Category Archives: Business News

Do you know what’s important in a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

Are you hoping to get someone to invest in your business? Or perhaps you’re thinking about working with a business partner in a collaboration arrangement or joint venture?

If you are, you are probably worried about how you will protect the confidential information about your business.

You’ve probably heard the terms “NDA” (short for Non-Disclosure Agreement) and Confidentiality Agreement. But how are these agreements relevant and what do you need to think about?

The first thing to say is that an NDA and a Confidentiality Agreement are just different names for what is the same type of agreement – that is, one that says information disclosed by one party to another must be kept secret and not disclosed to third parties.

You may be thinking that as an NDA/Confidentiality Agreement is a legal document, it will be expensive to put in place. And anyway, hasn’t someone told you that there is no point in having one because you won’t be able to afford to enforce it?

These are common misunderstandings. I want to make it clear that this is not the case and give you an idea of what are the key things that you need to know.

1. Is it worth putting an NDA in place?

2. Where do I get an NDA and will it be expensive?

3. Who needs to be a party the Agreement?

4. Lots of NDAs look very different: are they really the same?

5. Extras: Bells, Whistles

6. Dragons!

7. Boilerplate

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Business Etiquette: 5 Rules That Matter Now

The word “etiquette” gets a bad rap. For one thing, it sounds stodgy and pretentious. And rules that are socially or morally prescribed seem intrusive to our sense of individuality and freedom.

But the concept of etiquette is still essential, especially now—and particularly in business. New communication platforms, like Facebook and Linked In, have blurred the lines of appropriateness and we’re all left wondering how to navigate unchartered social territory.

Boil it down and etiquette is really all about making people feel good. It’s not about rules or telling people what to do, or not to do, it’s about ensuring some basic social comforts.

So here are a few business etiquette rules that matter now—whatever you want to call them.

1. Send a Thank You Note

I work at a paper company that manufactures stationery and I’m shocked at how infrequently people send thank you notes after interviewing with me. If you’re not sending a follow-up thank you note to Crane, you’re not sending it anywhere.

But the art of the thank you note should never die. If you have a job interview, or if you’re visiting clients or meeting new business partners—especially if you want the job, or the contract or deal—take the time to write a note. You’ll differentiate yourself by doing so and it will reflect well on your company too.

2. Know the Names

It’s just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.

My great-grandfather ran a large manufacturing plant. He would take his daughter (my grandmother) through the plant; she recalled that he knew everyone’s name—his deputy, his workers, and the man who took out the trash.

We spend too much of our time these days looking up – impressing senior management. But it’s worth stepping back and acknowledging and getting to know all of the integral people who work hard to make your business run.

3. Observe the ‘Elevator Rule’

When meeting with clients or potential business partners off-site, don’t discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the elevator has reached the bottom floor and you’re walking out of the building. That’s true even if you’re the only ones in the elevator.

Call it superstitious or call it polite—but either way, don’t risk damaging your reputation by rehashing the conversation as soon as you walk away.

4. Focus on the Face, Not the Screen

It’s hard not to be distracted these days. We have a plethora of devices to keep us occupied; emails and phone calls come through at all hours; and we all think we have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.

But that’s not true: When you’re in a meeting or listening to someone speak, turn off the phone. Don’t check your email. Pay attention and be present.

When I worked in news, everyone was attached to a BlackBerry, constantly checking the influx of alerts. But my executive producer rarely used hers—and for this reason, she stood out. She was present and was never distracted in editorial meetings or discussions with the staff. And it didn’t make her any less of a success.

5. Don’t Judge

We all have our vices—and we all have room for improvement. One of the most important parts of modern-day etiquette is not to criticize others.

You may disagree with how another person handles a specific situation, but rise above and recognize that everyone is trying their best. It’s not your duty to judge others based on what you feel is right. You are only responsible for yourself.

We live in a world where both people and businesses are concerned about brand awareness. Individuals want to stand out and be liked and accepted by their peers–both socially and professionally.

The digital landscape has made it even more difficult to know whether or not you’re crossing a line, but I think it’s simple. Etiquette is positive. It’s a way of being—not a set of rules or dos and don’ts.

So before you create that hashtag, post on someone’s Facebook page or text someone mid-meeting, remember the fundamentals: Will this make someone feel good?

And remember the elemental act of putting pen to paper and writing a note. You’ll make a lasting impression that a shout-out on Twitter or a Facebook wall mention can’t even touch.

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Thomas Jefferson School of Law Helping Cash-Strapped Small Businesses

Struggling small businesses and aspiring nonprofits can get a helping hand from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and its Small Business Law Center.

The clinic provides organizations that can’t afford legal counsel with transactional help – from drawing up contracts and lease arrangements to forming entities and navigating the regulatory process.

“There is a huge need,” said TJSL professor Luz Herrera, the director of the Small Business Law Center (SBLC). “We really looking at individuals barely making a living and who would not otherwise be able to set up a business or set up a nonprofit.”

The clinic is staffed by TJSL students, who are guided during representation by a licensed California attorney. The practical experience attained by law students is a sizable side benefit of the program.

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JOBS Act, will it help you?

Today, President Obama signs the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act into law. For those of you who haven’t been following the JOBS Act, it is a bill that will make it easier for startups and small businesses to raise funds, especially through online crowdfunding.

As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve been watching the evolution of the JOBS Act very closely. It passed Congress last week through a 73-26 Senate vote and a 380-41 House vote, including an amendment designed to protect crowdfund investors in order to make it easier for startups to access financing.

 

Both statistics and anecdotal evidence tell us entrepreneurship is the key to job creation. So, while the JOBS Act doesn’t relate to the job market per se, I asked a few crowdfunding experts how it might impact the unemployment rate.

“Simply, the JOBS Act will make funding more accessible for startups by allowing non-accredited investors to participate in the funding rounds, and this alone, I believe will be the main factor driving the increase in new companies being founded. And with new companies comes the need to hire staff. Without a doubt, this will help the current unemployment rate,” said Tanya Prive, founder of Rock The Post, a social networking platform for entrepreneurs to fund and swap resources.

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Business Ethics Ain’t Rocket Science

The famous U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do… the hard part is doing it!”  Likewise, the answer to most business problems is usually obvious as well.

Consider this – when was the last time you were really stumped for a solution to a problem?  In most cases, the hardest things about solving the problem were the obstacles of personalities, politics, or cost.  Taken together, these obstacles usually make the obvious solution very hard if not impossible to implement.  These are failures of an organization’s values, guiding principles, and ethics.

Twenty years ago, my elderly mother came to live with me due to her declining health.  She sold her home and hired a moving company to move her furniture and transport her car via trailer from New England to Virginia (primarily to minimize the mileage).  When the moving van and car arrived, it was obvious that the car had not been transported but driven instead.  When questioned, the driver admitted that they had driven the car and not transported it as they had been contracted to do.

When I called the moving company’s main office to complain, the representative asked what I wanted them to do about it.  My only reply was “What would you expect someone to do if it was your mother!” Shortly thereafter, the driver came back to tell us that they were refunding the cost of transporting the car.

When a customer calls about a problem with your product or service. You generally know right off hand what the right thing to do is: either fix it, replace it, or refund their money.  But company management may complain that “if we fix every problem for every customer then how are we supposed to make a profit?”  Well, if your company’s product or service has so many customer problems that fixing them impacts profits, then fix the product or service!  It ain’t rocket science!

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How to Protect Your Company’s Data

As a computer systems network manager and member of the nonprofit High Tech Crime Consortium, Kevin McDonald has seen all manner of data disasters: the medical company whose patient treatment records were lost in a warehouse fire; the police department whose website host vanished overnight; even the careless employee whose leaky liter of Coke ruined a computer server. “If you are a small business and you have a catastrophic loss of data, more likely than not you will never recover,” says McDonald, executive vice president at Alvaka Networks in Irvine, Calif. “Data storage is so cheap now, if you can’t afford it you should shut your business down and do something else.”

