Becoming a Business Owner..

There are several ways to become your own boss..

1) Build a business around your ideas
2) Build a business around someone else idea
3) Buy a franchise
4) Buy an exciting successful business from someone who’s ready to retire.

Buying a will establish business, with a product or service that will always be needed, and that you can be passionate about, is the one I recommend. There is less risk, and you are more likely be profitable from day one…

Business Ownership

VSBAF has access to a lists of businesses in California ( sometimes in other States) that the owner wishes to sell. We can help a veteran get government loans for 90% of the purchase price, and in some cases, even make it possible to buy a profitable business with only 5% down..

If that interest you, tell us the type of business you would like to own, and our Director George Lanza; owner of Plethora Businesses;

Importance Of A Business Plan For Small Business

All Businesses Need a Business Plan

Fish Sharee wrote about the importance of planning for success in any business venture.

No matter what size of business you have; importance of a business plan should never beBusiness Planning overlooked. Having a goal for your business is one thing and defining path to achieve that goal is another. The business plan is a set of rules and guidelines that make sure that you are on track and in accordance with your long term business goals.
Your operations and results can never attain stability in the absence of a properly researched and analyzed plan. This article is particularly focused on how essential a business plan is for long term objectives of any company.

Calculating, predicting and determining profits:
The main reason of any business is to make profit unless you are running a non- profit organization. It is not only you who will be interested in determining the profit of your business but if at any point you need finances and seek an investor; he’ll be more interested in your profit figures than you. Your plan is essential in calculating profit by taking into account your assets, liabilities, expenses and cost of goods sold. Planning also helps in predicting future profits which is known as forecasting.

Start-up and expansion cost:
If you are starting a new business a plan will help you calculate the amount of capital required to start your company. If you are looking to expand your operation and require finances for it your business plan should be able to tell you about the amount of additional capital needed. Lenders will also be interested in your business plan before investing in your business or before approving any loans.

Marketing:
An ideal plan includes your marketing strategy and how you are looking to advertise your product. Marketing your business is usually considered costly and often requires additional finances. A plan demonstrating the main objectives of your marketing strategy is more likely to find you reliable investors.

Management Team:
Business is run by its managers. Stakeholders are always interested in the management team running the day to day operation of a business. Business plan should include a brief introduction of each of the member of management team, their past accomplishments, educational backgrounds and area of expertise. This part of a business plan will present an inside view of the operation of the business to potential investors and other stakeholders.

Mergers:
Plans are not only useful for new companies. For bigger organizations the plan includes the method of mergers and how are you going to operate both the companies. You business’s success and profitability doesn’t guarantee a sure merger.

Planning:
A plan is extremely important for your business and it should be made after thorough research of the market and competitors. Many professionals offer their services to help you create a solid business plan. It should always be remembered that your business plan must be flexible enough to welcome any positive changes required during the course of operation. Ideally business plan should be revised and published after the end of each financial year.

What’s in Your Business Plan
 

Tips When Seeking Funding

When Seeking Funding
As a new entrepreneur, unless you’re dipping into your own private fortune, you’ll probably have to spend some time fund raising to collect enough capital to start your project.

For most founders, the process is difficult and time-consuming but necessary for the potential life of their business. If you haven’t been through the process before, the experience can be even more harrowing, since you won’t be familiar with the customs and conventions of fundraising.

Encountering a no from an angel investor, friend or even a possible crowdfunder can be disheartening. But don’t let it get the best of you.
Consider these steps to increase your chances of being reconsidered, improve your potential for obtaining financing in the future and in general relieve the stress of securing funding..
Related:  When Angel Investors Reject Your Plan

1. Be professional.
As you go through the fundraising process, keep your behavior and actions as professional as possible. It’s not disrespectful to follow up with a possible investor, even if he or she has said no to you before. But if you hound this person constantly with no new information, you might as well rule out any possibility that he or she might reconsider your pitch.
On the other hand, if you politely thank the potential investor for his or her time and follow up in a few weeks when you’ve gathered more information or adjusted the business model, you’ll have a much better chance of securing that funding.

2. Understand that raising capital is a long-term goal.
Anyone passionate about a business idea probably wants to start working on it as soon as possible and is excitedly anticipating the company’s launch. You won’t succeed in having your business funded overnight, though, unless you’re incredibly lucky. Fundraising is a long-term process and your project may remain at a standstill for longer than you would like.
Even after landing a commitment for funding, closing the deal can take months. Raising funds often ends up being a long process, so don’t let a short-term obstacle get in your way.

3. A no can be part of the road to yes.
Great business ideas may not be explosive hits immediately. The road to their acceptance can be littered with obstacles, failures and rejections.
Successful entrepreneurs might happily recount for you the numerous times they were rejected over the course of their careers. Take solace in the fact that many people who have accomplished things have done so only after an initial rejection.
Related:  Want Angel Investors? Here’s What You Need to Know Right Now. (Infographic).

4. Contemplate all the options.
There’s no right or wrong way to pursue funding. If one channel seems to be generating more obstacles than opportunities, change your strategy. When most people think of raising business capital, they think of angel investors or private lenders, but several other options exist.
You could apply for loans and grants through federal and local government programs for small businesses after checking the  Small Business Administration’s website. or pursue crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter , or GoFundMe.
Choosing the right channel (or group of channels) to pursue funding could increase your chances of arriving at a yes.

5. Review the business model.
Use an initial rejection as a learning opportunity. Examine your business model for any major flaws or weaknesses or flat out ask the rejecter why he or she passed on your project.
Perhaps your research doesn’t support your assumptions as closely as you thought. Or the project’s profitability might appear to be unpredictable over the course of time. Attending to such issues can make your overall business idea more attractive to other potential investors or might be enough to change the minds of initial rejecters.

6. Improve the pitch.
In a way your pitch is a consolidated version of your business model and should be strong enough to capture the attention of potential investors. This is especially true if you tackle crowdfunding.
When you speak for a minute or write a couple of sentences about the business, you should be able to explain the core concept and exactly why it’s a valuable investment opportunity to a prospect. If you can’t do that, your pitch needs refinement.

If you’re fundraising and already encountered a no, then congratulations. You’ve successfully completed the first step of the journey toward funding your business. There are dozens of routes to successful fundraising and none are straight. So when you encounter a major obstacle, take a minute to breathe, re-evaluate things and then keep working toward your ultimate goal. 

Related:  “7 Tips for an Investment Pitch That Excites and Inspires”

Jatson Demers Tips When Seeking Funding

Starting Your Own Business by Kylie Jane Wakefield

Starting a business can seem like a scary and arduous task. Especially if you’re used to waking up at 7 in the morning, being at your desk by 9, and clocking out around 5. With such a daily structure, life can feel stable. Having a steady paycheck, and not having the success of the company you work for relying solely on you can be a comfortable routine.

However, if comfort, ease and predictability aren’t what drive you; you feel unchallenged or dissatisfied at your life, perhaps there’s something more for you.
Just like you, there are many people who didn’t feel like they fit in at a full-time job, working for someone else. Rather than giving in or giving up, they chose to go the exhilarating (and often unpredictable) route of becoming an entrepreneur instead.

Why Start a Business?
There are many reasons why the idea of starting a small business is attractive to people. Here are some of the top ones reported by entrepreneurs across the nation.

1. Entrepreneurs can work for themselves. In a worldwide survey, it was discovered that the biggest motivator for Americans to become entrepreneurs is the fact that they can “be their own boss.”. According to CBS News’ Mark Hendricks, this is because the United States is a place where “individual freedom is highly prized.” Thus, people would rather be independent workers, looking after themselves, instead of being observed by higher-ups.

2. Entrepreneurs want to be more hands on. According to a survey from Cox Business, a reason why employees decide that starting a small business is right for them is the fact that they can “build something from scratch”

When you’re on your own, you feel a sense of satisfaction when you accomplish something. If you don’t meet your quarterly earnings goal at your small business, it falls on you. However, if you figure out how you can save money every month on your important expenses, you’ll feel like a million dollars. Working at a company, on the other hand, is a group effort, and you may feel like just another cog in the machine.

3. Entrepreneurs want more money. Money is another factor in employees’ decisions to take on a new career as an entrepreneur. Perhaps a person’s current job doesn’t pay enough, or he or she “started a side business that suddenly became lucrative”, and required more time than he or she thought it would. The job that seems like it will pay a better salary almost always wins out over the lower-paying one.

4. Entrepreneurs want to take on additional roles. Small business owners don’t fit into one job description. They are multi-talented and don’t want to be pigeon-holed as an accountant, data entry clerk, or human resources manager. According to Chron.com and More Business, an entrepreneur believes he or she knows how a business should be run, and “this motivates the entrepreneur to start his own business and get directly involved.” Instead of hitting their head against the wall when their boss makes a mistake, they can take charge and do it their own way.

Starting a Business on Your Own
If any of the above reasons apply to you or if you have your own motivations for going into business on your own, there are plenty of resources that can help you “find the best startup ideas,”,“make a plan,” , “chose a business name,” or “choose a business structure.”

Remember: opening a business isn’t easy, but if you’re truly passionate about it, there’s no time like the present.

Whether you’re interested in starting an online business or a brick-and-mortar company, LegalZoom can help you “choose a name,” choose the right business structure,”
serve as your company’s , “registered agent,” help with a “business licenses,” and more.

Why enrollment in VA Healthcare is so important!

VA Healthcare

Has anyone recommended you enrolled in VA Healthcare, but didn’t tell you why. Will I am. The VA is the perfect safety net for veterans, in the event of the of a catastrophic diagnosis or injury.

Jane Babcock had the family of a twenty something veteran call her office from the ER.Hospitalized Veteran 312 x 226Their son suffered a TBI in a motorcycle accident, had no insurance, and was going to need on-going care. Fortunately when he came to the office to register his DD-214 the year before, he also filled out a VA Healthcare application. Since the VA had already verified his service, all Jane needed to do was call the Patient Advocate at the nearest VA Medical Center, and the VA stepped in.

While in a life threatening status the VA paid the hospital bills. Once he was stable the VA arranged for his transfer to the VA hospital (an hour away) until he was strong enough to move to his parents’ home. Due to his need for near daily PT and inability to travel without special transportation, the VA authorized the payments for his PT and on-going care at the local civilian facilities. Jane often tells veterans; who say they don’t want to bother applying since they have insurance or feel their fellow veterans need it more; it is hard for me to fill-out the form or possibly even locate your DD-214 if you are unconscious in the ER.

Do you need another reason

The second reason is to show the VA and federal budget people where the greatest potential needs for care are. When the economy tanked the VA, as most federal agencies, was unprepared for the number of veterans who needed their services. It’s important the all veterans help the VA start determining a better plan for the future for all of us.

Don’t let the resent news of the VA healthcare system stop you from enrolling, even if you’re in good health today.

A successful startup

Start Up Challenges

There are very few things in the business world which are as challenging as a new start-up business. Regardless of how much experience the new business owner may possess this will be no guarantee of success, because there are so much uncertain areas about that new business which has to be learned as you go along.
Business Start-up Chart
There is also no guarantee that the decisions which you make at the spur of the moment are indeed the most effective and beneficial for that business and therefore there will always be a measure of uncertainty.

Experience no Guarantee for Success

History has shown us that even when highly experienced business managers were appointed to manage the start-up process of a new business all of their previous experience were insufficient to prepare them for the unknown areas which they had to deal with in that start-up business.
Even with significant amounts of reserve cash, they still struggled to get anywhere with their management of that start-up business. Their substantial amounts of experience were of very little use in that new start-up business.
Research has clearly indicated that in any new business there are tremendous amounts of unknowns, which are difficult to avoid and equally difficult to prepare for. All that the business owner can do is to make the best decision about that present situation and hope that it will be sufficient to resolve those issues.
Even an experienced CEO knows a decision which works well today will no longer be efficient tomorrow, and situation have to be analyzed all over again, and a new decision must be devised in order to address that situation. Here is where a business coach or mentor can help you avoid mistakes.

Management Styles, and Success

The management style which are generally encountered in a start-up business, are often a case of trial and error, and this could continue for two or more years before that business starts to settle into some form of a routine, and at least some form of normalcy are achieved.
However, the quicker a business is able to move through the start-up period, the sooner it begin to generate profits, and the more money can be saved. Very long start-up periods can have the effect that investors run out of money and the venture loses its attractiveness.
One of the best ways to reach a stable business model as quickly as possible will be to generate as much feedback from your customers as possible. When you keep your ear on the ground, and take the comments of your customers to heart, and quickly align yourself with their needs your business will continue to grow. This will happen if you give your customers the best experience possible.

It becomes significantly easier for that new business to find its feet and to enter into a state of profitability if they follow this advice.

How to have a Winning Video Interview

Looking for a Job Requires knowing the Game

As you’re out looking for a job, you need to know the tools interviewer are using these days.

Virtual Video Interviewing; video interviews are becoming an increasingly important part of the Video Job interviewjob search process. Using this technology, companies can more easily screen candidates regardless of their geographic location, which is especially useful for military personnel who are stationed around the globe. In fact, companies will soon be conducting “live” video interviews through Corporate Gray Online.

These “live” video interviews allow for a virtual face-to-face conversation between a recruiter and candidate. Some companies also use one-way video interviews, whereby the candidate answers a set of pre-screening questions that are recorded and viewed later by the recruiter. Whichever type of digital interview you encounter, preparation is important for a successful experience.

Interview Preparation

The following recommendations apply to any type of interview, whether it’s in-person, phone, or video:

a) List the possible questions you’ll be asked, and create a script of clear, concise, and well thought out answers to practice and prepare.

b) List questions you want to ask the interviewer, in case they offer this ability at the end of the interview. Research the company so your questions and answers are relevant to the recruiter and the firm. The best candidates ask the best questions.

c ) For two-way interviews, give the recruiter your full attention with absolutely no distractions that could be detected or deter from your performance.

d) After the interview, contact the recruiter to thank them for the opportunity to interview, and recap your skills and interest in the job and their company. Don’t be afraid to ask for the job at the end of the interview!

Video Interview Tips

But what about preparing for a video interview in particular? You should expect to participate in video interviews at some point during your job search. “We’ve been using digital interviews for the last three years, and the process is becoming more and more common,” says Lisa Carroll, Search Executive for Kopplin & Kuebler.

They can seem daunting, as many people are not comfortable in front of a webcam and are not familiar with using the technology. However, with a few tips and some practice, you’ll be on the right track for acing the video interview…

Dress appropriately from head-to-toe. That’s right, even from the waist down! You don’t want a recruiter to catch a glimpse of inappropriate clothing in case you adjust your position. Plus, you’ll feel more professional and in character. Avoid patterned or white clothing. Patterns can often give the illusion of movement on camera, and white can be unflattering and add glare.

1) Test the Internet connection, lighting, video, and sound. If possible, use a wired (vs. wireless) Internet connection. This provides a stronger and more dependable connection. The best webcam placement is just above your sightline. Looking up slightly is a more flattering angle and it encourages you to sit up straight.

2) Being in front of a camera can be intimidating and uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have much practice. So practice, practice, practice, and remember to smile – it goes a long way on a digital interview. If a one-way video interview allows for practice questions, take advantage of them to check your settings and get more comfortable with the process.

3) Choose a quiet place to interview. Have a clean desk and simple background so that nothing distracting is picked up on the audio or video. Put pets away, and let everyone who is home know that you will be interviewing. If necessary put a do-not-disturb sign on the door as a reminder. Ms. Carroll had difficulty evaluating a candidate whose interview included a chirping bird in the background.

