How To Determine If Your Business Name Confuses People

I have really been blessed in the recent months with invitations to speak to groups of people. I just recently spoke at Arkansas Tech to the Engineering students graduating in May. The topic of discussion was Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright Infringement. I explained that I am not a Patent Attorney, but I would speak to the importance of such things when it comes to running one’s business. I then guided them to work with a Patent Attorney on specific questions.

As a business owner you have rights to the property created for and by your company. Even without filing for trademark protections or putting a copyright symbol on your works, the creation is what makes it belong to the owner. To check if your business name has already been chosen by someone else, perform an Entity Search in your State. This can be done by going to your State’s Secretary of State website and typing in variations of your prospective name. Completing this step in your business planning process can help you avoid issues and alleviate any potential problems in the future.

With that being said, you also have a duty. This duty cannot be waived by claiming ignorance or lack of knowledge. An article written for Entrepreneur Magazine by Lindsay LaVine titled When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law provides a basic understanding of the significance of  creating a business name that is dissimilar to other businesses. This article explains the importance of very basic business principles that can have a huge impact on a business before it even gets off the ground.

Here I have summarized the seven factors from Ms. LaVine’s article a court looks at to determine whether a business name is too similar to an already existing business name.

She offers these seven factors as the following:

  1. The strength of the mark. Is it a generic symbol or one that identifies your particular brand?
  2. Commonality of the marks. Is the mark commonly used by third parties?
  3. Proof of actual confusion. Has the name caused confusion?
  4. Similarity of the marks. Comparing the names or marks, could one come to the conclusion that they were created to confuse.
  5. Similarity of services, service outlets, and customers. If one company is providing accounting services and the other supplies vending machines, it is less likely that a similarity in business names will cause any issues.
  6. Similarities of the parties’ advertising media. For Example, if both companies are targeting the same customers on Facebook.
  7. Defendant’s Intent. The defendant’s intent to cause confusion among consumers will be looked upon by an evaluation of their efforts to confuse.

For a copy of the whole article, visit https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

LynMarie’s next speaking engagement is at the University of Arkansas – Morrilton on Monday, February 12, 2018 to the Entrepreneurship class regarding The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer and Accountant.

References

LaVine, L. (2013). When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law. Retrieved November 18, 2017 from the World Wide Web at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

Disclaimer: LynMarie Liberty Ellington is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas. She is an attorney, but not your attorney unless you have a signed attorney/client agreement. The information provided via all print and digital materials is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a personal or business legal issue, please contact an attorney with knowledge on your topic and licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

Legal Practice Update

I’m really excited to report that Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation is going better than expected. As many of you know I was a little concerned with opening a practice in a small town because all of my previous businesses were started in large to super large cities. (Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas). Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation-Reception Area

But I did not let this deter me, because I really wanted to establish my practice close to home with minimal commute. My building has been such a blessing. We are located in downtown Russellville, AR at 100 Denver. We are right next door to Fat Daddy’s BBQ and part of a great downtown community. Downtown Russellville is a great organization that is helping to revive the old, downtown feel with monthly activities such as the recent Fall Festival. As a downtown business, we are blessed to have the opportunity to participate and help the community as well. IMG_1776[1]

We have a great community and wonderful clients. I spend about half my time working with various legal clients on business, landlord/tenent issues, and family law. Our community has approximately 30 attorneys, and everyone has been gracious and welcoming.

I offer unbundled services, which I think has been a great factor in our success this first few months. The rest of my time is spent working with businesses and owners to promote good business and prevent legal issues from arising.

I am really excited that business is going well, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has to offer!

 

Business Ideas- Anything to do @ Weddings!

Hey Ladies and Gentleman,  Wedding Business

If you haven’t thought about it before, take some time and do some research in the wedding industry. For decades, it’s been a billion dollar industry.  Times are changing, band things are only getting better!

Whether it is photography, music and sound, dancing, planning, or venues, there is much opportunity for the creative and romantic. From food trucks to cupcakes and fresh garden flowers to crape paper DIY’s, wedding businesses are exploding.

The great thing for start-ups is that weddings are no longer super-pricey and over the top. Brides are interested in more realistic, simple events. For the wedding business owner, this is a dream come true. No more high-priced inventory, or one-time use items.

 

How to Make the Most of Your Workday?

time

I thought I would take the time to answer a question I was asked earlier in the week. I’m guessing that most business owners would have their own way of answering this.

Throughout the years, I have incorporated different methods and strategies to try and get more out of my workday. As a long-time business owner and parent, it has always been essential to make the most of every workday to maintain a high level of productivity. With multiple responsibilities (personal and business related) it is imperative to come up with your own strategies to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to productive workday time!

The best tip I have -that took me a long time to learn- is to STOP multitasking. As a parent, I was a huger proponent of multitasking. Now when it comes to getting the dishwasher going while the dryer is drying a load of laundry and the Roomba is vacuuming the den, that is perfectly find. I promote any use of technology that saves you time and money! However, when it comes to focused, effective use of your own brainpower, multitasking is a scam. Several studies have come out to show that multitasking is much less effective than once thought. Law school really brought this one into reality for me. I found that 30 minutes in a quiet room would allow me to really focus on the material or task at hand and really allowed me to comprehend things and make decisions quicker.

