How to Write a Business Plan, Small Business Administration

How to Write a Business Plan, Small Business Administration

Your business plan is the foundation of your business. Learn how to write a business plan quickly and efficiently with a business plan template.

Business plans help you run your business

A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You’ll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It’s a way to think through the key elements of your business.

Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners. Investors want to feel confident they’ll see a return on their investment. Your business plan is the tool you’ll use to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice.

Pick a business plan format that works for you

There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan. What’s important is that your plan meets your needs.

Most business plans fall into one of two common categories: traditional or lean startup.

Traditional business plans are more common, use a standard structure, and encourage you to go into detail in each section. They tend to require more work upfront and can be dozens of pages long.

Lean startup business plans are less common but still use a standard structure. They focus on summarizing only the most important points of the key elements of your plan. They can take as little as one hour to make and are typically only one page.

Traditional business plan

This type of plan is very detailed, takes more time to write, and is comprehensive. Lenders and investors commonly request this plan.

Traditional business plan

This type of plan is very detailed, takes more time to write, and is comprehensive. Lenders and investors commonly request this plan.

Traditional business plan format

You might prefer a traditional business plan format if you’re very detail-oriented, want a comprehensive plan, or plan to request financing from traditional sources.

When you write your business plan, you don’t have to stick to the exact business plan outline. Instead, use the sections that make the most sense for your business and your needs. Traditional business plans use some combination of these nine sections.

Executive summary

Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful. Include your mission statement, your product or service, and basic information about your company’s leadership team, employees, and location. You should also include financial information and high-level growth plans if you plan to ask for financing.

Company description

Use your company description to provide detailed information about your company. Go into detail about the problems your business solves. Be specific, and list out the consumers, organization, or businesses your company plans to serve.

Explain the competitive advantages that will make your business a success. Are there experts on your team? Have you found the perfect location for your store? Your company description is the place to boast about your strengths.

Market analysis

You’ll need a good understanding of your industry outlook and target market. Competitive research will show you what other businesses are doing and what their strengths are. In your market research, look for trends and themes. What do successful competitors do? Why does it work? Can you do it better? Now’s the time to answer these questions.

Organization and management

Tell your reader how your company will be structured and who will run it.

Describe the legal structure of your business. State whether you have or intend to incorporate your business as a C or an S corporation, form a general or limited partnership, or if you’re a sole proprietor or limited liability company (LLC).

Use an organizational chart to lay out who’s in charge of what in your company. Show how each person’s unique experience will contribute to the success of your venture. Consider including resumes and CVs of key members of your team.

Service or product line

Describe what you sell or what service you offer. Explain how it benefits your customers and what the product lifecycle looks like. Share your plans for intellectual property, like copyright or patent filings. If you’re doing research and development for your service or product, explain it in detail.

Marketing and sales

There’s no single way to approach a marketing strategy. Your strategy should evolve and change to fit your unique needs.

Your goal in this section is to describe how you’ll attract and retain customers. You’ll also describe how a sale will actually happen. You’ll refer to this section later when you make financial projections, so make sure to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales strategies.

Funding request

If you’re asking for funding, this is where you’ll outline your funding requirements. Your goal is to clearly explain how much funding you’ll need over the next five years and what you’ll use it for.

Specify whether you want debt or equity, the terms you’d like applied, and the length of time your request will cover. Give a detailed description of how you’ll use your funds. Specify if you need funds to buy equipment or materials, pay salaries, or cover specific bills until revenue increases. Always include a description of your future strategic financial plans, like paying off debt or selling your business.

Financial projections

Supplement your funding request with financial projections. Your goal is to convince the reader that your business is stable and will be a financial success.

If your business is already established, include income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the last three to five years. If you have other collateral you could put against a loan, make sure to list it now.

Provide a prospective financial outlook for the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. For the first year, be even more specific and use quarterly — or even monthly — projections. Make sure to clearly explain your projections, and match them to your funding requests.

This is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business.  


Use your appendix to provide supporting documents or other materials were specially requested. Common items to include are credit histories, resumes, product pictures, letters of reference, licenses, permits, patents, legal documents, and other contracts.

Example traditional business plans

Before you write your business plan, read the following example business plans written by fictional business owners. Rebecca owns a consulting firm, and Andrew owns a toy company.

Lean startup format

You might prefer a lean startup format if you want to explain or start your business quickly, your business is relatively simple, or you plan to regularly change and refine your business plan.

Lean startup formats are charts that use only a handful of elements to describe your company’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. They’re useful for visualizing tradeoffs and fundamental facts about your company.

There are different ways to develop a lean startup template. You can search the web to find free templates to build your business plan. We discuss nine components of a model business plan here:

Key partnerships

Note the other businesses or services you’ll work with to run your business. Think about suppliers, manufacturers, subcontractors, and similar strategic partners.

Key activities

List the ways your business will gain a competitive advantage. Highlight things like selling direct to consumers, or using technology to tap into the sharing economy.

Key resources

List any resource you’ll leverage to create value for your customer. Your most important assets could include staff, capital, or intellectual property. Don’t forget to leverage business resources that might be available to womenveteransNative Americans, and HUBZone businesses.

Value proposition

Make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market.

Customer relationships

Describe how customers will interact with your business. Is it automated or personal? In person or online? Think through the customer experience from start to finish.

Customer segments

Be specific when you name your target market. Your business won’t be for everybody, so it’s important to have a clear sense of whom your business will serve.


List the most important ways you’ll talk to your customers. Most businesses use a mix of channels and optimize them over time.

Cost structure

Will your company focus on reducing cost or maximizing value? Define your strategy, then list the most significant costs you’ll face pursuing it.

Revenue streams

Explain how your company will actually make money. Some examples are direct sales, memberships fees, and selling advertising space. If your company has multiple revenue streams, list them all.

Example lean business plan

Before you write your business plan, read this example business plan written by a fictional business owner, Andrew, who owns a toy company.

Original document, How to Write a Business Plan, Small Business Administration
Source:https: SBA
Adapted for Academy.Warriorrising

What is a Sphere of Influence and How to Leverage One for Business

What is a Sphere of Influence and How to Leverage One for Business

Before we talk about what is a sphere of influence and why its critical for many in business, let me first give you a short history lesson to provide you a useful analogy.

If you’re old enough to have lived through parts of the Cold War, or are a student of history, you probably have heard of the term “sphere of influence.” According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, this principle has its origins in the ancient empires. Each empire had its surrounding area where they got to shape policy and trade rules, without directly ruling the area. For instance, the Romans would trade with surrounding areas, and then help with defense if necessary.

Later on, during the Victorian period, the Germans and British had an agreement on the “sphere of influence” for each country. The agreement stipulated that the British wouldn’t interfere in areas influenced by the Germans, and vice versa. Finally, the biggest recent example of a political sphere of influence is the Cold War. Here, you had the Soviet Union exercising its influence on Eastern European countries. Then, the Americans and British had their sphere of influence in Western Europe and most of the Americas.

Most recently, we have seen both Russia try to revive the Soviet Sphere as well as China trying to expand their spheres of influence in Asia and globally through their Belt and Road Initiative, fostering economic development internationally, as well as the construction of new military bases in the South Pacific. Both of these developments have made the United States tap into its own spheres of influence in the European Economic Union, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia in order to counter-balance their efforts. The expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland has only expanded its own sphere of influence in European politics.

As you can see, spheres of influence in politics are as strong as ever today, but they are also a force in business and personal relationships. And when we convert that sphere of influence digitally, it becomes a powerful form of influencer collaboration that can drive real business.

How a Sphere of Influence is Used in Business Today

In business, we think of a sphere of influence as the people who find what we say trustworthy. This might mean that someone asks your opinion on what product is best. For example, if you are an expert at giving financial advice, someone might ask you about the stock pick of the week. Or, someone looking for a used car might ask a trusted mechanic what is easy to fix or known for its reliability. This position of trust is used in various ways when nurturing business relationships.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular business areas in which a sphere of influence is used in business today.


For most people, the biggest purchase they’ll ever make is a home. Whether that’s a two bedroom starter home or a mansion with lots of land, the buyer will typically hire a Realtor. Then, this Realtor will help the buyer find a great house at an affordable price. This person is being paid for expertise, advice, and logistical support.

Let’s say that the Realtor does a great job with a particular sale. For instance, by dealing with a seller who keeps trying to change the rules during escrow (this does happen, unfortunately). Finally, the Realtor cuts through the nonsense and gets that sale closed. In such cases, a buyer is typically all too happy to recommend that Realtor to a friend or colleague who wants to buy or sell a home.

Here, we see two examples of the sphere of influence. First, the Realtor influences the buyer to choose a particular house, based on his or her experience and professional judgement. Second, the buyer rewards great service by giving a referral. In both cases, the person giving advice is exercising influence. Over time, the Realtor will get more referrals, and the person making the referral will become more trusted as reliability is proven. Some Realtors will send postcards or similar on occasion to let a buyer or seller know they’re still in business, just in case the need for another real estate transaction arises. In that way, they’re keeping track of their sphere of influence.

In this way clients become part of a realtor’s sphere of influence, but it doesn’t stop there. Friends and family are often an important part of an agent’s sphere of influence. And let’s not forget about all of the other companies that need to work together to serve the consumer: mortgage bankers, home inspection professionals, financial advisors, insurance salespeople, etc. These professional relationships that become part of an agent’s sphere of influence can also become a powerful source of leads and introductions for both parties over time.

Insurance salespeople

Here’s a similar example. When we buy insurance, it’s sometimes hard to know how much insurance we actually need. Worse, knowing how to get the right insurance for an affordable price can seem daunting. The more complicated our insurance needs, the worse this problem becomes. Insurance agents help us bridge that gap. A good one will listen, evaluate, and recommend. Then, if the plan needs tweaks, these can be made. In this way, the agent is working within their sphere of influence.

As with Realtors, insurance salespeople need referrals. Especially when someone new moves into town or has a major life change, that person might ask around for recommendations for a new insurance agent. Then, they’ll often call a recommended agent for advice.

Unlike Realtors, insurance agents often need to deal with the same people many times over the course of a few years. For that reason, they typically work harder to keep up relationships with existing customers. One example of this might be an auto insurance agency that sends swag with the agency name on it to the customer whenever the policy is up for renewal. Another way this can be done is to occasionally call a customer to see if their needs have changed recently.

Similar to real estate agents, though, professional relationships are also an important part of an insurance salesperson’s sphere of influence.

General Sales

If there’s one thing that sales professionals are known for, it’s constant networking and follow up. Some will search LinkedIn for prospects, and others attend conferences. Over time, they develop quite a list of leads that are then followed up on. Then, like other kinds of sales people, they’ll ask for referrals.

Keeping up with these leads can be challenging, which is why CRM software and other resources are often used heavily. Email marketing, for instance, is used to maintain a sphere of influence over sales prospects. So is content marketing, which gains customer loyalty through education. This way, once a customer contacts the sales department, they already have an idea of what’s being offered. Sales then guides a customer to the most advantageous choice.

How Social Media Allows You to Extend and Keep in Better Touch with Your Current Sphere of Influence

One of the challenges that sales and marketing professionals face is keeping track of their efforts to expand their sphere of influence as well as regularly keeping in touch with them to maintain top of mind mindshare. While CRM software is important for maintaining customer contact information, the information has to be used to better keep in touch with their sphere of influence.

Among the more effective tools for leveraging a sphere of influence which is also the most under-utilized by many is social media. Here are some ways this can be done.


It used to be that sales prospecting required a lot of painstaking work that included cold calls and sending letters. While these methods are still used on occasion, social media is rapidly taking over as a method of choice to expand one’s sphere of influence.

Some social networks not only embrace this change, they encourage it. For instance, LinkedIn has a premium service for sales professionals. Unlike ordinary LinkedIn members, subscribers to Sales Navigator can more easily get sales leads. For instance, they can instantly become more contactable by being part of the OpenLink network and can send direct messages to top prospects in the form of InMails. Enterprise level members can even plug LinkedIn profile information directly into CRM software such as Salesforce.

Content distribution

Another way in which companies or individuals can expand and maintain their sphere of influence on social media is by using it for content distribution. For instance, many business websites have blogs. These contain all kinds of useful information, but it’s hard to find them without both proper SEO and distribution. So, companies will use social media to distribute the content and drive site traffic. Maybe they advertise the post through illustrations on Instagram. Or, they might post the content on LinkedIn directly or through a link. Facebook and Twitter, likewise, are great ways to drive traffic.

Smart real estate agents and salespeople take it one step further by leveraging company information and sharing it in social media with their networks to both keep in touch with and influence their sphere of influence. I have seen savvy salespeople even curate 3rd part content that is geared not towards promoting their own company but in supporting their sphere of influence.


While content distribution focuses on sharing professional content with your sphere of influence that is often derived from your corporate marketing, social media updates allow you to keep in touch all the time simply by being active on social media posting lifestyle content or engaging on the feeds of your sphere with influence.

As with content distribution, the point of updates is to keep track of and engage with your sphere of influence. Whether it’s the travel junkie posting the latest trip photos or commentary on the latest happenings, updates allow social media followers to see what is going on. Sales people often will post about the latest product launch, for instance. Similarly, there might be regulatory changes in the industry that require the attention of customers. These can be mentioned on social media with an invitation to follow up.

Even a relatable photo of yourself will maintain mindshare with your sphere of influence who, like the rest of us, spend more and more time on social media.

How to Leverage Your Sphere of Influence for Influencer Marketing

In many ways, influencer marketing is as old as word of mouth. Think about it this way: friends and social contacts tend to ask each other for advice. If I move to another town, I’ll need a barber, and honest car mechanic, and a great physician. Besides calling my insurance company for a doctor referral, there’s a good chance I will reach out to people I know. Finding a barber might involve looking at Yelp reviews, and the same goes with an honest mechanic. However, I probably will talk to people I’ve gotten to know in my new area. Later, after I’m established, I’ll be happy to tell the next newcomer where to get the car fixed. From this phenomenon, we can see how influencer marketing developed.

Those sales professionals who have been networking and developed their own sphere of influence might be considered nano influencers. From that perspective, they can yield their digital influencer and leverage their network in many ways.

Create your own platform

The more you are considered an influencer, the more your sphere of influence will listen to you and the easier it will be to expand your influence.

As I have said before, blogging is a great way to become an influencer. As people read your posts and follow your recommendations, they’ll begin to see you as an expert. It doesn’t really matter what subject you’re blogging about, but as a general rule you’ll want to talk about your specific niche for best results.

Over time, your blog, augmented by your posting about it in social media, will begin to generate inbound traffic for you and generate leads. It will also help you find more professionals to add to your sphere of influence who reach out to you from seeing your blog content.

Solicit online testimonials

Often, your customers and employees are your best advocates. Furthermore, some of them are influencers themselves. For customers who aren’t social media influencers, offer an incentive to post a review on sites like Yelp, Google Business, and Angie’s List. In this case, you’re converting the organic referral network into an online sales-generating machine. Incentives can include a drawing for gift cards, purchase discounts, and so forth. This is an inexpensive way to increase your profile. Just make sure that what you’re doing is FTC compliant.

Encourage your friends and family to give referrals

Sometimes friends and family are the best influencers, especially for small businesses. For example, the mother of a mechanic who specializes in a particular make of car can help her son get business. In this case, she might mention his expertise to someone who owns that type of car. Or, members of a social club might mention that a different member is one of the best dentists in the area.  Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing tool.

In the age of social media, this can be done online and through one’s sphere of influence. For instance, most of us have seen “recommendation requests” on Facebook. Here, someone is asking their network if they know someone who can provide a given service. Encourage your sphere of influence to spread the word in these situations. While they may not come around often for some of us, other people are known for being experts on who’s good at what. Those people often have opportunities to give recommendations.

Are You Ready to Expand Your Sphere of Influence?

As you can see, your sphere of influence can be an important driver of sales when used properly. At the same time, most of us have benefitted from everyday influencers in our own lives. Modern social media-based influencer marketing is just the latest evolution of getting referrals when you understand what is a sphere of influence and how you can leverage one digitally.

Original document, What is a Sphere of Influence and How to Leverage One for Business
Source: Neal Schaffer
Adapted for Academy.Warriorrising

Tips for Protecting Small Business Proprietary Information

Tips for Protecting Small Business Proprietary Information

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on 

In this day and age, business is fiercely competitive. Almost everything can be found on the internet, from confidential information to private business information to trade secrets getting leaked online.

Protecting your proprietary information is more important than ever and could mean gaining a competitive advantage over similar business owners and startups.

Your first step is having cybersecurity and secure computer systems in place. Whether it’s information on a patent you are developing, a customer list, or “just” a hamburger recipe, you have a strong need to keep your private information private.

Here’s some information on why and how you should do that. It is imp

Why Do I Need Any Protection at All?

Let’s say you have a worker that one day, for whatever reason, decides to set up a competitive operation. You did not restrict their employee access, so they know your pricing, marketing plans, trade secret information, and other sensitive information. You want to ensure their new company — at the very least — offers a unique product compared to yours. But how do you do that?

If you have to wait to sue the person in court, the damage may have been done by the time the case is determined.

Your best bet is to protect yourself upfront by:

  • Keeping your proprietary information corralled to only those that need to know

  • Having a legal agreement in place in case things go awry

Having confidentiality agreements or other trade secret protections in place is key — consider it a prenup for your employees.

Non-Compete Agreements Aren't Ideal

For better or for worse, non-compete agreements, even non-compete clauses within other agreements, usually don’t hold up in court.

America was built on the concept of capitalism. Our legal system believes everyone should be free to do whatever they want, especially when it comes to earning a living. But they can’t lie, cheat, or steal.

Most non-compete agreements that eventually do hold up in court are too limited in scope or require too large of a payout. Frankly, this means they aren’t worth it. You have better options.

Nondisclosure Agreements Are Better

Nondisclosure Agreements, or NDAs, are a much more effective way of protecting your proprietary information. In essence, this is a contract that both parties sign to agree to keep private information private.

It has a damages clause in place if the information is ever disclosed. NDAs can be one way or mutual.

One-Way NDA Basics

A one-way NDA might be used when you are presenting your idea to an investment banker or contractor, to see if they can offer what you are looking for. This only protects what you are disclosing from being revealed. It doesn’t protect what they say.

Mutual NDA Basics

A mutual NDA allows for a deeper conversation. Whatever is said by either party is protected. NDAs will protect information that is not generally known from being divulged. And if it is, the terms of the NDA will secure the damages.

The intellectual property violation discussion basically becomes a contractual issue. This is much easier for a court to determine, and consequently, easier for them to identify violations and declare remedies.

Protecting Your Trade Secrets

It is very important that you protect your proprietary information, even if there are NDAs in place. After all, NDAs only protect information that isn’t generally known.

If you’ve divulged it before, or it leaked out because you haven’t protected it, the know-how is already generally known. This means it is outside the scope of the NDA.

A court will only consider private information private if you treated it as such. Therefore, when dealing with NDAs, ensure that as many people who touch the proprietary information have signed NDAs.

Using NDAs Correctly and Effectively

Date the NDA agreements and make sure everyone has a copy. And also make sure to take security measures to ensure that your private information stays private since that will be an issue if it goes to court. NDAs give teeth to leaking proprietary information. But it is every employee’s job to protect trade secrets.

If you need help protecting your proprietary information, contact a contracts attorney. So long as you don’t need an intellectual property attorney helping you with patents, a contracts attorney can help you create the necessary NDAs that you need to conduct and grow your business. Consider it an investment, not an expense, and call one today.

If your business isn’t fully formed yet, you don’t need an attorney for every step along the way. You can form a business with DIY forms online and get the ball rolling. We can guide you through the entire process of forming an LLC online in FloridaTexas, or any other state. 

Related Resources:

Original document, Tips for Protecting Small Business Proprietary Information
Source: Find Law
Adapted for Academy.Warriorrising

Proprietary, Confidential Info, Trade Secrets, Know-How—Differences for Business Success

Proprietary, Confidential Info, Trade Secrets, Know-How—Differences for Business Success

Proprietary information is at the foundation of every successful business, and protecting all types of proprietary information is vital for commercial success. However, how to appropriately classify, and therefore effectively protect, different types of proprietary information can be confusing.

Many businesses mistakenly use the terms “proprietary,” “confidential,” trade secret,” and “know-how” synonymously. They are not interchangeable, and the differences can have tremendous legal consequences, particularly when the terms are used loosely or inconsistently. It is essential for businesses to understand how the law treats these critical information types to effectuate sufficient protective measures.

Proprietary Information

Proprietary information encompasses virtually anything a business uniquely does or creates. It includes corporate intellectual property with federal protections, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks, as well as confidential information, know-how, and trade secrets. Proprietary information can include any type of unique data that businesses seek to protect, such as financial information, marketing information, research and development knowledge or manufacturing data. How a business treats and protects its proprietary information may qualify it for greater protection as “confidential” or “trade secret.”

Confidential Information

Confidential information includes internal proprietary information material to business operations that cannot be learned externally. It may encompass documents or physical objects, categories of documents, objects, physical areas, procedures, processes, marketing plans, payroll/personnel records, computer programs, and nearly anything else a business wishes to keep confidential. It can exist in many forms, including written, spoken, observed, or electronically stored information, and information that is not treated in accordance with stricter forms of proprietary information protection is still generally afforded common law protection.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets encompass confidential information imparting substantial economic value to a business through an undisclosed competitive edge, such as Coca Cola’s secret formula. They enjoy statutory protection under federal and state law. They are licensable as intellectual property (in perpetuity), whereas confidential information is more generally treated as physical property that can be given and returned. Courts generally examine six factors to adjudicate trade secret status:

  • The extent to which the information is known outside the business;
  • The extent to which the information is known internally by employees and agents;
  • The extent of measures taken to guard the information’s secrecy;
  • The information’s value internally and to competitors;
  • The amount of time, effort, and money expended to develop the information; and
  • The ease or difficulty with which the information could be lawfully acquired or duplicated by others.

Businesses should use these six factors to evaluate their own confidential information and determine the appropriate level of protection needed. In general, there are four stages of trade secret asset management:

  • Identification—regularly identify and review company trade secrets, documenting their secret status and the value they contribute. Conducting periodic audits of confidential information, protective measures undertaken, and protocols governing employee access can aid in identifying and eliminating security shortcomings. Misappropriation litigation often requires early identification of trade secrets and protective measures with reasonable particularity.
  • Classification—determine which information warrants protection and the associated expense. Confidential information shared extensively internally generally requires fewer protective measures than a critical company secret. Treating these different information types similarly could inadvertently reduce a trade secret to confidential information, limiting available legal remedies if disclosed.
  • Protection—educate all business units to embrace protection measures as a compliance issue with serious reputational, financial, and legal implications. Policies governing confidentiality marking may help reduce theft/misuse but can also create uncertainty if an unmarked confidential document is disclosed. Businesses must assess the practical likelihood that specific confidentiality marking policies will be followed, and potential real-world consequences that may result. Additional protective measures may include password-protection and regular discussions/trainings regarding the criticality of maintaining secrecy. Ultimately, trade secrets should only be disclosed on a need-to-know basis with a plan in place for any breaches, accidental or otherwise. Inadvertent disclosure of trade secrets can negate their protected status, limiting available legal remedies.
  • Valuation—evaluate the “strength” of the trade secret, and ultimately the probability of future dependent cash flows. Trade secret economic value may critically influence all aspects of a company’s response following disclosure, up to and including litigation.

Legal remedies for trade secret misappropriation include injunctions (to prevent disclosure or misuse, or to enforce information destruction or return), disgorgement of profits earned through misuse, past damages, imposition of a royalty on future goods sold, punitive damages, and/or attorney fees. Both federal and state law typically allow for recovery of exemplary damages (up to twice the value of actual damages) for willful and malicious misappropriation. An increasingly common “avoided costs” theory of unjust enrichment requires a defendant to pay the research and development costs theoretically avoided by the misappropriation. See Caudill Seed & Warehouse v. Jarrow Formulas, No. 21-5345, (6th Cir. Nov. 10, 2022). However, secrecy can never be fully reinstated following disclosure, so businesses must carefully guard their critical secrets.


Know-how generally refers to technical skills, including information, knowledge, techniques, and experiences, that are difficult to reduce to tangible form; it is often associated with trade secrets, but can include confidential or proprietary information. Know-how is licensable (in perpetuity) and can be a valuable intellectual property asset in a carefully drafted license. As state contract law principles generally govern know-how licenses, interpretations vary among courts. While licensed know-how may include trade secrets, know-how generally does not require the same type and level of protection as trade secrets for enforcement of a license. Commingling trade secret and know-how terms in a license, therefore, may unintentionally demote the trade secrets and eliminate potential misappropriation remedies. SeeBohler-Uddeholm America v. Ellwood Group, 247 F.3d 79, 107 (3d Cir. 2001).

In a patent licensing context, licensing particular “know-how” required to utilize a patented invention may extend the licensee’s competitive advantage beyond the time-limited license of the patent itself. Careful consideration is also required when drafting a know-how license in combination with any federal intellectual property right license(s), such as patent/know-how licenses. License grants, terms, and royalty schedules should be separately defined so that it is clear that royalties occurring after patent expiration are tied only to the know-how. See Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, 135 S. Ct 2401 (2015).

Nondisclosure Agreements (NDAs)—Preventing Harmful Disclosure

Legal protection for confidential information stems from common law and equitable principles that a) businesses need secrets to stay competitive, and b) maintaining confidentiality is a moral imperative. NDAs additionally harness contract law to protect all forms of proprietary information. NDAs can be adapted for various parties, specific goals, and even particular state jurisdictions. NDAs may be unilateral, e.g., outlining employee confidential information access during and post-employment, or bilateral, e.g., between businesses collaborating on a project, merger, or sale. When drafting or reviewing an NDA:

  • Identify Relevant Parties: define the disclosing party and recipient. Also consider additional potential parties, such as accountants and business partners.
  • Specify Confidentiality: define all relevant proprietary information. Most NDA breaches occur through misunderstanding, not dishonesty, and are often avoidable with clearly defined parameters. Covering vast categories of information with general definitions is inappropriate; such clauses are typically not upheld. As noted, treating trade secrets as general confidential information may reduce statutory protections available. Define any specific exclusions clearly, such as prior information or public knowledge. Employees must specifically understand what may be disclosed and under what conditions to avoid inadvertent disclosure to the public domain. Businesses should track what and when information is disclosed, such as through databases, record-keeping systems, or document check-out systems.
  • Identify Obligations: define specific protection requirements in the agreement and determine how onerous they may be, such as requiring every information custodian to sign separate NDAs or to exercise a particular level of caution. Identical contract terms may be a necessity in one situation but a restrictive burden in others. Noncompete and nonsolicitation terms are frequently included in NDAs; it is prudent to be aware of these terms, particularly in light of recent FTC efforts to restrict the future use of non-compete agreements.
  • Duration: define how long secret information must be protected, depending upon the type of business, transaction, and information. Consider how long after the termination of the relationship/project the secrecy obligations should be maintained.
  • Information Return: define whether confidential information intentionally disclosed for business purposes must subsequently be returned or destroyed, automatically or by request, and what confirmation is required.

Remedies for Breach: Consider at the outset the best course of action if a receiving party breaches an NDA. A valid NDA may provide for monetary damages or an injunction against a breaching party, but an invalid NDA may result in loss of confidentiality. It can require significant resources to prove an NDA breach. Remedies may take varying forms, e.g., injunctions, indemnification from losses caused by the breach, and breach-of-contract damages. However, damage may be irreparable once the protected information becomes public, and it may be best to simply keep invaluable corporate “crown jewels” strictly under lock and key.

8 Tips to Manage Your Time as a Small Business Owner

8 Tips to Manage Your Time as a Small Business Owner

When running a small business, you’re at the center of everything. You juggle meeting client deadlines, handling finances, and leading your team. It might often seem like there’s no end to your to-do list. 

Let’s face it, time is priceless and managing it well is a crucial skill for you, as a small business owner. There’s no perfect formula for mastering time management but you can always develop habits that align with your schedule and work rhythm. 

Here are  eight practical time-management strategies that will empower you to ramp up productivity, make wiser choices, and shift your focus to the expansion and success of your business. 

How to best manage your time

If you feel like there are never enough hours in the day, these tips can help you better manage your time.

1. Get organized.

An organized workspace and a clear work plan can vastly improve your productivity. If either is chaoticit’s easy to get overwhelmed and have your workflow disrupted. Take these simple steps to streamline efficiency: 

  • Organize your workspace. This involves decluttering and designating places for important items. Discard needless items or effectively store them away. Convert your physical files to digital versions to create more room for yourself. Organize these digital files based on the client or the project, depending on what works for your business.
  • Organize your work. Organize your work process by setting clear, achievable goalsCreating a list of about five tasks you want to target within the week is a good start. Elaborate on each task, specifying its importance, and then focus on executing them one after the other. This strategy ensures you make substantial progress towards your broader plans.
  • Know when you are most productive. Recognizing your productive periods can contribute to better work efficiency. Note the times when you’re more active and productive. I could be after morning exercise or post-lunch. A digital app, like Toggl, could be beneficial in understanding your productivity patterns by keeping track of the time spent on each task. Once you’ve identified your peak productivity period, you can devote that time to more challenging, higher-priority tasks, leaving simpler ones for other times. 

