MIT Entrepreneurial OpenCourseWare

MIT Enterprise Forum OpenCourseWareis a free educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. A list of courses available includes:

"Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans
Taught during the Independent Activity Period every January by Joe Hadzima '73, the MIT Enterprise Forum, Inc.'s Chairman of the Board, this class is meant for those interested in starting their own businesses.

Law for the Entrepreneur and Manager
A basic understanding of legal issues that corporations face during their existence.

Entrepreneurial Finance
An examination of the elements of entrepreneurial finance, focusing on technology-based start-up ventures, and the early stages of company development.

Marketing Strategy
This course is aimed at helping students identify, evaluate and develop a marketing strategy that best suits the strategy of their company.

Entrepreneurial Marketing
This course clarifies key marketing concepts, methods, and strategic issues relevant for start-up and early-stage entrepreneurs.

Global Entrepreneurship Lab
G-Lab focuses on the issues and challenges facing a global start-up.

Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organization
This subject is about building, running and growing an organization, including establishing a structure and culture that cultivates success.

Managing the Innovation Process
The primary goal of the course is to expose students to a variety of perspectives on innovation through different levels of analysis."

Business Plan Resources and Examples

The Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse offers a goodcollection of resource links and sample business plans including several for restaurants, which is what many people think about opening when they first consider becoming entrepreneurs.


Famous Trials Website

"My vision was to create the Web’s largest collection of primary documents, images, essays, and other materials relating to famous trials from Salem to Simpson. Trials have long struck me as wonderful vehicles for exploring history and human nature. What better way to understand the 20s than reading about the Scopes, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Leopold and Loeb trials? What provides better insights into the nature of evil than reading the transcripts of the William Calley court-martial or the Nuremberg trials? Would not the Amistad, Shipp, Scottsboro Boys, Sweet, and “Mississippi Burning” trials provide an excellent launching point for a discussion of racism in America? I wanted these materials to be made readily available, in an easily digestible form, for everyone from junior high students to law professors."

So states Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law about his Famous Trials Website. In my view, he has succeeded very well and the site is worth visiting for its fascinating and easily read subject matter -- famous trials from Socrates to Bill Clinton

Make a Charitable Microloan via Kiva

"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.

By choosing a business on our website and then lending money online to that enterprise, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive monthly email updates that let you know about the progress being made by the small business you've sponsored. These updates include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original loan money back.

How does the loan process work?
By partnering with existing microfinance organizations and institutions, Kiva finds outstanding entrepreneurs who need loan funding. Our expert in-country staff works with these partner organizations to conduct due diligence on each business, and once approved, post each business' profile on our website. This is where you come in. You can choose loan money online, using your credit card or Paypal, in increments as low as $25 toward the loan needs of a business. With your participation, Kiva gives entrepreneurs access to the capital they need to lift themselves out of poverty. "

Found via this Seth Godin post.


An Executive Summary of the Executive Summary

"The Executive Summary (or Project Summary) is not only a synopsis of the most important parts of the business plan and project, but it is in fact your plan in miniature form. Brevity is the key word in presenting a summary of your business plan....The Executive Summary should be written in a clear, concise, logical manner and should be viewed as a "stand-alone" document. As such, it must accomplish the following if it is to get the reader's attention:

-Must be easy to read and understand
-Capture and hold the interest and attention of the reader
-Encourage the reader to want to read more of the actual business plan
-Highlight the positive aspects of the business, past, present and future
-Succeed in conveying the substantive nature of the rest of the plan
-Show that you have a competent and experienced management team
-Be market-driven and not product-driven
-Identify sales and distribution channels
-Show that you know and understand your competition
-Addresses future direction and strategies
-Provide historical and current financial information and future projections
-State the amount of funds required, financing structure, and repayment, period of loan, investor exit position"

Read more is this detailed summary from the Cynton Company via Mondaq (free registration required).

Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials

"What is fair use?

We would all appreciate a clear, crisp answer to that one, but far from clear and crisp, fair use is better described as a shadowy territory whose boundaries are disputed, more so now that it includes cyberspace than ever before. In a way, it's like a no-man's land. Enter at your own risk.

Why is it like this and does it have to be this way? Is there no alternative to the vagueness of the "four factor fair use analysis," to fear of lawsuits and frustration with uncertainty? Maybe it is reasonable to simply throw up our hands and say, "What's the use?" After all, many legal scholars, politicians, copyright owners and users and their lawyers agree that fair use is so hard to understand that it fails to provide effective guidance for the use of others' works today. But the fact is, we really must understand and rely on it.

So wouldn't Guidelines help? Many people who think so recently gathered in Washington to negotiate Guidelines for Educational Uses of Digital Works in a two-year-long Conference on Fair Use ("CONFU"). For many, the Guidelines that emerged satisfied the need for clarity; but for some, considerable objections remained. Some CONFU participants and their constituents complained that the Guidelines were too narrow; others that they were too broad; or unfounded in the law; or too premature; or too long; or unclear; and so on. In the minds of many, the Guidelines asked the right questions, but for some, they provided the wrong answers."

The University of Texas decided to take a different approach to guiding its component institutions and faculty, staff and students in the exercise of fair use rights. They call their approach "Rules of Thumb" for the Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials. Like the Guidelines from which they are in some cases derived, the Rules of Thumb are tailored to different uses of others' works. But unlike the Guidelines, they are short, concise, and easy to read.


How To Give A Great Presentation

What follows are nuggets gleaned from anexcellent article from To-Done that should help whether you’re speaking at a large conference, giving a small internal presentation to you coworkers or classmates or giving a sales pitch....

Think before you speak. Take pauses...
Visualize a positive outcome...
Keep text to a minimum. No more than 5 bullet points per slide...
Use pictures to get your idea across. They’re easier to remember...
Avoid complicated charts and graphs...
Think positive.
Tell stories...
Don’t read your slides. They should support what you are saying, not be what you are saying. The same goes for your notes.
Keep your intro short and strong...
Keep it slow and steady...
Don’t agonize over mistakes, and don’t say you're sorry. Keep confident and if you mess up—move on.
Pause to let strong ideas sink in...
Smile, joke and laugh if appropriate. A little humor can go a long way, but don’t over do it.
Learn from your mistakes....
End strong. Make your finale crisp, clean and powerful.
Be prepared for interruptions and questions. If you are doing well, you’ll have lots of questions."

How To Give A Great Presentation

How to Study Guide

I wish I would have known about this when I was in school:

"A very good guide on How to Study including the following sections: 1) Introduction, 2) Manage your time, 3) Take notes in class & rewrite them at home, 4) Study hard subjects first & study in a quiet place, 5) Read texts actively & slowly, before & after class, 6) Do your homework, 7) Study for exams, 8) Take Exams, 9) Do research & write essays, 10) Do I really have to do all this?..."

Via this Marcus P. Zillman post.

Presentations from Startup School 2005

For more on Startup School held at Harvard on October 15, 2005, including copies of slide shows and mp3 versions of presentations, see the Presentations (Startup School Wiki) site.

Notes from Startup School 2005

Here are a few nuggets from Robbie Allen's Startup School Notes regarding the presentation and Q&A session with Langley Steinert, Co-Founder, TripAdvisor:

"Lessons learned:

+Follow your passion...
+Do it for the right reason
Don't do it for money.
Do it because you have passion for the idea...
+Choose your Founders very carefully...
+Be very picky about your first 10 hires...
+Raise as little money as possible
+Don't get big fast – that's why most bubble companies crashed...
Chuckles when he sees press releases stating "I raised $20 million". It should have a subtitle: "I just gave up half my company."
+Explore Angel investors...
+Don't be afraid of change...
+Keep an eye on the exit signs...
Don't pass up a "reasonable" acquisition offer, might be your last..."

Entrepreneurial Fellows Center Accepting Applications

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center of Institute For Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business is accepting applications for its 2006 program.

The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center (EFC) program, is a ten month entrepreneurial education program that begins in January and provides established business leaders with the opportunity to continue their business education, network and formulate strategic plans to enhance their company's success. Monthly half-day sessions are taught by successful, seasoned entrepreneurs and Katz Graduate School Faculty.


Ten Patent Portfolio Management Issues

'Some common issues encountered by companies in the management of the company's patent portfolio include:

1. Use preliminary and supplemental claim amendments....
2. Manage continuation or divisional patent applications and/or RCE's....
3. Partition your technology into inventions....
4. Consider the strategy or cost of pursuing improvements or extensions of your existing technology....
5. Consider low-cost procedural options....
6. Utilize appeals, teleconferences, and affidavits during prosecution....
7. Meet your duty of disclosure to the USPTO of known prior art....
8. Learn to let go when you need to and consider alternative approaches....
9. Identify licensing opportunities as well as litigation possibilities....
10. Use reissue, reexamination and interferences..."

Read more in this article by Dennis Fernandez via VC Experts.


Entrepreneurship Three Step

Reprinting this evhead post:

"Regarding Innovation 2.0 (sorta) Naveed Ahmed writes in with:

"I think to be a successful entrepreneur only 3 things matter:

1] A clear vision of where your company is going.
2] Genuine desire and passion to create amazingly great products/services.
3] Strong conviction that your product/service is going to make a positive difference in your customer's life.'

