Small Business Tips

April 2018 Archive
The Benefits of Adding Video Surveillance

It may be time for your business to get some extra security. One option would be to hire security guards to patrol the doors and parking lot, but that means paying someone a substantial hourly wage to stay awake at night and watch your assets, and that may not be in the budget.

A more budget conscious option may be to install a video surveillance system. Though it can be rather expensive, it is a one time expense, rather than providing a regular pay check to a security guard. And most, of course, come with some kind of warranty if anything goes wrong.

Some other benefits to a video surveillance system:

Continue Reading: “The Benefits of Adding Video Surveillance”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, April 30th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |

Preventing Sexual Discrimination in the Workplace

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I am, among many other things, a legal assistant at a law firm. It’s a small firm, consisting of five attorneys, all men, and six legal assistants, all women. Though it wouldn’t be that strange for a female attorney to join the firm, it would be quite odd to have a male paralegal join the gang.

There are many professions that tend to appeal predominately to one sex or the other. Most nurses are women. Most construction workers are men. Daycare teachers – women. Trash collectors – men. Most of these jobs have always been this way, typically because that particular job fits the strengths of one particular sex better than the other. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a tough broad out there who couldn’t guide a steel beam into place.

Imagine with me, if you will, the opposite gender “infiltrating” one of these or many other professions that tend to be single-sex oriented. For example, if a female attorney joined our firm, it would probably be of little consequence, since female attorneys aren’t scarce, they’re just not part of our particular firm. However, I can imagine that a woman who gets a job pouring concrete at a construction site would receive her unnecessary share of cat calls and sexist remarks.

Continue Reading: “Preventing Sexual Discrimination in the Workplace”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, April 29th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Business Law, Human Resources |

Rules for Networking on MySpace

Within the vast array of the MySpace community, you will not only find individuals and music groups, but many businesses have also joined the online social network and the numbers continue to grow. If you’re thinking of using MySpace to plug your business, however, there are some rules you need to abide by in order to be successful.

1) Be a part of the community.
Spend some time as a user, keeping a low profile, and learning the rules and culture of the online community you’ve joined, whether it be MySpace, YouTube or one of the many others available. If you don’t keep to the cultural regulations of that community, you will be branded an outsider immediately and few will respond.

2) Focus on giving, not receiving.
If you join MySpace with the unmoving goal of getting new contacts and creating new business, and make little effort to provide anything to your contacts in exchange, no one is going to want to be your MySpace “friend.” Give people a reason to like you. A good place to start would be providing something of value to those who visit your page, such as downloads (screensavers or video).

Continue Reading: “Rules for Networking on MySpace”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, April 28th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Marketing, Networking |

Preparing for a Health Inspection

The Associated Press published May 4th that the KFC/Taco Bell restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York City that was found to be infested with rats will be closed indefinitely. A spokesman for the chain owner, Yum! Brands, Inc., says there are reviewing their franchises nationwide and are “determined to prevent this incident from happening again.”

My question is, how did it get that bad in the first place? Anyone who owns a restaurant is well aware of the fact that there are strict rules and regulations regarding the operation of the restaurant in order to prevent illness in customers. How unsanitary does a restaurant have to be in order to be infested with rats to that extent? And you can’t tell me that the staff never noticed one. Clearly there was a health inspector also not doing his job properly.

Health inspections are a crucial element in keeping restaurants safe to eat in. And, most of the time, your business will be severely fined and given a deadline to make changes if it does not pass inspection. If those changes aren’t made, the restaurant could, and should, be closed.

If you are a restaurant owner, or are looking into joining a restaurant chain franchise, there are a number of things you need to be aware of in order to make sure that your restaurant will not only pass a health inspection, but will be safe for your customers.

Continue Reading: “Preparing for a Health Inspection”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, April 27th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations |

Online Meetings, The Board Room Alternative

As business owners, there are many, many times when we really need to be two places at once. Especially when it comes to trying to find time to meet with clients all over the country, and still keep an eye on business operations.

Fortunately there is a much simpler alternative to making a clone of ourselves: an online meeting.

I know it may sound a bit intimidating, especially for the not so tech savvy. And it certainly doesn’t have the same professional and comforting feel a client gets when meeting with you face-to-face, so it’s not something you want to replace all of your personal meetings with.

Consider the fact that an online meeting could include all the clients (or even investors) you intended to meet with individually regarding a new product/service at the same time, which would significantly reduce the time required of you to get the word out.

Continue Reading: “Online Meetings, The Board Room Alternative”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, April 26th, 2018 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Operations, Technology |

Moving from a Home Office to a Commercial Space

Working at home requires a strong ability to separate personal and business lives. A home office contains a lot of distractions, whether your family distracts you from your work or your work distractions you from spending time with your family.

But, if you work from home and are considering moving your business to a commercial location there is much more to take into consideration than whether you are too distracted. If you simply pack everything up and move without looking at every aspect of going commercial, you could negatively affect the future of your business.

Consider these three factors when deciding to move:

Continue Reading: “Moving from a Home Office to a Commercial Space”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 @ 12:08 AM CDT

Operations |

Tips for Adapting to the Postage Rate Increase

United States Postal Service

In 1847 the first U.S. postage stamps were released, the five cent Ben Franklin and the ten cent George Washington. And, in just a week, the rate for postage stamps will increase to 41 cents – more than eight times that of the Ben Franklin.

You may be asking yourself, why the increase, since we just did this a little over a year ago? The stamp increase is to help cover operational expenses. Last year’s increase was mandated by Congress to fund an escrow account.

While the stamp increase won’t severely effect most business owners, the U.S. Post Office is also changing the postage rates for packages and this may cause a bit of a strain. But don’t worry, there are some ways to work around the added expense.

Continue Reading: “Tips for Adapting to the Postage Rate Increase”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 @ 12:12 AM CDT

Money, Operations |

Expanding Your Business Overseas: Money and Taxes

When I bring up the subject of money with regard to expanding your business to the global market, I’m not necessarily referring to your profit margin. More specifically, I’m referring to the actual paper or coin used as payment for the product your provide.

Upon initial movement toward an overseas expansion, you may think that it would be obvious that you accept foreign currencies. However, you are better off not to. The conversions rates for foreign currencies fluctuate so frequently, which means you would probably lose money if you accepted foreign currency from all of your foreign customers.

If you must deal in foreign currencies, there are some options:

1. Forward Contracts – Locks in the conversion rate for when transaction/sale is finalized.
2. Options – Allows for the opportunity to convert funds, but it is not a requirement.
3. Bank in that Country – Open a bank account in the country where you do the most business so that you can deal in currency for both income and expenses there.

Most countries will gladly accept American businesses into their market, providing “special pools of tax-funded R&D money” even real estate specifically set aside for to attract foreign investment. You may even get special tax breaks in those countries as a foreign business.

The U.S. Commercial Service can help you find those countries who would welcome you with open arms. For $680-$800 per day, the Commercial Service’s Gold Key Program will set up appointments for you to meet with potential overseas partners and provide translators. Find a U.S. Commercial Service specialist in your area.

Be sure to hire a lawyer in any country you do business in that specializes in foreign businesses. You will need to have someone who is familiar with your position and that country’s laws so that he can watch your back and make sure you are aware of any changes in tax law, etc.

If you are, in fact, looking to expand your business overseas, I highly recommend that you not only check out the other parts of this post series, but also examine the resources provided at the end of each post before making that transition. Prepare yourself for every aspect of business in any country you select before making that final leap into the well spring of new consumers.

Pt. 1: Why and Why Not Expand Overseas?
Pt. 2: Labor Laws
Pt. 3: Protecting Your Product

Source:
• Inc.com: How to Get Started

Currency Resources:
Oanda Currency Conversion Calculator
Bank for International Settlements
Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Other Resources:
U.S. Advocacy Center


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, April 23rd, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product

When starting a business in America, one of the most crucial elements is to get your product or business practices patented or copyrighted. Unfortunately, when it comes to expanding your business to the global market, a U.S. patent won’t protect your money-maker, as they are not enforceable overseas. There are some things you can do, however, to guard yourself from idea theft.

What you should probably do first is file with the Patent Cooperation Treaty under the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). According to John Lanza, a Boston attorney, at a cost of $3,000 to $6,000, a PCT filing can preserve your right to patent your product in most major nations for up to 30 months. That way you can test the waters in a number of markets in order to find your niche.

Once you’ve determined where your product will be most successful, you should file a patent in that particular country. If you don’t, them moment you begin to offer your product copy-cats will begin producing competition with their knockoffs. Obviously the process for filing a patent differs with each location. For more assistance, The U.S. government provides a “tool kit” on international patents at StopFakes.gov.

International patents have classifications, in order to streamline the application process. After all, there has to be a way to determine if someone already has a patent for a particular product in a particular country. For more information of this classification process, visit the WIPO’s International Classifications page.

Danger – be aware of the fact that China is one of the leading countries when it comes to intellectual property theft. Ted C. Fishman, author of China, Inc. recommends that, in order to help protect yourself you should establish a licensing agreement with a Chinese business partner that requires him to provide a substantial upfront contribution to your business expansion. Such an investment will keep him from revealing product specifications to another manufacturer or trying it on their own and will also help to keep other Chinese businessmen from trying to tap in to your market.

Bottom line, protect your most important asset, the product you provide, whatever it may take. Though there may be some cost to it, in the end it would be more than worth it. The alternative, a cheaper knockoff of your product stealing your customers, would be detrimental.

Tomorrow I will cover the monetary and taxation aspects of owning a business overseas.

Pt. 1: Why and Why Not Expand Overseas?
Pt. 2: Labor Laws
Pt. 4: Money and Taxes

Source:
• Inc.com: How to Get Started

Resources:
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
European Patent Office
Patent Pending in 24 Hours by Richard Stim and David Pressman


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, April 22nd, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Operations |

Expanding Your Business Overseas: Labor Laws

A milestone in the growth of any business is the capacity to expand into the global market. As exciting as the looming possibility may be, you don’t want to cross the boarder blindly, especially if you are passing the internet zone and actually opening your doors in a foreign land.

As most know, the laws vary in every country, and labor laws are no exception. If you’re expanding your business to another country and plan to have employees in that country, it’s important that you know what you’re dealing with before you except any resumes.

For example, U.S. employers have basically complete control over who they hire and fire. But in other countries, that’s not always the case. But, according to New York lawyer Aaron Schindel, in the European Union and much of South America, employers are legally obligated to consult with employee representative, whether it be a union or works council, before relocating an office, conducting layoffs, or even discontinuing a product.

Labor costs may be low and appealing for expanding your business overseas, but the other financial obligations that come with being a foreign employer make the cost of running a global business fall onto a comparable scale to that of U.S. only operations.

When it comes to worker benefits, many countries require employers to provide a month of paid vacation and/or mandatory bonuses. Take the Mexican aguinaldo, for example, a mandatory Christmas bonus provided to every employee in Mexico and equivalent to 15 days wages or more.

When it comes to health insurance for your employees, things may be a little easier. Most countries provide universal health care for workers. This is often partly funded by payroll taxes, which can have high rates, but are typically more cost effective than the continual rise in insurance premiums in the U.S.

There are many other things to consider when looking to expand your business overseas. Check back tomorrow for information on how to protect what keeps your business running, the product your provide.

Pt. 1: Why and Why Not Expand Overseas?
Pt. 3: Protecting Your Product
Pt. 4: Money and Taxes

Source:
• Inc.com: How to Get Started

Resources:
The International Labour Organization
• U.S. Dept. of Labor (dol.gov): Foreign Labor Trends Reports
• Univ. of Chicago: Foreign Law


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, April 21st, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Operations |

Workplace Bullies and How to Deal with Them

We all know a bully to be a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates what he/she considers smaller or weaker people (definition courtesy of dictionary.com).

Every grade school class has one. The kid that taunts everyone, calls them names, makes them feel worthless. And that doesn’t change much in high school either. But as we become adults that tormenting part of childhood usually fades away.

Unfortunately, a sort of epidemic of bullying from bosses has found its way into the work force. Truthfully, it’s probably been there all along, only now more people are willing to speak out about it.

The signs are obvious according to a survey conducted by the Employment Law Alliance, in which 44% of 534 U.S. workers felt they were being bullied by their boss. A bullying boss is one who publicly criticizes, rudely interrupts, teases, gives dirty looks, uses sarcastic jabs or ignores one or more employees. But what can be done about it?

The Target
If you are the target of a boss’ bullying, you likely deal with a low self-esteem and possibly even depression as a result. Being constantly given the impression that you’re worthless and weak can often make you believe it.

There are no laws against bullying someone. If you are the target of a boss’ bullying, a lawsuit is not currently an option. It would likely be counter-productive to go directly to that superior and tell her what she is doing is making it hard to work there. Chances are she will simply give you a hard time about it.

Before you just up quit your job, however, try going to someone higher up. If there is no superior above your bullying boss’ head, go ahead and give talking it out a shot. If that doesn’t work, a job search may be your best bet.

The Higher-Up
If you are concerned that you may have a bully under your employ, there are some warning signs to look for. Pay attention to turnovers and absentee rates. If a department is seeing a lot of either, chances are the head of that department isn’t very easy to live with five days a week and employees would rather not come to work at all then to have to deal with him.

Clearly, if there is a bully in your midst, confront him about it and give him an opportunity to change. But I would suggest making it a short opportunity. Not only does a bullying supervisor affect the success of your business, but he can also cause emotional or mental distress for your other employees and no one wants that.

If you don’t have a bully in your employ, but want to take the steps to avoid future problems, a good plan is to add bullying tendencies to your company’s sexual harassment policies. This makes all employees aware of what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and could help to avoid the problem.

The Bully
Most bullies are well aware of what they are doing, but lets say that you don’t realize that you’re bullying your employees – that you see it as just having a little fun. Pay attention to how people react when you’re “having a little fun.” If, instead of laughing along with you, they’re avoiding eye contact and evading you, then you’re probably being inappropriate and causing problems.

Here’s the thing, chances are the reason you never grew out of being a bully (because it’s likely you’ve always been one) is because deep down you don’t really think very highly of yourself either. Most bullies act the way they do because they are trying to feel better about themselves at the expense of others. If that is the case there are clearly some underlying issues that must be dealt with in order to overcome your aggressive behavior. Don’t be afraid to get help.

Regardless of where you fall in the bullying ring, even if you’re observing from the outside, do what you can to help correct the situation in order to preserve a pleasant working environment. If employees aren’t happy, productivity diminishes, and when that happens the business suffers. Efforts to remedy the situation benefit everyone at every level, so make the effort and the results may astound you.

Source:
• Inc.com: Nearly Half of U.S. Workers Feel Bullies at Work – and They Want to Sue


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, April 20th, 2018 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Human Resources, Operations |

Wine That Appeals to the Non-Connoisseur

I’m not a wine drinker. I never can find one that I like. I’ve been to wineries and tried all the reds, whites, chardonnays, but none of them provide that taste bud explosion that wine connoisseurs rave about.

But there’s a new product coming out that may convince me to give wine another try. Amazing Food Wine Company in San Francisco is on the verge of releasing a new brand of wine called Wine That Loves. Their wines are not classified by age, grape and birth place. Rather, they are classified by the foods each particular wine should be paired with,

So far the wines available are:
• Wine That Loves Pizza
• Wine That Loves Pasta With Red Sauce
• Wine That Loves Roasted Chicken
• Wine That Loves Grilled Salmon
• Wine That Loves Grilled Steak

Wines currently in the works are those to be paired with grilled chicken, Chinese food and even macaroni and cheese.

Some wine “experts” have expressed a bad taste in their mouths regarding this new wine brand, claiming it is “dumbing down wine.” Vic Motto of wine investment bank Global Wine Partners states, “It’s a paint-by-numbers approach that by definition sophisticated wine drinkers will not be drawn to…It might be something [for new wine drinkers] to try once. But if you liked it, wouldn’t you want to know why?”

Could that comment be more culturally closed-minded? First of all, I don’t think it is Amazing Food Wine Company’s intention that Wines That Love appeal to “sophisticated wine drinkers.” The target market is obviously the younger generation whose knowledge base regarding wine is lacking in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to knowing what wines to pair with what foods. Not to mention the fact that the wine runs at an affordable $12 a bottle, well below the pricey cost of “sophisticated” wines.

And truthfully, how many wine drinkers really care all that much about where their wine comes from and how old it is? Outside of the manufacturers, who are supposed to care, and a select few who attend wine tastings and have detailed discussions how a particular wine affects their pallet in everyday conversation, not many.

Most people just care about whether or not they like the wine and it goes well with what they’re having for dinner. Personally, I think that the concept of Wine That Loves is brilliant and appealing and there is no reason why it won’t be a completely successful entrepreneurial venture because the market is definitely out there.


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, April 19th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |