The Bulletproof Business

 

tank© 2013 Vinny Ribas

You have come up with a new product or concept that is beginning to catch on. Little by little customers are beginning to switch to your brand. For a while, you are under the radar of the bigger companies whose customers you are winning. And then all at once it happens. Your presence is acknowledged by your competition because you have created a buzz around your “better mousetrap”.  If you’re were really small, and staying small, they would just pass you off as an inevitable copycat. However, you are growing in popularity and financial strength! That can scare any size competition.

Money and fear make people act strangely. When you honestly hurt already established companies, even a little, there is a good chance that any one or more of the following things might happen:

  • They might sue you for something (like patent infringement) and tie up your resources in court, even if the suit is frivolous.
  • They might throw massive marketing dollars at the problem to drown out the noise you have created.
  • Flexing their financial muscles, they might try to cut off your distribution or retail channels.
  • You might suddenly find your company getting bad press.
  • They might meet you head to head, copying exactly what you are marketing.
  • They might try to buy you out (not necessarily a bad thing).
  • You might start receiving false complaints that make you doubt your product or systems.

This list can be pages long. All companies want to protect their income streams. It may seem like a small business can’t win against an all-out attack from a bigger, more mature company.  However, there are some key things that you can do that will either deter your attackers or protect you from many of them. Here are a few ways to bulletproof your company:

  • Honesty: Keep an open door policy. The more things you try to keep secret, the easier it is for someone to make false accusations. If you’re forthright in all of your dealings, no one will have any bullets to shoot at you.
  • Insurance: Have more than adequate insurance. There are hundreds of different kinds of insurance. Be sure that you have someone you trust implicitly guiding you in this area. You will end up with numerous policies, but your peace of mind is worth every penny that you spend.
  • Legal: Make sure that everything you do and everything you sign is legal. Your attorneys should be involved in everything, including raising even your first dollar of capital, hiring employees, having all of the proper licenses and accreditations, filing for patents, trademarks or copyrights, adding board members and more. Be sure you have appropriate attorneys for each function. Ask them what policies and procedures you should put in place to avoid getting into legal trouble. Protect all of your intellectual property, and be sure you are not infringing on anyone else’s.
  • Finances: Never start or operate the business undercapitalized. Be sure that the method(s) you use to finance your business is the best one for your particular circumstances. Excessive debt can cause tremendous trouble. Purposely over exaggerating the company’s potential, or your investor’s projected ROI is more than dangerous. Also be sure the money is managed properly. Any weaknesses in your financial condition or hints of impropriety are open invitations to attacks.
  • Team: Be sure you have an executive team that knows your industry and can prepare you for how it will react to your presence. Your management team members should be responsible for bulletproofing each of their respective departments. They should also always act above reproach at all times. Their actions, even outside of the scope of the business, can be maliciously tied back to the integrity of your company.
  • Publicist: If your company comes under attack where your reputation is at stake, hiring a professional publicist can make all the difference in the world. They are experienced at minimizing bad press and warped opinions. They know exactly when and how to respond, if at all. They also know how to react to out-and-out attacks.
  • Systems: Having back-up systems for everything is critical to maintaining your success while under attack. Comb every facet of your business for possible weaknesses. For example, be sure you have systems in place to:
    • quickly replace any key leaders that your competition may lure from you with a bigger paycheck.
    • replace vendors who are ‘blackmailed’ into not doing business with you.
    • keep and reward customers and employees who remain loyal to you.
    • quickly file patents and trademarks to protect your intellectual property.
    • infuse the company with additional capital if necessary.

There will always be someone trying to rob you of your success. Of course, some will have tanks and will try to roll right over you. Most will come at you with tactics designed to throw you off course or to change the public’s opinion of you or your products. Putting the protections mentioned above into place will make most of those bullets just bounce off you. This is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of protections that you can put in place. Check with your team and brainstorm on other important safeguards you need to put in place. Often, you can protect yourself enough to discourage some of your competitors from even trying to unfairly knock you out of the race.

Tony Bodoh and Vinny Ribas are the co-founders of LeaderBridge. Tony is the author of the soon-to-be released book, ‘The Customer Within.’ He is a Fortune 150 consultant and the founder of Tony Bodoh International and VenuPlan. Vinny is the author of ‘CEO Secrets’ and has coached over 1000 entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of Indie Connect, an entertainment management, consulting and training company. Together, they have identified thirteen critical elements that successful businesses leverage in a specific sequence throughout each of four stages of business growth. Using these elements as the foundation, LeaderBridge offers a system of in-depth business, leadership and personal development training for business owners.

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