10 Business Mistakes You Don’t Need to Make—Because These Businesses Already Made Them

Top 10 Business Mistakes to Avoid

One sentence horror story: You find out you have made irreparable business mistakes. Now take a deep breath, that was only a warning.
Mistakes are the learning blocks of life, but also the roadblocks to your businesses success.

Take a look at the following common business mistakes, and be sure to take notes:

Social Media

1. Offensive Humour

The only thing better than saying an offensive joke is not saying an offensive joke. Might seem counter-intuitive for me to recommend you not to offend your customers, but some big name companies made this exact mistake. Pancake giant, IHOP, recently tweeted a picture of a pancake with the tagline “Flat but has a GREAT personality”. This double entendre offended their followers, and the company received a lot of backlash. Even though they deleted their tweet and apologized, the damage was done. The media and their followers were not forgiving of IHOP’s business mistakes and continued to call the company sexist and inappropriate.

2. Misused Hashtags

Might be common sense, but before you use a hashtag make sure you know the meaning behind it. Pizza company DiGirono unknowingly used a trending hashtag for domestic violence for self-promotion: #WhyIStayed You had pizza. Understandably, twitter users were outraged, and the company’s reputation was called into question. 

3. Controversial AI Bots  

Completely automating your social media may sound like a good idea in theory, but in practice, it may not be such a good thing. Last year, Microsoft introduced “Tay”, an AI-powered Twitter robot. She was designed to talk like a teenage girl, and pick up on social cues as more people interacted with her. Like a toddler at the adults’ table, she quickly picked up on inappropriate conversations and started posting incredibly offensive tweets. If you want to see chatbots done right, click here.

Public Relations

4. Not Following Current Events

With the instant connection that social media brings, companies must always be aware of current issues. Uber fell victim to this when they unintentionally walked into a political firestorm. During Trump’s recent travel ban, many taxi and car sharing services decided to temporarily halt their services in solidarity. Uber, on the other hand, decided to provide discounts and emphasize the fact their drivers were still on the road. Many of their customers were unhappy, and the #DeleteUber hashtag was started. The company lost thousands of customers and severely damaged their brand’s reputation. Whether you agree with Uber or not, they got themselves caught up in a fight they did not belong in.

5. Down Playing Product Fails

When something bad happens, own it. Customer trust is an extremely valuable, and fragile, asset. When Samsung phones started exploding, the company tried to sweep everything under the rug. Instead of immediately recalling their phones and sending out mass alerts, they created an unnoticeable tab on their website and waited days until posting on social media. They lost billions, damaged their brand’s reputation, and destroyed customers trust. As a result, their mobile division’s bottom line plummeted a jaw-dropping 96%

6. Not Being Transparent

Similar to #5, be as transparent as possible. As you have probably heard, Yahoo was recently involved in a public relations nightmare. The company was hacked twice, which comprised more than one billion accounts. Even though the company was aware of the hack since 2014, they only disclosed the security breach this past September — two months after agreeing to sell to Verizon for 4.8 billion. Obviously, their customer trust was broken, and their entire reputation was questioned. Moral of these business mistakes, be as honest and transparent as possible.

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7. Overly Edited Photos

There is a fine line between cleaning up a photo and overly editing it. Especially with today’s body positive movement, companies that project unrealistic beauty standards face the negative backlash. Victoria’s Secret is a habitual offender, by promoting images like these. This creates a disconnect with their customer base and allows competitors to capitalize on their mistakes. Aerie has taken the opposite route, by emphasizing body positivity and unedited photos — an initiative that has been well received by their customer base.

8. Insensitivity

When your company acknowledges tragic events, make sure your efforts are tasteful and thoughtful. When the beloved singer Prince passed, Cheerios decided to pay their respects by posting a photo of “Rest in Peace” behind a purple background, with the hashtag #Prince. This seems innocent enough, but they decided to dot their “i” with a cheerio. This gave the impression they were capitalizing off the singer’s death, and their customers were not happy.

9. Political Ignorance

When you’re creating an ad for a specific region, make sure to do your homework. Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, their 2016 New Year’s greeting backfired, when they managed to offend both Russians and Ukrainians. They shared a festive map of Russia on a Russian social media site, excluding the region of Crimea — an area of Ukraine-Russia annexed in 2014. Russian patriots were immediately angered by the image and posted pictures pouring the soft drink down the toilet, with the hashtag #BanCocaCola. In an attempt to remedy the situation, Coca-Cola deleted the original image and re-uploaded a version that included Crimea- only to upset their Ukrainian users. Soon after, Ukrainian customers started boycotting the brand. Even the Ukrainian embassy chimed in, stating their disapproval of the ad.

10. Incorrect International Translations

Before you enter a foreign market, the least you could do is translate your messages properly. Your customers want to feel appreciated and understood, so it is probably a good idea to ensure your international translations are on par. Unfortunately, there are countless examples to choose from. But, my personal favourite boils down to two: the American Dairy Association, and Coors. The American Dairy Association’s milk campaign was soured when they entered Spain. As it turned out, the American Dairy Association’s “Got Milk” slogan literally translated to “Are you lactating?”— probably not the message they were trying to get across. Even worse, Coors lights “turn it loose” campaign translated to “Suffer from diarrhea”.
Skip the whole “learn from your mistakes” thing, and instead learn from theirs. Save yourself the embarrassment and damaging consequences, and use this as an example of business mistakes to avoid!
Want more tips on how not to fail? Click here to learn from the experts.

Border-Free Business: Your Definitive Guide To International Contracts

International contracts for SMBs

My first experience with international contracts did not go so well. The year was 2004, I was travelling and had just recently met up with a very promising business prospect. We had the responsibility of finalizing a housing development project, by creating sandcastles from the toys we found scattered around the beach shore. Oh, did I mention I was only 8? Well, anyway, turns out my new found friend at the beach purposely hustled the only toy shovel right from my little naive hands.
This is my story.
Both of us wanted the shovel, so we decided to figure things out fairly- with a legally binding contract, aka, a game of heads or tails. Now, my new sandcastle developing partner, seeing an opportunity to push their own agenda, said “tails I win, heads you lose”… as you can probably guess, I blindly agreed to these terms. At the time, I didn’t realize the fine print of their offer and grudgingly gave away the only toy shovel. Only years later, lying wide awake at 3am, did I realize how unfair and one-sided that “contract” really was!
Don’t let yourself make the same mistake, because there’s probably a lot more at risk. So keep reading to learn what to watch out for before signing or sending international contracts (and some other useful information too).
International contracts can open up a lot of opportunities…. opportunities that you should take advantage of, like right now. If your business is not, at least, looking to expand into foreign markets, you are losing a huge slice of potential market share. Our economy would not be where it is today without the access and ease of entering into international markets. International trade is a part of every aspect of your, and my, day-to-day life. 
Now, you may be thinking, you work for a small to medium sized business and have no idea how to handle international contracts. Well fortunately for you, we have already done the hard work.
So here it is… Your definitive Guide to International Contracts!

Laws When Doing Business with a Foreign Company

Obviously, international business agreements are substantially different from domestic. For international, you have to be aware of the country’s political environment, economic environment, culture, and legal system. For example, as explained by Business Management, India’s laws protect small businesses and consumers, whereas China’s government strictly controls its business sectors. With this being said, it is very important to know the country’s specific contract laws. Countries that follow common law systems, like the United States, have very detailed contracts compared with countries that follow a civil law system, like Russia. This is an important detail to note, as common law system contracts can be time-consuming and expensive to create.

Sending International Contracts: What to Look for

The first, and most obvious, thing to look for is if your terms are properly stated. Make sure your international contract is easily understandable, free from any grammatical errors and is written in plain English. According to the State Bar of Michigan, writing contracts in plain English can improve the contract’s substantive content, and promote the client’s interests. Furthermore, your contract must follow a logical segmentation- if you can’t follow along with what the contract is saying, your signee won’t be able to either. Along the same lines, you should look out for vague standards, such as “reasonable” or “significant”, as these phrases can cloud your actual objective. Furthermore, read through and remove any implying terms. Make sure everything is explicitly stated and said with intent, especially in regards to price and payments. Making your standards more concrete and clear will make them easier to reinforce, and easier for signees to follow. Click here to learn how to include remote workers and digital nomads into your business plan. Already know how/why you want to hire international workers? Click here.

Receiving International Contracts: What to Look for

Most importantly, you need to read it over and agree to everything stated. Make sure the contract leaves none of your questions unanswered. For example, it should clearly define whether the method of payment is a fixed fee, or based on the current exchange rate (and whether you will be paid in local or foreign currency). It is usually a good idea to have a lawyer look over any international contract before you sign (don’t worry, we’ll explain how to easily find a cheap lawyer a little later on).

Receiving Employment Contracts: What to Look for

Unfortunately, international employment contracts are more technically complicated than standard employment contracts, as employment laws, tax laws and immigration laws affect them. As such, there are several things you should watch out for. First, make sure all of the nitty-gritty details are spelt out and clearly defined. For example, ensure any and all promised benefits are fully laid out. Second, be sure to read every single clause. You do not want to end up in a sticky situation because the “past” you was too bored to actually read what you were agreeing to. The non-compete clause is an important one to note, as, according to Wikipedia, this can prohibit you from working within a competing profession or trade with your soon to be employer. Especially if you’re uprooting your life and moving for this job, you want to be sure you have plenty of opportunities if you ever decide to quit (and that you’re not forced to move back home).

How to Find a Lawyer

All this responsibility does not have to fall on your shoulders; to be safe you should hire a professional to look over everything and make sure things are in order. You might be rolling your eyes and groaning, but hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. Let me repeat, hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. And the added security is definitely worth the minimal cost. You can always ask around for lawyer recommendations, but this can be extremely time consuming and friends/family are not always the most reliable source. Thankfully, there are also online sources available. LawTrades can help you find employment contract lawyers for cheap. Since they don’t have the overhead expenditure of law firms, they are about 60% more affordable – score!

Digital Vs. Paper Signatures

Contracts, in general, can be stressful, and it doesn’t help when you’re sending/receiving them half way across the world. International contracts have the added stress of time and distance. Paper signatures not only prolong the signing process, it also increase the frustration and overall inconvenience (and sometimes the associated costs). Thankfully, the future is here! Digital signatures speed up the process by sending contracts across borders instantaneously. As such, they save time, money and make everyone’s experience as stress-free as possible.
Online eSignature companies like Signority, can be the solution you’ve been waiting for. Compared with digital contracts, paper contracts make about as much sense as sending your mail by pigeon.
Well there you have it, all you need to know about the basics of international contracts. I bet heads your small to medium sized business will exponentially grow from being introduced to international markets, and tails that international contracts are not as hard as they seem.  
Thank you for reading, now please sign the dotted line below to grant us full access to all of your bank accounts: ____________________
To most of you who didn’t sign, I’m very proud of how much you’ve learned. To those who did sign, maybe just stick to hiring a lawyer.
Well, we have given you the basics of international contracts, now it’s time for you to start applying this information into your business strategy and open up a whole new world, literally and figuratively.
Also, check out our recent article on “The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017” to help further automate and streamline your international business deals!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.