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Running a Business – Remotely

Running a Business – Remotely

Chris Mendenhall

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About three years ago, I spent a year living and working remotely from Europe. My experience was unique and interesting enough that I was featured in a series called Digital Nomad Life in Croatia. Of course, many people had been working remotely for years, but it hadn’t really become mainstream.  Then came the major disrupter of all life as we knew it – Covid-19.  Almost immediately, everyone the world over got a taste of working remotely, or at least of realizing that the world of work could look very different from how we always thought it had to be. 

As the pandemic begins to wind down (fingers crossed!) many companies are still offering some variation of work-from-home opportunities for their workers, whether it is to allow for more social distancing within the office space, or to accommodate workers who have proven that their work can be done just as efficiently from home. Some companies have taken advantage of a smaller workforce or flexible scheduling and downsized their physical locations. Once again, I find myself in a somewhat unique situation as my entire law firm has opted to operate fully remotely. At this moment, we have no plans to work from a single brick and mortar location.  Possibly ever.

There are some downsides to this arrangement. The first that comes to mind for most people is isolation.  We are social beings, and there can be creative synergy or mentorship that comes from popping by your officemate’s desk for a quick question or document review.  Many sticky problems can be resolved over a spontaneous lunch with a boss or a peer.  Despite the remote nature of many jobs, somebody must still store the unused equipment or file cabinets for things that still need paper documentation. Sometimes our homes are not big enough or quiet enough to serve the dual purpose of also functioning as productive workspaces. Some people simply do not work well unless they get out of their relaxed home space, dress up, and go to another place where they are expected to be efficient.

Some of these hurdles have been challenges for us, too, and maybe we’re just lucky that everyone on our team has been willing to find a way to make it work in exchange for the benefits of no commute, more daily flexibility, and the enormous cost savings which can be passed back to employees. Nevertheless, as we continue to navigate a world that has embraced remote or hybrid work models, it is wise to identify practices that have best helped businesses thrive during this notable shift. Here’s how we’ve found ways to handle these unusual circumstances and cut inefficiencies:

  • We use the Microsoft suite of products that allows for easy chatting, video conferencing, and shared, live document storage.  A quick question via Teams is no more –in fact, often less—intrusive  than dropping by someone’s office in person. Less time is wasted starting a Teams meeting than waiting for everyone to gather in one conference room and getting back to work after the meeting isn’t delayed by a trip past the water cooler. If a key person does happen to be late, the rest of us can continue working while we’re waiting.
  • Personal Interactions. We may not get together one on one as often as we did when working in the same space, but we have committed to frequent social gatherings, whether virtual or in person, to play games, do volunteer work, chat, have a beer, whatever. I feel I spend more quality time with my coworkers now than I ever have in my past jobs.
  • Home Offices. Some of our workers have had to be more creative than others with designing a productive workspace in their homes, but libraries, shared offices, and coworking spaces are also options, especially for in-person conferences. Also, there is nothing that says you have to spend your days at home in sweatpants and slippers if you believe you need to dress up to feel professional and productive. 
  • We have rented a UPS box as our mailing address.  UPS will also accept packages and hand deliveries on our behalf, and they will send our mail to us as often as we request.  Some mailbox companies will email pictures of incoming mail, so customers always know what is sitting in their box.  We have keys to access our mailbox at any time, day or night, if there is something that can’t wait for delivery.  All-important client mail is scanned, emailed, and stored in the appropriate client folders online.
  • Everyone has the same equipment at home that they would have in an office, except for maybe a printer/scanner. Since we have no hybrid model where some people want to work at home and in an office, we have no need for duplicate equipment in two locations.    
  • We have two administrative employees who have printers and one of those can also write checks, so if something needs to be printed and mailed, say certified mail or with a check, that is emailed to the person who can handle that task.  Receipts and document copies are scanned and stored online. One scanned copy can be efficiently filed electronically and accessible to everyone without any paper printing, copying, delivering, or filing.  Signatures are all handled through the same e-signature platform that we use with our clients.

The landscape for where most of us can perform our jobs has changed dramatically.  For me, working from home is not as exotic as working from Europe was, but generally, workers are happier when work fits nicely into the flexible lives they want to live. Businesses are more profitable when productivity is not affected by things like traffic, weather, or commute time, and the operating budget is not dented with office space rental or the costs of printing and copying, stocking the company kitchen, and paying utilities.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Chris’s life has meandered far from her degrees in sociology and elementary education from the University of Colorado but has now come full circle with the many years she put in as an administrator in the legal field.  After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and many subsequent years volunteering and working within the Boulder Valley School District, Chris operated a successful freelance office services business for a variety of clients, including Milgrom & Daskam.  Chris is happy to have now joined Milgrom & Daskam officially as the firm’s Legal Administrator.

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Should You Seek Foreign Intellectual Property Protection?

If you plan to conduct business abroad or have an online business that reaches customers abroad, you should consider seeking international intellectual property protection. Intellectual property protection is often limited to the country where you conduct business and/or where you file for protection with the respective foreign intellectual property office. For example, a U.S. trademark registration will not protect you against trademark disputes that arise in other countries. As another example, a U.S. patent prevents others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, and importing your patented invention in the U.S., but does not prevent others from doing the same in other countries.

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Categories
B Corp

Why Would a Law Firm Care to be a 1% for the Planet Member?

Why Would a Law Firm Care to be a 1% for the Planet Member?

Chris Mendenhall

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We are a law firm. We are not an organization working hard to legislate, educate, and raise money for environmental causes. Yet, we live on this planet, too. It is our home. And just like mom shouldn’t be the only one responsible for cleaning the kitchen, we all have a responsibility to care for our home. We can all do our part to reduce our carbon footprints, drive less, recycle more, waste less, etc., but how can we make an even greater impact?

In 2002, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia clothing) and Craig Mathews (founder of Blue Ribbon Flies) started 1% for the Planet to give businesses a way to make that greater impact by donating 1% of their revenue to environmental organizations.  These are organizations that are doing the heavy environmental lifting, dedicating their services, products, and missions to safeguarding our resources while still contributing to the economy and their communities.  This idea quickly took hold at a global level and today, there are more than 3,000 individual and business members putting their money where their mouths are and supporting approved environmental nonprofits.  Here’s how it works.

On the donor side, any individual or business can become a member.  Businesses pledge to donate 1% of their sales or revenue and individuals pledge to donate 1% of their salaries.  Contributions can be financial or via other in-kind donations like volunteer time, approved promotional support, mentorship, or pro bono services.  Membership dues to 1% for the Planet and certain other organizations also count toward contributions.  For the purposes of this blog, I will focus on business partners since that’s what we are.

Recipients of this support are nonprofit partners who are proven to be advancing the causes in one of these core issue areas: climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife.  Any environmentally-focused nonprofit may apply for membership, or a business member may recommend new nonprofits for consideration.  New applicants are evaluated to ensure they meet the criteria and values of the organization, and thousands of approved nonprofit partners from over 60 countries comprise the current network.

After becoming a member, a business may choose which nonprofits they would like to support from that wide network.  We can choose one organization or many, and organizations are searchable on the website by name, location, and/or issue.  Our firm has chosen organizations that are either local or are somehow within our network of changemaking individuals.  As a firm, we are in still in the process of finalizing our donations for this year, based on the interests, passions, and concerns of the individuals who work here.  Our Corporate Social Responsibility Committee members have done the initial narrowing of candidates, but every teammate has a voice.  Last year, our firm contributed to such worthy organizations as A Growing Culture, Denver Urban Gardens, Cottonwood Institute, Cal-Wood Education Center, Conservation Colorado, The Leatherback Trust, and B Lab.  B Lab is a double whammy for us because it is the organization that certifies companies as B Corporations, of which we are also one!  For more information on B Corporations, see my last blog where I share why we’re proud to be using our business as a force for good.

Milgrom & Daskam is a group of talented lawyers and staff helping businesses navigate the legal challenges of doing their work, but we are also happy, outdoorsy, proactive people who care about the world we live in.  Our dedication and commitment to tying what we do for our clients to what we can do for our planet is what sets us apart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LEGAL ADMINISTRATOR

Chris’s life has meandered far from her degrees in sociology and elementary education from the University of Colorado but has now come full circle with the many years she put in as an administrator in the legal field.  After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and many subsequent years volunteering and working within the Boulder Valley School District, Chris operated a successful freelance office services business for a variety of clients, including Milgrom & Daskam.  Chris is happy to have now joined Milgrom & Daskam officially as the firm’s Legal Administrator.

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B Corp

What are Certified B Corporations and Why They Matter

What are Certified B Corporations and Why They Matter

Chris Mendenhall

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Some people think that capitalism is what’s wrong with our world. According to Wikipedia, “capitalism has been criticized for establishing power in the hands of a minority capitalist class that exists through the exploitation of a working-class majority; for prioritizing profit over social good, national resources and the environment; and for being an engine of inequality and economic instabilities.” While that’s not true for every business, for most companies, whether they are scraping by or striking it rich, the focus is on the business itself.

Nonprofits, on the other hand, are supposed to be the alternative structure for organizations that care more about the collective, public, or social benefits. The model was designed to be responsible, honorable, and transparent, but there is controversy about its efficiency and accountability.  Resources are not always managed as well as they could be, and efficacy suffers. Nobody goes into nonprofit work to become wealthy, but the trade-off is that they go home at the end of the day with the impression that they’re making a difference in the world.    

Does there have to be a trade-off? Can a business do good in the world and still make a decent profit? There are big, wildly profitable businesses whose mission is to provide life-saving drugs or medical equipment, for example, but what do we know of their inner workings? How do they treat their employees? What is their environmental footprint? For-profit companies’ lack of transparency means there is no way to know. This leads us to the question: what if a for-profit company could be held to high standards of accountability, transparency, and verified social and environmental performance? 

This is where Certified B Corporations enter the picture. B Corps are organizations all across the globe that have committed to balancing purpose and profit. They are required to care about more than their bottom line. They form a powerful community of like-minded people and companies driven to use their business as a force for good. There is no shame in making a profit if there are no values sacrificed to get there.    

The process of becoming B Corp certified is rigorous, as it should be. Organizations must verify that their companies meet high standards in the areas of governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. There is a very extensive evaluation that dives deeply into how companies measure up in each of these areas. There is paperwork to submit to substantiate your statements. There are follow-up questions from a team of individuals whose job is to make sure companies are not fudging their numbers or claims. There is a live interview with a certification team to further confirm that your company makes the grade. Then, once certified, there is a recertification process every three years in which companies must prove that they are not only living up to what they claimed but are encouraged to do better than they were before, and the evaluation questions change and evolve as the standards are further scrutinized in light of new global concerns.    

What is even more beautiful about certified B Corps is the community they create. There is a global “B Hive” of articles, resources, opportunities, and ways to connect with other values-driven organizations. There are independent “B Local” groups all over the country comprised of certified B Corporations that meet to discuss issues, network, educate, support, engage, and inspire. There might be community service events, webinars on global issues like climate concerns, and opportunities for learning about other companies, vendors, and professionals that care about their global communities as much as you do.

Personally, it gives me great pride to work for a law firm that chose to jump through the B Corp certification hoops and to live up to those lofty standards. As Milgrom & Daskam’s Legal Administrator, I look to the B Corp member directory first when choosing a vendor for everything from a financial advisory firm to handle our employee retirement accounts (Thanks, BSW Wealth Partners!) to a bakery to provide cupcakes for a firm birthday event. We know what they went through to get on that directory, and we know they share our values in providing their goods and services. There is something satisfying in knowing that we’re doing good work within a community of good people. Let’s do what’s right for our world!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LEGAL ADMINSTRATOR

Chris’s life has meandered far from her degrees in sociology and elementary education from the University of Colorado but has now come full circle with the many years she put in as an administrator in the legal field.  After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and many subsequent years volunteering and working within the Boulder Valley School District, Chris operated a successful freelance office services business for a variety of clients, including Milgrom & Daskam.  Chris is happy to have now joined Milgrom & Daskam officially as the firm’s Legal Administrator.

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