Trademark vs. service mark? What’s the difference? Both are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to distinguish a brand’s products and services from those of other businesses. Trademarks distinguish a company’s products, whereas a service mark relates to the services a company provides. Both fall under the category of intellectual property.
Why Apply for a Trademark or Service Mark?
When you’re building a brand, it’s important to differentiate yourself from your competition. Moreover, the last thing you want is for another company to hijack your company name or logo and confuse customers about with whom they’re doing business.
Registering for a trademark or service mark helps prevent that from happening.
The Difference: Trademarks vs. Service Marks
Preventing confusion in the marketplace is the primary purpose of both trademarks and service marks. To obtain either, you must apply with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design (such as a business name or logo) that identifies the source of a product. Trademarks are often recognized as brand names, and they protect the owners of their marks from other businesses in the U.S. using those marks.
Some companies trademark multiple elements of their brand, such as their business names, logos, and slogans. For example, Nike has trademarks on its brand name, its swoosh logo, and its tagline, “Just Do It.”
What is a Service Mark?
Service marks are similar to trademarks, and sometimes you’ll hear people use the term “trademark” when they really mean “service mark.” A service mark distinguishes the services of one company from those of another service provider.
Several examples of well-known service marks include:
- American Airlines
- Holiday Inn
Often, service marks take the form of a slogan or tagline, such as the United Airlines’ phrase “Fly the Friendly Skies.”
Whether a company needs a trademark or service mark can get confusing. For example with Burger King, the company provides a service, but it sells products (like the Whopper). Therefore, many companies register for both trademarks and service marks to protect their brand assets.
What Are the Benefits of Registering for a Trademark or Service Mark?
Filing trademarks and service marks prevent other businesses from using a business’s company, product, and service names; brand slogans; logos; and other distinguishing brand designs.
Relative to a company’s business name, a trademark or service mark offers more extensive protection than only registering the name with the state. While an LLC or corporation receives some protection of its brand name in the state in which it is registered, a trademark or service mark offers protection across all 50 of the United States. With a trademark or service mark, a business gains peace of mind that others won’t copy their branding at both the state and federal level.
How To Apply for a Trademark or Service Mark
The process to register for a trademark or service mark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office isn’t complicated, but it’s important to complete the application accurately so that it’s not rejected.
Before applying for a trademark or service mark, it’s wise to do some research to make sure another business hasn’t filed for (or is already under) trademark or service mark protection using the same or a very similar mark.
CorpNet’s free basic trademark search tool can help with that, and from there, I suggest doing a comprehensive name search at the state and county level to make sure your desired mark is not already taken.
I also encourage you to enlist the help and expertise of an intellectual property attorney that can offer legal advice as you go through the process.
“TM” and “SM” and ®
Before a company has had its trademark or service mark approved by the USPTO, it can use the designations of either “TM” or “SM” after the name, phrase, or design it wants to protect.
TM and SM show that the company is claiming the wording or symbol as its own, and it can help deter other businesses from using that intellectual property while the USPTO reviews a trademark or service mark request. The ® symbol designates a trademark or service mark that has been registered with and approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The ® symbol identifies a company has an official legal protection of its mark.
When to Apply for a Trademark or Service Mark
A company can take action to help protect its business name, even if it hasn’t yet started selling its products or services.
By filing an “intent to use” (Allegation of Use) form with the USPTO, a company can reserve a trademark or service mark.
An advantage of filing the intent to use application is that it regards the filing date as the “constructive use” date for establishing the business’s rights to the mark. So, if a company files an intent to use application on August 20, and another company files an actual use application on August 24. Even if the first company doesn’t file for actual use and begin to use its mark in commerce until after August 24, that company would be granted the trademark or service mark protection.
The USPTO gives companies six months to file an actual use application after they submit an intent to use application. It also allows six-month extensions to be filed up to 5 times after an initial intent to use application is submitted.
Cost of Registering a Trademark or Service Mark
The cost varies—between $225 and $400 per class to apply for a trademark or service mark—depending on how a business opts to apply for its trademark or service mark. The USPTO offers three initial application options.
If you choose to have an attorney or other party prepare and submit your application for you, you’ll incur some additional expense, as well.
After receiving an application, the USPTO sends a receipt to confirm the filing date. It might take from nine to 12 months for the USPTO to process a trademark or service mark request. When marks are complicated or if issues or conflicts arise during the review process, the USPTO might require more time before approving or rejecting a request.
Length of Time a Trademark or Service Mark Protection Lasts
Once approved, a trademark or service mark is in effect for ten years—and it can then be renewed for another ten years, with no limit on subsequent ten-year terms. As long as all renewal requirements are fulfilled, a business’s trademark or service mark will have an unlimited lifespan.
How to Be Pitch Perfect
Ready to get your pitch on, but not sure what you should say? Pitching Your Brand
While there is a definite art to pitching, it doesn’t have to be an intimidating (or impossible) task.
Rather, your job is to figure out how to position your brand, product, or service so that the value to your target audience is highlighted.
Dos and don’ts Pitching Your Brand
If you are aiming to reach a budget-conscious shopper, tailor your approach to focus on the value and durability of your offering.
If your focus is higher-end, draw your target customer’s attention to the fact that the product is hand-sewn and can be ordered in luxurious cashmere.
Are you eco-friendly? Then mention that your product is organic cotton and that 10 percent of proceeds are donated to an Earth-friendly charity.
Make it easy for your target customer—or a member of the media—to see exactly how your product, service, or story will apply directly to them.
Then, especially if you are pitching your story to the media, give them easy access to information, images, and quotes so that writing an article featuring your brand is enjoyable and easy to write.
Make sure to never send the exact same pitch to all your media contacts. Just as you would like every person on your outreach list to take the time to reach your pitch, they also would like you to take the time to know who they are, what interests them, and what their name is
Also, be careful with copy and pasting or making small adjustments to multiple pitches, as many email programs will alter the color and font of forwarded messages. Anyone in 2018 knows that if this is the case, you’ve copy and pasted without a second thought to what you were doing.
If you are sending out a general update all at once, make sure to blind-copy everyone’s email address. It is incredibly sloppy to share contact details for multiple people or media outlets by mass pitching on the To: line.
No matter your target audience, here are some ideas to kick-start your creativity and begin to develop multiple pitch angles for media:
- Connect your product to a current trend.
- Show a celebrity in a look that is similar to yours.
- Create a visual that connects your product to an upcoming or iconic film.
- Pitch how different versions of your product are perfect for traveling, business, gifts.
- Show your product as the perfect accessory for an event, like a music festival, first date, or wedding.
- Watch the red carpet at award shows and pitch how to get one or two looks for less.
- Create your own gift guide tailored to a certain publication or demographic.
Pitch takeaways Pitching Your Brand
In the health, fitness, food/beverage, and lifestyle industries, most companies are interested in product placement.
This means having specifics products photographed by the magazine and/or used in an editorial spread.
It’s important to note, however, that there are multiple angles that go beyond just the product itself when trying to place it. Examine the different kinds of angles that could be written about your offering.
Remember, even at the most basic level, there’s always a business and brand story to tell.
When pitching a story, focus on what makes yours unique. What makes your brand newsworthy?
How does your brand tie into current events or seasonal trends?
Finally, rely on your collateral pieces and product photography to do the heavy lifting around product placement for you.
Ready to get started? Put your best pitch forward by downloading these helpful pitch scripts.
Trust the process Pitching Your Brand
It might seem nerve-wracking, but there is a time-honored tradition of back and forth among the person doing the pitching and the one accepting the pitches that leads to what we read in magazines and watch on The Today Show.
Simply put, the media knows why you’re calling (or emailing— when in doubt—assume you should always email first).
Remember that your job is to make the editor’s lives easier.
They have a story to write, and you have the information they need to write the story. They need a pair of boots like those Beyoncé wore last Saturday night, and you’ve got them.
The media’s job is not, and never will be, to make you famous or to get people to buy your shoes, however. Approach your outreach from that perspective, and you will increase your chances of becoming a media darling.
These days media outlets are more pressed for time than ever before, and it’s amazing how often parts of your email pitch will make it into the actual article.
Use this to your advantage.
Write the pitch you want to read about your brand! Emulate the tone of the magazine in your pitch and focus the information on what is most relevant to that publication.
For a celebrity weekly, do your best Gossip Girl impression. For a business publication, lead with statistics or quotes that demonstrate thought leadership from your CEO.
If you are struggling, pretend you had to describe the magazine to a friend, or even your grandmother. Notice what words you are using, and incorporate those into your pitcharticle by KJ Greenwood
6 Reasons Doing Your Own Marketing is Hurting Your Business
We can’t all be great at everything, that includes trying to do our own marketing.
As a small business owner myself, I can say that I spend a great deal of time on social media. I run a digital marketing company and I often hire help from those who are experts on certain things. Does that surprise you? A digital marketing professional hires people to help with digital marketing? It shouldn’t.
The world that has led us to believe that we should all be Renaissance humans who can juggle the balls of the world in one hand. While technically we can try, it is not always the right decision as a business owner. Sure most of us can use Facebook, we can Tweet on Twitter, and we have a LinkedIn profile we sometimes check. We build marketing materials using the tools we have available to us. We have flyers printed and postcards made. We even stick our fingers into online advertising. Sometimes it leads to qualified leads. Trying to do your own marketing is a ball you need not juggle. In fact, you are more likely to drop all the balls you have in the air when you try and take on too much yourself.
The problem is, as a business owner you only have so much time in a day. That time is precious. The MOST important thing that only you can do to grow your business is to use your time wisely. That is why sometimes I rely on my team of experts in different arenas of digital marketing. Even among marketing professionals, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you are good at is half the battle, letting go of it is the rest.
Here are some good reasons to have someone else help you with your marketing.
1. DON’T MAKE THINGS WORSE
Believe it or not, you can actually make things worse. The point of online marketing is to bring traffic to your website. Unless you sell your product or service on Facebook your goal should be to get people to your website. Your marketing strategy should engage your audience and directing them to the thing that you want them to do. It should also work with the search engine to help you organically find the people who are going to buy from you. SEO must be part of your digital marketing strategy. If you are not thinking about SEO with every post, you should. So if you are not generating sales, chances are you not only have you been wasting your own tme, but sales. You are essentially throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something sticks.
2. MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR MONEY
Business owners often feel that handling your own online marketing is a good way to save money. That is not always the case. Often opposite is often true. Great marketing professionals help clients get the most bang for their buck. We live sleep and eat marketing all day long for many different companies. We see what works, what doesn’t and it is our JOB to know that.
When you try and do marketing yourself it is like trying to build a house when you don’t even have the right tools. Imagine taking a hammer and a saw and building the house yourself. It will take you longer, you will do it wrong more often than right. Without a guide, you might not even realize where you took a wrong turn until the entire house falls in. If you don’t construct the base of your house correctly it won’t matter what you put on top of it, it will always fail. You have to start with the end in mind.
3. YOUR TIME TO LEARN THE TOOLS YOU NEED WILL NOT HELP YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Online marketing isn’t as easy. There is a strategy involved for each business. Good marketing must have goals. You need to know how all the piece and parts work together. It is also imporant to be able to identify objectives and develop campaigns that have measurable ROI. There are a lot of moving parts, like on the back of a clock that all have to work together for the time to be right.
By outsourcing your marketing to someone who knows all the pieces fo the puzzle. Hiring someone knowledgable allows you to spend your time on your business. It is really easy to get lost in learning marketing, only to realize that it is constantly changing. Spend your time with your customers and clients, sell the things that only you can do.
4. HIRING PROFESSIONALS MEANS YOU CAN HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR SUCCESS
When it comes to marketing your business it should not be a guessing game. Done right it can bring a lot of traffic to your website and social media and your business. Marketing professionals play in the sandbox with all the latest tools. It is their job to keep up with the latest trends. When it is not what you do, you don’t always know what you are NOT doing. Marketing is tactical. It should never be a guessing game.
5. YOUR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT IS NOT GOING TO BE A MARKETING EXPERT
It is amazing how often I find a company has asked their administrative team to do their marketing for them. It is like asking your accounting person to do your hiring. Let’s say you hire someone that may have “marketing experience.” It doesn’t mean that they know how to market your business. They may have some experience posting things to social media. That doesn’t mean that they are posting the right things, at the right time for the right reason. It is tactile, it is strategic, and done correctly it can add enormous value to your business. It can also be a huge time sucker on your staff when they do not know what they are doing. How much is it costing your business in man hours? Is that the best use of your time?
6. WHEN YOU OUTSOURCE YOUR MARKETING YOU GET A TEAM OF PROFESSIONAL AT A FRACTION OF THE COST
A typical marketing position within a company can start at 30-45k a year. When you add sick time, benefits, and vacation it can be a major expense for any business. That entry level person may be fresh out of school, or have a few years of experience with one company under their belt. While they may be great at some things, they don’t have decades of experience.
When you outsource your marketing needs, you tend to get much more for your money. Not only do they tend to be more qualified, outsourcing usually costs much less. A good marketing company will be your best alley to be successful in your business footprint.
Let’s face it, if they don’t prove their worth, they are gone.article by Elizabeth Orley
Managing Your Personal Brandarticle by Elizabeth Orley
Think of yourself as a brand.
How Do You Define Your Personal Brand?
Managing your personal brand starts with evaluating who you are and what you stand for.
Develop Your Own Personal 30-Second Commercial.
“Hi, I am Elizabeth, I am the Master & Commander of Elizabeth Ink. In addition my duties include being the Household Engineer to my two sons. I am passionate about working with Project Ed Bear a non-profit that helps local children with cancer, and supporting mental health awareness. In my free time, you can find me coaching my kids teams, creating gluten-free recipes, and writing pieces for onMogul.com.”
Be Consistent in Your Social Media Profiles.
- Use the Same Profile Picture – Having a consistent image makes it easy for others to identify you. If you have a different profile image on LinkedIn and Twitter, and your personal Facebook page is of a pineapple it makes it a bit tough for someone searching for you to identify you out of a see of “John Doe.”
- Use the Same Job Title – Make sure that you identify the company that you work for with the appropriate job title across all your social media platforms. This will make it easier for people to find you online.
- Use the same color schemes you use in other places – Branding is everything from the language that you use, the posts that you choose to share, the images and links you generate and how you handle yourself online.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself.
How to Capture the Media’s Attentionarticle by KJ Blattenbauer
As an ambitious go-getter, you probably have grand ideas of the media outlets that you want to pitch your brand to.
Which is amazing.
Except getting the media’s attention requires a plan.
Do you have one?
Getting an editor interested in your launch, product, or brand isn’t easy, especially without an established relationship.
Just think, you are basically trying to secure media placement with what amounts to a cold call. But your cold call is to an editor’s inbox, which is surrounded by thousands of other equally eager brands looking for free publicity.
And, just like your own inbox, editors prioritize theirs by opening and responding based on who is behind the message—contacts they know and like capture their attention first, catchy subject lines second, etc.
Are you feeling defeated? Don’t be!
The media attention you’re seeking isn’t impossible to nab.
And it will not require spending thousands of dollars on some fancy schmancy PR agency.
So how in the heck are you supposed to get major media to pay attention to what you’ve got going on?
We all have to start somewhere. And we believe these three simple steps will help boost your chances of making it onto the media’s radar.
Know what’s new
Members of the media love to be the first to have discovered the next great thing. They love being the ones to tell the masses what’s new, hot and never been seen before.
The launch of your brand or product is a great time to capitalize on being new. However, with a bit of creativity, you can attack this concept of what’s fresh from almost any angle. Including new branding, website, social campaign, packaging, pricing, or even staff.
Know their deadlines
As we’ve previously mentioned on this blog, timing matters in PR.
Based on the time of year you are planning to pitch the media, your contacts will likely be working a very specific topic, based on the time of the season and their lead time.
For instance, if you send a magazine to contact your summer grilling recipes pitch in May, you’ll probably be out of luck. Their print issue for May closed months ago.
On the other hand, if you send your favorite blogger a Mother’s Day gift guide pitch in January, you probably won’t be hearing back as they haven’t even thought about March yet.
Know to follow up
You know how the pick-up line is typically the first step in dating? Your initial pitch to the media is just like that—it’s the beginning of an entire process.
If you don’t hear back from your media contact, don’t assume it’s a no and they aren’t interested in your story.
Instead, send a polite follow-up email two or three days later to put your name and brand in front of them one additional time. Do not wait more than a week to do this! I’ve often found it’s the second message that does the trick.
It’s really that easy! With a strong pitch angle, sent at the right time to the right contact, and with a little follow up, you’ll be well on your way to capturing the media’s attention.article by KJ Blattenbauer
If you’re thinking of starting a home-based business, you’re probably wondering, “Where do I begin?” It’s a question many entrepreneurs who plan on having an office outside of the home ask, too.
When you launch a business from home, you don’t have to worry about things like looking for affordable office space, finding a place to park, etc., but you do have to pay attention to many of the other startup tasks that all businesses do. An at-home company still needs to follow certain steps and rules to operate legally and successfully.
Let’s explore the following steps:
- Set Up a Dedicated Work Space
- Pick a Business Name
- Decide on a Business Entity Type for Your Home-Based Business
- Register Your Home-Based Business
- Obtain a Federal Tax ID Number
- Designate a Registered Agent
- Get Any Required Business Licenses and Permits
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Keep Accurate Financial Records Throughout the Year
- Keep Up With Ongoing Compliance Requirements
Steps for Starting a Home-Based Business
1. Set Up a Dedicated Work Space
Running a business from home provides some significant lifestyle perks:
- No commute
- Flexibility to work when it suits you best
- No need for childcare arrangements when school lets out for summer
- No need to to take time off when you the HVAC service tech, plumber, or other home repair provider is scheduled to visit
- Lower overhead costs
The key to taking advantage of them and having a sustainable business is to make sure you have an in-home workspace that allows you to focus on your business without constant interruption. Whether in the form of an addition to the house (one of my friends recently enclosed her front porch and converted it into an office space), a spare bedroom, or a secluded section of the basement, find a place that can be all yours.
Outfit your home office with all the essentials so that you have what you need at your fingertips:
- Shelves and file storage
Also, set some ground rules for other household members, relatives, and friends so that they know it’s not acceptable to disturb you during designated work hours (unless in the case of a real emergency, of course).
2. Pick a Business Name
No matter how small a business is, its brand’s name is critical for identifying it from its competition. When owners decide to use something other than their first and last name, they must check to make sure the desired business name hasn’t been taken by another company.
Checking a business name’s availability can be done by taking the following steps:
- Verify your desired business name doesn’t conflict with any state restrictions.
- Check the Secretary of State’s database to see whether the name is already registered within the state.
- Conduct a trademark search to determine whether someone has filed a trademark for the name.
- Run a comprehensive national name search that checks all state and local databases.
By doing all of the above, business owners can help ensure they’re not infringing on someone else’s name. It is far better to find out in advance that a name is spoken for than to spend money on business cards and marketing materials only to find you need to change your name to avoid legal issues.
3. Decide on a Business Entity Type for Your Home-Based Business
I recommend putting a great deal of thought and research into this step! It will have legal, financial, and administrative impacts on your company.
