In today’s super-competitive business world it’s becoming emphatically dire for business owners to protect their business and secure their developed ideas, services and products. This is not only protection from a business to business perspective, but in the digital realm of today, safeguarding the business’s brand and voice from damaging consumers and reviews. It’s a constant worry and hassle that all businesses, regardless of the age or maturation, have to deal with and be confronted with at some point or time in their operations. Regardless of what it is that’s affecting your business, having the appropriate legal and business structures will ensure your business value isn’t damaged by an outside factor. Whether having the necessary protection from another competing business in your area (or online) to assuring that damage control is in place for any negative consumer reviews and comments; these are all mandatory cases where business owners have to constantly be ahead of the curve and protecting their businesses.Here are a few pointers to consider whether you’re safeguarding your business operations, company’s liabilities or even assuring that bad reviews and comments don’t damage your brand beyond repair.1. Protecting business processes and limiting excessive liabilities with the proper legal documents:* Start with having the proper legal documents and contracts or agreements in place. This begins with the proper “Employee Contracts and Agreements” on file for every employee, intern, freelancer or aligned consultant of the business entity. This outlines the expectations between the two parties and addresses how the agreement will pan out over time. “Non-Competing Agreements” are another area of protection from workers or employees taking your ideas and incorporating them into their own areas of business. Of course, these Employee agreements can be directly specialized per employee or just a basic underlying agreement. Some additional areas may include: “Ownership of Inventions” (maintains company ownership for those employees who invent or create within their respective roles while employed via the company), “No Authority to Contract” (called an agency provision, defines the employee to employee relationship and not an agency relationship) and Termination, Arbitration and Compensation clauses.* When or if your business deals with outside consultants and business partnerships (with other companies), having the best aligned partnership agreements and including “Non-disclosure Agreements” (NDA) can/will ensure that not only your business process is being covered, but ensures that no ideas or internal insights on your business seep out through outside hands, mouths, via conference call, memo’s or emails. Consider including “Gag Order” terms within your Non-Disclosure Agreements, if you’re seriously protecting the ‘next big idea’ or that hot “business” consumer good… or maybe it’s just a really powerful product idea. NDA’s can and should be a part of any or all business to business meetings where you’re disclosing any inside knowledge, processes or insights of your company. NDA’s ensure that business partner isn’t just ‘picking your brain’ for innovative ideas to incorporate.2. Protecting business ideas, creations and inventions:* Copyrights: are forms of protection for authors “of original work or ownership” within a tangible form of expression. Copyrights can cover the areas of literary, drama, art, music, intellectual property, photos, pictures, graphic designs, drawing and more. Copyright lends it way for licensing and royalty agreements and deals. Note, copyrights don’t cover names, short sayings/text, words or short phrases. This is when you register it as a trademark.* Trademarks: protect words, names, symbols or other notable devices used in trade to distinguish or denote a specific brand or good from others. Trademarks only protect one from another using your “mark” not from another competing business creating a very similar or same good under a different mark. Trademarks, used in interstate and foreign commerce, are filed through the Patent & Trademark Office.* Patents: are necessary for inventions, and grant property ownership to the inventor. Handled through the Patent & Trademark Office, patents terms are 20 years from the application date the patent was filed. Patents grants the “right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling” the invention in the US or importing the invention into the US.3. Protecting the business’ reputation & brand:* Local Content Management Services/Strategy: Ensures that any information about or related to the business is accurately maintained and distributed across all local and national distribution points or outlets. This can be extended to protect and manage the business online content or verbiage, and may pertain to business listing & data, meta tags, page titles, images, and the actual content on your sites. A local content management system offers accuracy and a universal language to all your online consumers.* Reputation Management: Consumers post millions of comments, reviews and feedbacks about brands constantly and via the internet, web, and mobile and social platforms daily. Some good and other just negative and bad or offensive to brands and company’s success. Having an online reputation management service allows a company or business to be alerted when comments, reviews, feedback and other posts or tweets pertain to your business. They alert the business about what’s being said and where, allowing the business to proactively deal or address the negative or bad (damaging) comments. Having this effective tracking device ensures that consumers are receiving the very best brand information that you want your business to be recognized for; without jeopardizing your brand’s online image.* Social Media Management: A staggering 91% of Americans utilize social media network platforms at some point within the month; that’s a figure of approximately 92million American monthly. (Experian: http://www.experian.com/index-bu2.html ) From Facebook’s population totaling more than China & India alone to Twitter surpassing 500 million users within a 10 months time span ( http://www.agi.it/english-version/business/elenco-notizie/201202221155-eco-ren1025-twitter_to_surpass_half_billion_user_mark_this_evening ), it’s beyond apparent that social media is becoming a norm in everyday life. Considering that there are hundreds of social networks; ensuring you reach those users on those individual platforms whether communicating for sales & client leads, desiring extra visibility, and cross marketing or brand promotions requires constant engagement efforts and the applicable (tracking) tools to reach those individual users where they are socially. Also, having a social media management system in place allows your conversations to be personalized according to those individual platforms, as not all social platforms and their user’s returns are the same, therefore, your social strategies shouldn’t be either.As a business owner in today’s challenging business world, having a tight control on protecting your business is a constant and daily grind. However, with the right tools and documents in place, you can guarantee that other competing businesses aren’t siphoning your business models or goods. It can be the deciding difference in outcomes of permitting your ‘next big idea’ from being broadcast across the national press release outlets under someone else’s brand name to losing tons of revenues from negative comments about your brand. Protecting you business for the long-terms starts with safeguarding your business from the start of the day to end… and that begins with your employees, business agreements & deals, and includes your consumers or customers. Remember defense wins in the long run.
