufacturers and companies.

How to avoid it: Start a savings account. Continue to build the balance up with the intentions of it being your business funds. Then, use those for business ventures. You already had it set aside for that purpose, so you aren’t risking tour livelihood.

6.    Failing to test the market.

Mistake: While your idea might sound pretty intriguing, it isn’t fail-proof. Just because you assume the market will eat it up, doesn’t mean that they will. Testing the market could also lead to valuable advice that could improve your product for better sales.

How to avoid it: Test your product and get feedback from the market rapidly – before starting your business. Pass the product out to friends, family and anyone else who is relative to your target audience.

7.    Being the single founder.

Mistake: You will have far more responsibilities and tasks than you realize. You will suddenly find yourself overloaded with tasks that you can’t possibly get done.

How to avoid it: Learn to delegate tasks. Have a co-founder, or two, that you can hand some of the responsibility.

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6 Digital Marketing Trends and Tips for Startups

Startups usually run on a shoestring, which means that they have limited marketing budgets. In order to reach their target audience and boost their business, startup owners have to be very creative and use every possible digital marketing Trends 1marketing strategy they have at their disposal. There are lots of cost-effective tactics that can be used, but having a well-defined strategy is essential for their implementation and success. If you do everything properly, you can expect a 50% increase in conversion rates.

Instant Messaging
Apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Tango are dominating the world of digital marketing. No wonder this is so when they offer easy audience segmentation as well as personalized communication. Messages that companies send their customers via instant messengers have very high open rates. As messages are precisely targeted and sent directly to customers, their reach is significantly higher than that of social media channels. Due to the fact that instant messages, even though they’re commercial, add a human touch to faceless and generic advertising communication, people open them within a few minutes, and their impact is instantaneous.

Outreach
There’s no better way to promote your business than to partner with an influencer from your industry. First of all, select someone who shares the same values and who doesn’t have a huge following. These, so-called micro-influencers with 10,000-100,000 followers, are more accessible to startups and SMBs, and they’re not too expensive. Besides that, although their following is smaller, it’s very loyal which means that your products and services will be presented to a relevant, target audience interested in what you have to offer. Another factor is even more important than the number of followers, and it’s their engagement. Always go for an influencer, or a Facebook group with responsive followers who like, share and comment a lot.

Mobile optimization
Google has reported that 9 out of 10 people leave a mobile website if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away. At the same time, a statistic has shown that 22.3% of all retail e-commerce dollars in the U.S. were spent through mobile devices. Obviously, if you want to grow your business, you need to optimize your website for mobile. If you take into consideration that more searches take place on mobile than on computers, it’s clear that you’re wasting a great opportunity to improve brand visibility if your site isn’t mobile friendly.

Video
Modern consumers are annoyed and fed up with traditional, intrusive ads and pop-ups. They want something to engage, educate, and entertain them. Valuable, relevant content can do wonders for your brand building efforts and awareness, which is why you need to come up with a stellar content strategy. Video has to be its essential part, as surveys say that people spend 1/3 of all their online activity watching videos. Live streaming adds a sense of urgency and interactivity to your video efforts and helps you connect with your customers on a more personal and direct level. However, in order to benefit from videos, they need to be well-produced and of high quality.

Social media
Social media platforms can amplify your brand message and help you expand your reach. Spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter can help you crowdfund your startup, grow your customer base, or generate traffic. It’s true that certain social media websites try to capitalize on paid ads, but their price is still moderate, which makes them affordable even for businesses with small budgets. Social proof, one of the most effective marketing tools, can be successfully generated and shared via social media, thus adding credibility to your business. Apart from improving brand visibility, social media channels can help you obtain valuable information about your customers and improve both your products and customer service.

Big data
Big data has the power to transform digital marketing by providing marketers with the necessary information, crucial for understanding and improving the results of their campaigns. Predictive analytics is highly useful for predicting customer behavior, customer profiling, reducing churn, and lead generation. All this can turn a modest startup into a highly successful venture. Many SMB owners fail to take advantage of big data because they believe that it’s too expensive, but as a matter of fact, there are more affordable options in which you can invest. Implementing this technology can be a real game changer for your business.

Digital marketing offers any startup a great chance to stand out and be noticed among the tons of its competitors’ commercial messages.

Nate Vickery is a business consultant and an online author mainly focused on latest trends in marketing and growth hacking. He is also the editor at Bizzmarkblog.com.

