Culture: How a Practice of Karma Can Improve Your Business

Good business practices like transparency and corporate responsibility can be leveraged to build valuable relationships. But throwing around these buzzwords will only get you so far.

If you really want to see results, what you may want to consider is a practice of karma: the idea that helping others become successful—suppliers, customers, even competitors—is the real key to your success in life as well as in business. It may seem to go against everything you’ve learned about business, such as that it’s necessary to be cutthroat, take out your competitors and get as much as you can while giving as little as possible. The times are changing.

Now, smart business owners know that the key to long-lasting success is turning competitors into collaborators and giving as much as you can to create win/win situations always.

It’s one of the things we are best at, helping you identify the win/win, even when you can’t see it. And, also helping you see where you may be engaging in win/lose tactics without even knowing it because it can be so deeply conditioned.

If you’d like to begin to gather your own evidence for a practice of Karmic business, read the books The Diamond Cutter and Karmic Business, both by Geshe Michael Roach.

Don’t be afraid to take your eyes off the bottom line and focus on how your company can be a force for good, even by helping your competitors. Building a culture that develops healthy karma can be as simple as providing over and above outstanding customer service, taking the time to make your vendor’s lives easier by paying more quickly than required, or even sending referrals to a competitor without an expectation of any return.

Building karma is an important investment of time and energy, and it does pay off. Too many business owners neglect their business relationships and miss out on countless rewards. Operations and growth are always top priorities for entrepreneurs, but make sure your company culture focuses on building strong relationships, too.

If you want to free up your time and energy to work on your business relationships, begin by sitting down with us. As your Business Lawyer, we can help you structure your business, so you can focus on growth, potential and all the reasons why you love doing business and show you the opportunities for karmic business that you may be overlooking.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate and Business Attorney. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, insurance, financial and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today at 832.408.0505 to schedule.

Mentorship Matters: How to Learn From Leadership

Mentoring can play a significant role in the success of any entrepreneur. Mentoring takes vision, dedication, and respect, all vital attributes for a mentor to attain in order to contribute positively to the growth of a mentee.  Let’s look at a few things you can do to mentor up and coming entrepreneurs and how these traits can help both parties climb to the top.

Envision a Positive Future

Everyone has to start somewhere. Today’s server could be tomorrow’s CEO. This familiar narrative is just as applicable to today’s CEO. To encourage the next generation of business leaders, it helps to know how to achieve your own career goals. Mentees benefit when people with experience encourage them to keep their eyes on the prize, and mentors benefit by reaffirming the principle that envisioning a positive future—and working toward that future—is the key to success.

Seek Experiential Learning

Envisioning a more successful future isn’t enough to bring that vision into reality, which is why job shadowing is so important. Experiencing that future in the present is the very best way to plan for it. And this is precisely what mentees need: to experience the future career they want now.

Some may have a change of heart after job shadowing a mentor, but it’s all part of working toward a future in real time that is right for them. Mentors can learn from this experience, too. By dedicating your time to giving mentees positive experiences, you’ll learn a great deal about the experience needed to achieve your own goals.

Successful business leaders seek out opportunities to learn and advance in their careers. Even if you are quite far down the path in your own career, consider using mentorship as a way to consciously get in touch with your own ambitions and take positive steps toward attaining them. Find those who have experienced the success you desire. Take some classes to refresh or sharpen your skills. No matter where you are in your career, gaining experience should always be a top priority.

Lead with Respect

Helping mentees envision and experience successful futures can help them decide where they want their career to go and how to get there. As a mentor, consider taking it one step further and treat your mentees like the future business leaders they are. Having someone in your chosen career field encourage you and believe in your future is indispensable in achieving your goals.

Having respect for young businessmen and women—and ourselves—is instrumental in professional advancement. When you have respect for others, you tend to give yourself more respect, and for a good cause, too. This is not just sound business advice, but this is a life lesson! A business leader who dedicates time to mentoring those early in their careers makes a positive impact on their industry. That, in turn, makes them a more valuable member of the business community, a necessary component to career advancement.

