5 Tips for a Better Business This Summer

22. July 2016 08:29

group of professionals meeting for coffee

Summertime means longer days, and more sunlight means more activity. If you’re like most small-business owners, you feel invigorated this time of year and motivated to get more accomplished. Here are five steps you can take to improve your business this summer.

1. Keep summer alive.

Right about now, fall and winter items are starting to appear on retailers’ shelves. And yes, you can almost hear consumers groan! While you have to start selling fall merchandise early (all retailers do), most consumers still want to be in summer mode. So leave room on your shelves for summer merchandise as well, and get ready to mark them down when sales slow.

You can also take advantage of positive summer feelings by having sidewalk sales or holding outdoor product demonstrations. Do you own a pool cleaning business or home renovation company? Now is the time to get customers to sign up for last-minute services and products.

For more tips, check out "Preparing for Spring and Summer Shopping Habits."

2. Drive safely.

The longer days are a good excuse to get out of the office and meet with more clients and customers. Don’t multitask by working and driving at the same time. Most states have strict laws about driving and cell phone use, so you don’t want to get a ticket, or worse, get in an accident.

Set up an auto response on your cellphone through your mobile provider to tell people you are driving and will respond later. If your employees drive for your business, make sure your driving and cell usage policies are spelled out in your employee handbook and that you’ve purchased Commercial Auto Insurance.

3. Get ready for a new office.

If this summer finds you moving to a new office space, make sure you’ve updated your small business insurance to cover any changes, such as more (or less) space, additional or updated equipment, or new employees. You don’t want to be caught underinsured if something happens during or after the move.

4. Participate in an outdoor event.

Getting out into your community is crucial for marketing your brand and gaining local support. Check with your city’s website for local events where you might be able to speak, set up a booth, or be a sponsor. Check with summer school programs in your neighborhood to see if they need volunteers, and let your employees volunteer for a few hours instead of working in the office.

If you own a printing or graphics company, donate your services for event marketing materials. Get everything in writing so you know what your obligations are and what the event coordinators expect.

5. Get employees out of the office.

Besides having employees volunteer at events, summer is a great time to build team spirit and camaraderie among your staff. Plan outings outside of work hours, such as company picnics or beach days, golf tournaments or nature walks. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on the outing – the point is being together and getting to know your employees and their families.

If the outing involves anything risky, such as zip-lining or alcohol consumption, make sure you have your attorney draw up a waiver to protect you and your business from any responsibility.

Need more motivation? Check out "3 Businesses to Inspire You This Summer."

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website SmallBizDaily.com to get the scoop on business trends and to sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

 

New Office Checklist for Small Businesses

20. July 2016 08:29

woman unpacking boxes in a new office space

If you think moving to a new home is tough, wait until you move your business. The stress of getting everything to your new location without losing track of the people, papers, and property that keep your business running is enough to make you lose your cool.

We spoke to some people who’ve been there before. Here are their tips on how to make a smooth transition.

Scout Your Location

“One of the biggest decisions a small-business owner will have to make is deciding where their new office is going to be,” says Samantha Harnisch, the HR and office manager of New City Moving (@newcitymoving). “Location is crucial to a small business not only for branding, but also customer and employee accessibility.”

She adds that your employees are major assets and adding time to their commutes may cause complications in the long run.

For your customers, the complication may be finding you. That’s why business consultant Seema Alexander (@SeemaAlexander) recommends making sure signage is clearly visible to traffic. If you're not dependent on a steady stream of traffic, Alexander suggests scoping local spots for potential client meetings.

Get moving: Location matters, but so does cost. Unfortunately, many small-business owners pick a new space without knowing the true cost of their utilities. According to Alexander, they often base their forecast for that expense on the average of a previous tenant.

“At the end of the day, the true cost of utilities can only be determined by their usage,” she says. Play it safe and pad a little extra into your budget.

Assign a Point Person

CEO of Dishah Strategic Solutions (@dishahco) Amit Sharma says it’s important to “assign a dedicated project leader to manage the entire relocation process.”

Your point person doesn’t necessarily have to be an employee, but they should be someone you trust because, as Sharma notes, “The relocation relies on the organization and communication skills of the project leader.”

Get moving: Sharma adds that if your point person's responsibilities can't be temporarily reallocated, it might be worth considering professional move consultants.

Decide if You Need a Professional Mover

Think about your business for a moment. Is it a small boutique or a service-based business? Do you have inventory to relocate? What about specialized equipment?

“These are all things to keep in mind as you decide if you want to move your items yourself or put your trust into the hands of a third-party moving company,” says Harnisch.