4) Close other programs on your computer so the interview is not interrupted by a signal, such as a message on Facebook or an incoming email. Remember the interviewer should have your undivided attention.

5) Remember to look into the camera, not at the screen, when answering questions. The camera is your target for making eye contact, which is just as important in a video interview as in-person (consider taping a sign next to the camera to remind you). It is okay to look at the interviewer when they are asking the question, but direct your responses directly to the webcam.

6) Seeing yourself on camera is helpful to check how you appear to the recruiter, but don’t let it distract you during the interview. If you find your own image on the screen distracting, close that window if possible, or cover it with a post-it note.

7) Be aware of the timing so that your answer is not cut short on a one-way recorded interview.

8) Don’t be afraid to make a mistake and start your answer over. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s better to fix your answer than continue with a poor choice.

9) Avoid using hand movements, which are more distracting on video than in-person.

10) Use the notes you prepared, but don’t rely too heavily on them for your answers. Prepare them so they can be quickly scanned for thoughts and ideas, but don’t use them like a script.

Although some of the tips above might seem obvious, they are not to be taken lightly. Don’t risk a negative evaluation just because you didn’t properly prepare!

Contributor: Lisa Carroll, Search Executive for Kopplin & Kuebler, conducts General Manager, Executive Chef, Assistant General Manager, Clubhouse Manager, and Chief Financial Officer searches in the private club industry.

Advice for Work and Life

Advice You Can Put to Work in Your Life

An article by Martin Bjergegaard talked about consider the saying, “knowledge inwork life balance and of itself isn’t power. Instead, knowledge is potential power.”

I think the way we choose to make use of it is what makes all the difference.”
Look for ways to apply what you learn below.

Steps to a Great Work-Life Balance

1. Make a decision
2. Believe it is possible
3. Create the playing ground you need
4. Focus on the wildly Important
5. Optimize hours in flow
6. Do the worst first

Success Requires Sacrifice.

We hear it over and over again: “Success requires sacrifice….You can’t have it all”.

If you want to be successful with your business or career, you will have to buckle down and get ready to pay a steep price in your personal life.

This is how most people think and live. Yet there’s a minority of people, let’s call them role models, who have found a way to end this age-old and unforgiving compromise. Martin Bjergegaard knows this because he searched the globe for them. He wrote a book about what they can teach us – and this is how he has chosen to live my own life.

Within the last decade these role models have each created amazing companies from scratch. They’ve built multi-million, if not billion, dollar fortunes, and they’ve done so in a respectful and sustainable way. The interesting part is that WHILE they have built their businesses, they have found ways to enjoy life, stay true to themselves, and in general have enjoyed a healthy work/life balance.

Regarding myself— Martin work an average of 45 hours per week. He has six weeks of vacation every year where I travel the world. He spend tons of time with his daughter, wife, family and friends. He run marathons and work out 4 times every week.

During the last seven years, he co-founders and has built start-ups that currently employ over 200 people. He had a couple of really nice exits, created Europe’s leading accelerator, Startup bootcamp, and his co-author Jordan Milne and he have authored the afford mentioned book, Winning Without Losing –an international bestseller translated into 11 languages, and winner of the “Management Book of the Year” award by Chartered Management Institute and The British Library.

Success and a Great Work/Life Balance

According to Martin Bjergegaard, Work/Life balance are definitely more compatible than most of us would think. But it does require some intelligent strategies. Here are six of the most important ones:

1: Make a decision

What’s most important in your life? Ask that question, and many of us are quick to answer our health, loved ones, and well-being. But what do we do when we get stressed about work? Most people are much more inclined to cancel their work out or the trip to the zoo with the family, than to miss a deadline. Of course, it’s important to do the work you have promised to do, but if you don’t stick up for your work/life balance, you are not going to have it.

2: Believe it is possible

The big problem is that deep down most of us don’t believe we can be both successful and balanced. If we don’t believe it, we don’t stand a chance. Perception becomes reality. That’s why we need inspiration from those brave few that are already living this new paradigm—those who are enjoying balance while being immensely successful. Keep imposing such people’s wisdom on yourself until you truly believe that work/life balance is possible. Winning Without Losing is one source of such inspiration.

3: Create the playing ground you need

I will be the first to admit that not all circumstances allow for work/life balance. Ten years ago I was a management consultant with a successful global consulting firm.

No matter what I did, balance there was impossible. You can almost say that “non-balance” was built into the DNA of this particular firm, and there was no way a junior consultant could change that. So I quit, and started my own company. Since then I have had more fun and success than I could have achieved at my past position. I am not saying you need to quit your job, I am only stating that some circumstances are impossible for balance, and if you are stuck in such a scenario, you might want to re-evaluate your options.

4: Focus on the wildly important

It’s amazing how much we all get trapped by the idea that everything is equally important and needs to be done right now. In reality, one or two things are absolutely critical to our progress while the rest of our tasks might only be of marginal relevance. When Richard Branson is running a multi-billion dollar empire, it’s not because he has found a way to do thousands of more actions a day than you can. It’s because Sir Branson knows what truly matters, and that’s where he allocates his attention.

5: Optimize hours in flow

Many of us aim to optimize the amount of hours we are working. This approach will never bring us a good balance or out-of-the-norm efficiency. Instead optimize on the amount of hours you are in flow.

Flow is the state where time and place ceases to exist because you are fully present and excited about the task in front of you. In this state it is not unusual that we are up to 10 times more efficient then when we semi-distractedly slave through our to do list. Tony Schwartz explains in “The Power of Full Engagement” how we can only be the flow state for 90-120 minutes at a time.

Then we need a break, like for instance a 10-minute meditation, a 30-minute run, or a walk around the block.

6: Do the worst first

Procrastination.

Say the word. It’s a productivity killer and an enemy in our attempts to get a great work/life balance. If it’s something that needs to be done, and you dread it, there’s really only one strategy that is sufficiently effective: do it first.

Before checking your mail, before the first meeting, and before anything else that will suck you into the daily abyss of activities. Do it now and get it over with. You will be proud, relieved and full of energy for the rest of the day.

These are just 6 of the 66 pieces of advice that make up Winning Without Losing. If you are hungry for more, join the thousands of other readers from around the world who are taking their lives into their own hands. Get the balance you deserve.
_________________

Who is Martin Bjergegaard

Martin is a serial entrepreneur, co-founder of sustainable Scandinavian non-fiction publisher Pine Tribe, and author of the successful management and work-life balance book ‘Winning Without Losing’.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering Requests

Being a good entrepreneur is all about connecting with the right people andConnect being clear in your requests. Here is a simple method J.P. Webb recommends for making short concise requests to
other people. The process works backwards from what you want, to what you need to
say to attract it.

Getting what you want

If you’ve ever done a maze backwards and been amazed at how much easier it is, this works along the same principles.
Answer the following four questions in the following order:
1. What is the one thing that I want to receive next?
2. What “search terms” can I use to describe the kind of person who can get me
what I want?
3. Why does the person I described in question 2 want to talk with me?
4. What are the best, credible facts I can say about my project or myself that will
lead my listener to conclude that the person I described in question 2 wants to
talk with me?

Introducing Yourself

Start by introducing yourself with the facts from question 4. Only say the very best
ones. Keeping it short, simple and easy to understand.
Next you transition to your request by saying something like “I am looking for”
Then you say the search terms from question 2.
Then you either shush and wait for help or end with something like, “Who do you
know?”

Simple Hypothetical Example

Answer the questions:
1. I want to receive help with choosing the name of my company.
2. Creative, experience with branding, professional
3. I might end up being a good customer for them in the future
4. I am the CEO and I’ve raised $20,000 in seed capital for my company, I know
that my product needs a good name in order to sell it, I have ideas for eight
other products that I want to run through my company and they will need names

Go for the Close

Now, put it all together:
Hi, I am the CEO of a new consumer products company. We just finished our $20,000
raise and it is time to pick a brand for our first product. I know we have to pick a
really good name that will help our product sell. Plus we have almost ten other
products in the works and we will need branding for them, too. I’m looking for a
creative and experienced branding professional. Who do you know.

Five Ways to get Free Intellectual Property Protection

Five Ways to get Free Intellectual Property Protection

If you ever plan to sell your company, want to get investors, or plan to leave a
legacy, protecting you intellectual property is key to that success. But, it takes money to make money, right? Or, does it?

Here are five ways to get free intellectual property protection, provided by attorney J. P Webb. These J P Webbtechniques are used by major corporations around the world and are proven to provide at least
baseline protection. They are processes that should be a part of your regular way of
doing business because they provide an infinite return on investment.

Before you start, you need to know that there are five fundamental forms of
intellectual property. They are Content, Brand, Technology, Secrets, and Relationships.
Each of these forms are created in virtually any business, can be protected under the
law, and can even be transferred (read that as “sold”). So, when you think about the
value of your business, think in terms of your:
1) Content (website, pamphlets, instruction manuals, art, books, music,
videos, etc.)
2) Brand (trademark, company name, product name, slogan, etc.)
3) Technology (know-how, processes, inventions, etc.)
4) Secrets (lists, financial information, data that has value if kept secret, etc.)
5) Relationships (deals, partners, alliances, suppliers, vendors, lead sources,etc.)

Intellectual Property Lawyer

To really nail down protection in any of these areas, you need an IP lawyer –
plain and simple. But, you don’t always need to nail down protection all the way;
sometimes you just need a “covering,” especially in the beginning. So, here are the five
things that everybody should be doing that cost exactly nothing and that provide basic
protection in each of the five areas of value in your business. We’ve also included
some warnings of common dangers to watch out for.

Free Copyright Protection

The lowest level of copyright protection is automatic and completely free as soon
as you have a tangible form of your creative work. This can be a written book, a web
page, an audio recording of you playing an instrument, or a video you make to post on
the web. To strengthen this free protection you should put a copyright notice on
anything that you create that you don’t want other people copying. The copyright notice
can have the following format:
©[space]First Year of Publication[space]Owner
Example:
© 2010 Webb IP Law Group
The © symbol can also be replaced with “Copy.” or with (c). The date can be a
date range or list if you have published multiple times. For example, some websites are
updated over a period of years. In that case the date would cover a range of the years
where there were updates. Examples:
© 2006 – 2012 Webb IP Law Group
Copr. 2004, 2007 Webb IP Law Group
You can use the © mark even if you have not applied for federal registration of
your copyright. Make it a habit of putting this mark on all of your content. It shows that
you know you have rights and that they should be taken seriously.
Warning: If you pay someone to create Content for you, they often own it instead
of you. Make sure that your agreements are clear about ownership of Content. If
possible and appropriate, make sure that the written agreement states that you own it.

Free Trademark Protection

The lowest level of trademark protection is automatic and completely free as
soon as you use your brand in commerce. This can be a logo, or a tag line, or a special
design, or a name of a company or product. To strengthen this free protection you
should put a trademark notice on any brand you use and every place you use the
brand. The trademark notice is a “TM” next to the brand, usually to the bottom right or
top right of the brand.
Example:
Webb IP Law Group TM
Also, the more you use your mark in commerce, the more ownership and
protection you have. So, as long as you are clear to use your brand and are not
infringing someone else’s brand, then going all out on your marketing, advertising and
sales is a way to establish stronger and stronger rights.
Warning: Do not use the ® symbol unless you actually have a federal registration
or you risk getting in trouble. Also, until you actually use your brand in commerce or
have an application filed with the US government, anybody can steal it. So, if you have
an excellent name, keep it under wraps.

Free Technology Protection

The lowest level of technology protection is not automatic and involves two main
processes.
First, every inventor should have an “inventor’s notebook” where they keep a
special record of their inventions. The notebook should be permanently bound (NOT
loose-leaf) and should be where you write down all of your ideas. You should date all of
your writings and have each page witnessed by two witnesses. You can grab a lab
notebook you have lying around. If you are ok spending a little cash, you can buy an
inventors notebooks online for $15- $20, and it will generally include instructions for how
to properly fill out the notebook. Keeping a notebook like this can be used later as
evidence of your creation and can be proof against someone who might steal your idea
from you.
Second, every inventor should keep their inventions secret as much as possible
until they have decided how to keep the idea protected. You should have simple
confidentiality agreements with anybody you discuss the idea with who is not an
attorney or otherwise obligated to keep what you tell them secret. If you must put
details of your invention on a website, be sure to password protect the site and only give
the password to people that have agreed to keep it confidential. For some inventions,
keeping it secret indefinitely is the right choice. For others, your initial protection helps
you get ready for patents.

Warning: Do not use “Patent Pending”
Do not use “Patent Pending” on your product/service unless you actually have a patent pending with the US Patent Office that covers your product/service or you risk being sued.

Free Trade Secret Protection

The lowest level of trade secret protection is simple. Keep the secret. Actually
putting that into practice is where it gets a little complicated. Here are some ideas:
a) Mark secret documents as CONFIDENTIAL. This can be a watermark, in
a footer or header, or even just in the text.
b) End your email footer with a notice of confidentiality – here is an example:
o This email and any attachments contain information from Webb IP Law
Group, which may be confidential and/or privileged. The information is
intended to be for the use of the individual or entity named on this
email. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any
disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this email
is prohibited. If you receive this email in error, please notify us by
reply email immediately so that we can arrange for the retrieval of the
original documents at no cost to you.
a) Encrypt or password protect important computer data (customer lists,
financial data, credit card numbers, etc.)
b) Follow any legal secrecy/confidentiality requirements that apply to your
industry or to the kinds of secrets you are expected to keep (HIPAA, FTC
requirements, etc.)
c) Establish policies of “need to know” for critical information – in other words
only people who “need to know” should be given access to that information

Warning: If you cannot prove (usually in writing) that you took appropriate efforts to keep something a secret, then courts will generally treat you like you didn’t. Be sure to document your efforts to keep things a secret.

Free Relationship Protection

The lowest level of relationship protection comes in two parts. If you skip either,
you are bound for trouble. First, relationships are all about expectations, so having
clear expectations is a must. Second, relationships always involve people and people
are great at remembering what is important to them and forgetting what is not. It is how
we keep our brains clean and de-cluttered. It is also how we lose focus on expectations
and crash our relationships.

So, if you want to protect your relationships, then take the time to make sure that
your expectations, in both directions, are clear. This means spending a little extra time
talking with people who are important to your business even when you are excited to
move on with doing business. It means repeating what you hear to make sure that you
heard it right. It also means dealing with the topics that you would rather avoid.
Then, once the expectations seem fairly clear, put them in writing. You don’t
have to be a lawyer to send an email summary of what each side is expecting.
Sometimes this is very information and can often help further clarify the expectations.
Sometimes it is sent as a Formal Memorandum of Understanding. Either way, getting it
in writing is a great way to preserve that understanding so that six months later you can
go back and remember what you were thinking and expecting.

Warning: If someone sends you a summary of an “understanding” and it is
incorrect and you don’t reply, that summary might someday be treated as if it was the
full truth on the subject. Don’t let an opportunity to clarify slip by, it might bite you later.

Summary and Final Warnings

Clearly, there are plenty of things you can do to protect your business without
writing a single check. Be aware of the intellectual property that you create as you go
about your business and set up whatever you need to manage its protection. Protect
your content, protect your brand, protect your technology, keep your secrets, and take
the time to protect your relationships. The last is probably the most important, since
nothing meaningful in this life is ever accomplished without involving other people.
Warning: When we say “lowest level of protection” we mean that it is the least
amount of protection that is better than nothing at all. Certainly, that level of protection
is not always appropriate and you need to be judicious about what you protect and how
you protect it. That said, if you don’t at least do the free protection, don’t be surprised if
other people treat your property like a doormat.