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4 Great Ways to Get Your Small Business on the Right Track in 2014

For many aspiring entrepreneurs, January 1st is the equivalent of the checkered flag being waved on the race track. You’ve been on your mark with your business idea, got set with a business plan, and are ready to go onward and upward on the path to greatness!

Before you get caught up in the race, it’s important to make sure that your business stays on the right track from the start and doesn’t veer off only to crash and burn. For a brand new business, this often means ensuring that your company has taken care of these four legal matters first.

1) Incorporate or form an LLC.

Legitimizing your brand with an “Inc.” or “LLC” added after the company name not only allows customers to feel much more willing to do business with you, but business formations help provide liability protection for your personal assets. In the event that your business is unable to pay a creditor or gets hit with a lawsuit, this ensures that your personal assets, like cars or homes, are not assets a creditor can legally come after.

2) Trademark your intellectual property.

Even if you think your brand name or logo is extremely original and nobody will ever think of using it, it’s always a good idea to file a trademark application to verify how unique it is and protect the mark from being used by others whether they know about your brand or not.

3) Apply for a business license.

This one can rarely be avoided by a business as nearly all cities and counties require working establishments to have a business license. Check in with your state government about licensing requirements, as many of these are slated to differ depending on the city you do business in, your industry, and company size.

4) Get an EIN in place.

Plan on hiring or opening a bank account for your business? You’ll need to apply for an employer identification number to legally identify your business with. A business may also be legally identified by your SSN, but the EIN is often a better option of the pair to opt for in the event of sudden identity theft occurring.

About the Author

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

How Losing The Super Bowl Could Cost Peyton Manning More Than A Ring

When Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos onto the field at Super Bowl XLVIII, he’ll be playing to cap a record-breaking regular season. He’ll be playing to cement his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’ll be playing to silence his critics (and maybe even his baby brother). But, according to a Forbes article, Peyton Manning could also be playing to save $844 in New Jersey state income tax.

The ‘cold-weather’ location isn’t the only factor in this year’s historic big game. Thanks to New Jersey’s “jock tax,” which is based on calendar-year income, Peyton and anyone else playing today could be subject to a hefty tax liability on their big game bonuses (especially players who return to New Jersey to play next season). K. Sean Packard, CPA, explains:

If Manning is able to play next season, his New Jersey income tax would be $46,989 on $92,000 for winning the Super Bowl, or 51.08%. If they lose and he is able to play in 2014, he will pay New Jersey $46,844 on his $46,000, which amounts to a 101.83% tax on his actual Super Bowl earnings in the state—and this does not even consider federal taxes!

History will decide where Peyton Manning sits among the greats, but New Jersey could have something to say about how much money he’ll have in his pocket.

Backward Negotiation — a Good Way to Negotiate

Mapping a negotiation backwards is all about envisioning the outcome first then thinking in reverse to attain your goals! Entering a negotiation often calls for getting your allies onboard and making them listen to what you have to say. While the approach is conventional, it may not always be the best way to proceed with a negotiation. It’s important to sequence matters whether you’re attempting to persuade the ‘right’ individuals to attend an auction, sign an important deal, or compel them to open up a new business.

Where do you start and whom you should address first? Standard rules like making allies first or negotiating internally and then externally are extremely unreliable approaches. Using the logic of backward negotiations can help you select partners wisely, and thus conduct negotiations in the right way.

The logic of backward mapping in negotiations

According to James K. Sebenius of Harvard Business School, mapping a negotiation backwards means envisioning the outcome first. It’s all about thinking in reverse. Basic steps include:

  • Drawing a ‘map’ of all parties at the negotiation table (include potential clients and teammates as well)
  • Estimating the cost of reaching an agreement as we as difficulty level of the negotiation
  • Classifying key relationships among all parties: who holds the power, who owes something and to whom, etc.
  • Focusing your attention on the most difficult player to persuade – the target, your ultimate goal, the solution to your negotiation deal, etc.

In order to have a better understanding of the whole process, you can always consider a different approach – project management. When it’s time to decide on a complex project, your main focus should be the end result. After that, you can devote your time to developing a timeline from the end to the start. A project management project completed successfully can be compared to an agreement that creates value, an agreement sustained by a powerful coalition.

Are you ready to apply the logic of backward mapping in negotiations?

