Nice job with the mobile search updates, Google!

One thing I like about Google is that the company introduces new features without any fanfare, sometimes just giving us the pleasure of stumbling across something that’s never been available before (like image matching capabilities in Google Image Search) or a new interface to a popular feature that’s just waiting for us to stumble across.

And that’s just what I did this afternoon when doing a Google search on my iPhone, stumbled across the coolest new feature that I’ve seen in a while. Check it out…

First off, you do a Google search on the iPhone in Safari and here’s pretty typical results:

google mobile search 1

Look a bit closer at the results, however, and there’s a new icon present to the right of each matching entry in the search results:

google mobile search 0

I’ve highlighted it above. Tap on it and suddenly you’re looking at the different view entirely:

google mobile search 2

Neat. Kind of reminiscent of “screenflow” in iTunes, isn’t it? If you move things down just a bit, you’ll find that there’s even useful information about each match in addition to the thumbnail view of the page itself:

google mobile search 3

Very cool. And the fact that I just stumbled across it? That’s pretty fun too.

Contracts after the company goes under?

I got this most interesting query from a reader that I thought was worth discussing a bit here on my blog:

“I’m hoping you can help me. I paid money to a company called, “The Auction Employment Training Institute” so that I could take the training, then become an Ebay auction listing agent. Half way through my training, this company went under. (I think this because they haven’t answered their phone calls for months. First they said it was a temporary inconvenience, now they just don’t answer.) Employment with Ebay was guaranteed. Is there any way I can follow through with this to get this job? I realize this may not be your area of expertise, but any suggestions would be welcomed) I’ve tried looking this up on the Ebay sight, and there is nothing.”

I’m not going to talk about how to research a possibly defunct company but instead want to talk about the questionable benefit of a guarantee from a company that can go out of business.

The fact is, most guarantees have escape clauses as it’s the rare small business that can afford the risk of having too many customers use their product or service then return it for a refund. Imagine a restaurant where lots of homeless people enjoy their meals then claim it was inferior and ask for a refund, or a housecleaning service where most of their customers later refuse to pay because they weren’t happy with the resultant level of cleanliness?

That’s not to say that this is what happened with Auction Employment Training Institute, but I’m a bit confused: they can’t possibly guarantee you’re going to be hired by eBay. The only company that could guarantee employment with eBay is, well, eBay. Anyone else has to be misrepresenting the situation or, perhaps, they mean you can sell stuff on eBay as a merchant, which you can already do by simply signing up and listing stuff.

Still, do they have a guarantee of employment? Well, they did, and it was enough for you to sign up for the program, which is too bad because, as many questionable companies do, they apparently shuttered their office (my guess, they never had an office) and split with the rest of the money. From their perspective, they probably figured that it’s easier to drain the bank account and shut down than to worry about delivering content for the latter part of your course.

So does your guarantee have any value? Not at all. I’m sure eBay won’t help you out (though they might sic a lawyer on the task of finding and suing the original owners of the business) and while you can try filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the fact is I’m confident that they’ve long since split and will resurface under another name.

All I can say is that I’m sorry you’ve been ripped off like this, and to encourage everyone to always beware deals that seem too good to be true. It’s clearly the case that no third party company can guarantee you’ll be hired by another firm, regardless of how they phrase it.

Understanding the Legal Structure of Business

This is a guest blog entry by James Kim.

Starting up a company is no easy feat. Branding, employees, finances, and advertising are just some of the things you may be juggling in the beginning phases of your business. But the process becomes even more complicated when you have to decide on a business structure or file taxes. Not to worry! Here we’ve compiled a list of each business structure and their pros and cons, providing a business solution for just one of your conundrums.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship occurs when one person owns a business on their own. In this structure, a person and a business act as the same legal entity: the businesses liabilities, debts, and legalities are the sole proprietor’s liabilities, debts and legalities. Therefore, the business profit “passes through” to the business owner and these profits are recorded in an individual tax return.

Pros:
-Easy tax recording
-Simple to establish and maintain
-Low startup fees
-No “double tax,” or taxation on corporate income as well as individual income
-Complete control over your business

Cons:
-High personal liability
-Limited access to capital (cannot sell shares in exchange for capital)

Partnership

A partnership is a business model with two or more people carrying on a business together. Like sole proprietorships, partnerships pass their profits to the partners and are taxed for these profits in the individual income tax return.

Pros:
-An array of skills contribute to the business decisions
-Easy to start
-Inexpensive to start

Cons:
-Possibility of disagreement
-High personal liability
-Shared profits
-Give up full control over business

C Corporation

In any corporation (c or s corp), shareholders trade money and/or property for the capital stock. The distinguishing factor of a c corporation is its taxing processes. Instead of passing the profits through to the shareholders, c corps are taxed on both individual and corporate incomes in a process called “double taxation.”

Pros:
-Easier to get funding from angels or venture capitalists: c corps have the most flexibility when issuing shares because they can have an extremely high number of shareholders with which to give to VCs or angels in exchange for capital
-Employee incentive plans
-Limited personal liability

Cons:
-Complex tax recording/filing
-Double taxation

S Corporation

An S corporation provides entrepreneurs with the limited liability of a corporation plus the “pass through” taxation process of sole proprietors and partners. An s corp can have no more than 100 shareholders, unlike the unlimited shareholders of c corps.

Pros:
-No “double tax”
-Limited personal liability

Cons:
-There can be no more than one class of stock
-Limited shareholders

Limited Liability Company

If your business will most likely engage in some sort of riskier activity (the use of hazardous materials, selling of edible goods, caring for children or animals, requiring injury-prone actions), you should opt for the LLC, which protects your personal assets from business debts and claims. There are no tax advantages (or disadvantages) to forming an LLC: LLCs with one owner file for taxes as a sole-proprietor, while LLCs with multiple owners file taxes as partnerships.

This is because the federal government does not identify LLC as a classification, so a member (and owner of an LLC) must file as a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship tax return. A Form 8832 is filed to establish a business classification. Owners of an LLC may also have to pay additional state taxes, or “franchise taxes,” in addition to the income tax.

Pros:
-Flexibility of management/taxing structure
-Limited personal liability

Cons:
-”Franchise taxes,” a tax solely required of LLCs
-Possibility of disagreement
-More difficult to raise capital

Choosing a legal structure is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur has to make in the beginning stages of his/her company. Hopefully this list gave you a better sense of which one is right for you.

James Kim is a writer for Choosewhat.com. ChooseWhat is a company that provides product reviews and test data for business services and products. Their goal is to help small companies make informed buying decisions on business solutions that help their business.