I was recently invited by my colleague and fabulous blogger, Janet Barclay, to comment on a post about naming your business, and thought many could benefit from my response. So I am sharing it here. If you want to read Janet’s original post that it relates to, and other great comments, click here.

As you know, I rebranded last year (by choice). I kept the name of my professional organizing division which I founded in 2002 as LM Organizing Solutions, but now have a new parent company name, Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises. I chose that name for several reasons: 1) I am going global, playing in a bigger sandbox, and wanted to share that intention through the name, 2) I am running a personal brand, and 3) I mostly use my real name online and that is what I noticed people would search for. To be honest, I use the business name less and less now, and focus more on my “brands” and “slogans” to market myself, always connecting them to my real name. My corporate name does not show up in many places. This was a very strategic decision.

business buildingAs a business coach and legal consultant for organizers and other entrepreneurs, I have seen the ugly side of business naming. Many clients have had to rename their businesses due to trademark disputes. I have filed trademarks for my clients, negotiated consent agreements for them to use the same name as another business owner, and advised them to rebrand altogether when the trademark issue was not on their side or too expensive to pursue.

But this can often be avoided up front, as you suggested. I use a 4-part test with my clients when choosing a business name:

  1. Domain Name Search – Check to make sure you can get the domain name that you want to represent your proposed business name.
  2. USPTO search – You can conduct a free search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site at USPTO.gov or use a paid service to research trademarks nationwide.
  3. State Corporations Database Search – You can do a quick search on the Secretary of State web page to see whether your name is available. If the name is available, you may want to reserve the name through the Secretary of State, but you are not required to do so before forming your business entity.
  4. NAPO Member Directory Search – If you are a professional organizer, you should check to see if the proposed name is already being used by a NAPO member. Remember, it is not NAPO’s responsibility to police names as a professional association. It is the business owners!

If you are a business owner, you probably have experienced the dreaded question that people ask at networking events, cocktail parties and the like, many many times: “So, what do you do?”.  And if you found yourself stumbling over your words to deliver the answer, you are not alone! Talking about your business is one of those areas that a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. Many business owners suffer from performance anxiety each time someone asks them what they do for a living.

Recently, I presented my Kick Butt Business Bootcamp for a group of entrepreneurs in Baltimore (if you are interested in having me present it in your area or to your group, let’s chat!). I started them off with an “elevator pitch” ice breaker exercise. They had to choose someone in the room that they did not know well, introduce themselves to each other, and then share their 30-second elevator pitch. The catch? They were not allowed to use their formal job title in their pitch!

Why? Because your title doesn’t tell people what you do, the benefits you provide, or the results clients get from working with you. Also, the title may also conjure up images in the person’s mind that are far from what you actually do. Let’s face it, not every “web designer,” “lawyer,” “professional organizer,” and “business coach” is the same. You have to paint the picture of what you provide, and what the experience of working with you is like.

A few years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a workshop presented by Brian Walter at the annual National Speakers Association (NSA) Convention in NYC. Brian demonstrated a technique for creating a clever and catchy elevator pitch that I absolutely love. He calls it the “How, Now, Wow” Technique. (Side note: Ideas can’t be copyrighted, only words in fixed form, so sharing Brian’s ideas with proper credit is not only okay, but the highest form of flattery!).

The “How” elevator pitch is your ‘core’ or ‘home’ elevator pitch that you use in formal situations, or when you are unsure if the person you are speaking with can handle anything more clever or creative. It is the basic formula of what you do without mentioning your title. For example, a productivity consultant may say for his or her How message: “I help busy professionals and business owners be more productive so that they can focus on the things they enjoy more in life.” The focus is on what you do, who you do it for, and the benefits provided or results received.

Next, you move onto the “Now” stage. Use this when the person seems genuinely interested ( in other words, their eyes are not glazed over!) and/or asks for more information. This is your opportunity to provide him or her with examples of your work, the benefits you have provided, and the results that you have brought to clients. You should have about 4 examples at your disposal at any one time, so that you are prepared. “Now, for example, I just finished a time management project with a client that has not been able to attend his son’s soccer game in the last 2 seasons. Due to our intense work together to revamp his thinking and habits around time management, he has been able to attend 75% of his son’s soccer games this season.” You should try to tailor your Now examples to the person you are speaking with or the situation, so that they are relevant. If you are speaking to a busy CEO who is time-starved, this would be a perfect example. But maybe not the best example for someone that is a business owner and wants to become more productive in order to impact her bottom line and make more money.

The last stage is the “Wow” one. This is the one you pull out only for people you think can handle it, for those you really want to impress with your creativity and cleverness. Don’t waste it on someone that seems bored, is interrupting in order to tell you what he or she does, or you can tell is giving you their attention in a perfunctory manner. (For that person, let them talk, listen, ask a few questions to engage him or her, and then if all else fails, politely excuse yourself and walk away!) The Wow line is that extra factor that sets you apart. It makes people interested because it makes you look cool, is memorable, and maybe a little punchy. Brevity is key in the Wow line. If it is too lengthy, you will lose the person’s attention.

Some ways to deliver a Wow elevator pitch:

  • Think of similes when people ask what you do. For example, “I’m like a personal trainer for the disorganized brain.”
  • Describe what you do like a movie trailer with the client as the star. Tell a short interesting snippet of the work, and then end with the results.
  • Compare yourself to someone recognizable in popular culture, or even a cross between two people. For example, one I’ve used is: “I am like a cross between Rachael Ray and Sandra Day O’Connor.” Rachael Ray is warm, funny and sassy, and Sandra Day O’Connor is an extremely intelligent woman, having served as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Yes, I am trying to convey that as a coach, consultant and speaker, I have spunk and smarts!

Coaching Challenge: Craft an elevator pitch using the How, Now, Wow technique. Pick an elevator pitch buddy and practice together. Record yourself using audio or video. Then, start practicing at real events and see what type of response you get. Remember, no using your job title! Be creative and clever and you will get people’s attention.

Are you Ready to…

…kick your business into high gear?

…create the business model you’ve been striving for?

…stop working so hard and, instead, work smarter?

…charge what you’re worth, and reach the levels of income you’ve dreamed of?

If you answered YES, then you cannot miss this!

Join me on June 13th at the Kick-Butt Business Bootcamp hosted by the NAPO-Baltimore Chapter in Baltimore, MD. This event will be open to all NAPO Members.

I will also be offering 2-hour laser VIP Intensives the afternoon and evening of June 13th, and all day Thursday, June 14th, for those that want more personalized attention and a targeted business butt-kicking!

What do you get when you combine an attorney, mediator, trainer of entrepreneurs, business coach to organizers and other entrepreneurs, and an owner of a successful organizing business? You get a Kick-Butt Presenter that you can’t miss!!

During this bootcamp, you will:

  • Go through an in-depth business building assessment to get really clear on what’s going on in your business and where YOU need to be putting your attention.
  • Make some powerful mindset shifts that will have you think and act like a 6-figure business owner.
  • Leave knowing exactly what to do, with a clear plan to take YOUR business to the next level.

Topics include:Define Success/Your Role in Your Business, Passion/Unique Areas of Brilliance, Marketing/Unique Selling Proposition, Ideal Client/Target Market, Multiple Streams of Income/Leverage, Outsourcing/Delegating, Accountability Checks/Tools, Business Systems/Operations Manual.

Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, join us for some invaluable expertise for your business!

Bootcamp Details:

  • Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
  • Time: 9 am – 12:45 pm
  • Location: Hilton Garden Inn Columbia
    “Columbia Room – East & West”
    8241 Snowden River Parkway
    Columbia, MD 21045
  • Bootcamp Registration Cost:
    Early bird rate:  $139
    After May 21st:  $159
    Registration closes on Friday, June 8th.
    Limited to 45 participants. First come, first served!

SPECIAL OFFER! Add on Private Coaching with Lisa:

Additionally, I will be offering one-on-one, targeted 2-hour private coaching sessions after the bootcamp ends to assist you in applying everything you learned in a focused way to YOUR business. My process with clients is like a laser beam to help you blast through issues holding you back, come up with a solid plan, and give you the tools to implement, so you know that in 2 hours, you can experience a huge shift.

One-on-One Coaching Details:

  • Coaching Location (across the street):
    Redhead Companies
    6011 U-boatniversity Boulevard
    Ellicott City, MD  21043
    Suite 210, Redhead’s Meeting Room
  • Discounted Coaching Cost for Attendees: $300 for a 2-hour, private session (regular rate = $400)

See all details and registration information here: http://www.napobaltimore.org/kick-butt-business-bootcamp/

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on
after others have let go.”
~ William Feather

When the economy is slow, many business owners tend to pull back. Some even throw in the towel. But what if you change your mindset, and look at this recession as an opportunity to “reinvest” in your business? If you have funds set aside for slow periods, good for you. If not, then all you have on your side now is time. If business really is slow, chances are you aren’t working as much. This may be the perfect time to do some of the business-building activities that you never have the time to do when you are too busy working in the business. This may also be a golden opportunity for professional development, reflection, and brainstorming.

If time is on your side, here are some ways to reinvest in your business during the downturn in the economy. They will stimulate and rejuvenate your business. When the economy picks up again, and you get hit with a ton of new business, you will be in a better place than before.
  1. Incorporate Your Business – If you have toyed with the idea of incorporating or becoming an LLC, now is a great time to do so. You will be able to research which business entity makes the most sense, work with a business coach or attorney, and file the necessary paperwork. Come boom time, you will have all of your ducks in order.

  2. Hire an Overqualified Employee or Try Out an Independent Contractor – If you have been grappling with the idea of hiring an employee or independent contractor for a while, now is an ideal time. Due to the many layoffs, there is a large pool of qualified professionals just waiting for a career opportunity to come their way. Take the time to interview properly and try someone out before you get so busy again that it becomes a distant and fleeting thought.

  3. Familiarize Yourself with Tax Deductions – You just filed your taxes, but still never took the time to really learn which tax deductions can be taken. Even if you have an accountant, a basic understanding of what deductions you can take will help you track expenses better throughout the year. Take the time to learn how to maximize business deductions and keep more money in your pocket when business starts booming again.

  4. Get Testimonials From Clients – We all know how powerful testimonials can be, but when many business owners get busy, they forget to ask. Do it now, while you have the time. Then put those testimonials to good use on your website and in business marketing materials.

  5. Get Out and Network – When business owners are crazy busy with work, they often do not make the time to network and feed the funnel. This is a great time to attend live networking events with chambers of commerce, business networking groups, and the like. Be visible, so when the money starts flowing again, your business will be top of mind.

  6. Develop a New Product, Program, or Service – If you have been itching to add on a new product, program, or service, develop and test it now. When business picks up again, your new offering will be in place and ready to go.

  7. Sharpen Your Skills – We all know how important professional development is to success, but many entrepreneurs short change their professional development when business is booming. If time is abundant, attend a conference, or take a teleclass or webinar. There is a plethora of offerings available in every price range nowadays. This may be the time to get certified in your area of expertise, take continuing education courses, or just explore some educational options that would be beneficial to you and your business.

  8. Audit Your Business – Do you have adequate insurance in place? Is your client contract in need of some revamping? Are there any policies or procedures that need tweaking? This is a great time to examine your business to see if there are any areas that need improving and get to work on them.

  9. Update Your Marketing Materials – Have you been eager to create a new logo, redesign your website, or get new professional photographs taken? The time for this could not be better. Due to the recession, there are deals to be had. Approach professionals that can assist you with these projects. You may be pleasantly surprised at the rates you can secure.

  10. Keep Advertising – The first thing most business owners do when the economy takes a nosedive is to stop advertising. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Why? Because if all the other business owners are pulling ads, you will be the last one standing. If a prospect is looking for what you have to offer, they will find you. There will be less competition and clutter for a prospect to sift through. If you have refrained from advertising in the past due to the expense, check again. You may very well be able to afford it now.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Deciding Whether to Go Legal

As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face. This provides me with the distinct advantage of knowing when to call in an attorney for assistance, as opposed to using another professional, such as an accountant, financial planner, insurance agent, or business coach — or perhaps handling the matter myself. In addition, my background helps me to select an attorney that is the best fit for the business matter at hand. Many entrepreneurs have had limited experience deciding whether a matter needs legal attention and, if so, what type of attorney to retain, how to find the best match, and how to maximize the attorney-client relationship. As an entrepreneur, it is imperative that you understand when to “go legal,” and if you do, how to find and work with an attorney that is the best fit for your issue.

If you are confused about whether your matter needs legal attention or whether you can handle it yourself, try researching the matter on the American Bar Association’s Self-Help online center at www.abanet.org. Go to Public Resources, then Legal Help, and then Self-Help. The section is organized by state and is a user-friendly resource for determining whether a matter is complex and needs a legal expert, or whether it is something you can handle yourself.

In addition, a good business coach, especially one with a legal background, is a great sounding board to assist you in determining whether an issue is truly legal in nature, and if so, which type of attorney to retain. You would be surprised how many issues appear legal in nature, but turn out to be business decisions instead. So don’t be hasty when deciding whether to go legal!

Not All Attorneys Are Created Equal

So, assuming you have decided to “go legal” and retain an attorney, which one are you going to call? If you broke your arm, would you make an appointment with an allergist? If you had an ear infection, would you seek the advice of a surgeon? Of course not! Yet, everyday, many entrepreneurs contact and use attorneys to handle matters for their businesses that are completely outside the realm of what that attorney specializes in. Yes, attorneys specialize.

First, there is the main issue of whether your matter is civil or criminal in nature. Generally (and, thankfully!), the average legal matter an entrepreneur will face is a civil matter. Thus, you will be dealing with a civil attorney (hopefully in more ways than one). However, civil law is a huge umbrella. Typical small business matters may include incorporation, intellectual property (trademark, copyright, and patent), contract drafting and enforcement, employment or labor law issues, etc. Thus, look for an attorney that specializes in the area you need help with. Don’t be tempted to use your cousin, who is a residential real estate attorney, to assist you with a complex trademark issue. While this may be tempting in terms of saving money, it may (and often does) cost you more money in the long run if the matter is not handled properly. So match the attorney to the problem, and you are on the right track.

If you are unsure what type of legal issue you are even facing, speak up! Talk to a friend or business colleague that is an attorney, and ask his or her advice on the type of issue you are dealing with. You can also call the local bar association, or do some basic internet research to find out the area of law you are dealing with There are several sites that provide basic legal information for non-attorneys, such as www.nolo.com, www.findlaw.com,  and www.legalzoom.com. This background research will arm you with enough terminology and basic knowledge to make the best match with an attorney whose legal practice covers the area of your business issue.

Finding an Attorney

So, now that you know the area of law, how do you find a good lawyer that practices in that area? The same way you find any other professional to assist you with your business. Referrals from friends, family and colleagues are a fantastic way to find a reputable attorney. You can also ask your local chamber of commerce, local law school, and local and state bar associations. Still can’t find an attorney that is a great match? Try Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyer Locator online at www.martindale.com.

Money Matters

If you’ve never worked with an attorney before, here are some basics of the legal profession with regard to money matters. Most attorneys charge by the hour, so ask what the hourly rate is, and an estimate of how many hours the matter may take. If the matter is small, or a typical one that the attorney handles often, there may be a flat fee for the entire transaction instead of an hourly rate. Be prepared to pay a fee for the initial consultation, which is standard, but not a hard and fast rule. In some cases, the attorney may require a retainer, which is money that you provide upfront that the attorney works off of as the matter progresses.

One thing to consider is that law firms are typically broken down into partners and associates. Partners are essentially co-owners of the firm, while associates are employees, albeit high level professional ones. Who demands the highest rates? Usually, the partners. Thus, ask yourself if you truly need a partner, or can an experienced associate handle the matter. Do you need the best litigator in the firm? Often times, the best litigator may be an associate that is still active in the courtroom, as opposed to a partner that may be more of a rainmaker bringing in business for the firm.

In some cases, for very small matters or legal research, even a law clerk or paralegal may do. Ask who is the best match, and don’t assume it is always the person whose last name is on the door.

Maximizing the Attorney-Client Relationship

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of accurate, concrete, and timely record keeping and documentation when preparing to work with an attorney, and during the relationship. An attorney will need to go on a fact-finding mission in order to best represent you and your business. Help your attorney do his or her job better by coming to the table with all of your ducks in a row. Be prompt in providing requested information, as often legal timelines are at play. Honesty is also vital when working with an attorney. The best attorney-client relationships are built on mutual trust and, thus, withholding information can make or break your case. An attorney needs all of the facts in order to make tough decisions with you about the best course of action for your business matter.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

By now, you have probably heard the term “Coopetition.” Coopetition is a contraction of the words cooperation and competition, meaning essentially cooperative competition. In the business world, coopetition means collaborating or partnering with your competitors in an innovative way so that both parties benefit. The most successful entrepreneurs realize early on that the old military adage, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy … Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer” applies just as well to the business world. Of course, we all know that your competitors are not truly your enemies (at least I hope they aren’t!), but the idea of keeping them close is the point. A creative collaboration with your biggest competitor in the same industry may be the best opportunity for boosting your business.

Many of you are already familiar with the idea of collaborating with your competitors through membership in an industry specific professional association. For example, I am a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the premiere association for my industry. I attend the annual conference every year as a participant or presenter, belong to a local organizers’ neighborhood (an informal chapter), frequently engage in discussion on the organizers’ email list, and serve as a mentor and business coach to new organizers and organizers-to-be. I have partnered with other organizers in various ways, as well as share referrals back and forth. This coopetition with other organizers has enriched my business in ways that are immeasurable. I’ve benefited greatly from these relationships and from keeping an open mind in my approach to dealing with my competitors.

It is smart business to capitalize on the positive aspects of a competitive situation. However, for coopetition to work effectively, both parties need to clearly define their roles, making sure not to overstep boundaries. The goal is to find a way to partner with your competitor (read: colleague!) so that both parties can substantially benefit from the collaboration. Look around at your competition, and identify competitors that share the same zest for business and success that you do. You want to make sure that you align yourself with a competitor that you respect and admire, and that exudes the same sense of professionalism and level of expertise.

What are some ways that you can engage in coopetition that will boost your business? Here are some examples of strategic alliances between competitors that are innovative, creative, and effective:

    • Develop a joint venture project together. Some of the best business ideas are born out of competitors joining together. For example, in my industry, organizers are collaborating together to offer certification prep courses, train new organizers, design organizing products, etc.

Share a booth at an expo, tradeshow or business showcase.

      Not only will this help each party keep costs down, but as we all know, two minds are often better than one. You may come up with great new ideas to market your industry and businesses, offer more products, and gain more attention from participants and the media.

Co-present with a competitor.

      Co-presenting is a wonderful tool when done well. I have had the opportunity to present with colleagues to offer workshops that I may not have been able to do on my own. The participants benefit from hearing two different presenters, which helps keep the workshop fresh and interesting. Each presenter only has to do half the work, which makes your job easier overall.

Advertise with a competitor.

      Advertising is expensive. Sharing that expense with a colleague or competitor to promote types of service, your industry, or an event you are doing together is a great way to maximize advertising costs.

Refer leads to each other.

      This is probably the most common form of coopetition. But don’t lose sight of how powerful it is! What you give out almost always comes back. If you cannot service a prospective client, find a colleague or competitor that can. The potential client will view you as a true professional and resource-provider, and the competitor will be grateful and will usually reciprocate in the future.

Co-author an article or book together.

      Writing does not come easy to many people. Consider sharing writing responsibility by co-authoring an article or book with a competitor. This may be the most effective way to get published in your industry. For example, if you teamed up with 9 competitors in your industry and all wrote one chapter, voila, a 10-chapter book is born!

Offer a teleclass or webinar together.

    You’ve probably seen this many times where two business experts team up to offer a teleclass or webinar together. Many times they are in complementary industries, such as an interior designer (or life coach, or wardrobe consultant, etc.) and professional organizer, or a financial planner and accountant. Again, two minds are better than one, work is shared among the presenters, and the participants get to hear from two experts. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

Think broadly, keep an open mind, and seek out collaborative opportunities to boost your business with coopetition. Used wisely, it is a fantastic tool to add to your business.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

So, your business is growing and you are ready to outsource or delegate some of the work in your business. However, you are confused about how to classify a new team member: employee or independent contractor? The following is an overview of classification of workers to help guide this important business decision. As with any aspect of your business that is of a legal or tax nature, you should consider seeking the formal advice of an accountant and/or attorney to assist you.

