Many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t know the differences between contractors and employees. This decision is so important when hiring someone to join your small business so Josh Andrews of Gatehouse Law came to Forge to teach us more on this subject!
- They are independent workers, they dictate when and how they work
- Contractors often use their own equipment
- Typically this is a worker that could run a small business performing the work they do for you for multiple companies
Here’s the IRS Test you may need look over:
- Behavioral control
- This is what you tell the contractor about how, when, where or with whom to work
- It’s also how exactly you train the worker
- Financial control
- Reimbursement policy
- Work investment
- Are worker’s services available to others who need it?
- How is the worker paid?
- Can the worker make a profit or loss on the work?
- Type of Relationship
- What does your written agreement say about the intended relationship between you and the worker
- Does the employee receive benefits from you as the employer?
- The permanence of the worker in the business
- Is the worker’s services a key aspect of the company’s regular business?
Who is a contractor?
- Other businesses
- Sales staff (sometimes!)
As the employer, you have a lot more control over employees rather than contractors.
When making this decision, ask yourself a few questions:
- What do you need?
- What do you want?
- How does it look?
We have to understand both options to make the right decision for your specific business! We’ve just hit the highlights for you but if you want to view the full Lunch & Learn, check it out here! Check Forge’s Facebook calendar for future educational events.
Social Media posting… We all know we need to be doing it. And so we post.
But is your posting effective?
Is anyone seeing your posts?
Is the audience you are reaching the audience that can actually be converted to customers?
There is so much more to posting on social media than just shooting a picture on your phone and then putting it on instagram with a catchy caption. That is, if you want social media to be a vehicle to grow your business (HINT HINT: as business owners this should be your goal!)
Jacqueline Jones of One Degree MMM shared with Forge the Must Do’s for creating a plan before you post anything on social media.
Build a Customer Avatar!!
You must know everything you can know about about your customer. Everything…
Age. Gender. Family Life. Where they live. What they do for a living. When they drive to work. What they listen to while driving. How much they spend…
Gather as much data as you can. Then use that data to inform all decision making.
Do not assume that you are your target customer! Marketing can often break down when that happens. Look at your data, see who is buying your product or using your service. See who is spending the most with you and how often. This information is going to guide every decision you make for your social media and marketing strategy.
It is possible that you will have a few different avatars. Know them each and market to them each.
What is the goal you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. Pick a goal and then stick with it for a quarter so you can see realistic results. Now there is always the case where you determine a goal and realize quickly you need to change directions. But generally speaking, it is best practice to choose a goal, build your strategy and then give your efforts time to perform. When you do this, you get more QUALIFIED DATA about who your customer really is!
How are you going to get in touch with your customer? How are you going to get your information to your perfect customer. If you just put out a blanket post (on any platform), you will not be able to reach the people that you really want to reach. Each post must be intentional. Your tone and voice must reflect who you want to reach and why you want to reach them. Speaking of tone… always communicate on your posts the way that you would communicate in person.
Which platform should you use? The best way to answer this question is to figure out which platforms your customers are on. And then kill it on those platforms! Don’t try to be everywhere, you simply cannot do. Or at least you cannot do it well.
As you are planning out your Social Media strategy, here are a few things that you should CHOOSE NOT to do:
- Choose Not To get caught up in frequency suggestions. Do not be lured in to believe you must follow all the advice out there. The best thing to do is be consistent. Consistency for you could mean once a week, once a day or five times a day. Determine the capacity that you have to create and post meaningful, strategic posts and then stick to it! When you are building your community on social platforms, this community is built on relationships. Relationships are trusted through consistency.
- Choose Not To create blanket content. Create content that speaks to your Avatar!
- Choose Not To be everywhere. Your customers are not everywhere, you should not be everywhere either.
- Choose Not To be fake. Do not try to be who you think people want you to be. They want you! Be you!
- Choose Not to be afraid to ask for help or guidance. As a business owner you cannot do it all. There is no shame in getting someone to help you with your Social Media Planning and Posting.
We are thankful for the work that Jacqueline is doing to help Small Business Owners grow! If you would like to contact Jacqueline to get more information or learn how she can help grow your business, you can email Jacqueline at email@example.com.
If you are interested in diving deeper into your business, Jacqueline is hosting Boiling Point: A Group Marketing Strategy Session, at Forge on March 11. Use the code APLAN to receive a $30 discount!
Josh Andrew with Gatehouse Law returned to Forge with a topic that is near and dear to all Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners – or at least it should be! What do you need to know about your business’s trademark? You have legally registered your business, isn’t that enough? Let’s dig a little deeper…
Step 1: Understanding Trademarks
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase or graphic symbol used to show the source of goods or products… or service!
Think of the most notable trademarks: Nike Swoosh, McDonald’s Golden Arches, UPS Brown Box (example of a service)
So, what is the difference between a Trademark and copyright? If you hired a designer to create your logo and they have a copyright for that image, do they own the trademark?
The short answer is no! The copyright protects the artwork or words. The trademark protects the business. So even if your logo has a copyright that you do not own, the trademark is yours!
Step 2: Protecting Trademarks
1. Your Trademark Cannot be “Merely Descriptive”
A merely descriptive mark is one that immediately conveys knowledge of a quality, feature, function or characteristic of an applicant’s goods or services. For example if a dry cleaners named their business “The Dry Cleaners,” they could not lay claim to that name being Trademarked. Anyone could use the same name because it is merely descriptive of the business that it represents.
2. Your Trademark Must have Distinction
It must be:
All three of these qualities can be legally protected.
3. Protecting Trademarks before you launch. This step is particularly important for those building a business, and not yet in operation. There are three ways to protect your business before you launch.
- Non-disclosure Act. Any time you enter into conversation with someone about your business, have them sign a non-disclosure act regarding the business knowledge shared during the meeting.
- File “Intent to Use.” This is a more costly option and only lasts six months. If you are not in business at the end of six months, but still want to protect the business, there must be another filing.
- Action. Do something with your mark. Setting up a website that collects email addresses is the simplest way to begin acting as a business before you are ready to launch.
While ultimately your business needs to have the trademark legally protected, there are a few things that can protect the trademark while the business is growing.
1. Common Law Mark: Trademarks are protected in the immediate area that the business is operating. However this does not prevent your trademark in another part of the country from being used legally.
2. Business Name Registration
3. Notice – By using the trademark, your business trademark is protected (only in the area of operation)
4. Cease and Desist letters. It may seem like an extreme option. But it is the responsibility of the owner to protect the trademark immediately, otherwise the trademark is ineffective.
Thank you Gatehouse Law for teaching us all things Trademarks! We are thankful for firms like Gatehouse Law who serve entrepreneurs and Small Business owners teaching us the things we really need to be thinking about while building our business!
Josh Andrews of Gatehouse Law returned to Forge to teach his third Lunch & Learn focusing on the relationship between small business and legal. This time he focused on contracts and how we can enforce them- even if they aren’t signed!
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a contract?
A contract is how we define business- even if we don’t realize it! It’s an agreement between two parties where the obligations are enforceable by law. Don’t forget: oral contracts are real.
4 Elements of a Contract:
- Meeting of the Minds
A contract does not have to be in writing. Repeat: it does not have to be in writing!
There must be competence of the parties– this means the person cannot be in a coma and they also can’t be a child. They must be legally able to enter into a contract and capable of understanding the contract.
Also there must be legal purpose- you obviously can’t enter into a contract to do an illegal thing.
Main idea: if you have an agreement with another party that lasts for more than a fleeting moment in time, you should put your terms in writing!
The things that continue after the point of sale are where your liabilities lie. Contracts are there to protect you!
Contracts can do a few things:
- Limit the liability of your business
- Protect your business for growth
- Give your business the appearance of “having it together”
- Make your business look bigger than it actually is
Make sure your payment terms are crystal clear! “If you don’t pay me, I’ll charge you interest or late fees…and chase you down for collection fees.”
Another main idea: People expect legal. Legal should protect your business for growth, not hinder your business from it.
Acceptance of a contract doesn’t necessarily require a signature! No signature, no problem. You let your customer know how they accept the contract. It may be clicking a box on a website, downloading a PDF, paying for a product, etc. Just make sure you track it! Always track the action that you told the customer is the “acceptance” for your business.
One last thing: Your customer’s numbness to online contracts is not a license to be unfair. We’ve all ‘accepted’ the iTunes terms (or something similar) without reading it all! This doesn’t give you the right to be unfair to your customers.
Gatehouse Law helps small businesses. Check them out!
We all know what a sales funnel is but we don’t always know how to best implement it. Will Yarbrough of Fleetio came to Forge to teach us more about structuring your specific sales funnel and the model that Fleetio has found success with. We will hit the high points for you- be sure to check out the YouTube video of his presentation too!
A sales funnel is just a road map- where ultimately money makes it into your bank account. The road map has to be unique to your business!
Big concept: your funnel is your growth strategy
There are 3 Funnels to Rule Them All:
Marketing Funnel (this is one-to-many communication)
- Brand awareness
- Lead nurturing
Lead Funnel (also one-to-many communication, familiarity with who you are)
- Levels of qualification
- Post sale (helps you get additional customers)
Opportunity Funnel (one-to-one communication)
Big concept: your funnel is your key to time management
(Time is your most infinite resource!)
In the ‘awareness and consideration’ phase you focus on activities like building brand awareness and domain expertise such as blogging, videos and social media. In the ‘decision and commitment’ phase you focus on other activities like building value and bolstering your company’s credibility through webinars, case studies and business intelligence.
Remember: What gets measured gets done. If you aren’t measuring and tracking, it’ll be hard to understand what you need to do differently. Ask yourself: Where are the leaks? Where are these people coming from? (If leads are coming from social media, focus on continuing your social media and making it better!) Who should we be talking to? What’s scalable? What’s working? What’s not working? What can we tweak?
Big concept: your funnel is your fortune
Typically it takes 18 touches to reach a buyer! You must align your process with your specific customer. Continue to motivate the behaviors that are going to lead to the results you want.
What ideas you should take away:
- “No” doesn’t mean “never”- be persistent!
- Follow up and follow through (if you don’t, they’ll assume this will be their experience as a customer too)
- 50% of sales people never follow up- don’t be that person!
- Figure out your TAM (Total Addressable Market) and break it into niche pockets to focus on!