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Running a small business is no easy feat. That’s why we’ve created a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.
Resource Center: Fraud and Privacy
Fraud can be a serious issue for many small businesses. Check out these resources to ensure your business is safe.
Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report
The majority of small business owners are pleased with the direction of the economy. However, many are faced with a different type of challenge – finding qualified talent. Steve Strauss shares more findings from this SBOR.
6 Ways to Find Your Next Gig
The gig economy is growing, and knowing where to look for work is half the battle. Check out this list from Steve Strauss to learn about six platforms that can help you find your next gig.
- ritzparker achieved a new status level: Adventurer
- littleko achieved a new status level: Wayfarer
- ginnyoak achieved a new status level: Wayfarer
- National Cybersecurity Society achieved a new status level: Guide
- National Cybersecurity Society achieved a new status level: Ranger
- National Cybersecurity Society achieved a new status level: Pioneer
- National Cybersecurity Society achieved a new status level: Navigator
- National Cybersecurity Society achieved a new status level: Tracker
- kgrafer achieved a new status level: Navigator
While most of us are busy decorating, shopping and otherwise preparing for the holiday season, the bad guys are looking for ways to steal your holiday joy. Small businesses are more susceptible to fraud than most large companies, however, there are ways in which you can help protect your business. Our experts on the Bank of America SBC Team have put together a Resource Center: Fraud and Privacy to help you protect your business. Review these great articles, listen to the experts speak, and learn how to identify potential schemes before they happen.
Do you have any special tips or advice that has worked to help your company prevent fraud? We'd love to hear your feedback!
This time of year, you'll find lots of posts about gratitude and saying "thank you."
But we rarely recognize the power of the ultimate business expression of thanks -- the testimonial.
As a business owner, your credibility often depends on finding clients who will publicly thank you and acknowledge your help,
usually through testimonials.
From your understanding of gratitude, you probably realize that writing a testimonial has benefits for the grateful clients, too.
But your client's testimonial will also help a third way -- encouraging your future clients to make a decision that could be life-changing.
In this article, Steve Strauss puts the results of Bank of America's Small Business Owner Report for Fall 2018 into terms we can all understand.
While some aspects of the news in this article came as a surprise to me, I was pleased and encouraged by the time I read through to the end. Generally speaking, business owners seem to be optimistic and seeking to grow their business with like-minded people who share the entrepreneur's integrity and enthusiasm.
"In the latest Bank of America Small Business Podcast episode, Steve Strauss speaks with Jessica Kavanagh, founder of VetLinks.org, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director of the organization. Listen to learn about the journey to create VetLinks and discover how it empowers veterans – with tips to help entrepreneurs everywhere thrive."
I hope you enjoy the article, or the podcast if you prefer to listen. Please feel free to share your thoughts with the community.
Are you looking for some inside information on Internet name renewal? Here's an up-to-date report from Internet name renewal experts who should know.
Domain name renewal might sound simple, but with so many scams going on, it's definitely a subject worth mentioning. If you fail to renew your domain name properly or within a certain amount of time, you could lose it to someone else and never get it back - no matter how hard you've worked on your website. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your domain name stays right where it needs to be - in your domain name account!
Multiple Domain Names
If you own multiple domain names, keep a list of all your domain names, their individual expiration dates (if each was registered at a different time), and your personal account information for your domain name registrar. You will likely need to log-in securely to an account to renew your domain name and pay the renewal registration fee. Don't let your web address come up in someone's registration whois lookup as an available domain name.
Tip! Before designing your website, be sure to create a plan on paper. Plan the layout and flow of the site before turning on your computer!
Secure Your Domain Name for Longer Periods
If you own a domain name for example paraphrase online and that you plan on keeping for many years to come, you can save money now and time in the future by signing on for a longer duration of domain name registration. For example, some domain name registrars are offering up to 10-year registration at a tremendous discount per year. You will pay a little more up front, but save dollars in the long run. Also, this frees you from the yearly domain name renewal for 10 years!
Hopefully the information presented so far has been applicable. You might also want to consider the following about renewing your web domain name:
Use Renewal Time to Re-evaluate Your Website
When your domain name renewal time comes around, use that time to re-evaluate your website situation. Perhaps you've changed to a new hosting company since registering your domain name. You might consider moving your domain name to that company to make things easier in the future. During the renewal period, this is a good time to make the switch without wasting part of your yearly fee.
You might also use this time to register another domain name or two that will complement your business. You can package your registrations together to save money on each domain name.
Automate to Avoid Domain Name Mishaps
Many domain name registrars allow you to automate your domain name renewals so you won't have to be reminded each time. This is an automatic credit card charge billed to you during renewal time. Be on alert still with this system. No system is flawless, so you should still be mindful of when your renewal time is to ensure that your domain name gets renewed on time.
Start with the Initial Registration
If you're brand new to this whole domain name registration process, keep the following tips in mind. Register your domain name at a trustworthy company. Cheaper is not always better. Keep your domain name account information in a safe place on your hard drive as well as in your office, written or printed as a hard copy in case you lose your computer information.
When renewal time comes, you will need your account login and password to access your domain name information for renewal. Registrar companies are usually very strict when it comes to domain name security, so you might have to give an arm and a leg to get your password back if you lose it!
Keep these tips in mind when domain name renewal time comes around to ensure lasting success online! And, take time to consider the main domain name renewal tips presented above. What you learn may help you overcome your hesitation to take action.
Eddie Hartley works as a writer at the paper editing services PapersEditing. He is fond of technology. Eddie has extensive writing experience for technology magazines. Attends exhibitions and forums.
Are you thinking of starting a new business, and unsure how to go about finding the necessary funding? You'll want to approach your prospective lender with all the necessary information, but where to start? The journey to procure the funding needed can often be a confusing maze that a new small business owner may need some help navigating, so our small business experts are here to help!
You'll find all the information that you need to know in this excellent collection of articles, videos and Q&A's about everything from how to establish credit for your new small business to how to grow your small business once you've started - and everything in between, in our Resource Center: Credit and Lending.
We hope you will find our resource center helpful, and look forward to hearing your feedback. Be sure to ask any questions you may have, as our helpful community will be glad to provide their experience and guidance.
If you're not familiar with Giving Tuesday, it's a day to take a break from all the recent traveling, cooking, shopping, and spending and think about others. Originating in 2012, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been recognized as Giving Tuesday. It's a wonderful opportunity to get back in touch with the spirit of generosity in all of us. Small businesses and individuals alike can participate. How, you ask? Steve Strauss has a list of great ideas.
Now that you know what it is, please feel free to share your own ideas for participating. We'd love to hear the ways you and your company give back to the community.
This year we are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday in the U S.
You may not be celebrating because you're in another country...or you may be celebrating but need a break from the family and the cooking.
Again Happy Thanksgiving and be SAFE.
My name is Michael from Oceanside CA and I am interested in starting a side hustle selling gardening products & tools online on eBay and Amazon.
I was wondering if any of guys you have done it and how has it turned out for you? Profitable?
I've spent the last few months watching videos on YouTube on how to do it. It seems like dropshipping is the way to go.
I've also looked at Amazon FBA but it seems like I would need a bigger budget as opposed to the dropshipping route.
I also have a question for those who have successfully created a business selling on Amazon on eBay.
Where do you guys find your suppliers? What's the best supplier directory?
Other questions that I have is:
- How big of a budget did you guys start out with?
- What are the other hidden costs that I have to keep in mind?
- Should I go with selling on eBay or Amazon? Or perhaps both?
What are their pros and cons?
Season’s greetings from the Small Business Community!
The holidays are in full swing on Main Street and it’s time to check in to make sure your small business is ready. Brent Tilson, CEO of Tilson and author of “Go Slow to Grow Fast,” shares holiday best practices for small businesses on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”
“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.
The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.
Brent Tilson: When you're thinking about the holiday season, start all inclusively with everybody that you're going to communicate with so that you can be sensitive to not only your employees and the impacts around what could be a morale issue in the company ultimately, but also your customers.
Gregg Stebben: I'm here with Brent Tilson. He's the president and CEO of Tilson, tilsonhr.com, also the author of the ForbesBook Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast-Paced, Competitive Business World.
Brent, we're thrilled you're here, and we invited you here to talk with us about some HR issues that are particularly relevant today as we're getting closer to the holidays. The holidays can have some really ... companies can handle the holidays with their teams and their employees in a very successful way, I would imagine, or they can really step in it and make some real mistakes.
