Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute

From the New York Times:

A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.

What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down [last week], was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million.

In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years’ worth of overtime pay that they had been denied. Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions.

A quick punctuation lesson before we proceed: In a list of three or more items — like "beans, potatoes and rice" — some people would put a comma after potatoes, and some would leave it out. A lot of people feel very, very strongly about it.

The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

NYSBDC to Celebrate Inaugural SBDC Day March 22, 2017

The New York SBDC will join other SBDC centers across nation in celebrating the first annual SBDC Day on March 22. SBDC Day is a national recognition movement to share the small business success stories and notable impacts SBDCs have fostered in communities nationwide. Clients, guests, and prospective entrepreneurs are encouraged to stop by NYSBDC locations to meet the staff and learn more about the SBDC.

Since 1980, America’s SBDCs—the nation’s largest small business and entrepreneurial assistance network—have helped aspiring and emerging small business owners achieve the American dream of entrepreneurship. SBDC Day will celebrate the collective impact and success SBDCs have across the nation and in local communities each year.

With nearly 1,000 locations across the country, SBDCs provide local businesses and entrepreneurs with the resources needed to succeed. In 2016, America’s SBDCs provided 1.3 million hours of consulting to 192,205 client businesses, resulting in 100,233 jobs created; $6.9 billion in sales growth; $4.6 billion in capital investments; and 17,864 new businesses started.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Difference Between Cash and Profits

From Bplans

Although cash is critical, people think in profits instead of cash. We all do.

When you imagine a new business, you think of what it would cost to make the product, what you could sell it for, and what the profits per unit might be. We are trained to think of business as sales minus costs and expenses, which is profits.

However, we don’t spend the profits in a business. We spend cash. Profitable companies go broke because they had all their money tied up in assets and couldn’t pay their expenses. Working capital is critical to business health.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the cash implications as clearly as we should, which is one of the best reasons for proper business planning. We have to manage cash as well as profits.

Friday, March 17, 2017

2015 Annual Retail Trade Survey

From the Census Bureau:

This report provides national estimates of total annual sales, e-commerce sales, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total operating expenses, inventories held outside the United States, gross margins, and end-of-year accounts receivable for retail businesses and annual sales, total operating expenses, and e-commerce sales for accommodation and food service firms located in the United States.
The Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) sample covers employer businesses classified in retail trade sector and accommodation & food services sector located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ARTS excludes data for businesses located in the U.S. territories. The data are published on a North American Industry Classification Systembasis and the estimates are used to benchmark the monthly retail sales and inventories estimates each spring.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

FTC Offers Tips for Businesses Impersonated as part of a Phishing Scam

From the Federal Trade Commission:

Think consumers are the only ones harmed by phishing scams? It’s not just a problem for computer users but also for the businesses that the scammers are impersonating. And people who have been scammed may look to the business that was impersonated for help.
The Federal Trade Commission has long provided advice to consumers about steps they can take to avoid phishing scams. The FTC has released tips and a video for businesses on how to respond if they are impersonated as part of a phishing scam. Among the steps businesses should take include notifying customers as soon as possible through social media, email or letters; contacting law enforcement; providing resources for affected consumers; and reviewing the company’s security practices.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When Do You Really Need Insurance for Your Business?

From BPlans

As an entrepreneur, you know that not every part of the job is glamorous.

Buying insurance can feel like a hassle, but if you invest in finding the right policies now, you’ll save yourself from potential legal headaches and unexpected costs down the road. You probably have a lot of questions surrounding what specific risks different types of coverage actually protect against, and whether or not they apply to your business.

When it comes to insuring your business, factors like your location, industry, and the number of employees can all affect what coverages are applicable. To ensure your new business is protected in any scenario, here’s a list of common business insurance policies that may apply, and how they actually work for you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Retailers: Brace for a New Wave of Generational Disruption

From eMarketer

Retailers, still struggling to adjust to millennial shopping preferences, face a new wave of disruption from the youngest millennials, with Gen Z in their wake.

While there are some similarities between the youngest millennials and their older predecessors, there are also distinct differences, according to an Accenture survey of nearly 10,000 consumers ages 18 to 37 across 13 countries. For instance, while Facebook remains the most popular social platform for both younger (21-27) and older (28-37) millennials, YouTube is actually the most regularly used social media platform among the very youngest group, those 20 and under.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the younger shoppers said they regularly use Instagram, compared with only 40% of the older ones. Echoing other survey findings, the study found the younger group was twice as likely as the older millennials to use Snapchat.

Why does their social media preference matter?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Here's How to REALLY Prove Marketing's Value

From MarketingProfs

Research published in AdAge at the end of 2016 helped decode today's five CMO priorities. Two of those priorities fell squarely into the domain of marketing performance management (MPM). The first priority was measurement. However, the study revealed that not just any kind of measurement will do: To be effective, you need to be able to measure Marketing's impact. The second priority was the need to do a better job of justifying Marketing investments.

AdAge was not alone in shining a light on those CMO priorities. The trend toward more compelling measurements of value were reflected in a Chief Marketer article that identified six trends for 2017, three of which included some type of measurement: cross-channel measurement, more sophisticated marketing measurement, and real-time attribution.

