Government Shutdown: React, Communicate, Control

Small Business Is Open for Business During Government ShutdownSmall organizations are at extra risk during the government shutdown – you already know that. But what can you do?

1. Keep your fears at home.

Your employees need concrete information and clear communications. But don’t add to their burden by discussing your fears.

2. Grab control where you can.

A big part of this problem is the lack of control we all feel. Reduce your stress by taking control of what you can. Look for those things in your organization which you can change to help you manage through this tough spot and take action.

3. Talk to your staff.

Clear communications are critical. What are you going to do which affects them?  Tell them now.

What ideas – such as profit improvement or cost control – do you need?  Ask for everyone’s help.

4. Make decisions and execute.

Do you need to stop paying everyone on a government contract and support staff until there is work again? Do so with a clear communication. Talk about their value and how you want to retain them. Be clear on what you must do now to save the company until the return of work. Keep the communications regular once you have send everyone home on unpaid leave.

Are you in retail or otherwise facing a significant loss of business? Decide whether you need to cut hours across the board, close one day a week, reduce employee hours, or reduce employee numbers. Then take the action and clearly explain it to all employees.

More information on unemployment benefits during this time: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/

Don’t dither. Don’t play favorites.

5. Keep politics out.

Whatever your politics and how you feel about this shutdown, keep your comments and communications focused on your business and its future. You and your staff may or may not agree politically but do not add that emotional content to your communications. It will reduce their effectiveness.

Taking corrective actions now is your best focus. It will help you feel more in control. It can help focus your staff on creating ways to improve the company.  Act to protect your organization’s future.

Clear, regular communications are vital to keeping your people actively engaged with the company and to retaining those you need.

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

Enhanced by Zemanta

May, Memorial Day and Our Military: Lessons for Now

Nurses Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary
Nurses Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Memorial Day, the critics charge, has become nothing more than the start of summer vacations and summer sales. Yet, May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

 

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Lessons for Business

Planning for hiring, training, and using people effectively to achieve the mission began in the military. You may not need a formal HR strategic plan. But you do need to decide what work needs to be done to achieve your organization’s goals.  And then hire employees or contract for such needs.

Another useful lesson from the military is that individuals fight and die to protect their team, not some abstract idea or grand plan. In business terms, this insight can help you recognize that strong teamwork is critical to your success. If you cannot create and sustain your team, a great idea will not translate into a successful business.

The military also demonstrates the value of training and development. Each service provides technical training to its members – training that may be beneficial to your business. People are trained to become supervisors and managers before being put into such jobs. Yes, there are cost-effective ways your small business can provide training and development activities to enhance its success!

We talk often of military members as ‘heroes’ but some veterans have difficulty finding jobs as employers do not understand their skills. Veterans have a solid record of success in civilian jobs and as entrepreneurs. They are your potential employees and customers. Need help hiring them? http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/forEmployers/HiringToolkit/

Saying thanks is a nice gesture. But we also need to support and assist our veterans during and after their active service.

Enjoy these lessons our military provides to help your business succeed. Hire veterans to help grow and improve your team.

The military holidays of May offer you an opportunity to learn more about our history and our current military. Reach out to those military or veterans you know and learn their stories. Walk an area battlefield or visit a military monument and teach your family US history in the process. I will be at the Womens Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary for their Memorial Day service – join us!

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Common Small Business Problems Hinder Success

Swot analysis

One of the advantages of consulting is that you get to see others’ mistakes. And learn from them. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. Yet, I still am surprised by how often the basics underlying how you run your operations are the most common small business problems.

Good administrative processes will support and enhance your ability to grow and succeed. Set them up early and properly to be effective. Boring work, probably. Critical, yes!

Financial literacy is quite low in the US.

Whether you are a financial whiz or barely understand cash flow, you need effective financial processes in your business. You need a system that is right for your size and work. But you also need to understand and use it. Get basic training. Or hire someone to help you set up your own chart of accounts and understand what your system can do for your business. Then add help to maintain it as needed.

Your ability to manage your cash flow is critical to your success. And your tax returns are far easier with a good system. So is your planning!

Yet… recently it was a long-time business owner whose bank account was overdrawn before he realized he had not seen his outside book-keeper in months and his employee was not entering everything correctly. Last fall it was a CEO who had not made payroll on time – again; but thought employees should understand good intentions!

And don’t even ask me what happens to firms which do not pay employee tax withholding on time – think locked doors, seized bank accounts, personal assets at risk.

How are you hiring and paying for services your business needs?

Do you have employees? Independent contractors? Contractors or consultants? Interns?

Tax and labor laws contain a lot of traps for those who do not learn about the rules. Pay attention to what you are doing when you bring in the help you need. Often solopreneurs and small organizations hire extra help or expertise on an “as needed” basis. But you do need to be clear about the “how” and “which” among your options.

If you hire via a company which provides such services, it is usually a nice clean transaction – business to business.

But if you hire someone directly, you need to be sure to keep it legal.  And that is true even if you only hire the person for a few days or hours.

Check out this IRS guidance on hiring independent contractors. Be sure the help you hire, no matter what they call themselves, is working with you to ensure both of you are in the clear legally on your payments to them. Get a W-9 form. Keep good documentation.

Do you have employees? The federal and state governments are cracking down on proper classification and payment of employees. They are looking at whether the organization is trying to call them independent contractors instead of employees to avoid paying taxes and mandated benefits. They are checking out wages and hours and whether the organization is trying to treat employees as exempt from overtime laws when the work done is actually not exempt.

And when you have employees, you need records of their employment status and how it starts and ends. People claim unemployment often when they really are not eligible. But if you do not have a record of hiring and termination, whether the person resigned or was in a short-term contract or internship, you may be charged and your unemployment insurance (UI) rates may rise.

Want to hire an intern? Lots of small organizations think of interns as free help. Not so! Generally you have to pay interns, unless you are working with an educational institution where the internship is a part of a class or program. Note: non-profits can hire unpaid interns more easily. See this DOL guidance. I see organizations all the time that want an unpaid intern to work for them but violate these rules – and get into trouble. Back pay, taxes, and fines are common.

Violations of these laws are quite expensive. You will need a good lawyer, probably an HR consultant, and be subject to financial penalties.

And don’t get me started on business planning!

We all know we should – but do you actually have a plan? Does it include realistic information on your revenues and expenses? SWOT analysis? (Do you even know what SWOT means?) Do you have an assessment of your market and potential targets? Do you have goals for the short and medium term? And, if you have been in business awhile, when did you last update or re-do it?

I have seen a lot of small organizations get into trouble because they overdid hiring or outside assistance when a simple business plan would have helped them think more clearly.

Help is available from the Alexandria SBDC. Good online resources exist at the SBA. Special programs also exist for veterans, minorities, and women – so seek out all the support you need.

 

These ‘administrative basics’ are not what many of us want to do, we are too busy finding revenue. But they are worth your time and effort to learn and do correctly — so you can SUCCEED!

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

Veterans Day – Make it Count

English: Veterans Day poster for 1997.

Veteran’s Day is barely a holiday in the US, except as a retail sales gimmick. But why should we expect this to be different?

Fewer than 2% of us have ever served in the military. And since we moved to an all-volunteer service, those who do serve come from a smaller slice of the population. So fewer of us are related to a vet or know one well.

And yet…

Our veterans are a terrific resource for your business and our nation. You may think we in the military all served in an environment of senior people ordering junior ones around all day, with no judgement or discretion involved.

But that is a movie version of boot camp, not the reality of military service.

Military folks are used to working in teams of people who are quite diverse in comparison to the statistically typical civilian workplace. Persistence, adaptability, teamwork, and flexibility are not just buzzwords, they are daily reality in the military. We are trained to get the job done, to “take that hill”.

This is one reason that veterans who become entrepreneurs succeed at twice the rate of civilians. And it makes them great employees for helping grow your business too.

My story: It was a base in a war zone with constant high level civilian and military visitors. I was asked to set up a protocol function. Working with the motor pool, the housing staff, communications, and air traffic control, we put together an operation that met and transported and housed everyone from civilians to generals to Bob Hope to Senators with no fuss. The commanders were thrilled that they did not have to figure this out each time, yet no added monies were spent. The junior folks were thrilled that the old ‘emergencies’ of visitors stopped. And our visitors were even complimentary.

Every military person can tell you a litany of such minor stories. These stories offer you insight into how much we can do on our own and working in teams with people we just met to achieve goals that support a larger goal. And your business can use all those skills right now.

Reach out to veterans and you could find your perfect employee.

You may not really understand the work that a specific vet did in the military. And not all of them are good at articulating their expertise in specific areas – or all the training they have had. But veterans bring many specific technical skills and talents to your business as well as all those soft skill areas employers lament are not available.

Locally and at the VA state employment agency there are veterans’ representatives who can educate you and help you hire. There are tax incentives for you to hire veterans, training programs to help vets acquire skills you need, and support services to hire disabled vets. You might even end up on the state’s list of military-friendly employers!

So, this Veterans Day

Raise a flag.

Go to a military parade or veterans memorial.

More importantly: recognize we are just like you – only with some different experiences than a standard business career offers. Think of what we can do to help you succeed!

Resources: