Ask Entrepreneur - Legal Basics For Startups

Starting a Business

If my name isn't on the filing, can I get screwed?

I'm starting a business with a web programmer and I have 51 percent of the shares. I'm just a signee of the partnership agreement, my name isn't being filed under the business. The company will never be split into more than 100 shares unless we both approve and my ownership interest will increase accordingly. How can I be screwed if my name is not on the filing?
Nina Kaufman
Finance

Can this out-of-inventory order be called a business expense?

Usually we buy plenty of doors at the beginning of the year and then charge the customer for parts and labor a the time the sale is made. We recently had a customer that didn't want a door from our inventory, so the customer prepaid for a door that had to be ordered. Is the door still a business expense to us even if we had to pay for it from our business bank account although we got a check from the customer?
Pam Newman
Finance

Should I lease a car through my business to offset my yearly business income?

I am a private practice psychologist and I travel about 25 percent of the time for business (to and from office/clients). The remainder is personal use. I have also thought of adding a car magnet to advertise my business to the lease, if I do it. My business is a small part ($10,000-$15,000/year) of my overall income. The majority ($49,000) is from hourly work in public schools.
Pam Newman
Marketing

How effective of a marketing strategy is it to recruit guinea pig companies to try out my service?

I have a solid idea for a company that is in its very beginning stages. However, the startup cost is very expensive and to avoid unwanted debt, I will need to recruit a few guinea pig companies to host my service for employees so I can see if this will even work out. But obviously I will need some inventory in order to get started. As much as I believe in what I am marketing, I strongly dislike cold calling and/or being a walk-in. Is this the best method of marketing (besides advertising, which is not an option at the moment).
Pattie Simone
Growth Strategies

Should I give days off in exchange for weekend business travel?

My employees are salaried and some business trips require travel or actual business on the weekend. Should I show appreciation for this by offering some week days off? If so, should I do it a day for a day?
Penny Morey
Marketing

How do you court celebrities with your product?

Everyone knows that getting a celebrity to wear your clothing line will send sales through the roof. What are some proven methods of securing their time to make a presentation? If there are no proven methods, what ideas do you suggest?

I would like to start my own fashion line in the hip hop industry producing the next big idea in hip hop fashion. I would like to target the 18-26 age group.
Kim T. Gordon
Growth Strategies

What's the best way to partner up with my spouse?

I'm starting a real estate company and I want my husband, who will soon get his real estate license, to be part of it. Would it be best financially to have him do sales and I do listings as a husband and wife team or have him as an assistant? How should we define our business roles?
Elinor Robin
Starting a Business

What permits or licenses do I need to open a branch in another state?

We are licensed mortgage brokers in Hawaii and we would like to open a branch in California. Aside from the finance lenders license we need to obtain, what other permits are needed?
Nina Kaufman
Marketing

How can I use social networking sites to boost my sales?

I've recently started a t-shirt company and I'm looking for ways to boost sales and to get more exposure online and offline on a limited budget. I currently have a few social networking profiles and an active e-commerce website. The t-shirts are being marketed to 15-35 year-old male customers. Eventually I'd like to have a brick and mortar store for my business.
Pattie Simone
Growth Strategies

Do I still have to pay an employee through their 2 weeks notice?

If an employee gives a 2 week notice to leave the company, is it required to pay him the 2 weeks if it's decided to end his employment at the time of notice?

I have had employees give notice, but I wanted to terminate the employment when they handed their notice in. I was informed that even if I did this, I would have to pay them for the 2 weeks that they were willing to work. Is this correct?
Penny Morey
Marketing

How do I develop contacts with national media outlets?

I have been a PR coordinator focusing on local media outreach for about a year now. I was recently promoted to PR director and re-located to Los Angeles for the national division of our company. Though I am very excited about the new challenge and have great communication skills, I am already experiencing some difficulty in getting some of the larger and more reputable publications to respond to me. What is the best way to build national media relationships when you have not met with the reporter or outlet face-to-face? How did the greats of the PR industry initially establish their contacts? Should I make general introductions before I pitch different story angles and people, or should I jump in feet first? I feel I have a good understanding of what is media-worthy and what is not, but what am I missing? Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Kim T. Gordon
Marketing

What would it take to start a modest vertical ad network?

I am a software engineer who works for an internet software company. With an entrepreneurial spirit, I am looking to start a small business in the vertical ad network game. In my years of developing web applications for other people's sites and businesses, I have noticed that the small publisher, or website owner, has a tough time monetizing their site easily and the small or even large advertiser has a tough time reaching all the small demographically charged sites around the internet. Can a vertical ad network be a small one man shop? If so, where is the best place to start and what are the pitfalls?
Roy Williams
Marketing

Is there a database of firms who have experience selling online media?

I am specifically interested in firms that have experience selling online multi-cultural advertising. We have the product offering; we are looking for rep firms that can sell the products.
Roy Williams
Starting a Business

How can I use my business experience in another venture?

I had a mortgage company for 10 years and lost it overnight. I really enjoy both the financial and real estate part of it. I've worked with builders, developers and customers and would like to know if there is another business that I can start that can incorporate everything I've done. I currently manage a branch for a large regional bank but miss the thrill of running my own show and making things happen.
Pam Newman
Growth Strategies

How do we restructure ourselves after a partnership?

My husband and I own an LLC (an interactive shop) that we were just starting to get off the ground. Then an established, yet small (6 employees) advertising firm offered to give us health insurance, help with payroll, taxes, etc. if we joined their partnership and expanded their current offering. We now need to decide how to handle restructuring. They have two partners--33 percent and 67 percent owners. What are our options to buy in, use sweat equity, etc? I am also interested to hear about different profit/risk sharing scenarios. Can you help me understand what our options are?
Brad Sugars