Small Business Tips

July 2016 Archive
When You Should Consider Hiring a CEO

When you start a business, it’s your baby, your life’s ambition come true. You spend thousands of hours building it, nourishing it, helping it grow. But just like a child, there may come a time when you have to loosen the reigns a bit. It may be time to hire a CEO.

Here are some clues that it may be time to put your business in another person’s hands:

• If you’re more comfortable planning the next big product for your company, but not with delegating who does what to make that product happen, you may need a CEO.

• When you don’t feel like you provide the professional presentation that clients are looking for, it may be time for a CEO to handle them.

• If your company has had ample turnovers, internal problems and a lack of direction, a CEO may be able to help clean up the mess.

• If all of your time is spent on operating the business and other important growth elements such as customer service, business development, and marketing are falling by the waste-side, time to bring in some CEO management.

The purpose of a CEO is not only to manage and operate the company on your behalf, but to give you constructive criticism and advice. And you have to be able to take it, because it’s the CEO’s job to make sure the company runs smoothly, and that may mean some necessary changes you’re not ecstatic about.

Also keep in mind when looking for someone to fill the CEO position that he needs to understand and share your values and vision for the future of your business. After all, it is still your business, so the track it is on should stay relatively the same. The CEO may bring other possibilities to your attention, but you will make the ultimate decision and she will have to be someone who can accept and respect that.

Putting the management of your business in someone else=s hands is a scary thought and requires immense consideration. But with someone who is capable and on the same page as you are regarding values and goals, he/she can actually make the experience of being an entrepreneur much more enjoyable.

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Bringing in a CEO


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, July 31st, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Business Tips from Presidential Campaigns

Well, it has begun. The race for the White House in 2008 has started nearly two years in advance. But things are a bit different on the campaign trail this time around. The biggest difference: the candidates reliance upon the internet to develop their following. And business owners need to pay attention, because the strategy works.

Blogs
Nearly every candidates website has some sort of blog post in which the candidate expresses his/her thoughts on a certain issue. John Edwards announced his participation in the race on his website one day before the press conference where he did the same. This gave his followers a feel of somewhat “privileged information,” not to mention brought in a little extra press coverage.

The candidates that keep a blog going throughout the campaign trail have caught on to the fact that the largest benefit of a blog is making your supporters/clientele feel like a part of the team. Keeping them informed with the daily issues at hand, whether that be how a candidate’s visit to a factory went that day or the new product that your company is releasing, help them feel like a part of your company, or in this case, campaign.

Video
Leave it to Hillary. Senator Clinton launched her campaign for the presidency in a webcast on January 20th. Talk about tech savy. She continues to have weekly “HillCasts” in which she addresses various aspects of her campaign and her position on various matters. The idea is to appeal to the younger generation of voters out whose resource for news and information is the internet.

As a business owner, consider using video to announce the launch of a new product or a promotion. Posting such videos to YouTube as well as you’re own website can definitely generate some response. And let’s not forget that a video of someone like the CEO helps the customer to feel like there is actual person behind the business. It helps provide a sense of comfort and security.

Social Networks
Senator John McCain has invited supporters to sign up for their own “McCainSpace” site, to help them feel more involved in the campaign. Now even those supporters who may have little to no experience or knowledge base for helping on the campaign trail can feel like they are making a difference for the candidate they believe in.

Gov. Bill Richardson invites his supporters to join what is deemed his “grassroots campaigns” on sites like MySpace, Facebook and Flickr. Supporters can link their sites to Gov. Richardson’s as well as post their own blogs on the candidate and his issues.

Businesses can follow suit by developing social networks centered in their company’s ideals and benefits. Allowing customers to post their own reviews or blogs through your website allows them to feel involved. The loyal customers become part of the marketing concept for your company.

In all of this it’s important to remember to stick to the truth. Falsehoods will find you out, especially when you are inaccurately promoting a product or service you provide, or the statistics about your company.

Also, keep in mind that, along with the good comes the bad. If you open yourself up to the community, there will be people out there who are not pleased with your company, whether it be the service/product, the customer service department, or the charity you donate to. You can’t please everyone, and those that you don’t will definitely make themselves known. This is a risk you take when opening yourself up to the public, so be careful and stay on guard.

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Business Trick from Presidential Campaigns


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, July 30th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Marketing, Networking, Operations |

Last Minute Tax Tips

As if you haven’t heard it enough, the deadline for filing 2006 tax returns is April 17th this year. And, just to add to the stress, that is only 5 days away. For those of you who haven’t filed your returns yet, or haven’t even started, here’s some last minute tax advice:

Take Your Time
Though the deadline for filing may be haunting your dreams at night, avoid taking shortcuts or fudging numbers, even as estimates, to get your taxes completed quicker. Though the consequences may not be immediate, speeding through your returns will only cost you the pain and suffering of a possible audit down the road. Take your time and calculate each number appropriately. It’s worth the extra effort.

Maximize Deductions
Now, when I say “maximize” I don’t mean make stuff up to get a bigger deduction. What I do mean is to make sure that you are getting all of the deductions you deserve. Some deductions can easily be overlooked, such as the home office deduction or your mileage for going to the post office or a meeting location. Another not-so-obvious deduction is retirement savings. Check out my previous post, The Right Way to Write-off Business Expenses, for more tax deduction possibilities and rules.

Double and Triple Check Your Work
Before signing on the dotted line, double and even triple check all of your calculations. According to BusinessWeek.com, most of the mistakes on tax returns are simple addition and subtraction errors, and they lead to most of the inquiries the IRS makes.

Another option is to use a tax calculating program, rather than yourself and an adding machine, such as TurboTax, which is designed for both personal and business tax returns. In fact, I’ve used TurboTax for the last four years and have been very pleased with the results, especially the audit check, which double checks your return for any problems that might trigger an audit before concluding the process.

File an Extension
If you just don’t feel like you will be able to get your returns completed and postmarked by April 17th, you can file an extension by filing out IRS Form 4868 and submitting it by the deadline instead. Your extension will be for six months, so your returns will be due by October 15th.

It’s important to know that you should submit an estimated payment of the taxes you will owe with the Form 4868. Otherwise you will have to pay a fine and interest on October 15th. It’s important that the estimated amount you pay is no more than $1,000 from what you will actually owe when your returns are submitted. Less than $1,000 short will mean an additional fine, so it is better to over estimate.

If you run into problems or have questions about your return, help is available. The IRS has a toll-free help line at 800-829-1040 or you can access helpful articles on the IRS Website.


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, July 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Taxes |

Networking Cards: The Business Card Alternative

Resumes contain oodles of information and anyone approaching college graduation or looking for a new career should have plenty on hand. But, unless you actually see a help wanted sign hanging somewhere besides a fast food restaurant (wouldn’t that be the best use of your college degree), chances are you’re not going to want to carry stacks of paper with you to hand to every big time business owner you come across.

A nice alternative to the bulky resume for those who are perusing the job market are networking cards. With the same shape and dimensions of a traditional business card, networking cards provide only the pertinent information so that prospective employers that you simply meet in passing don’t feel as bogged-down with your inquiry about a position.

Unless you are seeking a job in a more creative field (such as architecture, graphic arts or art restoration), which opens the door for a slightly more creative networking card, the design of a networking card needs to remain sleek and classy, as a resume would be.

Just like business cards, networking cards need to list your name (of course) and all your contact information such as home phone, mobile, e-mail, etc. You may want to consider including a picture of yourself on the card as well, so that the prospective employer can remember you more easily when they come across your card later.

Another item to consider implementing into your networking card is a single statement that encompasses your job objective, what it is you are looking to accomplish with a new career in the [fill in the blank] market. Sometimes narrowing your goals to one statement can be difficult. If that is the case, consider listing your strongest selling point. In other words, the strongest quality that you have to offer prospective employers.

You never know who your going to meet in your daily routine. And though it’s ideal to always have a resume available, it’s not always practical. Networking cards, much like business cards, are a great way to get your name out there, whether it be to a possible future boss directly, or someone who knows somebody who might be interested in talking to you about a position.

The bottom line is, if you’re searching for a new career, networking cards can be an effective tool for you. Design yours today!


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, July 28th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Networking |

What Makes Women Entrepreneurs Different from Men?

Over the past few years, there has been a surge in business startups by female entrepreneurs. Today I’m going to discuss how the way women run things may be a bit different from how men play the game.

Stronger Focus on Values
It’s not that men don’t put values in the front lines of their company, but most women entrepreneurs make it the number one priority over everything else. According to Margaret Heffernan, who recently wrote How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business, women think about what their business will stand for before they start planning anything else.

Will Ask for Help
Many men (not all) have difficulty asking for help when it comes to something like their very own business. Pride can sometimes get in the way. But most women don’t have a problem admitting that they’re not sure how to accomplish a certain task or what needs to be done next in the building-a-business game. This can sometimes provide an advantage in a well-spring of knowledge from sources that help ground their business more quickly.

Focused on the Working Environment
According to Heffernan, male entrepreneurs see their businesses as a machine, while female entrepreneurs see it as a living organism. I can see where she’s coming from. Men may be more likely to take the position that “bad parts” (employees) can easily be replaced with new and better functioning ones. Many male entrepreneurs may overlook the fact that the “parts” are going bad because the machine as a whole is not in great condition. Some may take the position that a new employee here or there will help to make the business function better, rather than examining the whole business under a microscope to see if there may be underlying problems.

Women entrepreneurs tend to be on the other end of the spectrum with the perspective that, if the environment their employees are in isn’t working, then the entire “ecosystem” of the business, if you will, could collapse. Basically, women entrepreneurs focus more on making sure the work environment is comfortable to obtain the best performance from their employees, rather than expecting the best from their employees despite the work environment.

Strength of the Business
Women entrepreneurs tend to focus on building a business so strong that it could function completely and successfully without them. Men build strong businesses, but often want to make sure they are always part of the central element that keeps things going. According to Heffernan, women entrepreneurs are more like the “conductor of the symphony – the person who doesn’t make the noise, but pulls it all together.”

Source:
• BusinessWeek.com: Men Dominate, Women Orchestrate


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

How to Secure Your Business Against Computer Viruses

Bank accounts, client information, protected business processes… all are right there in front of you and can be accessed with the touch of a button. Every business has a least one computer with all the crucial information contained within. Truthfully, a good business can’t run without a computer these days.

So why is it that, despite the obvious threats of hackers and the like that loom out in cyberspace, many business computers (and even personal computers) are not being properly protected? Even if you think you’re taking adequate precautions to protect yourself and your business, chances are, you’re missing one of the crucial elements that will leave a gaping hole in your system, making it fully accessible.

To properly and effectively protect your computer, be sure to follow these steps:

1. It is absolutely critical that your computer have an anti-virus scan program, such as Norton, Mcafee, or my personal favorite used on all my home and office machines Panda Internet Security 2007. Most new computers come with one installed, but only with about a year subscription to their services. Once that year runs out, you no longer have access to the updates required for continued protection, so always keep your subscription up to date. The yearly cost far outweighs the loss you could have if a virus attacked.

2. It is also imperative that you regularly update your anti-virus programs virus definitions. Typically you can set the program up to where it updates the definitions automatically, without even bothering you. This is efficient if your system is connected to the Internet 24/7. If not, be sure that the definitions are updated when you do connect. Without current virus definitions, your system is not protected from the latest bugs.

3. Make sure that your operating system, like Windows, is regularly updated as well. Again, you can set the system up to where it updates automatically, but even then it will occasionally ask you about certain updates. Typically these updates contain software security patches. These patches do exactly that, they patch up holes in the system that may give access to hackers and viruses.

4. Run virus scan often. At the very least, run it weekly, but more often will protect you better. Also, be sure to back up the documents, projects and information you have saved to your hard drive on a regular basis. If you’re using a server, have each computer user back-up their information to the server weekly. If not, I recommend backing-up to a flash drive or CD-R. Save information that you could not replace if the system were to crash.

If you do end up with a computer virus even after taking all the precautions possible (and it can happen at some point), there are steps to take to get rid of the problem. First and foremost, if the infected computer is connected to a network, immediately disconnect and isolate that computer. Some viruses are able to quickly spread to other computers on the network. Train your employees to take proper action when a problem surfaces.

Next, find the removal tool for that particular virus. Your anti-virus scan program can warn you that the virus exists and say that it is deleted, but 9 times out of 10, it’s not completely gone. You will typically need to use the removal tool, most of which can be found by doing an online search with “[virus name] removal.”

Once the virus is removed, be sure to do another virus scan, just to make sure. If the virus crashed your operating system, format and reinstall. This is where the backup that you’ve been running comes in handy. You can always reinstall programs, but cannot replace the information on those programs, such as the client bills for the last three years.

And finally, once everything is reinstalled, run virus scan again, just in case. You can never be too careful when it comes to computer viruses… ever.


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology |

Demand for Healthy Pet Food Presents Business Opportunity

If you’re an animal lover and looking for a niche market to start a business in, then healthy pet food may be the product line for you. Following last month’s pet food recall, pet owners are on the prowl for a healthier alternative for their extended family members.

Canada’s Menu Foods, which produces dry and canned dog and cat food for over 50 brands, pulled over 60 million canned and pouch products off of store shelves after reports that the products were causing the deaths and illnesses of pets across the nation.

Upon further research, Menu Foods and the FDA discovered that the finished products manufactured between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007 contained melamine, which it typically used in making plastics. The contaminant coincided with the switch to a new distributor for the wheat gluten ingredient contained in the products (see Menu Foods’ March 30, 2007 press release).

Since the recall, sales have skyrocketed for a number of small businesses across the country that manufacture organic and/or chemical- and preservative-free cat and dog food. The Honest Kitchen out of San Diego, California reports four times the online orders and a 100% doubling in actual dollar amounts.

Many of these small businesses got their start by providing home cooked meals to their own pets. KosherPets in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida started after its owners couldn’t find anything on the market that would help their Dalmatian’s skin allergies. But once Martine Lacombe started making kosher meals for their dog, they saw immediate improvement.

The neighbors were so impressed they were asking where they could buy the food for their dogs, but there was nothing on the market. So, KosherPets was born in 2001, bringing in $10,000 it’s first year, $100,000 its second and is expected to rake in up to $500,000 this year.

Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen states that, “people’s animals are like their babies…they enjoy participating in creating a meal for their cat or dog, rather than scooping something brown out of a can.”

I have three dogs at home, who are, in fact, much like children to me. I’m not ready to spend the extra cash on organic and preservative-free dog food, but I can definitely understand the appeal.

Many dogs develop skin allergies to the preservatives and chemicals in dog food, including my four year old Lab/Great Dane. Thankfully we have found a dog food that helps alleviate the problem, though not completely. If the organic products were more affordable, we would definitely switch. Maybe it just takes more entrepreneurs tapping into the market to make the products that are the best for our pets more readily available.

Source:
• BusinessWeek.com: A Growing Appetite for Healthy Pet Food


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, July 25th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |

Aprils Fools Day Office Pranks

I know I am one of the many who are guilty of dreaming up fabulous pranks that would have everyone in the office rolling… but I never have the nerve to actually follow through with pulling them off.

Entrepreneur.com’s Top 10 Office Pranks Exposed reveals some very inventive and hilarious office pranks that were pulled off, including the culprits. My personal top three from the list are:

• Placing a sticky-note on the bottom of a co-worker’s mouse that says “April Fools.” It may take a few minutes for her to figure out why his mouse doesn’t work, but it will sure produce a good chuckle.

• All the employees band together and call in sick the same morning about an hour before report time (particularly if a new hire is to start that same day). Then, everyone shows up to work at the same time, maybe with breakfast in tow.

• While the new technical service representative was out of the office, some employees of a printing company sent all of his equipment, including the computer monitor, through the shrink wrapping machine.

A sense of humor in the office is a must to get through the day, but be careful when planning a practical joke, because your job could be on the line. Be sure to think through all possible reactions from your co-workers and the consequences of such reactions. Also, be sure not to do anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or distract the rest of the work day.

And, above all else, be sure you know your boss and how he’ll react well enough before pulling a practical joke on him. Anything that embarrasses him or undermines his authority will quickly cost your job.


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, July 24th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

Tips for Dealing with Calls from Upset Clients

Unfortunately we can’t please everyone and many times those who are unhappy in any way want to express it. I know because not only do I receive the calls, but sometimes I make them when I feel the customer service I received is lacking in some way.

So, what should you do when you’re on the receiving end of a call from an upset or irate client? There are many tactics to keep in mind, and though some may should cheesy, they can be very helpful in making the call end positively.

• First and foremost, listen and take notes. If you have to relay the situation to someone else, it’s important that you don’t get any of the information wrong.

• Stay positive, both in your tone and in your head. Thinking that the caller is being ridiculous will translate into your tone and will definitely not help the situation.

• Don’t talk down to or berate the client – always remember that their complaints are important to them and you should express an understanding of that.

• Do not take their complaint personally or become defensive. If you do you’re opening the opportunity for the conversation to quickly escalate to a bad one.

• Do not interrupt to defend yourself or the business. Only interrupt to detour the conversation back to a positive level if the client’s emotions begin to escalate.

• Express empathy to the client’s situation. Put yourself in their shoes and try and see their perspective. Not only will it make them feel better, but it will help you to discover the best solution to the problem.

• Take responsibility for your actions and apologize assertively when you personally have made a mistake (do not apologize for other employees, because that is admitting their fault in the situation when you’re probably only getting selective facts and perspective).

• Thank the client for sharing his concerns with you and try to find a solution you can both agree on, even if that means talking it over with other staff members and calling the client back with options.

There are always exceptions, but sticking to these simple guidelines will help you to turn the conversation with upset clients in a productive direction that will hopefully guide you to a resolution that everyone is happy with.


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations |

A New Way for Employees to Get Paid

Some say that there will soon come a day when checks are no longer in existence. Well, how would you like to get paid by your employer with a debit card? Sounds a bit strange, but it’s catching on and here’s why:

Many businesses have employees, such as minors or new U.S. immigrants, that don’t hold bank accounts. When those employees receive their paycheck, they will pay up to 10% of the check in order to get it cashed. A recent alternative is providing employees with a payroll debit card.

Basically, the employer deposits funds in a payroll account and then distributes payroll debit cards to his employees. Each card has an amount attached to it that is equal to that of the employee’s paycheck for that pay period. The funds can be withdrawn from an ATM or the card used as a debit card at any retailer.

Not only does it save employees without bank accounts the expense of getting a check cashed, but it also saves the employer the expense of printing paper paychecks. Checks typically cost $1-2 to print, while it is only about twenty-cents to provide a payroll debit card.

There are still a few bugs left to work out, however. Most state laws require that employees get their entire paycheck on pay day. This could be a problem if the ATM machine has a withdrawal limit that is less the the employee’s paycheck amount. The employer may to have to pay extra ATM withdrawal fees for all of the funds to be accessible at once.

Not to mention the fact that changing over to a payroll debit card process (in addition to direct deposit) can be time consuming, as most employees would be wary of such a change at first. It would take some time to reassure them that the process is secure and efficient.

Payroll debit cards are clearly one of the first steps in the extinction of checks. Despite the wrinkles that remain in the process, it is definitely something that makes things a bit easier for the employee, and requires less paperwork for the employer, which is always a good thing.

Source:
• CNNMoney.com: The End of the Paycheck


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, July 22nd, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money, Operations, Technology |

New Technology Leaves Spell-Check in the Dust

We all use spell check. Admit it, you know you do. Even with a degree in English, spell check is critical to my daily routine at a law firm. What I find incredibly frustrating is when I want to know more than if a word is spelled right. I want to know if the sentence actually makes sense and sounds professional or if there might be a word that would get my point across better. But spell check doesn’t tell me, and I wish something did.

An Israeli software company called WhiteSmoke recognized the need and has developed an outstanding solution. Their program scans written English text and makes suggests of ways to improve sentence structure, make sentences clearer and more fluent to the English language, a.k.a. “text enrichment”.

The program provides specific suggestions for improvement of the document based upon relevant content and context, derived from the millions of English language documents stored in its data base. Everything from government and legal documents to newspapers to short stories.

What got this idea hopping was globalization and the fact that the internet is dominated with the English language. Important professional documents can be intimidating, but so can e-mails to clients and employers. WhiteSmoke’s program provides a means for communicating with others without your job hanging in the balance.

And WhiteSmoke’s number one buyer: the United States, which isn’t surprising. Not only do our regional dialects, and lack of confidence, hinder the proper use of context and grammar, but there is also a tremendous demand among those who know English only as a second language. Even if they can speak fluently, English is an exceptionally difficult language to produce accurately on paper. WhiteSmoke’s software can relieve some serious stress in that department.

This is one of those ideas we all wish we would have thought of first. Regardless of whose idea it was, I get the feeling WhiteSmoke’s product will be a common additive to Microsoft Office in the years to come. And WhiteSmoke is already reaping the benefits of this innovative commodity.


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, July 21st, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Technology |

Business Structures Help Fight War on Terror

That’s right, small businesses have what it takes. And the U.S. military is finally starting to see that. Recently, the Pentagon has been passing around The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, a book originally written for businesses.

The basic idea of the book is that “centralized organizations are like spiders and can be destroyed with an attack to the head . . . decentralized organizations transfer decision-making to leaders in the field [and] are like starfish — no single blow will kill them, and parts that are destroyed will grow back.”

Sound familiar? That’s because our war with terror is against organizations that are decentralized. We can take out leader after leader, but until we understand their mentality completely, we won’t get very far because there are leaders all over the place.

How does this connect to small business? Well, actually, many small businesses across the national have long embraced the “starfish” mentality. Only now is the U.S. military catching on to the fact that they could learn a lot from fellow citizens on the home front.

A great example of a centralized organization (a “spider”) is Enron. The CEO went down, and took everyone with him. That wouldn’t be the case with a decentralized business. Employees are split into parts of the whole unit based upon their task, given goals to achieve, and then all given equal opportunity to achieve them.

Everyone is trying to be the best, so everyone is doing their best, which results in a well-oiled, fit business machine. Each person is equally important to the best possible function of that machine. Granted, occasionally someone will malfunction, and may even slow the machine down a bit, but it quickly repairs itself.

And, yes, there is someone to answer to, but the idea of CEO is a bit different. Instead of always looking over your shoulder and giving orders, he is more or less there as a guide. What he tells you to do is more like a suggestion, and, out of respect (not fear), you take his advice.

Decentralized businesses don’t always work, however. As you might expect, there are instances where things get out of control… one or more people trying to take over, etc. It just depends on the number of employees and the personalities you’re dealing with. Decentralized businesses are for those who want to share the glory, not hoard it all for themselves.

It’s those weaknesses that our military intends to focus on in the war against terrorism. Taking hints from The Starfish and the Spider is a good start. We may just be well on our way to a victory… not to mention some rocking places to work.

Source:
• USAToday.com: Can Small Business Help Win the War?


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

Competing for Business with a Former Employer

Imagine the scenario: you’ve been sitting behind a desk in a lonely cubical somewhere, punching numbers all day for a large accounting firm. And you’ve noticed a few things along the way… things you would do differently if you ran the place, things you would improve or expand on. Just about the time you’ve had enough of the claustrophobia, it hits you — why don’t you start your own accounting firm?

It’s a wonderful idea, but there are some things you should consider before attempting it on your own. If you don’t, you may be facing legal battles with your former employer.

Non-Compete Agreement

The first thing you must do is see if there was a non-compete agreement anywhere on the paperwork you signed when you were hired. Basically, a non-compete agreement protects a company for a given amount of time from competition after an employee leaves.

In other words, if you signed one, you may have to wait a year or more after you leave the large accounting firm to start your small one. You are also usually prohibited from adopting trade or operation secrets or snatching up clients from your former employer.

If you signed a Non-Compete Agreement, consult an attorney before you make any moves. They are often unenforceable, depending on the terms and the state you live in. Better to be safe than sorry though.

Be Honest
If you get along with your current employer, and especially if you consider yourselves friends, then just be upfront with him. Tell him you are planning to leave and go off on your own into the business world. Ask for pointers on how to get started.

You might even consider asking your boss to provide you with some networking connections he may have that aren’t clients to help get you started. The more credit you give your employer for helping point you in the entrepreneurial direction, the less likely he’ll be to pursue legal action against you.

It’s also important to not tell clients you are leaving before you have, as that would be deliberately undermining your loyalty to the company. Even if you’re not loyal in your heart, refrain from causing any form of sabotage, since it could easily bite you in the rear later.

Generally, it’s just best to protect yourself and be open about your plans. Most employers will respect your boldness to step out on your own without trying to pull them down. After all they were probably once in your shoes, so they understand the appeal.

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business – and Not a Legal Battle


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Small Business Health Bill to Return to Senate

It was proposed last year, and didn’t make it through. But Senator Michael Enzi intends to sponsor the small business health care bill again this year, despite the opposition he’s facing from many angles.

The State Association of Attorney Generals, the American Caner Society and the American Diabetes Association have all expressed concerned about some holes in the bill in its current condition and want some changes made.

Let’s examine the current bill from both angles:

PROS
• Will allow small businesses to pool insurance policies together, much like large corporations and unions currently do.
• Will give many businesses, who otherwise couldn’t, a chance to provide health insurance to their employees.
• The more people in the insurance pool, the better the cost to each business owner.
• The insurance pool spreads the risk involved over a larger number of people, so it doesn’t hurt the pocket nearly as much if an employee in the pool were to get sick.
• It opens up more health care options.

CONS
• Coverage does not have to meet state requirements, which can result in large holes in the coverage provided. Important and all too common medical problems like diabetes and breast cancer might not be covered.
• The lack of requirements also allows business owners to provide their employees with a “bare-bones” policy that may covers very little of the fees associated with even routine doctor visits.
• May cause the price of services not covered under the policy to increase in order for medical providers to make up the difference.
• The lack of state oversight could eliminate customer protection on many levels.

With 41 state attorney generals signing their names in a letter of complaint about the holes in the bill, it is expected that Senator Enzi and his colleagues will have to go back to the drawing board to develop some sort of compromise.

But I truly feel they’re on the right track. Far too many people in this country are without health insurance and something needs to be done about that. Giving small businesses the means to provide coverage to their employees is the first step in disposing of the problem.

What do you think? Is the bill fine the way it is? Should changes be made? Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts.

Source:
• CNNMoney.com: Senate fight over small-business health care


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