Small Business Nightmares: CEO/Founder Failures

The demands on any small business owner are constant. Many, therefore, do not focus on the business risks they create if they do not think about their own future. What happens to your business if you get sick or are injured in a serious accident? Or, while it’s not very fun to consider, die? What… Read more »

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The demands on any small business owner are constant. Many, therefore, do not focus on the business risks they create if they do not think about their own future. What happens to your business if you get sick or are injured in a serious accident? Or, while it’s not very fun to consider, die? What happens to your family and employees? Of course, none of us want to think about any of that. However, we at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center have encountered all types of succession nightmares, and we can tell you some stories!

In March, Patra Frame and Brian Story presented a workshop on CEO/Founder failures and the implications this can have on a business. In this video, they recap the key points from this presentation.

This presentation concluded our series on HR issues facing small businesses. However, if you still have questions or if you would like any additional information, you’re welcome to visit our Interactive Resource Library to check out all of the resources we have available on HR and employer issues.

Additionally, we offer specialized counseling on HR and employer issues to City of Alexandria businesses each month. If you are interested in speaking with one of our counselors, please complete our Request for Counseling form.

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What Every Small Business Gets from Hiring Solopreneurs

This post was written by Patricia Frame of Strategies for Human Resources, our guest author for our solopreneur blog series. When you run a small business, you are constantly dealing with both issues you know well and those outside your knowledge base. Hiring an expert to help when you need added expertise can be quite… Read more »

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This post was written by Patricia Frame of Strategies for Human Resources, our guest author for our solopreneur blog series. What Small Businesses Should Know Hiring SolopreneursWhen you run a small business, you are constantly dealing with both issues you know well and those outside your knowledge base. Hiring an expert to help when you need added expertise can be quite useful in that immediate need. You get the results you need without long-term costs when you use independent business owners who understand business demands and the pressures you face. Yet, have you thought about what else you might get from working with independent consultants, freelancers, and experts? First, these are people whose work demands that they keep up with what is changing in their field and in other areas. They often can offer insights that will help you plan for your own business future. Second, most solopreneurs work with a range of businesses. They see new ways to work before many others do. They have insights into what works and doesn’t work that can help you address and resolve your own issues more effectively and rapidly. Third, most consultants and freelancers have built a network across many fields. When you need assistance or information in other areas, they are likely to have good connections who may be of use to you. When you work with a solopreneur, it is always important to build a relationship. This ensures you are comfortable in trusting the person. In turn, that offers you a source of trusted advice both within the person’s specialty and in recommendations or information in other areas. These can speed your progress and effectiveness in many ways. Sometimes you will even find a good match with whom you can just talk to about business in general or trends. Maybe your solopreneur would be willing to discuss specific issues you face over coffee or lunch periodically, or is someone you might add to your board of advisors. All these aspects offer you the support that it is often hard to find within your business. Even after many years, I am still a bit surprised when a client talks about struggling for a long time with an issue that I solve immediately and make look easy. ‘Well, of course,’ I think, ‘I have decades of experience and study in my field.’ This often leads to a good discussion and to building trust. Then my clients are surprised by all the other areas where I know something that helps or when I can connect them to other experts quickly. This is not unique to me. Most experienced consultants have worked with a range of types of organizations and levels, hence they have experiences which offer insights into your issues, if you just ask. How do you find solopreneurs to work with? Obviously referrals from other business owners you know is a smart source. If you are active in local business and community organizations, you will meet many. Further, the Alexandria SBDC provides lists of solopreneurs and other small businesses in a wide range of fields – just ask. Attend their events and you will meet many local solopreneurs too. The post What Every Small Business Gets from Hiring Solopreneurs appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

HR Nightmares: Benefits

The Alexandria SBDC recently presented a program on Benefits as part of its Small Biz Nightmares series.  Presenters Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources and Karen Buckley-Camp of Metlife Premier Client Group of the MidAtlantic give a brief overview of their discussion in this brief video. In addition, the Alexandria SBDC has posted an outline… Read more »

The post HR Nightmares: Benefits appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The Alexandria SBDC recently presented a program on Benefits as part of its Small Biz Nightmares series.  Presenters Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources and Karen Buckley-Camp of Metlife Premier Client Group of the MidAtlantic give a brief overview of their discussion in this brief video.

In addition, the Alexandria SBDC has posted an outline of various Small Business Employer Benefits in our Interactive Resource Library.

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SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security Part 2

This blog was written by Patra Frame and was originally posted on her company website, Strategies for Human Resources. If you missed last week’s video blog on this topic, you can check it out here. Recently Elizabeth Chisman Moon of Focus Data Solutions and I did a seminar on this topic for the Alexandria SBDC. Here… Read more »

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This blog was written by Patra Frame and was originally posted on her company website, Strategies for Human Resources. If you missed last week’s video blog on this topic, you can check it out here.

Employees and SecurityRecently 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 less-secure ‘work-arounds’. For example, all of us have seen the passwords written on sticky notes on the PC or laptop!

When hiring employees, independent contractors, or vendors:

  • Consider security issues as part of hiring process for all
  • Ask questions related to common risks profile in interviewing candidates
  • Check on related issues (impulsive, anti-authority, carelessness) with references

With independent contractors or vendors:

  • Restrict access to your internal networks and to sensitive information
  • Place security requirements and restrictions in contracts.

Security is critical to all businesses.  Cybersecurity is more important than many of us realize as hackers increasingly are targeting small organizations, both for access to their information and as a quick way to make money via ransomware.

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Employees as a CyberSecurity Risk: SmallBiz Nightmares Workshop Recap

We often hear about the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses. When we hear this term, we usually think about our hardware or network vulnerabilities. However, our employees can also expose our organizations to cyber threats. In this video, Elizabeth Moon from Focus Data Solutions and Patra Frame from Strategies for Human Resources discuss what… Read more »

The post Employees as a CyberSecurity Risk: SmallBiz Nightmares Workshop Recap appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

We often hear about the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses. When we hear this term, we usually think about our hardware or network vulnerabilities. However, our employees can also expose our organizations to cyber threats.

In this video, Elizabeth Moon from Focus Data Solutions and Patra Frame from Strategies for Human Resources discuss what you can do to protect your organization and things you should consider when it comes to employees and security.

If you would like more information on this topic, please see the slides from this workshop or view the handout that was distributed during the event. We hope you will use this information to make your business more secure and to educate your employees on the role that they play in this process.

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Defining Goals and Values Can Reduce Workplace Stress

The January Small Business Roundtable discussion topic was advertised as “Ideas for a Healthier, Happier Workplace”. While several concepts were raised, most of the discussion centered on reducing stress. Small business owners wear so many different hats and are pulled in so many directions that the concept of “stress-free productivity” may seem unreachable. Pulling back… Read more »

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Defining Goals and Values Can Reduce Workplace StressThe January Small Business Roundtable discussion topic was advertised as “Ideas for a Healthier, Happier Workplace”. While several concepts were raised, most of the discussion centered on reducing stress. Small business owners wear so many different hats and are pulled in so many directions that the concept of “stress-free productivity” may seem unreachable.

Pulling back and taking the time to actually think about why you are in business may be the first step. What are your goals for your business and what values are most critical to you to accomplish those goals?  What is “authentic” about your work, and is that what your customers see?

It is recommended that you focus on the one or two goals that are most important and no more than three or four values that you want to emphasize. If you can focus your actions on these essential goals and values, you will be reaching the core of your business and simplifying your message to yourself, your employees, and your customers.

Your goals and values define your corporate culture, and it is important to make sure that everyone connected with your organization is familiar with the goals and values that you have chosen. You also want everyone to be on the same page when it comes to how you are demonstrating these core attributes to your market.

The next step is connecting your goals and values to your everyday operations. Are the things that you talk about actually the things that you see and do in your business? Getting yourself and others in your organization focused on what is most critical can reduce the stress of trying to figure out what to do next or why the company is going in a particular direction.

An example of this would be an employee in a small retail clothing store. There are many tasks that the employee must complete each day: stocking the shelves and keeping the merchandise displayed in an attractive manner, completing customer transactions, responding to telephone inquiries, etc. However, let’s imagine that the store owner has made clear to the employee that the primary goal of the shop is providing the customer with specialized service that he or she cannot get at a large box store. That employee will then be able to prioritize greeting a customer in a friendly manner and taking the time to personally assist them, even if it means taking time away from other tasks, like stocking shelves. Knowing these priorities makes this decision less stressful for the employee and helps the owner meet his or her ultimate goals.

Communicating these goals and priorities is crucial to the business. Everything cannot be the top priority – there is only so much time in the day. Determining what is the most important in the long-term, and what short-term actions will lead you there, can reduce the stress to you as the business owner and to your employees.

After all, if we try to do too much all at once we often end up accomplishing nothing. It may just take some thinking about what is really important to you and your business to get close to the “stress-free productivity” that we all desire.

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Veterans Day and Your Business

This week’s post was written by Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is a US Air Force veteran, and we thank her for her service to our country and for the work that she does for the SBDC in assisting clients with their HR needs. In this area there are many official and… Read more »

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Veterans Day and Your BusinessThis week’s post was written by Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is a US Air Force veteran, and we thank her for her service to our country and for the work that she does for the SBDC in assisting clients with their HR needs.

In this area there are many official and local celebrations of Veterans Day, so it may mean more to us than just another ‘sales holiday’. But what might it mean to your business or organization?

First, Virginia is one of the top states in the US in terms of the number of veterans who live here. Alexandria has about 8% veterans in its population. Historically, Alexandria has attracted senior military officers to move here while on active duty and in retirement. This means affluent potential customers for retail businesses.  Better yet, it means specialized consultants and potential Board members for businesses, associations, and non-profit organizations.

Alexandria already has over 250 veteran-owned businesses which thrive here. There are 13 associations representing military and veterans headquartered here, too.  We also have active veteran participation in local government roles.

Capitol Post has joined the SBDC and AEDP in providing programs to attract and support veterans. The program includes workshops and 1:1 counseling for veteran entrepreneurs, co-working space, and houses the BunkerLabs DC – an incubator that features an intensive program from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Check out their speakers series for inspiration and lessons in growth for your organization.

With such a large veteran population in Alexandria and in the region, your business can thrive by hiring veterans as well as providing services or products to them.  There are many local resources to help you in attracting and hiring veterans. Veterans offer you:

  • A wide range of technical skills
  • Ability to deal with high-change environments
  • Experience in demanding environments
  • Commitment to your mission and values
  • In-depth training and experience in supervisory and interpersonal skills

Military spouses and family members also form an excellent labor pool to draw from. You can work with the Family Services offices at area military bases to attract both veterans and spouses.

In Old Town, there is a program for junior military in transition – the Veterans Curation Program – which can provide a resource as well. Plus, they value organizations which come in to discuss career fields and job search if you want to volunteer.

The US Department of Labor has an excellent guide to help you in this process – “Hiring Veterans – Step by Step Toolkit for Employers”. ‘Virginia Values Veterans’ is a training and certification program on hiring veterans available from our state government. Both these programs can be tailored to work for small and medium size organizations.

So, this year, when the anniversary of the end of World War I is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month, move beyond a moment’s silence. Use Veterans Day and its recognition of all veterans to think about the benefits of veterans to your organization too.

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Important Independent Contractor Rules Change

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued new guidance that redefines independent contractors (often called 1099 workers after the IRS form.) This is critical to your business if you use independent contractors since many now will be considered employees instead. Under the new guidelines issued July 15, 2015 for classifying such workers, the DOL… Read more »

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Independent Contractor Rules ChangesThe US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued new guidance that redefines independent contractors (often called 1099 workers after the IRS form.) This is critical to your business if you use independent contractors since many now will be considered employees instead.

Under the new guidelines issued July 15, 2015 for classifying such workers, the DOL looks closely at what the ‘economic realities’ are to decide whether a worker is economically dependent on the employer or are actually in business themselves.

There are six factors which the DOL typically will assess in total, and none are considered alone. These include:

  • The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business
  • The worker’s opportunity to manage for his/her profit and loss (not including ability to work more hours)
  • The relative investments of the employer and the worker
  • Whether special skills (business skills, not technical), judgement, and initiative are required to perform the work
  • Permanency of the relationship
  • Degree of control retained or exercised by the employer, not including flexible work options

What does this mean for your business?

Just because a person wants to be considered an independent contractor does not mean you should allow it.  While many businesses prefer to use independent contractors to save on payroll taxes and benefits, neither the DOL or IRS have approved  that practice, as both large and small firms have learned in past cases.

Independent contractors should be used carefully and not commonly.  Now you need to keep detailed documentation on each independent contractor to show how you determined the person was not an employee.  Such documentation could include:

  • The work requirements used to seek independent contractors’ bids include:
  • Project work plans which show the limits of the work
  • Business cards, W-9s, business website links, and copies of business licenses
  • A list of other current clients of each independent contractor or such pages on their website
  • Correspondence related to the work

In addition, various legal newsletters have recommended the following practices to help support your determination that the person is an independent contractor and not an employee:

  • Do not provide internal email addresses
  • Do not normally invite them to employee functions
  • Do not provide any employee benefits

This new guidance means it would be wise to look at all independent contractors you are currently working with and assess whether each is actually independent or should be considered an employee.  Doing this review now will help you avoid legal risk, including pay, benefits, compliance, and tax problems.  For further information, talk with your employment attorney or contact us for a legal or HR consult appointment.

For more information, please reverence this guidance from the Department of Labor.

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