Common business entity types for home-based businesses include:
- Sole Proprietor
- General Partnership
- LLC (Limited Liability Company)
- C Corporation
- S Corporation
A Quick Overview of Each Business Structure
Each business structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the circumstances. Your choice in business structure will affect the taxes you pay and the personal liability protection you have, so it’s wise to consult an attorney and a tax advisor or accountant for guidance.
The most simplistic form of business, a sole proprietorship doesn’t have to file formation paperwork with the state, and it has the least amount of ongoing compliance requirements. That said, as with all types of business structures, certain licenses and permits may be needed at the federal, state, and local jurisdictions to operate lawfully. The nature of the business (types of goods and services it provides) affect the types of licenses and permits it will need.
One potential downside of starting a sole proprietorship is that there is no legal separation between a business and its owner. All business assets and liabilities (legal and financial) pass through to the owner. So if the business is sued or can’t pay its debts, the owner’s personal assets could be at risk.
A sole proprietor’s business tax obligations flow through to its owner’s and are reported on the owner’s personal income tax returns.
In a general partnership, there are multiple owners. As with a sole proprietorship, a general partnership doesn’t have to file formation documents with the state, and it has relatively minimal compliance requirements. General partnerships’ tax obligations pass through to their owners. Licenses and permits might be required. And, same as a sole proprietor, there is no personal liability shield for a general partnership’s owners.
The Limited Liability Company structure is one that many home-based business owners choose. An LLC can have just one owner or be a multi-member LLC.
The business entity type is simple to form, has minimal ongoing compliance obligations, and gives the personal liability protection of a corporation. By default, most LLCs are taxed as a sole proprietor or general partnership, with all tax obligation flowing through to the owners. However, LLC owners may instead opt to receive tax treatment as a Corporation or S Corporation.
A C Corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders), and it offers the highest degree of personal liability protection. Incorporating involves more documentation to form the company, and there are more ongoing compliance formalities (such as creating bylaws, appointing a board of directors, etc.). The IRS considers a corporation to be a separate tax entity from its owners (shareholders), so it must report income and expenses—and pay taxes on its profits at the corporate rate. (Unless it has elected to be treated as an S Corporation, which I’ll explain next.)
Because corporations may sell stock to an unlimited number of shareholders to raise capital, they typically have more growth potential than other business structures.
An S Corporation is a special election (rather than a business structure on its own) made with the IRS to give a corporation pass-through tax treatment. With S Corp election, a business does not pay federal taxes at the corporate level. Profits or losses flow through to the owners (shareholders).
Corporations that choose S Corp election may only have up to 100 shareholders.
LLCs can request S Corp election, too. The difference it makes for them is that owners only pay self-employment taxes on their salaries rather than all business income.
Other aspects of operating a corporation or LLC remain the same as they would if they were not receiving S Corp tax treatment.
4. Register Your Home-Based Business
Business owners who want to form an LLC must submit Articles of Organization to the state in which they want to register the business. To incorporate, a business must submit Articles of Incorporation. LLCs and corporations that want S Corporation election must complete and file IRS Form 2553.
By forming an LLC or incorporating your business, your business name automatically becomes registered to you. If you opt to operate as a sole proprietor or general partnership, you will not have formation paperwork to complete, but you will need to file a DBA (Doing Business As) if you want to use a business name that does not include your first and last name.
5. Obtain a Federal Tax ID Number
Also known as an Employee Identification Number (EIN), a Federal Tax ID Number is free from the IRS. It is a nine-digit number used for tax filing and reporting purposes and for taking care of other business documentation (for example, opening a bank account, obtaining business licenses, etc.)
6. Designate a Registered Agent
If a business is an LLC or corporation, it must have a registered agent with a physical location within the state that the business is registered. A registered agent is a company or person given authority to accept service of process on behalf of a business. “Service of process” refers to government notices and legal documents—such as state correspondence, tax documents, notices of lawsuits, and other critical paperwork.
7. Get Any Required Business Licenses and Permits
Home-based businesses may need to obtain local business licenses or permits from your state or county.
Some examples of common licenses and permits that apply to in-home businesses include:
- General business licenses
- Professional and trade licenses
- Home occupation permit
- Health and safety permits
- Sign permits
- Construction permits
- Sale tax permit
Business owners can start their research using the SBA website, where they can see which licenses and permits might apply to their business type and state. Also, many state and local websites publish license and permit information on their websites. It’s also helpful to contact the state, county, and municipal offices directly to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
8. Open a Business Bank Account
Business owners should never blend their personal and business finances. Not only is it confusing, but it can also “pierce the corporate veil” and destroy any personal legal and financial liability protections that owners have through forming an LLC or incorporating. To prevent blurring the line between personal and business funds, companies should have bank accounts used solely for the business purposes.
9. Keep Accurate Financial Records Throughout the Year
In addition to maintaining a business bank account, home-based business owners should keep track of costs in the home that are directly related to conducting business (such as a new desk or office chair) and also indirect expenses. Sole proprietors and general partnerships that operate from a home office can deduct certain home expenses based on the percentage of the home used for business purposes.
For example, if a sole proprietor uses a spare bedroom of 200 square feet as an office within a home that is 2.000 square feet, that business owner may deduct 10 percent (200 ÷ 2,000) of expenses such as mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, and utilities on each year’s tax return. There’s also a standard deduction option of $5 per square foot of home used for business (maximum of 300 square feet) that home-based business owners can use instead.
If a company is structured as an LLC, S Corp or C Corp, the corporation can reimburse its owners for home office costs on a monthly basis under an accountable expense reimbursement plan. Those reimbursements might qualify as deductible business expenses for the company.
A tax advisor’s or accountant’s guidance can help home-based business owners weigh their options and decide which will benefit them the most.
10. Keep Up With Ongoing Compliance Requirements
Besides the documentation and requirements related to starting a home-based business, there are various filings and renewals that must be completed to stay compliant every year. These will vary according to business entity type and location. It’s helpful to talk with an attorney and account to make sure you’re aware of your obligations (federal, state, and local) and their deadlines. Businesses that don’t abide by the rules could face fines, lawsuits, or even a suspension of business operations.
Where to Turn For Help When Starting Your Home-Based Business
You’ll discover you’ll have much to consider as you’re launching your home-based business. You can find some helpful information and resources through organizations like SCORE and the SBA. And, as I mentioned several times earlier, it’s essential to get all your legal and financial ducks in a row by talking with a lawyer and accounting professional.
Solutions to Tackle Communication Breakdowns at Work
Regardless of your ideological views or political persuasion, these are turbulent times around the world. I’ve noticed a sense of angst, heightened anxiety, and a palpable change in how people treat each other personally and professionally.
It’s time to get back to what distinguishes us as human beings – treating one another with compassion, dignity, and respect. Even those with whom we disagree the most deserve to be treated with care.
As a career development and leadership coach. I’ve seen communication breakdowns lead to dysfunctional work environments that breed toxicity and extinguish morale. Righting the communication ship is not impossible. In fact, getting back to basics will help make communication at work, and in your personal life more effective and satisfying.
Empathy is recognizing emotions in others and being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It helps you understand the other person’s perspective and reality. You need not agree with the other person but being empathetic requires you to think beyond yourself and your own concerns and allows you to discover another point of view.
To use empathy more effectively, consider these action steps from MindTools.com
- Put aside your viewpoint and try and see things from another person’s point of view
- Validate the other person’s perspective
- Examine your attitude. Are you open to discover new things?
- Ask what the other person would do. Encourage them to explain their position.
Leadership from the Core founder and principal, Marcel Schwantes believes the secret to communicating well is to be emotionally present. This begins with listening intently. Active listening is a skill you can hone.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a scenario when someone talked over you while you desperately tried to convey your message but never felt as if you were heard.
Being silent is tough for many but this is an essential behavior when listening. Being an active listener allows you to hear with your eyes and ears. Open and receptive body language is important to fully absorb what the other person is saying and honor their airtime.
Resist the urge to jump in with a solution or a contribution. Allow the speaker to finish. Know that moments of silence allow for comprehension and processing.
When the speaker is finished, ask clarifying questions to ensure that you have understood them correctly. Paraphrase salient bits of the content using language like: “What I heard you say is…” and give the presenter the space to illuminate, if needed.
Bad things happen when good people say nothing. If you witness inappropriate behavior, consider how you can intervene to mitigate the situation. Being an advocate for others is a key part of trusting relationships and impactful communication.
Be a true leader and model the way for positive and supportive interactions. It takes courage and bravery to speak up when something inappropriate happens. These acts of courage will soon permeate to create a culture of advocacy with positive benefits.
As the iconic bumper sticker says, Mean People Suck. Differences in style, opinion, and ideological viewpoint will always happen. Research has shown that diverse perspectives on a team lead to more creative solutions and productivity.
When we lose civility with those with whom we disagree, we miss the entire point of diverse perspectives. Better Angels is a non-profit national citizen’s movement created to reduce political polarization in the United States by bringing together opposing viewpoints to understand each other and teach practical skills for communicating across political differences.
Disagreement is healthy but waging war at work when colleagues disagree is debilitating and toxic.
I see professionals spiral in communication meltdowns when they focus on a singular either/or scenario. Most workplace conflict can be solved with compromise or an alternative solution that is not yet on the table.
Instead of heading into a negotiation in attack mode, consider these communication prompts to diffuse the emotion and focus on jointly created solutions.
- How can I help?
- Can we come together to find a solution?
- Let’s meet halfway…
Stop the Blame Game
Renowned author and research professor at the University of Houston, Brenee Brown is teaching the world how to be brave leaders. I’m a Brenee Brown fan and I especially love her video on blaming, which makes us all recall a scenario when we blamed someone else inappropriately.
Relationships will be more authentic and trusting when we stop the blame game and take responsibility for our actions. This requires humility and vulnerability, which can make us feel uncomfortable.
Growth happens when we are uncomfortable. If you have done something wrong – own it. Ask for forgiveness and offer a genuine apology. Don’t ruminate on something that happened. Address it head on and set the groundwork for a new beginning.
Gossip is Toxic
We all know that gossip is harmful, hurtful and rarely if ever based in truth. Yet, I have clients in organizations of all sizes and industries who report that gossip is pervasive in their workplace.
Be firm in your commitment not to gossip. What might seem innocent at first can grapevine into something that ruins a reputation and causes serious harm.
Go to the source and nip the gossip in the bud. Don’t succumb to collegial peer pressure if you hear gossip shared amongst colleagues. Don’t take the bait – walk away and be firm in your conviction not to participate.
As Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low – we go high.” Taking the high road can be lonely but it’s always the right thing to do.
Set the Ground Rules
I work with many hiring managers who talk about the “no jerk policy” when sourcing candidates for open positions. Every team should come together to set ground rules for behavior and communication. If the team creates the ground rules this will enhance buy-in and accountability.
If your team has been together for a while, refresh your ground rules. Consider how new hires will change the dynamic and give them the opportunity to share in the creation of the revised code of conduct.
Validation Makes the World Go ‘Round
We know intellectually that it’s OK to disagree with someone and that diverse viewpoints lead to strong teams and productive organizations. Emotions get high when we don’t feel validated when trying to share our point of view.
Take a moment and breathe before you speak and use the intentional pause to honor others by being an active listener.
Your willingness to own your mistakes, apologize and be grateful are the foundation of strong communication. We can work out our differences and we must tap our better angels to do so with compassion, dignity, and respect – even when it’s difficult.ARTICLE BY Caroline Dowd-Higgins