And interestingly, as I've been reading your book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, your book actually centers around a company having what they think is a morale issue. Hint, hint, it's not really a morale issue. That's just a symptom, but it's so perfectly aligned with the idea of making sure that you do the right thing for your employees during the holidays, that I wanted to talk with you both about the book and things we can do as companies to handle the holidays appropriately.
And when I bring up the idea of the holidays and dealing with employees, is this a common conversation that companies have or should have?
Brent Tilson: Well thanks, Gregg. And it is a conversation that companies should be having, especially this time of year. I don't necessarily find where companies have written policies about what they should or shouldn't say during the holiday season, so it's important that people talk about it and that the management teams understand what's important, that they share with the employees, and really have a conversation around those pitfalls. As you said, they could really step in it, and people get really excited around the holiday season.
In fact, not too long ago, we celebrated Halloween, and, years ago, Halloween was something that was very commonly celebrated. Well there's also a little darker side to Halloween, and so companies today are starting to be mindful that certain employees don't want to have these Halloween celebrations. And it's the sensitivity issue that we ... I wouldn't have imagined years ago, but so many things I see today, I would never have imagined years ago.
And so it's important that companies have these conversations to begin to think about their employees and the excitement that they have to celebrate, but just because they may have that personal excitement at home, they have to somewhat tamper it down a little bit when they're in the office or at work.
Gregg Stebben: Well, right, I mean, one of the things is you have to make sure that these kinds of things within the office are inclusive because people have different religions, different celebrations, different customs, and different traditions. And if I'm listening to this and I'm an HR person, what kind of advice can you give me for helping me discuss this with my management team to make sure we're doing the right thing when we approach it with our employees?
Brent Tilson: Well the first thing I like to tell people to think about is to approach it both for internal and external. So when you're thinking about the holiday season, start all inclusively with everybody that you're going to communicate with so that you can be sensitive to not only your employees and the impacts around what could be a morale issue in the company ultimately, but also your customers. Because your customers have to be ... You need to be sensitive with them because they also have personal, whether it be religious or other sorts of traditions that they are mindful of.
So my advice would first be think about it from encouraging the employees to see it through the lens of the recipient, the person they're talking with. So if they're certainly in an internal employee situation, be mindful that not everybody is going to be the same faith, and that we are a melting pot, and that we need to be very mindful of the words we use, how we say them, maybe even the greetings and the goodbyes, because this is the time of year when things, people tend to say different things when they meet somebody.
And so it's about understanding through the eyes of the recipient is the first thing that they should do. And then also just be sensitive that, in the holiday season, not everyone is excited about the holiday season. So you have to be sensitive to people, how much are they really wanting you to be engaged in those sorts of discussions with them.
Gregg Stebben: You made an interesting point about ... I've been asking about internal communications and relationships between employees, but there's also employees interacting with the public or the company interacting with the public, and that's another place where, if you don't manage it well, you can really alienate some very important people in your business, which is your customers.
Brent Tilson: Well and people, they get lazy. I was in a very ... what I would consider somewhat of a high profile meeting this last year over the Easter time period. It was just a mixed group, and the individual who was hosting the meeting just was careless in comments towards the end, and this was actually an elected official who wasn't really thinking about what he was saying at the time, he was trying to be ... wishing everybody a good weekend. And afterwards, he reflected on what he said and he's like, "I can't believe I just did that." So just careless in reading and understanding the room, and the things you may say or may not say.
And so, it happens to everybody, no matter where you may be, whether it's in business or in some other situation, it's just being careful of really understanding the audience that you're in, and making sure the message is tailored for that audience.
Gregg Stebben: Well, two words come to mind as we're talking about this. One is training. I mean, there must be some ... there has to be some way of communicating this with your employees, or you're leaving it up to chance that they're going to get it right. So you need to, I would think, in some way or another, let employees know this is what we think is appropriate, and we want you to act in the following way.
Which is built on awareness, because I think sometimes people say things like this elected official you were mentioning, sometimes it's just a lack of an awareness that there could be sensitivity, and once you're aware that the sensitivity is there, you think, oh, I never would've done that if I had thought about it, but I didn't have the awareness to think about it.
Brent Tilson: Well, and many people ... and you're right, the training is very important, and the reason the training is important, or at least to make people aware of it. And it certainly should be done not just in a holiday spirit, it ought to be more from a sensitivity and diversity training that's all encompassing so that it's not just specific to the holidays. The holidays are an example, they certainly are a placeholder in the training for people to have to understand that there are different times of the year that you have to be even more aware of the activity, and what you might say or do.
So in those trainings it's important to have these pieces, but it just goes so much more than that. Think about it this way, that people are at work, are in the office, far more than they are at home. But yet they bring from their home their personal beliefs and experiences, and not everybody wants that shared in the office environment. And so it's really important to understand that there's that line that individuals have to manage and monitor themselves when they bring in their personal beliefs, if you will.
And so it's really important to understand both sides of that. There's that line that you do cross when you walk through the door.
Gregg Stebben: I'm talking with Brent Tilson, he's the president and CEO of Tilson, they're at TilsonHR.com. He's also the author of the Forbes Book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.
Brent, I want to change gears here a little bit and talk about another big part of the holidays in the workplace, and that is: I'm an employee, I have an expectation that I'm going to get a bonus, a gift, a raise, or maybe all three. This seems to me another place where employers have to be really strategic about what they do. I want you to talk a little bit about the things you do at Tilson, so we can then understand the kind of advice you offer to your clients around these kinds of year end issues.
Brent Tilson: These are great issues to address, because you think first about raises. It's one of those things that some people just expect it annually, I'm going to get a raise. The cost of living increase or whatever it may be, and we're always very clear to articulate in our organization that while we do try, and want to be giving raises, and certainly want to keep up with the cost of living, so there's certainly that as an element, so we make sure our staff understands there's an element of raises that are a part of the overall compensation that will happen year after year.
But then on top of that, it's going to be merit based. So if you're improving, and you're moving from one level to another level, and you've actually improved your position and/or your overall performance, then yes you will be justified to get a possibly higher raise. So we make sure it's very clear that there's a merit component to the raise piece, that way we set expectations.
Now come to bonuses, you have those performance based bonuses and discretionary. So performance based, once again, it's going to be based on the merits, so it's very clear and they should be very clearly articulated as to when those bonuses will be paid out, so that they understand how they're doing, so you're rewarding the right type of thing.
Oftentimes in the holidays, we get into the discretionary bonuses, and that's where people can get themselves in trouble, because if they do discretionary bonuses, and they've done it for five straight years in a row, it starts to be expected. And if some reason the company doesn't do well, or some change happens that that isn't paid out, then employees' expectations have to be better managed so that people know that it's not going to happen. We see that as a real problem, companies tend to just habitually do these year-end bonuses, they do it as a discretionary, they don't communicate it that this is not to be expected every year, then people start to think it's a part of their income. And it can be really problematic as people think they're going to use that money for Christmas gifts, or whatever they may be doing.
So certainly those things are an issue that management really needs to talk about, because to set expectations early, and frequently, because you can't just say it once, you're going to have to say it multiple times.
Announcer: As a professional employer organization, Tilson, and one of the services you offer are payroll and benefits administration, is this the kind of thing that you and your team end up talking with your clients about?
Want an alternative to giving bonuses? Try these 6 easy employee benefits to reward employees from Steve Strauss.
Brent Tilson: It is. Yes, our HR team will work with our clients and we'll talk about best practices, things to think about as they're getting ready to roll out their bonuses. Because it's not just a bonus, it could be ... when you get on the technical side, sometimes bonuses are tied to 401k programs, and so that's going to be money that they think they're going to get, or making sure they articulate, okay, you're going to get $1,000.00 bonus but once taxes are done, it's not going to be that full amount, so what is your real intent? Are you wanting them to take home a full $1,000.00? Well then we have to talk about the financial implications, and the taxes, and what we call grossing it up.
So yeah, we talk about everything from the tactical and technical components of how and what amount you want to give, to the strategy of what that impact is on the workforce.
Gregg Stebben: And there's another wrinkle to this, I'm referring to a statistic from the Fall 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Reporthttps://newsroom.bankofamerica.com/system/files/Small_Business_Owner_Report_-_Fall_2018.pdf, which reports that 83% of small business owners planned to offer holiday related perks this year, 83%. And I'm relating that to the headlines we read about there being real problems hiring talent. I would think that if you're a small business owner, and you're not offering appropriate bonuses, gifts, or raises, you probably run the risk of losing employees.
Brent Tilson: That's a real issue today. So many companies, that's one of the ... probably the number one thing we hear is keeping employees, and trying to get the talented employees to replace them when they're gone. It's a real issue. And what we're starting to see is some pressure on compensation. We're seeing companies having to put a little more money behind these roles, and these jobs that are open, and/or with the people they have today, to keep them. Because people are being pried away, and the way the world is today with the pace of things, the really top talent is being pursued.
And so giving perks, and as you said, the bonuses, or gifts are just ... when you think about it at the end of the day, it's a very small gesture, but very valuable in the eyes of the employee. And things that we can do today to help keep our teams is important. Now, we don't want to buy their happiness, that's not what we're suggesting. But what we're seeing in the economy is such a strong business environment, and the economy's performing well, profits seem to be up. And if that is then likewise shared with everyone who's contributing then there starts to be a little bit of a disconnect between the employees and the employer.
So it certainly is something that we see companies thinking more about doing this year.
Gregg Stebben: Well and I would imagine at Tilson, one of the things, one of the conversations you're having with clients is even helping them quantify the cost of losing someone, or to say it another way, what's the cost of hiring somebody else? Again, in the Fall 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 24% of small business owners said they have lost at least one employee in the last year, and 58% said they were having difficulty finding qualified candidates. So you have to factor those kinds of statistics into if we lose someone, particularly a key employee, someone with great talent, it's ... you're not only losing a person who's doing some work today for the team, you also have to factor in the time and the amount of money that it costs to replace them, if you can replace them.
Read Rieva Lesonsky’s article, 6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees.
Brent Tilson: Well, if you can replace them then the ramifications last for years. If you have really top talented people, when they leave, it's not just getting to that next person in the seat, it's all that knowledge that they walked out the door with. And especially if they've been there years with the company, and someone comes and kind of takes them away for a better opportunity, then the cost of turnover is substantial, and we do, we work with our companies and our clients to help them understand what are they doing, what are they putting in place to really make sure that they're keeping their top talent.
In my book I talk about building a high performance team, and to do that you have five major categories for working with employees. How do you find them, develop, direct, motivate, and retain, and those five pieces are so critical. And companies need to make sure that they have things in place at each place along the way so that retention at the very end, is you're retaining, you actually have a strategy and a program to retain employees.
And of course, those that are not performing, well, that falls under how do you direct them, eventually you direct them out if they're not the right people, because they can cost you dearly as well, if you have the wrong people. But those five pieces of the employment lifecycle or so critical to have it right.
Gregg Stebben: I'm talking with Brent Tilson, the book he mentioned is Go Slow to Grow Fast, his new book, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World. Brent is the president and CEO of Tilson at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook @TilsonHR.
You know, one of the things we're talking about, we can talk about here as we talk about the holidays, is how to use the power and the spirit of the holidays to actually inspire and motivate employees. Do you have tips there so that we can actually take that spirit of the holidays, and the togetherness, and use it to make our company even stronger?
Brent Tilson: Absolutely. I think what we like to do, I know what I like to do, and encourage others, is this is a great time to reflect on the successes. There's so many negative things that we see in the news every day, and people ... If we just came out of an election cycle where we're all just beat up over all the negativity that can be out there, and this is a time in the holidays where people are excited. They're ready for celebration, at least you can't assume everybody, but there's a sense of that in the air.
And so, what I like to do is let's look back and celebrate the successes we've had over the last year. Let's make sure we call these people out, and explain, and share, and celebrate with them. Whether we do it publicly in holiday parties, or you do it with a little private note that you write to them individually. But there's also things that people can do, encouraging to give back, because oftentimes when people give back, they get more out of it than just receiving. So we like to recommend, and we do internally, we do a number of different programs where we help maybe a family in need, they have different programs, I think they call them Christmas Angel type environments where a family that's in need will have a list of all the things that they could really use to help their family, and so we've done that. And people ... the generosity that flows from the staff to help these other groups just warms them, and makes them feel better about it. And it just helps create this sense of pride, as well as fellowship and kinship when people are participating in activities such as those.
Gregg Stebben: Within an organization, can that kind of participation in a program kind of come from the bottom up, or the top down? I mean, could it be HR saying, "We've identified this program and we're going to participate," or is there a way to encourage employees who have ideas of their own, here's how to suggest a program that the company or your department might want to participate in?
Brent Tilson: Well, in fact it is both ways. So in our company, we do have things that we suggest corporately, "Hey, this is something that we want to get involved in," typically we put it out for discussion and see kind of what we would like to celebrate and participate in this year, whether it's simply making donations to certain charities on behalf of employees, or possibly it's actually, like I just mentioned, actually doing an event where we're gathering donations.
But what we also have is we actually have a program that we implemented in our company, where we allow people to basically, they submit a request, they can do it individually, but they get a day of paid time off for them to go to a ... either a local charity, or something that they want to give back. So they just submit it, it gets approved. It can be individually or they can do it as a group effort. And so they go and find these things, because we want people to be involved in the community, because we know the value that it provides to them and to the community. So it can be done both ways.
Gregg Stebben: Well I really like the sound of that, because I ... when someone, a team or an individual sources it, and then it gets embraced by the company, even if it's just a few people within the company, that then is going to be very empowering to that person, beyond the spirit of giving, but making them feel like, "Wow, I made a real contribution both to my community, but also to my company."
Brent Tilson: Oh, that's absolutely true. There's so many different programs that we've done over the years, it's fun. When they're ... when the employees and the team choose to do something, then you can see the spirit, because they have a little competition amongst themselves, they make it more fun, they ... who's going to out donate who, and you find that they've been hiding some of their donations so no one really knows how much they have until the last day, and everything shows up and one department's so thrilled that they've outdone everybody else. And it's just ... it's a camaraderie, there's so many things that it does, over and above and beyond merely just the time of giving, but there's also so many other things that just really help employees and people feel a part of something bigger than just themselves.
Gregg Stebben: Brent Tilson is with us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Forbes Books and Bank of America. He's the president and CEO of Tilson, they're at TilsonHR.com, he's also the author of the Forbes book, Go Slow to Grow Fast, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.
I think we need to talk about people within your organization who, frankly, may be dreading the holidays. For one reason or another, this may not be a time of happiness for them, but it may be a time of sorrow, or struggle. And what's the best way for us as individuals, as managers, even as ... a C suite executive, to make sure those people are being acknowledged and helped in whatever way that they may need?
Brent Tilson: It is a tough time of year. Many people talk about how, or you see reports, where depression actually goes up during the holidays, because possibly someone ... this is the first holiday, first Thanksgiving, without Grandma, the first time that they're not going over to somebody's house to celebrate one of the holiday events and parties. And there are so many things that are personally tough this time of year, sometimes there are great celebrations, other times they're not so.
And I think the first thing we have to do as organizations is not be ... make things mandatory, and all inclusive, you have to allow people to make decisions on what they want to participate or not participate in. Because just purely mandating may put somebody in a really awkward situation, or trying to encourage ... we want to ... 95% participation at the company's holiday party, well, who's doing that? Is that because you want the bottom line to justify the money you spent? Or are you trying ... what's the intent there? So as managers and leaders, we really need to acknowledge that some people in the organization really just want their space, and their time.
The other part is being sensitive to that. So if you're a manager of an organization, of employees, you may be aware, personally aware, that somebody's going to go through a tough time, so maybe it's a handwritten note, just offering them words of encouragement, without getting into specifics and details, let them know that you're thinking about them during this upcoming year, and holiday season, and just offer that open hand of a gesture of just being here to help if there's anything we can do to help.
So it's more of just being aware, and just good, human kindness.
Gregg Stebben: Is there a way, or should we be thinking about a way to make sure everyone in our organization knows that there's an easy, risk free way to ask for help if they need it? Is there a way to offer that, that's ... that will be effective, and not ... not intrusive?
Brent Tilson: Well, there are. There are many programs that are just available, companies offered, often known as employee assistance programs, EAP programs, that's a little more structured, but they're designed to allow because our professionals who can actually participate in ... and you can say, "Okay, you're going into this time of year, recognize that there may be a need for you to reach out and have a conversation," and so the counselors, through these EAP programs, can talk with the employees, let them kind of work through. So it's not something that's being done internally, it's not being done by the HR manager, or really ... it could be, but really oftentimes this is such a personal thing, it needs to be done in a manner that is supportive of them, and help them, and that's why those programs are important to have for employees. Because you just really don't know all the things going on in somebody's life. And to be able to extend, and remind people, "Hey this is a time of year, don't hesitate to reach out to the EAP group and they can help you."
