A quick legal checklist before starting an online business

You have a great idea for a product or service, you have your website up and running, and you’re getting ready to go to market online. It’s an exciting time and the last thing you want to think about is your company’s and your website’s legal compliance. But it’s an important step to take to ensure that disputes over the use of your website and the purchasing of your products/services don’t arise, or if they do, that you have the right protections and agreements in place to protect both you and the consumer.

There are many legal considerations when it comes to creating an online business and below the team at Cubed by Law Squared have pinpointed some of the most important to ensure that you begin your startup journey on the right foot.

 

USE OF YOUR WEBSITE BY CUSTOMERS

You might have a very clear idea of what your website and products or services will be used for but this is not always obvious to the people who visit your website. A well-drafted Website Terms of Use (WTOU) is integral as it allows you to articulate the purposes and the permitted uses of the website. It also gives you the ability to indemnify yourself in the instance that someone uses your website for an unauthorised purpose.

 

ENGAGEMENT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Terms and conditions are also a useful document to put in place for your website particularly to govern any monetary or service exchanges. Website Terms and Conditions create IP rights, and impose rights and responsibilities on both the user and the owner of the domain. A Terms and Conditions document ought to contain details about how a commercial transaction unfolds. How do your customers pay for and receive your goods and services? How much do they have to pay for them? Having these details set out in black and white helps to prevent unnecessary disputes arising and allows for speedy dispute resolution.

 

PRIVACY OF YOUR USER’S INFORMATION

If throughout the course of your business you are collecting, using or storing your customer’s information you need to have a privacy policy in place to govern these processes. Privacy Policies should be bespoke and tailored to your business, the way you handle and collect data and the purpose for which you collect that data. Your privacy policy needs to be compliant with Australian Privacy Laws and also may need to contemplate the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) applying to all European Union citizens. It is critical to understand that if your business collects sensitive information (as defined by the relevant laws), then your data handling and collection needs detail attention.

 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

On a website intellectual property (IP) can encompass anything from the name of the company and its logo to the source code in the background. Protection of your IP is important to a company as it preserves your rights to those elements now and into the future and stops others from using them unnecessarily unless permission is given through an IP Assignment or Licence Agreement.

Protection of IP often is a process of trademarking your designs, logo and name (among other elements of your website). If you are looking to commercialise or protect your IP for the benefit of your business, you can contact the team at Cubed by Law Squared for more information.

 

RETURNS AND DEFECTS FOR ONLINE PRODUCT SALES

Return policies and product defects often arise in the area of consumer law when online businesses selling goods end up in trouble with consumers and in serious situations, with the ACCC. It is often tempting, or seems logical, to exclude returns or exchanges on items or goods purchased more than three months ago; however, ensuring you are compliant with consumer laws is important. Some key areas where businesses get it wrong on returns:

  1. ‘We do not provide refunds’ – this is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law and should not be written anywhere on your website;
  2. ‘No refunds on sale items’ – same as above
  3. ‘Major faults vs. minor faults’ –
    • If MAJOR – the consumer can elect to have a replacement or a refund for the goods or services
    • If MINOR – the consumer has a right for the fault to be repaired without a refund

 

— Grace Cue, Legal Project Officer, Law Squared

5 Tips to get your Startup ‘Investor Ready’

Nearly one-third of all startup failures result from running out of cash, according to a survey by CB Insights. Let’s assume you have a good product (so you’re already ahead of 42% of those who failed because they built a product that wasn’t needed). What can you do to avoid running out of cash and succeed in securing some solid backing from investors? Let me run through 5 tips consistently used by successful startups.

Resilience is your greatest resource

As the majority of investors reject most opportunities pitched them, perseverance and resilience are essential to you seeing through the long-term success of your company. As a founder, you should ultimately be positive and optimistic about your offering. However, it pays to be realistic about the challenges that lay ahead in realising your vision. Only about 10% of founders succeed in making their first startup a success. As an entrepreneur, you’re in this for the long haul. Don’t let failure deter you — interestingly, research shows that a larger proportion of founders have success in their second venture. Most likely, this is because of lessons learnt and resilience built along the way. If this is your first startup, the odds are stacked against you. Give up too soon and you’ll be left wondering what would have been. On the other hand, being resilient will give you the best chance of succeeding through this and later challenges.