Hopefully, this overview will provide you with enough basic information to ask relevant questions of your business advisors.

Classification of Workers

  • Classification of a person as an independent contractor or employee is important for tax purposes.
  • For an independent contractor, you must file IRS Form 1099-MISC to report payments of $600 or more.
  • If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker, which typically include income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment.
  • If you want the IRS to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, you can file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

  • As a general rule, an individual is an independent contractor if the person for whom the services are performed has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, and not what will be done, how it will be done, or the method of accomplishing the result.
  • An individual is an employee if he or she performs services for an employer and the employer can control what will be done and how it will be done.

Categories of Control

  • The IRS examines the relationship between the business and the worker by reviewing 3 categories:  Behavioral Control, Financial Control  and Type of Relationship
  • These 3 areas form a list of 20 factors that the IRS uses to determine the distinction. IRS Revenue Ruling 87-41 outlines the 20 factors in detail.
  • Generally speaking, independent contractors retain control over their schedule and number of hours worked, jobs accepted, and performance of their job.
  • Employees usually work a schedule required by the employer and their performance is directly supervised.
  • IRS Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee, is another valuable resource that discusses the differences between the two classifications

1. Behavioral Control

Behavioral control covers whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training, or other means.
  • When and where to do the work.
  • What tools or equipment to use.
  • What workers to hire or to assist with the work.
  • Where to purchase supplies and services.
  • What work must be performed by a specified individual.
  • What order or sequence to follow.
  • Whether worker is trained to perform services in particular manner.
Training is an area where some small businesses come close to creating an employment relationship with independent contractors by requiring detailed training, including “shadowing” of the business owner/service provider, and requirement that services be provided in a certain manner.
Requiring an independent contractor to have taken certain classes is not the equivalent of providing training, but merely requires a qualification level and skill set required for work. It may be a safer route to take when hiring subcontractors.
Also, training in company policies is not necessarily the same as training in how to do the actual services.

2. Financial Control

Financial control considerations are as follows:
  • The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed expenses.
  • The extent of the worker’s investment in the facilities used in performing services.
  • The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market.
  • How the business pays the worker.
  • The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or incur a loss.

3. Type of Relationship

The IRS examines the relationship between the parties:
  • Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intend to create.
  • The extent to which the worker is available to perform services for other, similar businesses.
  • Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation or sick pay.
  • The permanency of the relationship.
  • The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company.
For more detailed information visit www.IRS.gov and refer to IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide or IRS Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee.

Terms of an Independent Contractor Agreement

The following are typical clauses found in an agreement between a retaining business and an independent contractor:
  • Define independent contractor status
  • Scope of work (duties & required responsibilities)
  • A non-solicitation and/or non-compete clause
  • Non-disclosure clause
  • Copyright/work-for-hire
  • Consent to use of trademark
  • Payment terms (compensation & out-of-pocket expenses)
  • Term of project or relationship/termination
  • Obligation to carry general liability insurance
  • May also include a governing law provision, indemnification clause, conflict of interest clause, non-hire provision, and request for taxpayer ID number for 1099.
Non-compete agreements are reviewed by the courts for reasonableness based on several factors, including the nature of the business, the nature of the worker’s duties, the geographic territory encompassed by the non-compete, and the length of time chosen. They are often hard to enforce.
Non-solicitation agreement can protect against stealing of clients and/or employees.
For an employee, you can draft a basic employment letter outlining date of hire, salary and benefits package, probationary period, pay raise eligibility, etc. Employees are generally “at will” unless otherwise designated, meaning they can be discharged due to any legitimate, non-discriminatory basis.
The employer chooses which benefits to offer (sick leave, vacation, etc.); benefits are usually not required (check state and local laws and regulations). Benefits are mostly based on industry standards and employee expectations, and are used to entice employees.
As with any major business decision, do your homework — speak with expert advisors, (accountant, attorney, business coach, etc.), and speak with colleagues that have experience in retaining workers in order to find out which classification makes the most sense for your business. Good luck!

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

The greatest thing about owning your own business is that you are your own boss. The hardest thing about owning your own business is that you are your own boss! This is known as the Entrepreneurial Curse. And quite honestly, it is both a blessing and a curse. You have complete control over your business, and for many entrepreneurs, this is a great fact. But, it can also cause many entrepreneurs to feel like they are completely alone, with no one to help them along the way.

So what is a lonely entrepreneur to do? Connect!! There are many ways to make connections for your business. You can join a Mastermind group, create a Board of Advisors, join a business networking group, hire a business coach, work with a virtual assistant, get a business mentor, etc. The possibilities are many.

Recently, I attended a one-day retreat of local peer professional organizers. We have had a local group for years that we refer to as a Neighborhood. It is not an official chapter of our professional association, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), but that does not lessen its impact. In fact, this group has been consistently meeting monthly for years. We have developed a core group of entrepreneurs that attend meetings to share ideas, brainstorm, support, and challenge each other on our entrepreneurial journey. This year was our first retreat, which we hope to make an annual tradition.

At our retreat, we engaged in roundtable discussion of three distinct topics: how our businesses have changed to avoid burnout, what makes us happy individually and professionally, and how to service clients that are on a limited budget in this economy. The discussion was intelligent, insightful, lively, and thought provoking. I left with so many fabulous, new ideas for my business. I also confirmed many other business ideas and beliefs, which is always gratifying. I felt inspired to take action on some personal and professional projects. But most importantly, I felt connected. Yes, there is an instant connection to these particular entrepreneurs that share my industry. But it goes deeper than that. They shared of themselves so freely, and we connected at a deeper level. And I feel changed because of it. I feel inspired to keep doing the work I am doing, and excited to incorporate many of the new ideas we discussed.

And that Entrepreneurial Curse, the one that makes many entrepreneurs feel like they are out there all alone? It seems to have taken a vacation, at least for the time being. That is what connecting can do for an entrepreneur. It keeps that curse at bay.

So next time you are feeling like you are all alone, remember to connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs. They will remind you that you are not really alone, and that you can keep the curse from rearing its ugly head by continuing to connect.

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

As summer is “off-peak” for many businesses, it couldn’t be a better time to engage in some business building activities. If business is slow, don’t fret! Use this time wisely to gear up for the fall rush. Change your mindset and look at the slow summer time as an opportunity to reinvest in your business. If you have funds set aside for slow periods, good for you. If not, then all you have on your side now is time. This may be the perfect time to do some of the business-building activities that you never have the time to do when you are too busy working in the business. This may also be a golden opportunity for professional development, reflection, and brainstorming.

If time is on your side this summer, here are some ways to reinvest in your business. They will stimulate and rejuvenate your business. Come fall, you will be ready to prosper and succeed with a new and improved business.

  1. Audit Your Business – Do you have adequate insurance in place? Is your client contract in need of some revamping? Are there any policies or procedures that need tweaking? This is a great time to examine your business to see if there are any areas that need improving and get to work on them.
  2. Get Out and Network – When business owners are crazy busy with work, they often do not make the time to network and feed the funnel. Summer is a great time to attend live networking events with chambers of commerce, business networking groups, and the like. Be visible, so when the money starts flowing again, your business will be top of mind.
  3. Sharpen Your Skills – We all know how important professional development is to success, but many entrepreneurs short change their professional development when business is booming. If time is abundant, attend a conference, or take a teleclass or webinar. There is a plethora of offerings available in every price range nowadays. This may be the time to get certified in your area of expertise, take continuing education courses, or just explore some educational options that would be beneficial to you and your business.
  4. Develop a New Product, Program, or Service – If you have been itching to add on a new product, program, or service, develop and test it now. When business picks up again, your new offering will be in place and ready to go.
  5. Keep Advertising – The first thing most business owners do when cash flow takes a nosedive is to stop advertising. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Why? Because if all the other business owners are pulling ads, you will be the last one standing. If a prospect is looking for what you have to offer, they will find you. There will be less competition and clutter for a prospect to sift through.
  6. Get Testimonials From Clients – We all know how powerful testimonials can be, but when many business owners get busy, they forget to ask. Do it now, while you have the time. Then put those testimonials to good use on your website and in business marketing materials.
  7. Incorporate Your Business – If you have toyed with the idea of incorporating or becoming an LLC, now is a great time to do so. You will be able to research which business entity makes the most sense, work with a business coach or attorney, and file the necessary paperwork. Come fall, you will have all of your ducks in order.
  8. Update Your Marketing Materials – Have you been eager to create a new logo, redesign your website, or get new professional photographs taken? The time for this could not be better. Approach professionals that can assist you with these projects. You may be pleasantly surprised at the rates you can secure.
  9. Hire an Employee or Try Out an Independent Contractor – If you have been grappling with the idea of hiring an employee or independent contractor for a while, now is an ideal time. Take the time to interview properly and try someone out before you get so busy again that it becomes a distant and fleeting thought.
  10. Familiarize Yourself with Tax Deductions – Perhaps you never took the time to really learn which tax deductions can be taken. Even if you have an accountant, a basic understanding of what deductions you can take will help you track expenses better throughout the year. Take the time to learn how to maximize business deductions and keep more money in your pocket when business starts booming again.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Large companies in Corporate America usually conduct business retreats, known also as Corporate Retreats. Business retreats are often held towards the end of the year, and serve to assess performance for the past year, and set milestones for the coming year. The retreat creates a document that is used as a business blueprint, serving as a benchmark to measure against. Some companies will make this document public, such as in an Annual Report. Others will keep it as an internal document that acts as a powerful tool for business success.

However, what if your business is small, or you are self-employed? Does this mean you miss out on this transformative business activity just because you are not a “big gun”? No way! Large companies in Corporate America haven’t cornered the market on business retreats. If you are self employed or a small business, you can conduct your own business retreat. Here are some tips to guide you in the process so your business retreat is a success.

  • Choose topics to focus on. Most business retreats are comprehensive, covering marketing, financials, employees and contractors, clients, business growth, etc. Choose what topics your retreat will focus on, and how in depth your retreat will go into each topic. Having an overall plan or checklist of what the retreat will cover will help you plan and implement it with success
  • Gather all of the necessary data. Usually, a business retreat will involve a certain level of assessment, and “looking back”. Therefore, it is important to have all of the business data needed at your fingertips. This includes return on investment statistics for marketing and advertising, financials, client lists, etc. Knowing the numbers and stats of your business will prove vital as you assess and measure performance and create new milestones and benchmarks going forward.
  • Get all of the players involved. If your business has any key players, make sure they are available in person, by phone, or bv email for your business retreat. This includes marketing reps, assistants, bookkeepers, accountants, etc. Making sure that all players are on speed dial or stand by will avoid a frustrating business retreat where you need information and can’t get it at that time.
  • Record and blueprint. Make sure to record performance measurements, trends, and any other stats that are necessary for business assessment and future planning. You can do this on a simple word processing document or spreadsheet, or even audio record the retreat to listen later or get it transcribed.
  • Choose realistic and success-driven goals. As you create the blueprint to use in your business for the future, make sure that your goals are realistic and success-driven. This means creating milestones and benchmarks that can be achieved and are not too pie-in-the-sky, while also stretching your business to reach higher and further. Think where you want the business to be at next year’s business retreat and what it will take to get it there. That will help you create the best plan of action.
  • Accountability is key. Create a system for accountability so that all of the work put in for the business retreat does not go to waste. Make sure to consider implementation. Who will implement the blueprint from the business retreat? How will it be implemented? Make sure to designate implementation time into the business calendar. Consider getting assistance from a business coach, joining a mastermind group, or partnering with a colleague to ensure that accountability is built into the business retreat blueprint.

With a little planning, an open mind, and a willingness to put in some hard work at assessing your business, a business retreat can be a huge success. So go ahead and act like the big guns – get that business retreat on the calendar and make it happen!

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2008. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .