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The 5 Legal Documents Every Startup Needs

Picking out office space. Ordering business cards. Getting your website up and running. Putting together just the right team of people. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do when you’re starting a new business. But sometimes, in the chaos of launching a startup, it’s easy to overlook important legal aspects of your new business venture — which can have serious ramifications down the road.

When starting a business, there are a few legal documents that you should put at the top of your “to do” list. Let’s take a closer look at the top five legal documents your startup needs now:

Incorporation papers: To protect yourself and your family during the startup process, it’s important that you incorporate your business, setting it up as its own legal entity. By doing so, you’re providing yourself with an additional layer of legal protection between any issues that may arise and your personal assets.

The business structure you select will have an impact on the way you are taxed, so it’s important you are aware of the tax ramifications before you make the decision. Savvy startups seek out the counsel of an experienced small business attorney or accountant to not only help them determine the most advantageous business structure, but also to help them file the appropriate paperwork to make the business official.

Freelance work contracts: Whether you need a logo designed for your company, or want someone to code your new mobile app, it may make sense for you to turn to a freelancer to accomplish the task. When hiring a freelancer, it’s important that you protect your business and your interests with a freelance work contract. Spelling out things like work scope, payment terms and nondisclosure/confidentiality terms in a contract — before you get started — will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and will allow you to answer questions and work out potential issues before billing begins.

Additionally, ensure that your freelance work contract is crystal clear when it comes to outlining your business’ ownership of the intellectual property (IP) the freelancer is creating for you. There’s nothing that makes an investor more leery than less-than-clear IP ownership, so being able to prove you own the IP outright will help quell any concerns.

Client contracts: Just like with freelance contracts, it’s important that you have contracts with your clients that define the terms of your relationship and outline your recourse options if the terms are violated. But what if your clients are old friends and you’d feel comfortable doing business with nothing more than a handshake? Even then, it’s still a good idea to get in the habit of insisting on a contract. Just because you’re friends with someone doesn’t mean they’re the ones responsible for cutting the checks; nor does it mean they will be at that business forever. And in the event that a client doesn’t pay you for the services you rendered, a contract gives you the option to take legal recourse to collect your money. In many situations, just being able to reference the contract and threaten to pursue legal action is enough to get clients to do the right thing.

Trademark registration certificate: Many startups spend thousands of dollars hiring specialists to help them create a brand — from naming products/services to developing a logo and selecting a tagline — but then foolishly insist on taking a DIY approach when it comes to protecting that brand via trademark. The reality is that performing a trademark search on your own leaves you unnecessarily vulnerable to challenges and infringement accusations in the future.

Instead, make the smart investment and hire a trademark attorney to help guide you through the process. A dedicated trademark attorney has real-world experience with the trademark application process and can help you avoid many common trademark process pitfalls. Think of the money you spend on a competent trademark attorney as an investment in the security and longevity of your brand.

Buy/sell agreement: If you’re starting the business with a partner, it’s important that you outline what will happen in the event the partnership changes. Create a buy/sell agreement as part of your larger operations agreement, and in it address questions like:

      • What happens if one of the partners no longer wants to be involved in the business?
      • What happens if one of the partners is no longer able to fulfill his or her obligations to the business, due to personal issues, legal issues, etc.?
      • What happens if one of the partners dies?

It may seem unnecessary to draw up a legal agreement with the person you’ve been best friends with since eighth grade — but it must be done. Addressing these questions early in your startup life, rather than in the middle of a disagreement or a crisis situation, will give your business a better chance of navigating even the stickiest of situations.

Set Up Your Startup for Success
If you’re starting a new business, it’s important that you procure several legal documents early in the process. By incorporating your business, developing contracts for freelancers and clients, protecting your brand via trademark and including a buy/sell agreement in your operations plan, you’ll be addressing some of the top legal issues that startups often ignore— and you’ll be setting yourself up for success today and in the future.

 

Author Bio:
Josh Gerben is the principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a firm that helps small businesses with trademark law and services. If you are looking to register your trademark, check out the many resources available on gerbenlaw.com.

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Startup Business Ideas Business Startup Ideas

Entrepreneurs are always coming up with startup business ideas. Some business startup ideas seem genius at first, and later don’t pan out, while others seem crazy right off the bat, and wind up making millions! At UniTel Voice we’re fascinated by Entrepreneurs and their crazy startup ideas. So we did some research and create an infographic describing a whole slew of (real) wacky startup business ideas that are not only ridiculous, but actually mad money. In fact, these outrageous products made millions. Without further ado, here’s an infographic highlighting five startup business ideas that will blow your mind:

Startup Business Ideas Infographic

Start your own business IdeasCool Creative Innovative Business Ideas

Cool, Creative, Innovative, Start Your Own Business Ideas

Every single day people type the phrase “start your own business ideas” into google. This phrase is searched about 880 times per month. The phrases cool business ideas, creative business ideas, and innovative business ideas are searched over 590 times per month. The fact is people all over the country are searching for start your own business ideas. The entrepreneurial spirit is ingrained in Americans’ DNA. For the American entrepreneur, a good idea can provide an immense amount of hope.  Even though the startup success rates are low, cool business ideas give people something to dream about. Dreaming about creative business ideas that can lead to obscene amounts of money is one way to escape the boring cubicle and nagging boss. And it’s the dreamers that create the innovative business ideas that change the world, even if the idea is a bit ridiculous.

Entrepreneurial Ideas Good Small Business IdeasProfitable Business Ideas

Entrepreneurial Ideas that Are Profitable

Good entrepreneurial ideas are profitable business ideas. However we’ve learned that good small business ideas don’t necessarily have to be useful to humanity to make money. If benefiting to humankind were the only qualification of great entrepreneurial ideas, there would be no pet rock or reality TV. If we’ve learned anything from researching the businesses featured in this infographic, it’s that great small business ideas can come from odd-yet-easy business ideas that make you say: Why didn’t I think of that?

Help your startup company sound and look more professional. Get a toll free number & virtual office phone system from UniTel Voice. You can get toll free telephone numbers with quality virtual PBX phone system priced & designed for small businesses and startup companies.

Use This Graphic for FREE on Your Site!

You may use the infographic above on your website, however, the license we grant to you requires that you properly and correctly attribute the work to us with a link back to our website.

…and here’s a nice square thumbnail for facebook:

Start Your Own Business Ideas Thumbnail

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7 Stages of Business Development

7 Stages of Business Development & Growth

Every day entrepreneurs all over the country start businesses. Some small business startups succeed and some fail.  Understanding the stages of business development will help you identify the critical success factors it takes to move your small business form a fledgling startup to a sustainable company. The infographic below outlines this “success factor” framework in 7 stages of business growth. As your small business moves through these stages of business development, it’s important to understand what to focus on (and what not to focus on for that matter).

7 Stages of Business Growth [Infographic]

7 stages of business growth infographic.

Source: Infusionsoft

Help your small business startup sound and look more professional. Get a toll free number & virtual office phone system from UniTel Voice. UniTel Voice offers quality 1-800 numbers for business use enhanced with cloud-based virtual PBX phone system quality priced & designed startup companies.

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How to Start a Business in California

UniTel Voice has a very distinct mission when it comes to startup companies, home businesses, and small businesses. Our mission is to empower people by providing them with the tools to launch and grow their business. As such, we’ve chosen to start a blog series dedicated solely to the entrepreneurs brave enough and perhaps as Steve Jobs would say “foolish” enough to start their own business. To do this we’ve focused in on 10 states in which there has been a sizable leap entrepreneurship.  Today’s blog: “How to Start a Business in California”, is all about what it takes to launch a company in the Golden State. California has long been the state were aspiring actors flock to pursue their dreams of super stardom, and young tech companies (think Google and Apple)go from working out of a garage to Fortune 500 status.  However, just because California is home to movie stars and Silicon Valley, doesn’t mean every startup in California has to hot tech company or related to showbiz. There are plenty of Californian entrepreneurs launching everything form dog walking businesses to energy drink companies. We hope this quick blog provides a few useful tips on how to start a business in California.

Here are 5 things you need to know about starting a small business in the state of California:

1.     Write a Business Plan for your California Startup.

How to write a plan to start a Business in California

If you are wondering how to start a business in California and what it takes to do so, we suggest you start with a plan. There are certainly stories of success for small businesses that had no business plan to get them off the ground. While this may be true and completely possible, we suggest that you create a business plan as the groundwork for the direction in which you wish to go. The plan could be as short as one page, but it is a good way to get all your thoughts together and figure out the best avenue to move forward on. A business plan will make you able to clearly show customers the Who, What, When, Where and How of your start up and the services you will be offering. And will also allow you to outline the goals of the company in a clear fashion, clarify the operating procedures, and describe the competitive landscape (which also includes your marketing plan). Here is a great link to help you get started!

2.     Get a California State Tax Identification Number and Appropriate State Licenses and Permits

How to start a Business in the State of California Tax Info

In California, small business owners are required to obtain the proper licenses and/or permits before beginning their operations. The amount of permits and licenses you will be required to have depends entirely on what type of services or products you plan to offer to your customers. The costs of these licenses will also vary depending on what kind of business it is you wish to start. Before you launch your small business in California, look at this resource that outlines exactly what it is you need to acquire as far as California identification numbers, licenses or permits for tax-registration. Here’s some helpful tax info for starting a small business in California.

3.     Use Local SEO to Win California-Based Customers

starting a Business in the State of California SEO

No matter what type of small business you plan to start in the wonderful state of California, you will most certainly need a professional looking website for customers to use. But the design of the website isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Every good website contains content that is optimized for search engines using local search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. This allows your fellow California residents to find your business and content online easily. The best thing you can do is to give your small business presence on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ that shows your location. You will also need keywords on your site that list what city you operate out of and what services you provide. Finally, you should also list your business on local online business directories in California. Here’s a great blog that lays out the top 5 things you need to accomplish to best SEO your small businesses website for local online traffic.

4.     Get a Virtual Number

how to get a Virtual Number for your California startup company

Here’s where UniTel Voice comes in. When you first start a new business you want to make sure you obtain a virtual phone number that can ring back to your cell phone, home phone, work phone, or even a virtual voicemail box. The flexibility of a virtual phone number gives you the ease of moving offices, using remote workers, and running your business from your cell phone if need be. You may use a local California area code number or a toll free number for your virtual telephone number. A toll free number is always a good choice because it gives your start up business credibility from the start. A toll free number also gives your small business nationwide appeal if you wished to do business outside of just the state of California.

5.     Get a Virtual Phone System 

how to get a Virtual PBX for a California Small Business

UniTel Voice is all about virtual phone systems because they allow you to sound like a big Fortune 500 company without the hassle of having to install any PBX phone system equipment. A virtual phone system gives you two distinct advantages: it gives your California start up a more professional sound and it keeps you and your business partners easily connected. For example, if someone were to call your businesses number, they would get a professional sounding menu (along the lines of: “Thank you for calling X company, press 1 for English, press 2 to speak to a customer service representative, etc.). Virtual PBX phone system extensions can directly connect callers to your cell phone, home phone, work phone, or they can go right into a virtual voicemail box. And the great thing about a virtual phone system for your small business is that it works directly with your existing phones. You don’t have to stress about the little things because there are no contracts, no setup costs, no expensive equipment that needs to be installed, no hardware to keep up with, and no software to keep updated. Because it’s a virtual PBX system, it’s entirely cloud-based and you can manage every feature online.

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Why the heck did we create an infographic about toll free numbers? Because we’re a boring phone company and we wanted to be found on Google.

toll-free-numbers-1-800-number-infographic

Okay, UniTel Voice is not a boring phone company. We sell cutting edge cloud-based phone services (toll free numbers and virtual phone systems) to small businesses and startup companies. We’ve even got a sweet iPhone app! However, we would admit the topic of toll free number service can be pretty dull. So when our marketing team came up with an interesting infographic on the subject, we were pretty darn impressed.

There’s a small business marketing lesson to be learned here.

The majority of our sales come from two places word-of-mouth (i.e. customers referring us to their friends) and online search (people finding us on Google).  The best way to increase customer referrals is by providing amazing customer service—and we’ve had that down since 1998. It’s the people finding us on Google part we are still working on.

toll free numbers and virtual phone systems quoteThere are two ways people find your business on “The Google”. You can pay to rank in search results, or you can create awesome content that organically ranks for free. Since most of our competitors are public companies that out spend us on paid search $100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to $1, we try to focus on ranking organically. So, how do we create awesome content that ranks organically in Google, especially when we’re selling non-sexy services like 1-800 numbers and telephone systems? We focus on our customers. Toll free numbers and virtual phone systems might not be sexy, but our customers are. These days there’s no hotter topic than startup companies and small business entrepreneurs. And that’s the topic we usually cover on our blog. So, why the heck did we create an infographic about toll free numbers? The answer is keywords. Like our competitors, we are desperately trying to rank for the keywords and keyword phrases we know our potential customers are typing into Google (e.g. “get a toll free number”). (Remember, we sell toll free numbers and virtual phone systems to small businesses and startup companies.) This was our best shot at making the topic of toll free numbers interesting, and in doing so, we hope it will increase our ranking for search results related to toll free numbers. How’d we do? We’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below. 

Help your startup company sound and look more professional. Get a toll free number & virtual office phone system from UniTel Voice. You can get a cheap toll free number with quality virtual phone service priced & designed for small businesses and startup companies.

Use This Graphic for FREE on Your Site!

You may use the infographic above on your website, however, the license we grant to you requires that you properly and correctly attribute the work to us with a link back to our website.

…and here’s a nice square thumbnail for facebook:

facts about 1800 toll free numbers thumbnail

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SEO and Content Marketing for Small Business

The case for content marketing for small business:

When people need to find something, a dentist, a place to eat, a product or service, where do they go to find it? They don’t go to a phonebook or the newspaper. They go to Google. Your customers go to Google to find the products and services your small business provides. Therefore, it is critical that your business invests in its SEO (search engine optimization) by producing quality online content. Content marketing for small businesses is critical for business growth because it is the key to not only being found on search engines, but converting online searchers into sales. The article below explains how good content ranks high in Google’s search, how it adds credibility to your company, and how it converts site visitors to customers.

Read more about content marketing for small business in this article posted by our friends at Duct Tape Marketing.

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Small Business Success Tips

If your anything like us here at UniTel Voice, you are constantly getting consumed by all of the ins and outs of your day-to-day business. It can be difficult to be an expert in everything, but you should never let your standards dip. This is why we enjoy John Taffer’s Bar Rescue so much. It’s great to see the progress he is able to make with small business owners by helping them get back to the basics and reminding all of us that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

In his 30-plus years in the hospitality business, consultant Jon Taffer has rescued nearly 1,000 bars and many more restaurants from the brink of failure. He’s done it in part by employing high standards, emphasizing measurable results–and mincing no words about costly mistakes managers are making so they can correct them quickly and staunch the red ink.

Sounds so basic, right? Then why is it so hard to do–and why do so many fail at it?

“It is basic,” he said in an interview. “Keeping a bar clean is basic in this business. Having a staff that speaks adequate English is basic.” But miss out on these and other essentials–and just like that, “you get mediocrity.”

“Pushing for excellence is a fight,” he said. “You have to fight to hire the right employees, fight to get the supplies you need, to move line items around. Being a great manager means pushing to get those few extra inches every day. It’s almost like a football game – the team that wins sometimes wins by just inches. But they fought for every single one of them.”

Taffer drives these and other business strategies home on “Bar Rescue,” his Spike TV show, as well as in a new book, Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions. But his insights don’t apply only to the crew at the corner pub. He aims some of them at the managers in Washington and at the voters who hired them.

Here are some of his top small business tips:

Remember the faces of your customers–or risk losing them.

“A customer is not worth just $10–he or she is worth hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars. In the restaurant business, when you deliver food to someone’s table, one of two things happens: The customer sits up, takes notice, looks over at his or her companion’s plate–or nothing at all happens. No business can allow nothing to happen.

“Consumers have many, many choices today,” he adds. “If you can’t build a relationship with your customers, you’re in big trouble. If you can remember the numbers from the reports and spreadsheets you spent hours poring over in your office, but you can’t picture the faces of your customers–you’re in big trouble.”

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You probably dial telephone number area codes every day, but have you ever stopped to think about the history behind area codes? When, why, how, and who first introduced area codes? When did we start using them? Why do telephone numbers need area codes? How did you end up with a particular area code? Why do they use 555 area codes in the movies? Are there any area codes so coveted that they would sell for one million dollars? This fun infographic below tackles these quandaries and more in AreaCodeList.org’s collection of interesting facts about area codes that will BLOW YOUR MIND! Okay, not all of these telephone area code facts will “blow your mind”, but they are interesting. So please take a quick look and let us know which facts you find remarkable (as well as any gems we may not have included) in the comments section below.

Facts About Area Codes That Will Blow Your Mind

Help your startup company sound and look more professional. Get a toll free number & virtual office phone system from UniTel Voice. You can get a cheap toll free number with quality virtual phone service priced & designed for small businesses and startup companies.

Use This Graphic for FREE on Your Site!

You may use the infographic above on your website, however, the license we grant to you requires that you properly and correctly attribute the work to us with a link back to our website.

…and here’s a nice square thumbnail for facebook:

Social Media Thumbnail Image

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Happy Halloween! Enjoy Scary Savings with Small Business Coupons from UniTel Voice

At UniTel Voice we love to give out small business coupons during the holidays, and Halloween happens to be our favorite! Click the image below to instantly take advantage of these small business coupons for Virtual Office Phone Systems & Toll Free Number Service. And the best part is these scary savings last all year. No promo codes required for this small business coupon, just click the promotional discount image below.

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How to get small business social media fansMaximizing the value of social media efforts is a tough task for small business owners and one man marketing teams. Growth can seem slow when you don’t have time or money to throw at contests and and larger campaigns. This is why it feels soo good when you finally can get some positive customer feedback. Here are 4 great strategies to make the most out of these opportunities and keep your followers coming back for more. They’ve also included some awesome tools!

1. Use a targeted approach.

Fostering wide scale awareness on social media in the same manner as huge brands isn’t economically feasible for small- to medium-sized companies. Instead, Maloney says companies with more modest budgets should spend their time and resources on the customers they’re most likely to convert.

Read More Here!

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