The key to achieving your career goals is always to keep growing and striving. But part of that process is knowing how to protect your interests to safeguard your future. If you are ready to take that step toward protecting the future you are working so hard for, begin by sitting down with us.

As your Business Attorney we are here to help you face the many challenges of owning and growing a business. We are experienced in helping entrepreneurs put protective measures in place to ensure their time can be spent on growth and giving back to the business community instead of putting out fires and fixing problems. If you want to safeguard your future, we can help you implement a robust legal, insurance, financial and tax system that protect your interests while you help others—and yourself—envision and work toward a more positive future.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Business Attorney. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Women Leaders in Business: The Bottom Line

Do women have it tougher than men in the corporate world? Many signs point to yes, but a 2015 report released by New York analytics firm MSCI suggests companies with strong female leadership show greater returns on equity than those without.

The report found companies with strong female leadership held a 2.7% return on equity advantage over those without a similar leadership profile (10.1% vs. 7.4% respectively). And businesses that lacked gender diversity in board positions faced more governance issues than the average.

While the report doesn’t establish a clear causal link between female leadership and overall corporate performance, traits such as innovation and good decision-making were associated with gender diversity at the corporate board level. And that diversity is much more prevalent in companies with a female CEO. The report suggested the possible causes for such a link include increased social networking, greater cultural diversity, and the breakdown of the typical institutional barrier to women taking leadership roles in the workforce.

The connection between strong female leadership and higher returns on equity could have its basis in cultural diversity (board diversity in particular), greater social networking, and the breakdown of the perceived “glass ceiling” women reach in the workforce. When combined, these traits encourage inclusive thinking, innovation, a higher respect for individuals, and collaborative decision-making. With fewer societal barriers like gender inequality and discrimination, board members and employees have a better chance of working together to achieve success.

If your company is looking for a healthier bottom line, whether you have female leadership or not, consider the value these traits hold for your business and how to implement them. Think of ways to implement structural change to reduce the barriers to healthy decision-making and innovative thinking your company faces. While you’re at it, identify and eliminate other significant barriers to success such as legal liabilities or financial instability.

Female business leaders might still encounter glass ceilings in the workplace, but the fact is, their contribution can lead to higher returns on equity, increasing the value women have in the business world overall. If you want to maximize your returns on equity, begin by sitting down with us. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can help you identify opportunities for achieving leadership diversity. We can also help you put valuable legal and financial protections in place to ensure your company is protected, so you can focus on growth, potential, and all the reasons why you love doing business.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Brand or Bust? Why Branding Is Essential to the Longevity of Your Business

A strong, identifiable brand is an invaluable asset to any company. Many businesses can reap major rewards by building a brand image that accurately reflects the strength of the company. And in today’s business world, branding is necessary for businesses looking for longevity and growth.

So, what do small businesses need to know about branding in the business world? Branding might seem like just another marketing buzzword, but it is a simple, yet powerful tool. A brand is essentially an image that communicates important messages about the value of your company to the public. A logo can provide an easily recognizable image of your brand, but that logo—and everything you put it on—needs to send a consistent message. Consistency is the key to effective branding for longevity because it creates memories through repetition, and those memories can have a positive impact on the loyalty of your customer base.

Your brand should accurately reflect your business and the traits that set you apart. You need first to identify your message and develop a strategic plan for communicating it. Your logo is just a start. Develop your company’s “voice” and ensure it is used consistently in all written communications. This includes your website, any promotional materials, email marketing campaigns, ads, and social media posts. Just like your logo, all communications with prospective clients should be consistent across all channels. Consider taglines, tunes, and avatars. Your brand can communicate anything you want. But, by default, it can also communicate things you don’t want. A well planned brand strategy will ensure you are sending the right message across the right channels. A consistent and effective brand creates loyal followers, and those followers can help your business withstand the test of trends and time.

If you have a consistent message and express it effectively through a diverse marketing strategy, you’re off to a good start to building lasting brand equity. A strong brand image can add value to your business, your products, or services.

Brand equity has immense value, especially to your competitors. Thus, no brand strategy is worth the effort unless you take steps to protect it. Components of your brand—such as your logo and brand voice—need protection. As a piece of intellectual property, your brand is an asset that, if compromised, can negatively affect your business’s future.

To keep your brand is protected, you need to start by ensuring your brand does not violate any other company’s intellectual property protections. Run a trademark search and check state registration databases. Building a brand is an investment of both time and money, so you don’t want to have to start over and risk confusing or losing your followers. Part of this step is making sure your brand is clearly distinct from that of your competitors. The likelihood of confusion is the legal standard by which your brand will be held, so make sure your brand is clearly original.

Next, file for a copyright of your brand image. It’s easy and affordable to file a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, but specificity is the key here. A copyright prohibits copying a piece of writing, a software code, a design, or similar assets. Certain companies should consider patents too, so always consult with a lawyer for guidance on protecting your brand.

When it comes to branding, it is wise to protect the valuable image your business has created. Work with a lawyer to ensure your brand and all your intellectual property is protected. If you want to protect the brand you build, begin by sitting down with us. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can help you protect your brand and all your intellectual property. We can also help you put valuable legal and financial protections in place to ensure your company is protected, so you can focus on growth, potential, and all the reasons why you love doing business.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Business Conflict: Tips for Settling Business Disputes Part 2

In part 1, we discussed the importance of knowing how to negotiate business deals and mitigate conflict whenever possible. Besides being a financial drain, business disputes can also create conflicts that require precious time and energy to resolve. Setting clear boundaries and realistic expectations when making professional agreements is essential in setting yourself up for positive outcomes.

Although avoiding conflict is preferred in professional matters, it is imperative to be prepared to handle business disputes properly when the need arises. Following these valuable tips will increase your chances of a positive outcome when business disputes must be settled.

Clarify the Actual Dispute: Ensure you understand what the desired outcome the other party seeks for resolution. It is equally important to clarify your own desired outcome. It can be challenging to see what’s actually going on when emotions are high. Speak with a trusted advisor to help you get clarity.

Offers Without Prejudice: Once you are in the dispute resolution process, be mindful when making offers for resolution. Ensure that you state that your offer is “without prejudice” and with no admission of guilt, so that if you do end up having to go to court, the offer cannot prejudice your case.

Use Alternative Dispute Resolution Models: Going to court is a lose/lose scenario for everyone involved. Be sure you have mediation and arbitration provisions built into every agreement you sign. Resolve matters outside of court, whenever possible.

Don’t Rely Solely on Your Legal Rights: If you want to avoid going to court—and it’s usually in your best interest to do so— put a good faith effort into finding a mutually beneficial solution on which to agree while still invoking your rights. We can help you with that as we focus on finding resolve in every conflict, by seeking to identify where the respective parties’ needs can be met and matched up as part of our conflict resolution process.

Watch Your Wording: Settlement offers can be complicated. The way an agreement is worded or structured can affect the outcome, especially if that outcome is a financial judgment. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the terms and conditions in any settlement offer. And never make a settlement offer without having us strategize and review the wording with you first.

Most importantly, get legal advice from a dedicated and trusted business lawyer. A lawyer can help you avoid all of the above mistakes and will protect your best interests during settlement negotiations.

We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

Business Conflict: Tips for Settling Business Disputes Part 1

A large part of being a successful business owner is knowing how to make deals and facilitate conflict when it arises.

When in a dispute over a deal or an agreement that has been made, the potential costs are endless. The potential cost of litigation, the potential cost of loss of reputation, the potential cost of the energetic drain from the conflict.

What do you need to know about conflict to mitigate these costs?

First and foremost, remember that costly conflict most often arises because the agreement process was not properly handled to begin with.

The ideal time to surface conflicts is in the beginning of a relationship by creating clear boundaries and expectations, using the agreement process.

The best agreement process will support both parties to share the parts of themselves they may typically hide while making an agreement, while at the same time, asking the hard questions they may not ask.

It’s often difficult to see the things we are hiding when making agreements, or to ask the challenging questions, and that’s why it’s so helpful to have a trusted advisor support you each time you are entering into an agreement with anyone, whether it be a new team member, a business partner, or a strategic partner.

When the agreement process is used to create each of your agreements, and before you ever finalize a deal of any type, the number of expensive business disputes you will have will be greatly diminished, if not eliminated completely.

But what happens if there is a conflict?

In Part 2, we will cover what to do once a conflict has happened. Look for that next week.

No one wants to end up in a dispute. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of conflict in the future. To start, find a trusted legal professional who will help you put protective measures in place to avoid the most common mistakes businesses make. That’s why a Business Lawyer is there to help you face the challenges of owning a business.

We help small business owners negotiate settlements and channel their time and energy toward growth and potential instead of putting out fires. We’ll begin by sitting down to discuss how you can implement a robust legal, insurance, financial and tax system that will streamline your business operations and minimize your risk of encountering contract disputes.

We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

 

Leaving a Business Legacy

As a business leader, you have the ability to make an impact, inspire future generations and leave a legacy of your leadership. But too often, leaders in the business world fail to consider how to accomplish these lofty goals until it’s too late.

Leaving a business legacy isn’t as simple as wisely planning your retirement. Don’t put off thinking about how to leave your business legacy until you formulate your exit strategy. Your business legacy is actually years in the making and the product of the many decisions, actions and even mistakes you make throughout your career.

A business legacy is formed over time, but even for late-career professionals, it’s not too late. There are a few important things to keep in mind as you consider how you’d like to be remembered professionally.

Legacy leadership isn’t something you achieve; it’s something you create. From the first supervisory position you hold to the day of your retirement, focus on communicating your company’s values and purpose. Relay stories with a message, highlight employees who are seen living up to those values and reinforce, one day at a time, the very legacy you wish to leave behind.

Doing this requires strong self-awareness and a conviction in your company’s values. With this in mind, always keep self-improvement at the forefront of your mind. Reflect on what you can do to teach your legacy through example.

Think about the leaders around you whom you admire. Emulate their actions. Ask yourself whether your vision is salient in the company culture and what you can do to further your vision among your peers and your team.

Leaving a business legacy isn’t about accomplishing great feats or sealing once in a lifetime deals. It’s about how you show up in your business each day and leading others through your vision so they can carry on your legacy when you leave. You can accomplish this by focusing on the future and leading by example every day.

Leaving a legacy takes daily investment in yourself, your vision and your values. It’s no wonder so many business leaders fail to build an intentional legacy they are proud to leave behind. With the many responsibilities of leadership, it can be hard to put aside time every day to work toward it, unless you come to understand that leaving a legacy is more about how you “be” in each moment than anything you do in your business.

If you are serious about building an authentic legacy with intention, start by sitting down with us. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can guide you in making the difficult decisions you face everyday as a leader in business. We can look out for your business’s legal and financial future so you have time and energy to focus on leaving a business legacy that aligns with your values.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Creative Business Lawyer®. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial and tax systems you need for your business. Call our office today to schedule.

Your Family Business Legacy Matters Enough to Do These Three Things

Your family-owned and run business can be the greatest gift or the greatest burden to the people you love, if and when something happens to you.

If you’ve planned well and properly for your business to be continued, managed or sold, it will be the gift that keeps on giving and shows your family just how much you cared about them.

If you have not planned well and properly, it will be the gift that keeps on taking and creates an energy, time, and resource drain that costs your loved ones years of headache and leaves them with a nightmare of a mess to clean up.

Fortunately, you are reading this article now and there is still time to take these three actions that will make it far more likely your family business legacy creates the outcome you desire.

Organization and Formalities

One of the key elements in creating a family business legacy you can be proud of is organization and following formalities you think may not apply to you.

The truth is that with a family business, it’s even MORE important to follow the formalities. Your family deserves it.

This means having an updated operating agreement governing the operations of the family business, clear terms with any partners, in writing, taxes up to date, and clarity regarding who takes over and how when something happens to you.

Some things to consider: Who will be in charge of daily operations? Who will make personnel decisions? What about inventory? What is the chain of command? How will clients and customers be handled? If you have partners, will they buy out your family after you are gone? How? In what time frame?

Considering the answers to these questions now will save your family a huge amount of stress and leave them with the biggest gift you can possibly give them.  If you do not want to deal with it now, imagine how they will feel dealing with it after you are gone and be willing to do what’s hard. We can help and make it far easier.

Communication

How do you know what to communicate about and who to communicate it with?

In most cases, not knowing has left you mute. So here’s your list, and if you don’t know what to say, call us to help.

First, communicate with your team members to let them know you have a plan for what to do if and when something happens to you and let them know the plan!  Then, communicate with each of the people you’ve named in your plan so they know what to do if and when something happens to you.

If you do not yet have a plan to communicate, call us, we can help.

 Integrate the Younger Generation

In most cases, the key to a successful family business legacy is to involve the younger generation sooner than you think it’s necessary and beyond your comfort zone.

When you can involve the younger generation by inviting them into a conversation and connection about the business early on, in a way that has them feel appreciated, you’re on the path to creating something far more than what you have now.

Integrating the younger generation can be a challenge, if you do not know how to meet them where they are, so contact us for support when you are ready to do it.

It’s worth it to ensure that the hard work you have put in over the years to build your business will be there to support the people you love, rather than leaving them with more work to clean up the parts you weren’t willing to face.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Creative Business Lawyer®. One of our primary services is a LIFT Start-Up Session,™ in which we guide you through the right choice of business entity, location of business entity, start up agreements, intellectual property protection, employment structuring, insurance, financial and tax systems you need to start your next business and succeed right out of the gate.   Call us today to schedule a time to have a conversation!

 

 

 

 

4 Important Steps to Protect Personal Wealth From Business Liabilities

Every business owner makes the decision to assume some portion of risk when they operate their own business, but no one wants that potential risk to affect their personal wealth.  Unfortunately, there are all too many business owners who neglect to implement the correct asset protection strategies to firmly separate business risk from personal wealth.

There are a number of important steps business owners should take to make sure personal wealth is protected from business liabilities, including:

Choosing the right business entity.  Setting your business up as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) will better protect you in case of a business lawsuit than if you establish your business as a sole proprietorship.

Keeping finances separate.  Business and personal finances must be kept totally separate and the correct business name (not your personal name) should be used on all business documents, including property titles, contracts, etc.

Complying with all rules and regulations.  Taking shortcuts can come back to bite a business owner if someone suing you can prove you have been negligent or have acted fraudulently.

Having the right insurance.  If you own your own business as well as the building that houses your company, you will need to have different insurance policies for both.  Having the right kind of business insurance makes your own personal wealth less of a target in case of a business lawsuit.

Having a business attorney that understands the individual needs and unique circumstances of your company is key to helping your business thrive and prosper.  If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.

 

Why Every Business Owner Needs an Estate Plan — Even Before You Think You Do

Most business owners build a business with an endgame in mind: either cashing it out or passing it on.  Whatever your scenario is for what happens to your business when you retire or die, it is not likely to happen without a comprehensive plan that aligns your personal and business objectives.

If you plan to pass on your control of the business to one or more of your children, then you may want to consider giving them direct voting interests via your will or a trust.  If you own business real estate that is separate from your primary business, you will want to establish a mechanism for passing on that real estate to your heirs.

Some things to consider for protecting your business interests in your estate plan include:

Buy/Sell Agreement.  If you don’t have one, you need one now.  If you do have one, you need to ensure it is up to date and that the valuation mechanism used – appraisal, formula or fixed valuation — will still work for your purposes.

Liquidity.  Will there be enough cash flow from the business to still support the business, provide income to your surviving spouse and pay estate taxes?   If not, you need to consider having the business own a life insurance policy or set up an irrevocable life insurance trust to meet these needs.

Authority.  Does your will provide your executor with the necessary authority to protect and preserve your business interests?  More importantly, does your executor have the expertise to manage your business interests?  This is especially important if you have ownership interests in multiple business entities.

These are just a few of the considerations you need to make when taking the necessary steps to align business planning with estate planning.

This week is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, so take this opportunity to call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.