Finding ways to increase productivity is always a hot button topic. What may be surprising, though, is the fact that there is one way to increase employee productivity that should seem like a no-brainer, but that many companies struggle with on a continual basis.
Annually, employers lose approximately $100B for time lost due to accidents in the U.S, and other unscheduled worker absences costs even more. It’s no wonder that a whole body of knowledge referred to as absence management has taken hold as more and more companies struggle with the rising numbers.
So what steps can you take as a small business owner to curb employee accidents and unscheduled absences? Here are a few simple tips to start you on your way:
- Create a written policy that balances the needs of your company with that of being fair and respectful of the needs of your employees.
- Communicate your policy to your employees. Let them know how their unschedule absences impact the company as well as their colleagues, and what steps will be taken if they continue.
- For those employees out due to an accident or a prolonged absence, focus on getting them back to work and on being productive. Proceed cautiously and with solid information in hand when doing so since some complex issues may arise around medical, legal, and contractual situations.
This week we continue to look at the tax gap proposals presented by the Bush administration. Another proposal to keep your eye on is the one calling for businesses to verify taxpayer identification numbers (TINs).
Currently, if you pay an indepedent contractor $600 or more for services annually, you are required to send that individual a Form 1099. Traditionally, as a business owner, you’ve relied on using whatever taxpayer identification number that they provide to you. However, under this new proposal, you would have to verify that contractor’s TIN with the IRS. If the IRS can’t verify the number, then the business would have to withhold taxes on payments made to the contractor.
If this legislation passed, you would then have to potentially add the responsibility of tax collector to your list of “things to do and be” as a small business owner.
Uncle Sam has a $353 billion tax gap and it’s looking to close that gap. Guess who they’re hoping will assist them in closing it? Yep, the self-employed business owner. If that’s you, you may want to tune into several of the proposals the Bush administration has put on the table.
One of the biggest ones is the proposal for a voluntary tax withholding system. Under this system, businesses would be required to withhold taxes on payments made to independent contractors. Contractors receiving payments of $600 or more each year from a business could require the business withhold a percentage rate of their gross payments. That rate could range from 15% to 35% as identified by the contractor.
What that means to the business owner is that you would have to spend time and money withholding and reporting taxes on the contractor’s payments. Some businesses unwilling to invest that time and energy may even decide not to work with independents any longer which would be devastating.
Be sure to keep an eye on this one.
Some small business owners are often confused as to whether or not they should allow customers to pay with credit cards. Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a credit card system. Here’s a quick look at what you should consider:
First, determine whether the cost of accepting credit cards is greater than the amount of profits you’re currently loosing by NOT accepting credit cards. The bottom line is that you need to have a firm understanding as to whether accepting credit cards will bring you more customers and profits for your business. If you can say it will, a credit card system may be the way to go.
Then, talk to companies that provide merchant credit card systems regarding their costs. Be sure to ask about monthly fees as well as transaction fees. Additionally, some companies also charge for equipment and software so beware of any hidden costs. You really need to shop around to find the system that works best for you.
On average, monthly fees for credit card systems run about $25 and transaction fees are approximately 20 cents/per. You can also expect to pay a discount fee of 1 1/2% to 3% on the gross amount of credit card charges.
Many people often hesitate about starting their own business for fear that they will not have good health insurance coverage or that it simply won’t be affordable. Therefore, it wouldn’t be too surprising to believe that many of the estimated 40 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, are probably entrepreneurs or people employed at small companies.
If you are concerned about health insurance as a small business owner or entreprenuer, there are options to consider:
- If you are just striking out and the company you are leaving offers continuation of your insurance under COBRA then consider using it. Under COBRA, you can continue your coverage for up to 18 months which should provide you with enough time to search for other options.
- Some states offer health-insurance programs for home-based and small businesses. Check with your state’s insurance department for more information.
- Talk to a broker about insurance policies that are tailored for individuals. Be sure to compare several policies with comparable benefits to see which you prefer.
- Check into health insurance provide by trade associations or small business organizations such as the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).
- Take a look at health savings accounts (HSA). While its not health insurance, it is a savings plan that offers an alternate way for consumers to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save or invest for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.
Most marketing gurus will tell you that there is are definite merits to networking. Traditional networking performed through groups/organizations and online social networking venues, such as MySpace, are based on the same general premise of giving rather than taking. What’s that mean? That when you network, you aren’t looking to sell your products/services, but to provide value to others.
Networking opportunities can provide you with powerful tools for building awareness, strengthening customer loyalty and driving sales. However, be sure to avoid these common mistakes:
Doing a hard sell. If you want to ruin a new relationship, then try hawking your products/services to someone you’ve just met. Instead, try providing something of value. It might be something as simple as a free article, a highlighter, a downloadable screensaver or a form/template. The point is that you are giving instead of taking and it makes a greater impression.
Stress quality, not quantity. At a networking event or even when connecting through MySpace, don’t focus on trying to collect everyone’s contact information/business card. What’s the point if these people can not help you or are not interested in what you have to offer? Be selective and get to know the people who can provide value to your business.
Consistently Follow-up. Establishing a new connection doesn’t end when the events over. Integration is key. For maximum results, your contact information should always be visible on your website, blog, printed materials, business cards, and any other materials that help “close the loop”.
Time management is always a must for a busy small business owner given the number of different hats most of us have to wear in any given day. I for one am always interested in finding new ways to manage my time and business more effeciently. With that in mind, I ran across three products that caught my interest:
Need help with your billing? Check out Workarea.com. It’s an Internet-based time tracking system that can provide billing information to the second. The system includes a time clock, time sheet, expense tracking, address book and the ability to access it all via your cell phone or PDA.
Need to track employee hours and/or attendance? The TimeClock Plus Small Business Edition, Timeclockplus.com, lets you turn any PC into a time clock. Employees can sign in or out with the keyboard or mouse, and easily allocate hours and costs to specific jobs.
Need a computer-based “To-Do” List? TimeTiger.com is a computer-based to-do list that shows all the items you’re working on. You can use TimeTiger to track against your Microsoft Office Project plan, and synchronize your plan with TimeTiger as it changes. You can also export time logs to QuickBooks (and other accounting systems) to easily bill your time.
Workplace bullies are becoming a growing problem. Not just for the colleagues that have to work with them, but for employers as well. Workplace bullies can cost employers by demeaning and de-energizing employees leading to drops in overall productivity, employee absenteeism, increased rates of employee disability and stress-related illnesses and even lost customers.
According to a recently released Employment Law survey, approximately 45% of U.S. workers have had to put up with a workplace bully. This is nearly double the number of workers reporting mistreatment by someone in the workplace in 2000.
One company was actually able to put their own price tag on how much a bully cost them. A star salesperson, who was also a major bully/jerk, cost them an additional $160,000 per year just in the number of assistants he’d burned through, overtime costs, legal costs, anager management training, etc.
The bottom line for employers is that this type of individual should and can not be tolerated. Address the behavior immediately and no “free passes”. Repeat offenders can’t be ignored. Employers need to make it clear that either these bullies change their behavior or look for employment elsewhere.
Employment law is a nasty mine field that many employers, big and small, often find themselves navigating –sometimes unsuccessfully. It often seems like one simple misstep can lead you into a virtual quagmire of lawsuits. Therefore, its not surprising that many employers often cringe when it comes to dealing with their employess on such issues as termination/discharge, return to work, contracts, etc.
Employee-based lawsuits often result from wrongful terminations, breach of contract, and issues involving the following:
Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA protects employees from an employer’s interference with requested leave and retaliation for exercising FMLA rights.
The Americans With Disabilities Act – prohibits adverse job action against an employee who is able to perform the essential functions of a job with reasonable accommodation.
Workers’ compensation. Although workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, its a given that an employee unable to work because of a workplace injury will receive workers’ compensation benefits. And if a workers’ compensation settlements occurs it can result in long-term increases in insurance premiums or significant expenditures for businesses that are self-insured.
While it can be daunting, you need to have a basic understanding of employment law and what you can and can not do as an employer. If you are having difficulty taking it all in, then do not hesitate to contact an employment law attorney for advice. After all, like the old adage goes, “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. In this case, the cure would be a nasty lawsuit worth hundreds of thousands of dollars versus a few hundred dollar consultation fee. You be the judge it terms of where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
It appears that small businesses across the U.S are increasingly becoming tempting takeover opportunities. Avid buyers such as financiers and private equity funds flushed with cash are turning to small businesses as potential investment sources.
Prime targets for these investors are well-oiled businesses with an annual profit of at least $150,000. Manufacturing, trucking and garbage collecting concerns are ever popular targets.
According to Grafton “Cap” Willey, a shareholder and managing partner of the Rhode Island offices of Tofias PC, a regional accounting firm, and chairman of the National Small Business Association, most deals are being done with businesses with around $250,000 or up in annual profits.
An recent Philly.com article provides further insight into this increasing phenomenon. To read the article, click here.
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