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The HBS Blog offers insight on Delaware corporations and LLCs as well as information about entrepreneurship, start-ups and general business topics.

Tips to Avoid Fillers When You are Speaking
By George Merlis Friday, March 12, 2010

If you’ve been following the public pronouncements of Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor, you’ve probably heard him speaking Japanese before the English translation takes over. And you’ve doubtless heard him utter the word ano. A lot. In fact, Mr. Toyoda, says ano so much you might think it’s Japanese for a really common word like “the” or “it.”

In fact, ano means “there” -- as in “that Prius over there.” But like many Japanese speakers, Mr. Toyoda uses ano not as a word, but as a filler, a meaningless sound meant to buy time in a sentence. You can tell ano is being used as a filler without knowing another word of Japanese; when the meaning is “there,” as in “that one over there,”  ano is short and choppy. When it’s buying time in a sentence, it’s pronounced anoooo. The longer the o sound, the more time the speaker is buying.

The American equivalents of anooooo are ummm and y’know. We hear them in interviews all the time. The other day on the NPR program “Marketplace,” I heard a business economist use "y’know" a distressing number of times. To me, "y’know" is a particularly offensive filler word. Generally, when people throw in a "y’know," I DO know, so they are inadvertently insulting me by asking me if I can follow their line of reasoning.  You know (sorry, couldn’t resist) that y’know is just a nervous time-buying expression when someone deploys it two and three times in a single answer.

Businessmen who are perfectly adept at delivering a report from just a handful of notes on index cards sometimes fall back on repeated y’knows when answering questions.  And y’know is contagious.  If an interviewer peppers his questions with y’knows, then an interview subject is far more likely to use the expressions -- and, unhappily, visa versa.

Y’know is an awkward crutch that can undermine a business spokesperson’s authority, so the question for those of us who do presentations and answer media and public questions is how to we banish that particularly annoying English version of anooooo?

First, we have to realize we have the bad habit. During media training sessions, clients often learn they have developed the habit only when I play back a practice interview to critique their performance. The expression has become a reflex; almost like breathing, and speakers are unaware they're saying y’know.

If you’re not in a media training session, how can you learn if you’re using y’know? The best way to find out is to record a conversation with another person, play it back and see if you have the habit.

If you do find yourself afflicted, I have found that preempting the filler often helps. For example, you can start a response with “You know, the most important thing to realize is....” By using the fully spelled out “you know,” you put yourself on mental notice not to use the filler conjunction y’know.  Using “you know,” that way also sets you up to incorporate the sense of the question in your answer -- and repeating the sense of the question is a great time-buying device that often gives you that nanosecond you need to decide what your answer really is.   One you’re on course, you’re less likely to fall back on time-buying gimmicks like y’know.

Incorporating the sense of a question in an answer also makes your answer self-contained -- which is especially valuable in media interviews. But the most important piece of advice I can give is to have an agenda ready to deploy in any sort of Q&A session -- whether it’s with colleagues, the media or the public.  If you have an agenda, incorporate the sense of the question into your answer and from time to time begin a response with “You know,” you’re unlikely to find yourself resorting to y’know.  Or hmmmmm.  Or, if you happen to be doing an interview in Japanese, anoooooo.

Finally, before any interview, do a practice Q&A with a colleague, family member or friend.  You can even interview yourself in a pinch -- although that’s a last resort because you know what questions you’re going to pose to yourself.  Record that session, play it back and critique yourself. If you practice, you’re unlikely to resort to fillers.  "If you, y’know, don’t practice, you’re, y'know, setting yourself up for......” You get the idea.

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The 2-Minute Opportunity Checklist for Entrepreneurs
By Carleigh Lowe Monday, March 8, 2010

The Harvard Business Review Blog has a fantastic article, The 2-Minute Opportunity Checklist for Entrepreneurs, that everyone thinking about starting their own business should read. It offers a great checklist to gauge if your business idea meets the criteria to be a hit. Below is an excerpt with a few of the questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your business idea sooth someone's pain, discomfort, frustration, or dissatisfaction?
  • Are there lots of those people out there?
  • Do these people (or companies, or governments) have money to pay for it?
  • Will they be able to decide quickly to buy your product or service?
  • Does your idea exploit something about you that is outstanding or unique?
  • Are there important assets you have that no one else has? (money, access to customers, technology, leadership skills, execution, location, salesmanship, etc.)
  • Can you think of at least two people who might join you?
  • Do their skills complement yours?
  • Do they have the same values as you do?
  • Do the majority of people whose opinion you highly respect think your idea is a good one?


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The HBS Blog Celebrates Its First Anniversary!
By Carleigh Lowe Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today is the official first anniversary of The HBS Blog! We can not believe that is was just one year ago that we launched this empowering educational resource for our clients and  entrepreneurs around the world. As part of our dedication to providing superior customer service we have truly enjoyed connecting with you via the blog. Your participation and interest have been a key component of the success of The HBS Blog.

Since day one we have been amazed at the growth and interest in the blog. Here are a few stats we wanted to share with you:

We've had 33,439 visits from 140 countries; the top ten countries with the most visits are:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • India
  • Poland
  • Italy
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Israel

We have 54,700 Pageviews!

21,420 people visited The HBS Blog!

Our Most Popular Articles From March 2009-March 2010 are:

  • Making Changes: C-Corp to LLC and LLC to S-Corp
  • 101 on Series LLC
  • 101 on an LLC Agreement
  • 101 on Delaware Statutory Trusts
  • Secret Agent Fees
  • Opening a Bank Account for Your New Delaware Company
  • YouTube is an LLC and Google is a General Corporation. Do You Know Why?
  • 101: Preferred Stock
  • Are You in Good Standing?
  • Authorizing Shares for Your Delaware Corporation

Thank you for your continued support and interest! We are excited for another great year on The HBS Blog.

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Further Discussion on the Delaware Series LLC
By Brett Melson Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Under Delaware law, a limited liability company (LLC) may be composed of individual series of membership interests. This type of entity is referred to as a series LLC. Each series is effectively treated as a separate entity, meaning the debts, liabilities, obligations and expenses of one series cannot be enforced against another series of the LLC, or against the overall LLC itself. Each series can hold its own assets, have its own members, conduct its own operations and pursue different business objectives, yet they remain insulated from claims of members, creditors or litigants pursuing the assets of, or asserting claims against, another series.

In that post we discussed the primary drawback of using the Series LLC: the lack of certainty surrounding whether courts in other states and jurisdictions would recognize a legal separation of assets and liabilities within what is technically a single entity. As we discussed, even though the legal segregation of the series is set forth expressly by statute in Delaware, no court has ever been called upon to rule on the validity of the legal segregation of assets within a Series LLC or articulated the circumstances under which a court would ignore the distinction among series.

Many of you have reached out to us and inquired whether the courts or legislature have provided any guidance or clarification on some of the issues surrounding the Series LLC.  Unfortunately, there have been no significant developments that alleviate the concern we expressed in the May post.

California has arguably supported the notion that each series of a Series LLC is a separate entity; the California Franchise Tax Board ruled that each Series of the Delaware LLC is responsible for the $800 annual California franchise tax. Although this is not welcome news for our California clients that employ the Series LLC structure, it supports the concept that each series should be considered a distinct entity. Other states are expected to follow the same path as California and charge an annual fee on a per series basis.

Additionally, the U.S. federal tax treatment afforded to individual series is still not certain.  For now, it appears the series of a Series LLC will generally each be taxed as a separate entity for federal income tax purposes.

For now, despite the theoretical savings in franchise taxes, Registered Agent fees and other costs, the Series LLC form is still a work in progress.  Regulators, attorneys and accountants are all grappling with issues raised by the possibility of legal segregation of assets and liabilities within a single entity. Given this, while the Series LLC shows great promise and segregated cell companies are gaining in popularity and acceptance outside the U.S., typically most of our clients tend to use the safer alternative of creating separate entities for each venture.


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Book Review: The Ultimate Sales Machine
By Michael Bell Monday, March 1, 2010

On my way to a much needed vacation, I thought I would do a little reading on the plane. As a Sales Executive at Harvard Business Services, I have had the book The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes sitting on my desk for months but I have not found the time to read it. I chose this book because it focuses on turbocharging your business. Chet Holmes is an acclaimed corporate trainer, strategic mastermind and business growth expert who has worked with over 60 of the Fortune 500 companies.

I don't know about you, but a typical day at the office for me revolves around a lot of different things that seem to need my attention all at once, from answering phone calls to sending emails to completing my daily tasks. I constantly find myself going back and forth to each of these and often find it challenging to complete a task before I am interrupted by something else. With multitasking being such a prominent part of my daily experience, I found the section on time management to be very helpful and interesting.

Chet's six tips on time management are:

  • Touch It Once: Do not revisit tasks, if you touch it take action and complete that task.
  • Make Lists: Lists help you stay focused and prioritize.
  • Plan How Much Time You Will Allocate to Each Task: This helps you manage your daily tasks and dedicate enough time to accomplish them.
  • Plan The Day: Give yourself a time frame to work on and complete each of the things on your list.
  • Prioritize: Start with your most important and difficult task. By completing it first you will feel a tremendous sense of control and accomplishment having checked the biggest thing off your list.
  • Ask Yourself, "Will it Hurt me to throw this away?": Clutter hurts your productivity. Studies show that 80% of all filed or stored information is never referred to again. So throw it away!!

I hope you apply these six steps to assist you in completing your tasks efficiently. I know they are going to help me manage my time and be more productive on a daily basis.

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