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Showing posts from December, 2013

Practices to Protect Your Small Business from Employee Lawsuits

From SBA.gov:

Getting sued by current or former employees happens more often than you might think. In fact, the number of lawsuits filed regarding wage-and-hour laws alone in 2011 went up 32 percent from just three years prior. Don’t be too busy to check in and ensure you aren’t breaking laws or otherwise opening yourself up to a potential lawsuit — no small business owner has the time, or money, for that.

There’s a plethora of advice out there on the subject of protecting your business from lawsuits. Before you read on, remember, you should always consult your legal counsel to ensure you are complying with federal and state laws. Laws regarding certain practices, such as non-compete agreements, vary widely from state to state.

SBA has compiled a list of some of the most helpful tips from around the Web.

A Holiday Retail Lesson for Small Business: Be More Like Amazon

Here are three things we just learned about Christmas commerce in 2013:

1. Lots of shoppers skipped the mall, even as retailers kept slashing prices. Store traffic in the week leading up to Dec. 22 sank 22 percent, with sales growing at the smallest rate since 2009, ShopperTrak reports.

More from Business Week.

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

There is a lot of information and then there are even more questions about doctors who are accepting Affordable Care Act.  There is also plenty of discussion and questions involving how patients can find doctors that do accept Affordable Care Act coverage.  Here are links to article and information provided both by the federal government and the news agencies.

I feel I must give a disclaimer regarding information provided from the news agencies.  These articles are to give you an idea of what people are saying and hearing, and there is no guarantee that what is being reported is accurate or current.

Factsheet: What You Should Know About Provider Networks

What’s a provider network? 

A provider network is a list of the doctors, other health care providers, and hospitals that a plan has contracted with to provide medical care to the plan’s members. These providers are called “network providers” or “in-network providers.” A provider that hasn't contracted with the plan is called an “out…

Vast Majority Of US Businesses Say Intellectual Property Is Not Important (oy)

This post is licensed CC-BY SA 3.0, and may be shared and reposted with attribution. Please include a link back to the original, which will contain the most up-to-date version.

by Gabriel J. Michael

Last year, the USPTO released a widely cited report entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus.” This report emphasized the importance of IP to the U.S. economy, claiming “the entire U.S. economy relies on some form of IP,” and estimating that “IP-intensive industries” accounted for 40 million American jobs and 35% of the U.S. GDP in 2010.

While many pro-IP groups hailed the report as demonstrating the importance of IP to the American economy, the report was widely panned by critics who pointed out that the definition of “IP-intensive industries” was so broad as to be meaningless. Indeed, according to the report, the number one IP-intensive industry by employment in the United States was… grocery stores. Although supporters of stricter IP regulation and enfor…

SBA Revises Size Standards for Utilities and Construction Sectors

SBA Revises Size Standards for Utilities and Construction Sectors

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued two final rules in the Federal Register today, revising size standards for firms in two North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) sectors, namely, Utilities (Sector 22) and Construction (Sector 23).

Size standards define the maximum size a firm can be and still be considered a small business. The revised standards reflect changes in marketplace conditions and public comments that SBA received to its earlier proposed rules.

New size standards will enable more businesses in these sectors to obtain or retain small business status; will give federal agencies a larger pool of small businesses from which to choose for their procurement programs; and will make more small businesses eligible for SBA’s loan programs.

For industries in Sector 22, Utilities, SBA increased revenue-based size standards for three industries and changed the basis for determining bus…

How Small Businesses Can Get Tax Deductions for Charitable Giving

Most small businesses make charitable donations. In fact, surveys have shown that about 75 percent of small business owners donate some portion of their profits — about 6 percent on average — to charitable organizations each year.

As we’re in the midst of the holiday season (and tax season looms), many small business owners are likely considering charitable contributions and wondering how such donations might impact the bottom line in terms of tax deductions. First, it’s important to choose the right charity and avoid certain pitfalls that could leave you in a bind.

Read more from SBA.gov.

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

Many employers are still unsure as to their obligations under the Affordable Care Act.  The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is a new program that simplifies the process of buying health insurance for small businesses. In 2014, SHOP helps employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees shop for, choose, and offer their employees high quality private health plans that fit their needs and budget. Beginning no later than January 1, 2016, SHOP will be available to employers with 100 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

To start coverage on January 1, 2014, you must select a plan to offer your employees and your employees must enroll in the plan by December 15, 2013. We intend to extend this deadline to December 23, so check back here for an update. After this initial enrollment period, you may enroll in SHOP on a rolling monthly basis.

The deadline to enroll is always the 15th of the month for coverage to be effective the 1st of the following month. F…

Top 10 U.S. and International Cities Poised for Growth

Whether you are looking to move operations to pro-business locations with low barriers to entry or seeking to meet customer demands in growing markets, your mid-sized business needs to seek out places that share certain characteristics: thriving local economies, an availability of educated workers, a favorable tax and regulatory climate, quality infrastructure, and a high quality of life. Consider the ten cities listed below. All offer many opportunities while being relatively bereft of the restrictive taxes and regulations that can choke growth.

