FREE LUNCH #6 | Show Me The Paper

Hand Shakes and Contracts

You have agreed to work together.  Now let’s get it in writing.  Contracts are a dirty word for many entrepreneurs because it implies a lot of ‘legal mumbo-jumbo’ that slows the process of creativity.

A contract is simply a written record of the agreement between you and the other people involved in your idea, which is recognised as a legal obligation.  Both parties define what’s in a contract and not the other way around.  Think of contracts more like the minutes of the meeting where everyone agreed what you are going to do and how, then signed to proved it.  It also protect both of you when the other doesn’t, can’t or won’t do what you had originally agreed to do.

They come in various shapes and one size does not fit all.  As the owner of an idea one of the first contracts you could consider is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).  NDAs allow you to share information about your idea with someone else with a legally recognised agreement that they won’t share it with anyone else.  

NDAs can be:

One Way Non-Disclosure Agreements where it is one person sharing their confidential information with someone else or,

Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreements when everyone involved is sharing sensitive information about their ideas or businesses.

Here is a useful guide on NDAs from the Intellectual Property Office (UK).  It is our strong recommendation that you involve a legal expert when drawing up any contract – even if you are modifying a template.  It’s an investment which could literally save your business.

For more FREE LUNCH insights browse the blog and follow @ideasgenius

FREE LUNCH #5 | Talk is Cheap and Doesn’t Pay The Bills

Less Talk More Action

Not sure which film that’s from but it is a phrase to heed. Fun as talking may be, just talking doesn’t make things happen.

Ideas are meant to change or influence something. They make a difference and innovate. It’s great talking to others who share your passion and who also want to talk but at some point you have to move from ‘that’s a great idea’ to ‘here’s what we’re going to do’ – from TALKING to DOING.

Having a meetings about what you do can seem exciting but you should appreciate that you are meeting for a reason. A reason which could turn a cosy, optimistic chat into an awkward discussion about timetables, deadlines and investing.

So here is an aid to help ease those conversation.

At the stage you feel both parties are equally engaged in making something happen (if they’ve mentioned it more than twice it’s safe to assume interest) get to the MEAT.

I’m not a fan of acronyms but in this case I’ll make an exception (as I’m equally not a fan of awkward conversations).

Discussing the MEAT means:

MOTIVATION. What’s in it for both of you? Is it something that could strategically move your businesses forward? An expertise that could be exploited by the idea? Or simply an interest. Finding out what will motivate either person in a deal is vital to their commitment. If it’s not that important to either of you then feel free to enjoy your cosy chats without the pressure of taking it further.

EVALUATE. Now if that both parties are committed, the next discussion is about the market, potential customers, how long it could take to make it work, who the competitors are, etc. These are all the things you would need to put into a business plan. At this stage it’s still a discussion. You may also find that there are a few unknowns that need further investigation. That’s when you move on to A…

ACTIONS. You can start scribbling now. Decide who will compile the proof of the EVALUATE questions you’ve discussed or do the research on the ones that couldn’t be answered. At this point you may discover that one party has more to do than the other. This might be a clue to how you manage the relationship going forward.

TIMESCALE. Having worked out WHAT has to be done and by WHOM, discuss WHEN it can be done. Be realistic. Have you got a deadline looming which could tie you up for months? Share that now. If you’re both going to put your weight behind it make sure you’re both free to. Again this might be a clue to how you could be working on the project; one of you may have more time to commit to the idea on a day-to-day basis than the other.

By now you should be fairly confident about moving from talking to doing… or not. The next post deals with getting it down on paper.

For more FREE LUNCH insights about working with your ideas, follow @ideasgenius.

FREE LUNCH #4 | The Art of Networking

Networking Image

Networking is important. Here’s why and how to do it to help your business or brand become more successful. Firstly though, why network at all?

  1. Grows your clients, customers, consumers or congregation. We become more successful by selling or sharing what we do with more people. Networking gives you a bigger pond from which to fish.
  2. Grows your suppliers, supporters or sponsors. We maintain success by making the best use of our resources. Others have access or finances that will make that task easier.
  3. Grows your expertise. No matter how small your ambition is, there’s likely to be a lack of experience or knowledge in getting to it. Otherwise you would be doing it already. In the meantime you can ‘borrow’ other people’s experience.

So how do I network? Networking isn’t a beauty pageant. You’re not simply showing off how pretty your company or idea is. Neither is it about collecting as many business cards as you can. It’s about the contacts on those cards and how they can help you grow.  Here’s what to do.

Have A Hit List.

Do some research on the speakers, sponsors or others on the guest list who would like to connect with at a networking event. Contact them in advance via social media (if you can’t get to them directly), letting them know you’re going to be there and would like a QUICK chat about something. Make it something that will highlight your idea or business, or new insight on their industry etc. You’ll be more prepared, feel less like a gooseberry and it will make the event much more worthwhile.

Know What You Need.

Make sure your brand, idea and ethos are in unison (FREE LUNCH #1). You need to be clear about what your success depends on because you have a good business plan. If it’s finance, how much? If it’s access or experts, who exactly do you need (FREE LUNCH #2)?

Know Who You Are.

Your Elevator Pitch will help you through the nervous first few seconds of introductions. There’s nothing worse than ‘Hi I’m Brian… I’m Trevor’ *awkward silence* to kill the rapport you are trying to build (FREE LUNCH #3).

Strike first and confidently, then ask ‘what do you do?’ Are they someone who can help your business? Yes, then well done. You’re on your way to greater success. Maybe you’re not sure yet though. Ask them why they came to this event. Why are they networking?

Remember the principal is ‘puff puff pass’. Feel free to share – contacts and information. This person may not be able to help you but could be perfect for someone else. Introducing them to each other will gain you extra brownie points.

Successful networking is about being strategic with your time and engaging contacts with your ideas. For more FREE LUNCH ideas insights, follow @ideasgenius or browse the blog and be inspired.

FREE LUNCH #3 | What Do You Do Again?

Blank Business Card

It may come as a surprise but one of the hardest things to do is communicate what your business is in one clear statement.

We are so close to our brands that we can see all its opportunities and possibilities. However if we communicate all the options to others it might sound like our business is all over the place.

We can oversell our contacts and access without really saying what it is we do. Other times we undersell ourselves by just giving our job title or business sector. For instance, ‘Hi I’m Brian Bloom.  I’m in Sales and Marketing” doesn’t say much about the dynamic company you work for.

You must master saying what you do in a concise, direct and convincing way.

A simple way is the A + B = C formula

“I do A with B to get C

  • A is your skill/expertise
  • B is the sector you’re in/with and,
  • C is your marketable product or services.

For example:

Metro Finance negotiates with investment banks to access funding for business start-ups

Elevator Pitches are another way honing your business communication. It’s simply a 30 second script about what you do. It’s based on the average amount of time you has to talk to someone in a lift – hence the name Elevator Pitch.

However you chose to do it, getting the definition and communication of your business right is key to being memorable and successful networking.

Follow @ideasgenius for more FREE LUNCH and other ideas insights.

FREE LUNCH #2 | More Going Out Than Coming In

We are not talking about profit here, but there is probably a problem in your business model if you are laying out much more than you have identified as income.

Money Down The Drain

 Maybe it’s time to look at your business closely:

  • What are you paying for?
  • Is it set-up costs?
  • Investments?

Even when the scale of difference between income and expenditure is not as high as ten-fold, it is possible that your finances are not as efficient as they could be.

A good business plan will help you sort this out.  We can’t stress how vital a business plan is to the backbone of any enterprise.  Setting up as a business without a business plan is a lot like going ice skating without ice skates!

Your outgoings in this phase of your business might be legitimate costs.  However, they could also be compensating for market research which would have identified something you are now paying for.  Something which could have been avoided if it had been done better planning before promoting your services and products.

At the point where you recognise that there’s much more going out than you have commitment for (written contracts, agreements, deposits, etc.) it is a good idea to stop and take stock of what you actually have.  Sometimes asking someone who know little about your business can help you be more objective.  Are you running an expensive hobby instead of sustainable business?

Maybe your current business organisation isn’t best for your business?  Perhaps it’s time to form a partnership with someone who is more expert or has better access to the areas you’re spending most on?

Spending money to gain business isn’t always fatal; haemorrhaging money is.  If you are in this position continue with FREE LUNCH insights this week and follow @ideasgenius on Twitter.