Ultimately, this is a cost-benefit analysis. Paying a mover might be expensive, but so is replacing property damaged in a move – not to mention the potential downtime if the broken items keep your business from operating.

Get moving: Harnisch describes the decision to hire professional movers as “grueling.” But if you do go that way, she recommends researching movers via online reviews.

“Moving companies are high-volume, so you should see many reviews for a reputable company that has experience and can safely handle your items,” she says.

Minimize Your Downtime

The day of the move is where things really get complicated, mostly because you want your business to lose as little time as possible. Here are some suggestions to streamline the actual move:

  • Set priorities. Sharma points out that not everything needs to be moved at once. Determine items you need to keep your business running, and then create a timeline for moving the rest.
  • Eliminate unnecessary items. A move is a good time to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Harnisch suggest donating, selling, or recycling anything you don’t plan to bring to your new office.
  • Organize your packing materials. Harnisch recommends gathering the materials you need, like boxes, packing tape, and shrink wrap, prior to the move. “Make sure every box is clearly labeled with where it's going in the new place,” Harnisch adds.
  • Engage with IT. Harnisch's biggest tip? “Make sure your IT company is aware of your relocation, and book their services for disconnect and reconnect so you are up and running very quickly.”

Get moving: Your Commercial Property Insurance most likely does not cover your business items while they’re in transit.

“Standard moving services come complimentary with a very low-grade policy: $.30/lb per item," Harnisch says. "Therefore, it's always suggested for a commercial move to have a full-coverage policy in place for your relocation.”

Talk to your agent about the appropriate policy for your move.

As Long as You’re Talking to Your Insurance Agent…

Your Commercial Property policy is tied to your business address, so once you’re out of your old space, your insurance doesn’t cover you. Even if it did, a bigger space may mean your current Property Insurance no longer matches your business's needs. Review your options with your agent and update your policy right away.

Confused about why you may need more insurance? Check out “Size Matters: Factors that Affect the Cost of Commercial Property Insurance.”

Meet the Contributors

Seema Alexander

Seema Alexander is a business model strategist, transition coach, and speaker. She is founder of seemaalexander.com, http://www.TheTransitionLab.com, and the Life After Corporate Mastermind Facebook Group.

 

 

 

 

Sam Harnisch

A Chicago native and graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago, Samantha Harnisch has been with New City Moving since day one. She is a true believer that high-end customer service can be found in the relocation industry. Harnisch has invested great time and detail supporting the owner and aiding in growing the organization.

 

 

 

 

Amit Sharma

Amit Sharma is the CEO of Dishah Strategic Solutions. As a business strategy consultant and public speaker, Sharma has helped leading organizations in IT, retail, HVAC, hospitality, and various other fields to grow their business revenue and mind share with effective business strategies and implementation.

 

 

 

Where Your Business Property Is & Isn’t Covered, According to Your Insurance

18. July 2016 08:36

cars driving on a busy street

Compared to all choices you had to make when starting your business, picking up Commercial Property Insurance probably seemed like an easy one. The premium is worth the peace of mind that your business's property is protected.

But how closely did you look at your policy? Property coverage typically ends at your office doors, and that could be a problem if you…

  • Drive to sales and client meetings.
  • Haul equipment to worksites.
  • Rent vehicles on business trips.
  • Use mobile equipment.

Let’s review where your business property is and isn’t covered and how to fill the gaps in your coverage.

Commercial Property Insurance May Not Cover Your Costliest Claims

Check out Insurance Journal's "Top 10 Small Business Property and Liability Claims" infographic. At a glance, you see that burglary and theft are at the top of the list in 2015, impacting 20 percent of business owners, followed by:

  • Water and freezing damage (15 percent).
  • Wind and hail damage (15 percent).
  • Fire (10 percent).

The good news? All these are claims Property Insurance can address.

But check out the list of the most costly claims. Vehicle accidents reach the number two spot, costing claimants $45,000 on average. Unfortunately, Property Insurance can't cover your business's cars. What's even more surprising: they probably aren't covered by your personal auto insurance policy, either.

The takeaway: Your Commercial Property Insurance may cover the most common risks to your business, but not one of the most expensive. For that, you may need Commercial Auto Insurance.

How Commercial Auto Insurance Covers Your Business Property

Commercial Auto Insurance works a lot like your personal auto insurance. It usually offers coverage for:

  • Your physical damage. Depending on the options you choose, your Commercial Auto Insurance can cover damage to your car from collisions, vandalism, and weather.
  • Your liability. If you're responsible for an accident, the liability coverage in your Commercial Auto can help pay for the other party's physical damage and bodily injuries. And if the accident turns into a lawsuit, your liability coverage may help pay for your attorney bills and court costs.