I like it."

So do I.

Value vs Price in the Sale of a Business

Rules of thumb and valuation formulas are a starting point in determining the value of a business. A standard rule of thumb is to value a business at a multiple of EBITDA (earnings before deducting interest, taxes, depreciation and amorization). The most useful formula for approximating value may be the discounted cash flow method which calculates the net present value of the future cash flows of a business based on certain assumptions.

Remember, however, that value is not the same as the price that is paid for a business. For many reasons, such as the relative bargaining positions of the parties and the skills of their negotiators, businesses are often purchased for more or less than their valuations. For instance, a business seller may be anxious to sell because of factors, such as family issues, that have nothing to do with the value of the business. Anxious sellers tend to accept prices that may be below the value of the business from an objective or market based perspective.

Nonetheless, having an accurate picture of the value of a business is essential in determining whether and how to proceed.

This post from The Entrepreneurial Mind summarizes a list from the Christman Group, LLC that equates value with price, but otherwise is instructive as to the types of factors that determine the value of a business for sale:

"Number 10: Industry Outlook
If the outlook for the industry is bright, the price goes up. Buyers look hard at the outlook for a company's gross margins, future growth projections, international economic factors, etc.

Number 9: Depth of Management and of the Sales Team
If an owner wears all of the hats, including generating most of the sales, the price will go down. A strong and experienced management team to operate the business is key value driver.

Number 8: Customer Base
If a company has limited customer concentration with no single customer representing more that 5-10% of revenues the price goes up. If the customer base is made up of “blue chip” companies, the price goes up too.

Number 7: A Good Story to Tell
Telling a company's story is critical in helping the buyer recognize the full value of a business. An extensive confidential offering memorandum that describes the business operation, the marketing and sales programs, its organizational structure, its facilities and equipment, its financial performance, and provides a financial analysis including a believable 5 year financial forecast.

Number 6: Stage of Industry Consolidation
If a company's industry is experiencing consolidating with the big companies getting bigger through acquisition, prices for smaller companies will rise.

Number 5: Company Track Record
If a company can show a track record of consistently growing profits and sales, buyers will pay more.

Number 4: Type of Business
A manufacturing company with a proprietary product will sell for more than a job-shop manufacturer. A distributor that adds value by offering installation, repair, and/or engineering/design will sell for more money than a non-value-added distributor. A service company with a special expertise will sell for more than a similar service company without this expertise.

Number 3: Revenue Size
The larger a company's revenues, generally the higher the price. A business with $25 million of annual sales will sell for more than a company with $5 million in sales.

Number 2: Market Position
A company that dominates its market or has a unique niche in the market will sell for a premium over other companies that do not dominate their markets.

Number 1: Having Multiple Buyers
When there are multiple buyers bidding on a business, the price of the business will exceed the price paid for a business that is sold without competitive bids."

Top 10 Most Practical Blogs for Entrepreneurs

I humbly report that this blog has been selected by Scott Allen, the About.com guide to entrepreneurs as one of the Top 10 Most Practical Blogs for Entrepreneurs.

What is most gratifying about this honor is the opportunity to be listed among the nine other truly great blogs that comprise his list. Thanks Scott.


Annotated Sample Venture Capital Term Sheet

From the Practising Law Institute:

"For any readers who might not know a thing about venture capital, it 'is money provided by professionals who invest alongside management in young, rapidly growing companies that have the potential to develop into significant economic contributors.' And a term sheet is more or less a letter of intent for private equity -- a non-binding summary of the principal points that will be memorialized in greater detail in a subsequent Stock Purchase Agreement...[This] sample term sheet for a Series "A" Preferred Stock Financing...'is the work product of a coalition of attorneys who specialize in venture capital financings, working under the auspices of the National Venture Capital Association.'"


Principles of Servant Leadership

TDIndustries uses Robert Greenleaf’s essay‚ The Servant as Leader‚ as a blueprint for behavior. Every TD employee completes Servant Leadership training and participates in small Servant Leadership dialogue groups. This philosophy has built an environment where employees trust leadership to listen to their thoughts and ideas. And leadership has learned to trust the judgment of the employees. The Servant Leadership philosophy suggests that every person can become a leader by first serving‚ and then through conscious choice‚ leading. Servant Leadership principles are summarized as follows:

"People can and should work together to grow a company. If an organization is to live up to its basic values and vision‚ a key ingredient will be leadership from a very large number of us.

Simply and plainly defined‚ leaders are people who have followers. They have earned recognition and respect.