By following these simple suggestions, you can overcome the clutter – both tangible and intangible – that may be hindering your effectiveness, and direct your effort more productively towards achieving your business goals. 

2. Embrace apps.

If you have a smartphone, turn it into your ultimate small business tool with apps designed to help you take charge of your schedule and workflow.

Here are some excellent time- and task-management apps:

  • Wunderlist: If traditional paper to-do lists aren’t cutting it, the Wunderlist app allows you to prioritize tasks, set reminders and share your to-do list with others. It’s accessible from smartphones, laptops and Apple Watches, so you can stay on top of your tasks from any location.
  • Harvest: If you’re a small business owner who charges clients by the hour, an app like Harvest can easily keep track of the time you spend on each task, making invoicing easy. Even if you don’t charge by time spent, Harvest lets you track how much time every project takes, making you more aware of how long a project truly takes to complete.
  • Trello: When it comes to managing overall workflow, Trello is an excellent resource. You can create boards for each project and set up step-by-step pipelines to send them through, allowing you to track tasks from beginning to completion. It’s also a great tool for collaboration and tracking your remote staff’s productivity and efficiency. 

3. Learn when to delegate

When you’re starting out, it’s natural to take on anything and everything to do with your business. You’re likely accustomed to learning on the job and have picked up marketing skills, accounting skills and other abilities required to run your organization. 

However, as your time becomes more precious, delegating becomes crucial. Learn to outsource some tasks or assign projects to employees, giving yourself the freedom to take growth opportunities. 

First, decide what tasks you’d like to offload. Pinpoint tasks you typically procrastinate on to determine who could better handle the job. If you don’t have a staff ready to pitch in, find independent contractors or freelancers specializing in that area who can work on an as-needed basis.

Reach out to your professional network and get referrals to find trustworthy people who can do the job. A delegated task is only successful if it gets done properly, so hire carefully and enforce deadlines.

4. Keep track of your finances.

Handling finances can take a great deal of time and cause massive stress. Implementing an accounting system early on will help you stay organized, which will save you time later.  

If you don’t already have accounting software in place, consider one of the best accounting solutions to get you on the right accounting and bookkeeping path. 

These are a few to consider:

  • MineralTree lets you track the accounts payable process from invoice approval to final payment. 
  • QuickBooks, which is compatible with MineralTree, offers myriad functions to simplify your accounting. Read our in-depth QuickBooks review to learn more.
  • Xero is a timesaving, cloud-based tool that graphs your payment schedule and debts, so you can better manage your cash flow and make payments on time. Find out more in our full Xero review

5. Avoid unnecessary distractions.

If you’re a solopreneur, it’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and stay focused on your work. There’s no one else to make sure you’re working hard or keeping on top of things. Here are some tips to help you limit distractions and remain productive: 

  • Keep your phone on silent. 
  • Consider using tools like the SelfControl app, which restricts access to websites you tend to waste time on. 
  • Pay attention to your emotional state and general well-being during working hours. Be present and aware of your work. 
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance by keeping business discussions separate from family time. Planning your day allows you to manage your time effectively, helping you to make the most of each hour. 

6. Use the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort – and vice versa. Identify the 20% of your tasks that result in the most “bang for the buck” and concentrate on them. Delegate or spend less time on the rest. 

For instance, if you spend a large chunk of your time on the phone, ask people to email you rather than call.

Some customers or employees are high maintenance, taking up more than their share of time with complaints or drama. Consider letting these time-wasters go.

7. Avoid multitasking.

While multitasking may seem like a great way to get everything done, it’s ineffective because the brain takes a little while to refocus attention, making you less productive and more error-prone. 

Concentrate on one thing at a time, and organize your day that way. For example, you could focus on answering emails first thing in the morning to get that out of the way, and select another block of time to return phone calls. Once finished with a task on your list, move on to the next one.

8. Schedule downtime – really!

Working non-stop can tire you out, both mentally and physically. It can dim your creativity and reduce your knack for problem-solving. You’ll often hear business owners sharing how their best ideas were sparked when they were taking a relaxing stroll, enjoying a refreshing shower or just chilling out. 

Giving yourself some downtime helps your unseen mind sift through various data and cook up innovative solutions. This doesn’t just mean going on a break, though that’s a great start. Make some time for family and friends, dive into a hobby, step out and get moving, or explore a fun book. It’s about balancing work with relaxation. Harness these moments of peace to help your business shine. 

Why time management is critical for entrepreneurs

Here are several key reasons why time management is crucial when you’re running a business:

  • You should think of time as a limited resource. There are only so many hours in a day to get things done. Don’t you want to make the most of them?
  • It increases competitiveness. This is especially important if you are in a highly competitive industry. Being first to market or the first to come out with a new feature can be the difference between success and failure.
  • It could boost your bottom line. Whether you pay your employees hourly or with a fixed salary, the more productive they are, the more value you gain. If you’re disorganized, you can’t efficiently assign tasks and monitor employee productivity, so you may end up spending more money than necessary.
  • You make better decisions. When you prioritize critical tasks, you have more options and can make a bigger impact on your operations. Conversely, when vital tasks get buried and neglected, you may miss out on opportunities and need to hustle and pay a premium to get stuff done.
  • You’re better able to focus on growth. When your day-to-day operations are a smoothly running machine, you’re free to consider expansion opportunities.
  • You could get more clients. Business efficiency creates higher-quality work and a better customer experience. Happy customers are loyal and can boost your business with positive reviews and referrals.
  • It reduces stress. Being organized, taking things off your to-do list, and getting things done efficiently is enormously satisfying and eliminates some of the stress inherent in being a business owner. Stress lowers productivity, so stress reduction is crucial for business operations and your physical and mental health. With lower stress levels, you’ll be less likely to experience burnout.

Meredith Wood contributed to the writing and reporting of this article.

Original document, 8 Tips to Manage Your Time as a Small Business Owner
Source: Business
Adapted for Academy.Warriorrising

Why Military Decision-Making Is So Important in Both Training and Fitness

Why Military Decision-Making Is So Important in Both Training and Fitness

Life is about making decisions and managing the consequences of those decisions. In tactical training, it is no different. Your journey to, through and after your training, testing or selection process is full of daily decisions that will determine your fate. Whether you are making strategic decisions or following tactical decisions, getting good at decision-making is, in essence, what separates the U.S. military from others around the world.

From the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) to the Tactical Planning Process (TPP) and more immediate or intuitive decision-making processes like the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), the military has not only created an effective decision-making process but uses training opportunities to develop and evolve it under some of the most stressful situations.

Decision-Making Starts Early -- Get Good at It

Serving in the military is a calling, as well as a sense of duty for many people. But for some, it is one of the few ways for that person to get out of their current situation. Regardless, deciding to serve should not be done on a whim just because you have nowhere else to go. The military can offer many opportunities if you research what branch of service and occupation or training is best for you.

Deciding to serve and getting yourself prepared to go into the military is just the first phase of this journey. Preparing yourself requires building good training habits, researching the process and learning what career in the military is right for you.

Deciding to Quit or Not Quit

On your journey toward a military occupation, there will be tough training. Getting through this training will be tough, as you could be learning a skill like flying, diving or driving a billion-dollar submarine. Lives often depend on your ability to perform under stress. During these high-stress training moments, you may be uncomfortable physically, mentally and emotionally; your decision to make the correct decision tactically is just as important as your decision not to quit when times get hard.

How you react when your will is tested is important in the tactical professions, as your team needs you to do the right thing in the moment. Still, you cannot look at quitting something you started as a failure. It has to be a learning experience, and you need to keep moving forward.

These decisions can drive direction in your own life one way or another, but the direction can always be diverted by a new decision at any time throughout your life.

Experience vs. Procedural Decisions

Throughout your military career, you will constantly gain experience as daily decisions continue to fill your day. You will learn and teach others around you. You will also learn that there are procedural decisions (in the form of things like standard operating procedures) or emergency procedures (ones that are created and memorized to get the job done and save lives).

A lot of procedures created in the military are often “written in blood,” meaning someone was seriously injured or died doing something a certain way. Through experience, you may have learned a better way to do something that saves time and money — and is safe. These procedural and experiential decisions play an important role in your daily life in the military. Pay attention and learn these skills so you can make better-informed decisions. Then, teach and mentor others around you.

There are so many types of decisions to make each day of our lives. From ethical to behavioral decisions, our constant journey through life is one decision after another. Some are quick and easy, while others require thought and information. If you are curious about an outcome, test it for the most optimal outcome.

As Yogi Berra once said, “If there is a fork in the road — take it.”

Better Decision-Making

Being fit, strong and knowledgeable in your craft will also boost your confidence, which is imperative to making tactical decisions and getting tasks accomplished successfully. If you make a poor decision, the key is to move on and take the other road at the fork. Sometimes changing direction is the part of a decision-making process that gets you back on track.

Why Is Being a Better Decision-Maker Important?

Decisions start actions. You are one decision away from reaching your goals; a decision to start a new habit and the action of breaking an old habit. The decision to do so and the action to begin is where the magic happens. From fitness goals and professional goals to other life goals, decisions drive your actions.

Then, these continued actions create habits. As with everything, consistency is key. Keep moving and training as your fitness can be a catalyst to improvement in other areas of your professional and personal life.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected].

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you’re thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.