Even though the policies are similar, you usually can't add your commercial vehicles to your personal insurance. Most insurance providers see work-related driving as riskier, so they offer a different policy for it.

Pro tip: Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance offers liability protection for the cars you rent on business trips and your employees' cars that they drive on business errands. Learn more about this coverage in the article "Commercial Auto Insurance vs. Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance."

How Inland Marine Insurance Covers Your Business Property

Here's another issue: Commercial Property Insurance is usually tied to your business address, meaning it covers property while it's at your primary location. Now consider that Commercial Auto policies usually don't cover items in the vehicle.

So what happens when a…

  • Construction worker hauls tools to a job?
  • Salesperson brings samples to a client?
  • Research lab ships scientific equipment?
  • Photographer brings cameras and lights to a photo shoot?

In short, without Inland Marine Insurance, these professionals would have a significant coverage gap that leaves valuable gear vulnerable.

You can add Inland Marine Insurance to your Commercial Property policy to cover property in transit and…

  • Mobile equipment, like forklifts and tractors.
  • Unique or valuable property, like a sculpture in a restaurant.
  • Business papers, like architectural drawings.

For a deeper dive, read "What is Inland Marine Insurance?"

The big takeaway: When it comes to insurance, the details matter. Look over your Commercial Property Insurance policy and discuss your business practices with your agent.

The Savvy Driver’s Guide to Commercial Auto Insurance

15. July 2016 08:03

man driving for business

Remember when driving was fun? Summer would come along, and you’d just hop in your jalopy, pick a direction, and take off.

That was before you took on the responsibility of business ownership. Now driving is not an adventure, but a task to be completed – hopefully under budget.  

Perhaps it’s not as fun as traveling Route 66 and stopping at the Cadillac Ranch, but knowing how to protect your business while you’re on the road is one of those grownup joys your younger self probably wouldn’t understand. Luckily, your younger self isn’t running your business.

Let’s review some of the ways your business might hit the road and how your Commercial Auto Insurance might apply in different driving situations.

Driving to Client Meetings

Client meetings may be part of your workday routine, but the fender bender you have on the way to their office certainly isn’t. Not only does it throw today’s schedule out of whack, but severe damage may make the rest of your week a nightmare of public transit and taxi cabs.

Before you protest that you would never drive without coverage, note that most personal auto insurance policies exclude business driving. That means if you haven’t purchased Commercial Auto Insurance, you may be on the hook for your repairs and medical expenses – and possibly the other driver's.

Cost-saving tip: Commercial Auto is a necessary expense, so figuring out other ways to cut costs while driving is a smart move for business owners. Marin Perez, a writer for the mileage tracking app MileIQ (@MileIQ), says small-business owners can save money when they drive by:

  • Watching their top speeds. Perez points to a study from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as reported by Green Car Congress, that shows traveling faster than 50 mph may lower fuel efficiency.
  • Lightening the load. A car that doubles as a storage facility wreaks havoc on your gas mileage, so only carry what you need in your vehicle. 
  • Logging all your drives. If you can't get more mileage out of your car, Perez recommends getting the most out of your miles. Each business drive could be worth $.54 per mile in the form of a tax deduction. Get more details from the IRS.

Employee Driving for Business Errands

Sending an employee to drop off packages or pick up clients seems like a win-win situation. They get a break from the office, and you cross some tasks off your to-do list for cheap. However, when employees act on your behalf, the liability falls back on you – even if they drive their own cars.

If your business has company cars, you most likely have a Commercial Auto policy that covers employees. But Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance (HNOA) is the policy that addresses your liability if a staff member causes an accident in their own vehicle while on a work trip.

Cost-saving tip: You can add HNOA as a rider to your General Liability Insurance, which may keep insurance costs down.

Not sure if you need HNOA? Maybe the article “Commercial Auto Insurance vs. Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance” can clear things up.

Driving Rental Cars for Business

As you already know, you're responsible for damage that happens to the cars you rent.

"If disaster strikes, the car rental company can and will come after you first," says according to Michael Goldman, president of the leading car rental booking site AutoRentals.com (@AutoRentalsCom). "It will be your responsibility to pay for damage, and then figure out if someone else will reimburse you for it."

If you rent cars often, you may also want to purchase a Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance policy. While HNOA typically doesn’t cover physical damage to the rental car, it may cover your business's liability in an accident.

Cost-saving tip: You may not be able to control insurance rates, but you can manage car rental prices by shopping around.

“There are many comparison websites out there that allow quick and easy price discovery,” Goldman says.

How to Save Money on Commercial Auto Insurance

Goldman’s tip to comparison shop for car rentals applies to Commercial Auto Insurance. Getting quotes from multiple carriers gives you more options so you can choose the coverage that best suits your business.

Here are some other ways to save on Commercial Auto Insurance:

  • Hire employees with good driving records. Insurers consider drivers’ records when determining premiums, so try to hire people who are safe drivers.
  • Select a higher deductible. Your deductible is your out-of-pocket costs for an accident. Choosing a higher deductible may lower your premium, but be careful. That’s only a deal if you can afford to pay it if you have an accident.
  • Look for payment options. Insurance companies may offer discounts if you pay your premium in full rather than spreading out payments over the course of a year.

There may be other ways you can influence your premium. Learn more in “What Goes into a Quote for Commercial Auto Insurance?

About the Contributors

Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman is president of AutoRentals.com, a car rental booking and price comparison website. Before AutoRentals.com, Michael was a corporate lawyer in Silicon Valley and a writer for a variety of publications, including The New York Times. You can visit Michael’s website AutoRentals.com to find cheap car rentals and to sign up for exclusive rental car discounts.

 

 

 

Marin Perez

Marin Perez has been writing about how technology improves lives for about a decade. He's excited to see how entrepreneurs are using tools like MileIQ to be more successful. When not working, he's thinking about his next trip.

 

 

 

Can a John Doe Lawsuit Help You Fix a Bad Yelp Review?

13. July 2016 08:05

anonymous person wearing a hoodie and using a tablet

No one can blame you for getting angry at a bad review. You put a lot of effort into your business, so it can feel personal if someone doesn’t like it. That goes double when the reviewer doesn't have the grit to sign their name to the takedown.

Negative reviews may be part of the business landscape, but that doesn't mean you can't fight back. For starters, bizHive has plenty of suggestions for handling negative opinions.

But when reviewers present false statements as facts and hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, it might be time for heavier artillery. Let's see what you can do to protect your reputation from undeserved hits.

What Is a John Doe Lawsuit?

According to attorney Mark Clark of the law firm Traverse Legal (@traverselegal), a John Doe lawsuit is when…

  • An anonymous online reviewer defames an individual.
  • The individual files a suit without naming a defendant.

The court designates the defendant as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe," and the lawsuit proceeds.

“The benefit of filing a John Doe lawsuit is that once the lawsuit is filed, you have the assistance of the subpoena power of the court,” says Clark.

He notes that with a subpoena, your lawyer can potentially obtain information from the website host, including account details and IP addresses. Each new piece of information can lead you closer to the identity of the reviewer.

Pro tip: You don't get to look forever.

“If you burn through several subpoenas and come up empty-handed, the court may decide you’ve had your bite at the apple, so to speak,” says Clark. “It may say you have to either name somebody based on the information or dismiss the lawsuit.”

Potential Roadblocks When You File a John Doe Defamation Lawsuit

Don't be surprised if website hosts balk at disclosing the identities of anonymous reviewers.

“Their position is you should be able to post anonymously without fear of being sued,” says Clark. “Having said that, their only real defense is that you have not stated a strong case for defamation based on the plain facts of the post.”

Clark points out that just because someone expresses a negative opinion of your business doesn’t necessarily mean you should file a defamation lawsuit. If the post is simply the reviewer’s opinion and doesn’t have a derogatory or demeaning connotation, it probably doesn’t meet the standard for defamation.

In that case, a court could rule that you are not entitled to a subpoena.

Pro tip: According to Clark, most states follow the single publication rule, which means the clock for filing a defamation claim starts ticking from the date of the first post. Others may view and share it, but the court only considers the initial publication when determining the statute of limitations.

If you’re not vigilant about monitoring online reviews, you may waive your right to do something about it, Clark notes. Learn some tips for keeping track of reviews in "Make a Better Impression on 88% of Your Potential Clients."

Is a John Doe Lawsuit Worth It?

Before you decide to file a John Doe lawsuit, you may want to evaluate…

  • The content of the review. Defamation is a false statement that is derogatory and causes reputational harm. Before you file, make sure the review rises to that level so you don't waste time or money.
  • Your state’s statute of limitations. In most states, your right to file a defamation lawsuit ends a year after the initial publication. That may make a John Doe suit attractive because you don’t need to know who wrote the review to move forward.
  • The cost. Clark estimates that the minimum you might spend on a John Does suit is probably $5,000. To actually get to the identity of the reviewer? Between $15,000 and $20,000.

“It’s a challenging procedure that takes time and can be costly,” Clarks says of John Doe lawsuits. “But it may be the only alternative for the business owner who has been defamed and is repeatedly being defamed because the post remains active.”