Many people, when they first start a business, believe that ‘if they build it, they will come.’ While that may have worked in the movies, however, in business, just opening your business does not guarantee that it will be a success.Even if you have a brilliant business idea, offer top quality service, and exceptional products, your business can often fail, through no fault of your own. The key to avoiding that lies in doing market research long before you ever open for business, and to keep doing it as your business grows.Every business has a target market. This could be very general, such as a particular geographical area, or more specific, based on age, interests, gender, or other factors.Market research allows a business owner, or potential business owner, to figure out whether their target market will be able to sustain their business, and this is done in several ways, all of which are aimed at giving you a better idea of how your sales are likely to look once your doors open for business.One of the most basic tasks involved in market research would be to determine how many direct and indirect competitors your business will have.For instance, if you are planning to start a fast food business, you could drive around your neighbourhood, and count how many competing stores there are. If there are five outlets on one block, it is probably not wise to try and compete with an already saturated market, and you would probably want to move your business elsewhere. On the other hand, if there are no stores in the area you have chosen for your business, then you will probably have enough business to sustain your store.It is not only direct competition that you need to worry about though. Using the fast food example again, you would also need to look at related businesses, that are not direct competitors. Perhaps there are supermarkets that supply ready cooked meals, or maybe there are coffee shops in the area. Either of these could be factors in the success of your business, and should form part of your market research.Next, there is the issue of passing trade. Some businesses, like doctors, lawyers, plumbers and builders, do not rely on passing trade, so they are not concerned if there is not a lot of traffic in their chosen area. If, however, you are planning to start a retail outlet, a food service business, or another type of business that relies on people passing by for business, then you might want to spend some time monitoring your chosen location, to see just how much business you are likely to get.Another part of market research involves speaking to your target market themselves. This might be done as a survey, or you could try cold calling potential customers, to find out what their reaction to your proposed business would be.All of these market research tasks have one goal: to collect enough data about the people that you hope will buy from your company to be able to determine whether your venture is likely to be a success or not.Extensive market research helps the small business owner to find out whether their current business plan will succeed, or whether it needs work. You may find that while you are doing market research, you discover that a different location will be better for your store, or that your target market would prefer slightly different products to the ones you are planning to offer.You may discover that your potential customers are more or less affluent than you thought they were, and that may affect your purchasing and pricing strategies.The reason this is done before you start your business is so that you can alter your business plan to suit the needs of the community or industry you are planning to serve, before you start spending money implementing your business plan. It can also give you insights into what kind of marketing strategies will work best for your business, and show you who your competitors are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The more data you can assemble on your chosen market, the easier it will be to address problems, and find new solutions before you make costly mistakes.In fact, far from being an academic exercise, market research is a means of discovering whether your assumptions about your business are correct, and identifying the main issues you need to address.Every small business owner has a deep-seated fear of failure, but if you do enough market research, you will know who you are up against, and you will know who you are selling to. From there, there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent that kind of failure. That is why market research is not something that you should do if you have the time, but a crucial part of your business planning process!
Imagine that you are in the middle of preparing for a big presentation and are working closely with your counterpart from Spain. He sent you a document that should be incorporated in the presentation. The problem is that it is in Spanish. While you have certainly taken several units of the language in university, your skill is not enough to translate the document. So what do you do? Do you bust out your dusty Spanish dictionary and try your best to remember your lessons? Or do you rely on a good translation service provider? The smart thing to do here is to not waste your time and effort and just employ the services of a professional translator. Fortunately, there are a number of translation service companies that can provide you with the service that you need.Now there are companies and there are GOOD companies. How do you choose from the current glut of translation companies that offer almost the same things? What should you look for to ensure that you will get your money’s worth?* Professional and Accomplished TranslatorsIdeally, the translator working on your project should have a Master’s degree in education or translation. However, experience does trump a formal education anytime. An accomplished translator is not only fluent in the project’s target language but is also continuously studying and honing his or her craft. For instance, if you have a legal document that has to be translated, then your chosen translation service company should have a translator who’s legally certified, since there might be instances when he or she will be asked to appear in court to verify a document.* Good Reputation for High Quality WorkWhen making a decision regarding a company or product, one important aspect to be considered is the quality. It is understandable that one might favor a company that offers low-priced services, but note that these often have shoddy work. It is best to look for a translation service company that has a good reputation, even if they are more expensive. These companies only offer high-quality translations, as to do otherwise would affect their reputation.* Quality Control MeasuresNot everyone who can speak a foreign language is qualified to be a translator. A good and reliable translation company should provide you with insights and suggestions on your needs and their offer. They should also have checks and balances, like ISO certifications and review systems that ensure they will consistently provide high-quality work. This can help you weed out the companies that are not up to your standards. Check if the company you are considering has a translation certification, a confidentiality clause and offers free and unlimited revisions.These days, it is just not legal documents or reports that require translating. Globalization has already pushed companies into having their websites, advertisements and contents translated and localized. However, not all companies can offer those translation services. When determining which translation service company to use, incorporate the processes you would use when looking for a partner company and check whether you can work together and they can adjust to the needs and demands of your business.