Blog

Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

While bills to support small businesses are still being debated in Congress, there is help through the SBA’s loans for disasters. This program is in high demand but it is worthwhile to get yourself into line now if you may need such help. More information on the Small Business Disaster Loans and other Covid-19 info via Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center –
Aleandria SBDC Covid-19 info

Working from Home (WFH)

Many organizations have gone to full work from home operations at least temporarily. Others may have a blend, depending on the field they are in. Some have had to close and lay-off almost all employees.  Support your local restaurants and retailers if you can.

If you have people working remotely but it is a new method for many, you need to consider how to support your staff in teleworking effectively. Twitter has provided a lot of ‘epic fails’ stories to laugh and cry over – naked spouses in the background, kids and animals interfering, and so on.  Few of us want to be ‘that guy.’

Many smaller companies and associations are holding all-employee meetings each morning. If you want to do something like a regular ‘all hands’ or ones by function, think carefully about the planned time – what family demands may some employees be facing? How long will it be? Short is always better – for focus, effectiveness.  Periodically add in some time and actions to help employees feel connected. Although I cringed as a recent daily list of what one organization was planning which featured some time each day where one day everyone had to be in costume and another showing animal pictures, the concept behind them was good. Make sure yours are tailored to your culture. […]

By |March 23rd, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz|Comments Off on Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

After my first blog on this last week, I have gotten some questions and concerns. Here is additional information to assist in your business planning.

A recent Paychex survey indicated 59% of small business owners have a disaster plan. 54% can accommodate remote work if needed. Yet on HR forums, many small employers are still trying to figure out such issues.

Business Planning and Employee Issues

Do you have an Emergency Operations Plan? Does your structure change in such conditions? Who knows how that will work? What training is needed?

Have you assessed which functions are critical and must be maintained? Which may have less critical aspects which could be delayed or reduced if needed? What is non-critical, hence can be eliminated? These assessments form the basis for decisions about employees and customers/clients who will need notice of changes and timing.

Whatever type of small employer you are, you may face decisions on having to close your organization or an office. Closure may result from a lack of demand, a lack of employees, or a government order. How will you address this?

What about remote work? Do some or all of your functions lend themselves to telecommuting? Do you have the equipment and services to make that work? Have you had a ‘practice day’? Some small organizations are already having employees take their work laptop home each night, just in case there is an emergency closure.

Could you institute ‘social distancing’ at work? Would using meeting or conference rooms allow you to spread employees out so that no-one is sitting too near another person? Should you have a sign on your door or shop entrance saying it is a ‘no handshake’ zone?

Many small employers have already cancelled travel to meetings or […]

By |March 11th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Compensation|Comments Off on More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

EPIDEMIC, PANDEMIC – PLAN NOW FOR POSSIBLE ISSUES

The coronavirus ( covid-19) epidemic has the attention of most people now. The uncertainty of what may happen and when makes this a difficult threat.

There is no reason to panic. There is every reason to plan!

Pull out your emergency or business continuity plan as a first step. What does it offer that you need to think about now? Plan for? Update?

Your first two big considerations are the potential impact on your business and what you will do about your employees. Knowing what issues you may face helps you to prepare and will help calm fears.

A recent survey indicated over 2.5 million bot-related disinformation efforts related to the coronavirus within two days. Area stores, here and in other locations, are running low on face masks. People are scared. Your efforts can help employees know what to do and where to go for valid information – both good ways to build resilience and reduce over-reactions.

What are the business risk you face?

Assess this first. Look at your options. A retail business which depends on products made in China may face delays in production and delivery. A hotel may face significant loss of business if travel is restricted or people cancel trips in fear. Be realistic about the issues your business may face and develop plans to deal with each potential problem. Involve employees in developing plans where possible. Communicate to employees – and customers, as needed – the outlines of your plans.

What employee risks do you face?

You need to make clear that employees’ health and safety is top priority.  Legally, you must provide a safe workplace but there are few other legal requirements which apply to this situation.  Start by thinking:

What is the impact if multiple employees […]

By |February 26th, 2020|Business planning, Smart practices|Comments Off on EPIDEMIC, PANDEMIC – PLAN NOW FOR POSSIBLE ISSUES

HIRING TRANSITIONING MILITARY AND MILITARY SPOUSES

Small employers ask me regularly about how to find and hire veterans and military spouses. There is not one easy answer to this – no central hiring line that you can call. But there are some steps you can take relatively easily.

First, if you have a veteran in your company already, ask what ideas they have to find other military in transition, veterans, and military spouses. Learn what they think is most attractive about your company to such people and consider incorporating that in your efforts.

Second, find some military people to talk to. Your regular network may know some. In Metro DC military people attend the same community, religious and kids’ events as everyone else. Military people know other military people including those in transition or spouses and can help you discover people who can contribute to your goals.

Third, consider contacting the veterans’ rep at your local workforce development office. These people work directly with a variety of veterans and know the right contacts at local military installations to make connections and to get your jobs posted.

There are a lot of groups on LinkedIn for military in transition and veterans. Read these for awhile and learn before deciding whether you want to be active on any of them.

As you begin to think about hiring vets, you may need to check your assumptions.

Male veterans have lower unemployment rates than civilians do. You are not doing them a favor, you have to make the case for what your organization offers them. Women veterans are more likely to be unemployed but fewer women present themselves as veterans either.
Veterans may have injuries and disabilities but they do not have them at rates that are as high […]

By |November 11th, 2019|hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on HIRING TRANSITIONING MILITARY AND MILITARY SPOUSES

Finally! New Overtime Rules

When new overtime rules were announced in 2016, a court injunction put them on hold. Since then new rules have been proposed and undergone public comment and are now final.

First the good news, the new level is $684 weekly which equals $35, 568 annually.

Why this number? It is set to the 20 percentile for full time salaried workers in the lowest wage Census region (the South). Given the current pay rates and very low unemployment in Northern Virginia, you are likely to be paying significantly more for workers.

What Should You Do Now?

The first step is to educate yourself. The US Department of Labor has a wide range of resources explaining the new rules and what has and has not changed. You can find the new rule at New overtime rules

Their Small Entity Guide Compliance Guide (PDF)

A Fact Sheet on How Positions become Exempt from overtime rules
Exemption Rewuirements

Remember, salary alone is not enough to make a position exempt from overtime rules, the work duties of the position must be analyzed.

You may also want to research local wages, employment statistics, and other labor force information at Labor Market Data

 

Second, assess exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible to be exempt from overtime pay?  Who is borderline to the new rate?
What are your options for each affected person?
How many hours does each person currently work over 40 on average?  What are the reasons for overtime work?
What are the costs associated with the possible changes you are considering?
What does your culture imply you should do? What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. […]

By |October 8th, 2019|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on Finally! New Overtime Rules

SECURITY, CYBERSECURITY, AND YOUR BUSINESS FUTURE

Cybersecurity threats against small organizations – businesses, governments, non-profits – are an increasing risk. Few such organizations have in-house resources to address these issues. Most do not even focus on the need because they think no ‘bad guy’ would bother to attack them.

Research indicates that small employers are being attacked on a daily basis – and that many small businesses go out of business as a result.

What can you do?

Learn the basics of what is at risk and what your options are.
Develop a plan to minimize risks and to recover.
Assess what help you need and how to obtain it.
Train everyone.

Here are some useful free resources to help guide you.

This new resource is specifically designed to help you understand cybersecurity and reduce your risks. It includes videos and quizzes as well as basic information and planning guidance:   small-businesses/cybersecurity

A great overview on issues and actions, also focused on smaller employers:   Understanding small biz cybersecurity

An easy plan development tool with lots of info automatically filled in once you pick the topics which apply:  cyber-planner

A webinar I did with Elizabeth Moon of Focus Data Solutions on the security and cybersecurity issues – directed at helping you and your team understand both the human and technology issues:    Security webinar from Alexandria SBDC

In addition, you should consider physical security. Once those concerns were primarily for retail or other open to the public organizations. But now they are important to all. In many locations, your local police department will advise you on physical security issues.

Most important to this discussion is the involvement of all employees in maintaining security practices every day. This includes discussing these issues in orienting new employees, in on-going training of employees, and in employee […]

By |September 10th, 2019|Business planning, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on SECURITY, CYBERSECURITY, AND YOUR BUSINESS FUTURE

I Know It When I See It

Supreme Court Justice Potter said ‘I know it when I see it’ about defining hard-core porn during a court case. Many of our performance management practices appear built on this.

Alan Weiss talked recently about feedback in his Monday Morning Memo – and his biggest point was that feedback says far more about the person giving it than about anyone else.

In managing performance effectively, these two areas create issues for most founders and managers.

Feedback

The best feedback is where you ‘catch someone doing something right’ and tell them specifically to do more of that. It needs to be immediate and specific to help increase productivity. ‘That report you wrote last month was great’ is as useless as ignoring it would be.

When you have an issue with an employee’s performance, the first step to effectively solving the problem is not usually correcting the employee. It is discovering what created the error in the first place.

Do you consider the actual cause first? How do you know that the issue is the employee’s fault? And how do you explain the correct way to perform the task so that the employee learns and applies new knowledge.

I bet you can see where I am going with this – and it is not to simple beliefs. Pairing up good comments with a message of poor performance does not work.

Performance Appraisals or Reviews

Most organizations still have some form of performance reviews, whether annually or more frequent. Decades of research indicating that such appraisals have no positive effect on performance has not been enough to eliminate them.

If you have a performance review program, it is most likely to have a numeric rating (1-5 are most common) or 3-5 phrases (‘fully meets requirements’ is a […]

By |May 13th, 2019|Performance Management, Smart practices|Comments Off on I Know It When I See It

What is the Future of Your Collection

Many entrepreneurs and business owners are collectors. You can see this among your friends, in TV programs about famous collectors, or at estate sales. I know a number of military medal and militaria collectors through a family connection.

Many small business owners neglect to plan for their death or disability’s impact on their company – and many collectors do not think ahead about their collections. If you have been a collector for even a few years, you have heard the sad and bad stories of spouses ripped off by ‘friends’, families riven by arguments on ‘Dad’s collection’, or the whole lot dumped into the trash/Goodwill bin.

Planning what happens to your collection is vital. You know better than anyone what you want to happen to it. And if you love your heirs, you want to be sure that they know too. Collectors have three big considerations in their disposition decisions: emotional ties to the collection, financial aspects, and the time invested. These will influence what decisions you make and how difficult it is to get an action plan developed.

This outline, from an OMSA Convention seminar, is designed to help you think through the process and document your desires effectively. None of us like to think about our death, but it still is necessary.

What Do You Want to Do with your Collection?

A. Gift it

The first thought of many collectors is to pass it on within their family. But if there is not someone already interested, it is unlikely that will change unless yours is a young family. The same is true for friends. So if you are thinking of gifting your collection to someone, do confirm their interest now. Also consider: some family members or friends might […]

By |April 14th, 2019|Business planning, Smart practices|Comments Off on What is the Future of Your Collection

Six Steps Forward

These ideas are each based on research which shows that they enhance business success. Take a look and see which you are already doing well – and pat yourself on the back for those. Then pick another one or two to practice over the next few months, with a bit of effort you can make each a habit before the year ends. You will thank yourself for it!

Keep Learning
Schedule time to learn on a consistent basis. Learn how your brain works, study newer technologies, pick up ideas from other industries, learn areas far removed from your daily work or career field. Try books – in print, online, or audio. Sign up for some newsletters from your favorite publications – I like a number of those from Smartbrief.  Go to events, visit a museum, take in a concert. Use these to keep your mind active, develop new ideas, and make your work effective.

Network Effectively
You may know you should network but are you really nurturing yours? A good network keep you informed, helps you keep learning (as above), and creates business opportunity. Do you, as I do, have a pile of business cards and LinkedIn contacts that you meant to talk to but haven’t? Get going – make a plan, even 10-15 min a day can make a big difference. Don’t be the person who only is in contact when they need help – be the one who keeps in touch regularly. Connect one person you know to another whenever you think they might interest each other. Say hi or have coffee just to catch up. Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” is an excellent look at valuable networking.

Do More of What You Do Well
This is vital to […]

By |February 12th, 2019|Executive development, networking, productivity|Comments Off on Six Steps Forward

What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws

Many entrepreneurs and founders fear legal risks from human resources/labor laws. Common sense goes a long way in mitigating risks.  However, you do need to understand the basics. Here is a discussion of the most important federal laws for you to plan for and comply with.  Resources to understand these, as well as required posters, are listed at the end.

Laws that Apply with your First Employee

1. Wages and Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime requirements among other aspects. This law is probably the most difficult for many small employers as even employment lawyers, human resource professionals, and other advisors argue over some of its definitions. Written during the Depression, it governs what jobs must be paid overtime (often called non-exempt) and which may be exempt from those rules.

FLSA guide – Job Status and Exemptions

Small employers tend to try to make as many jobs as possible exempt in hopes of reducing overtime costs and that can get you in trouble.

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a majority of states have higher rates as do some cities and counties. There are also special rules for jobs such as some tipped workers.

State and local wage and hour laws also govern requirements for paid or unpaid breaks, child labor, and tipped workers.

2. Immigration laws

Immigration laws, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), are designed in part to ensure that employers only hire candidates who are eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers must verify candidate eligibility through documentation ( I-9 forms) […]

By |January 8th, 2019|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws