Month: February 2020

Tom Dougherty, Esq.

Tom is a patent attorney with over 14 years of intellectual property experience with law firms and in-house within companies. He regularly advises clients in all aspects of intellectual property law including patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyright law, and technology and patent licensing. 

Tom was an electrical and software engineer for over 10 years.  He currently advises about 10 startups, which range in size from pre-revenue to $12 million annually.  Through his many years of diverse legal experience, he has obtained a practical entrepreneurial business philosophy which allows him to provide a full range of intellectual property, business, and transactional services to established and emerging growth companies.

Do I Need Business Insurance?

By Heather McBroom |  Founder of Precision Services

"You work incredibly hard to build a company, why put all that work at risk?"

Heather McBroom | Founder of Precision Services Tweet

Even though most types of insurance for your business are not required by law, it is CRUCIAL for small businesses to carry proper insurance, regardless of what kind of business you own.  The 3 main types of business insurance are General Liability, Professional Liability, and Product Liability.  The way your company is structured, LLC, Sole Proprietor, etc, plays a big part in how important it is for you to carry business insurance.  

Insurance protects your business from disasters or a potential mishap where the financial consequences could force you to close your doors.  This could include an unexpected loss due to fire, wind damage, vandalism, and hail – just to name a few.  It also could cover the business income loss while your company must remain closed during a covered claim. 

We also live in a litigious society.  In the event your company gets sued, your insurance policy covers defense costs that could often exceed thousands of dollars, even for bogus claims, before the Judge makes a decision on your case. 

Need more reasons to consider carrying business insurance?  How about peace of mind?  Rather than worrying how you are going to handle situations that may arise, you are able to concentrate on what truly matters – running your business.  Second, business insurance also makes you look credible.  Carrying business insurance shows your prospective clients and customers that you are a safe bet and have the proper protection in place if something goes wrong.  Third, it also protects your business assets.  You work incredibly hard to build a company, why put all that work at risk? 

You also may have contracts may require it.  When it comes to doing business with other companies or leasing a space for your business, it is often required that you secure the proper insurance coverages to transfer any risk for claims that arise from your negligence. 

Just as important is making sure you are carrying the CORRECT type of insurance coverage needed for your company’s individual risks.  There are multiple lines of insurance that may be needed such as General Liability, Professional Liability, Cyber Liability, Inland Marine coverage, Workers Compensation, and Commercial Auto Liability to name a few.  In addition, policies these days are limited to business description so making sure your policy has the CORRECT classification listed on the policy to cover ALL types of work your business in doing is vital.  Navigating through your policy’s EXCLUSIONS and ENDORSEMENTS to see what is specifically NOT COVERED on your policy is important also. 

How do you choose the proper insurance company and agent to insure your business?  Start by dealing with an independent agent who has access to several different insurance carriers.  Make sure your agent specializes in Commercial Insurance to ensure they know how to properly assess your company’s risk and can provide the proper insurance solutions that you need.  Commercial insurance can be complicated, so someone who specializes in this type of insurance is crucial.

Keep in mind as your business grows, your coverage needs may change.  That is why it is vital to have an insurance agent who maintains constant communication with you, comes to your location to assess your operations and risks appropriately, and explains your coverages to you in terms you understand.  We offer free policy review and no obligation quotes with over 30 of today’s top-rated insurance carriers. 

How to See Immediate Results From Your Website

By Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing

"Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website."

Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing Tweet

Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website.

Yet, most businesses make many common mistakes with their websites. Be honest, are you committing any of the following mistakes?

     You don’t clearly communicate what you do?

     You are using images that don’t reflect your business and what you offer.

     You use insider language or technobabble.

     You have way too much text.

     It’s not clear what action you want a visitor to take once they land on your site.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. You can quickly address any of the issues above by implementing the tips below.

If you choose to implement these tips, your website will become a critical element of your marketing strategy.

Here are the essential elements you should have on the home page of your website.


1. The Above The Fold Trilogy

The above the fold portion of your website (the header) is the part visitors see on their desktop before having to scroll down the page. It is the most valuable real estate on your website, and you must take advantage of it!

The job of your website header is to get visitors to read the rest of your website. To accomplish this, you should answer three questions above the fold:

     What do you offer, or what do you do?

     How will it make my life better?

     What do I need to do to buy it?

Peoples attention spans are super short. Your goal is to have any visitor be able to read and understand this information within five seconds.

2. What Are The Stakes?

What does your customer have to lose if they don’t buy from you? That’s what the stakes section needs to answer. You can easily create this content by answering the following three questions.

     What problem is your customer having that you can solve?

     How is that problem making them feel?

     Why is it wrong for them to be burdened with this problem?

Here’s an example of the stakes content for our business (marketing consulting & digital marketing services).

“Are you tired of spending money on marketing and seeing no results? We understand how frustrating this can be, but marketing your business shouldn’t be a constant challenge.”

3. Trust Building Elements

Your customers aren’t looking for a hero, they are looking for a guide to help them solve their problems. One of the characteristics of a guide is credibility.

You can easily establish credibility with customers on your website by adding a few of the following elements.

     Customer testimonials.

     Certifications/Affiliations/Accreditations

     Logos of current/past clients.

     Results you’ve achieved for clients.

     Awards you’ve won.

4. The Plan

It’s vital to demonstrate your company is easy to work with visually. The plan section of your website will accomplish this.

The goal of the plan section is to provide your customers with a path they can take to work with you. Ideally, this should be 3 steps, but no more than 4.

For example, a plan for a financial advisor might be:

     1. Schedule a Consultation

     2. Get a Financial Plan

     3. Enjoy Your Retirement

5. Value Proposition

Customers don’t buy your product or service, they buy the results they can achieve from them.

What benefits will your customer experience when buying from you? This is your value proposition. Your website should list 3 to 4 results or benefits a customer will experience when they do business with you.

6. A Clear Call to Action

People don’t typically take action unless they are told to do so. This is why it’s incredibly important for you to clearly spell out what action you want a potential customer to take.

Your call to action should be all over your website. Don’t be afraid of having it in too many places. “Learn more” and “Get started” are not clear calls to action. Here are examples of great calls to action.

     Buy Now

     Schedule An Appointment

     Get a Consultation

You should also offer something of value on your website for visitors that aren’t quite ready to buy. Things like ebooks, cheat sheets, or checklists can be offered in exchange for a name and email address. Now you’ve collected a lead you can nurture via email until they are ready to buy.

7.  Additional Elements

In addition to the six elements above, you may want to consider incorporating some of the following “bonus” elements as well.

     Video

     Core Products/Services

     Target Markets You Serve

It’s amazing how many businesses don’t have these elements on their websites. By incorporating them on your website, it will make all the difference in the world.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Make these changes to your website, and I’m sure you will generate more leads and get more customers in short order.

Jewell PR

Resilience In Small Business: SBDC Helps Creative & Veteran Entrepreneur Vernon Jewell

by Dean J. Miller
djmillercommunications@gmail.com

Vernon Jewell’s path to business success as a creative in Colorado Springs is as much a story of grit and self-motivation, as it is a powerful story of resilience in reaching for the American dream.

The youngest of two brothers and four sisters, Vernon gained interest in the arts in his youth by drawing his own comic book heroes at home in Detroit, Mich. The hobby was set-aside for Army service as an air defender protecting ground forces in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Following Army service, Vernon worked as a graphic artist for a Colorado Springs news channel for 5 years and then as a graphic designer for a security systems company in Boulder. Both positions were lost to the expanding recession.

Back in Colorado Springs, Vernon was planning his next steps when he was involved in a near-fatal car wreck. With recovery measured in years; he was out of work and briefly homeless before the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation provided life-changing rehabilitation, housing and education assistance.

“During recovery, I began considering my own business. As an employee, I had little control over my fate; as an entrepreneur, this could change,” said Vernon. “I launched two online sites where shoppers could select my graphics to be printed on shirts, coffee cups, mugs and posters.”

His e-commerce effort answered a crucial question for the vocational rehabilitation team: Could he work as a creative with his injuries? With their funding and some student loans, Vernon earned his degree in Digital Media Design with an emphasis in 3D Animation.

His initial business plan received a vote of confidence in the form of a Vocational Rehabilitation grant funding a computer, camera, popup banner, and more to launch his business. Next, he was connected with mentors from the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

“Pikes Peak SBDC gave me a foundation and goals to work towards,” said Vernon. “I rewrote my business plan; it changed dramatically based on what they taught me. They provided business principles to help navigate any obstacles.”

Vernon then launched Jewell PR, his Colorado Springs creative services business with a track record of success in graphic design, photography, video production, animation, and more.

Vernon’s creative skills have resulted in the sale of high-end real estate, established client brand recognition, and increased sales for local restaurants requiring the best imagery to increase third-party online home-delivery.

“Pikes Peak SBDC was crucial; they helped me develop my business plan and understand the impact of professional networking,” said Vernon. “Most importantly, I’ve learned to understand what clients need, and to communicate how my services can help. It feels good when the designs I create contribute to a successful project or outcome for a client.”

Today, the veteran-turned-entrepreneur has a growing business and his networking efforts are bearing fruit. His next focus: social impact for Jewell PR.

“I’m building an animated short movie to tell the story of the Greek character Medusa,” said Vernon. “In mythology, Medusa is a victim of sexual assault who was punished. This project will highlight the importance of believing sexual assault survivors and support local prevention and awareness efforts.”

Learn more: www.jewellpr.com, on Facebook; and at www.iammedusa.net.

 

Lytle Electric

Lytle Electric achieves American dream

by Dean J. Miller
djmillercommunications@gmail.com

Less than three years old, Lytle Electric, co-owned by Megan and John Lytle is a successful family business that provides quality, affordable electrical service delivered with honesty and integrity. The Lytle’s credit much of their success to the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and its strong partnership the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.

For the Lytle’s, it’s a story of the American dream: the hard-working couple once dreamed of small business ownership, and today has achieved it – success sparked with support from Pikes Peak SBDC.

As a master electrician, John Lytle’s skills and experience contribute to the vibrant economy of Colorado Springs; Megan Lytle’s experience in the hospitality and insurance industries, bolstered by her Bachelor of Science in Business Management, have helped the couple develop skills to run their small business.

“Throughout my senior year, I wrote and revised our future business plan multiple times and was able to gain great feedback from professors and classmates before we launched our company,” said Megan. “I had been self-employed in the past; I knew I could work for myself – but this was our big dream.”

With John’s significant experience and Megan’s business plan, Lytle Electric launched with a $2,000 loan and $150 in the couple’s checking account.

Knowing that her business degree was not sufficient to run a successful business, Megan attended Pikes Peak SBDC’s Small Business Week–her first encounter with Pikes Peak SBDC. That week inspired her to take every class offered that week and over the next year, she completed over 77 hours of classes.

“One of my favorite classes on hiring and supervising staff was invaluable. As a small business owner; we had made textbook mistakes in this area, and we were pleased to learn the correct procedures and legalities,” said Megan. “I was terrified to evaluate our cybersecurity practices; we thought we were doing things right but weren’t even close. After working with the SBDC, we were able to develop strong business practices, and we now have a multi-faceted view of our company.”

Beyond basic classes, Megan graduated from three different Pikes Peak SDBC LeadingEdge courses: cybersecurity; working with the Colorado Department of Transportation; and she completed her Excellence in Customer Service Award application for the BBB.

Completion of Leading Edge courses required evaluation of their business, related processes, and areas for improvement and how to implement those changes. After this in-depth analysis of their business practices, Lytle Electric was named a finalist for the Excellence in Customer Service Award and awarded the first-ever Cyber-Aware Badge issued by the BBB of Southern Colorado.

“The BBB commends Lytle Electric for putting in the extremely hard work to complete the program through SBDC and for being a local business that strives for constant improvement,” said Adah Rodriguez, BBB Development and Operations Vice President.“We know Lytle Electric worked extremely hard to obtain this honor and we couldn’t be happier to congratulate them on earning our first Cyber Badge.”

“During the Cyber course, we learned some scare things – that consumer –quality laptops, routers, anti-virus, anti-malware, email, etc., isn’t secure enough for business. I learned that everything needed a level of encryption; that was a huge wake-up call. We thought our consumer IT products we’re good enough and they are not.

Potentially these security requirements represented a large cost.

“With careful research and professional IT guidance, we were able to buy new software,a new router and a new computer, change to secure email. We were able to meet the business standard for less than $1,000,” said Megan. “It brought great piece of mind that we could accept credit cards as a business and know our client information was protected.”

The Cyber-Aware Badge was created through an alliance with the Pikes Peak SBDC and their newly formed technology program. The badge recognizes the education and training that a business has received to become more “cyber aware” and the intense steps they have taken to ensure they are making business decisions to keep their company and consumers safe.

“Our mission is to build trust in the Central Colorado and Pikes Peak Region and havingstrong cybersecurity practices and procedures help to establish that trust,” said Megan. “Our new procedures protect our customers, their personal information, and help protectour employees and the company’s sensitive data. We’re proud to have our practices and procedures backed by the BBB, the SBDC, and its experts in the cybersecurity field.”

As part of research and application for the BBB’s Excellence in Customer Service Award, Lytle Electric established written policies and procedures to ensure organizational values and norms are carried into daily operations and the future.

“All of our customers are important to us,” said Megan. “But it is a hallmark of our company to deliver an extra bit of care and kindness to senior citizens – in the same way anyone would want their own relatives treated. This is why we are an Age-Friendly Business through the BBB.“

Pikes Peak SBDC staff, classes, instructors, and partners have helped us to establish and run a successful company,” said Megan. “In addition, we’ve gained a network of friends and community connections that have helped grow our business. I recommend Pikes Peak SBDC to all small business owners.”

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