Are you starting a business with a friend or former office mate? Partnering with someone you're close to can be a great way to launch a business, but be aware: mixing business with family and friends can also be tricky. Here’s what you need to know to protect the business from potential landmines down the road. When partnering with a longtime friend, colleague, or family member, you may be tempted to seal the deal with a simple handshake or over drinks. After all, if you’ve known each other for years and you both clearly want your business to succeed, what’s the point of wasting time with all the formalities and paperwork?
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Did you know your intellectual property and ideas are often more valuable than any physical asset? Yet, how do you go about protecting your big idea? After all, you’ve probably heard that patents are costly, complex, and time-consuming, often burdening a young business before it gets off the ground.
Countless startup ideas are hatched between friends, colleagues, college roommates, and family members. A late night discussion between two friends can turn into the next social network or mobile ad platform. These relationships can be great breeding grounds for new ideas and innovation, but navigating business management with friends or family members can also be tricky. It may be tempting to rush forward without anything in writing: after all, you know each other so well, you both want the same thing for your business, why waste time with the formalities?
Your company’s intellectual property—from your logo to trade secrets—can be just as valuable as physical assets. This is particularly true for digital startups. Yet, taking the necessary legal steps to protect your intellectual property can be costly and time-consuming, often burdening a young business before it gets off the ground. It’s a delicate balance to determine what actions to take and when, but the following is a primer on the various types of intellectual property.
Patents, copyrights, and trademarks, as well as know-how or trade secrets, are often collectively referred to as intellectual property. Many firms possess intellectual property without even being aware of it, or of the need to take measures to protect it. If you have formulas or processes that are specific to your business, you should take the steps to protect them. Where would Coke and Pepsi be if they hadn’t taken steps to patent their secret formulas, trademark their logos, and copyright their advertising slogans? It’s important to realize that simply having intellectual property is not enough to ensure success. Securing a patent for your product won’t guarantee that it will be embraced by consumers. Before you spend thousands of dollars to obtain exclusive rights to your invention, do the research to make sure that it’s something the market actually wants.
Even the smallest, simplest small business needs a business plan to show how you’re going to find customers and make sales, how you’re going to compete with other existing players in the market, and how you’re going to assess your strategic options to decide where, whether and how to compete in various market niches. Writing a business plan also makes it easier for your company to get a small business loan or secure venture capital financing, as it gives you an official document to disclose your financial projections to potential lenders and investors. Here are a few key elements that you need to include in your small business plan, with guidelines for how to compose each part of the written business plan that i discuss in this post.
For most small business owners, “Budget” is the first key factor in deciding whether to hire a small business lawyer. Obviously, we’d all prefer to hire the toughest law firm, equipped to handle any kind of case or transaction, staffed with a team of attorneys that will respond to our needs immediately. For most small businesses, however, we just can’t afford this “full-time legal dream-team.” So, we compromise: we hire a lawyer who is experienced in business matters, local to our business, with affordable legal rates. Hopefully, we can find a lawyer we actually like.
Perhaps the biggest reason why content marketing is such a great option is that it’s a natural extension of each business owner’s passion and expertise. It lets you take the kinds of conversations you’re already having – giving advice to customers, discussing business trends – and lets you share them in an online repository of knowledge and helpful conversations that you'd most like to share with your customers.
Think you've got an amazing business idea? Learn how to protect your intellectual property so you don't get beaten to the punch.