Friday, May 16, 2014

How to Protect Your Valuable Business Ideas

Every business has ideas it has developed to do things more efficiently. Or the business owner has come up with a way to produce his product in a manner his competitors cannot copy. Better yet, the owner has devised a variation on an existing product that makes it more durable in the marketplace. A business customer list is also an example. These ideas or innovations are important to a business’s success and allows them to gain competitive advantage over their competitors. 

But how can an idea be protected? They first must be tangible and able to be seen, read, touched or in some other physical form.  If a business owner has no way to protect these new ideas then the chances are they will never see the light of day. The rest of society will not benefit from these new opportunities. There are four legal ways to protect your idea: patent, copy right, trade secret and trademark.  

The first one – patent – is the most common way. Here the inventor files a disclosure on the invention with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ( to review. This office is responsible for making sure the idea is able to patented.  There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant.
With an utility patent, you obtain protection on how a product is used and works. 
The design patent then only pertains to the way the product looks.
Finally the plant patent is aimed to protect new species of plants that are bred.  There are some types of plant creation that is not covered so make sure you check into the possibility if you invent some new types of plants.

The second type of protection is a copyright. These protection devices are also managed by the Federal Government at the Library of Congress ( This method protects an author’s rights to original creative works. An interesting website on copyright is where they have an article on the top ten myths of the topic.

Next, we have trade secrets which are handled entirely differently.  They are not protected through Federal registration but through the legal system on all levels – federal, state and local laws. Some factors that determine if your idea is really a trade secret is:
1)      How many people  know it outside the business (hopefully none is the answer)
2)      How many people, within the business, know the secret (hopefully few)
3)      How is it be safeguarded
4)      How important would it be to competitors
5)      How much did it cost to create this idea

If a business wants to protect information, it should keep in mind the above five questions as those efforts will help a court realize you are serious about this idea. As you can see from the questions above, a trade secret deals with the operations of the business and not information dealing with payroll for example .

The final way to protect your idea is through a trademark. These protection techniques are registered at the state level (usually at your secretary of state office of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ( Here you are dealing with a recognizable sign, design, or expression that clearly identifies the product or service of a particular company.  An easy example is the Coca-Cola trademark for Coke. Trademarks have their roots as far back as the Roman Empire where blacksmiths would mark their swords. 
So even if you are a small business but have creative ideas, you can gain protection for your ideas. Please contact me with any questions. I am here to help!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is Your Business Ready to Grow?


It is the goal of any business to grow that is a fact. But the big question is when is the business ready to grow? Many small businesses try to grow before they are ready and end up in cash flow problems. Others keep waiting and never work on growing to maximize their potential. Knowing that key moment in time is vital to the success of a business growing successfully.

For a business owner to know when it is right for growth, the mission, vision and values of the business must be in line with each other and with each part of the business from sales to production. If the owner’s eye is not on analyzing the current situation to make the smartest decisions for the future, then growth will be a struggle for the business.

One of the first steps an owner has to do in preparing to grow is to define what success means to him. Kauffman, the world’s leading foundation for entrepreneurism, says, “you need to define success in three ways: personal, professional and financial.” Only the business owner/partners can say what the goals for success are when you talk about those definitions.

The second step, according to Kauffman, is to evaluate your business. Here owners need to take an internal assessment of their business where they look at operations, sales, employees, and trends. Also seeing what is happening in the industry and in the local area to make sure the growth plans are capable.

The final step is to finalize your goals for growth and start to work on them. While these goals are focused on the future, they affect decisions made daily because the daily operation is what allows the future to happen. The goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Departmental, sales, production and other areas of the business needs to have the goals set for the future so the business owner can see the movement towards them and the future growth.

The local Small Business Technology Development Center of Cape Girardeau County serves the Southeast Missouri area. If there is a question on small business, feel free to call Richard Proffer at 573-243-3591 or email him at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Business Planning 101

Business Planning 101

Developing a business plan is sometimes a daunting task and hard work by business owners. However, business planning can help advance any company or small business forward. Why write a business plan, you may ask, it provides entrepreneurs a powerful tool for the foundation and goals for their business. There are many reasons to why writing a business plan is essential to any owner. One local business owner in Cape Girardeau Mo., said, “All businesses should have a business plan because this allows entrepreneurs to brainstorm ideas that they would like to implement how to accomplish them.”
Think of a business plan as a blueprint for a home. What can help keep the house up and steady? What makes a blueprint for a house successful? As for a businesses, what can help a business stay steady and up and running? Also, how can a business increase profit? What can help make a business a successful one? The answer is preparation and developing a business plan. Business plans are excellent tools for implementing the company’s vision, mission, and goals to investors, customers, and even employees. Also, to give any business any chance of success, writing a business plan will guarantee that business owners pay attention to financial details, such a budgeting. According to Rieva Lesonksy, author of A Business Plan DoublesYour Chances for Success, says the findings of a new survey, “The study indicated that the type of entrepreneur who completes a business plan is more likely to run a successful business.” Some new business owners can spend two and a half years developing a thorough business plan. Sometimes this helps the person get from concept to design. The business plan will help lay everything out for many business entrepreneurs.
With every company, comes a competitor, and establishing a business plan will provide business owners with strategies to differentiate theirproducts.  This allows them to better market their business to customers better than the competitor can. Also, business planning is a critical time process because it allows entrepreneurs to test “what-if” situations and create back-up plans just incase the first plan turns out a little differently than what was expected. The business plan can show you what your business’s strengths and weaknesses are and this forces the entrepreneurs to create a timeline of events that must happen. Also, plans can help provide organization tactics for business owners. Nonetheless, business plans will help entrepreneurs survive over time and have a constructive impact to their business.
Your local small business technology development center in Jackson, MO is always ready to help any future or present entrepreneur plan for their start up or growth of the business idea.  The Jackson center serves the I-55 corridor from Ste. Genevieve to Pemiscot counties and includes Bollinger, Madison, Iron, St. Francois and Washington counties. The center is also part of a statewide network so the resources extend beyond Southeast Missouri. For assistance just call 573-243-3581 and ask for Richard Proffer.