Leaders are first a servant of those they lead. They are a teacher‚ a source of information and knowledge‚ and a standard setter‚ more than a giver of directions and a disciplinarian.

Leaders see things through the eyes of their followers. They put themselves in others’ shoes and help them make their dreams come true.

Leaders do not say‚ “Get going.” Instead‚ they say‚ “Let’s go!” and lead the way. They do not walk behind with a whip; they are out in front with a banner.

Leaders assume that their followers are working with them. They consider others as partners in the work and see to it that they share in the rewards. They glorify the team spirit.

Leaders are people builders. They help those under them to grow big because the leader realizes that the more big people an organization has‚ the stronger it will be.

Leaders do not hold people down… they lift them up. They reach out their hand to help their followers scale the peaks.

Leaders have faith in people. They believe in them. They have found that others rise to their high expectations.

Leaders use their heart as well as their head. After they have looked at the facts with their head‚ they let their heart take a look‚ too.

Leaders keep their eyes on high goals. They are self-starters. They create plans and set them in motion. They are persons of thought and persons of action — both dreamers and doers.

Leaders are faced with many hard decisions‚ including balancing fairness to an individual with fairness to the group. This sometimes requires ‘weeding out’ those in the group who‚ over a period of time‚ do not measure up to the group needs of dependability‚ productivity and safety.

Leaders have a sense of humor. They are not stuffed shirts. They can laugh at themselves. They have a humble spirit.

Leaders can be led. They are not interested in having their own way‚ but in finding the best way. They have open minds."

Key principles for business-driven sotware development

As a major update of IBM Rational's six best practices for software development, this paper articulates a new set of principles that characterize a mature approach to the creation, deployment, and evolution of software-intensive systems. The paper articulates a set of principles that IBM Rational believes characterize the industry's best practices in the creation, deployment, and evolution of software-intensive systems:

"Adapt the process.
Balance competing stakeholder priorities.
Collaborate across teams.
Demonstrate value iteratively.
Elevate the level of abstraction.
Focus continuously on quality."

The paper explains each of these in order, describing the patterns of behavior that best embody each principle, as well as the most recognizable "anti-patterns" that can harm software development projects.

Oregon Business Guide

The Business Referral Center of the Oregon State Department has produced the Oregon Business Guide, a consolidated source of information on starting a business in Oregon, that also is instructive of the types of issues and information needed to start a business in other jurisdictions.


Blawger Bowl Report from Dead Leaves

A few legal bloggers are participating in the second annual Blawger Bowl of fantasy football, whose defending champion is yours truly. Perhaps because of our adversarial natures, or perhaps because we believe, no doubt incorrectly, that we have better things to do, we could not agree on who would write the first report on the progress of the season. Therefore, ipso facto, ergo and brimming with res ipsa loquitor, after week six of the NFL, we have our inaugural report -- The Mid-Season Slackers' Guide to the Violence Inherent in the System that begins:

"Last year, I joined up with a number of other law bloggers for the first annual Blawger Bowl Fantasy Football Competition. It was... well, it was an experience. I've never played fantasy football before, and the immediate addiction to statistics and gaming I felt was an experience I had only felt before while handicapping horses. "


Seven Steps to Success

"Someone once said that too many people quit when they're just a step away from achieving success. Here's a plan to accomplish your goals while you work in harmony with your intuition:

1. Focus on the goal....
2. Develop a plan....Take that first step, and then take another.
3. If you get off track, be willing to change....Many times the road to sucess is found by taking a detour.
4. Cultivate the attitude of a wish fulfilled. Success is waiting for you -- feel it, see it, vividly imagine it, sense it and grasp it.
5. Don't dwell on the old. Put your mental energy and action into focusing on where you want to go.
6. Look ahead, rather than back....
7. How will you know when you're succeeding? Success isn't a destination. It's a journey. Here's a checklist:

Are you enjoying what you do?
Are your connections with friends, colleagues and family strengthened by your success?
Are you proud of your accomplishments thus far?
In the process of achieving your goals, are you developing the qualities of kindness, self-respect, courage, compassion, patience, love and hope?
Do you feel more in control of yourself and your life?
Are you able to shift negative self-talk to something more positive and useful?
Has your spiritual life been enriched through the process of achieving this goal?
Are you being of service to others?
Are you more self-confident and sure of your capabilities as the result of pursuing this dream?
Are you continuing to stretch just beyond your comfort zone?
Are you easily able to shift direction if the course you've been on isn't working?
Are you consistently listening to your inner guidance and following its wisdom?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, you are a success!"

Read more in this article from ThirdAge.

Open Business Models

OpenBusiness "is a platform for sharing innovative Open Business ideas - entrepreneurial ideas which are built around openness, free services and free access."

New York City Panorama

Originally uploaded by TigerTigerTiger.
See this J-Walk Blog post for a link to:

"A big, and I mean really big, image of the New York City skyline. We're talking 7979 x 740 pixels.

Here's a small, scaled-down portion of it:"

Collection of Idea Generation Methods

This website lists and explains every idea generation method encountered by the author during the past 15 years.

"It is the result of extensive research; my many sources include books, management journals, websites, academics, consultants and colleagues.

The methods have been drawn not just from the worlds of creative problem solving and innovation, but also from other worlds such as organisational change, strategic planning, psychotherapy, the new sciences and the creative arts."


Everything About Management Methods

A tremendous amount of useful information is found at this site that serves as a management portal explaining 250+ management methods, models and theories on strategy, performance management, finance, valuation, change, corporate governance, communication, marketing, leadership and responsibility.

Five Ways to Accelerate Revenue Growth

"Entrepreneurs in early stage companies can spend many months, and sometimes years, developing a new product. For many, the moment when the product is finally ready to go to market fosters feelings of great accomplishment and great anxiety. Can I make my sales projections? Will the company scale? Do we have what it takes to be successful?

Ultimately, these questions boil down to one: how to accelerate revenue formation. In this article, I want to share with you five proven revenue accelerators....

1. Reduce product complexity...
2. Increase compatibility...
3. Make the people who use your product visible to other likely adopters...
4. Let people try before they buy...
5. Use Diffusion Networks to create brand preference...

By focusing on these five drivers, you can have a profound effect on the adoption curve for your product..."

Read more in this article from ElDorado Ventures.


Keep Founders Engaged as Companies Grow

Fred Wilson has an interesting post from the perspective of a VC about how to keep founders engaged in the companies they started after they step out of CEO roles. This post from Minding the Planet amplifies on Fred's post by presenting the viewpoint of the entrepreneur.

Internet Business Models

Business models have been defined and categorized in many different ways. This article by Professor Michael Rapa attempts to present a comprehensive and cogent taxonomy of business models observable on the web. He notes:

"Internet business models continue to evolve. New and interesting variations can be expected in the future.

The basic categories of business models...include:

Manufacturer (Direct)
Utility "


Build a Better Checklist

"Checklists ensure that things are done in a systematic and consistent way when time is short, the pressure is on, and we are more apt to make mistakes. They take the thinking out of routine and emergency tasks and help us accomplish what we need to do much more quickly."

To find out how to build a better checklist, see this post from Open Loops.

Beware of the Devil's Advocate

"The devil's advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today. What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat. Every day, thousands of great new ideas, concepts, and plans are nipped in the bud by devil's advocates.

Why is this persona so damning? Because a devil's advocate encourages idea wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the disasters-in-waiting. Once those floodgates open, they can drown a new initiative in negativity."

So what is a body to do? Adopt one or more of the following Innovation Personas and you'll have a chance to put the devil's advocate in his place:

"1. The Anthropologist...
2. The Experimenter...
3. The Cross-Pollinator...
4. The Hurdler...
5. The Collaborator...
6. The Director...
7. The Experience Architect...
8. The Set Designer...
9. The Caregiver...
10. The Storyteller..."

Read more in The 10 Faces of Innovation from FastCompany.

Customer Lists as Trade Secrets in Pennsylvania

My colleague, Jane Lewis Volk, produced this Employment Law Update that I have reproduced below:

In a recent decision, Iron Age Corporation v. Dvorak, the Pennsylvania Superior Court analyzed Pennsylvania’s developing law of trade secrets, with particular regard to customer lists. The Court affirmed an Allegheny County Court’s denial of a request for an injunction by an employer who had a signed agreement with its employee regarding non-disclosure of information including customer lists and pricing practices. The agreement did not purport to prevent the employee from seeking employment with a competitor as do most “covenants not to compete.”

The lesson in this decision is that the most crucial aspect in the issuance of an injunction is not the presence of a confidentiality agreement, but rather, the general availability of the information and the treatment of it during the employee’s tenure. The Court recognized that customer lists can be protectible secrets and set up a checklist of sorts for employers who seek to maintain customer list confidentiality, regardless of whether a non-disclosure agreement was in place. Consider these factors:

-Do you share your customer lists with other suppliers?
-Are your customer lists widely known or readily obtainable?
-Do you obtain your customer lists through public sources such as trade shows or the internet?
-Do you coordinate with competitors regarding shared customers?

Positive answers to a number of such questions could prevent you from obtaining judicial protection of your lists even if your employees sign agreements that purport to protect them. The Court stated, “A non-disclosure covenant does not create a per se right to protection, but is merely indicative of the parties’ agreement as to the information’s confidential nature.”