Pro tip: Lawsuits are a gamble in the best of circumstances, but when your suit targets an unknown defendant, your odds of success may diminish significantly. Think carefully, and consult a lawyer who has experience with defamation lawsuits. Their objectivity may benefit your business.

Keep in mind that there's no small business insurance policy that can fund a lawsuit you initiate. Liability policies are designed to protect you from lawsuits that name you as a defendant. Learn more about that here: "Small Business Brings $65k Lawsuit over Negative Online Review."

About Mark Clark

Mark Clark

A graduate of Kenyon College and Michigan State University College of Law, Mark Clark’s current practice areas include Internet law, copyright and trademark law issues and litigation, as well as trade secret, non-compete, and maritime litigation. Most recently, Clark has successfully litigated claims on behalf of trademark holders under the Anti-Cybersquatting Protection Act and employers and employees in non-compete and trade secret litigation, defamation litigation, and online defamation cases.

 

 

 

Small Business Spotlight: How HAUTEheadquarters Kept Its New Year's Resolution

11. July 2016 07:46

HAUTEheadquarters logo

Last time we checked in with Nicola Ford (@nicola_ford1), the CEO and founder of the online designer jewelry retailer HAUTEheadquarters (@hauteheadqtrs), she told us about the company's resolution to get organized this year. Now we're checking in on her entrepreneurial journey to see how her resolution is holding up (spoiler alert: really well).

Check out Ford's story below and her tips for sticking with your organizational goals. The transcript below has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

It’s been six months since our first chat with you. How's HAUTEheadquarters? Any big news on the business front?

We are continuously growing and adding more products and designers. We just added Julie Aylward Jewelry and everyone’s favorite tassel-earrings designer, Lisi Lerch.

Now for the big question: is your business still as well organized as it was in January?

Yes, it is still very organized in terms of inventory, but I will admit we could be more aggressive in our filing efforts.

Are you organizing your jewelry samples the same way as before?

The jewelry is organized by inventory for sale and inventory for press and samples. They are two different groups, but we now have SKU numbers so that has increased the organizational aspect of it all. Each SKU has a designer code and corresponding item number.

Has there been any backsliding in your dedication to organization? Why or why not?

No backsliding because our organizational efforts have become a habit now. The only slipup is we sometimes let the filing pile up for a few too many days.

You mentioned how keeping an accurate inventory prevented you from needlessly ordering extra supplies. Has your bottom line continued to benefit from getting organized?

Absolutely! That was one of the best things about being organized. We know exactly what we need and when in terms of supplies. Before we just guessed and wasted money that didn't need to be spent. Now we only order what we need.

Better organization has saved you money, so what aspects of the business have grown as a result?

I would say having a very organized inventory has helped immensely. We are not ordering things we have in stock or reordering items that we already had. In turn, that has given us the ability to use more cash to grow the inventory and to add new lines.

How are you continuing your organizational efforts on a daily and monthly basis?

We don’t hold on to items like trade magazines like we used to. We read them, scan and save what we need, and try to recycle as much as we can. We donate a lot of fashion magazines to a local library now whereas before they just stacked up in the office. Now the library sells them for 20 cents and someone gets the latest fashion magazines.

Have you observed any unexpected benefits to staying organized?

The real benefit is just the amount of time, money, and energy we save knowing where everything is.

Have you grown to enjoy organizing, or does it still feel like a chore?

I don’t consider any cleaning chore enjoyable… but it has been beneficial, which is enjoyable!

3 Tips from HAUTEheadquarters on Staying Organized for Good

  • Just do it. Organizing may feel like a chore, but you'll feel better once it's done.
  • Remember the benefits. Staying organized helps you save time and money, but it also makes it easier for your business to handle the additional clutter that comes with growth.
  • Develop the routine. The more frequently you do something, the more routine it becomes. Stick with your organizing goals, and soon organizing will be second nature.

Want more small business success stories? Check out our Small Business Spotlight series.

About Nicola Ford

Nicola Ford

Nicola Ford is CEO and founder of HAUTEheadquarters.com, an online designer jewelry and accessories retailer committed to bringing customers the most glamorous, stylish, and fashionable jewelry available. Her online boutique offers brands such as Kenneth Jay Lane, Elizabeth Cole, and Melinda Maria, jewelry that has been featured in magazines such as People, StyleWatch, and InStyle.

 

 

 

How You Can Still Take a Break This Summer

8. July 2016 08:27

woman talking on the phone outside

Obviously, working long hours does not necessarily mean getting more done. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Germany works the least amount of hours of OED countries, an average of 1,363 hours a year, compared to the United States with an average 1,788 per year. In fact, six of the world's 10 most competitive countries – Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom – have bans on working more than 48 hours a week. So why do you have so much issue with stepping away from your business during the summer to take a break?

According to research, most managers recognize that giving employees time off from work means more productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee retention, and significant health benefits. But when small-business owners want to take time off from work, only 25 percent of them are able to do so, according to a new survey released by Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. Even if they do, nearly three-quarters of them worry about the work and responsibilities they are missing during their time off.

If a long vacation isn’t in the stars for you this summer, you can still get much-needed breaks by making a few simple changes to your entrepreneurial life, such as…

  1. Pull out those running shoes. Richard Branson still finds time to exercise every day, and he’s no slacker. Sitting at your computer all day is bad for your health and bad for your business. When you exercise, you release adrenaline, which not only heightens the body's senses, but can also open the airways for better breathing and redirect blood flow to vital organs. Chemicals in your body work to fight off stress and depression when you exercise. Don’t think of exercise as time you should spend working. Take a walk or run in a nearby park. Download fitness apps so you can set some goals. Make exercise a priority and see how much your productivity increases.
  2. Get some one-on-one time. Even meeting a friend for lunch means getting out of the office and taking a break. It’s okay to talk about work if that’s what you have in common, and you might even want to talk about some business ideas you’ve been mulling over. Just getting out of the office can boost your spirits and your productivity. Plus, your body needs fuel (food) to keep going.
  3. Stop overscheduling work and schedule in a break. Do you live by your calendar? Most entrepreneurs have their own system or favorite app to keep track of everything that needs to get done. Be realistic about how long certain tasks take and don’t overschedule yourself. Think of breaks as a very important meeting (with yourself). You wouldn’t skip a business meeting, so don’t cut yourself short by skipping your break. For more inspiration, read "Is Vacation Good or Bad for Your Small Business? An Expert Weighs In."
  4. Loosen your load. Eventually every small-business owner realizes they need help. If you’re not quite ready to hire a full-time employee, you can always outsource some projects. Make a list of all your work tasks and what takes up most of your day. Even giving away the smallest duties will add some precious minutes to your day and make taking breaks possible.

For more tips, check out "4 Twitter Accounts to Follow So Your Vacation Becomes a Reality."

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website SmallBizDaily.com to get the scoop on business trends and to sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

Even Presidential Hopefuls Get Sued for Copyright Infringement

6. July 2016 08:04

man talking to the press

Just as his presidential run was ending, Ted Cruz was also hit with a $2 million copyright infringement lawsuit. According to The Seattle Times, the music-licensing firm Audiosocket filed a federal lawsuit claiming Cruz’s campaign improperly used two copyrighted songs even though it signed a contract stating the material would not be used in political ads or television broadcasts.

One of the advertisements aired more than 86 times. Audiosocket is seeking $25,000 for each of those alleged contract breaches.

It’s hard to believe that professionals working on a national campaign could make such an expensive mistake, but it happens all the time. In fact, an NPR compiled a list of eight recent examples of politicians skirting copyright laws and blasting copyrighted songs to promote their campaigns.

The takeaway? If they can get busted, so can you.

A Tale of Politicians and Copyright Infringement

Bill Corbett Jr. (@wjcorbett), president of Corbett Public Relations, has worked on many political campaigns in a variety of roles, including campaign manager and public relations and communications director. He describes elections as “the ultimate in personal branding.”

The desire to get voters’ attention can drive campaigns to use popular music that many people already have a connection to. But that music is likely copyrighted, and that's where some politicians run into trouble. Without permission to use the song, there's the risk of copyright infringement and public embarrassment if the musician comes out against the politician.

Corbett recommends that his clients secure the appropriate permissions. If that isn’t possible, he says they can find license-free music or create their own music or themes. The key is to pick a path sooner rather than later.

“The wrong approach is waiting for controversy to erupt and then responding," Corbett notes. "This will take away time resources and distract from the candidate and the campaign’s message.”

Pro tip: Research copyrights and licensing before you set your advertisements to music. Corbett often sends his clients to the licensing information on the ASCAP site.

How to Avoid a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

National political campaigns can have hundreds, if not thousands, of people working for them, yet they still get caught up in copyright infringement claims. That should tell you one thing: if it can happen to presidential campaigns, it can happen to small businesses.

And it's not just music you need to be careful with. According to Sonia Lakhany (@LadyLanhamEsq), managing attorney of Lakhany Law, PC, artists can have copyright protection for almost anything they create, including...

  • Books.
  • Movies.
  • Photographs.
  • Paintings.
  • Drawings.

So let's say you wanted to post a funny picture or a movie clip to your business's Twitter feed. You could be committing copyright infringement. Moreover, Lakhany says the creator of a work doesn't need to register a copyright because "a certain level of copyright protection exists once the author completes the work in some tangible form."

To avoid copyright infringement, Lakhany suggests consulting with an intellectual property lawyer to find out if the material is available and how to get permission to use it.

Pro tip: Just because you receive notice of a suit doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily committed copyright infringement. However, it almost always means you need to defend yourself.

That’s where General Liability Insurance comes in. General Liability can help pay for your attorney fees and other legal expenses when you're accused of:

  • Copyright infringement.
  • Defamation.
  • Invasion of privacy.

Learn more in the eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury.

Meet the Experts

Bill Corbett

Bill Corbett is president of Corbett Public Relations, an award-winning professional public and media relations firm based in Floral Park, New York. He is a recognized public relations, media relations, crisis communications, digital media, and personal branding expert with over 25 years of experience. Known for effectively building and protecting reputations and brands, Corbett’s mission is to provide businesses and entrepreneurial-minded individuals with effective and goal-focused marketing strategies and services.

 

 

Sonia Lakhany

Sonia Lakhany is the managing attorney at Lakhany Law, PC, an intellectual property firm specializing in trademark law with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles. In addition to her law practice, Lakhany teaches trademark and is a frequent speaker and blogger on brand protection. She is also active on several boards and committees in the Atlanta and Los Angeles legal communities. She has been featured in dozens of magazine and news articles, as well as on radio and television. Most recently, she was awarded “Best Personal Brand of 2015” by the Technology Association of Georgia.

 

 

 

5 Essential Insurance Policies for Businesses on the Move

5. July 2016 08:09

business woman driving a car

For a small-business owner, picking up certain insurance policies probably feels like a no-brainer. You have property your business depends on, so you purchase Commercial Property Insurance. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

For some businesses, it may be that simple. But if your operations take you away from your primary location, you might need one of these additional policies to protect your business.

1. Commercial Auto Insurance

Imagine you’re a consultant, and you get a new client in the next town over. Being the hands-on person you are, you hop in your car to meet them at their location. Unfortunately, you get in a tiny fender bender on the way. What's worse: your personal auto insurance may not cover it.

We understand. You thought you were being responsible, but the fact is most personal auto policies don't cover work-related driving, including errands and business trips. For that, you may need Commercial Auto Insurance.

If you have a vehicle in your business's name, Commercial Auto is a must.

2. Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance (HNOA)

Now imagine you’re lucky enough to have an underling to meet that client instead. Any accident in your employee's car is their problem, right?

Not so fast. Because the driver is your employee acting under your direction, you could still be held liable for accidents that happen during business errands. However, Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance may cover accidents your employee causes when driving for work.

Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance may come in handy if you…

  • Rent cars on business trips.
  • Ask employees to run errands in their personal vehicles.
  • Have a sales team that drives to clients.
  • Lease cars for VIP visitors.

This policy can be purchased as a standalone policy, but many small-business owners choose to add it as a rider to their Commercial Auto Insurance.

3. Inland Marine Insurance

Property Insurance is typically tied to the address on the policy. That’s fine for a lot of businesses, but it can leave considerable coverage gaps for others, including…

  • Wedding photographers.
  • Landscapers.
  • Construction companies.

Inland Marine Insurance can supplement property coverage for these professionals because it's a “floater policy.” That means it moves with the property it covers and can pay if that property is damaged in transit or at a location away from the primary business address.

Additionally, Inland Marine policies can cover…

  • Expensive artwork.
  • Valuable documents.
  • Mobile equipment.

Get more details in the blog post “What is Inland Marine Insurance?

4. Special Property Insurance Coverage Endorsement

The Property Insurance gap is a particular problem for cleaning businesses because the majority of their operations take place at their clients’ offices. As a result, many opt for a Special Property Insurance Coverage Endorsement (SPICE). SPICE typically offers…

  • Protection for property in transit.
  • Business Interruption Insurance, which can cover lost income when a covered event halts business operations at select client locations.
  • Coverage for employee theft, forgery and alterations, and money and securities.

Note: SPICE is a rider that needs to be added to a Commercial Property Insurance policy.

5. Special Event Insurance

As your business grows, you may find yourself hosting…

  • Conferences.
  • Holiday parties.
  • Trade shows.
  • Golf outings.

Events like these are all fun and games until someone gets hurt. But because these events aren't your normal business operations, your General Liability Insurance may not cover the accidents and injuries that happen during them.

Even if you only plan to host a party for a small group of investors, Special Event Insurance may be in order. It can usually cover third-party injuries and property damage, such as an attendee’s slip-and-fall injury.

Wondering if this coverage is for you? Get your questions answered in "How (and When) to Purchase Special Event Insurance."

31 Fascinating Flag Facts that Will Make You the Hit of the 4th of July Cookout

1. July 2016 06:09

tiny American flags in a beer bottle

The 4th of July is almost here, so there’s a good chance you’ll either be hosting or attending a backyard barbecue in the near future. Whether you want to impress your friends, drop some knowledge on those know-it-all neighbors, or channel your inner Cliff Clavin from Cheers, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 31 little-known flag facts guaranteed to dazzle and amaze your fellow Independence Day revelers.

  1. The first US flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It had 13 stars and 13 stripes.
  2. There’s no historical proof Betsy Ross sewed the original US flag. In fact, she didn’t get credit until 1870 when her grandson, William Canby, proclaimed to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that she was the flag’s creator. But he didn’t offer any concrete proof.
  3. Who was really behind the flag’s design? It was most likely designed by Francis Hopkinson, who also signed the Declaration of Independence.
  4. After Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the union in 1795, two stripes were added to the flag. But in 1818, Congress decided that could get out of hand really fast and reverted to 13 stripes, agreeing to add only stars for new states.
  5. When stars are added to the flag, it’s on the 4th of July following the new state’s admittance to the Union.
  6. Francis Scott Key’s poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was inspired by a lone American flag he spotted flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1812 after a long night of British bombing. You can check out the famous flag (featuring that era’s 15 stripes) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
  7. In 1885, Wisconsin schoolteacher BJ Cigrand was the first person to propose a national day to celebrate the flag. In 1949, President Truman officially designated June 14 as National Flag Day.
  8. Only two states observe Flag Day as an official holiday: Pennsylvania and New York. But New Yorkers celebrate on the second Sunday of June, not June 14.
  9. Approximately 150 million US flags are sold each year in the United States.
  10. Ninety-five percent of all US flags are made here.
  11. US flags sales peak between April and June.
  12. The two most popular days to display a US flag are July 4th and Memorial Day.
  13. Any US flag purchased by the US Defense Department must be 100 percent made in America, including raw materials such as fabric, ink, and dye.
  14. To help the rest of us buy local, the Flag Manufacturers Association of America (FMAA) established the “Certified Made in the U.S.A.” program. Any flags bearing the FMAA label are guaranteed to be manufactured in the United States using only domestic materials.
  15. The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prohibits real estate management organizations or homeowner associations from passing any rules that would prevent homeowners from displaying the US flag on their property. But they can enact restrictions on sizes, flagpoles, etc.
  16. The United States Flag Code lays out the rules for all things flag-related, from when and how to display the flag to how to properly retire a flag. It was signed into law in 1942 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The next five facts come from the Flag Code.
  17. US flags on a flagpole should be displayed from sunrise to sunset.
  18. The flag should be raised quickly, but lowered slowly.
  19. If you want to display the US flag around the clock, it should be properly illuminated at night.
  20. If displayed on a wall or window, the flag can be placed either vertically or horizontally – just make sure the blue field is on the flag viewer’s upper left.
  21. The blue field of the flag is officially called the “Union” or the “canton.”
  22. It is totally OK to display an older flag design, so if you have a US flag that predates our current 50-star version, feel free to wow the neighbors.
  23. You won’t actually get in trouble if you violate the Flag Code. It’s more of an honor system.
  24. As of 2016, there have been 27 official versions of the US flag.
  25. The current design, featuring 50 stars, debuted in 1960 following the admittance of Alaska and Hawaii into the union.
  26. Our current flag was designed as part of a class project by 17-year-old Robert Heft. He received a B-minus. After his design was chosen for the US flag by President Eisenhower, Robert’s teacher bumped his grade up to an A.
  27. The official colors of the US flag are old glory red, white, and old glory blue.
  28. Of the six US flags planted on the moon by astronauts, five are still standing, according to photos taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The only exception is the flag from the Apollo 11 mission, which astronaut Buzz Aldrin says was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during takeoff.
  29. A flag expert is called a vexillologist.
  30. “Old Glory” was originally the name of one specific flag, owned by sea captain William Driver of Salem, Massachusetts. His mother gave him a US flag to display on his ship for his 21st birthday in 1824, and he immediately gave it the nickname “Old Glory.”
  31. Sometimes flag designers got a little…whimsical with the placement of the stars. Check out the Great Star Flag of 1837, the 1847 29-star flag, the 1861 Fort Sumter Flag, and 1877’s 38-star flag, and you’ll see what we mean.

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