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MyDigitalShield Unveils OmniWAN, a SD-WAN Solution Designed for the SMB Market

MyDigitaial Sheild

New solution brings the high quality and reliability of expensive MPLS networks to low-cost broadband with baked in enterprise security

Wilmington, DE– June 20th, 2017My Digital Shield (MDS), a leading provider of Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) for small businesses, announced today the release of OmniWAN, a SD-WAN solution tailored to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A combination of Elastic UTM and SD-WAN, OmniWAN brings important quality metrics to existing internet connections, turning cable, DSL and more into enterprise-quality MPLS, without the costly price. Having offered OmniShield, an ElasticUTM platform tailored to provide Fortune 500-grade managed security services to SMBs, MDS sought out to create a high-performing, secure UTM coupled with high-performing internet connectivity at a small business price.

OmniWAN optimizes the internet connection or bonds multiple internet connections, sets several parameters and adds dynamic guardrails in order to keep all traffic flowing optimally. OmniWAN also adds other technology to ensure all applications are treated and optimized according to how they should be treated across the network. All applications, including voice, video streaming, music, webcasts, video conference and file transfers, are sensitive to different network parameters such as bandwidth, latency, jitter, packet loss, fragmentation, etc. OmniWAN ensures each application receives the optimal treatment for its sensitivity requirements.

"SD-WAN and ElasticUTM are extremely powerful independently, but when properly used together, the enhancements are exponential," said Andrew Bagrin, founder and CEO of MyDigitalShield. "We didn't want to become another SD-WAN provider; our goal was to enhance OmniShield while building a combined solution for the SMB market. As a result, we are able to bring the high quality and reliability of expensive networks at lower costs, but with baked in high-end security."

Tested by MDS channel partners for months, OmniWAN and OmniShield have shown great success.

"OmniShield has always been an amazing concept for security and one which has proven to be extremely effective for our clients; however, I was a bit skeptical about OmniWAN,” said Kenneth Holley, founder and CEO of Information Systems Integration, a premier MDS channel partner. “After experiencing it first hand, thoroughly testing in our lab and several other locations, I am amazed at how the combined solution works so well. The improvements to the networks are incredible.  Absolutely everything works better, is faster and more secure. The OmniWAN and OmniShield combination is exactly what we - and our clients - needed."


For more information about MDS’ OmniWAN, visit http://www.mydigitalshield.com/omniwan/.

About My Digital Shield
My Digital Shield (MDS) is a leading provider of ElasticUTM and SD-WAN fused as a platform that provides enterprise-quality connectivity and security technology to small businesses and branch offices. Based on industry-leading unified threat management (UTM) technology, MDS’ customizable cloud-based security solution offers continual protection against cyber threats and intrusion at an affordable price. With no bandwidth pollution, the ElasticUTM delivery model ensures that the latest virus definitions and threat updates are in use for continual threat prevention. Founded in 2013, MDS serves thousands of managed service providers (MSPs) and small businesses in various industries, including retail, restaurants, hospitality, and professional services. For more information, visit www.mydigitalshield.com or follow on Twitter @MyDigitalShield.

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Sage Advice: Hey George – What Should My 18 Year Old Son Do?

At the recently completed Sage Summit in Atlanta, I enjoyed a 1:1 meeting with George Foreman, boxing legend, following his keynote address to several thousand attendees. My question was simple – it was about advice for my 18 year old son who is an Eagle Scout and will start at CalPoly this fall studying information systems.
“It is important that you must start - you can't dream without making a first step to start. Then in life you will always have to start over. If you do it once, you can certainly do it again.” Foreman offered as advice that applies to anyone of any age.

Specific to a young person, Foreman opined “The most important thing is to get a job. Doesn't matter how many hours it is. Learn and then learn something you love. Even volunteer. Even clean the bathroom. At work, everyone will stop by to tell you something.” Foreman shared. “If you can just get into the door, you can learn what you really want to do. Don't wait to be successful. You got to start the ground work and you have to start from the bottom.” I’d offer that is sage advice from Foreman at the Sage Summit!

Keynote context
Foreman dazed and amazed the Sage Summit audience for a few rounds, literally. Today Foreman works with youth at the George Foreman Youth Center in Houston, Texas. “The youth energized me and really got me back into boxing the second time.” Foreman said. “I had run out of money and I was focused on getting kids off the street. I’m still doing the that."

harryb and george foreman

Foreman told his story of not completing high school to learning boxing and become Olympic gold medalist within two years of starting boxing. He went on to be a twice world champion. That followed with success with selling 100+ million George Foreman Grills.
George Foreman

Bottom line. Foreman went from riches to rags to riches again. His success is well-earned.

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