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HR for Small Business: 4 Tips to Avoid Expensive HR Mistakes

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Making the leap from a self-employed or sole business owner to a multi-person company is a huge jump. When you first start tossing around the idea in your mind, it might seem like a great idea. However, there are definitely going to be many obstacles and challenges along the way — many of which you may not have even thought about.

When going from a single to a multi-person company, you will start to notice things like hiring, insurance, time-off, in-office politics and much more start to come into play. Many of these issues would be handled through an HR department within the company.

With that being said, if you aren’t sure how to run HR for small business, we have some nice tips to follow, while also avoiding some costly errors in the process.

There are approximately 5.6 million people who work in the Human Resources (HR) department. This department is broken down into recruitment, training, benefits and compensation, and other roles.

Although you may not work for a large company, small businesses need this department just as much. Whether you work for a well-known, large company or a small business, there are certain mistakes every HR employee should avoid.

Not sure what they are or how to avoid them? We’ve got your HR for small business covered. Check out these four tips to avoid expensive HR mistakes.

1. Watch Employee Overtime

When you own or work for a small business, you do much of the work in-house – unlike larger companies and corporations that outsource certain tasks.

While doing most if not all the work in-house gives an HR employee many hats to wear and future experience, it’s also hard to keep track of everything.

One of the biggest and most expensive mistakes many small businesses and HR reps make is not managing employee overtime correctly. If your human resources employee doesn’t know how overtime works, your business will suffer.

Not only your HR team has to understand the meaning of overtime, but it needs to know how it coincides with state laws. Make sure you classify employees correctly and ensure they get paid for all their working hours. Track each employee’s hours to avoid costly mistakes.

While it seems like a lot of information for just one aspect of the job, it’s one of the most important ones to follow. The Department of Labor will perform routine investigations, and any violation of these laws can cost your company a ton of money.

The best way to avoid violating these laws is to make sure that your HR team knows the state laws and keeps track of all employee hours, including any overtime worked.

Keep in mind, these laws apply to all employees – hourly or salaried. Using payroll services can make this process easy and stress-free.

2. Employee Handbook

Do you remember going through orientation for your first job? Even though it’s not the most exciting task, it’s extremely necessary.

One of the biggest yet most common mistakes businesses of all sizes make is having an incomplete employee handbook. Some don’t have one at all.

Think of it as your company’s bible. Without it, there are no rules set in place for employees to follow. This can not only cause safety hazards but result in legal action as well.

Take the time to create an employee handbook listing the rules each employee must follow. Some of these can include an attendance policy and vacation time. These policies should be consistent and easy to understand.

3. Anti-Harassment Policies

Speaking of employee policies, make sure you include an anti-harassment policy in your employee handbook. This could help your small business avoid a sexual harassment case. Plus, it keeps your employees feeling safe and secure in the workplace.

In this policy, make clear what makes up sexual harassment and how to report a violation if one occurs. While open-door policies are nice, it’s smart to have a plan B in place. This can include a violation hotline or a third-party HR resource.

If someone does report a violation, you should follow through with the policy and take action promptly. Having this document in place could save you thousands if not millions of dollars in the courtroom.

4. Employee Feedback

Okay, you’ve started your small business, wrote an employee handbook, and hired some great employees. Now what?

Although your business may have started off small, expect it to grow, especially if you’re doing a good job. As your company grows, make sure you’re not only retaining employees but also keeping them happy.

The best way to do that is to set up a feedback process. This is extremely important not only for your company’s growth but also for each individual employee.

Be open-minded and listen to the feedback you’re employees are giving you. It will help you better understand the work environment and correct any mistakes you may have made. This can improve work productivity and overall employee happiness.

HR for Small Business: Mistakes to Avoid

HR for small business can be challenging. There are many tasks to take care of and employees to consider. At the same time, you must focus on growing your company and solving everyday problems.

These four tips will ensure you avoid expensive mistakes that could cost you big bucks and affect your company’s reputation. For more tips on business and marketing, check out our website or contact us with questions!

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Entrepreneurship

What Every SMBs Need to Know About Debt and Growing their Business

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Starting a business in the world might seem easy, thanks to the power of the internet, automation, and lowered costs — but that isn’t to say it’s easy to find success and profitability with that same business. With more businesses starting daily, this leads to a larger increase in competition, and a great number of SMBs who aren’t potentially ready for the fierce competition, compiling costs, and debt that might be right around the corner.

While most aspiring small business owners would love to launch a passion venture and not worry about how to pay for it, this is not the reality. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 27.9 million small businesses in the United States compared to 18,500 firms with over 500 employees. Those small businesses took out a combined $600 billion in business loans in 2015, and another $593 million from alternative means like finance companies and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

At the same time, it’s also important to take a look at the number of startups and closures, and survival rates for businesses in the world today.

But despite the various loan options that exist, securing enough of the right debt is challenging. Yet, as the old adage says, ‘you need to spend money to make money,’ and without borrowing, it’s difficult for any business to grow their operation.

To ensure your business borrows for long-term success without jeopardizing long-term cash flow, here are six things to know about debt.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Generally speaking, good debt refers to debt that can yield long-term income or growth in value whereas bad debt will not. For consumers, good debt might be a mortgage where bad debt would be a revolving credit card balance. In the business landscape, it’s a little more nuanced and dependent on the specific company. You can learn more about the differences between these two here.

An example of good debt might be a company taking on debt to invest in certain employee programs, as the implementation of the program could lead to improved morale and better retention. It could also be debt used to do research and development for a new product since a new product line would generate more future income. A bad-debt scenario could be the result of a business taking out a loan for a larger business space that they don’t end up filling or using adequately. Or a double whammy: paying for nice office space in a prime location when clients never see the office.

These situations can go on and on, and really hinge on the execution that does or does not take place after a loan is taken.

Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratios

Every business—even two competitors—have differences that affect what a healthy debt-to-income (DIY) ratio should be. Businesses might need different levels of debt depending on a multitude of factors.

So, while not a hard-and-fast guideline, generally speaking, businesses with DTIs under 1 have more stable debt levels while a ratio above 1 indicates that a company is more reliant on their debt. Calculate your business’ DTI at any time by taking your monthly recurring debt payments and dividing it by your monthly gross income.

You Have More Leeway with Creditors Than You Think

Many business owners and individual debtors never try to improve on their existing terms or ask their creditors for any kind of compromise, even if it means falling behind on loan payments. But at the end of the day, banks want to see you succeed, if for no other reason than it means they’re getting their money back. If you’re proactive about needing aspects of your loan modified before you encounter difficulty paying it, you’ll stand a much better chance of striking an agreement.

It’s important to remember that creditor negotiations are a case-by-case basis. Whether you’re trying to lower your interest rate, get a one-time payment grace period, or extend the repayment cycle, communicate how changing the loan will impact your business positively.

You Can Consolidate Your Debts

Even if you’re keeping pace with your loans, juggling too many of them can be taxing, not to mention increase the chances you miss a payment date or don’t have the cash flow you need at a certain time of month. Debt consolidation loans condense your monthly payments, due dates, and potentially, can net you a lower overall interest rate.

To learn more about this, also see my article on line of credit vs taking out loans.

Small business owners can attempt debt consolidation by taking out a private loan (though, a high credit score will be needed for favorable interest rates), opening a balance transfer card with interest-friendly (possibly free) introductory period, or seeking assistance through companies like Andrew Housser’s Consolidation Plus, part of the Freedom Financial Network.

Layoffs Are Always a Consequence

Small businesses are like tight-knit families. Limited bandwidth and resources mean that employees develop a sense of pride and camaraderie in working together (at least, when a business does well). And unlike a large company where turnover is rampant, employees tend to work for small businesses much longer.

Of the 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016, organizations with fewer than 100 workers accounted for over 98 percent of the workforce. When small businesses take on debt to scale the operation, they need to understand that they’ll need to cut costs if the investment doesn’t pay off. Layoffs are a realistic consequence. And when a SMB starts laying people off, company morale will take a dive and could lead to lost productivity and even further turnover.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016.

  • Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses.
  • Firms with fewer than 100 workers accounted for 98.2 percent.
  • Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent.

This also isn’t just limited to small and medium sized businesses. Statista just recently had a report on big name companies like Tesla, eBay, Paypal, and more — all of which are leaving their employees hanging on whether or not they might have a long term relationship with the company.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Is a Last Resort

The thought of your hopes and dreams culminating in a bankruptcy court proceeding is certainly disheartening. However, chapter 11 becomes a viable strategy for business owners whose personal possessions are entwined in their business as it aims to restructure business debts to make repayments more manageable going forward without it sinking their business.

Just because taking debt is a necessary evil the majority of small businesses must face doesn’t mean it should be done so lightly. Leave no stone unturned in your search for a small business loan and consider these things above as you do so.

The Best Ways to Approach Debt Loss and Management for Your Company

No matter what position you might find your business in today, it’s important to realize that the first step in cleaning up an potential messes, is to ask for help.

This can be from people within your company, outside advisors, and of course — financial and legal institutions.

To learn more about managing company funds and debt, be sure to check out my other resource guide on paying off company debt.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Effective Methods to Goal Setting for Business Growth and Success

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Have you made resolutions to get your business to the next level?

Are your goals SMART enough?

Are they inspiring your employees to take action?

Goals are the observable results of achievement. Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to achieve, identifying the required resources, and developing an action plan.

If you have yet to set your business goals, consider the benefits of goal setting below.

Five Top Benefits of Goal Setting

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of goals setting to your business. Goals are important in providing direction and focus to grow of your business.

This is especially true for anyone who might be working from home or stuck in a cubicle all day. When you are working on your own and not told exactly what to do, you need to be setting your own goals and the determination to get things done.

Whether it’s writing down such goals on a piece of paper and then checking them off, or using a mobile or online application, it’s all about getting your actions into motion to simply get more done.

Other benefits and methods to accomplishing this include:

1. Inspire and Sustain Progress

The importance of goals setting lies in the ability of goals to inspire and sustain focus. When your business sets SMART goals, your employees know what to do and they can gauge their performance.

As they achieve the smaller steps, they grow in confidence to work towards achieving bigger results. This results in the constant growth of your business. Your employees will grow in their skills and get motivated to keep improving as they see results.

2. Using Video to Increase Productivity

With so many different productivity tools and applications on the market today, it’s important to know where your strengths lie when trying to increase productivity or motivating others.

Through the use of an online creation tool like mysimpleshow, the ability is there to create interactive and engaging whiteboard animation videos to better portray your message.

You can see a clear example of this in the video example below.

At the same time, there are many personal benefits for creating your own whiteboard video to accomplish more and hit your goals.

As mentioned on the simpleshow website, creating such animation and explainer videos aren’t just for marketing and teaching others, they are also great for inspiration, mind-mapping, and hitting your own goals as well. In addition to goal setting, they’ve also seen massive engagement improvement with school students and professionals when delivering information in an audio and visual platform.

Their site went on to say, “Our illustration-style simpleshow explainer videos are most effective if you”:

  • need to tackle complex tasks
  • want to explain difficult topics in a simple and digestible way
  • have to explain almost inexplicable information

Before taking on your next big project, be sure to consider your options with laying everything out in video form, and them working your way through it and sharing it with team members along the way.

3. Increase Productivity and Profitability

When setting goals for your business, you’re aiming at getting more work done and increasing your earnings. Setting goals defines what exactly you want to achieve, and how you’ll get there.

The process also includes identifying the needed resources, skills, and competencies. With this knowledge, you can train your employees or hire skills, which keep your business on track for consistent growth.

Setting goals also improves the decision-making abilities of the organization. The information you collect during the goal-setting process helps you identify where the business is at and chart out a path for the future. Informed decisions will eventually result in business growth.

4. Measure Progress

Your business can’t ignore the importance of goals in measuring progress. Good goals are measurable both in the time it takes to achieve them and the results achieved.

Monitoring is a crucial part of goals setting through which your business measures how far it is at achieving its goals.

Here, the business identifies areas for improvement as well as weaknesses. This way, your business can adjust accordingly to fit into the changing economic times, and you can set bigger goals if you have achieved the previous ones.

This same task can also be accomplished by using the Seinfeld Strategy as well.

To measure progress in your achievement of goals, you need to build a monitoring system such as recording the progress of a task.

5. Collaboration Among Employees

Your employees will work together more when they have a common goal. They can share resources, expertise, and insights. Eventually, your business grows from the harmonious working of the employees.

Goal setting should be a regular practice for your business. You can learn more about how goal setting can improve your business’ performance on this blog.

Six tips that were laid out in this article for improving productivity and collaboration with other employees are:

  1. Stretch your outlook.
  2. Know the key steps of the goal-setting process.
  3. Create a nimble goal development team.
  4. Gain buy-in.
  5. Communicate, communicate, then communicate some more.
  6. Remember to celebrate achievements.

Grow Your Business In 2019

Goal setting builds the foundation of your business, which employees refer to for inspiration and direction. The above benefits of goal setting should provide you with enough reasons to set goals for your business.

However, the most important task in this whole process is making sure you have a goal in place and are taking action to achieve it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. I’d love to hear from you and see how we can start working together.

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Entrepreneurship

Top Business Expenses (and Deductions) Entrepreneurs Need to Know

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The internet has made us all potential entrepreneurs.

And the dream and reality of owning a business is one of the most liberating feelings that you can have. After all, there’s a reason why 27 million people are entrepreneurs.

While there are many benefits to owning your own company, there’s also plenty of crucial information you need to keep in mind. This is especially true when it comes to finances.

Every business is different, and so are the many ways they can save money, write off expenses, and funnel money into different companies or investments. The best way to approach any of these topics of concepts, is to first consult with a financial advisor or attorney. However, there are many resources out there to learn from before you next legal and accounting meeting.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about common types of business expenses (and deductions). Be sure to read through the list below, take a few notes, and also have some questions in mind for the next time you meet with your financial and legal consultant.

Expenses

Whether your company has one employee or a whole team at your disposal, your business is going to have ongoing expenses. Here are some you need to keep an eye on that many people forget to consider.

Utilities

Just like when living in a home, it’s impossible to avoid utility expenses when running your business. While all of us are accustomed to paying our utility bills, business owners sometimes focus too much on tangible costs (equipment, rent, etc.).

Gas, electric, and sewage expenses are all staples when it comes to budgeting for business utilities. Additionally, you’ll need to consider your Internet service expenses, including Internet service and server hosting (if necessary).

Advertising/Marketing

You could have a product or service that shakes the foundation of your industry. But, it won’t mean much if nobody knows about your business. Whether it’s through Facebook ads or an extensive multimedia campaign, you’re going to have to allocate money for marketing as an entrepreneur.

Even if you’re a smaller, local business that doesn’t have the need for large-scale advertising, you still may need to employ the services of an SEO specialist to help get your name on the front page of Google.

If you forego including this in your budget, most of your other work will go unrewarded.

Office Supplies

As previously mentioned, entrepreneurs often focus on tangible expenses when conducting their financial planning. But, these often include larger purchases, such as furniture, computers, and company vehicles.

Office supplies, however, are a necessity that can quickly add up to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars.

Common items that can add to the cost include:

  • Filing cabinets
  • Office chairs
  • Printers/printer ink
  • Staplers
  • Pens/pencils
  • USB thumb drives

Necessary office products can include intangible goods, as well, such as software or monthly fees for necessary applications.

Insurance

To avoid going bankrupt in the event of a catastrophe, it’s imperative as an entrepreneur to have the proper insurance coverage.

In general, liability insurance and property insurance are vital policies to budget for. For example, liability insurance will help protect you financially if someone (an employee or non-employee) experiences bodily harm on your property.

If a fire/natural disaster were to occur or if someone steals property from your business, your insurance coverage will help you cover the costs.

Deductions

Luckily, with expenses come deductions. While they vary depending on the type of company that you run, there are many most entrepreneurs can take advantage of.

For anyone running a business online, purchasing a domain name and web hosting are two examples of common deductions.

Legal Fees

When many people think of the term “legal fees”, they often picture the inside of the courtroom. They may even imagine a consultation with a lawyer.

But, legal fees can stem from many more scenarios, including accounting, bookkeeping, and consultations.

Fortunately, however, you’re able to deduct these expenses as a business owner.

But, the cost must be reasonable for the supplied service. For example, you can’t overpay a friend for their legal services and then expect to write off the entire expense.

Home Office

If you happen to run your business from home, you’ll be able to secure a significant tax deduction. This is calculated by determining what percentage of the property in square footage is used for business.

There is a catch, however: this space must be used exclusively for business.

In other words, if you have a desk in your bedroom that you use for your company, you won’t be able to claim this space as your home office.

Furthermore, there needs to be a legitimate reason to have this designated space other than as an area for productivity. Thus, if you’re not meeting with clients or conducting administrative tasks, you may not be able to get the deduction you want.

Travel

For business-related trips that require an overnight stay, you’ll be able to deduct various expenses when filing your taxes.

These can include:

  • Housing
  • Airfare
  • Meals
  • Auto expenses
  • Luggage and shipping

This is especially useful when traveling over long distances or for an extended period of time. When it comes to international travel, though, there are different rules to keep in mind.

Entertainment + Meals

This is perhaps one of the most popular deductions that entrepreneurs file for. But, this doesn’t mean that every meal or outing can result in a tax deduction.

The expenses must be necessary and business-related, and there must be a chance of an actual payoff. In other words, going to a casual lunch with friends is not a deductible expense.

Going to a bar for food and drinks with a client, however, often is. You can also deduct meals/entertainment that you provide for clients or employees on your own property.

Understanding Types of Business Expenses Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about the different types of business expenses in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making sure that you can scale your business as fast as possible.

Want to learn more about how to run your business efficiently? Make sure to check out this article.

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