Business planning

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

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

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

Small Biz Lessons from a Road Trip

Just back from a cross-country driving trip, first in many years. I was pleased to note that there were wind turbines in every state as we drove to Colorado. Much else along I-70 looked very much as it has for decades, except in those cities which have grown. While I enjoyed the break, I noticed some lessons for many of us.

How do you publicize your business?

Talk about realizing how little I have been doing in recent years to attract new business! Reminded me how many organizations I know which have not changed their advertising or publicity much in recent years either. This thought first came to me as I moved into the land of billboards. I do not see billboards much in regular activities so their profusion was noticeable. But as I paid attention, I saw far more. There also were smaller signs on farmer’s fences. There was more advertising on cars and trucks. Several of the hotels we stayed at had far more available in pamphlets and flyers for area businesses and attractions, a few even had 10% discount coupons at the registration desk.

None of these may work for you. But what I am recommending is that you take a look at what you do now and whether it is what you really need.

Do you have an active plan that is relevant to your business or non-profit’s work?
Are you using the right social media and using it effectively?
Do you have a referral program?  Are you working it regularly?
Are you active in local business and professional organizations?
What else can you do that will help you continue to succeed?

What steps are you taking to build in diversity and inclusion?

Even as […]

By |September 4th, 2018|Business planning, hiring, Small Biz|Comments Off on Small Biz Lessons from a Road Trip

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

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

What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

Small organizations have feared the impact of the new overtime rules which changed the level of pay below which everyone is considered eligible for overtime pay significantly. Many small businesses and non-profits assume they cannot afford to pay overtime. Others think anyone with a college degree is automatically exempt from overtime. The new rules have been announced and the salary level test is $913 per week ($47,476 annually.)

What are you going to 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 this at DOL Final Overtime Rules 2016

I will be doing a webinar for the Virginia SBDC Network on June 24th which will focus on what options you have now and how to assess your next steps. Register for this free webinar via Webinar Info and Registration

Then move into assessing exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible?
What are your options for each new eligible?
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?  Timing?

If you have an annual pay review coming up this year, consider that date as well as the December 1 date – what does your culture imply you should do?  What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?  What other impact will your culture have on your decisions?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. Although the rule changes do not take place until December 1, 2016, most employees will have […]

By |June 21st, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

Over the past year, the US Department of Labor has been revising the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs which positions must be paid overtime. Your payroll firm and employment attorney have probably been pushing you to review your practices. The proposed rules got a lot of comments, over a quarter million, and now the new rules believed to be coming out this month with a short implementation period. Rumor has it that the salary level test will be $47,000 instead of the originally proposed $50,440.

Many small organizations had ignored the duties tests of the FLSA and called all employees exempt from the FLSA based on the old test of $23,660. In reality, exemption from FLSA is based on the duties of the position and the salary test.

What Should You Do Now?

1. Look at your existing position descriptions and requirements.

Are they accurate and current? If not, update them. Look at the duties test first and determine if the positions are in fact exempt from the law. A simple checklist: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf

2. Review the pay of individuals in each position you consider exempt from FLSA using the duties test.

Assess what you will do with each if their current salary is less than the final salary test. In some cases, it may make sense to raise pay. In others, it may make more sense to reclassify the position as non-exempt and control overtime.

3. Consider your culture.

If you have been paying all employees on a salary basis, you may wish to continue to do so. This can be done whether employees are exempt or non-exempt. If your organization pays at the end of a specific pay period through the same date, and you wish to include non-exempt […]

By |May 9th, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use

SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Recently Elizabeth Chisman Moon of Focus Data Solutions and I did a seminar on this topic for the Alexandria SBDC. Here are some basic ideas on managing your risks of security breaches.

Start by developing policies or practices that address the most important security needs of your business. These might include:

use of company equipment and software,
use of personal devices for work,
social media,
basic security procedures (physical and systems),
what you consider ‘company confidential’ or sensitive information.

Defining what you consider sensitive information is critical. This ensures you know what information deserves extra care in handling and storing so you can protect it. The policy also tells your employees what information you expect them to keep restricted and ensure others do not see. Common types of sensitive or ‘company confidential’ information include:

all data relating to services, applications, procedures, and/or products sold by the organization, excluding marketing literature designed for external use
research and/or development materials
information about clients or customers, excluding that within sales or marketing literature produced for external use
contractual arrangements between the organization and its clients or suppliers or vendors
purchasing, pricing, sales, or financial data
personnel data on any employee or ex-employee
information provided by other organizations under confidentiality agreements.

Development of basic policies can be done using samples from your professional/trade organizations or your network. However – it is vital to ensure that each policy is designed to support your desired culture. Having such policies checked by your lawyer, appropriate consultants, or vendors is important to ensure you minimize your risks. The policies then provide a basis for orientation of new employees as well as training of all employees and regular reminders on need for each employee to protect the organizations’ assets.

Remember that policies that are difficult or complicated lead to […]

By |February 22nd, 2016|Business planning, hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security