Protecting Your Small Business


Here again with me are Katie Myers and Grace Child from CR Conversations.  They specialize in helping business owners with follow up and client retention.

This video addresses some of the more common questions that come up in the process of starting and running your small business.

What top issues should the new small business owner be weary of or educated about when they are in the very beginning of starting their business?

For example, what should you be aware of when picking a business name or starting a new business in a competitive industry? When it comes to choosing a name for your small business, it is important that you make sure you aren’t taking someone else’s business name and possibly infringing on their trademark rights. This could get you in some hot water; even if it doesn’t get you into trouble, it can certainly give you some hassle down the line if you are forced to change your business name once you have already built a brand or a reputation.

Before you start your business, Google the name that you have in mind for your business. That will give you a preliminary idea of your competition and if there are any other similarly-named businesses. This is a great and simple first step.  After you Google the name, you can then search your state’s Secretary of State website for a business name or trade name to see if somebody has already registered your potential business name. After that, go to the USPTO website (the United States Patent and Trademark Office) and do a trademark search to see if someone has a registered or pending trademark with the same or a similar name as what you want to use for your business. This doesn’t always completely cover your bases because there are still some ways you can get bitten later on, but these are at least a few simple first steps to making sure that you are going to be able to build a brand with a name that you can keep and hopefully avoid any problems later on.

What are the key points you should be aware of when hiring?

When hiring somebody to work for you, the biggest mistake business owners make is improperly classifying the person they are hiring. A lot of people want to treat their new hires as independent contractors rather than employees because they get to avoid paying worker’s compensation insurance and payroll taxes. But if the new hire is actually an employee, not an independent contractor, that misclassification can have very big consequences. This is a no good, terrible, and bad idea.  Don’t do this!  So, the very first step is to make sure that if your employee is indeed an employee, then you must treat him as an employee.  If he really is a contractor, then great, you can classify him as a contractor.

If you are dealing with a type of business where you have trade secrets or proprietary information that you wouldn’t want to get out to your competitors, you can have your new hires sign an Employment Agreement or Independent Contractor Agreement that contains a confidentiality clause or a non-disclosure clause to protect that proprietary information.

It’s always a good idea to seek legal advice and help from a business attorney when you are just starting out.  You will be so busy with your growing business and the last thing you want to do is waste your time on legal issues that 1) you’re probably not an expert in, and 2) you really don’t have the time to learn about and do.  It’s always better for you and your business in the long run if you just stick to what you know (your business) and outsource the other stuff to other professionals.

As an attorney and business owner, that’s what I do!  I can’t always keep up with my business’s social media, so I use Grace and Katie to do that for me!  They help me put together a whole fantastic social media plan to make sure I stay in front of my clients. Check out Grace and Katie on their YouTube Channel at CR Conversations.  They have an awesome video series called Talk It Out Tuesday where they share business tips on follow-up and customer retention so that you can keep your customers from cheating on you with your competition.