Tag Archive | "small business"

10 Things to Think About: Employment Contract Provisions


Employment contracts take many different forms. All employees at a company may be asked to sign the same form contract, or each employee may have a contract with the employer that is applicable just to his or her employment agreement. An employer and an employee may simply have an oral agreement regarding the kind of work the employee will do, for how long, and at what rate of pay. Sometimes there is no written or oral agreement but the behavior of the employer and the employee can be viewed as an implied employment contract, reports Reuters.

Most employment contracts have common elements such as the employee’s start date, salary, and benefits. Other provisions that often appear in employment contracts are listed here. You can think about what kind of employment contract is agreeable to you before you sign your next employment agreement. Your attorney can advise you about the pros and cons of agreeing to the various provisions or suggest other terms to include.

1. CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT. An employee confidentiality agreement is a contract or part of a contract in which the employee promises never to share any information about the details of how the employer’s business is conducted, or the employer’s secret processes, plans, formulas, data, or machinery used, such as the price the company has charged for its products. Usually a confidentiality agreement lasts even after the employee no longer works for the employer.

2. NONCOMPETITION AGREEMENT. In the noncompetition clause the employee agrees that for a certain amount of time after he or she stops working for the employer, the employee will not become employed by a rival company or any company engaged in a similar type of business, and the employee will not set up a company that will compete with the employer’s business or solicit the employer’s customers. Usually the noncompetition clause is limited to a particular geographic area.

3. OWNERSHIP OF INVENTIONS. This provision applies to employees who invent things as part of their jobs. In this part of the contract the employee agrees that anything he or she invents at work, or during a set period of time after termination, becomes the employer’s invention, not the employee’s own invention. Additionally, employees usually agree to assign their inventions to the employer, cooperate with the employer in getting inventions patented, and keep information about the invention confidential like any other trade secret. In return, sometimes the employer agrees to share with employee-inventors a percentage of the royalties paid for inventions.

4. BEST EFFORTS. Although it is often just assumed that the employee will work hard for the employer, sometimes employers add a best-efforts provision to the employment contract. It states that the employee promises to work to the best of his or her ability and to be loyal to the employer. Sometimes it also states that the employee specifically agrees to make suggestions and recommendations to the employer that will be of benefit to the company.

5. EXCLUSIVE EMPLOYMENT. In this provision, the employee promises that as long as he or she works for the company the employee will not work for anyone else in the same or similar type of business. It may also extend to a promise not to be a shareholder or director in a similar business, or even to provide services voluntarily to a similar or competitor business.

6. NO ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION. The no additional compensation clause states that if the employee becomes an elected director or officer of the company or serves on a company managing committee, the employee will not be entitled to additional compensation for doing that work.

7. NO AUTHORITY TO CONTRACT. Sometimes this part of the contract is called the “agency” provision. It makes clear that the employer and employee have an employment relationship only, not an agency relationship; the employee has no right to enter into a contract or otherwise obligate the employer, unless the employer gives express written consent to do so.

8. TERMINATION. A standard part of any employment contract is the termination clause. It states that either party may terminate the employment contract for any reason by giving a certain amount of notice, such as two weeks’ notice. It may also give the employer the right to just terminate the contract without notice if the employee violates the contract in any way. Another aspect of the termination clause is a statement that the employer has the right to terminate the contract if the employee becomes permanently disabled because of ill health or physical or mental disability such that the employee can no longer do the job.

9. ARBITRATION. Arbitration clauses are found in many types of contracts, including employment contracts. In this provision, the parties agree at the onset of the relationship that if they ever have a dispute about any aspect of the employment relationship, they will submit the dispute to arbitration rather than seek resolution by a court of law. It may include details about the arbitration, such as whether the arbitration decision will be binding and how the parties will find an arbitrator when the time comes.

10. CHOICE OF LAW. Employment laws vary from state to state. Some states have laws that are generally viewed as more favorable or beneficial to employers than employees or vice versa. This part of the contract is an agreement that if the parties ever have a dispute that results in a lawsuit, it will be governed by the laws of a particular state, no matter where it is filed.

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How to Attract and Retain Customers With a Whitepaper


What is a whitepaper, and why should you create one? Targeted to B2B customers, a whitepaper is a short document (generally six to 10 pages long) that provides useful information to your customer base, displays your thought leadership, and showcases your business’s expertise, reports US Small Business Association.

Whitepapers are generally used to target buyers still in the pre-purchasing stages. With most B2B buyers now researching products online before they even contact a vendor, whitepapers are a great way to attract prospects to your website and capture their contact information—not to mention influencing their purchasing decisions. In fact, in a study by Eccolo Media, B2B technology buyers report that whitepapers are the most influential type of content they read when doing research on a business purchase.

Generally, a whitepaper lays out a business problem, challenge, or trend; shares information, best practices, or research related to that subject; and then summarizes what it means for readers. Short take: It’s a problem, an explanation, and a solution. For example, if you’re an IT consultant who targets other small businesses and want to create a whitepaper for clients, you could write about the growing risk of online cybercrime; explain why small businesses are a special target for cybercriminals; and share strategies for protecting a business.

While ebooks and blog posts can be fun and informal, white papers tend to be more serious. Types of topics often covered in a whitepaper include:

  • Industry trends affecting your customers
  • Common business problems or challenges
  • Research, statistics, or other data your business has collected that’s relevant to customers’ problems

Notice a common thread here? Yes, it’s your customers. To come up with an appealing whitepaper topic, brainstorm things that your customers care about, as well as things that your business can help them with. The intersection of the two is where you’ll find your ideal whitepaper topics. Present facts about the topic, and strategies for dealing with it that your business can help with or provide. Throughout, your goal is to educate customers on a topic, which makes them feel smart and makes you look good.

It’s important to remember that while a whitepaper is a sales tool, it shouldn’t appear like one. Whitepapers need to be “vendor neutral”—in other words, if you’re writing about data security for small businesses, don’t tout how your IT consulting service can help—tout how an IT consulting service can help. It’s a subtle difference, but saying, “Stevens IT Consulting can help you protect your business from these risks” comes off sales-y, while “selecting an experienced IT consulting service familiar with small business IT issues can help you protect your business from these risks” comes off as impartial advice that makes customers want to learn more.

So where does the sales part come in? Include your business name prominently on the cover page of the whitepaper. On the last page of the whitepaper, include a description of your business—sort of like an author bio. This should be about a paragraph long and spell out what your business does. If the whitepaper about data security explains that the solutions are A, B, and C, then your business description says something like, “Stevens IT Consulting is an IT consulting firm that specializes in providing A, B, and C to small and midsized companies. For more information or a free consultation to find how we can help with your data security needs, contact us.” Be sure that your contact information is prominently displayed.

How can you use a whitepaper?

  • Offer it as a free download to prospects who share their contact information with you
  • Print and distribute it at trade shows or industry events
  • Offer it as a “reward” when someone fills out a form or speaks to a salesperson
  • Post a link to it on social media to attract new prospects

Your whitepaper also needs to be designed—charts and graphs can help convey information. If writing and/or designing it is beyond your skills, ask other business owners for referrals to freelancers specializing in content marketing who can write and design a whitepaper and even help you hone your topic and focus.

A good whitepaper is a useful document not only for your readers, who will refer to it for help in running their businesses, but for you—as you can use it over and over again as long as the information and advice remains current.

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6 Secrets to Being More Productive Each Day


When you own or run a business, it’s crucial you maximize every second of every day. Unfortunately, most owners and CEOs already work non-stop, so adding time isn’t an option. Instead, leaders have to learn how to make better use of their time spent, reports Entrepreneur.

When I plunged into the startup scene four years ago, I brought an extremely strong work ethic and a lot of audacity to the CEO role, but I lacked the necessary experience and discipline to be highly productive.  Today, while I’m nowhere near perfect, I have learned a few tricks that can help new entrepreneurs get the most out of their workday:

1. Write down your goals — both big and small.

It seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook the importance of writing down their goals. Using a journal to organize everything makes it easy to look back and see where you’ve been, what milestones have been hit and what’s still ahead. And don’t forget that while the big milestones are important, short-term goals are equally as significant.  The small goals not only provide valuable chances to learn and grow, but they are perfect practice for helping to accomplishing the larger ones. Remember that as your business grows so will your goals, so be sure to revise, readjust and rewrite often.

2. Leverage technology.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m a sucker for any tech tool that claims to simplify my life, whether it’s for personal development or professional expansion. While I wouldn’t recommend using every single app that you come across, there are definitely a few that make sense for entrepreneurs.

Regain precious hours and keep employees on track with tools likeDropbox and Google Docs allowing team members immediate access to shared and organized documents. For teams collaborating on multiple to-do lists Trello makes project management a breeze through real-time boards designed for simultaneous task completion. Even getting in touch with one another is easier through the use of products like HipChat and Skype.

3. Delegate tasks.

If you’re anything like me you’re going to what to have a finger in everything, from business development to customer service (it is your baby after all).  However, doing it all makes it very difficult to accomplish your actual responsibilities.  You’ve spent time building the perfect teamso make sure you are using them.  Delegate responsibilities and trust that your team is going to get things done. Don’t micromanage.

4. Take breaks.

It may seem like working non-stop throughout the day is the best way to grow your business, however it can actually be counterproductive.  Research shows that taking short breaks at regular intervals throughout the day not only keeps you healthier, but it also helps you refocus on the job at hand.  Take the office dog for a quick walk, do some mindful yoga or go on a lunchtime run. Whatever it is that helps you recharge, fit it into your daily schedule.

5. Acknowledge success. 

One of the easiest ways to lose productivity is when you’re feeling like your hard work is going unnoticed ––even as the leader of the team.  When a goal is met or someone has put in extra time to close a high-level deal, take the time to celebrate.  It doesn’t have to be cupcakes and balloons every time, but finding a special way to acknowledge the milestones will keep everyone motivated and excited to hit the next one.

6. Plan your day the previous evening.

If you plan your day in the morning you’re too late.  This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned on my journey. At the end of each day sit down and take a moment to reflect.  Did you meet your daily goal? Are you on track for the week? What changes can you make? Reflecting at the end of the day allows you to see what needs to be accomplished tomorrow.  When you make those plans in advance you can hit the ground running, instead of spending your morning trying to figure out what needs to be done.

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Things Successful People Do on Weekends


If you think that the best thing you can on weekends is absolutely nothing, you are completely wrong! Sure, you need to time to relax and rest but this doesn’t mean that you should sit down on a coach and do nothing but watch TV for all day long. You should take control of your weekends and do the things you enjoy the most. If you do things that make you happy on weekends, you can start your workweek happier. As a result, you can be more productive and in the end much more successful, reports Business to Community.

Below you can find some tips for how to spend your weekend:

  • Plan Your Weekend: You plan your career, vacation and workday. Why not plan your weekend? Don’t try to plan every hour but schedule two-three events for your weekend such as meeting up with friends for dinner or visiting a museum or going to a concert. This will help you prevent being locked up in the house and give you an excuse to go out for a change.
  • Spend Time with Your Loved Ones: You are generally busy during the week so spending your weekend with loved ones is one of the best options. This can be your family or friends or both. Spending time with them will help you relax, refresh your mind and simply be happy. Therefore, you will start your workweek as a more peaceful person.
  • Unplug Yourself: Stay away from stress. Turn off your computer and smart phone for at least a few hours and force other people around you to do the same. In this way, you can spend more quality time with each other and enjoy your weekend freely.
  • Get Ready for the Rest of the Week: Take Saturdays off for having fun and relaxing but use Sundays to get the errands done and make a strategy for the rest of the week. For example; on Sundays do your laundry, clean the house and cook a great meal so when Monday comes, you are ready to go.
  • Do Something Different: Your weekends should feel different than your workweeks. For this reason, find yourself hobbies to do on weekends like swimming or playing tennis or painting. If you don’t have any hobbies, you can go to the gym and exercise. This will help you clear your mind and let your body recover from the stress of the workweek.

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Ten Things to Think About: Picking a Business Form


1. Cost. A sole proprietorship or general partnership can be set up very inexpensively, reports Reuters. A limited partnership and a limited liability company are more expensive to set up. Setting up a corporation can be a very expensive undertaking.

2. Ease. A sole proprietorship is easy to set up; sometimes all it takes is opening up a business checking account. Similarly, a general partnership is easy to set up, although a partnership agreement is something that the partners should create prior to beginning operations. A limited partnership, limited liability company, and corporation involve more work. Since all three entities must be recognized by the state, it is important to adhere strictly to the state requirements or run the risk of losing the advantages that the particular business entity provides.

3. Termination. Some business entities automatically terminate upon such events as death, the withdrawal of a partner, or even divorce. In addition, some businesses are allowed to exist only for a state-mandated period of time.

4. Public Information. How much information do you want the public to know about your business and finances? A corporation is required to provide much more information to the state, which is then available to the public, than a limited liability company or a limited partnership. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships offer the individuals involved a great deal of privacy.

5. Risk. If the business involves a great deal of risk a sole proprietorship or general partnership may be a bad idea because the owner and general partners are personally liable for the business debts and obligations.

6. Operation. The form of the business entity may dictate how it is operated. If you want total control, a sole proprietorship provides the businessperson the greatest degree of control (and the greatest degree of potential risk).

7. Capitalization. An undercapitalized business may result in a loss of protection provided by the business entity. In addition, some business forms make it easier to raise capital when it is needed.

8. Selling. A sole proprietorship is easy to sell; usually you sell the assets of the business, and your business ceases to exist. Selling a partnership interest or a member’s interest in a limited liability company can be tricky because it requires approval of the other partners or members.

9. State Taxes. Some states have begun to levy taxes on the business entity itself. This is becoming a big issue with limited liability companies. You should know whether your state will tax your business entity before setting it up.

10. Expansion. Every entrepreneur wants to be as successful as possible. Some business entities are limited to the number of shareholders they may have. A sole proprietorship ceases to exist the moment the sole proprietor takes on a partner. It is important to choose a business form that allows you the greatest room to grow if that is what you envision. Although the business form may be changed, this involves additional expense and energy.

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8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings


You’ll wake up for about 25,000 mornings in your adult life, give or take a few, reports Entrepreneur.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. Most people in wealthy nations are hovering around the 80–year mark. Women in Japan are the highest, with an average life expectancy of 86 years.

If we use these average life expectancy numbers and assume that your adult life starts at 18 years old, then you’ve got about 68 years as an adult. (86 – 18 = 68) Perhaps a little less on average. A little more if you’re lucky.

(68 years as an adult) x (365 days each year) = 24,820 days.

Once I realized this, I started thinking about how I could develop a better morning routine. I still have a lot to learn, but here are some strategies that you can use to get the most out of your 25,000 mornings.

Here are eight strategies that I’ve found to be most effective for getting the most out of my morning:

1. Manage your energy, not your time.

If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll probably realize that you are better at doing certain tasks at certain times. For example, my creative energy is highest in the morning, so that’s when I do my writing each day.

By comparison, I block out my afternoons for interviews, phone calls, and emails. I don’t need my creative energy to be high for those tasks, so that’s the best time for me to get them done. And I tend to have my best workouts in the late afternoon or early evening, so that’s when I head to the gym.

What type of energy do you have in the morning? What task is that energy best suited for?

2. Prepare the night before.

I don’t do this nearly as often as I should, but if you only do one thing each day then spend a few minutes each night organizing your to–do list for tomorrow. When I do it right, I’ll outline the article I’m going to write the next day and develop a short list of the most important items for me to accomplish. It takes 10 minutes that night and saves 3 hours the next day.

3. Don’t open email until noon.

Sounds simple. Nobody does it. It took me awhile to get over the urge to open my inbox, but eventually I realized that everything can wait a few hours. Nobody is going to email you about a true emergency (a death in the family, etc.), so leave your email alone for the first few hours of each day. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”

4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room.

Or on your colleagues desk. Or at the very least, put it somewhere that is out of sight. This eliminates the urge to check text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. This simple strategy eliminates the likelihood of slipping into half–work where you waste time dividing your attention among meaningless tasks.

5. Work in a cool place.

Have you ever noticed how you feel groggy and sluggish in a hot room? Turning the temperature down or moving to a cooler place is an easy way to focus your mind and body. (Hat tip to Michael Hyatt for this one.)

6. Sit up or stand up. 

Your mind needs oxygen to work properly. Your lungs need to be able to expand and contract to fill your body with oxygen. That sounds simple enough, but here’s the problem: most people sit hunched over while staring at a screen and typing.

When you sit hunched over, your chest is in a collapsed position and your diaphragm is pressing against the bottom of your lungs, which hinders your ability to breathe easily and deeply. Sit up straight or stand up and you’ll find that you can breathe easier and more fully. As a result, your brain will get more oxygen and you’ll be able to concentrate better.

7. Eat as a reward for working hard. 

I practice intermittent fasting, which means that I eat my first meal around noon each day. I’ve been doing this for almost two years. There are plenty of health benefits, which I explained in great detail here,here, and here.

But health is just one piece of the puzzle. I also fast because it allows me to get more out of my day. Take a moment to think about how much time people spend each day thinking, planning, and consuming food. By adopting intermittent fasting, I don’t waste an hour each morning figuring out what to eat for breakfast, cooking it, and cleaning up. Instead, I use my morning to work on things that are important to me. Then, I eat good food and big meals as a reward for working hard.

8. Develop a “pre–game routine” to start your day.

My morning routine starts by pouring a cold glass of water. Some people kick off their day with ten minutes of meditation. Similarly, you should have a sequence that starts your morning ritual. This tiny routine signals to your brain that it’s time to get into work mode or exercise mode or whatever mode you need to be in to accomplish your task. Additionally, a pre–game routine helps you overcome a lack of motivation and get things done even when you don’t feel like it.

For more details about why this works, read How to Get Motivated.

The Power of a Morning Routine

Just as it’s rare for anyone to experience overnight success, it’s also rare for our lives crumble to pieces in an instant. Most unproductive or unhealthy behaviors are the result of slow, gradual choices that add up to bad habits. A wasted morning here. An unproductive morning there.

The good news is that exceptional results are also the result of consistent daily choices. Nowhere is this more true than with your morning routine. The way you start your day is often the way that you finish it.

Take, for example, Jack LaLanne. He woke up each day at 4am and spent the first 90 minutes lifting weights. Then, he went for a swim or a run for the next 30 minutes. For more than 60 years, he spent each morning doing this routine. In addition to being one of the most influential people in fitness in the last 100 years, LaLanne also lived to the ripe old age of 96.

This is no coincidence. What you do each morning is an indicator of how you approach your entire day. It’s the choices that we repeatedly make that determine the life we live, the health we enjoy, and the work we create.

You’ve got 25,000 mornings. What will you do with each one?

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