Research who will be interested in your idea

It is a common misconception that pitching your idea to the broadest possible audience will typically generate the highest degree of success — often termed “the numbers game”. This approach generally results in founders pitching to people outside their industry who aren’t strategically interested in what they have to offer. This leads to unnecessary rejection. With the right teasers, investors will look for insights into your business through your website, social media platforms and other publicly available information. You should take this time to be active in conducting due diligence on the types of investors you want to bring on board. This forces you to consider investors in terms of what they will contribute to your company other than funds alone. An investor whose only contribution is money is a liability. Seek to foster a strategically beneficial relationship.

Attract the right people to your team

Investors look for three main things in a business: the team, the product, and the market opportunity. Therefore, to build a solid foundation for future success, you should prioritise from the outset building a team with passion, compatible personalities and the right technical expertise to help your business grow. It’s worth noting that outsourced “founders” may not share your same strategic vision which can ultimately put your company at risk — ensure each founder is incentivised to support the company’s long-term strategy. On the point of executing on your business strategy, it is invaluable to have a knowledgeable mentor in your team with a wealth of experience in scaling businesses. These mentors can also help build your network and connect you to other individuals who can bring value to your business. Additionally, since investors will inevitably turn their attention to the company’s financials, it is important to have financial and accounting experts on board who can explain your business financial model to other stakeholders.

Have your business plan and financials in order

A business plan goes a long way in painting the picture of your vision to potential investors along with demonstrating the lifetime value that your business holds, irrespective of its current profitability. The plan should indicate to investors that the leadership team behind the business has thought through their personal strengths and weaknesses and has a plan in place to acquire the talent necessary for the business to succeed.
Investors will be reluctant to provide you with funds based on your ideas and vision alone, as they want some objectivity about potential returns on their investment. This highlights the importance of preparing financial data to inform investors in their decision-making process. Having secure and reliable software in place that can pull high-integrity financial data about your business will instill confidence in a potential investor. Work with your accountant and banker to ensure that they have access to all the necessary data. A nice touch is to create a direct-bank feed to guarantee that investors are viewing the most up-to-date financial information.
The most convenient means by which investors may access documents of a strategic or financial nature is through a data room. Whilst using a simple Google Drive or Dropbox is a good start, ideally your data room should allow end to end encryption at the document level (like the one provided through PEF Capital) and be separated into various ‘vaults’ for each stage of the transaction process.

Begin thinking about how you will execute your plan

Even for investors easily caught up in your business’s team or idea, ensuring there are sound processes in place will be crucial to getting them to sign on the dotted line. This generally means talking investors through step by step the key processes on which you will rely to implement your solution. Usually, this will be at a high-level but be prepared to talk details if required.
An example of this is risk management, as severe consequences can arise for all stakeholders if adequate measures are not in place. It would be insufficient to address risk from a high-level, and detailed risk management procedures should be put in place from the perspective of the specific type of risk, such as key-person risk or operational risks.
A startup’s sound processes should be well-documented with key ones accessible in the company’s data room, targeting areas such as business work streams, strategy, operation, action planning and evaluation.

Key Takeaways

We see all too often founders who begin attracting investors too early. Sometimes they believe investors will be sold on a good idea without the steps mentioned above. Other times it’s because they aren’t aware that they are not ready and could benefit from external guidance. If you are considering seeking out potential investors and have any questions, get in touch with us at [email protected]

How to Reach Clients in the Building and Construction Industry

The consultants at McKinsey  believe some businesses are about to make a fortune with helping the building and construction industry digitize and automate their operations. That’s just one of the opportunities on the table that startups could take advantage of. A few other possibilities include selling project management software, scheduling apps, CRM software and design software to the players in this lucrative industry. With construction being a 13+ trillion dollar a year business globally (calculated in Australian dollars), the potential for profiting from this industry is significant.

But how can a marketer go about reaching the right people in the building and construction industry to sell them software, automation services or whatever other relevant products and services your startup has to offer? If you’re selling to UX designers, it’s relatively easy to find them on social media — but most building surveyors, plumbers and glaziers aren’t spending their days hanging about on Facebook.

It’s easy to find them once you know where to look. That’s what we aim to help you with here: Finding your startup’s potential clients in the building and construction industry.

There are two major facets you’ll want to consider when marketing to clients in the building and construction industry. The first is inbound marketing — that is, creating marketing materials that compel your prospects to come to you because they genuinely want to learn more about what you have to offer. The second is outbound marketing — tailoring your outreach efforts to specifically target your prospects, start a conversation with them and determine whether you can build a mutually beneficial relationship. We’ll cover both aspects.

Inbound Marketing That Targets Professionals in the Building and Construction Industry

Your Website, Search Engine Optimization and Opt-In Email Newsletters

One of the most effective ways to reach clients is through your website. Be proactive about optimizing your website for lead generation. Capture email addresses and make an effort to segment your prospects. This will allow you to send out email newsletters that offer appropriate content for whichever stage of the buying funnel your prospect is currently in. Consider these relevant selling strategies for the construction industry when you create the content for your website and newsletters. Blogging is also effective if your team is willing and able to do it consistently.

Press Releases

According to Hubspot, you can use press releases for either inbound or outbound marketing purposes. If your team uses press releases, be sure to direct each message at your ideal clients instead of just the media at large; this will make your press releases more effective as inbound marketing tools.

Outbound Marketing to Reach Clients in the Building and Construction Industry

Trade Publications

Establish yourself and your team members as thought leaders in the building and construction industry by submitting content for, or obtaining coverage in, the most relevant industry trade publications.

In Australia, the following are some of the publications your prospects are probably reading:

It might also make sense to consider advertising your business in some of these publications.

Networking Through Industry Associations

There are many industry associations that bring Australia’s building and construction industry professionals together for sharing information and insights. Try to arrange for someone from your marketing team to set up speaking engagements or demonstrations of your products at trade association meetings and events.

Cold Calling

If you’re selling, for example, a product like a scheduling app that would be useful to individual plumbers, electricians or other contractors, it is possible that courteous cold calling could be an effective means of outreach. For this to work well, you have to target your calls with precision and ensure that you’re offering genuine value to your prospects. Know exactly who you’re targeting, research their pain points ahead of time, and be upfront about telling them precisely how your product or service will solve their problems. Also be sure to observe all relevant telemarketing laws.

Here’s how to reach your prospects by telephone:

You can find the phone numbers of many building and construction industry professionals in Victoria by searching the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) database.  However, individuals who hold a certificate IV in plumbing are not easily found through this database, and the relevant database for them will not help you locate unknown prospects. So if you’re specifically trying to reach plumbers, instead try searching the Master Plumbers’ database or using Searchfrog.

Tradebuild is the Housing Industry Association’s B2C database. It can be another good source for locating contact information for tradespeople in Australia, including plumbers and many others.

When you formulate your marketing plan, consider your potential return on investment from both inbound and outbound marketing. Both types of strategies can be effective for reaching your prospects in the building and construction industry.

Food for thought: Lunch matters

How your employees feel about their meal break reflects on your company culture and business performance

It’s easy to chuck the meal break as more suited for the pre-mechanisation era — when workers needed to replenish physically from their labour-intensive jobs. Today, with machines doing most of the heavy lifting, there floats the notion that less rest is needed since most of the work is done with little to no physical exertion.

 

But we also know there’s been endless research and publications that prove this wrong. Most recently, the digital diagnosis from CSIRO’s Workplace Safety Futures and Deloitte Human Capital Trends reported on how the hyper-connected workplace is affecting productivity, resulting in time away from family, as well as an increase in chronic illness among Australians.

 

For most startups, getting the business to take off is hard enough. Harder still is instilling the culture you wish to practice, since company culture evolves and may mean something different for everyone. But if you agree that culture eats strategy for breakfast, then what’s for lunch really matters.

Is a meal break required? Yes and no.

In Australia, many entitlements are insisted upon under the National Employment Standards, but a meal break is not one of them. The requirement provisioned by Modern Awards is a 30-minute unpaid meal break for employees who work more than five hours in a day. In a survey of 500 Australians, this proves prevalent among almost half of the respondents, whilst only 1 in 10 employees gets to enjoy a full hour of respite. 

Are you allowing work to eat your employees’ lunch?

When it comes to how the meal break is spent, the modus operandi for 18 percent of respondents is to eat at their desks or workstations. Sixteen percent opt for the office break room to enjoy their midday nourishment, and 1 in 10 uses this time to socialise with colleagues.

 

One in 10 employees feels the need to work through lunch because of peer pressure, they feel guilty if they don’t or they are doing so to impress the boss. In other words, the assumption of those employees who choose to work through lunch is that it’s an expected practice at their workplace.

 

So how is employee satisfaction? Look in the break room.

Anthropologist Krystal D’Costa believes that the employees’ perception of their lunch break and the office break room can be a gauge for company performance and morale. She observes when things are going well (the kitchen is full and lively) and when things aren’t looking ripper (the break room is quiet and sullen). She recognises there can be other variables on how employees choose to spend their lunch break, but ultimately, what this break looks like is significant. It shows if employees feel empowered to take the break they need and deserve, if they feel connected to their co-workers and whether their employer encourages this kind of socialisation and reprieve.

 

Working smart is not working hard

When Liv Hambrett listened to her friend voicing frustration amidst planning her move back to Australia from Hong Kong, one detail stood out more than others. The moving company the friend was dealing with told her to call back because they were on a lunch break. A global business popping the ‘closed’ sign on the door for lunch? How dare they!

 

As a fellow Australian who’s been living and working in Europe since 2010, it took awhile for Liv to get used to the laidback lifestyle, compared to home, when she first arrived. But when she honed in on some stats, she found how the most productive and wealthiest countries in the world also worked the fewest hours.

 

Failure to lunch? It’s on the employer.

The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia ruled to penalise a South Australian hotel for breaching the applicable Award’s meal breaks clause, following a Fair Work Commission investigation. The FWO acknowledged the employer’s decision to forgo its casual employees’ half-hour break entitlement because the employees themselves preferred to work straight through their shift and not stay the additional 30 minutes. But the FWO reiterated that was not a “good reason for employers to ignore the Legislative provisions”. As an employer, you are ultimately responsible for your employees’ well-being.

 

Want culture? Do lunch.

A meal is often used to celebrate and mark milestones. Nothing signifies unity and connectivity more than breaking bread together. Creating a lunch culture at work can be as simple as designating a space, allowing storage for food (and we don’t mean an esky!) or incentivising with company-wide meals when goals are met. And if it’s time to redefine your company mission or vision, perhaps you should first look at how your employees are spending their meal breaks and see if a lunch manifesto is needed. You’d be surprised at the return on investment on retention, productivity and engagement.

About the Author

Prior to becoming a global copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution for small businesses, Dottie Chong spent 15 years in marketing communications and content management focussed on driving engagement and brand affinity.

Do you sell out of sizes too quickly?

In this blog, I am going to talk about how you can learn the tricks of savvy eCommerce stores, and get some tricks for size analysis and how to determine the life of a product.

I love to shop. It’s in my DNA, I like the frill of the chase. The feeling of getting a bargain, the feeling of winning, of saving money, or of getting something unique. I like to abandon my cart with new eCommerce websites that I find, to see if they retarget me & offer me a discount to make my purchase. Another thing I enjoy is predicting when something will go on sale. My strategy for this is to review the availability of sizes, then to check if there is an abundance of the same thing in the rest of the market. I’m usually pretty good at determining if it’s going to go on sale or not, I am also freakishly patient at shopping, so will happily wait. I have been known to wait for 12 months for a product to drop to my price range. My favourite stores are the ones that can beat me on my strategy. The ones that have managed to balance their risky fashion purchases vs. their core everyday purchases. The ones that I know I will have to buy at full price because I can tell that the products they have brought will sell out in 1 day, 1 week, 1 month; whatever the life of product they have decided. That smart buying makes it tough for me. But it also drives demand, and for me, respect. In order to keep these savvy shoppers, you need to understand the life of products that you stock. Is a product going to last the test of a trend? Is a trend going to be done in a month, or is it more sustainable? You need to know how to pick it. Sites like WGSN, Refinery29, High Snobiety are great for inspiration & details on trend.

As a professional working in inventory management the number one complaints that I hear, is that my clients are selling out of certain sizes too quickly, and they are left with broken inventory or random sizes. As a former Merchandise Planner, Buyer and Merchandiser, key to my success were optimizing the size curve for the buyer. You’ll never get this 100% accurate, as you don’t have a crystal ball. But you can get this to around 90 – 95% accuracy by using historical data & learning when and why to look at the data at these points.

My first tip is to look at the history of a product at around 60 – 70% sell through. Look for the balance by size in the sell-through; i.e. are they all at a similar sell-through rate? If the answer is no – read on. If you have an average rate of 70% sell through, but you have some sizes at 40% i.e. too low, or some sizes at 90%+ i.e. too high.

Look at the below example of the buy:

All sizes were bought quite flat; assuming that they would sell at the same rate.

But as you can see; in this case, Large was the key size, but was only the second highest buy-in units.

So the sales rate of sale differed to the buy curve, you can also see that the liquidation or sell through varied by size:

The large size picked up sales of nearly 10% more than the buy, therefore this will sell out much faster than the other sizes & eventually lead to broken inventory and disappointed customers.

I would, therefore, review these factors – Liquidation and the actual sales curve to get the below buy curve for future buys:

I calculated this =((Ordered Stock * % Sales)*Liq %), I would then look at this and decide if I was happy with such a heavy weighting in favour of the size large, and what this would mean for units ordered. I would also review other factors historically, such as colour. Darker base colours might be preferable in larger sizes, whereas lighter colour bases could be preferable in smaller sizes. Data is your friend when making these choices or decisions. Also reviewing promotions that you had during any of the sales periods, that could have falsified data, or if you sell via multiple channels such as Amazon, Shopify and a Bricks & Mortar store, were any of them over or understocked. Factors to the sales are your friend when making decisions.

You need to have a good look at multiple SKUs or styles to make the call. Eventually, you’ll be able to rely more on gut feel, combined with sales history to make an informed decision. It’s also not a bad thing to seek outside help in making decisions on inventory. Remember that people make complete careers out of inventory management.  Speaking of which; I now run a Retail Consulting business, I specialize in Inventory Management and OTB – or Open to Buy maximization. Helping businesses to get the most out of their stock to maximize sales.

This Post was written buy Zoey Hopkins, you can find Zoey’s site and contact details here

Zoey Help!

If your vision is authentic, it resonates

In this Guest Post, Emily Haydon founder of The Talent Connective shares some honest insights gained since launching her recruitment business.

I never believed I had an entrepreneurial gene. But life can change a person’s drivers. And at some point, my desire to create something outweighed my fear 1000 to 1.

I now believe, if your vision comes from a place of authenticity & you’re truly adding value, it resonates.  You seem to find yourself in alignment with your ideal customer, and people will rise to support you.

Starting a business has been the most humbling experience of my career.

It’s meant stripping away some of the facades we can often tell ourselves are important, like portfolio size, title, company perks, and really stripping back to what’s important at the core.  For me this is:

 

Creation and an unyielding need to build something from a place of authenticity

Contribution, legacy, meaning. It took me years to work out how to combine my career with social contribution. Now that I’ve done it I genuinely believe any product or service model could be structured as social enterprise.

Time – only through this exercise have I truly learned the meaning of work life integration.  Mumpreneuring through school holidays just turned all of my corporate conditioning on time management on it’s head. But I wouldn’t change it.

Challenge. Big goals move mountains. And the road ahead is very, very exciting.

 

Brisbane is undoubtedly a city with a big heart for supporting start-ups.  I also think this overwhelmingly positive response so early on comes from there being a driver within us all to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Social entrepreneurialism gives people an option to do that through their business purchasing decisions and change the lives of communities everywhere.

 

Emily Haydon is the Founder of The Talent Connective, Digital Talent Acquisition in Brisbane that supports micro-finance loans and financial literacy courses in India, Africa and Bangladesh.