The #1 system or process I use to promote productivity is time blocking. Again, studies have shown that transitioning between tasks or ideas, bogs down the mind and creating downtime and wasted minutes in moving from one thing to the other. I schedule 1-2 hour time blocks that I devote to specific topics. Unfortunately, emergencies or interruptions may occur. This is normal, but time blocking allows you to get back on task quickly with limited time wasted.

My favorite new piece of new technology for productivity is audio typing. As you read this, you may be one of the individuals that have been doing this for years, but I just happened upon this a few months ago. The basic premise is that you speak much faster than you type. So, if you are in a business or occupation that requires a lot of document preparation (Lawyer, bloggers, writer, etc.) you can actually audio type almost three times faster than regular typing. Most smart phones and current computers have the technology already built in. You probably don’t need any additional microphone or other device to start audio typing today. Several authors shared that audio typing has allowed them to write books in weeks.

These are just three things I do to make the most of my workday.

Hard-selling is Hurting Your Business

 

As I was finishing up social media and closing for the day, I took a moment to check my e-mail. A well-known business consultant was posting a plea for people to STOP Hard-selling.                                       salesman

Hard-selling happens to be one of my pet-peeves. I was sure that I had written about it before because I despise it so much. After looking, I had never written anything about hard-selling-what it is, why not to, what a better alternative is.

We all have fallen victim to hard-selling tactics. The picture that usually comes to mind is a used car salesman (please note, I have a couple great friends that are used car sales persons, that don’t do this), another may be a store at the mall that wants you to come inside ad try a product. Another example, if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, is the salespeople that ask if you are going to be staying for another night. They offer you a FREE night at a super, deluxe villa. It’s their sales ploy to get you in their building and sell you something.

It’s somewhat harassing and embarrassing for the person being sold to. I can’t imagine how it feels to depend on this approach to sell your product or service.

I won’t get too much into the psychology of it, but this approach is usually used by individuals promoting a product or services they don’t necessarily believe in or understand.

As a business owner, it is your number one job to know your product, know how it benefits others, and believe in your product. Years ago, there were telephone solicitors that would call up and ask you to change telephone service providers from AT&T to MCI to Sprint. (If you remember MCI, I’m pretty impressed). The salesperson would tout all the savings and added benefits and people would switch service providers. Stockbrokers would cold call people out of the phonebook- and people would buy!

People actually sent $5000 or $10,000 to a stockbroker to buy stock in XYZ as a result of one call from a stranger.

hello friendTimes have changed, folks. Not only have people been scammed, they are less trustworthy, and they are smarter. A great business man told me recently, it’s not that so many businesses are bad, they are failing because so many businesses are good.

For generations, businesses could continue to run even with bad customer service, poor products, and shoddy work. Today, people are smarter and more businesses are better at what they do that in the past. The market is more competitive, so you can’t simply cold call and make a sale. You must show someone who you are, why they need your product, and why they should buy from you.

As people get smarter, they can see through the sales-y pitch you are feeding them. People do not want to be sold. They don’t want to waste their time or money. If they get the impression that you have sold them or want to sell them something they don’t feel a need for now. They are not going to buy.

That doesn’t mean that they won’t need it later. But if you waste that opportunity by trying to sell them when they aren’t interested, they will never want to buy from you even if they do find a need for it in the future. So, slow down on the hard sale, and give people time to decide if they want your product, if it has value to them, and if they want to buy it from you!

5 Business Books I’m Reading (or Just Finished)

As a business owner, it is important to be a lifelong learner. I am constantly reading about the topics that are important to me. Unfortunately, (or not) I do not spend much time on fiction books. Business and law are my dreams and reality!  IMG_0229

With technology and strategy changing so fast, it is important to stay on top of new ideas and exploring new directions. I strive to read a book or two per week. I thought I’d share a list of business books that I just finished or am currently reading.

 

Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide for Making Money Doing What She Loves

by Christy Wright

How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

by John C. Maxwell

Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble

by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business: Turn Your Ideas into Money!

by Steve Mariotti

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

by Michael E. Gerber

To promote transparency, please note that I was not paid for the contents of this post. Happy reading!

 

Get Your Business Ready for Summer

Are you ready for the dog days of summer?IMG_1591[1]

For some, the summer means lying around the pool with unlimited lemonade and an umbrella overhead with a convenient misting system. For others, it’s business as usual! If your concerned about how the summer is going to impact your business, plan ahead and make the summer your best quarter yet!

Many business owners run their businesses the same way all four seasons. They set up a marketing plan with the goal of promoting their services or products without any thought to the changes that occur throughout the year.  It’s important to realize that business is different in the summer and recognize how this should affect your marketing efforts and will impact your bottom line.

Typically, one would think of clothing retailers and travel-centered businesses as examples of businesses that would be most affected by the seasonal changes that summer brings. A few others come to mind as well, like rental property, or even children’s dance studios (most do not provide dance class during the summer because of summer travel).

IMG_1589[1]But it is important that other businesses recognize that beautiful weather and time off from school can impact more than the typical businesses you often think of.

Take the time to brainstorm how your business may be impacted by the following:

  • Increased time available for children and teens
  • Increased demand on a parent’s time (possibly)
  • Hot whether equals less casual attire (at home and in the office)
  • Increased level of boredom for children at home while parents are working
  • Decreased funds due to having to entertain and feed kids all day, every day
  • Decreased local socializing and purchases due to family vacations and travel out of town or out of state
  • More or less outings to restaurants due to kids being out-of-school

The above list are just some examples that may affect your community during the summer months. On the other hand, your locale may see an opposite affect. For example, if you live in a vacation destination, you may have increase in traffic. Additionally, explore other changes (not just around family and children) that may affect your business.

Some people increase the amount of reading they do during the summer months. Others hire landscapers to free up time while DIYers may take on yard work to be outside more.

Evaluate changes in the market that could impact your business in the summer, and plan ways to reduce any negative impact they may have on your business.

Possible solutions to making the summer a great experience for you, your family, and your business include:

  • Using time-saving technology to schedule obligations in advance
  • Incorporate children into your daily business routine
  • Create a different marketing strategy or campaign for your business to utilize positive changes the season brings
  • Plan ahead to occupy children while you take care of your business responsibilities
  • Include rest and relaxation into your summer quarter and you would feel like you missed out

Feel good about the plan you’ve created to enjoy and make money during the summer. Look forward and do the same for the Fall! You’ll feel more prepared for the months ahead and reduce any negative affects the next season brings with it.

Practicing Conscientious Business

christmas parade

Give back to the community!

Conscientious businesses are also referred to as conscious business or conscious capitalism. They are businesses that choose to follow a business strategy that includes corporate social responsibility. Conscientious businesses approach day-to-day operations with an underlying awareness of purpose. This purpose is value-based and shines through from an organizations mission to its overall impact on the community.

Conscientious business is not just about profits, but an ongoing process of building relationships with other organizations as well as creating a better community. Some conscious businesses even express their efforts in reducing the impact their products and services have on the local environment and planet as a whole.

The unique component of conscientious business is that sometimes the fundamental principle of profitability, one of the most important aspects of for-profit businesses, conflicts with one’s interest in helping others or the overall social good.

On a global level, conscientious business can include working with environmentally-friendly distributors to creating sustainable product packaging. Overall, a conscious business is seeking to minimize its environmental impact on the planet.

A more local approach to conscious business would be to promote your positive impact on the people, businesses, and the community in which you live. Investing your time and energy in your community results in better local environment from a socio-economic standpoint, as well as, build relationships and promote purpose. Improving your community can include such things as working to improve parks and recreation programs for the summer, or striving to reduce hunger among your neighbors.

The great thing about conscientious business is that the efforts of the few have an exponential impact of the community at large. What can you do to make an impact on your community?

What is Micro-Entrepreneurship?

What is Micro-Entrepreneurship?

According to Wikipedia.com, micro-enterprise is defined as a small business employing nine or less individuals and having a balance sheet of a certain dollar amount. Investopedia’s definition of micro-enterprise agrees that less than ten employees, but adds that the business is started with a small amount of capital. Investopia.com also adds that micro-entrepreneurship usually operates in the goods and services sector focusing on local business. And Micro-Entrepreneurship for Dummies offers that many of these super-small enterprises are home-based and possibly use outsourcing.

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My  personal definition is a super-small business with less than 10 people working day-to-day. I usually refer to them as micro-businesses. They are created with low start-up funds. A micro-business is usually home-based, but can and often expands to store front operations.

The most important aspect of micro-business, is that the owners cannot always apply traditional, fundamental business practices to their organizations. Micro-business requires different skills, planning, and resources than a typical small business. I believe that this is a major factor in many of the failed businesses of the recent past. They used traditional business principles in their non-traditional business.

Many aspects of a micro-business can be very successful with the application of some traditional ideas, however, micro-businesses are different in many facets. Large advertising campaigns and expensive marketing strategies are simply difficult for a micro-business to pull off, let alone continue to grow and succeed.

According to an article published in Forbes Magazine January 16, 2015, 90% of Businesses Fail. The article was titled 90% of Businesses Fail: Here’s What You Need to Know About the 10%. It was written by Neil Patel and is very insightful. In addition, Erin Griffith wrote an article on business failure in Fortune, September 25, 2014 from the founder’s standpoint. The article includes a graph of the Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail. You can access that graph at: http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/.

I personally believe that more of these businesses can be saved, changed, or given new direction. It is important that micro-businesses use micro-business principles and recognize that many traditional business practices are deadly to super-small businesses.

 

References

www.investopedia.com/terms/m/microenterprise.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro-enterprise

http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/#6845e29255e1