Small Business Reading Room

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Can a Business Referral Network Bring Additional Customers to Your Business?

The Wilmington News Journal reports today in their business section that five new Delaware chapters are being added to a business referral network which has local branches but a national and international scope of service.

The idea behind the BNI referral network is that business owners join a local group, and meet weekly over breakfast or lunch, and talk about referral opportunities for each other. At each meeting, one of the members talks specifically about their business, and what they may have to offer to clients and acquaintences of the other members.

The main page of the site (see the "international" link above) claims that this is the largest business referral system in the world. One interesting aspect of it is that each local "network" can only have a single representative from a particular business type. So, there can only be one lawyer, one accountant, one handyman, one pest control service provider, and so on.

There is a fee to join a network, but it sounds like it may be possible to earn that fee back fairly quickly with referrals from others. According to their web site, there are over 4,200 chapters world wide with approximately 84,000 members. Each individual chapter contains from 15 - 50 members.

Is something like this worth doing for your business? It may be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Digital Copyrights and Responding to Business Threats

If you haven't visited YouTube, you've missed out on one of the more interesting sites, and phenomena on the web in recent times. The site allows anyone who wants, to post videos online to be shared with others for free.

People can add keyword tags to videos that they upload, or videos that they watch, to help describe them and help others find those videos.

There is a section of the site which describes Copyright and Inappropriate Content, and asks people not to post videos that don't infringe copyrights. However, people do post content that they don't own the copyright to, without the permission of the owners of those videos.

That's one of the risks that a business takes when their business focuses upon creating material that can be so easily copied digitally. How do you respond as a business when something like this happens to you? A business 2.0 blog post looks at one piece of that puzzle in Universal Threatens YouTube With a CopyFight.

I was going to write more about this topic when I first came across that post, not expecting a quick followup post on the business 2.0 blog - YouTube Announces New Copyright Tracking System.

I'm stunned and surprised that YouTube acted so quickly, but I shouldn't be. A business should be aware of the potential risks that they take, and having a system that allows people to post digital material like this runs the risk of potential problems with the producers of that material.

What's even more interesting about this is that Warner Music is involved in letting YouTube users use music from their catalog in videos that appear on the site, and will provide them with video editing tools that will make it easier for them to use that material.

The press release is worth reading: Warner Music Group and YouTube Announce Landmark Video Distribution and Revenue Partnership

It's interesting to see how Universal and Warner are taking different stands on how to treat the materials that they own the copyright to, and how YouTube has responded so quickly to concerns that these producers have.

As an example of different ways to respond to threats to your business, it shows that there are different approaches that you can take - some of them potentially negative and some of them positive. It also shows that YouTube has been planning ahead for this potential problem.

9 out of 10 Lawyers Recommend Delaware Limited Liability Companies

I have been involved with several recent seminars for attorneys, where we are told that it is malpractice to recommend something other than an LLC when someone is forming a business, unless there is a compelling reason to use a different type of corporation.

This isn't a surprise, considering the many upsides of a Delaware Limited Liability Company. The word "malpractice" is strong, but maybe it's right. When you consider your options... partnerships; limited partnerships; C-Corporations; S-Corporations; Stock Corporations; sole proprietorships... LLC's tend to be most beneficial to people.

LLC's are a blend of Corporate law and Partnership law, that takes the best from both areas and combines them for a flexible and safe business structure.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Even If You Don't Have a Web Site, You Can Get Your Business Listed in Google Local

Is your business findable on the web? Regardless of whether or not you have a web site?

I'm trying to remember the last time I picked up a phone book. I usually try to find an address or a phone number for local businesses on the web. If you have a business that people can visit in person, you may want to consider that I'm not the only one who has stopped looking in the yellow pages.

Google has a specialized search that people can use to find businesses in their area. Using it to find a business means going to the main page of Google, and selecting the "Maps" tab above the search box. Supposedly, only a small percentage of searchers actually use that specialized search, but results from that specialized local search are often shown at the top of normal web searches in Google.

Google will try to include information about your business in their Google Local database if your business is listed in a phone book. You don't even need a web page.

But that phone directory listing only contains some information about your business, and it may not always be correct. Google also tries to collect information about your business from other web pages that may contain the information, including your businesses web site, and possibly directory sites that have information about your business.

You can register your business with Google at the Google Local Business Center. The registration requires that you authenticate your business information by providing a phone number for them to confirm your information with, or an address where they can mail you information.

It can take a number of weeks for the registration to take effect, but it allows you to verify a correct address, and include other information, such as days the business is open, business hours, types of payments taken. If your business has more than one location, you can manage them from a single account.

You can also offer coupons for customers to print out and use through Google Maps.

If you sign up with Google Local Business Center, let us know how it goes.

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Delaware Intercorp, Inc.
113 Barksdale Professional center
Newark, DE 19711-3258

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is Delaware and the best incorporator is
Delaware Intercorp!"

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