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Jennifer Berrent, a partner at the New York office of legal firm WilmerHale, says the three most common mistakes ‘treps make in the early stages are failing to adequately protect their intellectual property (IP), not formalizing the equity arrangements among founders and inaction or haste in choosing the right structure for their business. Berrent held court on how to avoid common pitfalls. How can entrepreneurs protect their IP early on? Before you form an entity, people are chatting; they might be at their current job, maybe they spend a couple of hours collaborating. And there’s a question when you are going to develop a business around that: Who owns that

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1. Watch Out for Your Advice When I first started speaking professionally and coaching individuals, I never thought that I needed special insurance. It is rare, but I have seen some people take advantage of well-intended “advice” by claiming it destroyed their life and then suing the communicator. If you are in the business of providing advice, look into getting some liability insurance. 2. Consider Vesting Your Equity Over Time It is extremely difficult to find the right co-founders for your business. You need to have a similar work ethic and timeline for the investment, your chemistry has to match, and you have to make sound decisions for the company.

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In the majority of cases, start-up success or failure is all about knowing the both the how and the why of taking action, and always being clear about which steps to take next. To help this process, here are 10 essential things you need to know about running a successful business. Use it as a checklist to make sure your thinking and your business plan are on the right track, or if you need to get more information, strategic education or clarity for yourself on your overall vision, your market, or your product or service. 1. General Liability Insurance Every business, even if home-based, needs to have liability insurance. The

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It’s no secret that many, if not most, new small businesses and start-ups are home-based. The days when a “virtual office” sounded new and hip are long past, and it’s practically expected that new enterprises begin as home-based businesses. It’s a great way to save money while engineering those critical first operations and gaining traction in sales. But is there a difference in insurance for home-based businesses vs. commercial office space? You may believe that renters’ or homeowners’ insurance policies cover home businesses, but they may not – which means that if there’s a fire at your home and it consumes your home office it’s possible none of those office

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After coming up with an idea for a smartphone-application business in mid-2012, Josh Lee started building it on nights and weekends, in part because quitting his sales job at a technology firm would have meant losing his employer-sponsored health benefits. Mr. Lee, of New Holland, Pa., suffers from occasional severe headaches called clusters, and his wife depended on the coverage, too. He says he was worried that the cost of health insurance would be out of their reach and he wasn’t sure if his business idea would work. But six months later, Mr. Lee’s employer handed him walking papers and he found himself having to purchase a health plan on

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Entrepreneurs who have developed a successful business often wonder if they should franchise as a way to expand their operations. Like any business model, franchising has its benefits and drawbacks. There’s no way to know for sure whether franchising is right for your company until you evaluate its pros and cons in the context of your operations. That usually requires the help of a franchise attorney or consultant, but before you start talking to the experts, you should get a sense of the key advantages and disadvantages. Franchising offers three major benefits to business owners seeking to expand operations: 1. Access to better talent. Franchising is a great way to

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1. What is a Franchise? The term franchise is generally taken to mean the legal arrangement, whereby one party grants a license to another for the purpose of retailing its goods and services, often in a specified territory or area. This type of franchise is usually called a ‘business’ format because the franchisor presents the franchisee with of a model with how the business will operate, and imposes stringent controls on the franchisee in respect of how the business will be run. This is the most common type of franchise. 2. Why take out a Franchise? From the franchisor’s point of view franchising offers an opportunity to expand quickly and

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1. Choose the right business for you. Franchisees whose skills are a good match for the business tend to do better than those who are not in their element—but how do you know if the concept you’re buying is right for you? It’s really quite simple: ask yourself what you like to do. For example, if you love kids, find a franchise that allows you to work with them. If you have a passion for technology, seek out a computer-related franchise concept. However, don’t just think about the product or service, but what your actual daily tasks will be. You may love to cook, but owning a restaurant will be

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1. Credit Cards. According to a 2012 National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) study 79% of small business owners used credit cards to start or grow their business. That says a lot about the significance of using credit cards to capitalize a small business. According to another study conducted by Keybridge Research, the use of business credit cards to start or grow a small business has tremendous positive effects on the business and the economy as a whole. The study found that the expansion of credit card lending between 2003 and 2008 contributed to the creation of 1.6 million jobs and for every $1,000 of business credit card use, a

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1. Tell your story quick. When pitching investors you have a captive audience. But they won’t stay captive for long unless you can hook them. And to-date I’ve seen two things that keep investors’ early attention on you versus their Blackberrys: An entertaining story on the problem you’re solving. An entertaining story on the founders and how the company came together. Both of these points are about putting some context and relevancy on the upcoming pitch and discussion. If you make the problem feel real and explain it in an entertaining way it’s going to resonate much more strongly with investors. The same holds true with the history of the

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