Time, Money, and Talent: Three Keys to Inclusive Small Business Giving

As we approach the end of the year, many Colorado small business owners are thinking about philanthropic giving. In addition to the need to vet a chosen charity, finding a variety of ways that allow you and your team to offer time, money, or talent can insure all employees have an opportunity to give and no one feels left out.

Small Business Owners Value Time

If you are a small business owner, you know how valuable your time can be. It probably comes as no surprise that some of your employees are in the same boat – they might clock out after a forty-hour week, but they go home to lives that are busy. Asking them to give up a Saturday to plant trees, or volunteer at a shelter might be asking for much more than they can give. Does that mean you should not offer volunteer opportunities to your team? Absolutely not; but you should make sure that any philanthropic activity you engage in is inclusive and allows your team members to donate time, money, or talent as they are able. Here’s how:

Create Tiers of Time

If you offer an opportunity to volunteer time, make sure you create tiers of time; try to break up the activities associated with volunteering time into two or three levels of giving. In the same way that we are often invited to give what money we can, we can offer employees the chance to give what time they can, rather than asking everyone to give up an entire Saturday for a good cause. By offering a variety of activities with different time requirements which each support the core giving activity, we can find good ways to accommodate someone whose weekends are filled with family members who rely heavily on them, or are unavailable for other reasons.

Money Can Be the Preferred Way to Give

For some of your employees, money can be the preferred way to give. The key to tying that gift to a team effort is connecting the giving that comes from your organization to the people that it benefits. Go beyond the typical thermometer measure of how much was given and make sure those who gave money can see the impact it had. Find some way to connect the gift to actual people, not just to the numbers benefited, or the amount given. When a connection is made, and the impact of the gift is felt, giving cash can be as rewarding an experience as volunteering.

Talent Takes Time and Money

Some organizations need your abilities and those of your employees more than your cash or volunteer hours. A third way to consider giving is to offer the services of your employees as part of their work day. A precaution here: when an employer directs an employee to volunteer, that time is compensable. The regulations state:

Time spent in work for public or charitable purposes at the employer’s request, or under his direction or control, or while the employee is required to be on the premises, is working time.

In many ways, giving talent is the most costly way for you to give to charity; but you may be able to get real bang for your buck from a philanthropic perspective. Look for opportunities where you and your employees can offer to serve in ways the general public cannot. In the same way a legal firm can offer pro bono work, your team may have desperately needed specialized skills or talent. If your team can truly experience or see the impact of their gift, it can have great value to your organization as well as to the charity.

Still not sure how to get started? Kim Jensen of the Denver Business Journal gives six excellent tips on where to start, including tips to broaden inclusion, and even involve your customers and clients! As always, If you need help vetting a charity, or understanding the rules associated with charitable giving, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

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Five Year End Tasks for Every Small Business Owner

If you’re a small business owner, the end of the year can signal your busiest season, or a quiet time when you catch up on paperwork and planning. Either way, before New Year’s Day arrives, make sure you’ve reviewed this list of five year end tasks for every small business owner.

Be Organized Next Year

The New Year means a new tax return will need to be prepared, which means it’s time to start gathering your receipts and categorizing them now. If this is a chore you dread (who doesn’t?) you may also wish to spend a little time making it easier to be organized next year by utilizing online apps and collaboration tools that can make it a lot easier to keep track of mileage records, receipts, and business meetings during the coming year.

Plan to Spend Money

If you operate on a calendar year, pay any bills by December 31 to ensure that you can deduct them this year. If there are larger expenditures you’ve been considering and can afford, see how many you can pay for before the year ends as well. It may seem odd to plan to spend money at year end, but it can have a big impact on your tax liability if done correctly.

Talk to Your Advisors

The New Year brings a time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. It’s also a perfect time to talk to your advisors, especiallyl since three of them might be able to give you advice that you won’t be able to use (or won’t benefit you in the current year) after New Year’s Eve. I suggest speaking to:

  • Your Insurance Agent
  • Your CPA
  • Your Attorney

Questions for your Insurance Agent: If you have insurance, it may be time to review your policy to make sure it adequately covers your business. An additional vehicle, employee, or owner may mean that you need additional coverage.

