Turn Up The Volume: Why Buying Groups Make Good Financial Sense

By Tim Hosinkson, Vice President at Unistar Purchasing Solutions

For most companies, cutting costs without sacrificing quality is an ongoing adventure. It’s just part of the business world’s prime directive of profit maximization. In C-level suites across the country and even the world, highly intelligent people debate the pros and cons of various cost-saving measures. Sometimes the debates prove fruitful and other times they can prove contentious. Often, however, they lead to a painful conclusion for someone down the line, whether it’s a vendor or an employee.

However, when executives and accountants look at their spreadsheets, it’s no surprise that the larger expenses are what stand out the most. By their sheer size, large expense items become the immediate target of such discussions. Those items will be studied and analyzed for months and sometimes years by people who are looking for ways to reduce their costs. By the time someone stumbles upon a way to find a way to cut an expense, the number of man-hours it took studying and analyzing often offsets the savings.

The Little Things add Up

Conversely, smaller expenses – the ones that add up over time – are too often overlooked or even worse are outright ignored. We take for granted that office supplies should cost X, printing should cost Y, and garbage service should cost Z. As an aggregate, these “smaller” expenses can end up costing a medium-sized company tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Generally, however, these smaller expenses tend to fly under the radar as individual expense items or are lumped into someone’s “operational budget”.  After all, how much can you really save on copy paper, business cards or dumpsters?

The Cost–Benefit Issue

Prudent managers weigh the cost-benefit ratio before taking on any new project.

Question:  “Where do I dedicate the time and energy of some of my best people?”

Answer:    “Where they can make the biggest impact on my bottom-line.”

Putting your best people on the high-dollar, high-visibility expense areas is a real “no-brainer”.  But what about the other smaller expense areas?  Do we continue to push them aside and hope to get to them…eventually?  This is exactly where purchasing service firms, or buying groups, come into play.  They have the experience, expertise, and ability to deliver cost savings in these areas with very little of your time and energy.

The Purchasing Solution

For many years now, companies have been turning to third party service providers to add value, expertise and experience in areas where it makes sense. These days, purchasing service firms are doing that very same thing. Purchasing solution companies like Unistar can help your company cut costs by helping you better manage your purchasing in common operational expense areas like; office supplies, solid waste services, commercial printing, janitorial products, and so on. PLUS – they can show you how to lower your spend in these areas by 10, 15, 20 percent or more.

With an average savings of 20%, minimal effort on our clients behalf, and no supply or service disruption, why wouldn’t you want to talk to Unistar? Whether your goal is cost savings, creating efficiencies, asset reallocation or other – working with Unistar really is a “no-brainer”.

Want to find out what we can do for you?  Contact us at 502-238-8260 for a no hassle, no pressure conversation

Get An Estimate Today!

verage savings of 20%, minimal effort on our clients behalf, and no supply or service disruption, why wouldn’t you want to talk to Unistar? Whether your goal is cost savings, creating efficiencies, asset reallocation or other – working with Unistar really is a “no-brainer”.

Want to find out what we can do for you?  Contact us at 502-238-8260 for a no hassle, no pressure conversation

Get An Estimate Today!

Tricks of the Trademark – Why Your Business Needs Charter Name & Trademark Clearance

By David H. Cooper, Corporate Business Attorney at the Law Office of David H. Cooper

A portion of my corporate/business/transactional law practice involves the organization and/or syndication of new businesses. All too often, many attorneys, who are not specialists in this area of the law, casually dismiss the importance of, or are otherwise not sophisticated enough to realize, that the charter name selected for the new company, or any service marks or trademarks to be used in the business, must be cleared from a substantive trademark law perspective. Making sure that a charter name and/or the trademarks or service marks used in the new business are available for the client’s use is imperative in order to minimize the likelihood that the new business owner will receive a cease and desist letter from a third party who claims an infringement based upon their prior and superior rights, whether pursuant to their common law rights and/or the legal presumptions accorded by a federal registration from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

Just because a charter name for a new limited liability company or cooperation may be available in any jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that such charter name does not infringe the charter name or mark of another entity in the same or different state. The filing clerks, in all Secretary of State Offices, do not typically render their charter name “availability decisions” based upon substantive trademark law standards.

In my prior representation of Tumbleweed, Inc., a Louisville based restaurant chain, my client advised me of an unrelated Indiana corporation, doing business south of Indianapolis, which operated a full service restaurant under the common law designation TUMBLEWEED STEAK AND GRILL™ serving both steaks and Tex-Mex foods. At that time, Tumbleweed, Inc., which also served steaks and Tex-Mex foods, had over 30 company owned and//or franchised store units, several of which were in Indiana. Tumbleweed then owned over 20 incontestable federal registrations of the mark TUMBLEWEED® for full service restaurants and food products which accorded Tumbleweed, Inc. the exclusive right to use TUMBLEWEED® for restaurant services and specified food products throughout the United States (with such incontestable registrations providing conclusive proof of its exclusive right to use the mark TUMBLEWEED® in interstate commerce).

I issued a cease and desist letter to the Indianapolis entity. Its attorney, who rarely performed “corporate work” and was primarily a personal injury lawyer, initially stated “my client has the absolute right to use its charter name in Indiana”. Under established jurisprudence, his analysis was flawed because of the legal effect of Tumbleweed, Inc.’s federal registrations (and for other reasons under state and federal law). As a consequence of Tumbleweed, Inc.’s legitimate demands, the Indiana entity had to rebrand its operations, incurring crippling expenses after its start-up which included new signage, new menus, napkins, advertising and legal fees. In fact, this start-up entity changed its name to LOST NAME SALOON™ (obviously, not at all confusingly similar to TUMBLEWEED®)~~~and this case remains one of the more humorous outcomes of my legal career.

Whether one mark is “confusingly similar” to another designation should be determined only by an experienced trademark attorney who is qualified to make this subjective evaluation. As a prior Trademark Examiner Attorney in the USPTO, I can attest to the difficulty of determining whether conflicting marks are “confusingly similar”. One must compare the marks in terms of sound, meaning and appearance and, furthermore, determine whether the competing goods and/or services are within the same channels of trade and/or sold to the same class of purchasers.

In my practice, I routinely conduct “spot check” searches of records in the USPTO and investigate common law references to other related marks using various Internet search engines, all to assess whether a likelihood of confusion exists. For some clients, who want more assurances (and willing to incur more expense), I’ll commission an outsourced, computerized report that generates all possible phonetic equivalents and even searches design components. Ignoring such basic trademark matters, particularly in the start-up of any business, could cause its failure. Charter name and trademark clearance is imperative.

©Copyright; 2016; Law Office of David H. Cooper; All Rights Reserved. Email: david@davidhcooper.com; (502) 419-1969

Cooper has over 30 years of combined experience in (i) the private practice of corporate/business law; (ii) serving as senior in-house legal counsel; and (iii) participating in entrepreneurial start-ups. As the prior owner and operator of seven businesses, and having participated in many other types of investments and ventures, he providse value added services for his clients by rendering practical, business consultation advice and, furthermore, minimizing the personal exposure of his clients in organizing and expanding their businesses.

10 Awesome Benefits You Can Offer Your Employees

By Valerie Reeves, President and Owner of Preferred Benefits LLC

Though getting great talent through the door might require nothing more than an advertisement and required benefits, keeping them with the company is another task. As an employer, it is imperative to the success of your company that you show your staff just how much you value what they do. By offering additional benefits, you’re not only showing your appreciation, but motivating your employees to excel within your organization. Below is a list of 10 benefits to offer your staff:

  1. Profit Sharing: This is the method in which you offer your staff a percentage of the company profits. This is outside of their normal salary. You can make these benefits unique to the structure of your company’s finances by offering profits on a quarterly or annual basis. When your staff feels as though they benefit from your company’s profitability, they’re more appreciative and work harder to excel each year.
  2. Gym Memberships: Employee wellness programs are a great way to show your staff that you care about them as individuals. Healthy employees call in sick less and work a lot harder. Offering your staff a full or partial paid gym membership is a great incentive.
  3. Sports Teams: What better way to encourage teamwork and improve company morale than to start a company sports team? Your staff will enjoy this perk in that they have the opportunity to bond with coworkers outside of the confinements of the office.
  4. Treat to OffSite Events: Treat the staff to a day out of the office. Whether you host a bowling event, have a nice company picnic, or invite staff to play a round of golf on the company, they’ll enjoy the experience. It allows your staff to connect and comingle. If you really want to increase employee appreciation, invite them to bring their families along for the festivities.
  5. Subsidized Education: Continued education has become a huge interest for many adults. However, the cost of going to college can often prevent them from wanting to attend. By offering to pay for a percentage of their tuition, you’re showing that you care about their growth and development.
  6. Time Off for Birthdays: Who really wants to come to work on their birthday? If you really want to make your staff feel special, allow them to have paid time off on that special day.
  7. Sports Tickets: Looking for little incentives that you can hand out to your star employees? Sports tickets are a great perk. You don’t have to purchase expensive tickets for them to feel appreciated. Two tickets to a local sports team are very affordable but the appreciation is priceless.
  8. Free Food: Employees like to feel at home. They’re at work for a large chunk of the day, and the more at home you can make them feel, the better. Providing free food is one way to do this. This might include always having bagels, coffee, tea, and danishes in the breakroom. It might also mean providing free lunch to the staff on a quarterly basis.
  9. Childcare Assistance: A parent’s first concern is the well-being of their children. Offering onsite childcare or even providing partial payment for nearby childcare centers takes a load off of your employee’s shoulders. This is especially true if there is childcare on the premises, as they can easily run down and check in on their children.
  10. Flex Time: Flex time simply means allowing your staff to choose their start and finish time. In doing so, you show your staff that you care about their personal lives. They have the flexibility to choose the hours that work best with their schedules at home.

It doesn’t take much to let your employees know that you care about more than just their work ethic and skills to complete a job. You can make these ten benefits unique to the budget and needs of your company. Once you start implementing these perks, you’ll see a difference in the way your staff values the work that they do and the company as a whole.

Complacent IT Technicians Can Be a Company’s Worst Nightmare

Complacent IT Technicians Can Be a Company’s Worst Nightmare

The modern business is inundated with all types of threats, from people outside the organization phishing around for information, to employees that are aloof to their role in your network’s security. If your network’s security is like a levee, it is indisputably an IT department’s job to fill in the gaps to ensure a deluge of misfortune doesn’t swamp your company’s IT. So what happens when your company’s IT department is the biggest offender of perilous activity?

According to a report that was commissioned by cloud business app provider Intermedia and concocted by Precision Sample, the people tasked with keeping your IT infrastructure and network secure are the most likely to ignore industry best practices concerning network security. The study produced some concerning numbers, including 32 percent of IT staff respondents admitting that they are more than 10 percent more likely to to give out their login credentials than your normal worker. Intermedia VP of Identity and Access Management, Richard Walters explains.

It’s nearly always that technical people are the worst offenders. They know how to get around various controls that an IT team will put in place. It’s sometimes done with the best intent, but nevertheless with a complete lack of consideration for the risk or security implications.

Additionally, over one-quarter of IT professionals polled said they’ve permeated IT systems to which they were no longer allowed access to, and over 30 percent said that they would absolutely take data from a company they were leaving if they thought it could personally benefit their careers. This is over three times the amount of business professionals under the same circumstances.

Overall, 93 percent of polled participants admitted to some sort of insecure IT practice; a striking number that had a myriad of negative results, including data breaches, regulatory compliance failures, and deliberate sabotage. These scenarios can leave an organization exposed to potentially devastating positions.

At Argentum IT LLC, our managed IT services can alleviate nearly all of your potential IT disasters, including situations like a complacent technician sharing information they clearly shouldn’t be sharing. Our certified and trustworthy technicians remotely monitor and maintain your network to proactively squelch potential problems before they come to fruition. Our techs are well versed in industry best practices and understand exactly what it takes to keep your organization’s IT safe. To learn more about our managed IT services, give us a call today at (502) 473-6407.

When Disaster Strikes, You’ll Be Happy Your IT is Redundant

When Disaster Strikes, You’ll Be Happy Your IT is Redundant

When it comes to your business’s technology infrastructure, the more basic it is, the better. Granted, a simple IT infrastructure isn’t always easy to install, especially when there are so many great solutions on the market that can be implemented to achieve optimal efficiency. Sometimes the best IT solutions are those that make your technology simpler to manage, and your network less complicated. That said, you’d think redundancy would complicate this formula, but it’s actually a necessity for your business continuity plan.

In IT, redundancy refers to the safeguarding of your business’s technology infrastructure, primarily its data. Organizations that have redundant IT infrastructures are capable of guaranteeing that their data is securely stored elsewhere in the case of an emergency. Essentially, achieving data redundancy is the same as taking proactive measures to keep your information safe in the event of a catastrophic data disaster, such as the failure of a mission-critical piece of hardware, or the theft of vital information from a hacking attack.

Considering the fact that most businesses that fail to recover from a data loss disaster declare bankruptcy within a year of the incident, your business has no choice but to ensure that your organization’s data is as redundant and secure as possible from both internal and external threats that could result in data loss, like user error, hardware failure, and hacking attacks.

What we’re proposing to you is that you take advantage of a complete data backup and disaster recovery solution that’s optimized for data redundancy. The ideal backup solution takes multiple snapshots of your business’s data throughout the workday, so you can know with confidence that your backups are as recent as possible, minimizing data loss and mitigating the damage of such incidents. This data should be sent to multiple secure locations, like a cloud-based data storage unit or a secure, off-site data center. This helps preserve your data from hackers and other disasters, should one location be destroyed or rendered obsolete.

Of course, having backups of your IT infrastructure and data available on a whim is only so useful if you’re having trouble rapidly deploying them. This is the second important piece of a data backup and disaster recovery solution: the recovery itself. You want your data to be restored as quickly as possible to ensure that you experience minimal downtime. In fact, with Argentum IT LLC’s backup and disaster recovery solution, you won’t have to worry about the deployment of your data post-disaster. The BDR device can act as a temporary server in the event of a hardware failure, automatically deploying your data backups and effectively taking the server’s place while you search for a quality hardware replacement. How’s that for redundancy?

For more information about how Argentum IT LLC can make your life easier with our technology management solutions, give us a call at (502) 473-6407.

Spending on Cloud IT Infrastructures Projected to Reach $33.4 Billion in 2015

Spending on Cloud IT Infrastructures Projected to Reach $33.4 Billion in 2015

b2ap3_thumbnail_cloud_computing_enhancement_400.jpgHow much thought have you put into your business’s cloud solution? If you haven’t already considered cloud computing, you definitely should. There’s a reason why cloud spending is in third place overall in IT expenditures, and that’s thanks to the overwhelming benefits that it offers in contrast to the traditional IT network model.

In fact, according to the Worldwide Cloud IT Infrastructure tracker for the first quarter of 2015, cloud IT will soon trump spending on traditional IT models sometime in the next decade.

There are several noteworthy observations to make concerning this image:

Traditional IT is still the main player for 2015, rolling in at just over 65 percent of all deployments.
Public cloud IT accounts for around 20 percent of all deployments.
Private cloud IT makes up over 10 percent of all deployments.
Over the next five years, traditional IT will continue to decrease in usage, while the public cloud will make a significant jump in use. Private clouds will continue to grow, but not as quick a rate as the public cloud.

On the financial scale, here are some statistics:

Spending on cloud IT infrastructures will reach $33.4 billion in 2015 alone.
Spending on private cloud infrastructures will grow to $11.7 billion.
Public cloud shows projected expenditures and growth of up to $21.7 billion.

These numbers show that the cloud industry is growing at a staggering rate, and that while traditional IT expenditures continue to fall, they’re not being mitigated slowly enough to be considered an afterthought yet. Whether or not your business wants to integrate a cloud solution shouldn’t be a question. The benefits greatly outweigh the costs in the long run, and there are a plethora of options to choose from; be it private cloud, public cloud, or even a mix of the two in a hybrid cloud solution.

It must be emphasized that the cloud can not only benefit your business model, but it can also increase your company’s mobility. By giving your employees the ability to access mission-critical applications and information while out of the office, you’re opening up more opportunities for productivity outside of the workplace. This lets your team choose how they want to work, and on what device.

It’s safe to say that the cloud is revolutionizing the deployment of information and applications, but what are your thoughts on it? If you have questions or concerns, feel free to call Argentum IT LLC. We can discuss how the cloud can benefit your business, and what complications you need to look out for. We can even help you integrate your own customized cloud solution. Contact us at (502) 473-6407 for more information.

How To Cause A “Reset”

I recently referred a client, a commercial custom ink manufacturer and distributor, to Reset Strategies, LLC, one of my EST marketing partners. I thought they could benefit from working with Reset.

EST_reset_logo

My client is now in their “second generation” as a medium sized family business and they have developed a significant customer based during the past thirty years.

As with all businesses, customers “come and go” and Reset was able to generate significant business growth just from effectively re-contacting their prior customers without inordinately expensive advertising costs or capital outlay. Reset was able to capitalize on my client’s goodwill and favorable reputation by recommending the appropriate marketing strategies that would cause these customers to purchase their goods and services again. With more established and mature businesses, that typically have extensive customer lists, Reset usually generates a much higher return on investment with a company’s existing and prior customers as compared to the higher expense of soliciting new customers.

Thank you Chad and Brad. My client thanks you as well.

-David Cooper

Do You Know A Good Lawyer Joke…I Mean A Lawyer Who Can Help Me?

I had a client with a need.

They are an internet based upscale startup, which sells wearing apparel. As every start up does, they needed a corporate/business/intellectual property attorney.

I called David H. Cooper,an EST member.

EST_DHC_logo

My client needed comprehensive legal advice on how to set up her business and both establish and protect her intellectual property. It was critical to adopt, clear, select and federally register a new service mark in order to avoid any possible re-branding should any third party subsequently assert any likelihood of confusion.

The protection of her new marketing identity was a critical startup concern, especially since the client had aspirations of licensing (and/or franchising) the use of the service mark to others. There were also copyright issues involved in protecting the expression of her design formats.

A creative approach was needed.

David organized her into a limited liability company using shifting ownership interests to give a preferred return of investment to her outside investors, providing for a more “user friendly” transaction in order to attract the outside investors.

My client deeply appreciated David’s holistic advice in addressing all of the syndication issues of her new company and making sure her intellectual property and marketing concepts were legally protected.

EST_david_cooper

David, as always, came through for me and my client. Thanks David.

-Chad Celi/Reset Strategies

10 Questions to be prepared for before a disaster and have a plan to answer during a disaster!

Disaster recovery plans test systems performance and recovery–but there is no scientific way to test the resilience of employees (or yourself) under disastrous conditions. This can leave your company exposed to human error, risks of danger, and miscommunication. Here are 10 questions managers should ask to make sure they’re addressing the nontechnical side of DR.

1: Is everyone physically all right?

2: Are key contributors emotionally stable?

3: Are you remaining calm?

4: Who takes over for a top performer?

5: Are you keeping your CEO informed?

6: Does everyone understand the communication tree?

7: Who in IT talks to whom?

8: Are you ready for the outside world?

9: What didn’t you think of?

10: How often do you review your plan?