Yet many small businesses do not adequately plan to cope with data loss. Online backup provider Carbonite, based in Boston, surveyed 1,005 employees at companies with one to 30 Internet-enabled computers in July 2011. That survey and additional research by the company reveal gaps in backup plans: Although 70 percent reported that they do some data backup, 48 percent said they had lost or deleted data accidentally, and only 13 percent felt vulnerable to a data disaster.

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The 10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs in 2012

As the global economy writhes and rattles, entrepreneurship has ever more clearly emerged as the solution to economic recovery. Young startups not only create nearly two thirds of America’s new jobs, they also bring forth innovation that often revolutionizes humanity and provides widespread prosperity. The best part is, ease in creating businesses has increased dramatically due in large part to apps and sites that help entrepreneurs.

Here are 10 of the best digital tools to help you launch and grow your startup:

5 Steps To Lower Employee Turnover

Over the past year, Big Fuel has seen its revenue more than triple, to $40 million, and its head count swell, from 70 employees to 140. But with growth comes growing pains. Like many start-ups, the New York City-based social-media marketing agency had never bothered with a formal orientation program and was finding it difficult to train all these new staff members—many of whom came from disparate industries and lacked experience in social media. As a result, Big Fuel began to experience a problem it never had: employee turnover. As the churn mounted, Avi Savar, the company’s founder and chief creative officer, grew concerned that the company would lose its competitive edge when pitching clients. “It’s a matter of staying ahead of the curve,” he says. So last June, Big Fuel unveiled an onboarding process for new hires. Here’s how the system worked for one recent hire.

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There’s Basically Nothing You Can Say That Isn’t Trademarked

Can you confidently say that you have never in your life said the words, “It’s gonna be awesome?” If not, then you may be in shaky legal ground, as the phrase is trademarked. Benjamin Palmer, the stylishly disheveled chief executive of Barbarian Group, a digital marketing and creative agency in New York, says his colleagues initially registered his favorite catchphrase on a lark.

In the early days of the company, which was founded in 2001, Palmer would routinely use the phrase in project proposals. “I would write up conceptual treatments: ‘Here’s the idea—we think it’ll take six weeks and cost $200,000.’ I thought it was kind of a bummer to end a creative proposal with a price tag, so I always ended with ‘It’s gonna be awesome.’” The phrase soon became an office meme that culminated when Palmer’s colleagues dropped a stack of papers on his desk as a gift. “They had filed for an international trademark for ‘It’s gonna be awesome,’ kind of as a joke because it had gotten so ingrained in our culture.”

Bloomberg Businessweek compiled a list of everyday phrases you might not know are trademarked.

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Business Networking Without Looking Desperate: 5 Rules

Trying to squeeze business opportunity out of this economy is an arduous task at best. And as job numbers remain shakier than the Pacific Rim, the term “it’s who you know” is more relevant than ever for career development.

“Networking is something you should continually be doing,” says Ronn Torossian, CEO of the New York City-based 5W Public Relations firm. “It’s kind of like dating. Until you’re married, you always have to be dating. And when you’re married, you’re working on your relationship.”

That means networking can’t be something you put on a to-do list and check off once a month, and it needn’t be scheduled. “I was sitting next to this woman while having a pedicure and we started talking,” recalls Ross Ellis, CEO of Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit working to break the cycle of violence against children and a New York City real estate agent with Halstead Property. One thing led to another, and soon Ellis had a speaking engagement for her charity: “She was a teacher and I asked her if she had a lot of bullying in her school.”

Sounds simple, but rub new contacts the wrong way and your network will shrink, not expand. Here’s how to become an expert networker, without ever being annoying, or worse, looking desperate:

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