As diverse as our employees are, so are their religious beliefs. While many may argue that strongly held religious beliefs should not impact the workplace, they do. In fact, in some cases, they also require reasonable accommodation.The most obvious forms of reasonable accommodation include providing an employee time-off to observe a religious holiday or event. In many cases, vacation and flex time cover these occurrences. However, a recent court ruling suggests that employers also have a responsibility to reasonably accommodate one’s religious beliefs — even if they may conflict with the company’s.
A nurse at a hospital was up for a promotion and was asked if she was willing to dispense emergency contraception, i.e., the “morning-after pill.” Her response was that she was opposed to emergency contraception because she believed it was a form of abortion, and it violated her religious beliefs. The hospital passed her up for the promotion and went with another employee who did not object to dispensing the contraception. The nurse sued and won on this claim. Nead v. Bd. of Trustees of E. Ill. Univ., CD Ill., No. 05-2137 (6/6/06).
The impact on employers: When possible, an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation for an employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs.
Frequently, the words advertising and publicity are used interchangeably by business owners. However, it is important to note that they are two different things which must be handled accordingly.
Think of advertising as choosing the media vehicles to get your message out to the public. You are in control as the buyer in determining how you will get your message across, which will ultimately increase your customer base. Will you buy radio time, run newspaper ads, and/or advertise on billboards? How much? These are examples of issues related to advertising.
Publicity is different. With publicity, you are not in control. Sure, you may put the information you want known in the form of a press release, but that isn’t a guarantee that it will get picked up and written about by reporters or your particular industry. With publicity, you are no longer the buyer so you need to convince the media that what you have to say is newsworthy to THEIR buyers. That isn’t always as easy to do.
Both are important elements in promoting your business and increasing your customer base. Knowing how to effectively incorporate both into your business can prove challenging, but will definitely allow you to reap the benefits if mastered.
Starting a business doesn’t come cheap. Finding the money can be a challenge. However, there are options to consider for raising the needed funds. Some of the more common options include:
Borrow Against Your Home – borrowing against the equity in your home is one of the most popular ways in which people raise the money to start their business.
Borrow Against Your Life Insurance – if you have a whole life insurance policy, chances are you can borrow against its value. Typically after three years most people have built up some level of cash value.
Borrow Against Your Investments – if you have a prior 401(k) plan or investments with a brokerage, you can borrow against those investments at a specific interest rate.
Family and Friends – another great source for funding as many people who know you and believe in you are more likely to lend you money.
Credit Cards – it may be a quick and easy way to pay for your business, but mind the interest that will add up if you only pay the minimum amount each month.
Of course, each of these financing options has their advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to research the pros and cons of each one before pursuing.
Many businesses were the result of a “great idea”. Unfortunately, for some business owners, the idea may have been there, but the business plan wasn’t. Those are the businesses you don’t hear about. Opinions vary on the importance of a business plan. Some either find themselves without the time, resources, or feel they lack the experience to craft one. Others, just can’t seem to find the need for one.
So, you may ask yourself, “Is a business plan really necessary?”. I would answer with a resounding “yes”, and here’s why. Ideas are a dime a dozen and don’t amount to much if you don’t have a solid business operation in place to make it happen. Building that solid business operation takes time, money and commitment. Your ability to do each one effectively will mean the difference between your ideas paying off, and having that idea be just a “remember when” moment for when you grow older.
Business plans ground you in the reality of the day-to-day, step-by-step operation of building your business and bringing your idea to fruition. A business plan can help you focus on simple fundamentals like showing up every day, returning phone calls, and presenting value to your customers. It may not encompass the fun or excitement of generating ideas, but it is a big MUST.
It’s rare, in this day in age, to hear of a business that doesn’t have some type of website presence. Some hire website designers. Others do it themselves. With so many software programs out there, creating your own website can be simple and fun. However, you need to avoid making mistakes that can turn potential customers off your website. Here are three common mistakes:
Cramming. Unlike a sheet of paper on which you feel you must jam pack with information until no white space exists, web pages are longer and allow you the luxury of a little white space. This is a good thing. Cramming only makes people frustrated as they try and search through the graphics and the text looking for the information they need.
Skip the gobbledygook. In short, use plain, easily understandable text. Avoid using jargon that only you or your industry may understand. If someone needs to pull out a dictionary to decipher your website, chances are you’ve lost a potential customer.
Unapproachable. Spam, and I don’t necessarily mean the lunch meat, can leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. Nothing is more annoying then opening your business email and finding fifty unsolicited emails clogging your mailbox. Unfortunately, in our desire to protect our contact information from spammers and identity thieves by not making it readily available on our websites, we also alienate potential customers who may be trying to contact us. Other contact information besides a simple contact form also lends a level of credibility to your business.
Some businesses and industries may be prone to high turnover. However in many cases, employers have the power to do something about it and the solution is as easy as simply listening. This doesn’t necessarily refer to holding exit interviews with departing employees, but to talking to employees that stay. Finding out why they stay and what might lure them away to another job can assist you in addressing a potential turnover problem.
The answers received will probably vary. After all, everyone is motivated differently and attracted to different incentives. Some may be motivated by a chance to learn and grow, a promotion and a grandiose title, or generous vacation time. While you may not be able to offer everyone, everything their heart desires, you can begin to review these motivators to see if you may be able to do so in the future. More importantly is the fact that your employees will feel valued and important. This in and of itself is a great retention strategy that is easy to employee and requires very little outside of a little time and listening skills on your part.
Don’t be afraid to ask just because you may not be able to deliver. If you can’t, be frank and let them know that, but also commit to investigating other possibilities. Chances are you probably have at least one thing your employee want that you CAN deliver and that’s a solid start to halting the exodus.
Branding is essential to the success of your business. Without a branding strategy, you fail to establish customer loyalty. Branding involves more than picking a great logo or making your products and services recognizable. It’s about establishing an overall impression in your customers’ minds that you can address their needs.When branding, consider the importance of:
- Creating professional-looking marketing and advertising materials that accurately portray your services or products.
- Making sure the message being conveyed through your materials is consistent.
- Being able to differentiate your services and products from that of your competition. Do your materials effectively convey those differences to your customers?
Take the time to review your products/services strengths. Answer why these strengths are important to your customers. What are you bringing to the table that they can’t get elsewhere? Once you’ve done that, review your marketing materials, advertising, sales, customer services, and logos to see if they are reinforcing your strengths.
Thought of the Day:
“We must distinguish between repeat buying and brand loyal behavior. Repeat buying can be bought through bribes. True brand loyalty must be earned and reinforced. Every consumer comes with a mind attached.”
Larry Light, President, CEO, Arcature, LLC
Nobody likes paperwork, and bookkeeping ranks right up there as one of those necessary evils of operating a business. While it can be a royal pain in the derriere, it must be done and done as accurately as possible. Not only will the IRS appreciate your fine bookkeeping skills, but you may too when you are able to easily claim business-related deductions. Three common bookkeeping errors you should avoid are:
Not keeping track of all receipts…no matter how small
The IRS may not require that postage receipt for $4.20, but when you want to deduct it on our taxes, you will. Not only do these little receipts add up, but they also provide you with the required documentation you may need later.
Forgetting reimbursable expenses
Have you ever paid cash or used your personal credit card to pay for a business-related item? Chances are pretty good you have, and that you also forgot to turn it in to your company for reimbursement.
Failure to deduct sales tax
Retail businesses often fail to deduct the sales tax from the total sales. This results in a higher total sales amount and does not lower the amount of taxes due.
These are just a few of many common errors that business owners make. If you aren’t comfortable doing the required bookkeeping, then investing in an experienced bookkeeper may be of great benefit to you.
SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a method of assessing a business, its resources, and its environment. The SWOT process centers on the internal strengths and weaknesses of your company, staff, and products/services. It also examines external opportunities and threats that may have an impact on your business, such as market and consumer trends, changes in technology, legislation, and financial issues.
A SWOT analysis allows you to identify your core activities and pinpoint what you do well, and why. It will also direct you towards where your greatest opportunities lie, while highlighting areas where changes need to be made in order to make the most of your business. When performing a SWOT analysis avoid making these common mistakes:
Maintaining too narrow of a focus
The large and obviously glaring issues will probably engage your attention, but you need to dig deeper and look at every aspect in your business no matter how small it may seem to you.
Neglecting input from others
Sometimes our perspective regarding our business may not be as objective as we need it to be. Seeking out the input of others provides us with valuable insight into things we may not have considered. Other people’s perspectives are always valuable to a SWOT analysis.
Performing an analysis only once
Your business is always changing, and hopefully, always growing. So, if your business is always evolving so should your strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Therefore, you need to view your SWOT as a work-in-progress, returning to and “tweaking” it on a regular basis.
Reliance on as an “end-all” strategy
A SWOT analysis is just one segment of your overall business strategy. It is a useful guide, not a major decision-making tool. Be sure to keep it in perspective as it relates to the bigger picture.
Defining who and what your business does is probably a relatively easy test for most business owners. However, can you also answer what makes your products and/or services unique or that provides a competitive advantage? Can you do it in two or three sentences or in 10 to 20 seconds? If you can, you have a great advantage over others because you can explain it to your customers.
You may be thinking, so what? What does that have to do with anything? The simple answer is a lot because when your customers understand they can more easily tell others what you do in the same effective manner; and word-of-mouth referrals can be more valuable and instill stronger customer loyalty than any other customer you will work to recruit.
So, take a few minutes to write down what makes your products or services unique. Try to stay away from describers such as “excellent service” and “reasonable” prices because they really aren’t unique. Look for true competitive advantages that make you stand out amongst your competitors and in the eyes of your customers.
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