These cities — half in the U.S. and half outside it — combine growing economies and low barriers to entry. These are the types of places you should look when you are looking to expand your midsize business.

More from Middle Market Center.

Downtime Calculator for your disaster recovery

From the DataCave:

You know that when your business experiences downtime, your services, employees, and operations will be impacted, but have you ever been able to place a dollar figure on what that impact would be? The Cost of Downtime.

Let our Downtime Calculator give you an answer! This tool takes several different factors into account, such as your business’ number of employees, sales volume, and how any amount of downtime you encounter could impact your bottom line. If you have ever experienced downtime in the past, this calculator can provide you with a financial estimate for the business impact it may have had.

We encourage you to use this tool to get a good grasp on just how damaging downtime can be to your business, and to better educate yourself on the importance of having a disaster recovery plan in place

Things NOT to ask on a job interview: Lou Grant and Mary Richards

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From the pilot of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, September 1970:
LOU GRANT (Edward Asner)
How old are you?

MARY RICHARDS (Mary Tyler Moore)
[Straightforwardly] Thirty.

LOU
No hedging? No "How old do I look?"?

MARY
Why hedge about it? How old do I look?

LOU
Thirty. What religion are you?

MARY
Mr. Grant, I don't know quite how to say this, but you're not allowed to ask that when somebody's applying for a job. It's against the law.

LOU
You wanna call a cop?

MARY
No.

LOU
Good. Would you think I was violating your civil rights if I asked if you're married?

MARY
Presbyterian.

Blog Series - Affordable Care Act

About 1.2 million people have now gotten coverage through “Obamacare” nationwide. As of December 9th, 314.146 New Yorkers have completed applications, with 100,881 enrolled. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014 and can begin any month after that.

There has been a lot of speculation as to what obligations small businesses will have when it comes to their their employees and the Affordable Care Act.  Media sources have spread inaccurate and unsubstantiated information regarding the law.  The best place to get non-opinionated information are the government websites at the following links.

Federal Affordable Care Act for Small Business Website
New York State Affordable Care Act for Small Business Website
The Federal Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace makes it possible for small businesses to provide qualified health plans to their employees.

For 2014, the SHOP Marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees (FTEs). You may quali…

100 Best Websites For Entrepreneurs

We've searched high and low to bring you the first annual list of FORBES 100 Best Websites For Entrepreneurs. Whether you’re seeking advice on raising capital, scaling your business or looking for general industry insight, these sites are worth reading.

The picks here are arranged in no specific order. Selected unscientifically, they have been chosen for their ability to address a range of topics of interest to entrepreneurs. Frequent posts and content quality helps get a nod. The list is a combination of practical tools – sites to crowdsource funding like Rock The Post or AngelList, or sites with educational resources, like Stanford’s eCorner – and inspirational advice from bloggers like Seth Godin and Steve Blank.

Consumers rage against lousy customer service

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From Arizona State University:

A new customer-rage study shows more American consumers than ever are dissatisfied with the products and services we buy. Also, despite companies’ big-money efforts to create customer-care programs, we’re less happy with the service received when we complain. The study shows 56 million American households experienced at least one problem during the past 12 months, and about $76 billion in revenue was at stake for the businesses involved.

"The moral of the story: Don’t invest in improving your customer service unless you’re going to do it right," says Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which helped design the survey. "If a company handles your complaint well, then you typically become a more loyal customer. However, if they don’t, then you become 12 percentage points less brand loyal than if you never complained at all."

T…

Email Marketing Mistakes that Could Cost You Big in 2014

While we are knee-deep in the holidays, 2014 is right around the corner. And if you’re like the majority of small businesses, email marketing will play an important role in your promotional efforts throughout the New Year. Don’t let the following small but common mistakes keep you from achieving your marketing goals!

Making it difficult for people to recognize you

For 68 percent of consumers, familiarity with the person sending the email is the top reason why they decide to open. Take the time to double check the “From Name” and “From Email Address” you’re using to send your emails.

More from the ASBDC.

Attracting Manufacturing Investment in American Communities

To compete in an increasingly global economy, the United States must come up with innovative strategies that will lead to economic growth and job creation around the country. The ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ (IMCP) seeks to enhance the way we leverage federal economic development funds to encourage American communities to focus not only on attracting individual investments one at a time, but transforming themselves into globally-competitive manufacturing hubs.

An administration-wide initiative led by the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ will encourage communities to devise comprehensive economic development strategies that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains. IMCP specifically brings together the resources of multiple federal departments and agencies involved in economic development.

In Phase One of the of the ‘Investing in Manufac…

Pinterest For Business: Don't Let Pinterest Pin You To the Wall

Pinterest offers a unique platform to business – a way to organically promote products while adding a personal touch through the creation of storyboard to support brand mission. Originally used by individuals as a way to discover and share items of interest, brands discovered a platform rich in active consumers and influencers. Pinterest has 4x the conversion per click of Twitter and a 27% higher conversion rate than Facebook, plus it drives 3x the traffic to sites than YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.

Now Pinterest is currently exploring promoted pins, which will show as regular pins with a “promoted label.” Time will tell the direction of promoted pins and the ROI on campaigns, but the introduction of this new business model has brands more interested than ever in Pinterest.

MORE from SmallBusinessNewz

As Holiday Shopping Season Gets Underway, FTC Reminds Internet Retailers to Ensure Consumers Have Access to Warranty Informatio​n

Federal Trade Commission staff is asking top Internet retailers to review their websites to ensure that they provide complete and accurate information about product warranties before consumers make their online purchases, as required by the FTC’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule.

The Rule requires retailers to make warranties available at the time of purchase for all warranted consumer products that cost more than $15. However, a recent staff survey found several instances of Internet sellers offering warranted consumer electronics and appliances for sale without disclosing complete warranty information.

“During the busy holiday shopping season, it’s especially important that consumers get the information they need to make informed buying decisions,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Internet sellers can help by making sure their websites are providing complete and accurate warranty information.”

The letters also inform the Internet sellers that they…

5 Reasons You Need To Give Away The Recipe For Your Secret Sauce

Don’t be afraid.

Every professional services firm (marketing, business consulting, accounting, medical, law, et al) in the history of ever struggles with content marketing. Not necessarily from a tactical perspective, although “finding time” to create content is often a presumed obstacle in these organizations. But the biggest issue is fear. Companies that are paid for what they know instead of what they make are paralyzed by the thought of giving away their “proprietary processes” and “secret sauce” through a content marketing initiative.

“Why would we write a blog that explains how we do things? Then our competitors will know our what we know, or our customers won’t need to hire us,” they say. (And they DO say this. All the time.)

WHY? See the answer from SmallBusinessNewz

America's SBDC Biz Blog Listed as Forbes' "100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs"

Burke, VA - The America's SBDC 'Biz Blog' was featured on Forbes.com on November 12, 2013 as one of the "100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs." The article stated that they searched high and low for the best of the best. Whether an entrepreneur was seeking capital, growing their business or just looking for general assistance the Top 100 sites listed were "worth reading." Natalie Robehmed, Forbes Staff wrote "America's Small Business Development Center blog presents friendly lessons from founders who have been there and done that."

"Recognition from Forbes is a real tribute to our blog contributors and partners. Content from leaders like Gina Watkins of Constant Contact, Ramon Ray, Eric Spellman, Benetrends and so many others is what makes us successful, relevant and a premier resource for our SBDC business advisors and their small business clients," said Charles "Tee" Rowe, President & CEO, America's SBDC.

The …

IRS to Employers: Hire Veterans by Dec. 31 and Save on Taxes

From the IRS (Tax Tip 2013-15):

IRS to Employers: Hire Veterans by Dec. 31 and Save on Taxes
If you plan to hire soon, consider hiring veterans. If you do, you may be able to claim the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit worth thousands of dollars.

You must act soon. The WOTC is available to employers that hire qualified veterans before the new year.

Here are six key facts about the WOTC:
1. Hiring Deadline.  Employers hiring qualified veterans before Jan. 1, 2014, may be able to claim the WOTC. The credit was set to expire at the end of 2012. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended it for one year. 2. Maximum Credit.  The tax credit limit is $9,600 per worker for employers that operate a taxable business. The limit for tax-exempt employers is $6,240 per worker. 3. Credit Factors.  The credit amount depends on a number of factors. They include the length of time a veteran was unemployed, the number of hours worked and the amount of the wages paid during the first yea…

How to Increase Email Marketing Conversions

Spending on email marketing is projected to reach $2.5 billion by 2016, but even all that money doesn't guarantee conversions. To help boost your email marketing conversions, check out the tips in the following infographic by Monetate.

Among Monetate's suggestions:

Avoid batch and blast. Your customers aren't all the same, so why send everyone the same email? Segmented email campaigns produce a much higher click-through rate than undifferentiated messages.


Read more at Marketing Profs.

Top 10 Mistakes for Businesses To Avoid When Dealing With a Disaster

Business Continuity Strategies Offered at Free SBA/Agility Webinar

What are the biggest and most common mistakes business owners make when dealing with a disaster? Whether it’s property damage caused by a flood, or the loss of sensitive data thanks to a hacked email account, how you respond within the first few hours of the crisis can make or break your small business.

Get tips on how to avoid the costly mistakes that could put the safety of your clients and your organization at risk at a free webinar hosted by Agility Recovery and the U.S. Small Business Administration on Tuesday, December 10. True stories about business owners’ pre-disaster missteps, plans not followed and errors made—as well as what they learned during the recovery phase, will be discussed.

SBA has partnered with Agility to offer business continuity strategies through its “PrepareMyBusiness” website. Visit www.preparemybusiness.org to access previous webinars and for additional preparedness tips.

The SBA provid…