Plenty of business blogs will tell you and other startups and small business owners the same tips: start with more than enough capital for contingencies. The location of your business establishment is paramount if you’re getting most of your customers based on foot traffic. Gain positive reviews and give away free coupons to start strong with a loyal base of customers.
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But there are still a lot more tips experts in your field that can give you both advice that applies to all starting businesses and small businesses in your industry. This article presents some of the more obscure tips no blogs really talk about. From copyright laws, to loans, to the way you hire and manage your employees, these are some of the tips you shouldn’t forget if you want to ensure smooth sailing in your first year as a business.
Be Careful with Parodies or References to Bigger Competitors
In 2014, Los Angeles residents were greeted by “Dumb Starbucks,” a coffee shop that looked exactly like a Starbucks, except everything – from the logo, to the drinks, and even to the Nora Jones CDs – had the word “dumb” written on everything. Dumb Starbucks claimed that they couldn’t be sued for copyright infringement because they were protected by parody law. The fact that it was clear they were making fun of Starbucks meant that their use fell under “fair use” laws. While they did act as a coffee shop, the fact that they claimed to be an art gallery selling “art” in the form of parody art made it technically fair use and therefore legal.
While Dumb Starbucks was eventually closed down, the stunt showed how difficult it was to keep a business alive while fighting with a huge corporation with a team of lawyers and copyrights while you are still a small business. Given, a parody-themed business of a big competitor in your industry may catch customers’ eyes, but in the long run, the average sales a small business makes won’t be able to offset the legal costs of big businesses chasing smaller businesses. Burger King could afford to troll McDonald’s in Europe because the trademark laws there were clearly on their side on this case and, if McD’s ever tried to sue, BK had their own team of lawyers to fight. As a small business, the pomp and attention you’d get for the parody isn’t worth the legal fees that would come with it.
And thanks to the increase of digital marketing, the same rule applies to domains. If you’re a restaurant business, you might be thinking of getting the domain McDonaldss.com so that, if anyone ever has a typo, they could end up on your website. Even if you’re not dealing with a corporate giant in your industry, if your domain is confusingly similar to another similar business, they have grounds for domain arbitration and getting you to change your business domain even if you didn’t mean to have similar names.
Part of your investment as a startup or a small business is finding legal help to ensure your business name, as well as your domain name, isn’t breaking any copyright laws. Seek an attorney who can help you in this to avoid costly legal fees from copyright infringement.
Be Careful with Your Business Loans
Small businesses rarely earn back all their investment within the first few months of operations. In fact, I’ve seen businesses that only start to take off towards the end of the year end up shutting down because they failed to earn enough money to pay off their loans. Unless you’re well-off or have the financial backing of friends, family, or people you can trust, it’s almost certain that you’re going to take loans from banks or loan companies.
Hiring the Best (within the Budget)
Unless you have the connections and/or family and friends willing to help out, finding quality workers means providing quality compensation packages. It’s a business investment, without a doubt, and hiring lazy and incompetent workers at the beginning with the intention to upgrade when you get more money is a bad idea if you’re trying to put your best foot forward with your new customers.
And with the question on whether you should get employees based on experience or motivation, it’s a lot better to get employees experienced in the job role than those willing to learn but have little knowledge about how the business works. This is assuming you’re starting a business you’re not completely familiar with and are hiring people to handle the different aspects you aren’t totally familiar with. As someone at the head of the ship, you need people who are smarter than you and can provide you with the experience and skill you need to build up.
You can start getting people to train once your business is well-established, but for now, when everything is still unstable, consider getting employees who are more knowledgeable in their field rather than those starting out and willing to learn. They cost a lot more than yuppies and former interns of your competitors, but these employees will help transfer everything they know and apply it to your own company’s success.
These are only three tips you have to know as a small business owner. It’s difficult, being a business owner, but if you are capable of establishing a successful business after a period of time, the work will become less difficult and you are free to experiment and explore business techniques that could improve your business.