How to Protect Your Intangible Business Assets

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.57.30 AM.pngWhen I speak with business owners about their assets, they often refer to their tangible assets such as their office(s), computers, and machinery. However, the value placed on intangible assets, such as people, knowledge, relationships and intellectual property, is now a greater proportion of the total value of most businesses than is the value of tangible assets.

It’s these intangible assets, rather than the tangible ones, that enable a company to distinguish itself from competitors. Your intangible assets might include your customer lists, intellectual property, business plans, recipes, pricing formulas, and trade secrets, and are typically the foundation upon which your company is built. Think about KFC’s intangible asset – the special, secret recipe, without which KFC would just be fried chicken.

To ensure your “secret sauce” does not become that of your competitors, you’ll need to develop a strategy to properly protect your intangible assets. To achieve this, you’ll first need to write a list of your assets and make sure you have back-up (hard drive/cloud) for this list.

Although I recommend sitting down with a corporate lawyer who specializes in intangible asset protection, I’ve outlined below a few very simple things you can do on your own to start protecting your intangibles:

Your Employees
Make sure you have employment agreements for all your staff. These agreements stipulate that all company assets are proprietary and that unauthorized disclosure of confidential information such as pricing formulas, customer lists and other data and information is prohibited. Depending on the type of business and the employee’s role, employee agreements can include clauses to help ensure that any invention or discovery made by an employee while employed with the company is the property of the company.

Your Ideas
Even though you own copyrights without filing, you should have your corporate lawyer file for you to fully protect those rights. You can start the process to receive a patent or trademark by submitting an application to the appropriate governmental agency. Be prepared, as the application requires you to provide an explanation of why the asset is proprietary to you.

Your Information
Confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements, designed to protect your valuable trade secrets, can be very simple or very detailed, depending on the requirement. At a basic level, they commit a party (vendor/freelancer/supplier) to keep specific information confidential, to not share it with potential competitors, or use it for themselves to gain market share.

Your Digital Data Backup
It seems simple, but many businesses owners still store anything important in their head. Make it a priority to back up everything that is important to running your business. Digital documents can be easily backed up to a server that is in a different location or on the cloud. Put a plan into action to backup all your data and get it done.

As a responsible business owner, you’ve done everything you can to build a successful business – now invest that same energy into protecting those very valuable assets.

 

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If Your Sales Strategy Did Not Measure Up… Look At Execution

Intersection-of-Strategy-Execution-Success-300x200It’s the end of the first quarter and many of you are looking at your sales results compared to your sales goals and if the results are poor, blaming your sales strategy. Well, the sales strategy may not be to blame.

Sometimes it’s obvious what went wrong, but sometimes it can be a few factors that contribute to the overall poor results — market predictions, understanding the skill set of your sales team, and understanding the sales cycle of your customer. I have found that the following 3 reasons are why sales strategies sometimes don’t lead to the desired results:

Execution

I have seen it time and time again, sales strategies failing at the execution level. The best-laid plans are just that – plans. The real results happen in the execution of those plans. Part of reviewing your execution includes:

Were your expectations too high?

Was your plan too ambitious? If you are ending your first quarter not having met your sales results, your plans could have been too grand. Was what you planned realistic? For example, if you planned for weekly call-out campaigns, your sales team needs to understand if they are to secure an actual sale over the phone or just generate a lead for future sales nurturing. Had you hoped that your sales team would deliver sales, or your marketing team’s campaigns would drive more leads? Adjust your expectations to a realistic level.

Did you have the right resources?

Consider the skill set of your sales team and whether they had the right training to execute the sales strategy. Providing them with a formal onboarding program for each service or product is essential to help them be successful. What about your support team – are there enough order takers or shipper-receivers in place to handle new orders, and what resources are in place to handle from lead to delivery? Every person in the sales cycle is important, but perhaps there was an area that was not covered. If so, adjust the plan to reflect that. You can’t expect great results if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the growth.

Who was accountable?

When you created the sales strategy did you share it with your team and hand off tasks to each of them to be accountable for? Did you hold regular meetings with your team to hear of any hurdles and get status updates? Did you hold yourself accountable for ensuring the plan was executed properly? Someone has to take responsibility for ensuring all goes according to plan.

After you’ve conducted a full review of the execution of your plan, you’ll easily see what areas and factors contributed to the failure of your sales strategy. In all likelihood, your plan was good and just needed some adjustments based around its execution. Once the adjustments are made, your sales strategy will help to grow your business.