Women in Accounting: Are You Protecting Your Business?
Picture this: you’ve built a successful business from the ground up, you’re getting ready to expand your firm, and someone who’s been a member of your team since the beginning leaves to start their own business...with all of your blueprints with them.
This can go one of two ways.
If you’ve protected your brand, you can bat your eyelashes and move forward with your plans to scale your business without breaking a sweat.
If you haven’t taken the steps to legally fortress your business, then get ready for the walls to start crumbling.
For women in accounting, legally protecting your brand is essential so you can confidently grow your business. Why?
Protecting your brand does a few things for service providers:
Allows you to build your legacy: A lot of times, our “why” is to build something that our family can benefit from for generations to come — so make sure what you’re leaving is well-protected!
Leverage opportunities with confidence: By covering each and every detail of your business, you’re leaving no stone unturned and won’t have to look over your shoulder around each corner of the process.
Take ownership over your brand and protect your business: At the end of the day, what you’re doing here is ensuring that your brand is yours — and no one else’s.
But, how do you do this?
Enter: Ashlee J. Fox. Ashlee is the Owner of Fox Legal Firm, a boutique law firm based out of Atlanta, Georgia that specializes in business and trademark law for entrepreneurial women.
Ashlee led a webinar for The Lady CPA Network on protecting your brand, and now we’re here to cover what she reports are the key protections for your business.
What are they?
Today, we'll be talking about one of the key ways to protect your business: contracts.
Contracts: Sign on the dotted line
Especially in accounting, it’s so important to use contracts!
Because it’s essential for you and your clients to be on the same page. And with a contract, you’re ensuring that both parties know exactly what’s expected out of the services you’re rendering, payment, communication, and deadlines — even boundaries!
Now, you might think that a verbal agreement is enough. It’s not.
Ashlee says that to effectively protect your brand, you must set clear expectations in writing in an agreement. In an agreement here is doing all the work!
A lot of times, we’ll just close deals in emails, via social media, via text message — and this should be avoided at all costs.
A contractual agreement is an opportunity to hammer out the details of your work and working relationship, and make sure everyone’s clear on the business you’re agreeing to take on. Repeat this to yourself: this is bigger than a text. A text is not enough.
So, when should women in accounting and finance utilize contracts?
Building the brand
When you’re in the process of building your business, you’re going to be hiring a lot of people.
While you’re constructing your brand, you’ll probably be looking to hire someone to photograph you, build your website, or even provide a consultation for your business strategy.
There are a lot of different places where you’re going to be spending money and asking for help.
A perfect example of a contract effectively protecting your business is with your logo. Let’s say you hire a graphic designer to design your logo. You’re going to want to make sure that the designer gives you the ownership rights to your logo once they’ve completed the final design for your brand.
What does it mean if you don’t have the ownership rights to your logo?
You have your logo, you’ve built your business, and now a few years have passed. And you notice something that looks almost exactly like your logo slapped onto a website that isn’t yours.
The designer used the logo they created for you, for someone else. And they’ll be entirely in their rights to sell because you didn’t have a contract that stipulated that the ownership rights of the design would belong to you!
If you had put together a contract that included that you will have intellectual property rights of your logo, this never would’ve happened.
Rinse and repeat this situation for any and every aspect of your business.
Growing the brand
Contracts aren’t only justified while you’re building the brand — you also need contracts for growing your business.
Once you’ve established your brand, you’re going to start landing deals and hiring. Now, you’re not just dealing with the backend of your business. You’re dealing with the actual substance of your company. And you want to make sure you get this right.
Once you’ve shifted to growing your business, women in accounting are going to need contracts for:
When you’re working with your clients and you’re hammering out the services you’ll actually be providing them, you’re going to want this in writing.
As Ashlee says, people want a four-course meal on a McDonald’s budget. They’ll be asking for daily reviews, services that lie outside of your area of expertise, and more time than you ever would’ve agreed to if you had outlined your services in a contract.
You’re not trying to work more hours for less money: you’re trying to add value. And you want to be able to do that effectively and efficiently, with clear expectations set from the start.
Contracts also come into play when you start hiring.
Are you hiring contractors? Are you hiring employees?
There are different expectations, as well as different ways of handling both of these workers. A contract will outline all of this, so there are no repercussions or confusion later on down the road.
Ashlee puts it clearly: if you would be upset about losing the money...you need a contract.
There are a few reasons you might not have used contracts in your business yet, one of them being that you might be a little nervous to hand a contract over to a client and lose their business.
But, you shouldn’t be afraid to present your client with a contract! While you may feel like this is a risky step to take, women in accounting shouldn’t be intimidated by using contracts, because this shows that:
You’re a professional
You’re serious about your business
You want to protect your interests as well as your client’s interests
Consider using contracts regularly in your business and automating the contracts process as one of your systems. But we’ll talk more about that later.
Do you use contracts in your business? Why or why not?