As soon as you’re ready to apply the logic of backward mapping for your negotiation, you should be prepared to answer some questions: can you spot important players? How do you do that? Should you negotiate secretly, out in the open, collectively or separately? How do you defend yourself from the tactics used by your competitors? Here are some suggestions you might want to have in mind:

  • Study the patterns of authority and respect – latent merger builders are quick learners, and they know that approaching the trickiest, and probably the most decisive, party first could mean slim chances of closing a deal.
  • Outflank blockers – although sequencing could build support to achieve a supreme goal, it is often used to outflank latent opponents.
  • Control information – attentive sequencing might help deal with delicate information.
  • Watch out for sneaky sequencers – be careful as other people might take advantage of your position.

Gaining authority through sequencing and mapping in negotiations

Experienced business negotiators also acknowledge the concept of creating value using rational low-priced/high-value trade-offs. The thought of making something out of nothing is a real challenge. A business negotiation is all about holding power and being able to dictate the negotiation process. Exploring the practice of sequencing to attain power in business comes down to 4 words: zero options, zero power. Ergo, without power, the negotiation doesn’t have dynamics, and if it doesn’t have dynamics, it can’t work.

If there’s no competition in a business negotiation, we have monopoly; and if monopolies subsist, efficiencies and values are unlikely to be promoted. Who holds the ‘real’ power in a business negotiation? As long as you have options your chances of success are widely increased.

Backward negotiations can be an excellent strategy as long as you have a clear picture of your end goal and an idea about how to reach it. Good luck in all your future negotiations.

About the Author

Steve Brown is a regular blogger who writes articles related to small business and negotiation. He is writer at many high ranking sites and loves playing with his dog in his free time.


Protect Your Business, Stop Employee Theft

Employee theft has been an unbridled phenomenon in the business world. Loss-prevention consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International’s study on this problem reveals that more than 70 thousand employees were apprehended in 2012 for thievery, which is 5.5 percent higher than the previous year. More or less $50 million was recovered in those cases, which is also a few percent higher than the previous year.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should know how to protect your investment from employee theft. But how can you protect your business without a broader knowledge of the problem?

Common Factors Affecting the Increase in Employee Theft Cases

Ineffective Hiring Procedures. Ineffective hiring procedures may increase your chances of hiring untrustworthy employees. A well-defined process, however, will allow you to know your applicant better.

Lack of Supervision. Lack of supervision gives employees opportunities to steal from the company. So, make sure management directly supervises employees on a regular basis.

Markets for Stolen Goods. Thieves know that these markets are platforms for illegal, and potentially lucrative, business. Report to the authorities any knowledge you might have of them.

Social Dishonesty. Powerful figures from different sectors of society performing dishonest activities encourages ordinary individuals to commit dishonesty of their own, including employee theft. Be vigilant.

How to Identify Employee Theft

You may want to take action if you notice some of your employees secretly having suspicious conversations; excessively loitering around your business (whether on or off duty); always away from their posts and taking long breaks; habitually violating security protocols or company rules and regulations; or acting suspiciously.

Other signs to warn you that your employees have been stealing from you include the following:

  • Inconsistent or unexplained behavior
  • Defensive reasoning
  • Habitual unapproved borrowing of company money or property
  • Expensive personal habits
  • Extravagant spending of earnings
  • Negatively criticizing the company
  • Prohibited co-employee affairs

What You Should Do

Make internal security measures transparent to your employees so they are aware that dishonest and fraudulent activities are prohibited, and prioritize surveillance inside and outside your business premises.

If you would suspect employee theft, don’t attempt to solve the problem by yourself. Hire a business lawyer or avail of a pre-paid legal service.

Don’t waste precious time and allow thieves to hurt your bottom line and keep you from achieving your business goals. Take the steps you need to help ensure that your business is secure and your investment is protected.

About the Author

Brandon Peters is an entrepreneur, writer and a travel, gadgets, health, and outdoors enthusiast. He loves sharing his insights, knowledge and experience in different fields. He also loves LegalShield. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Track your Start-Up Expenses with These Essential Apps

Monitoring expenses can be one of the most daunting parts of starting a business. However, the rise of the smartphone has simplified the process for startup owners. Here are some of the best financial tracking apps for startups and small businesses. Continue reading »