So, you are searching for a new job?  Perhaps you are making a voluntary career transition.  Maybe you have been laid off, or worse, fired.  Regardless of the reason for your job search, one fact remains true: if you are conducting a job search, it is vital that you take an organized approach.  Managing your job search is just like managing any other major project.  You must create an infrastructure that allows you to operate in an efficient and productive manner.  A successful job search requires forethought and action.  Here are some tips for conducting an organized job search.

1. Declutter and Pre-Purge – If you are embarking on a job search, it will be difficult to do so if your physical space is covered in clutter with piles of papers everywhere.  Take some time to declutter.  Purge any unnecessary items, file papers that you need to keep, recycle junk mail, and get some order back into that space!  It will be easier for you to concentrate on your job search without all of that chaos and clutter around you.  Just be careful that you don’t spend too much time decluttering that you start using it as an excuse to procrastinate with regard to your job search.  A few days should suffice.  

2. Create a Job Search Schedule– Let’s face it – searching for a job is hard work!  If you are still employed while you are conducting your new job search, be prepared to have an extremely busy schedule.  If you are currently unemployed, realize that you do, indeed, have a job – conducting a job search!  Create a job search schedule that gives you ample time for all of the activities you need to focus on in order to succeed: resume and cover letter preparation, surfing the web for jobs, networking, interviewing, follow-up, etc.  Block out time in your calendar for job search activities and treat that time as you would any traditional work commitment.  Be consistent in the amount of time you spend each day and week on job search activities so that you keep your momentum going, and don’t lose focus and miss valuable opportunities.

3. Get Your Gear in Order– Update your resume, cover letter, references, and writing sample (if applicable).  Ask for letters of recommendation and testimonials from previous or current supervisors, co-workers, and professional colleagues.  Get some nice new stationery, and stock up on print cartridges for your printer.  If you want to use an outside source for printing, some local printing shops will copy resumes for free during an economic downturn, so ask around!  Be sure to have a computer with high-speed Internet access.  An all-in-one machine for printing, copying, faxing and scanning will also come in handy during a job search.

4. Create Job Search Central– Set aside space at home (or wherever you will be conducting your job search activities) and make it job search central.  Keep all of your job-search related supplies in that location, which will make it easy for you to find them when you need them.  This will also help you to get into job search mode when you are in that space.

5. Create a Job Search Paper Management System– You may be acquiring a lot of paper in your job search: resources, articles, sample resumes and cover letters, business cards of networking contacts, contact-us-later or rejection letters, etc.  To the extent that you can maintain these items in a paperless fashion, go for it.  But if you have to maintain hard copy paper, be sure to create a job search paper management or filing system, to be stored in your job search center.  Keep it simple and use whatever system makes the most sense to you for ease of use (binder, portable filing bin, traditional filing cabinet, etc).

6. Plan Job Search Activities– Plan out job search activities on a daily basis, such as phone calls to make, resumes to send, online applications to fill out, informational interviews to conduct, etc.  Write down your job search activities as calendar items, to-do’s, or tasks so that you take them seriously and treat them as measurable goals.  Be realistic with regard to what you can reasonably accomplish in one day, but also challenge yourself!

7. Track Job Search Activities – Organizing your job search involves keeping track of all information and communications.  Keep a record of where you sent your resume and when, whom you have spoken to, when interviews took place, etc.  This information will prove vital when deciding when to follow-up with leads.  You can track all of this information using a calendar such as Outlook or Google, or an online tool such as JobFiler.com.  Whatever tools you use, it is important that you be able to track the status of your job search.

8. Manage Job Search Email – In today’s world, much of your job search will likely be conducted by email.  Therefore, before you even start your search, whittle down the amount of email in your inbox so that you can hyper-focus on your job search emails, which will add up quickly.  Create folders within your email system using categories that make sense to you, such as Companies Applied To, Contacts Submitted Resumes To, etc.

9. Polish Your Online Profiles – If you are conducting a job search in today’s market, you would be remiss not to develop an online presence on social media sites, especially LinkedIn, which is the most “professional” of the social media sites and can essentially serve as your online resume.  But also consider other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  The opportunities are endless for employers and contacts to find you online.  You may even have your own website, e-zine, or blog.  Maybe you post articles on various article-marketing sites, or serve as a guest blogger on other blogs.  If you maintain profiles on any of social media sites, or have any type of online presence, be sure to polish your profiles so that they promote the image you want potential employers and contacts to see.

10.  Change Your Greetings – Change the message that greets callers for any phone number that you plan to use for your job search so that it sounds professional, and conveys the information you want callers to hear.  Be prepared, not embarrassed!

11.  Stay Positive – The longer a job search takes, the more chance you have of becoming negative about it.  Try to maintain a positive attitude to the extent you can by monitoring your progress and staying active in your search.  When the going gets rough during a job search, many people take a back seat and give up, which is counter-productive.  Try to stay focused and make valuable contacts that are likely to lead to a job.  However, don’t be all consumed by your search for a job!  Maintaining some balance in your life at this time will serve you well.  Get adequate sleep, eat well, see family and friends for pleasure, and make time for exercise.

Organization is one of the single most important things you can do to keep your job search manageable.  Just like being organized helps you improve any other area of your life, home, or work, it will also help move along your job search in quick and efficient fashion and with less stress.  It may even wind up being the key to finding that dream job you always wanted.

When you put in so much time and effort to get organized, the last thing you want is to backslide and wind up back where you started. The good news is that you can stay organized once you reach an organized state of bliss (or even a semi-organized, “it’s better than it was and I can live with it state”!). All that is required is active maintenance. Oh no, you think – more work! Yes, but remember, it is a lot easier to stay organized than it is to get organized.

Maintenance Should Become Second Nature

Organizing is a way of life that requires maintenance and ongoing effort until it becomes second nature. Think about something you do everyday, like brushing your teeth, for example. You just do it, right? It is a habit, something that comes naturally to you. You don’t need reminders, checklists, alarms and prompts. But imagine you just started brushing your teeth today. It is an entirely new grooming activity that you are now required to do. You may need a prompt to remind you to do this new activity. But after a reasonable amount of time, you would naturally incorporate this new activity into your routine and would no longer need reminders. You would just do the activity automatically. In order to stay organized, you need to slowly incorporate maintenance of organizing systems into your daily routines. After awhile, you don’t even think about it anymore, you just naturally maintain your systems.

Develop Simple Maintenance Routines

Integrate a daily and periodic maintenance program into your routine, but keep it simple. You’ve heard the old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Well, it goes a long way if your goal is to maintain organizing systems. Put things away at the end of each day at home, and at the office. If you start something, complete it if possible. If not, put the project items off to the side so that they do not become clutter in your way. If you use up the last of an item in the house, replenish it (at work, give notice to whoever stocks the supply cabinet). If you open something, close it. If you take something out to use it, put it away when you are done. Make this “finish it” policy a rule that all users of the organizing systems follow.

15 Minutes a Day Keeps Clutter at Bay

Want to maintain an organizing system? 15 minutes a day keeps clutter at bay! Once you’ve created an organizing system that works, take 15 minutes a day to keep it that way. If it needs much longer than that, chances are it is too complex of a system, or you are still in backlog mode with too much clutter. If so, then you need to focus on continuing to declutter and setting up simple, user-friendly organizing systems.

It is entirely possible that some areas of your life will be in maintenance mode while others will still be in the process of getting organized. That is expected. While you are getting organized, you will naturally finish some areas before others. For the areas that are already organized, use your maintenance routines. For the rest, keep plugging away! You will get to maintenance mode if you hang in there, I promise.

Don’t get caught up in the actual amount of time. 15 minutes at work, and 15 minutes at home, is an average. Some people need much more time to maintain their organizing systems, some need much less. It depends how many organizing systems need to be maintained, how complex they are, how many users are involved, whether someone is sabotaging the system by not cooperating in maintenance efforts, etc. Use 15 minutes as a benchmark to measure your maintenance efforts against.

Some people do their maintenance in the morning (washing dishes from last night’s dinner, choosing outfits for day, planning their schedule on their calendar, putting away files no longer working with, etc.), while others do it at the end of the day before they leave work and before they retire for the evening at home. The right time to maintain organizing systems is when it is easiest for you and you will actually do it. If you decide to maintain systems at the end of the day, be sure to finish activities at home and at work 15 minutes before you close shop, in order to leave enough time for maintenance.

Exercise: Schedule 15 Minutes a Day

Schedule in a recurring appointment on your calendar that prompts you to do 15 minutes per day of maintenance of organizing systems at home and at work. Remember, maintaining an organizing system should become second nature, like brushing your teeth everyday. But it may take time for it to become a habit, so be patient. Meanwhile, 15 minutes a day will help keep clutter at bay, and maintain your orderly new life!

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 2010. 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 .

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!

Well, as the saying goes… out with the old and in with the new! And I am celebrating that in a big way with the launch of the all-new LisaMontanaro.com website. I am beyond thrilled to launch this site and hope you will welcome me in celebrating.

To be honest, this new site has been a long time coming, and a labor of love for my team and me. I could not have accomplished this major re-brand, complete with a new look, business and site name, design, logo, service offerings, expanded products and more without the assistance of my amazing webmaster Lisa Tarrant, virtual assistant Deborah Davis, and marketing coach Christine Gallagher. They have been instrumental in this rebrand process and I am very grateful to be blessed with such devoted and kick- butt team members.

new_websiteThe LM Organizing Solutions site has been taken down… yes, I know that may seem sad, but truly, it is not. It was time to “catch up” to the expanded brand that my business has become. For years, I’ve taken a holistic approach to assisting my clients, both individuals and organizations, improve personal and professional development and effectiveness on all levels. I do this through coaching, consulting, speaking and writing. It is about time my website, blog, products, services and online profiles reflect the depth and breadth of my client work and offerings.

If you are looking for a coach/consultant to help you be more successful in business, career or life this year, let’s chat.

My coaching is offered 3 ways:

  • Strategy Sessions (75 minute targeted sessions by phone, Skype or in person)
  • VIP Intensives (half day, full day or 2 day options by phone, Skype or in person)
  • Platinum Level Coaching (long-term, full-access pass, in 3, 6 and 12 month packages)

Check out the different types of coaching/consulting I offer on the new site’s Coaching page.

reminderIf you are looking for a speaker for your corporation, non-profit, organization, or association, you will love my new Speaking page. It is a one-stop shop for meeting planners and has some new “surprises” and unique programs and offerings that not many other speakers can offer, or even attempt (yes, I know that may sound boastful, but how many speakers can present in sign language? or incorporate singing and dancing into a presentation in a way that actually connects to the content?). I’ve decided that this is the year that I allow all of my background, skills, and experience to collide in powerful ways to bring speaking engagements to my clients that are unique and extraordinary, while still delivering valuable conte nt.

If you are still looking for hands-on organizing assistance, don’t fret! I will be happy to arrange for one of my hand-picked organizing associates on the East or West Coast to come on out and help you.

So grab a cup of coffee or tea (or even better, a glass of wine!), and check out the new site. Poke around. Read some cool articles and Blog posts (and while you are there, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed for updates). Watch some videos. Check out the expanded Online Store. Claim your valuable FREE toolkit.

Share the site with others. Interact, comment and stay awhile. Feedback is welcome (really!). And by all means, if you s ee a link that is not working, or heaven-forbid, a typo, please email me and bring it to my attention so we can fix it.

Thanks for your continued loyalty as a member of my business community. I look forward to our continued relationship.

Lisa Montanaro will move and manage Warwick firm from West Coast, thanks to technology

WARWICK — When Warwick resident Lisa Montanaro, a productivity consultant, success coach, business strategist, speaker and author, moves to California, she will not only continue to manage the business she established here, she will expand it.

In 2002, Montanaro founded LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, which offered a variety of services including organizing, business and life coaching and motivational speaking. The company prospered as it drew on her skills as a lawyer, educator, mediator and performer. Today that Warwick company is the organizing division of Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises.

Montanaro is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the National Speakers Association (NSA). She has presented professionally to audiences throughout the United States and has been interviewed by many television and radio hosts. And her written content has been widely published online and in print. She is the author of “The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life,” published by Peter Pauper Press.

For the past decade Montanaro has lived in Warwick with her husband, Sean, a veterinarian.

This July, the couple and their two dogs, Dublin and Jerry, will move to Northern California. The relocation was prompted when her husband secured a prestigious three-year residency in veterinary internal medicine at the University of California at Davis.

But with modern communications technology, Montanaro, who was already traveling and serving clients throughout the nation and beyond, can simply expand her client base while continuing to conduct business as usual for those back East.

Headed in this direction
In the past few years, Montanaro has achieved success with expanding her business model and services, publishing a book and doing national speaking engagements. This path has allowed her to realize that she can live anywhere while her husband pursues his specialization in the field of veterinary internal medicine.

 

“I have been moving in the direction of a more global/virtual business model for years with coaching, consulting, speaking and online programs, and this has surely forced me to really change over,” she said. “But I am keeping the business open here and making my business bi-coastal. I plan to come back to this area every few months to do speaking engagements and book time servicing my clients in the New York area.”

Montanaro has a residential organizing associate, Camille O’Connor, and other team members that assist her as needed so even if she is not physically here, people who want to get organized can still do so under her business umbrella. And for those who want to work with Montanaro one-on-one, they can get on a wait list for the next time she returns or they can work with her virtually by phone, Skype and e-mail. For coaching, consulting and speaking, distance and geography are no longer a factor.

“Many of my clients and I have never met in person,” she explained, “and yet we have successfully co-created their business ventures, career transitions and life changes together. And I already travel for national speaking engagements, so the only thing that will change is the airport I use.”

As much as she is excited about this new venture, Montanaro admits she will miss Warwick.

“It will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said. “I have lived here for 10 years, and it has been an awesome decade that I will cherish. I chose to live here for the beauty and open space, but now realize that it’s true beauty is the people.”

Essential information
Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises can be contacted by calling 845-988-0183 in New York or 530-302-5306 in California. Visit www.LisaMontanaro.com.

By Roger Gavan

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to
decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

~ Jane Goodall

Many people believe that they have one true vocational calling. That may be true. But for some of us, we have multiple areas of expertise and talents and a thirst to share them all with the world. It is this sense of adventure and drive for reinvention that ultimately led me to create
LM Organizing Solutions, LLC (LMOS).

My first calling was as a performer. I spent my childhood singing, acting and dancing, and wanted to go professional. But as I matured, I started to fall in love with the law, and switched gears as a young adult, pursuing a pre-law course of study. I never gave up performing but, rather, turned it into a wonderful hobby that continues to this day.

Another great passion of mine was to work with the deaf. My cousins are deaf–a lovely married couple that was a generation older than me. When I visited and saw them signing with each other, and with their two hearing children, I was enthralled and vowed to learn this beautiful, expressive language. Thus, when I graduated from college and was admitted to law school, I deferred admission for one year to teach at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, NY.

I was hooked! I loved teaching deaf students, and developed proficiency for American Sign Language. A year later, I decided to continue teaching and attend law school in the evening.

Upon my graduation from law school, I practiced employment, labor, education and disability law for 9 ½ years. Although I had a profound respect for the law, I did not appreciate the way it was practiced in our society. It became too negative in the hands of those that wanted to use it to fight. I started to become restless and knew that there were other ways I could share my talents and expertise with people and organizations to improve the world. I did a lot of soul searching and arrived at the conclusion that I needed to leave the traditional practice of law and become an entrepreneur in order to truly make a difference.

During that time of career transition, I realized that I had been organizing people’s lives on an “amateur” level my whole life, and that my organizing and coaching skills transcended my work as a lawyer, teacher, mediator, writer, speaker, and performer.

In 2002, I launched LMOS, which serves as the umbrella for my areas of expertise, and provides a platform to offer a variety of services to clients.  Through LMOS, I am able to offer organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations.  These three main focus areas allow me to combine my lifelong passion for creating order with my skills gained as a lawyer, educator, and performer.  LMOS gives me the ability to enact positive, proactive change.  My clients rely on me for leadership, guidance, support, encouragement, and coaching.

I now consider myself a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I took a leap of faith and created a business that allows me to meld together many different, but related, “callings” at the same time, while helping people live better lives and run better companies and organizations. The result has been both successful and rewarding.

Warm regards,

 

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 .

Is the Threat of a Lawsuit a Real Fear?

As a small business owner, you may be one of the 48% concerned about frivolous or unfair lawsuits.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, actual lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits cost U.S. small businesses $98 million in 2005.  That figure may seem large because it includes money spent on damage awards, settlements, legal costs, liability insurance premiums, and costs incurred by insurance companies on behalf of policyholders.  Is the fear of lawsuits a real fear?  Unfortunately, yes.  Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time.  In reality, 46% of small business owners have been threatened with a lawsuit, 34% have been sued in the past 10 years, and 62% have made business decisions to avoid lawsuits.  Indeed, small businesses bear 69% of the total cost of the tort system to all U.S. businesses.

What is the Best Course of Action?

What’s a small business owner to do?  For starters, realize that the best defense is a great offense.  While most small business owners fear the law, it is much wiser to use the law as a protective shield.  There are many business and legal components that contribute to creating the strongest shield possible – business entities (the type of structure that governs your business), insurance, and intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets) to name a few.

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.  It is imperative that organizers understand the basics of the legal side of running an organizing business, and how to use the law as a shield to protect yourself and your business.

Creating a Shield Through Business Structure

The first item an organizing business owner should consider is the structure of the business.  There are 4 basic types of business entities: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company.  A common misconception of small business owners is that the business entity itself always creates a legal shield.  In some instances (a corporation, or limited liability company, for example), this is generally true.  However, if you are a sole proprietor (and, if so, you are not alone, as 78% of all small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietorships), then you essentially have no shield.  As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all business debts and other obligations.  Fortunately, the law is not the only means to create a shield to protect your business.  If the business entity itself does not provide a shield, then you can create one by acquiring appropriate and adequate insurance coverage.  Thus, a sole proprietorship that is adequately protected by insurance may have an effective shield.

In the case of partnerships, another misconception is that the partnership is a distinct legal entity that provides a shield.  A partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship run by two or more individuals.  Thus, the structure itself provides no shield.  Again, insurance can be used to fill in the gap, and/or a different business entity can be chosen.  For example, did you know that you can create a corporation and the same two people that would have created a partnership will now be shareholders?  What about a limited liability company with more than one member?  There are many ways for two or more individuals to own a business together.  Carefully consider which makes the most sense, not only from an operations and decision-making standpoint, but to garner the most legal protection for the owners involved.

Even with corporations and limited liability companies, there are limits to the force of the shield.  Simply creating a business entity is not enough.  The business must be operated as a distinct legal entity, including refraining from co-mingling of personal and business funds, keeping personal guarantees on behalf of the company to a minimum, maintaining corporate/business records, and paying business-related taxes.  If the business entity is a sham or the owner does not follow the rules in terms of keeping the business shield up, the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” may be applied by a court if the business is sued.  Piercing the corporate veil allows a litigant to pierce the business structure and reach the owner personally.  Granted, piercing the corporate veil is only applied in very limited situations, but it should be used as a reminder to keep that shield up at all times when it comes to operating your organizing business as a distinct legal entity.

Creating a Shield Through a Written Client Agreement

As an organizer, when you agree to perform services for a client, and the client agrees to pay you for such services, you and your client have entered into a legal contract.  The terms of the contract, however, are difficult to recall and prove unless in writing.  A written contract is pivotal as it puts clients on notice of business policies and terms, sets a professional tone, promotes consistency of policies, and is legally enforceable in court (the decision whether to sue a client to enforce a contract is, of course, a business decision, as well as a legal one, and should be carefully considered).  The contract, thus, helps to prevent misunderstandings and clearly defines the expectations of the parties.

Some organizers choose not to use contracts for fear that a written agreement may be too formal or legal in nature and, thus, may scare a client away.  Again, this is a business decision that should be given consideration, and you should determine if this is a real or imagined fear by communicating with your clients to test the waters.  You can also use a “letter agreement,” which may be less intimidating for residential clients.  In the corporate organizing arena, a written contract is generally expected.  Another disadvantage of using a written contract is the cost of creating and advising if you use an attorney.  While there are standardized contract forms available online and in books, be careful not to accept such standardized forms carte blanche.  I often see small business owners fail to adapt contracts appropriately, which causes embarrassing typos, inappropriate clauses, and general confusion.  Not only does this look unprofessional, but in extreme cases it can also result in unenforceability of the contract in court.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a business lawyer review the agreement to make sure it adequately protects you, contains the relevant terms, and fulfills the goals you want to accomplish.  It is an expense worth paying for to secure adequate protection in the long term.

A word of caution: stay away from “legalese.”  Use plain English so that the agreement is easy to understand and helps, rather than hinders, the understanding between you and your clients.  If you do use a client agreement, here is a list of sample clauses you should consider including:

  • Definition of the parties (define your status as an independent contractor if the contract is for corporate organizing);
  • Services to be performed;
  • Code of ethics;
  • Confidentiality;
  • Pricing and payment policies (pricing structure, retainer guidelines, travel time or expense, shopping charges, cancellation policy, when payment is due, fee for bounced check, credit card acceptance, payment of expenses, etc.);
  • Provision of materials, equipment, and office space;
  • Assurance of insurance coverage;
  • State law governance;
  • Permission to take and use photos;
  • Term of agreement/termination of relationship.

Now, go forth with shields raised!

The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered.  For a comprehensive overview of legal issues involved in running an organizing business, refer to the CD “Navigating the Legal Landmines of an Organizing Business”  from the 2008 NAPO Conference in Reno, NV. 

Contact Lisa Montanaro by visiting www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com, by email at , or by phone at
(845) 988-0183.

This article originally appeared in NAPO News, Volume 23, Number 4, September 2008
Copyright © 2008 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 2008. 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 .

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
~ Helen Keller

Meet Your Board of Advisors

Imagine a group of people that are available to bounce business ideas off of, to help you make pivotal business decisions, and to serve as a sounding board.  Major corporations have a Board of Directors.  Non-profits have a Board of Trustees.  Why can’t the solopreneur or small business owner too?  You can!  How?  By developing a Board of Advisors for your business.  You’ve heard of Mastermind groups, through which like-minded peers share ideas and support each other’s business endeavors?  A Board of Advisors is similar, but usually consists of individuals from outside your industry, even clients.

Striking the Right Balance

I am a Certified Professional Organizer, Business & Life Coach and Motivational Speaker.  I’ve been in business for seven years, am structured as a Limited Liability Company, and consider myself a solopreneur, in that I have no employees working for me.  My Board of Advisors consists of an individual with a marketing background, an individual with a publishing background, two other successful professional organizers with a very different business model and focus than mine, two long-time clients, and my very supportive, objective husband.  A good number to strive for is 5-8 members.  Be careful not to include anyone on your Board of Advisors that pushes your buttons, saps your energy, or is competitive.  In addition, try not to surround yourself only with “yes” men and women who nod approvingly at everything you do, and never challenge you or hold you accountable.  You want members that challenge you to stretch your entrepreneurial muscles.

Do not confuse your Board of Advisors with your official team of advisors.  Your team of advisors is usually made up of people that you retain to assist you with certain aspects of your business operations, such as a lawyer, accountant, graphic designer, webmaster, etc.  These are paid professionals that you hire to provide services to your company, as opposed to an individual that is voluntarily providing assistance to you and your business.  Yet another category of people that may provide assistance to your business are what I call power partners.  These are vendors that you refer your clients to, or that you partner with on a project basis.  Again, these partners are extremely valuable to a small business, but do not serve as a Board of Advisors.

What Does a Board of Advisors Do?

What can your Board of Advisors help you with?  Everything and anything.  A Board of Advisors can push you when you need a nudge, lift you up when you lose focus or faith, and help to keep you on track.  Mine assisted me with the re-branding of my company last year, including the design of a new logo, business card, brochure, and website.  Yes, I used a graphic designer and web designer to actually create the promotional materials, but it was my Board of Advisors that helped me to capture the overall vision and message I wanted to achieve.  A Board of Advisors can act as a sounding board for the future launch of programs.  When I was developing my signature approach to organizing, DECIDE®, my Board of Advisors provided invaluable feedback.

You can also use your Board for market research.  These days, we have a plethora of resources available online, including social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, survey tools such as Survey Monkey, as well as forums provided by professional associations (for example, as a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, I have access to the NAPO Chat, which is an invaluable resource).  All of these are fantastic resources, and serve a relevant purpose to a small business.  But, there is something magical about a consistent group of people that can go deep with you, gets to know your business intimately, and is vested in some way in your success.

What Are The Rules That Govern a Board of Advisors?

When I recommend to a small business client that he or she create a Board of Advisors, invariably the client will ask me what the rules are that govern this type of relationship.  It is entirely up to you and your Board of Advisors.  Communication is key, so think about how you will communicate with your Board members.  Do you hold in-person Board meetings, or communicate virtually? Should you develop a special online membership forum or website to communicate?  I communicate with members of my Board of Advisors in numerous ways — by email, telephone and in person, as some are local.  I have never convened a full Board meeting, although that may be in my future plans.

What are the benefits to your Board members?  Some just want to be a part of a growing, successful business.  Others may want tangible benefits, such as the ability to take your workshops for free, or buy products at a discount.  Ask what they want in return.  Find a way to acknowledge or reward the members of your Board of Advisors to let them know they are an asset to your business.

On the flip side, if you are asked to serve on a Board of Advisors, take the request seriously.  I recently had to turn down an invitation because I knew I could not actively participate at that time.  I appreciated the offer and confidence in my feedback, but passed it onto someone else that was a better match.

Take your time putting together a great complementary Board of Advisors and experience the positive affect it will have on your business.  Now, go forth and create your village!

Copyright © 2008 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2008. 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 .

“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 .