How to protect the goodwill in your business

It takes time, energy, and continuous effort to build a brand that attracts loyal customers and is rewarded by word of mouth referrals. Without a doubt, the good name you worked so hard to earn is one of your most valuable business assets; in addition to your solid customer base and positive employee relations, it is what is known in business as goodwill.

If you’re like many small business owners, you realize your company’s goodwill is vitally important, but you may not know how to protect it. After all, how people feel about your brand isn’t a tangible asset you can insure, like a building or machinery.

There are steps you can take to safeguard your goodwill in the marketplace. This article will show you how.

Register a tradename or trademark

Registering a tradename – also known as your legal corporate name or business name – can protect your company’s goodwill in two ways:

1. It will help build greater brand recognition.

2. It will prohibit anyone else from registering a business under the same name or a similar one, deliberately or unintentionally “poaching” the goodwill you’ve developed.

Likewise, registering a trademark – that is, a word, phrase, symbol, logo, or design used to identify your company’s goods or services – can protect your business’s goodwill under the auspices of your country’s intellectual property laws.

In addition to safeguarding your company’s goodwill, a tradename/trademark may become assets included in the sale of your business – thereby increasing your company’s overall value.

Legal agreements

When partners part ways or employees end their contracts, they leave a company with valuable insider knowledge. It’s crucial to ensure your trade secrets and customer data won’t be used by a former insider to their own advantage – or shared with a competitor.

You can prevent your customer relationships (and therefore, goodwill) from being stolen with a non-compete agreement. Take care that any non-compete agreement is signed at the time you make an offer of employment or begin a partnership; otherwise, you may not be able to enforce it.

Having a legal agreement in place is wise for several reasons. In addition to protecting the relationship you’ve nurtured with your customers, just like a trade name or trademark, a non-compete will increase your company’s value in the eyes of a future buyer.

Final thoughts

Because goodwill is largely intangible, it can be hard to measure. Ultimately it is determined by how much above book value a buyer is willing to pay for your business.

You can monitor how your customers feel about your business in the meantime by keeping tabs on markers like increased interaction on social media, conversion rates, and profit growth.

When it comes to legal protection, the sooner you register your tradename, trademarks, and have legal agreements in place, the better.

Of course, the best thing you can do to continually increase the goodwill of your company – and its value – is simple: take pains to consistently provide the best service you can to every single customer who chooses your business over the competition.