Working Smart

I wrote a post on Boring Legal Stuff, and then my feed went silent. Or so it would seem, but in truth I was taking my own advice.  I wrote my Disclaimer, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. It was super duper boring! It is so boring, in the coming weeks, I have decided to post templates for you, for free!!! Are they ideal? No! Will you need to invest time in reviewing and editing them? Yes.  Can you get better free legal templates elsewhere? I am sure and maybe people will post links in the comments to help all of us.

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Until you have time to research better templates, or select an attorney as recommended in my previous article, using these templates as a starting point and crafting them for your business is “mayhaps” better than nothing.  NOTE: The links above are my current versions, but what I am going to do is consolidate it into one document and then take out my business names so you can fill in yours.  Stay tuned!

During this process, I got an interesting comment from @twerktospec.  100% true, he mentioned the blood, sweat and tears are not enough. You’ve gotta “work smarter” .  But what does that mean? A lot. It means more than we can cover in a post or two. And it is vital to the success of a venture in today’s business climate.

Rising to the point of profit in any market (paper shuffling corporation, pop star, super model, used car sales, fresh fruit bouquet delivery… every market) is not JUST about being the hardest working, it’s about being the smartest working. Likely, it will take both.

How to join the work smart camp? From an overarching standpoint, I think this comes in three steps, each of which could likely be the subject of a book, and maybe I will write that book someday, but here we go:

  1. Vision: You must have a vision.  And although you can start with something abstract (“I want a million dollars”, “I want to be the czar of my own island”, “I want to bake the best legal pot brownies ever”), you have to decompose this vision into actionable steps.  You must break it down into chunks so small that the path to your vision has very little mystery to it.  It becomes tangible at that point and you will be doing yourself a favor because when the path is clear, all you need to do to try it out is put one foot in front of the other and start making it happen.
  2. Team: Working alone is far from ideal. There will be things you don’t know or cannot anticipate, and even though you will give up some control by inviting other perspectives to your party, it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people who support your venture and bring complimentary skills to it (e.g. if you are a programmer starting a software business, maybe find someone good with finance or good with marketing – round out a team that can make your app successful).  As a team, you need to push each other toward the vision – do not let it get stagnant.
  3. Shielding: Shielding comes is several flavors – psychological, financial and legal are the flavors I am talking about. Remember the blood, sweat and tears comment? Your idea might fail, the team members you trusted might stab you in the back, your whole dream might implode upon itself.  Congratulations, you are doing it right. If success comes easy, that’s rare and I applaud you, but it if not, every time you bleed, sweat or cry, is a teachable moment. Learn from it, and you become (dun dun dunnnnn) smarter!  Financially, don’t start something that introduces more risk than you can handle.  If you have $5,000 to your name, don’t go all in on double zeroes and spin the cosmic roulette wheel. Scope your venture to your capital (Not getting into investors here… and please do NOT take out loans or use credit cards to fund a venture, just don’t unless someone trustworthy with a background in accounting or finance has advised you otherwise).  And finally, the legal shielding.  I wrote the boring legal post for a reason – it is about protecting yourself.  You will need to create an entity, file taxes, comply with permits/regulations. And in the case of team members, you need to agree UP FRONT how business decisions, expenses, stock and the like are handled across your team. That stuff can be daunting, but start small and go from there.

Wish I could say, “That’s it!” But, although that IS it for this post, there is probably a lot more to write. There is certainly a lot more for you to do, if you want to take a dream for a test drive.  Scope your vision and limit your risk to something you can afford to lose, and go ahead and try it – learn from it whether you succeed or fail. Build your next vision from there. We learn to walk by falling down, as they say, so although I didn’t enjoy watching my children fall down, and I did have to prop them up along the way (much like your team will need to be there for each other), I am very proud to say they all learned to walk, and so will you… only smarterer!

Finally, although this post is written from the standpoint of owning or starting a business, if you have an existing employer these additional tips might keep you out of hot water, or these tips can help you if you want to apply some of this “work smarter” stuff to your career.  Remember the boring legal article? There are some key pitfalls you want to keep in mind when trying out these tactics in addition to your existing career or as part of your career:

  1. Non-Competition, Confidentiality or Conflict of Interest: In short, don’t try anything that involves taking customers/business away from your current employer or directing resources in a way that damages your employer’s business.  That’s all bad. Even if you think you can just quit your gig…remember the financial shielding above? “I’ll just quit my job [no financial shielding] at Hostess, take their customer roster [confidential and proprietary information] and sell my ‘best-ever’ pot brownies [conflict of interest & competition] to those customers!” Yeah, better rethink that playbook, boss. Most non-competition clauses last a year or two AFTER you have left the employer, and at NO point is it OK to run off with proprietary information that clearly belongs to a previous employer.  
  2. Intellectual Property Claims: Some employers make you sign over any rights to anything you invent while you work for them. In general, if you do stuff after hours, using ONLY your equipment/resources and not while at the office, you might have a better chance of protecting yourself… so, don’t use the company laptop to write your game, or the company photocopier to make flyers, and be aware of what documents you have signed.
  3. Another good idea is to not pick your team all from the same employer. That can cause problems! It’s the age of the interwebz – you can find every skill set in every zip code with a little effort.

Vision, Team and Shielding. If you are starting a business, take it for a spin.  If you have an existing career or want to apply it to your career, by all means, see what kind of adventures you can embark upon, just be sure not to forget what you are being paid to do – either align directly with that or apply some finesse/negotiations to appease whoever signs your paycheck (and it is always best to get that in writing – if not a formal agreement, then an email or SMS – something to cover you).  

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