It is that time of year again when shopping becomes important on a personal level. Black Friday heralds the time period that retail stores run in the black instead of the red. If you are a service business how does this affect you?
If you do not offer gift certificates, then if you offer a wellness service, coaching service or consulting service you may want to consider doing so. Send out an email to your clients to remind them there is still time for them to make the purchase. For the gift certificate itself, think about cardstock for a nice presentation with an envelope to match. In addition, keep track of what you sell and respect Massachusetts laws that allow for a 7 year expiration date.
You may be thinking how you have gotten great deals on Groupon and Living Social. Offering discounts with these companies can help your business, but remember you are entering a contract. This should be reviewed by an attorney so you understand your responsibilities. You want to make sure there is a shorter expiration date on any of your offerings and if it is not used, then the amount can be applied to another service (just not at a discounted rate). With Groupon the hope is that you will keep the client, but there is a low retention rate since many Groupon and Living Social shoppers are looking for the next, best deal.
True North Business Consulting does not offer gift certificates, but we do have books for Health & Wellness Professionals and Contractors along with a DVD program that make great gifts!
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Book & DVD offerings providing business education
The Business Guidebook for Contractors along with a new edition of The Business Guidebook for Health & Wellness Professionals are offered at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. Both Business Guidebooks are filled with business information that is easy to understand and to follow with worksheets to show you the steps involved. We are also offering A Business Program for Health & Wellness Professionals on DVD! All available on Amazon. FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! If you purchase through the links above then you will receive $5.00 OFF using the following code: ZP682PK9.
For those unfamiliar with Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR and want to know more about it so that you can use it in your business, then I have created a course with Udemy (an academy of you). The first 50 people receive $10 off, that is half price, but it is only for a limited time so take advantage NOW to learn about using the processes negotiation, mediation and arbitration in an hour. Use code 10OFFADR at UDEMY.
Many small business owners have a home office. This can be very convenient, limiting travel and expenses like rent. When it comes to accounting, I am sure there are ways where a portion of the space is a possible expense to your business, but there are legal ramifications that you should consider.
First, if you are working from your apartment where you are a tenant, then you need to make sure that having a business on the premises is allowed. Many leases do not allow you to work from home. From the landlord’s point of view this may be due to the increase in traffic or that you may be storing goods on the premises. Plus, you may be need services like additional cable lines that the landlord was not planning on.
What about if you own a condo? This time is may be the condominium association that could have rules about a business on the premises. But, what if your business is just online and you do not have people coming by? It may not make a difference according to your condo documents and the board.
If you are a homeowner, then your concern is advertising and keeping your liability at a minimum. If you want to place a sign outside, then you need to make sure with the city or town that you are allowed to do so. In addition, if you have anyone visit your residence please make sure that it is safe-especially clean walkways.
In all of these cases, you do need to register with the town to tell them you are doing business there. Think about buying insurance for your protection plus reviewing leases and condo documents.
I teach undergraduate students at a local university. We just finished covering torts and negligence, which is always a fun subject as the students suddenly see the potential for lawsuits everywhere. In fact, one assignment was to look for possible claims around campus. I didn’t realize the campus was a death trap!
Torts are a civil wrong that leads to harm which results in legal liability. Some examples of torts are defamation, copyright infringement and false imprisonment. Negligence is within the study of torts and is based on the belief that there is a duty of care owed. If there is a breach in that duty that caused injury, then people sue for negligence. For example, supermarkets need to keep their floors clean, and when there is an issue need to mark it accordingly, if not then someone could slip and fall.
Negligence and tort claims can happen to anyone in a business. You need to be aware of the issues and then go about protecting you and your business with a combination of contracts, business entities and insurance.
September 3, 2013
This is the second part discussing the pitfalls of standard leases. The first part dealt with residential leases, and this part will discuss commercial leases. As an attorney and summary process mediator handling evictions, I have been witness to commercial lease issues. Many of these disputes can be avoided by following four easy tips.
1. Clear business names
The first part of any lease is the names of the parties involved. As most landlords want a personal guarantee, this means the correct names of the commercial tenants are needed. Before writing the lease, ask for a copy of the prospective tenants’ drivers’ licenses along with current home addresses, cellphone numbers and email addresses.
If the tenants have formed a business entity, then you should also ask for a certificate of incorporation. This is either free from the state or requires a small fee to be paid by the tenant.
This verifies that the people who are signing the lease are who they say they are.
2. Fast money
Hopefully, the commercial tenancy is a wonderful experience with a long-lasting tenant who has a successful business. However, what happens if the tenant is unable to pay. Most standard leases state something like, “when the tenancy is completed, then the landlord can be reimbursed.” What does that mean?
Let’s say that you have a 5 year lease with ABC Corp. Two years into the lease, ABC Corp stops paying you. You want the remaining money due on the lease-right? Well, you have to wait until the lease expires, which is another 3 years to be able to collect your rent.
To fix that issue you near an acceleration clause that in effect says that when the contract is breached due to nonpayment, then the whole lease becomes due immediately. No waiting.
Even in the standard lease there is a section titled INSURANCE where it is the tenant’s responsibility to get insurance. The landlord fills in the amount they require. First, there needs to be follow up. An insurance binder or proof of insurance needs to be held by the landlord, however, even better is for the landlord to be named as an Additional Insured.
When a landlord is named as Additional Insured, the landlord will be contacted when there is a change in the policy and if the tenant stops paying the insurance. Therefore if there is a loss, then there are no surprises. The landlord knows who the insurance company is and can make a claim.
Also, in regards to insurance, make sure your tenants are getting the right kind of insurance. For example, if there are storefront windows, then glass coverage should be a requirement.
4. Utilize the business
It is amazing how few landlords know anything about the businesses that are using their spaces. It should not be a surprise what the tenants do in the space you have rented to them. You should be a customer of their businesses and recommend them when you can. For example, if you rent to a restaurant, then be a patron of that restaurant. You should also pay full price. Why? They pay you full rent, and you want their business to be a successful. (Though I am fine with free dessert.)
There is also a marketing opportunity you may be missing by not promoting a business that you rent to. Many commercial landlords have websites, and on these websites my suggestion is that you add logos of the businesses that rent from you. (You need the tenants to send you the logos and give permission.) What a great way for you to get attention to your commercial property, while helping your tenant succeed!
These four tips will help you have a business relationship with your tenants along with decreasing your issues.
I eat too fast. It is a horrible habit, which I am working on because I want to enjoy my meal, taste the flavor and ideally, not choke. With business decisions many people have the same habit. Say yes, sign the contract in a hurry.
Like food though, you want to be able to reap the rewards, and well, not choke.
My first question when reviewing a contract when there is ongoing payment involved is to ask, “What is your threshold?”
What is the amount of money you can comfortably risk?
Ideally, the thought is that you want to take away more than your investment, but what if you lose that amount? Set your marker—I believe in taking risks, but they should always be calculated.
Enjoy your food and enjoy your contracts.
Conflict resolution really does resolve conflicts. After attending and presenting at the New England Chapter of the Conflict Resolution Association, I learned how so many companies are incorporating conflict resolution into their culture.
In today’s environment of Yelp and Facebook, bad reviews can truly hurt a business and when your first line does not understand how to negotiate, then the customer will deal with the issue in their own way—online.
It can be very expensive to fix an online reputation. What to do instead? Commit to conflict resolution. Here are some tips:
1. 1. Be trained in collaborative negotiation. You and your staff can benefit from this training- not only using it in person, but on the phone and via email too. My friend had an issue with a restaurant in Florida. She was treated rudely via email! So much so that she escalated the issue to report the manager. There was no need for this, and it could have been avoided with proper training.
2. 2. Know that there are forms of conflict resolution out there. I read so many contracts that have a default of litigation or a judge versus jury decision. Before going to court, think about mediation where you get an opportunity to make the decision. I had a client who was convinced she was heading to court over a broken partnership, but I convinced them to try mediation. It led to a satisfactory, quicker and less costly decision.
True North Business Consulting provides negotiation training and mediation. For more information contact us today!
June 4, 2013
- I am committed to Alternative Dispute Resolution as a way to solve business issues, especially mediation. For those unfamiliar with Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR and want to know more about it so that you can use it in your business, then I have created a course with Udemy (an academy of you). The first 50 people receive $10 off, that is half price, but it is only for a limited time so take advantage NOW to learn about using the processes negotiation, mediation and arbitration in an hour. Use code 10OFFADR at UDEMY. The class is also listed on the Business Program page.
I will be participating in the New England Chapter of the Association Conflict Resolution regional conference in June along with Jessica Nagle Esq. discussing the Utilization of ADR in Medical Billing Disputes. We are both excited to talk about a topic we are passionate about—namely Alternative Dispute Resolution.
For those unfamiliar with ADR, it is when conflicts are resolved in a method that does not involve litigation. I would say that all of you have signed an arbitration agreement—cellphones, software and credit card agreements all have arbitration clauses. Many of you though may not be familiar with mediation.
As a mediator, I can tell you that this should be a go to choice for small businesses and for any time there is a conflict where you are unable to negotiate a resolution. A mediator serves as a facilitator. Both sides get to tell their side of the conflict and really understand what the issues are to try to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial. I have seen relationships where both parties were angry, then at the end of mediation conclude with a written agreement and the parties walking away on better terms.
With mediation you can have a lawyer present or not, since most people feel comfortable discussing from their perspective what is the nature of the issue. If you do not come to an agreement with mediation, you can still go to court, but what was discussed in mediation cannot be used.
If you are in Sturbridge June 14th and 15th, then you are welcome to attend the conference or if you would like more information in our proposal, please feel free to contact me.
April 8, 2013
I missed a month of writing my blog. Clients needed my attention, and I was unable to carve out the time to make the blog a priority. Was this a mistake? Yes. What is the impact of this? I lost opportunities to gain more clients, to sell books and videos. Have you done this when it comes to your business?
In working with my clients we form contracts that spell out what I will do for them. This is called the scope. What happens when this scope gets changed or added to? My client is being served, but am I being served by allowing what in project management is called creep?
When you are working with a client and focusing on your business make sure that you are staying within the scope so that you have time for your business. Your clients will also appreciate that you explain what you are doing for them, and then reviewing if they have additional needs.
Remember your clients are your priority, but so is your business. Stick to your scope and your business activities, and do not allow creep to skew your results.
Link to our YouTube Video
January 28, 2013
Many companies because of their size are able to bring to their employees different opportunities ranging from health and wellness initiatives to financial planning assistance. You may even be jealous when you hear your friend talk about their employer sponsored Zumba class or free insurance analysis program. If you are a small company or even solo entrepreneur, then you can feel that you do not have the ability to have any sort of program because you are just too small.
However, it is a matter of leverage. For example, my office is located on a floor with 5 other small businesses with at maximum three employees. We often would see each other in the hallway, but rarely understood each other’s businesses or even knew the other person’s name.
Yet, now we have started to leverage our small business status and take advantage of bringing in speakers, giving referrals, and being friendly. It is a win/win situation. If you work from home, then you can do the same with others that work from home, too.
Think about joining forces and bringing in people who can help your businesses improve. It is cost effective, a good learning environment and spurs creativity. True North Business Consulting offers classes that can be brought to your work situation. Having a small business doesn’t mean you have to think small. You can leverage and be like a large company, and have the potential for success too.
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