patra

Why You Cannot Ignore Cybersecurity

For many enterpreneurs, solopreneurs, and non-profits, even thinking about cyber-anything is frightening. You know there are dangers but who can keep up, how can you understand the problems you face? Still, you must. Small businesses and individuals are targets for hackers, fraud, and other efforts that require some understanding and actions.

These risks are real and they can seriously hurt you and your business if ignored.  You know that but what to do…

Recently Elizabeth Moon of Focus Data Systems and I did a webinar on common issues you need to understand and address. We talked about the issues and trends in cybersecurity and how you can work to minimize risks at every level. If you have employees, we covered some of the major issues we have seen in what and what not to do with employees to enhance your organization’s security.

Watch and listen – Small Biz Nightmares – Cybersecurity

By |June 17th, 2018|Business planning, culture, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on Why You Cannot Ignore Cybersecurity

Should ‘death cleaning’ be a Business Concept too?

Does it seem to you as if you see a lot of articles about decluttering your home? Have you seen articles for Boomers about the concept of death-cleaning done early and often? Or those about decluttering your business – usually around the new year? Still, few of us deal with our files and storage and stuffed desks unless forced to do so. I just spent some time watching a small business forced into such a ‘clean up’ by an unexpected relocation. It was tough and it was painful. Who knew that there were files from 10-12 years ago in so many places?

Disorganization costs you time – and money.

Sure, it is hard to take the time to fix your systems. This is not exciting work but it can be critical. Get it scheduled a little at a time and move forward.

Computers:
You need a solid filing system, automatic back-ups, and some external resources to cover your data and info if your system fails. I know that, you know that. But several years ago my own system failed and the back-ups were old and I did not have the data for my online software subscriptions handy.

Do it yourself or hire some help to get your systems organized. Install those malware/virus programs and set them up to run regularly.

Finances:
Be sure to talk with your accountant soon, if you have not already, about the many new tax law changes which will impact your business this year.

Every business, however small, needs a system, whether a simple book-keeping application or a more complex one. But you also need to understand and use it. Go for training. Or hire someone to help you set up your own chart of accounts and understand […]

By |June 12th, 2018|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Should ‘death cleaning’ be a Business Concept too?

Future of Work: What do Longer Lives Mean?

My grandparents were born not long after the Civil War and lived into their mid-60s to mid-70s. My parents and their siblings lived into their late-70s to mid-90s. The Boomers have made ‘60 the new 40′ and millennials are likely to see passing 100 years old as pretty routine.

Have you thought at all about what this means for business? For your own future?

I suspect many people have not. When I speak about longevity, current audiences are almost as likely as those 15 years ago to assume they will retire in their 60s. Investment companies regularly report that retirement savings are not adequate for living beyond 10-12 years of retirement.

A recent book, THE 100-YEAR LIFE: LIVING AND WORKING IN AN AGE OF LONGEVITY by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, offers ideas and insights for our future. Businesses which begin to adapt now will have an advantage. Longer lives also mean different patterns of working and education. Yet most of us still build our business practices around some three-stage life notions of education in youth, 30-40 years of work, and then retirement.

The recent Great Recession brought some changes as more people worked into their late 60s and mid 70s. Retirees returned to the workplace in temporary, seasonal, and lower-skilled jobs. Today there are more people working past 55 and into their late 70s than at any time since before WWII.  But companies have not fundamentally changed their practices.

No-one can really save enough to retire for 30 – 40 years in a 35 – 45 year work life, especially now that pensions have become so rare. One of the early illustrations in the book is a scary look at this point. Someone born in the early 1970s, […]

By |March 19th, 2018|culture, non-profits, Smart practices|Comments Off on Future of Work: What do Longer Lives Mean?

It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

From Ailes to Weinstein, across the military, and in far too many organizations, sexual harassment is a significant problem. And no, your small business is not exempt!

Such harassment is sadly, maddeningly common. You have seen the recent news, the social media storm over #MeToo. So first some basic facts:

Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
Whether it is verbal or physical, it is abuse and a form of violence.
Women are the most common targets, but men are also sexually harassed.

Such harassment represents a real threat to your organization now and in the future. It directly impacts productivity and morale. It erodes trust. It increases turnover. And it can result in both legal and reputation risks.

What Do You Do?

The first step is to create a workplace culture that encourages trust and respect.

This will support many good things beyond dealing with harassment issues. And it does make identifying and dealing with harassment easier. You need policies, practices, and leadership to create trust and respect within the work place. A good basic policy of how you expect everyone to respect and work with each other, your clients or customers, vendors, and others you work with is a good start. Be clear about your intent. State how the policy works in everyday activities.

The harder step is to live up to what you expect others to do. Plus you must communicate your policy and intent regularly. And you must take action when anyone, in any role, does not fulfill the policy and your expectations.

Second, you must be very clear that you will not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory behavior.

When you reach 15 employees, you have legal requirements related to equal opportunity which […]

By |October 29th, 2017|Communications, culture, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

Good Reads: Creativity and Constraints

Most successful CEOs and executives are readers. Feeding your curiosity is as important for your growth as reading about business.

What have you read lately that you found interesting – inquiring minds want to know – or at least I do if you are willing to share.

I read about “The Geography of Genius” by Eric Weiner and it sounded interesting. Who thinks of geography as an aspect of genius? And in the first chapters, I wondered. Then the ideas began to coalesce.

On management and HR:
“Michelangelo was a sculptor when chosen to paint the Sistine Chapel ceilings.” The concept then was to choose someone clearly talented and assign a huge, impossible task. Now we minimize risk-taking — we want the perfect candidates who have already done our job before we hire.

On creativity:
“Foreign born immigrants in USA are 13% of the population, one-third of all patents, and 25% of US Nobel Laureates.” Why? ‘Unusual and unexpected events, actively experienced, lead to cognitive flexibility in those open to new experiences and thinking.’ Our reactions to constraints fuel creativity.

“Corporations spend huge sums of money on workshops designed to help employees thing more creatively…. (which is) futile if the environment in which they work is not receptive to new ideas.”

Read this book for some ideas of your own on how to break constraints and grow yourself and others. It reminded me that I need to remain curious and open to new things to feed my growth.

 

“No Ordinary Disruption” by Richard Dobs, James Manyika, & Jonathan Woetzel is a more classic ‘business book. Much of it is based on the work of the McKinsey Global Institute.
“The rise of emerging markets, the accelerating impact of technology on the natural forces of market competition, the […]

By |October 20th, 2017|Business planning, Executive development|Comments Off on Good Reads: Creativity and Constraints

News To Use Now

New I-9 Forms Released 

Effective September 18th, 2017, there is a new I-9 form you must use when you hire employees. You can use it before that and must use it by then. This form has some changes to the acceptable documents list – details at

https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/whats-new

The new form in both computer and printed formats is available at

https://www.uscis.gov/i-9

New hires may be given the form to complete with the offer letter or any time after that in advance of hire or on the first day. Employees must complete the form no later than their first day of employment. Employers have up to 3 days to complete their portion.
Remember to keep your I-9s separate from other records so that, if your organization is checked by immigration agents, you can provide just the forms and not other sensitive employment documents or records.

Founders School

The Kauffman Foundation does a lot of research on entreprenuers and business formation in the US. Recently they have added a series of books to help you grow and develop your own knowledge as well as managing business growth. Check these out at

https://www.entrepreneurship.org/ebooks/founders-school-ebook-series

By |August 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on News To Use Now

Developing Employees

Developing the skills and knowledge of your staff is critical to your business success and to retaining top quality people. Still, many small business owners do not see the options available to do so at low cost. Like taking vacations, you also need to invest in your own development as well. Here are some ideas to support development.

1. Ask employees what their professional development goals are and how they relate to your organization.

This encourages people to think about their needs. Many will have goals you can assist with at little to no cost. These might include:

skills that other employees have and can teach the person,
ideas for new approaches or projects which will also benefit your organization,
support for volunteer work, and
more traditional education or training.

Offer to assist with those which make the most sense to your business.

2. Involve employees in organizing meetings, events, and new hires.

Your first line supervisors and those staff you feel have potential can learn from helping to organize staff meetings, presenting a training topic at all-employee meetings, and/or arranging other events you provide or sponsor. You need to provide clear guidance upfront about what is needed and any resources; then step back and let the person do the work. Be available to answer questions without imposing too many controls.

If you bring in a new hire or have summer interns, select an employee to be their guide. This person could be tasked with ensuring all needed equipment or space is ready, explaining any specific equipment or access procedures, training the new person on your basic practices and security, and making sure that there is someone to lunch with regularly during the first few weeks.

3. Ensure employees have an […]

By |May 21st, 2017|culture, Smart practices|Comments Off on Developing Employees

Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

You have seen the big uptick in hate crimes locally and nationally. Perhaps you have read articles about the impact of political divisions on work activities. I remember when I was a kid that racial and religious slurs were common language – and cringe every time I hear someone decry political correctness when what they mean is freedom to say such things again. The SHRM magazine even has a cover this month on “The Age of Rage.”

Are you seeing evidence of employees arguing more or ignoring each other instead? Have you had any incidents of harassment or discrimination in your workplace? Have you felt a need to address these issues but wondered how to do so?  Are you just hoping to avoid this topic?

First, the laws have not changed. If you are covered by EEO laws because you have 15 or more employees, you may wish to remind all employees of the harassment and discrimination rules as a part of an employee newsletter or meeting. Tell them also that diversity has been shown to improve business success and profitability which helps them keep their jobs.

Most importantly, your values have not changed. If your values include respect, ethical behavior, communications, trust, a positive workplace – or many others – remind staff of these values and how you expect people to demonstrate them at work. Pushing a political viewpoint on others or ignoring/harassing those who disagree with one is not a behavior you want to allow in the workplace. Harassing people who are different from one is another area you want to make clear is unacceptable.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, listen to your staff more. Ask a trusted employee about any […]

By |April 24th, 2017|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

Creating a More Effective Organization

Do you look for ideas and innovation from your employees? Does your work require creativity? When you think about these questions, if you look to continue to grow your small business, the answer almost always turns out to be yes. Management is a critical aspect of ensuring growth and continued success. Ed Catmull’s book CREATIVITY, INC is worth your time. Not something I say about many business books.

While this book is about building Pixar and focuses on artistic creativity, his management insights apply to most organizations. The theme of trust runs strongly through the book but always with real business insights and ideas. For example, on the issue of micro-managing:

“One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear doesn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”

The issues of managing the organization and inevitable failures are another frequent theme.  For example, on leading an enterprise:

“When I say that the fate of any group enterprise, and the individuals with it, are interconnected and interdependent it may sound trite. But it’s not. What’s more, seeing all the interdependencies that shape our lives is impossible, no matter how hard aor long we look. … Acknowledging what your can’t see – getting comfortable with the fact that there are a large number of two-inch events occurring right now, out of our sight, that will affect us for better or worse, in myriad ways – helps promote flexibility. You might say I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors […]

By |April 17th, 2017|culture, Executive development|Comments Off on Creating a More Effective Organization

SPRING PREPARATION #1

Have you updated the I-9 form you need to use to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the USA? If not, the new form became effective in January:    I-9 form

It is also smart to take a look at your federally required posters. While updated versions are available from several sources, you do not need to spend that money as you can just download these directly.

Not sure which posters you may need? Start with the ‘e-laws’ help section which asks about the number of employees you have and what sort of business you are in to help show the posters you may need. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm

Here are the most commonly required posters for small organizations, check for others if you have more than 49 employees.

Equal Opportunity
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/eeopost.pdf

Fair Labor Standards Act
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageP.pdf

Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf

Military Service Rights (USERRA)
https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf

Polygraph (yes, really even if you do not have anything to do with such tests)
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppac.pdf

 

State Posters

VA
http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/Required-Posters-for-Virginia-Employers

MD
https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

DC
https://does.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/does/page_content/attachments/EMPLOYEE%20INFORMATION%20AND%20EMPLOYER%20POSTING%20REQUIREMENTS.pdf

 

You can put a copy of these posters onto a bulletin board or hang them on a clipboard.  Hang them where employees can see them,  use your kitchen or break room or other space open to all employees.   Keep it simple.

By |March 3rd, 2017|Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SPRING PREPARATION #1