In affirming the denial of injunctive relief, the Court also found significant that the ex-employee and new employer had acted above board. The employee had returned all materials and there was no evidence that he had engaged in any pre-departure raid of company information or property. Such factors can be extremely persuasive even in the presence of a restrictive agreement.

Iron Age Corporation v. Dvorzak is a reminder of the importance of not only maintaining appropriate written agreements but also of monitoring your treatment of information you wish to protect. It also reminds prospective employers that a confidentiality agreement will not necessarily prevent your new hire from pursuing his trade. We stand ready to assist you on either side of the equation, including in the development of appropriate agreements and practices to protect your business.

Gefsky and Lehman, A Professional Corporation
One PPG Place, Twenty-Third Floor, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
Telephone: 412-391-2727; Fax: 412-391-1685 www.geflaw.com



From ALM, which produces Law Technology News, Small Firm Business & Law Firm Inc., comes word of not one but TWO contests with deadlines looming. Please see this post from The Common Scold for details and forms. The post states:

"I am a very firm believer in the value of awards, both to acknowledge the hard work and leadership and innovations of our community, and then to educate our readers in our writeups about the winners.
I also feel that it's really critical for underrepresented folks who often don't get the spotlight (read: diversity) to enter these contests and get a shot at the exposure.
If you are so inspired, could you take a moment and help spread the word know that the deadlines are approaching both for our LTN Awards (Dec 15) and SFB Best Practices Awards. (Oct. 28).
The LTN vendor awards ballots are available both online, and attached to the cover of the Oct. issue (which should arrive on your desks momentarily).
The LTN Law Firm/In-house entry forms are available online, (or across the 'hall' here -- just click on the ad to my right.)
The SFB Best Practices entry form can be found here.
Remember, like the lottery, you can't win if you don't enter!!! "

Funding Stock Buy-Sell Agreements

"Within a closely held corporation, shareholders are often concerned about what might occur if one of the owners dies. Will the deceased shareholder’s family retain the economic value of the corporate interest? Can the surviving owners avoid interference from the deceased shareholder’s family? Will the survivors have the economic resources to redeem the deceased owner’s interest? Given these concerns, corporate owners are best served by entering into a buy-sell agreement while they are all alive.

Owners usually choose from two basic types of buy-sell agreements. With a cross-purchase agreement, each owner of the corporation purchases an insurance policy on the other shareholders. The purchaser is both owner and beneficiary of the policies. Upon the death of a shareholder, the other shareholders are then able to use the life insurance proceeds to purchase the deceased owner’s shares. Another commonly used type of agreement is a stock redemption agreement, in which the corporation owns policies on the lives of the shareholders. When a shareholder dies, the corporation buys the deceased shareholder’s interest in the company with the insurance proceeds."

For a good discussion of the tax implications of funding such agreements with life insurance and other issues, see this article from the New York Society of CPAs.

Thoughts and Resources on Disaster Planning and Recovery

From new dog old trick:

"A few thoughts on disaster planning and recovery for business...

1. Planning is one thing, practice is another.... Plans created in a conference room to satisfy a requirement (e.g. for when the insurance inspector asks to see your company's evacuation plan for earthquake or fire preparedness) or to qualify for funding (when a city or state has to tick a box on a FEMA form to qualify for Federal matching funds or grants - hello New Orleans) which are then never practiced (or even communicated) are useless - maybe even worse than no plan at all. If you are serious about having your facilities, your information, your staff, your customers protected and prepared for a disaster you MUST combine planning with instruction and practice....

2. Do you have an information back-up plan that has been rigorously tested - on a regular basis? Where is your off-site storage?... Is your information in multiple, widely separated physical locations? The critical backbone of so many companies today is their information - could you recover if your data were destroyed even if your physical facilities and staff were unaffected?

3. Have you done an insurance review recently?...

4. Don't rely on government - not local, not state, not federal. You - and only you - need to have planned and prepared for how to protect your business."

Read more and find links to useful information and checklists here.

How to Buy, Improve and Flip a Website

"Given the time it takes to get a new website off the ground...and the amount of work and effort it takes to create a site, produce content and build backlinks, the prospect of buying a ready established domain and website is very appealing. If you have a sound understanding of search engine optimization and the industry you work in online, you should have no problem finding under optimized websites, or perhaps fully fledged web e-commerce businesses to buy. By adding content, fixing title tags, linking structure and all the other good search engine marketing practices you can very quickly start reaping rewards. Sites with quality traffic but no monetization strategy are huge opportunities ready for you to step in, stick some advertisements up, use your AdSense optimization skills and boom, start profiting immediately. Alternatively you might look for sites that augment your existing web enterprises and purchase the targeted traffic to effectively 'buy customers'. No matter what your strategy, the web is ripe with opportunities for smart investors and you don't have to have a wallet the size of Rupert Murdoch's to start buying and profiting. "

Read more in this post from Entrepreneur's Journey found via this Small Business CEO post.


Solving Problems and Batting Practice

This post by Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons reminds me of the line in the long form of the Serenity Prayer by Rheinhold Niebuhr about accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Parsons explains:

"Every business has problems.
Let’s be honest. There’s not a business anywhere that is without problems. Business is complicated and imperfect. Every business everywhere is staffed with imperfect human beings and exists by providing a product or service to other imperfect human beings...

What I’ve learned...
1. Our measure is taken by how we handle the difficult times. Anyone can manage their way through good times. It’s how we handle the difficult times, that all of us are sure to have, that determines how happy and/or successful we will eventually become.
2. The obstacles we all have to face – be they personal or business – do not get in the way of us living our life. The obstacles are our life.(emphasis added)

So remember, the next time bad news surfaces -- look at it as your test. You are being given a chance to determine how successful you will be. If you can lighten up and deal with whatever the problem is, you will be better in three ways:

1. You’ll have the satisfaction of handling a problem.
2. You’ll be wiser when it comes to dealing with future issues.
3. Those around you will respect and welcome your leadership....

Once you get in the habit of enjoying the process of dealing with and resolving problems, you will indeed become happier...So why not change your perspective and simply enjoy the process of dealing with them?...

A mental trick for dealing with problems.
I've noticed over the years that it's easy to hear about someone else's problems and to offer a solution. It only becomes difficult when the problem at hand is yours and not someone else's. An interesting drill to help deal with problem situations is to mentally step outside the situation. Try to think of the problem as being someone else's instead of yours. The trick here is to not worry or even think about the consequences. Instead, deal with the problem at hand and only that.

Look at each day like batting practice.
I often tell my managers to look at each day like baseball players look at batting practice. I tell them to swing at each pitch (or problem) that comes their way. Some they will knock out of the park. Others they will miss completely. And for the ones they miss -- simply swing at them again tomorrow."

Twenty Five Project Management Tips

"1. Develop a team consensus on the nature of the problem...
2. Remember and follow the mission statement...
3. Develop a project strategy that will meet all project objectives.
4. Check back periodically...
5. Determine milestones and benchmarks...
6. Get buy-in from all stakeholders...
7. Choose the right people for the project team...
8. Work as a team...
9. Be realistic...
10. Plan the project by answering questions...
11. Brainstorm solution options, then choose...
12. Negotiate for scarce resources.
13. Have a deliverable at each major project milestone...
14. Qualify estimates...
15. Don't schedule any task with a duration greater than four to six weeks...
16. Continually ask questions...
17. Avoid the temptation to perfect everything...
18. Keep float or extra time in reserve...
19. Keep critical tasks on schedule... 20. Be alert to roadblocks and be very pro-active...
21. Consider co-locating team members on critical tasks...
22. Identify team members who will champion various parts of the project...
23. Don't let project members wait until the latest possible start time to begin...
24. Remember the Triple Constraint: to complete the project at cost, on time, and in keeping with the scope set and customer expectations.
25. Do a post mortem review..."

Read more in article from the American Management Association.


Lawyers Get High Marks from Small-Business Owners -- Grudgingly

I have observed that even although many people complain about and ridicule lawyers, if you ask the same people about the lawyers they know, the answers are generally positive. Lawyers in the abstract receive low grades, but lawyers in the actual are not all that bad.

Apparently, small business owners feel the same way as demonstrated by this story from NFIB that notes:

"Ask small-business owners what they think of lawyers and odds are you'll get a negative reaction. That opinion stems partly from the filing of so many frivolous lawsuits. But as professionals, lawyers are given high marks by entrepreneurs, according to a National Federation of Independent Business Small-Business Poll released today.

Despite frequent battles with the legal profession, nearly seven in 10 small-business owners told researchers that they have trust and confidence in lawyers and their profession. However, they complain that lawyers govern every aspect of business these days."