And a Forbes article predicted that 2017 is the year Agile Marketing will be taken more seriously. Why? Because "agile marketing results in a measurable improvement in marketing performance."

In another instance, Steven Wastie, CMO of Origami Logic, wrote that "2017 will the year of data and measurement.... Marketers will be under more pressure than ever before to prove accountability."

Perhaps you see the pattern emerging: For today's marketers, the challenge really isn't measurement; there is an abundance of metrics. The challenge is measuring Marketing's value and performance.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Customer loyalty is not about the customer

From Verizon:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

As a college student, I majored in physics where the Laws of Motion and the Laws of Thermodynamics provided a reliable framework for explaining how things work. With a basic understanding of these laws, one can make reasonable predictions about the behavior of things in the everyday world. Who knew, though, that these laws could also be relevant in explaining behavior in the world of a customer experience professional?

The behavior of most interest to businesses in today’s digital economy is customer loyalty. They talk about it in employee webcasts. They track it on social media. They report on it in scorecards with metrics like churn, repeat purchases, and average revenue per user (ARPU).

And in doing so, they completely miss the point.

To put it in Newton’s parlance, loyalty is not an action, but a reaction.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

2015 Annual Retail Trade Survey

This report provides national estimates of total annual sales, e-commerce sales, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total operating expenses, inventories held outside the United States, gross margins, and end-of-year accounts receivable for retail businesses and annual sales, total operating expenses, and e-commerce sales for accommodation and food service firms located in the United States.
The Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS) sample covers employer businesses classified in retail trade sector and accommodation & food services sector located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ARTS excludes data for businesses located in the U.S. territories. The data are published on a North American Industry Classification System basis and the estimates are used to benchmark the monthly retail sales and inventories estimates each spring.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Visa Petitions

Starting April 3, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. USCIS will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Who Is Affected
The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.

While premium processing is suspended, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, it will have to reject both forms.

USCIS will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. Therefore, it will refund the premium processing fee if:

The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and
It did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.
This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

Requesting Expedited Processing

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. It is the petitioner’s responsibility to demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and we encourage petitioners to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request.

USCIS review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

Why USCIS Is Temporarily Suspending Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

This temporary suspension will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, it will be able to:

Process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and
Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.

See also article from Quartz (India):

After months of anxiety, India’s $150-billion IT outsourcing industry has received a big blow from the Donald Trump government.

India’s IT outsourcing industry, which gets over 60% of its revenue from the US, has been fearing a rise in protectionism in its largest market ever since Trump got elected. The temporary suspension is in line with the US president’s anti-immigration stance and could hint at a tighter H-1B visa policy in the future, according to recruitment experts.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Marketers 'Unaware' of FTC Social Media Guidelines Regulating Influencers

From eMarketer:

Influencers are taking an increasingly large chunk of the digital ad market, and many individuals with hefty, engaged social media followings are charging top dollar to work with brands to spread the word about their products and services.

Guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) require sponsored posts on social media to be tagged as ads. However, influencers and content marketers have very different levels of awareness about these guidelines, according to a survey conducted by Lightspeed GMI and Research Now for Izea.

The study found that six out of 10 US influencers polled in September 2016 said they’re aware of or understand the guidelines, and another 23% said they’re aware of or at least somewhat familiar with them.

Only 11% of marketers reported being aware of or having an understanding of these guidelines, while 23% said they’re “somewhat familiar.”

Friday, March 03, 2017

Data Breach Digest: Perspective is Reality

From Verizon:

Every year, the Verizon RISK (Research, Investigations, Knowledge, Solutions) Team investigates hundreds of cybercrimes and helps organizations recover fast. In the Data Breach Digest, we share some of our most interesting cases—anonymized of course—so you can learn from the lessons of others.

Our 16 cybercrime case studies cover the most lethal and prevalent threats you face—from partner misuse to sophisticated malware. We set out the measures you can take to better defend your organization and respond quickly if you are a victim of an attack.

A cyber attack isn’t just a problem for IT. The fallout can affect every part of your organization—from Legal Counsel to Human Resources and Corporate Communications. To reflect that, each of the cybercrime case studies is written from the viewpoint of a different stakeholder. That will help you understand the critical pivot points in an investigation and the kind of decisions you might be faced with if you’re a data breach victim.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Should I Quit My Job to Start My Own Business?

From Bplans:

For many, the hardest part of starting a business isn’t coming up with the idea or choosing the right name.

Deciding when the time is right to start a business is often the biggest challenge. How do you know when to take the plunge? Should you go all in, all at once—or take it more slowly?

This can be an extremely difficult question to answer, and doing so involves a careful assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses, your position in life, and (of course) your financial situation.

Generally speaking, it comes down to a decision between “jump right in,” and “slow and steady.” That is to say, some feel it’s better to quit your job and start your business right away, while others will advocate for a more measured approach, involving building up your new business on the side before transitioning into the role of full-time entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Tips for Nailing Your First Trade Show

From MarketingProfs:

You're at your first trade show.

The booths are dazzling, industry bigwigs are here in the flesh, and potential partners are prime for the picking.

Tradeshows can feel overwhelming, especially if you're there representing a startup or you're otherwise new to shows. Unless, of course, you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve.

Luckily, you know exactly what you need to do to make a fantastic impression thanks to an article you read about nailing your first tradeshow...

1. Promote the event like you're the host

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Immigration Restrictions Harm Our Economy

From the American Institute for Economic Research
In an article published in AIER’s January 1996 Research Report, Thomas Lehman wrote, “The present immigration policy of the United States amounts to nothing less than a tariff or barrier to entry on the commodity of labor, and harms American consumers in the same manner as tariffs and trade barriers on other capital or consumer goods.” In over 20 years, the picture has not improved. Immigration laws restrict such voluntary cooperation by preventing some of those best qualified from fulfilling their most useful economic roles.

Calls for immigration restrictions have long been a part of American politics. In 2006, 54 Republican and 26 Democratic senators, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, voted for the Secure Fence Act, which authorized 700 miles of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Still, it is clear from rhetoric and recent executive orders that President Donald Trump intends to restrict immigration more than the past several administrations of either party.

Though it is difficult to predict how much the new administration’s policies will reduce immigration, it is instructive to look at the overall impact of immigration on the U.S. economy as well as positions taken by advocates of individual freedom.

Monday, February 27, 2017

It’s Time To Award Your Small Business Employees

From the Small Business Administration
It’s awards season! Here at SBA, we believe that small businesses should also set aside some time annually to honor their "shining stars."

Just like the Oscars, you can create categories that will award the various aspects that exist within your small business. From the "behind the scenes" nominees in Human Resources to the "frontline" nominees in Sales, the opportunities to celebrate your team are endless.

Below are a few categories to help you get started:

Best Picture – Think over the last year and ask yourself the following: What was your company’s biggest accomplishment and who was responsible for it? Was it an internal or external initiative? Did you connect with your target audience as you hoped? Once you decide what it is, be sure to award this individual or team with the "big picture" award for a job well done!

Best Director – When it comes to gaining sound advice or feedback, whom do your employees typically go to? This person may or may not be you as the CEO. Award this individual with the "Best Director" award for being committed to leading his or her team toward success!

Best Film Editing – As a small business, it can be quite overwhelming to be on call for every single thing that happens within your company. That’s why you should award that employee that came in with a desire to revamp and organize your business processes. This can be from a customer, client or general corporate perspective - so think big and offer a huge thank you!

Best Short Film – When it comes to planning, it’s always great to think ahead and document everything. But what do you do when something occurs that wasn’t planned? You think quickly! The “Best Short Film” award should be given to the individual or team that jumped in to help reach a deadline or deliver excellent customer/client service. Think about your design team or your business development team but really, it could be anyone! Choose wisely.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay) – Being innovative within your business is one of the sure ways to make sure your company continues to grow. Do you have an employee that recently went out of his way to add a new skill to her or his team’s toolkit? Did your Human Resources team find a way to automate a few processes? The “Best Writing” award would be a great honor for the visionary (or visionaries) within your company!

And the award goes to….

Your talented employees! As you know, the Oscars are a great time for nominees to dress up and show off. So be sure go the extra mile with the décor and ambiance. Perhaps you can schedule a fun evening out at a new event space or you order catered lunch from a local restaurant. Either way, the goal is to make sure that your employees feel appreciated for their efforts from the past year – so make it great!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Job Benefits Employees Value Most

From MarketingProfs

For employees, the most important job benefit is health, dental, and vision insurance, according to recent research from Fractl.

The report was based on data from a survey of 2,000 adults. Respondents were given a list of 17 benefits and asked how heavily they would weigh each when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying job with more benefits.

After health insurance, the most valued benefits are flexible hours, vacation time, work-from-home options, and student loan/tuition assistance.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Ways to Gain Customer Insight: A Guide for Marketers

From MarketingProfs

Legendary Baseball Hall of Famer and Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching." The humor aside, there's a lot of truth in that statement.

As marketing professionals, we should always be observing our customers: Their habits, behavior, and feedback serve as a yardstick for measuring the strength of your company's relationship with its customers.

And if you're not watching your customers, someone else—probably your competition—is.

One way to understand customer metrics is to compare it to driving your car. When you're behind the wheel, there's a lot happening: You're constantly monitoring the vehicle's metrics, such as speed, engine temperature, and fuel levels, along with observing traffic and road conditions. There's no justification for not bringing the same level of monitoring to your customers.

So how can marketing professionals turn Mr. Berra's quip into an actionable plan?

The basic measurements most viewed are revenue and profitability. As long as those two are going up, why should anyone care? Simply put, as fast as these numbers go up... they can plummet. Customer preferences can change in a heartbeat... and if a company is caught flat-footed, next month's sales results won't look quite as rosy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to super-charge your small business.

From The Balance

Feeling like you’re treading water with your small business and not making progress towards your goals?

Or are you having trouble choosing business goals to work towards this year in the first place? We all want to be successful owners of profitable small businesses, but how do you get there from where you are?

If you want your small business to be more profitable than ever before, here are some suggestions for how to make it happen. And remember; building a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint!