DOL’s Overtime Rule Means Change for Employers in Colorado

While some employees might well be rejoicing, recent changes in overtime rules have some employers concerned. When the Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule was announced in May 2016, it introduced some important changes that will surely impact employees and employers for small businesses, non-profits and universities in Colorado. Among the many provisions within the rule, it provides for several items of note for salaried employees, including:

  • Establishes a mechanism for automatically adjusting employee income levels every three years
  • Sets standards for salary levels of the lowest-wage regions of the U.S., based on Census data
  • Allows employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy up to 10% of the new salary level

The DOL has released a downloadable fact sheet that answers a great deal of the questions surrounding the new rule, but despite a plethora of information and guidance available, Colorado employers are still trying to get their heads around the many ways it will affect their businesses. While it might seem like a raise is on the horizon for some employees, it could be that only a few employees at any given company will see an increase in their own compensation, and some employers might decide their resources are spread far too thin to implement the new rule the way it’s written, so could switch some employees from salaried to hourly or other another status.

The rule is intended to update overtime thresholds (which have been updated only twice in the last 40 years) for employees who are currently exempt from overtime pay, and even though the new rule is set to take effect December 1, 2016, there are some lawmakers who have presented legislation designed to roll the rule out in phases, with full thresholds being met entirely by December 1, 2019. Representatives who introduced the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act would like to have the threshold spread over three years. This “phasing in” period, they believe would give more time to employers, so they can adjust to the new rule in increments, both financially, and in relation to staffing needs. Their position is summarized by Congressman Kurt Schrader, who states:

“Without sufficient time to plan for the increase, cuts and demotions will become inevitable, and workers will actually end up making less than they made before,” says Schrader. “It’s long past time we strengthen overtime pay protections for American workers in a meaningful and effective way.”

The Colorado Division of Labor provides extensive details on the laws surrounding employee overtime in our state, and the new rule from the DOL provides equal details on ways for employees to be in compliance, some businesses and organizations in the state might find the new rule hard to implement, due to strained resources. Organizations in Colorado like the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) have voiced concerns that the rule can hurt employers, particularly smaller ones, while proponents contend the rule provides the compensation that employees deserve for the hours they put into their work.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Financing My Small Business: A Brief Overview of Venture Capital

You’ve got your great idea. Maybe you even have an enthusiastic co-founder, a five-year business plan, or an eye on the perfect office space. But what you don’t have are the funds to realize it all.

You’ve probably heard about venture capitalists or angel investors; it’s hard to live in the world of Silicon Valley start-ups and not have. So what are your options when it comes to raising capital for your own venture?

Traditional financing sources for small businesses tend to be banks and credit unions who use standard criteria to decide if you’re a viable loan option. They may be interested in your business idea, your background/track record, the amount of skin you have in your own game, and, naturally, your ability to repay the loan. Pretty simple.

The venture capital worlds operate a little differently in that they:

* invest equity capital, rather than debt
* take higher risks in anticipation of higher returns
* have a longer investment horizon
* are directly involved in the company (a Board of Directors’ seat, strategy planning, or governance)

Three main types of investors and approaches exist within the venture capital space.

Private Equity (PE) – PE incorporates a number of investment options that are usually made by private individuals/institutions.

Venture Capital (VC) – This is under the umbrella of private equity, but is managed differently and is usually designed to fund start-ups that have the potential for high growth (hello, technology companies). In addition to money, VCs provide business planning expertise and assistance.

Angel Investing – Angel investors are often entrepreneurs who have retired early — and well — who seek high returns through private investments in start-ups. They provide similar financing as VCs, just in smaller amounts. Angels often want a seat on the Board of Directors or even a daily role in the company’s operations.

Usually, the venture capital process looks like this:

1. Review business plan — the VCs review the plan and decide to move forward if it seems like a fit. Most are interested in an industry, a particular location, or a specific stage of development (start-up, early, expansion, or later).

2. Perform due diligence — this is the part where the VCs take a careful look at your proposed management team, products/services, governance documents, and especially financial statements.

3. Make an investment — money gets invested in exchange for company equity and/or debt, usually in rounds of financing.

4. VC involvement — once the investment has taken place, the VCs get involved in the running of the company.

5. Exiting the company — VCs generally expect to exit the company roughly four to six years after an initial investment, either by a merger, an acquisition, or an IPO.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. 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

Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM

Keep an Eye on the Economy

It’s always a good idea to keep on eye on the economy – whether you’re a local small business owner, or employed by the State of Colorado. Economic indicators can help you determine a wise household spending plan, as well as guide fiscal decision making for your business. So, how are things looking right now, and what should you be focused on? Colorado based hard money lender Glen Weinberg thinks you should be keeping track of how many times you’ve eaten fast food in the last month. If his measure works, he’s doing better than the Federal Reserve.

According to Weinberg, there is a strong correlation between the general economy and fast food restaurant sales. “Historically, sales at fast food restaurants have a strong correlation with general economy which means as one metric moves the other metric typically moves in tangent.” Fast food sales reflect the availability of discretionary income to consumers. If your business relies on discretionary income, it may be a good idea to keep tabs on fast food sales. In 2015, three of the top five showed declining sales compared to 2014, and the overall, sales for the top five were down.

You may also want to monitor apartment vacancies – if they are low, it generally means that people have a good reason (such as a good jobs) to stick around. But keep in mind, not all vacancy increases are a result of people leaving the area. The current increase in Metro Denver apartment vacancies is not a signal of weakening economy, but a simple matter of supply finally passing demand as large numbers of new units have been added to the housing market here in Colorado. A good way to examine what might be behind increased vacancy rate is to look at rent. If rent is still going up, even though there are more vacancies, there’s a good chance housing is still in high demand. According to Denver Business Journal Reporter, Molly Armbrister, year-over-year fourth quarter average apartment rental rates in Metro Denver increased “…in spite of a jump in the average apartment vacancy rate from 4.6 percent to 6.8 percent in the same period.

If your business is experiencing growing pains in either direction, it may be a good time to talk to an attorney. If you need legal help, be sure to 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

Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM

Patent Accessibility for Small Business Owners

Patent Accessibility for Small Business Owners

Patents and the Small Business Owner

While some people launching a small business for the first time might not have legal help at the top of their mind, most everyone would agree that even thinking about pursuing a patent means it’s time to call an attorney. While your lawyer will probably agree that legal advice is a good idea when it comes to patent applications, there are things you can do on your own in the early stages.

Legal Help When You Need It

Giant corporations can afford to keep attorneys on staff or on retainer. If you’re a small business owner, you probably have to budget carefully for legal advice. The good news is there is a great deal of free information and support available from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO). They offer good early planning advice and ideas that can be a big help to hopeful entrepreneurs considering a patent. If this describes you, check out the Getting Started section of their website that includes a patent basics section with good information on Types of Patent Applications, Process Overview, Using Legal Services, and Inventor Resources.

However, much of the material is written for lawyers, not laymen. For example, you can download the 36 page guide to filing a design patent, but you may be dismayed by the opening paragraph:

Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation.

Huh? Not to worry! There is plenty of simple, straight forward advice on researching your business idea to see if someone already holds a trademark, copyright, or patent on it. And while you may not yet be entirely clear about what type of patent you are filing for, the USTPO has a good FAQ page where you can start to explore the possibility of obtaining a patent for your idea. Here are a couple of tips from the FAQ section you will want to consider:

1. Avoid Being Scammed
The USTPO recommends that you check on the reputation of an invention promotion firm before engaging one to help you in the patent process – something you can do easily online or on their website.

2. Get Help from the IAC
The Inventors Assistance Center (IAC) provides patent information and services to the public and is staffed by former Supervisory Patent Examiners, experienced Primary Patent Examiners, various intellectual property specialists and attorneys who can answer general questions (but cannot give legal advice).

How to Contact the IAC
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM (ET), except federal holidays
Toll-free: 800-PTO-9199 (800-786-9199)
Local: 571-272-1000
TDD/TTY customers can dial 800-877-8339 for customer assistance

Greater Clarity, Better Service

While the patent process is complicated, the USTPO has recently launched the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI) to strengthen their “work products, processes, services, and how we measure patent quality at all stages of the patent process.” While this may not translate into an immediate do-it-yourself model for patent applications, it does have Denver-area intellectual property lawyers hopeful about a more streamlined process, including more affordable alternatives to the appeals process.

Can a Denver Small Business Lawyer Help?

Patent law is highly specialized and not part of the practice for any small business attorneys that I know of in Denver. However, when it is time to hire a patent attorney, I can refer you. Meanwhile, if I can help you draft company documents, review your online legal standing, or decide on the right language for an employment contract, you can reach me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis PC, home of your Denver Business Lawyer: 720-258-6647 or email me at 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

Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM

Denver Startup Week is for You

Nirvana for the Denver Small Business Owner

Ever wondered what goes on at the Denver Startup Week, and if you should attend? Powered by the local community, Denver Startup Week is “[t]he largest event of its kind in North America, [and] is the summit of entrepreneurial energy, innovation, and connection.” And it’s free!

Because the mission of Denver Startup Week is “to foster an environment where every member of a team, in every industry, can come to learn, grow, and prepare for their next challenge,” organizers are careful to include a broad variety of topics and business models. If you’ve already got your new business startup list (even if it’s just in your head), or you are an established small business owner and you want to learn more about tech, design, DIY-making, marketing, or leadership, there will be good information available for you and your team.

Education for Business Owners

At Denver Startup Week, you won’t just get advice on achieving balance between work and life: the event offers good education on a variety of topics and is designed around tracks. The tracks are based on the role you play in your business; founder, developer, designer, marketer, maker, etc. If you wear several hats, you can wear them all during Denver Startup Week.

Startup Week Tracks

FOUNDER
Whether you’re just dreaming about starting a business, on your first, or a seasoned entrepreneur, the founder track will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to found a company. Initial product development, go-to-market strategies, finding funding, and building a team are just some of the topics that are covered. Start down the path of creating your startup!

DEVELOPER
Frontend, backend, full stack, big data, APIs, architecture, methodologies, junior, senior, we have it all. Learn new technologies, refine your skills, or just check out something completely different. Walk away a better engineer than you were before!

GROWTH
No matter how good it is, no product sells itself. A team that markets, sells, and supports the product well is a huge advantage for any startup. Every aspect of digital marketing, inbound and outbound sales, and customer experience is going to be covered at Denver Startup Week. Growing a startup depends on these skills, don’t miss your chance to improve them!

PRODUCT
Product management, development, and marketing, all different sides of the same coin that somehow bridges the gap between building the product and delivering it to the market. Product skills are in huge demand but there aren’t very many places where you can go to acquire them. Come improve your product game at Denver Startup Week!

DESIGNER
Seeing things others do not see is an art and our design track is packed with creative outlets to expand your thinking and ability to design. From fashion to architecture to breakout digital design and artwork – the design track is focused on the critical elements of design. Learn new skills, hear from those responsible for some of the best projects in Colorado, and let your creative juices flow. Enjoy connecting with fellow design leaders and leave the week with fresh inspiration!

MAKER
From craft skis to craft beer, robots to 3D printing – the experience of ‘making’ physical products is totally unique. Through the lens of physical goods across multiple industries, hear the stories behind breakout brands, learn about new technologies in manufacturing, and dig into the micro-production concepts needed to get started. Connect with the best craftsmen and makers in Colorado and see how they create their work – all in one week!

Still wondering if you’ll find something useful for your business? Take a look at some of what’s available from last year’s event. You will learn something new from Chris Frank’s presentation, The Art and Science of Finding Customers for Your Startup, within the first five minutes of his video, and that was last year! In fact, several excellent past presentations that are well worth your time can be found on the website.

The excitement, energy, and renewed vision that the event generates for local business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs who are testing the waters could easily produce an uptick in the GDP! If your business could use a little uptick, or a big boost, make sure you make the time to be at Denver Startup Week 2016. If you need startup legal help, 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

Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM

Outdoor Recreation Business Is Heating Up in Colorado

It’s no surprise that Colorado is a destination for some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding on the planet. What’s changing though is the increase in emphasis on other types of seasonal recreation in our state. The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) has formed what they call the “Colorado Tourism Roadmap“, and some of the main objectives are to get the input of locations throughout the state and develop marketing campaigns aimed at drawing visitors of all kinds to Colorado. While some of the strategy is to tap into the obvious and abundant natural resources in certain areas of the state, the purpose for CTO is to market cross-region experiences for both in-state and out-of-state travelers. More travel equals more spending and tax dollars into the state’s coffers, as evidenced by the last few years data. According to recent numbers, Colorado leads most states when it comes to the outdoor industry, boasting $646 billion dollars in business.

Key in that has success has been the development of jobs surrounding the outdoor industry, and leading the charge to make sure that happens is the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (CORIA). Established in 2015 the mission is not only to help with economic development, but to help promote stewardship, conservation and sustainability in the use of Colorado’s natural resources. CORIA’s mission is to try and both keep and attract outdoor industry businesses in Colorado. In their words, “We champion industry, communities and people to come to life through Colorado’s Great Outdoors.” Another area of concern is how to slow the departure of businesses, as some outdoor businesses and organizations have left Colorado for Utah, and CORIA is in part responsible for being an ambassador for the outdoor industry in Colorado; part of that work is to show how Colorado is a better option to over our neighbors in the Beehive State.

With these initiatives working in tandem, it goes to show that Colorado is well-positioned to be an attractive location for businesses who run in the outdoor industry space, for both existing companies and those considering making Colorado their home. Something that should work in the favor of those businesses is proposed legislation that could streamline the permitting process that exists now. If passed, the bill would create a special designation for certain prized recreation spots, and in turn, that means support businesses would be able to come into existence to offer provisions, equipment and even accommodations. Colorado is already home to a very strong manufacturing culture, so it’s doubly positioned to provide both the facilities and the workforce to support such industry, should it either come from elsewhere or be spawned locally because of outdoor industry’s growth. Either way, the time is right for small business to make it big in the outdoor industry and at the same time, help continue to grow the Colorado economy.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me 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

Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM