For small businesses, Independent Contractors (ICs) can prove to be a vital resource. You receive expertise in a particular area at a set contracted fee without the worries of dealing with employees issues and such things as overtime, sick time, payroll taxes, etc. When the job is done, you both move on.Uncle Sam is always interested in businesses that use ICs. Generally, you should not encounter any problems in terms of tax related issues IF you follow applicable IRS guidelines related to ICs. Also remember:
- You can control the work product standard, but not the way in which the work is done. The IC controls the when, where, or how to work.
- Always try to have a written contract clearly outlining that you have an IC relationship.
- Try to have the IC work off-premises, using their own resources and tools.
- Make sure you have a meeting of the minds with your IC in the sense that they understand they are an IC and not an employee. Maintain that relationship even if you decide to utilize their services for more than one project.
Many businesses start out as sole proprietorships, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing depending on their individual circumstances. However, converting to a corporate or LLC business structure does have its benefits. One of those primary benefits is taxes.
Now, Uncle Sam appears to nead a little more cash because they’ve been eyeing sole proprietorships lately. According to a recent GAO (Government Accounting Office) announcement it suggests that the IRS will start paying closer attention to the tax returns of sole proprietors as a way to raise a little cash.
What does it mean for sole proprietors? If you choose to continue operating as a sole proprietor, then be sure to keep detailed business records and do not co-mingle your person and business assets. Otherwise, Uncle Sam may come knockin’ on your door for a loan.
According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, by 2010, 37.2 percent of the population will fall into the 45-84 age group. By 2020 it will rise to 39 percent. What’s the significance to businesses? One major significance is that employers will find themselves dealing with a larger class of workers age 40 and older who are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
In fiscal 2006, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 16,548 charges of age discrimination, resolved 14,146 charges and recovered $51.5 million in monetary benefits, not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation.
One specific U.S. Court of Appeals case drew the attention of many. In D’Cunha v. Genovese/Eckerd, an older job applicant qualified for a pharmacist position in a phone screening but was later rejected in favor of a younger candidate after the face-to-face interview. The employer, Eckerd was unable to demonstrate a nondiscriminatory reason for rejecting the older candidate.
The message for employers: start thinking about the age spread in various job positions throughout your company. Furthermore, make sure you pay the same attention to age as you do to race and gender in your hiring process.
Feedback from your customers allows you to make informed decision for your business. It is also an important component of market research. While there are a variety of ways to gather information from your customers, nothing beats the old-fashion way of simply picking up the phone and calling them.
At this point, probably more than one person reading this is cringing at the idea. A hound of hungry telemarketers calling at bedtime probably flashed through your mind and your heart started beating a little faster. Banish the thought!
It’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about selling your products or services over the phone. These people are your customers and have valuable insights that you want to tap.
Telephone interviewing is one of the most cost-effective and fastest ways to get answers to your questions. In most cases, they are nonintrusive and easy to set up.
When setting up a telephone interview campaign, follow these general guidelines:
- Know who you are calling (i.e. your target audience).
- Create a questionnaire and conduct a few mock interviews.
- Make the calls at convenient times for your audience.
- Keep it brief and to the point.
- Reasurre the caller you are not selling them anything. You just want information.
You’ve heard the numbers…around 81% of all sales typically require five or more contacts with a potential client in order to make them happen. Surprisingly though, over 90% of businesses fail to follow-thru on contacting a potential lead beyond the first inquiry. It makes you wonder why, particularly when we know its a lot easier to sell to someone who has expressed interest in your products or services, then it is to someone who hasn’t even heard of you.
It’s true that it is some times difficult to find that fine balance between staying in their minds and becoming a pest, but the key often lies in designing a schedule. Space out each of your communications by a fixed amount of time. Send each potential customer three to five mailings with a week or more between each. Then, develop some type of tracking system that allows you to keep to that schedule and remind you who has received what.
It may seem like a lot of work, but in the long run, you’ll find that it is more cost effective and less time-consuming then beating the pavement trying to convert cold leads into possibilities.