Questions for your CPA: If you’ve been using a bookkeeper all year, or doing your own books, your CPA probably hasn’t heard from you in awhile. Like your small business attorney, your CPA may have tips for you about tax breaks and allowed expenses, that you will want to follow before the year ends. This is also a good time to get on your CPA’s calendar for next year, before his or her appointment book fills up.

Questions for your Attorney: This may be the most important call you make, and I’m not just saying that because I’m an attorney; each year the laws, rules, and benefits of various business structures change. If you have not had an attorney review your business to discuss legal issues or examine your current business structure to see if it right for your business now, make sure you do so before the year ends.

Get Ready to Mail

For small business owners who have employees or independent contractors, now is the time to get ready to mail out those W2s and 1099s in time for the IRS deadline. Are your payroll records organized? Do they need to be updated to reflect current mailing addresses?

Review That Business Plan

For businesses that slow down during the holidays, this may be the perfect time to review that business plan sitting on your shelf. If it has been a tough year for your small business, this is a good time to look forward to building your business next year, and thinking about what changes you will need to make. If it has been a great year, there’s cause to celebrate and plan – growth can be as hard on a business as shrinking revenues.

Now that you’ve got your five year end tasks for every small business owner in hand, you may find you need advice about year end tax planning, or an expert review of your current business structure. For legal help or referrals to small business professionals, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
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3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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How the Apple v. Samsung Case Impacts Small Business

Several cases before the Supreme Court, which began its new session October 3rd, may not seem entirely relevant to small business owners, but there is one you should pay attention to if you do design work, including online applications, processes, and websites. It is the legal battle that Samsung and Apple have been in over design patent infringement.

Boiled down, the question is simply, when something is produced that incorporates a copied design, how much of the profit from the sale of the product should go to the designer? The design community says all of it, but other interested parties say that a single design element is not solely responsible for the sale, and handing over ALL profits when an idea has been “borrowed” is excessive.

Intellectual Property for Colorado Entrepreneurs

What exactly is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the ownership of an idea or design by the person who came up with it. It is a term used in property law. … Common types of intellectual property rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets. ~Wikipedia

If you are a Colorado entrepreneur who holds copyrights, trademarks, or patents (or thinks perhaps you should), this battle over a design patent between two electronics behemoths may seem far away and unrelated to the work you do. But let’s step back and take a look at both possible outcomes and see how each could affect your work.

Protection for Small Business Owners?

Punishment is meant to act a deterrent to would-be thieves. The initial award Apple was set to receive for the design patent infringement by Samsung was sizable, but do such awards offer protection for small business owners? In the United States today, if someone profits from “borrowing” your ideas, the courts will generally interpret the law to say that you deserve all of the profit. This acts as a deterrent to intellectual property theft, as there is no point in making a sale if you cannot profit from it. But this deterrent is less effective for small business owners, who often cannot afford a legal battle to prove that their idea has been “borrowed.” It works better for businesses like Apple that might realizes awards in the hundreds of millions, even if they have to spend millions to prove the infringement. This is not to say that intellectual property law offers no protection for small business owners; without it, you have no legal recourse against the theft of your ideas, but the strength of that deterrent is probably greater for a mega-corporation.

The design side of this particular legal argument (Apple) wants to keep this deterrent in place, and several prominent design based businesses have stepped up in support of Apple’s argument. If you work in design, a win for Apple may be a win for you, but a win for Samsung might not necessarily be a loss. Here’s why:

Intellectual Property License

An August 2016 post by fashion reporter Marc Bain explains the concerns of the design community, should the Supreme Court see things from Samsung’s point of view:

In theory, designers could become something like involuntary licensees, where the copier could still turn a profit off an infringing product and just pay for the portion that it copied.

The question for small business owners with intellectual property that can be licensed, is, would that be a bad thing? It depends on whether or not the cost of obtaining an award for the portion of the profit to be awarded to the patent holder were more or less expensive than obtaining an award for all of the profit. On one hand, getting someone to decide on whether your idea contributed to 10% or 80% of the resulting profit could be time consuming and expensive, but, the company that “borrowed” your idea may not fight as hard if they can still realize a profit, and might settle more quickly if they do not have to give up 100% of their earnings. For some entrepreneurs, having their ideas licensed – involuntarily or not – could be a welcome means of profiting from the idea. Ideally, the copycat would just come to you first, and with the help of your intellectual property attorney, would negotiate a license with you, but when that doesn’t happen, being awarded a percentage of the profits from the use of your idea might not be all bad.

If you work online or in design, you can find out whether any of your ideas, practices, applications, or web sites can or should be protected by contacting me, Elizabeth Lewis, your Denver small business and intellectual property attorney, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com. I can provide you with an intellectual property assessment for your business, or help you set up a licensing agreement with someone who wants to use one of your ideas. I can also help you determine if your intellectual property rights have been infringed on.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
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3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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3 Small Business Owner Time Shortage Syndromes and How to Cure Them

Someone once said an entrepreneur is the only person willing to work an eighty hour week in order to avoid having to work forty. If you are a small business owner, you are likely often faced with multiple demands on your time and a severe shortage of hours in the day. Before you jump on a new solution to your time management woes, consider what is actually behind your time shortage. There are three “syndromes” I’ve come to recognize in the small business owners I offer legal advice to – if any of these sounds familiar, read on! There are tips and suggestions for what to do if you are suffering from Super Hero Syndrome, Growth Guru Syndrome, or Busy Body Business Syndrome!

Small Business Super Hero Syndrome

Some clients I meet with are so amazingly productive that I think of them as super heroes with unbelievable strength and endurance. But the truth is, none of us is a super hero. We have limitations. Sometimes we need help getting things done. If it is hard for you to let others be responsible for portions of your business,you may be suffering from Small Business Super Hero Syndrome. Your motto is, “I can do it (all)!” And most of the time you can.

If you have started to notice missed deadlines, work that is not your best, and good opportunities you have had to pass up, it might be time to look for a trusty side kick. If you are a small business owner, you probably sought legal advice from an attorney when you first formed your business, or before you signed your first big contract. So, why not look for a good bookkeeper to help with your books, or other tasks you do not have to do? If you need advice about who to connect with, and what services would benefit your small business, I am happy to refer you to the people and organizations I find do the most good for the small business super heroes my firm serves.

Business Growth Guru Syndrome

Some of the most brilliant people I know are those who are able to see opportunity in everything. Rather than seeing the glass-half-full, they see the glass spilling over with ways to create more revenue, and grow, grow, grow their business. Most of the time, this is a great way to see the world. However, if you are a Business Growth Guru, you may struggle with staying focused on the opportunity in front of you. Your motto is, “I AM focu… oh, look! Another opportunity!”

If you have noticed a dip in revenue from a once promising revenue source, it might be time to slow down and ask yourself if the most important things are getting most of your attention. If your core business is getting less attention than that new idea you just had, it might be time to step back and consider your priorities. You may need someone to help you complete a forecast, or provide advice on the best uses of your time. If you need a referral, and help determining the best course of action for your current business, I can refer you to some of the most gifted business advisers in Colorado.

Busy Body Business Syndrome

This syndrome is related to the Business Growth Guru Syndrome, but is not caused by abundant opportunity. Its root cause is an unmanageable task list. If you are suffering from the Busy Body Business Syndrome, you can remember writing your motto down (and it was a good one!), you just can’t remember where you wrote it.

If it seems like you are constantly dealing with a new emergency and you feel like working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week wouldn’t begin to help you dig out of the work you need to get done, you may have Busy Body Business Syndrome. You can study up on good advice from your peers, or hire a professional to help you organize your work space, create an environment where you can work without interruption when needed, and stay ahead of your tasks in order to reduce the number of emergencies you experience in a week.

The good news is, all 3 time shortage syndromes are curable! If you need legal help, or a referral to my network of small business support professionals who can help you organize, grow, or maintain your business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
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3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Omnichannel Marketing for Colorado Small Businesses

If you are not familiar with the term omnichannel marketing, you are not alone, but there is still a good chance you have experience with it. Remember the last time you searched for something on your phone and later had it pop up on your desktop computer at work? Or looked at an ad on one website and then noticed it in the sidebar of every website you visited for a week afterward? If yes, you’ve been the victim (or beneficiary?) of omnichannel marketing. While the business that made multiple offers to you may have been an industry giant, that doesn’t mean omnichannel marketing is out of the question for Colorado small business owners. Because it is becoming a component of staying competitive, it is important to understand what it is and how it can work for you.

Omnichannel is a cross-channel business model that companies use to increase customer experience. The approach has verticals in healthcare, government, financial services, retail and telecommunications industries, including channels such as physical locations, FAQ webpages, social media, live web chats, mobile applications and telephone communication. Companies that use omnichannel contend that a customer values the ability to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time.
~Wikipedia

Can a Small Business Participate in Omnichannel Marketing?

The answer is yes, and no. You may not be able to participate as broadly as Amazon or the Home Depot, but that does not mean you cannot broaden the channels you use to reach customers who currently search for your products or services and shop online and in-store for the items you offer.

Some methods of broadening your presence include:

  • online and brick and mortar storefronts
  • social media advertising
  • programmatic advertising
  • Google Exchange Network advertising (AdWords)
  • telephone sales (not the same as cold calling)
  • satellite sales
  • in-bound marketing
  • All of these methods of broadening your marketing channels cost money, and some only make sense for certain types of businesses, so before you dive in, it is a good idea to take some time, and find someone to advise you who is not selling any of the tools or resources you could use to broaden your sales opportunities. It is also good to keep in mind that adding a second or third means of reaching your market isn’t the same as omnichannel marketing – to truly become an omnichannel marketer, you have to be able to follow your consumer from research to selection to purchase. For most Colorado small business owners, this is a bit of a stretch, but not entirely out of the question.

    Omnichannel Options for Small Business Owners

    In terms of scale, the only omnichannel option available to a small business owner is probably inbound marketing – which is a method used to stay in touch with and win sales from customers from the early stages of research (consideration) all the way through to purchase (and hopefully, repurchase!). You may discover your prospective customer via advertising, delight them with your witty banter as you respond to their questions and interests via email marketing, and obtain sales from them in your brick and mortar storefront – if so, you’ve participated in an omnichannel sale on three platforms: online advertising, email marketing, retail storefront. Or, you may follow up with a current customer who loves your product, get them to download a shopping app or agree to receive future emails with promotional offers from you, and improve your chances of a repeat sale.

    Of course, omnichannel sales work best when there is some time involved in the decision making process. If you sell milk, and the baby wants milk, mom and dad probably are not going to sign up to receive an email about the health benefits of milk before buying a gallon from your corner market. But for retailers and service providers with non-commodity offerings where emotion and evaluation are a part of the sales cycle, as long as it remains profitable to do so, it is generally a good idea to be in more than one location in terms of access to your current and prospective customers. In the perfect, omnichannel world, those locations are linked together, providing you with sales signals along the way, and allowing you to follow the customer through all of the stages that lead up to a purchase and to remain in touch with them until the next purchase is made. If you have a marketing budget, and a product or service that consumers spend time considering or researching before making a purchase, it might make sense for you to explore omnichannel marketing opportunities.

    How Can a Small Business Attorney Help?

    Business coaching may not be the first thing you think of when you consider calling your local small business attorney, but in fact, your attorney may be one of your best resources for getting non-biased advice about your business decisions. One of the best things a good attorney can do for you is help you locate good resources for calculating the potential costs, pitfalls, and rewards of a particular course of action. As a long-time Denver business attorney, I have seen successes and failures in abundance, and developed a trustworthy and reliable database of advisers for my clients. If you are starting a business in Colorado, or looking to expand the ways you reach your market and think omnichannel marketing might be a good opportunity for your Colorado small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

    Contact Us Today

    Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
    Your Denver Business Attorney
    3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
    Denver, CO 80209
    720-258-6647
    Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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