10 Steps to Profit from a Smart Idea

IP Australia has launched a new website to help new small business operators in Australia understand the importance of protecting their intellectual property (IP). Smart Start is designed to introduce businesses to basic IP concepts for those starting or buying a business. The initiative recognizes that starting a business can be daunting, and that IP issues are often misunderstood or overlooked during this important phase. Smart Start has been structured to take into account some of the different scenarios that may face a new business in Australia, but provides case studies and useful information on what a new business should know about IP regardless of the jurisdiction in which it operates. An example is this list of:

"10 Steps to Making Money from Smart Ideas

1. Treat intellectual property as a business asset by putting a dollar value on it and look to protect it in the same way you do your tangible assets. This is important for your balance sheet if you want to attract investment to grow your business, or to find out what your business and your IP is worth if you want to sell it.

2. Understand the different types of IP and the advantages of each one. Patents protect inventions; design registration protects its look. A registered trade mark protects brand names, logos, original sounds and scents and even aspects of packaging. Or you may want to rely on rights such as copyright or trade secrets, which do not need to be registered, to protect your IP. IP Australia’s website gives you more details about your IP options at www.ipaustralia.gov.au.

3. Keep your smart idea confidential—until it’s protected. If talking to others about your idea, use a confidentiality agreement, otherwise you could risk your right to legal protection and competitive advantage. Once signed by the party, a confidentiality agreement prevents them from disclosing your ideas to others without your permission.

4. Protect your idea using the IP system. Wise innovators seek advice from an IP professional sooner rather than later.

5. Build a model of your invention, where practical, to help prospective financial backers visualise your smart idea and its market potential. However, don’t let anyone see it without having a confidentiality agreement in place first. Also, if you have an invention, be cautious not to chase money in relation to that invention before lodging an application for patent protection. A ‘commercial use’ of the invention prior to filing your patent application may destroy your chance of receiving a patent.

6. Keep track of all your development and protection costs to help you put a value on your IP and give you an idea of how profitable your venture should be to recover costs.

7. Every business needs to research its potential market and understand its likely consumers, competitors, buyers, licensees, investors, manufacturers and distributors. Doing this will help you work out if your product or service is competitive. It will also assist you to avoid infringing the IP rights of others.

8. Many inventors are great at inventing but to commercialise your idea you need a variety of business skills. Taking a course in business management or at least educating yourself via books or accessing information on the web is fundamental. Use support groups such as inventor’s associations, your local Business Enterprise Centre and government agencies. However, before taking major steps, invest in quality professional advice.

9. There are different ways to make money from IP. You can sell it, license it or make products yourself. It might be more profitable in some cases to not manufacture it yourself. If you do this, get legal advice on any contracts you intend entering into with other parties.

10. Keep an eye out for infringers. Not only do copycats erode your hard-won market share, poor quality imitations can quickly ruin your brand reputation. Seek the advice of a lawyer or patent/trade mark attorney to help you to decide on the best course of action against infringers. You may need to take legal action, but infringers can often be stopped without having to resort to legal proceedings."


Success Factors in Technology Entrepreneurship

What are the key success factors in building new high-tech companies? This transcript of a talk by John T. Preston, Associate Director, MIT Entrepreneurship Center, originally delivered in Tokyo in 1997 and updated August, 2001 and the slides from the lecture offer useful insights, stressing the importance of "attitudes, and particularly why small companies are so important in bringing new innovative ideas to market...management talent...patents...passionate behavior among employees...quality investors...the rate of infusion of money...getting high quality products to the market quickly...flexibility...where you locate your business..."

Small Business Computer Networking Solutions

"There is no one network servicing and technical support solution that fits all small companies. Some companies opt to address their networking needs with internal resources. Others look for outside help.

For the latter, network service providers have recognized the need to provide service options for smaller organizations. The key for small businesses is finding quality service while maximizing the value of technology investments...

Regardless of how a small business chooses to address its networking and computing needs, there are best practices that can be followed to ensure that the best possible choices are made. Below are seven best practices that small businesses can use for their network serving and support:

* Determine how mission-critical your technology is to your business...
* Consider leasing instead of buying your computer and network equipment...
* Look for an industry buying group or network service provider...
* Form your own network services cooperative...
* Ask your vendor what his performance guarantees are...
* Check references...
* Consider a "payback period" for training investments..."

Read more in this article from ComputerUser.com.

Freeware Business Downloads

FreeWR makes available free software downloads, including the following business related topics:

Accounting & Stock
Address Books
Business & Personal Finance
Calculators & Converters
Clocks & Timers
Database Management
Notes & Reminders
Organizers & Calendars
Project Management Tools"


Software Companies Need Capital Efficient Business Models

"What is a capital-efficient business model and why does it make sense? From my perspective, a capital-efficicent model is one that allows a company to use as little cash as possible to generate significant growth and become self-sustaining and profitable. Growth at all costs without profitability does not get you there and neither does profitability with no growth. Finding the right balance is important."

Read more in this BeyondVC post.