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How to Defuse the Legal Time Bomb in Your Small Business

Unlike a typical time bomb, this one will not be ticking. There won’t be any warning signs. No specially trained dogs will sniff it out. No swat teams will swoop in and prevent its detonation, and as luck would have it, it will probably go off at the worst time.

Fortunately, you can find this time bomb quite easily before it detonates. You can begin your search by checking your filing cabinets, file boxes, desks and drawers for any documents with “agreement” written on it. If they’re still active agreements, slowly pull ‘em out.

Agreements form the foundation of many small business transactions. Transactions between customers, landlords, vendors and government agencies are frequently governed by written agreements. What’s interesting about agreements is that they govern future activities to be performed under known and unknown circumstances – an inherently risky proposition, unless you can predict the future.

So let’s think back to when you first started your small business. How many actual “knowns” did you have? Would you say a lot has changed since you first entered into agreements necessary to get your small business going? If your small business is like most small businesses, a lot of things have changed, good and bad. As a result of these changes, you may be in breach of an agreement without even knowing it. We’re going to take care of this though.

On a nice slow morning or afternoon, grab a hot cup of coffee, tea or booze (if it has been one of those weeks) and take a few hours to flip through those agreements you pulled out to determine if you might be in breach of any of them. Boring? You bet, but it’s one of those necessary boring things, like filing a tax return or waiting in a doctor’s office. So with your agreements in hand, you may use this non-exhaustive list of clauses that might need to be reviewed:

  • Restrictions on permitted use of leased equipment
  • Restrictions on who is permitted to use leased equipment
  • Restrictions on use of leased property
  • Insurance, license and certificate requirements
  • Restrictions on items stored on leased property
  • Written consent requirements
  • Restrictions on leasehold improvements
  • Restrictions on modifications of equipment
  • Lessee obligations
  • Lessor obligations

Now, if you find something, I don’t expect you to wake that sleeping giant (I probably wouldn’t), BUT you may be able to start putting a plan together to help soften the blow in case the other party starts looking for a reason to terminate the agreement for a more lucrative opportunity. You can start planning a defense, perhaps a worthwhile explanation for your breach, or looking for substitutions, such as new suppliers, a new location or whatever it may be. Once you collect information for Plan B, just keep it on file in case you have to move quickly. You may even want to keep a cash reserve on hand in case the issue might result in litigation. Who knows, but you’ll be following the Boy Scout motto (i.e. Be Prepared), and your small business will thank you.

I appreciate your reading this post, but we both know you’re probably not going to rush to your files at this minute and start going through all your legal documents (unless you know you’re in breach and this post has reminded you of the possible financial time bomb that’s seriously near going off), but I highly recommend you pull out your lease agreement, if you have one, and this can be for equipment or real property, and just flip through some of the pages to see if you’re a beneficiary to a very favorable lease agreement on account of a change relating to the property you’re leasing. (I say favorable lease agreement because that would most likely mean it’s unfavorable to the other party.)

For example, if you entered into a lease for retail space in an underdeveloped community when property values were still low, but because of several revitalization initiatives in the same community, the value of your leasehold has quadrupled over the past few years, you should be especially weary of your landlord looking to replace your leasehold with a higher paying tenant. Handshakes and smiles are great, but at the end of the day, it’s business, and if there’s a lot of demand for your space, and you’ve opened the door with an inadvertent breach, you will want to be ready for a breach of contract claim by your landlord.

All isn’t bad with agreements, however, so don’t fret yet! Agreements can also swing the other way. You may find that the counterparty is in breach of something, or because of a certain event, such as a substantial change in prices, breach by other party or change in control of the other party’s company, you may have an out of a contract that’s not particularly in your favor. So in just reviewing your agreements, you may be able to get out of the unfavorable arrangement and stop a leak of money you weren’t even aware you had.

PLUS, by reviewing your agreements, you may even find you have more wiggle room to do things related to your agreement that you thought were restricted or limited. Perhaps on second look, you have 11 parking spaces instead of 10, or that your landlord is obligated to reimburse you for some of your capital improvements. Instead of a time bomb, a jackpot might be sitting around your office too!

So to just summarize the above, periodically review your agreements. You don’t have to read the all of the boring documents. Most will have headings that make finding relevant clauses really easy. Agreements should be reviewed frequently to ensure your small business is not breaching any existing contracts and to determine which clauses may no longer be applicable, and they’re primed for negotiations with the other party for their removal. Without a thorough and periodic review of its existing contractual obligations, you may be (i) subjecting your small business to additional and unnecessary expenses, (ii) limiting your small business without reason or (iii) unknowingly positioning your small business for a breach of contract claim by the counterparty. So don’t let that time bomb sneak up on you, be proactive and defuse it ahead of time.

Discover the Top 7 Lead Generation Methods for Your Business (And Understand Them)

Just like the classic real estate industry question: “What are the TOP 3 most important features of any property?” (location, location, location) - the single most important fuel you’ll ever create, buy or wish you had for your business is leads, leads, leads! Doesn’t it make sense to know and understand the top 7 ways to generate leads?

Production Method # 1:

Direct Visual Impact. Impact? Really? Really! Unfortunately, when it comes to direct lead generation like it has been done for decades, most people get it wrong. It doesn’t matter if it is a sign on the side of your vehicle, building or bandit signs, you must be direct, powerful and short with your message. Your colors must be bright and high contrast. Yellow and black signs work best, period. The sign area must be maximized so that letters are as big as possible. Become a sign sage – evaluate readability, placement and “attention factor” of every sign you see. Emulate the best of what you see.

Production Method # 2:

It is very important that you become hyper-aware of the power of coupons. You can easily make a business card that is also a coupon. When you do this, you are adding huge power to every card you give out. Can you put flyers on car windows? If you put a flyer on my windshield, it makes me want to meet you to give you a piece of my mind. When you put a valuable coupon the size of a business card just above my door handle in the window rubber, I will put it in my wallet – BIG difference!

Production Method # 3:

The U.S. Post Office (USPS) is now offering delivery of an 8″ x 11″ flyer for 16 cents per mail box. This is an amazing deal. It gets better. You can sell advertising on a flyer to other businesses that do not compete with you and cover your cost. Please understand, you can get 5,000 double sided color flyers that are plastic coated for about $400. You can see, with both sides available for ads (coupons) you’ll have plenty of space to sell and at the same time, your ad (coupon) appears on a portion of the same flyer. This is endless free advertising in exchange for a little work. You could even make money while getting your ad for free!

Production Method # 4:

We all hate email SPAM, don’t we? However, you may not realize that you have probably responded to a SPAM email at some time. From that email, you may have built trust in the person who sent you the original SPAM. SPAM is legal if you follow some simple rules – Google it. Major corporations use legal email SPAM. Most people don’t realize that the SPAM law is actually the CAN-SPAM law (meaning you can spam as long as you follow a half dozen simple rules).

How can you do it so no one gets upset? Offer free help or valuable information. I did this with real estate agents (for example). I sent them valuable tips they had never been sent before. I told them in the original email that I would continue to send tips unless they unsubscribed. I made it extremely easy for them to unsubscribe. I quickly built a big list which accepted my emails. I eventually made an offer of my product to them in the same email with a tip. My product was real estate buyer leads which we (my son and I) produced on the internet. We offered a great bargain. It is because we continued offer free great information along with the product offer that very few unsubscribed.

Production Method # 5:

Run a simple drawing for something. We have all put our business card in a box for a free lunch. If you have a brick and mortar business, you can do this to get attention for a new product in your inventory. Make the drawing for that product. Put the drawing date out about 60 days. People will give you their name, email and cell phone number. Follow up and offer them a “special phone offer” discount for the product.

Production Method # 5:

Create a business card rack in your shop. You can buy these racks as well. They are designed to hold about 20 business cards in up to 60 slots. Next, buy some $1 or $2 desktop plastic business card holders. Make a business card coupon. Visit local businesses around your business. Introduce yourself and say, “I would like to ask a favor – would you put my cards on your counter?” Show them your 40 cards in the little individual rack. Ask for their cards – “I’ll display your cards in my shop.” This works like a charm!

Production Method # 6:

The famous review service (YELP) is a powerful lead generator. Most people do not realize that they must register their business with YELP. Google+ is powerful as well. Get registered at both, now! Start writing YELP reviews on every business service you use. Write honest reviews. Your reviews will be posted by YELP only after you have written multiple reviews.

Production Method # 7:

Online lead production. How do you get leads online? There are several ways – it is a big subject. Google has (recently and once again) made changes… and now, You Tube clips seem to have more power than ever. If you don’t know how to make and upload You Tube clips, consider investing the time. Another time tested method is to create simple but powerful capture website pages. These pages typically make a true and powerful offer of something of real value, for free.

What ever you do, never stop generating leads. Build sustainable systems that are easy to maintain. You will be a big success.

What should you do next?

Building Your Business From the Inside Out! A Shift in Consciousness

As a writer, I have always tried to write articles that I think will be helpful to others, whether it’s to offer tools that can help grow a business; offer answers to business questions or simply make suggestions regarding the dilemmas we face in the business world. I make it a point to write about things that have impacted on my business and my life, as I believe those are the things others can relate to. It is for that reason I am addressing something a little different today which is a discovery and a shift in awareness that made a huge difference in every aspect of my business as well as in life.

Some time ago, I was going through one of those dry spells we all face in business and at first I was totally perplexed. I had a thriving online writing business for many years and I loved my work passionately. I had lots of regular clients that loved using my writing services, so, when things quieted down so dramatically, it was hard to understand or accept. Being in business for so many years, I clearly understood that any type of business has its ups and downs since ebbs and flows are natural in business. But I have to confess, this one caused me a good bit of stress because it went on for too long.

Let me preface the rest of this article by saying that I love to write and I enjoy the process of creating beautiful documents, whether it’s a business proposal, a bio, an article, press release, a letter or website content; making things sound good is my joy. Without my projects, I feel deprived. I also love helping people reach their goals through the written word; therefore sitting at the computer and creating is the most fulfilling part of my day. Thus, I hoped this slow down would turn around in a couple of days or maybe a couple of weeks, but it did not; however, it gave me time to reflect.

During this time, I did what I recommend to anyone; I made sure to write articles so that I stayed in the flow. I posted some information on Facebook and in general I did my best to keep the energy moving in a positive direction. While focusing on staying positive for several weeks, I felt something begin to bubble up within me, but, I could not quite put my finger on what it was. I continued asking for guidance from the powers that be in addition to writing out my thoughts and feelings based on the responses I was receiving from within. Plus, I read several books I had stored on my book shelves in addition to listening to inspiring tapes. And then I got the message. This slow down wasn’t happening to me;.it was happening for me! There was a huge gift in this experience and I wanted to receive it fully.

As I listened intently to this profound message, it became even clearer to me that whatever I was or was not manifesting was a reflection of what was going on within me. I have known for many years that it’s all an inside job, but for the very first time, I understood what it meant when I heard: “As within, so without.” This time I could see that while life had been very good to me, I had not built my career and my life from the inside out but rather I had been building it from the outside in. That wasn’t a way to build permanency, so I decided to take a new tack. I wanted to feel the riches from within because then I would never feel that I was missing anything. With that in mind, I explored what and how I really felt and started to discover amazing riches.

I am by nature a happy person and one that is very grateful but I realized that I had been viewing the situation from the wrong place. Thus, every day, I acknowledged this important discovery as I began to really understand what it meant to manifest things from within and to notice how truly wealthy I was. From family and friends to all the material things that had made my life so comfortable, all the way to the beauty that surrounds me everywhere in nature, I was blessed beyond words. There were countless other riches that came to my awareness and as they did, I put my attention on those treasures. Things started to look brighter to me and conversations became more meaningful. That was where I wanted my focus to be and I was determined to remain in that state of mind.

I was of course still very eager to earn my living doing what I love, but looking at it from that vantage point made all the difference to me and to my business. It changed me significantly, as it felt as if I was starting life anew with my new found understanding. I still wanted all the nice things that life has to offer, but I realized that my happiness did not come from my business or the money I earned… it came from the riches within. Everything I could possibly need or want was within me and as long as that was in the forefront of my thinking, the happier I was and the quicker I could manifest miracles. That was a shift in consciousness that I am forever grateful to have discovered.

For anyone experiencing a shift that is causing some stress, I highly recommend looking at it as an opportunity. It may be uncomfortable when dealing with a trying situation, but there is always a gift within it. Do your best to put some time and effort into applying these same ideas to the situation and then watch as things start to change in a remarkable way.