And certainly there's fliers, and a lot of times there's documentation. I know we have some in our office that we circulate around, just reminding people of this information so that they receive it in multiple fashions, not just like somebody standing up, or telling people, it's actually, hey, it's on the bulletin boards, it's on the intranet site, or wherever. "Hey, don't forget about these tools that are available for you."
Gregg Stebben: That way you are never singling someone out, you let them self-identify as, "Oh yes, that would be valuable to me, and I get to approach it, or take advantage it in whatever way makes sense for me, and is private, or public, a way that I want to."
Brent Tilson: Well that's exactly right, I mean you may have an employee in the office going through a divorce and nobody knows about it, they've kept it quiet, but it's being very disruptive, and it's like during the holidays, and everybody's trying to figure out who's doing what, and when, and where, and that's not something you would want to single out.
Brent Tilson: But if they knew they had the availability to go to ... through a program, or have somebody to talk to, to work through those needs and issues that are professionals, it certainly allows those individuals that to work through their items and not make it a part of the office.
Gregg Stebben: He's Brent Tilson, he's the president and CEO of the professional employer organization, Tilson, at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook @TilsonHR. He's also the author of the ForbesBook, Go Slow to Grow Fast. It seems counterintuitive.
Brent Tilson: Well, and that's why the book title, I think works, is people want to say, "What does that mean? What do you mean go slow to grow fast?"
Gregg Stebben: That's what I'm asking, what does that mean?
Brent Tilson: What it means is people really need to slow down, understand their surroundings, what they're doing, where they're going, making sure they're doing the right planning, have the right things in place, put the right measurements, and tools, and think about their business before they just try to grow. I see so many companies go out and try to grow as fast as they can, only to become just a wreck on the side of the road because they just weren't prepared for what they were doing.
So the idea of going slow is to really take the time, understand the business, understand those forces around you. I like to tell people that every year you should ask yourself what will put you out of business? And really think about those issues, so you can better prepare, because once you've thought about that, and you've done the right planning, then go grow as fast as you can.
Gregg Stebben: It's interesting, as I'm reading the book, one of the things that I've really been left with, the book is called Go Slow to Grow Fast, he's Brent Tilson, he's the author. One of the things that it's really left me with that, frankly, I had never completely thought through for myself, is that growth has consequences. It has rewards, of course, but it's also not without consequences, and so if you grow too fast without the planning, that growth can actually kill you. You think it's the thing that's going to make you successful, but it may actually be the thing that kills you, because you didn't plan for it, and therefore you can't handle it.
Brent Tilson: And I've seen it time and time again. And maybe it doesn't put somebody completely out of business and cause them to fail, but they grow to a certain level, they outgrow the capability of the organization, the customers get upset, they start leaving, morale starts dropping. And all the sudden the company has to move backward to re-establish itself, to try to get its feet under it again, and then they start growing. But they lost all that time because they tried to grow too fast, and they just got ahead of themselves. And it happens time and time again. And it's the idea of let's anticipate the future. If you're going to grow at 30% a year, well, what do you have to have planning wise done, you have to do even more than what you're doing if you're growing at 10% a year.
But that doesn't happen. And so my encouragement is people really do go slow to understand, so that you don't have that high growth put you out of business.
Gregg Stebben: Yeah, and the kind of problems you can have if you're not prepared for the growth is anything from cash flow to client satisfaction and losing your clients, which again, can be devastating.
Brent Tilson: Absolutely.
Gregg Stebben: So my last question, and this is a fun one. I hope. You've seen a lot of things in your years, and we've been talking largely about the holidays, and how to approach them from an HR perspective. Have you seen any just like really funny, or common but they shouldn't be, HR gotchas around the holidays that you can share with us? Both to entertain us, but also frankly, so that we can learn something from the story.
Brent Tilson: Yeah, well one of them is I remember walking in an office, and they had mistletoe hanging, and I thought, "No, no, no, no, get that out of here." We don't need mistletoe hanging around the office.
Gregg Stebben: Especially in 2018 it sounds like a really bad idea.
Brent Tilson: Bad idea. So certainly that's an easy one, but that did happen, I just had to laugh.
We all know the holiday parties, those are the things that get people in trouble. They maybe have a few too many drinks, maybe a little too comfortable in the environment, forget who they're talking to. The attire that they wear, I mean, I've been places where it's like, "Oh my goodness, I cannot believe somebody showed up wearing what they're wearing," and it's just, everybody's embarrassed by this whatever, and however.
Gregg Stebben: Everybody but the person wearing it, because they don't even understand that it's embarrassing.
Brent Tilson: Well, yeah, they thought that was a fun outfit for the evening.
Gregg Stebben: Yes.
Brent Tilson: It's like, "No, that was not quite right." So certainly you get into the gotchas of just unwelcome affection, where people just get comfortable, they think it's a fun time of year, maybe they do have an attraction to somebody, and they just kind of ... just a little overzealous, so we see those types of things happening, certainly.
The gotchas from an HR perspective is just you want everybody to remember to keep their ...
Gregg Stebben: It's a work event.
Brent Tilson: It's a work event, this is not a party. This is not a night club event, and just remember that. And so, but I think the businesses owe it to themselves to make sure ... you know, like for us, we have a holiday party, we'll do a two drink ... you know, "Here, everybody gets two tickets, that's all the company's providing." And one of the things that's being recommended this year for companies is to use shared services, like the Ubers, and the Lyfts, and those types of things. And say, "Hey, go ahead as a company and pay for it." If somebody shows up, don't even hesitate to give them the opportunity, why would you want your employee to take a chance even if you're not participating in the purchase of anything, you don't want to put yourself on the front page of the paper because somebody made a mistake and it comes back on you. And so take those necessary precautions so you don't get yourself in trouble. And just don't hang the mistletoe up.
Gregg Stebben: Yes. And I think Uber and Lyft is a really great idea for holiday parties. The last thing I want to ask related to this, is do we as the people at the top of the company, or the organization in the C suite, should be assume that we should be very explicit about, for instance, what is appropriate attire? Or what is appropriate behavior? So that no one can come back and say, "Well, I didn't know."
Brent Tilson: Well, that's best practice. The best practice is when we have these events, and it's clear to what the attire is, what's appropriate, what's not appropriate, oftentimes that's in the dress code. But we have ... when it says that it's evening attire, or black tie, or festive, or whatever, there's so many different varieties of names, you can Google them and look. And then you can get lots of different outfits. So it's really good to be very clear as to what's expected. It just takes the pressure off of everybody.
Also what's expected at the event. Whether or not ... be mindful, this is going back to the alcohol reference, but you are at a company event, and some companies don't have alcohol, they just, they avoid it, they don't want the issues at all. But that doesn't mean the employee's not going to have some cocktails maybe sitting there before everyone gets there. So there's elements you can't control.
Gregg Stebben: Yeah.
Brent Tilson: So it's important to really communicate, and that's a best practice. For all of us who are the leaders of the company, we also set the example. So while we're at these events, we also have to be mindful, everybody's watching us. And from the clothes you're wearing, to the things you're saying, to the things you're doing. So it's very important for the leaders to set the example. And the staff will follow. And I've seen certain leaders who have a little too much fun, well it doesn't take long for the staff to follow in that front. And so I think it's important for us to exhibit it.
Gregg Stebben: It's funny how culture has a way of showing up everywhere, isn't it?
Brent Tilson: That's why it's called culture.
Gregg Stebben: Exactly. Well Brent Tilson, that's for joining us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with Forbes Books and Bank of America. He's the president and CEO of the professional employer organization, Tilson, at TilsonHR.com, on Twitter and Facebook, @TilsonHR. He's also the author of the Forbes book, I, I highly recommend it, How to Keep Your Company Driving and Thriving in a Fast Paced, Competitive Business World.
Brent, thanks so much for joining us, and happy holidays.
Brent Tilson: Thanks Gregg, appreciate it so much. Have a great holiday season.
Your business is thriving. Customers keep asking when you’re going to open another location. Some even ask if your business is a franchise—and if they can buy one.
So, you wonder: should you start franchising your concept? Not so fast. Just because your business is successful doesn’t mean it can – or should – be franchised.
Here are five steps to take before franchising your business.
Step 1: Assess your business.
Is your business running smoothly? Do you have operations manuals, training processes and documented systems in place? If you take a vacation, does the business fall apart or run like clockwork?
Do you have multiple locations? Before considering franchising, start small by expanding your business locally or regionally. This proves your concept’s viability outside of its initial location, educates you in managing multiple locations, and raises brand awareness—which helps sell franchises later.
Step 2: Assess your market.
Just as when starting your business, do market research before franchising it. Ask:
- Is the industry growing?
- Is the customer base growing?
- Does the concept have “legs?” A business based on a fad may succeed in one location but has little chance of lasting.
- Who are your competitors and what advantages do you have?
Step 3: Assess your capital needs.
Franchising can be a cost-effective way to grow your business, because franchisees finance their startups, sign their own leases and take responsibility for operating costs.
However, until you actually sell some franchises, you’ll be footing the bill for legal and accounting assistance, franchisee training and support, and marketing and sales costs. Gather adequate capital to finance your franchise plans.
Step 4: Assess yourself.
Being a franchisor is different than being an independent business owner. As a franchisor, your focus will be on selling franchises and supporting your franchisees—not on baking pies, teaching children’s gymnastics or whatever passion encouraged your business. If you don’t have what it takes, hire or partner with someone who does.
Step 5: Get professional help
Franchising requires lots of decisions:
- What criteria you’ll set for franchisees
- What fees and royalties you’ll charge
- Franchisee territories
- Whether to sell master franchises
- Requirements for using suppliers and vendors
- The training and support you’ll provide franchisees
Put these professionals on your team to help:
An accountant can help you determine if you have the necessary capital to franchise, if franchising is financially viable, and what franchise fees and royalties to charge. (Being a franchisor is not cheap—startup costs, at minimum, will likely run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.)
Franchising is highly regulated on both federal and state levels. An attorney can create a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and help you register it with the Federal Trade Commission. The FDD includes detailed information about your franchise opportunity, such as audited financial statements, management experience, franchise costs and fees, the franchise contract and more. Several states also require registering your FDD with the state.
Franchisee training and support materials are key to a successful franchise system. (If franchisees fail, it hurts your brand image—and your profits.) A franchise developer can help you create training materials, operations manuals, company policies and more.
As a franchisor, you’ll need to market your business both to consumers and to prospective franchisees. A franchise broker (sometimes called a franchise consultant) can help with the latter. Brokers match franchisees with franchises and receive a commission from the franchisor. Franchise consultants do the same but are paid a flat fee by the prospective franchisee. Since strict rules govern franchise sales, working with a broker or consultant can help your franchise grow with less effort on your part.
For more information, visit:
- The International Franchise Association (IFA)
- The American Association of Franchisees and Dealers (AAFD)
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s guide to franchises, business opportunities and investments
Be sure to read this franchising advice from a serial entrepreneur.
- Should You Buy a Franchise? The Pros and Cons by Steve Strauss
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation
If you work in the technology industry, you’re familiar with the concept of a pivot. Pivoting reflects the need to change or adjust your products or services to better meet market demands, and it is quite common for tech startups to change course as business needs evolve. Yet one tech company in New Jersey pivoted in a different way: its startup success led them to evolve their offerings to mentor other startups, creating an incubator for entrepreneurs and young businesses to learn and build. I spoke with Ritika Singh, the CEO of InnCreTechin Princeton, N.J., about how her firm focuses on growing small businesses in innovation and technology.
Ebong Eka: What does InnCreTech mean/stand for?
Ritika Singh: InnCreTech is an acronym for Innovation, Creativity and Technology.
Eka: Tell us about InnCreTech and what your company does?
Singh: We are a software engineering firm and wework with many startups in the field of Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, Healthcare and the emerging Blockchain space. We give startups access to our core tech team and product management team in-house and help with decision making. For example, we mentor startups on how to scope the initial product requirement and deciding between “must have” and “good to have” features in the product.
Eka: What opportunity or opportunities did you see in the marketplace that led to starting InnCreTech?
Singh: InnCreTech was launched like a traditional tech startup. It transformed into a tech incubator after being approached by several startups for tech advice and development. We also help small businesses that cannot afford an engineering arm or in-house tech services.
Technology is always an expensive investment and a wrong tech partnership or development can be very costly in terms of time and money for any company. Large companies also utilize our services in data science and blockchain field when they want to do a research or a prototype in a fixed span of time.
Eka: Who are your ideal clients?
Singh: Our ideal clients are early-stage startups and enterprises seeking access to advanced technology and the utilization of innovative processes to better their business models. We want clients who are working on bleeding-edge technologies, looking to innovate and move at a fast pace in today’s competitive landscape.
Eka: How does InnCreTech help these small businesses achieve better results?
Singh: We help our customers elevate their business by harnessing the power of advanced technology. We are constantly innovating and re-engineering our approach to find optimal tech solutions for them. We make sure the technology component for our small business clients is not risky. We are also experts in advanced and emerging tech fields, so we can help more traditional business models embrace innovative technologies.
Eka: For tech startups, what do you believe are the two most important steps for building a successful startup?
Apart from “be agile in approach,”, my two pieces of advice would be:
1. Market research.This is a very important step for any startup, so please do your homework. There should always be a need for your product in the market.
2. Listen and be ready to pivot. Listening is the key. Customers should guide what you want to build - and if that means making some changes to your product or service, a pivot, then go for it.
Eka: What are the qualities of the ideal startup for InnCreTech to invest in?
Singh: The startups that work with us have one thing in common: they are trying to solve a problem. We equip all our startups with cutting-edge technologies so they are not left behind. Our goal is to help promising entrepreneurs achieve their vision based on sound engineering and best practices.
- More on Business Startups
- Hear interviews of other small business owners on the Bank of America Small Business Podcast.
About Ebong Eka
Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.
Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.”
Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation
Businesses of all sizes are quickly finding that influencer marketing is an effective way to reach customers. By sponsoring content creators that have their own audiences, marketers can leverage user-generated content, expertise and trust combined with built-in social distribution to meet a variety of marketing goals. When implemented properly, influencer marketing can drive brand awareness, audience development, sales growth and more.
Despite its efficacy, how to run an influencer marketing campaign is still unclear for many small (and large!) businesses. Below are six best practices to generate a strong return on investment from your influencer marketing activities.
1. Choose the Right Platform for Your Goals.
All platforms are not created equal and not all are relevant to your audience. “The first step in any influencer marketing campaign is finding the most appropriate platform. One platform does not fit all, as each has different characteristics, formats, engagement mechanisms and features. Depending on your specific goals, some platforms may be better than others” said Mike Prasad, the CEO of Tinysponsor, an inventory-based sponsorship marketplace that helps companies purchase the right sponsorships for their marketing goals (disclosure, I am also an investor in the platform).
For example, Prasad notes that “a permanent and visually engaging Instagram post will outperform on awareness and narrative goals, while an Instagram Story with a 24-hour lifespan will typically outperform on click-through and sales conversions with its swipe-up links and immediate call-to-action features. A blog sponsorship is fantastic for SEO and content creation, plus it can be effectively repurposed as ‘testimonial’-type creatives. You need to start with your goals.”
2. Know What Metrics Matter and Why.
After choosing a platform, you need to be measuring success. Operating on vanity measurements will not drive ROI. “Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook offer granular demographic insights, while others such as Instagram and Snapchat are more limited in their data offerings,” Prasad said. “Knowing what to measure is critical for driving bottom-line results.
“A post’s performance data may include a variety of measures,” he added. “Your key metrics will vary depending on your specific goals and platform. A campaign with conversion goals would use trackable links to correctly attribute credit and measure across overall reach, whereas a brand awareness campaign should compare true reach and distribution against light engagement (such as likes) and deep engagement (such as comments) to determine actual effectiveness.”
3. Find the Right Creators for Your Brand.
Every content creator has their own unique voice, focus, audience and style. Finding the right influencer to work with is essential to a campaign’s success.
“A common but flawed practice is to choose an influencer based on general category and overall reach,” Prasad warned. “This incorrect approach often results in negative ROI. To deliver meaningful outcomes, context and alignment is everything.”
For example, Prasad continued, “All metrics being the same, contextual alignment between your brand, the influencer and their audience will determine the outcome of a campaign. The best aligned influencer should look like an ideal customer or brand ambassador, but with their own individuality that is complementary to your business. Their content should also be specifically aligned, as well. Depending on the brand and goals, a creator that posts makeup tutorials will perform differently than one who posts product unboxings, even though both are in the same beauty category.”
Metrics show that the more aligned an influencer is with a sponsoring business, the higher the engagement rate and ROI will be. Tinysponsor reports seeing engagement rates range from a modest 1.2 percent to a staggering 12 percent, largely based on specific alignment. It also helps to test out a variety of influencers over time – say six to 12 months – to really be able to evaluate long-term results.
4. Pay the Right Price.
Celebrities have historically charged marketers exorbitant prices for sponsorships with no regard to performance. Smaller influencers have built solid followings of their own, but charge a wildly varying range of prices, furthering price confusion. Because small businesses need to ensure they pay the right price for their relative goals, they should consider several factors related to rates.
“First take into consideration reach and engagement when evaluating creators,” Prasad advised. “Creators who interact frequently with their followers drive more results than those who only broadcast. Many social media platforms will algorithmically rank engaged posts higher, amplifying their organic media reach.
“Second, you should verify your alignment with creators’ followers. A highly engaged audience is only valuable to you if they match your business objectives. Ultimately when measuring ROI, a targeted and engaged follower count provides a more meaningful cost basis than general reach.
“Third, consider paying higher or lower rates depending on industry categorizations. Creators posting about video games or luxury travel are generally more valuable to marketers than music or fashion. Similar pricing dynamics seen in search engine marketing also apply to influencer industry pricing.”
To help assess pricing, Tinysponsor has a free calculator here.
5. Stay Focused on Brand Safety.
Brand safety, the concept of using creators that won’t get your brand in trouble because of other content they have used, has been largely overlooked by many platforms, but is incredibly important for businesses.
“It is paramount for marketers to be fully aware of how aligned the creator is with the brands they work with,” Prasad said. “Fortunately, creators are generally consistent in their content. Businesses should be aware of both the nature and degree of their brand safety requirements, when sifting through the creators’ content for any problematic associations. For example, a food and beverage creator known for nightlife settings may be brand safe for an alcohol brand, but not be appropriate for a breakfast food product. Clothing companies should be aware of creators who may post risqué photos.”
Keeping an eye on this will keep your brand out of trouble and avoid “guilt by association.”
6. Ensure Your Campaign is Compliant with Regulations.
Governments and regulatory agencies consistently change guidance related to marketing, including influencers and other sponsored endorsements. Generally, creators must disclose clearly and explicitly any sponsorship relationships. As a business, you must ensure compliance, especially as the FTC will often penalize you as a sponsor first.
Make sure to stay abreast of guidelines and check to make sure your influencers have used appropriate disclosures.
Influencer marketing can provide a lot of bang for your buck and let you test campaigns on a small scale. Follow the advice above and get help from a relevant influencer marketplace or platform to see how influencers can help drive more awareness and sales for your small business.
About Carol Roth
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
I always knew that entrepreneurs liked their work, but I never knew just how much. How much? Apparently quite a lot.
If you own a business, are self-employed, or otherwise know people who work for themselves, you know this to be true. Small business owners are in it for a good many
reasons – economics for sure, necessity sometimes, and often most importantly, for the pure enjoyment of doing what they love.
According to Bank of America’s Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), an amazing 90 percent of small business owners say they would recommend entrepreneurship as a career path to others. That is amazing.
But what about the long hours you say, the hard work and uncertainty?
Even more respondents – 91 percent – say it’s all worth it.
This is not to say entrepreneurship is easy, because it is not. The SBOR is a bi-annual survey that looks at the state of small business in America, and it always offers a fascinating glimpse into the real world of the small business owner.
For example, looking at economic and hiring trends, the Fall 2018 SBOR report zeroed in on what it takes to succeed in your own business.
- Access to capital? Partially, according to 68 percent of respondents
- A solid network? Yup, 78 percent thought that was the answer
- Luck? A forthcoming 56 percent agreed luck played a role
But in the end, and not surprisingly, the small business owners who participated in the survey thought that the keys to success were perseverance (96 percent) and good old-fashioned hard work (97 percent.)
One of the biggest challenges small business owners have today, and not surprising given the strong state of the economy, is attracting and retaining top talent is tougher than ever.
“While business owners are pleased with the direction of the economy and planning for growth, they are confronted with a new challenge. More entrepreneurs are looking to hire in the year ahead against the backdrop of one of the tightest job markets in half a century,” the report noted.
Consider these findings:
- 58 percent report difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies
- 50 percent believe the tightening labor market had a direct impact on their ability to hire, and
- 25 percent believe it took more time to fill positions this year than last year
The good news: The Fall 2018 SBOR shares some interesting ways small business employers use to recruit talent.
For instance, fully a quarter of the respondents said they have shifted to a more flexible culture to attract talent. Specifically, the SBOR drilled down into some differences in individual cities and found employers in Boston are most likely to give holiday perks to their team. In Dallas, employers use ongoing training to keep employees involved. And in the San Francisco area, flex hours are the key.
With 55 percent of respondents saying they expect the national economy to improve over the next year (compared to 29 percent in 2016), it makes sense that small business owners are looking to grow their own businesses and find the right mix of employees who can help them do that.
And I think what those employers are looking for may be the other big surprise in this SBOR. Do they want a well-educated workforce? Of course (30 percent). Do they want a staff with experience? Yes, that too (53 percent).
But most of all, what these small business owners looked for were . . . people with “integrity” (60 percent). That’s amazing when you think about it. By a 2-to-1 margin, small business owners value integrity over education when choosing their staff.
As I said, I love when the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report comes out because I always learn something new and unexpected. I bet you will too. You can see the infographic for the report here.
Learn more about attracting and retaining employees:
- 3 Big Problems Small Business Owners Struggle With, Part 2: Finding and Retaining Employees by Rieva Lesonsky
- 6 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Attract and Retain Good Employees by Rieva Lesonsky
- Four Steps to find your best employees by Ebong Eka
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation
Small business fraud can be a serious issue for many businesses and prevention of such fraud is a necessity as a modern business owner.
Ensuring your business isn't vulnerable is a top priority. While small businesses are more susceptible to fraud than most large companies, there are ways in which you can help protect your business. Setting up secure systems, infrastructures, and internal controls to protect against fraudulent activity can save you both time and money. Whether your business has already experienced fraudulent activities - like identity theft or cyber security threats - or you are just looking to be able to identify threats before they happen, use these different resources to keep your workplace secure.
The National Cybersecurity Society (NCSS) has prepared “Business Identity Theft In The U.S.", to lay the foundation for an effective and sustainable national program to assist victims of business identity theft. The study presented in this report analyzes the current ecosystem of participants – federal, state and the private sector; defines types of business identity theft; the mechanisms in place to define the identity of the business; how vulnerabilities are exploited; and recommendations to improve victim resources.
In the latest Bank of America Small Business Podcast episode, Steve Strauss speaks with Jessica Kavanagh, founder of VetLinks.org, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director of the organization. Listen to learn about the journey to create VetLinks and discover how it empowers veterans – with tips to help entrepreneurs everywhere thrive.
Kirk: The one kind, this missing component, was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience. It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand as we launched this journey that is VetLinks.org.
Steve: Hi, I'm Steve Strauss, and you're listening to the Bank of America Small Business Podcast, a podcast where we speak with small business owners about their journey and uncover useful tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners everywhere.
Steve: Today we're speaking with Jessica Kavanagh, founder and president of VetLinks.org, and Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Duncan, the military affairs director for the organization. Today's guests play a hugely important role for veterans across America through an amazing organization called VetLinks. VetLinks is a 501c3 nonprofit that bridges the VA mental health care gap for veterans with PTSD by connecting veterans, families, and caregivers to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury alternative treatments, programs, and resources.
Steve: VetLinks.org educates and empowers veterans and their families by linking them to services, support, and programs in order to enrich the quality of their life.
Steve: So Jessica and Kirk, great to have you on the show. Welcome. Jessica, let me begin with you. VetLinks is an amazing organization. What inspired you to help create it?
Jessica: Yeah, no, thanks for having us on the show tonight. My husband, Brian Kavanagh, he was an Army infantry officer, he was a ranger, and back in 2014 he came home one day and he was asking for help with his post-traumatic stress. And so we called the VA, and they had put us on a six week wait time for mental health. So we took matters into our own hands and we found him a place on our own for private care, and got him help. And after that, we called the VA again and they put us on another six week wait time, and so we've started our own private treatment again for mental health appointments.
Jessica: By the summer of 2015, things were not getting much better by any means. So this time we called the VA and we kept our six week wait time appointment, which ironically fell on September 11th. And then when we went to the appointment, I was so hopeful that she was going to give us this magical place that was going to help Brian with his post-traumatic stress, and his substance abuse, and instead all she could offer was a psych unit. So I started calling anyone, everyone who would listen to me. And finally, this woman called me from Texas and she said, "I've heard your story from two different people, one in Florida and one in California, and you really need to go down to Washington DC to a Congressional hearing on October 7th, and Bob McDonald's going to be there." Bob McDonald was the former secretary of the VA.
Jessica: So I went down, and I went into the Congressional hearing, and I met with every single person in there. I had written out our story, typed it out, gave it to everyone. I introduced myself to Bob McDonald, and I told him our story and said that we needed help right away or that Brian was going to die. And in three days, he got him into an inpatient facility out in West Virginia with the VA.
Jessica: So Brian went into the 90-day program. And he was meeting veterans left and right who weren't getting help additionally with benefits that they deserved, so he started holding classes on how to get these resources until finally someone said to him, "Brian, you're a patient here, you can't just hold these classes." And so when he got out of the inpatient, he told me of the idea that he wanted to help these veterans. And he wanted to help take care of them and get them the resources that they needed. And of course, I was so supportive, but at the same time I thought well, great, let's add caregivers to the list because I couldn't get you help, it took me months to get you into a facility.
Steve: Your husband had the inspiration to create VetLinks, and I know he's not with us anymore, you carried it on. Could you just maybe tell us about that a little bit.
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. So when he passed away, I vowed to take over the nonprofit in his honor, and I wanted to carry his vision on. So after the funeral, a bunch of us were just sitting around the table, and I was telling a lot of Brian's friends about his vision, about what he wanted to do with VetLinks, and they said, "Let's do it." So we decided right then that we were going to take the nonprofit and move it in the right direction.
Steve: Well it's so admirable. And VetLinks has been around for how many years now?
Jessica: It'll be two years on December 20th.
Steve: Way to go. Kirk, let me ask you this. How did you meet Jessica and how did you get involved with VetLinks?
Kirk: Well first Steve, I want to echo Jessica's sentiment and just thank you for the opportunity to be on the program.
Kirk: The short answer to how Jessica and I met was through her relationship with my best friend, Brian Kavanagh. Brian, as Jessica mentioned, was really the inspiration behind VetLinks.org. The slightly, I guess, longer version of how we got together, Brian and I grew up in a small town in Pittsburg, Kansas. We did everything together, hung out, we played sports, found creative ways to get in trouble at times. We were basically together almost every day from preschool really through high school graduation. So about as tight as two guys could be.
Kirk: Flash forward a couple years, and Brian had gone through the ROTC program at Pittsburg State University in our hometown, got commissioned, and eventually the Army stationed him over in Baltimore where his relationship with Jessica begins. And about that same time, I was also on active duty and serving in Iraq at that point. And honestly, Brian had dated other people, but when we communicated on email and phones, there was just something different about the way he was talking about Jessica. He was certainly smitten with her, head over heels.
Kirk: So I returned that deployment in May of 2011, and Brian brought her to our good friend, Pat McNally's wedding, and that was the first time that we met in person.
Steve: It must have been so hard for you to see your best friend, your pal, suffer from such severe PTSD.
Kirk: Yeah, you know, it's hard to imagine knowing someone for over three decades, and then seeing their personality almost fundamentally change in front of you. It's one thing to hear words like post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, but to see the effects of that on someone you care so much about, it's almost impossible to describe. It was like when I'd go out to Baltimore with friends to kind of help Jessica intervene a little bit, and get Brian to realize what was going on, it was almost like a shell of himself. You look behind his eyes, and it just wasn't the same man that I'd grown up with and grown to love.
Kirk: The other thing that was interesting for me in my initial journey with VetLinks, was it was hard for me to kind of understand their struggle. As an active duty Army officer, the healthcare that I'm provided and still am has been phenomenal, the Army really takes care of its soldiers. But you know, when Brian left active duty he kind of gave up that camaraderie that is so unique to soldiers, you know, the bond that you form when you're in combat with somebody, it's indescribable for someone who hasn't been there. And so when Brian left active duty, he left that kind of network, that camaraderie of veterans.
Kirk: And then the second thing is, when you leave active duty, the level of care that's available to veterans just is not up to par compared to what's provided for us on active duty. And so what I kind of came to realize in seeing Jessica and Brian's struggles, is ... it's difficult for the VA to provide the individual, necessary support, if you will, that our veterans deserve.
Steve: So Jessica, let me ask you this, clearly you created VetLinks in honor of our husband and to help other soldiers like your husband. Can you tell us though a little bit more about what exactly VetLinks does, and who it's for, and how it helps them.
Jessica So VetLinks is for veterans, it's for our caregivers, it's for family members. And we want to be able to provide the immediate resources that they may need in a very immediate fashion. Whether that may be an inpatient stay, whether that might be therapy, alternative treatment, whether that's just getting a massage, or acupuncture, or having a babysitter come over to the house so the couple can go get the couple's therapy they may need. Or as a caregiver, getting a flight to be able to go see their veteran while they're in an inpatient center. I mean, it really could be anything. As long as ... our criteria is based off of our story, as far as post-9/11, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, TBI-related. But however and whatever resources they need, we want to be able to provide.
Kirk: Like any small business or nonprofit starting out, kind of identifying that target audience and developing our niche was hugely important for us. There's a lot of great nonprofits that do some really amazing things to assist veterans. So as we sort of developed our initial focus as a board, we thought let's model our target customer, if you will, on the Kavanagh family. So as Jessica mentioned, that's a combat veteran and their families who are struggling specifically from the effects of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse.
Kirk: And our original thought was, hey, if we can save one veteran, we can impact one family's life, we'll be successful. And so as we progressed a little bit, the other thing we came to realize is that one of the forgotten parts of this epidemic involves those caregivers that Jessica talked about. Those persons, or people that live day in and day out with their veteran.
Kirk: The other thing we learned is that the effects of post-traumatic stress can have profound impacts on the children of those veterans as well. So some of our focus has been specifically for those caregivers and children of veterans, in addition to trying to help veterans themselves.
Steve: So you make a really great point, Kirk. I mean, one thing I always talk about to my small business brothers and sisters is that you have to serve the market, and find a need and fill it. And clearly there is a great need for the work you are doing. I'm going to ask this question to both of you, and Kirk, I'll go to your first. What is it you find most rewarding about your work with VetLinks?
Kirk: Well I think first and foremost, it's the realization that we're helping people through our work. We've helped some people in some big ways, paying for inpatient treatments and such, and also in smaller ways. If I could I'd like to tell you a story about one of the first people that we helped. He was a Marine combat veteran named Matt. And when Matt got out of the Marine Corps, he really struggled with that transition back into civilian life. He had the telltale signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress, and was really abusing alcohol.
Kirk: And when we learned about Matt's story, we said, "Hey, this is exactly who we're trying to take care of." So VetLinks’ board kind of looked at the case, we voted wholeheartedly, let's get Matt some help. So we were able to provide six months of inpatient treatment therapy out in California. And Matt really took the treatment really well. And so we kind of followed his story as a new nonprofit startup, and I'm so proud to tell you, Steve, that he completed the six months of treatment, he got sober, and more importantly he got employed. And I'll tell you the great thing about that employment, Steve, is that he's actually employed with the VA right now. So it's about a story going full circle. Here Matt is struggling and we were able to help him through that struggle, and now he's living proof of what nonprofits like VetLinks can do, and we're so proud of the work he's doing in the VA to help his fellow vets out.
Steve: Well that's fantastic, and congratulations, and it's stories like that that are so heartwarming. I'm sure, Jessica, that is the kind of thing that you find incredibly rewarding as well.
Jessica Yeah, absolutely. We get emails and text messages and phone calls all the time, thanking us for everything. So it's really rewarding.
Steve: We are speaking with Jessica Kavanagh and Kirk Duncan of VetLinks, Vetlinks.org, and we will get back to that in a moment. But first I want to tell you a little bit about our friends at Bank of America.
Steve: I want to ask you this, have you heard about Business Advantage Relationship Rewards from Bank of America? It's a new program that rewards eligible small business owners with benefits and rewards that grow as their BofA business deposit, or their Merrill Edge, or Merrill Lynch investment balances increase. You can read about it at BankofAmerica.com/RelationshipRewards. There are all sorts of benefits, including no fees on select services from Bank of America. Including monthly maintenance fee waivers on up to four checking accounts and four savings accounts. A 25% to 75% rewards bonus on the base earn of every purchase you make with your eligible Bank of America credit card. Cash rewards based on your Bank of America merchant services monthly payment processing volume. Up to 20% interest booster on a Business Advantage savings account. And interest rate discounts on new loans and lines of credit.
Steve: Jessica, I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about some of the unexpected challenges you have faced along the way. You know, it's not easy to create a business, it's not easy to create a nonprofit, an organization, a website. What unexpected challenges have you found?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I personally think that one of the biggest challenges we have is dealing with getting passed the stigma of these men and women wanting to get help. I know Brian never wanted to get help, he never wanted to talk about his struggles, or his issues, until he finally did, and hit a wall, and then it was too late. So there's a stigma overall, I think, with people struggling with mental health.
Jessica: But just reaching them, and getting them to want to you know accept help, and get help has been one of our biggest challenges.
Steve: Clearly you're getting there. And Kirk, what about you? What do you think?
Kirk: Yeah, you know Steve, surprisingly, one of the unexpected challenges that we've faced was actually finding veterans and their families to help. As we started our nonprofit and found some initial success raising funds, we then had to figure out well how do we connect our resources, our monetary resources to those that need it? Reaching our target customer, if you will.
Kirk: Another challenge involved the need to screen veterans' requests, kind of ensuring that we were in compliance in terms of like the regulations safeguarding peoples' private information, their identity, and their health information. And luckily, these are both kind of challenges that we've been able to work through by our networking efforts.
Kirk: One thing that I think is valuable, whether you're serving the Army like I am, running a for profit enterprise, or working in a nonprofit like VetLinks, is really the power of networking. I think Jessica has been an absolute pro at networking in the Baltimore and greater Washington DC area. Her efforts and relationship building skills allowed us to connect with a great partner, and this organization that's called Code of Support. And Steve, what Code of Support and their partners do is they basically link together different veteran's charities, and are able to leverage the capabilities of each nonprofit in this collective partnership.
Kirk: So if a veteran reaches out through Code of Support and has the need that fits our model and our criteria, they pass that referral on to us and we're able to connect our resources with that veteran's specific needs.
Steve: Nice. Well clearly, Jessica, you are a master networker. Your story of how you went about helping your husband is pretty incredible. And if you brought those same skills to this endeavor, I'm sure you guys have an incredible network.
Steve: I'm wondering, in fact, how creating this organization and VetLinks has impacted your personal life. It began as a personal story, you and your husband, and you taking the mantle from your husband. How has it effected your personal life since then?
Jessica: You know, it's a challenge. I feel at this point I'm basically running three full time jobs between our two little girls, and I work for a medical sales company that I've been with for 14 years, and that of course pays the bills, and now running the nonprofit. So it's just ... the challenge is time management, and just figuring out the priorities for the day. And that's all I do, is I just take it day by day.
Steve: And Kirk, you, I'm guessing, have never started a business before, never created something from scratch. This has to have affected your personal life in ways you didn't expect either.
Kirk: Yeah, it's really brought into focus the criticality of managing the work/life balance. Like Jessica, I have children, I have four kids, and they're all active and doing sports and school activities, and so trying to fulfill my duties as an active duty Army officer, balancing that with being a husband and a father, and having such passion to try to help veterans that are like my best friend, Brian, it's been a challenge. But what it's taught me, as far as helping VetLinks, is just learning to balance and manage my time better.
Kirk: The other thing that kind of comes out of this is actually learning how to say no. When we first started out, we took every opportunity we could, we'd go speak to any group, big or small, and then now we have to really kind of weigh our opportunities, because our time is limited and we have to choose those opportunities that give us kind of the best return, if you will, on that precious resource which is time.
Steve: And Kirk, would you do anything differently now two years in that you think people might want to know about?
Kirk: You know, it's ... when you start any business, there's going to be certain things that you're good at, your core competencies, those things that you inherently feel comfortable with doing. And looking back, we were blessed to have a group of friends that had some unique talents that all contributed in meaningful ways to us starting VetLinks.org. But the one kind of, I guess, missing component was someone in our group, our initial Board of Directors, that had true nonprofit experience. It's different than running a for profit business. So if I could rewind time a little bit, the one change would've been to reach out to a mentor, or someone with that nonprofit experience to really be an initial guiding hand, as we launched this journey that is VetLinks.org.
Steve: That's a great tip. And I'm wondering about you Jessica, anything you might do differently and any advice you would give entrepreneurs or other people listening to our show today?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I would say if you have a conviction about what it is you're trying to accomplish, you're going to get there. I know we had a problem, and we still have a problem today, taking the proper care of our veterans and caregivers. But that caused us to learn, and to put one foot in front of the other. So if you believe in your product, don't be afraid to go for it, because success can only come from taking action.
Steve: You know, one of the things I love most about meeting the people I get to meet on this show is their enthusiasm and the initiative they take, and creating something out of nothing. As I mentioned, it's not an easy thing to do. And so, whether that's a small business, or a nonprofit, it really makes no difference. And what you're doing is admirable and great, and you're doing it so well too, so I would just recommend to anybody listening who has a veteran who needs help, VetLinks.org is a great website, and a great organization, and we are all lucky to have you doing the work you're doing.
Steve: So Kirk Duncan and Jessica Kavanagh, thank you both so much for being with us today.
Steve: For Bank of America, I'm Steve Strauss.
- Veterans Make Ideal Entrepreneurs: Here are the Resources You Need to Start a Small Business
- “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Episode 3: Exploring Veteran Entrepreneurship Part I
- “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Episode 3: Exploring Veteran Entrepreneurship Part II
- See how Bank of America shows its support and commitment to veterans and their families.
- Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs
Do you think your business has been the victim of identity theft? Not sure where to start or what to do? This fact sheet provides some guidance and a list of resources. It is important to note that the procedures for addressing business identity theft are different than consumer identity theft. The FTC only responds to consumer complaints and the credit reporting agencies won’t place a “freeze” on your account like they would for consumers. So, the traditional advice on how to respond to identity theft doesn’t apply to businesses.
As with any cyber incident, the first task is to figure out what happened. Interview staff, investigate and take notes – the goal is to document what occurred, how you found out, and collect evidence. Identify what accounts were affected, who has access to those accounts, when was the last time the account was accessed and/or when a transaction occurred. Check if other accounts have been affected. These are all examples of good data to collect. Change passwords to these accounts immediately.
If your credit card or line of credit was stolen, the next step is to notify the financial institution and put a freeze on the account. Once this has been done, you may need to obtain funds from another creditor in order to provide the operating funds until the account freeze is lifted. The analysis you conducted initially will be helpful when you contact the financial institution. As a business owner, many banks will require you to prove you or your employees were not the cause of the fraudulent charge. Your financialinstitution will guide you through the process, albeit a long one.
Credit Reporting Agencies.
Next step is to contact Dun and Bradstreet’s fraud department at 1-866-895-7262, firstname.lastname@example.org and report the theft. D&B will investigate the issue, confirm the information in question and correct any inaccuracies in your account. In many cases a “stop distribution” order will be placed on the account until the matter is resolved. The stop distribution or account freeze is shared with the other CRAs (Experian and Equifax, not TransUnion) who will flag your business credit file. This may affect your ability to obtain any additional credit. (TransUnion only manages credit files for consumers, not businesses.)
If you have been notified by the IRS that your business has been involved in a fraudulent tax return activity, they will guide you on the information they may need to conduct the investigation. They will only notify you by mail, not phone. Don’t fall victim to IRS phone scams! If, however, you notice that someone has used your business to submit a fraudulent tax return, notify the IRS at 1-800-829-4933.
Local law enforcement is required to respond to the incident. Call the non-emergency number to report the crime – reporting the crime will be helpful for insurance purposes. Ensure you obtain a copy of the incident report. Unfortunately, the crime may never be solved.
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Businesses can file a complaint at https:///www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. IC3 doesn't investigate crimes, but collects valuable statistics on Internet crime. Of particular, IC3 is interested in crimes related to website/online extortion, identity theft, intellectual property rights, hacking, and theft of trade secrets.
State Business Registries.
Many states offer resources for business identity theft. Visit your state’s website for information or resources for victims.
Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
The ITRC offers many free resources for victims of identity theft. While the business might have been the target of this crime, owners and employees often feel victimized as well. Visit their site at: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/
©2018 National Cybersecurity Society, All Rights Reserved
About The National Cybersecurity Society
The National Cybersecurity Society is a non-profit organization focused on providing cybersecurity education, awareness and advocacy to small businesses. The NCSS provides cybersecurity education tailored to the needs of the small business owner; helps small businesses assess their cybersecurity risk; distributes threat information to business owners so that they will be more knowledgeable about the threats facing their business; and provides advice on the type of services needed to stay safe online.
Tips to help protect your company during tax season
TIP 1: BE PREPARED FOR PHISHING SCAMS
Hackers and cyber criminals know you’ll be looking for ways to quickly prepare for tax season. Don't be fooled by emails that try to entice you to click on a link or download malicious content. If an offer looks promising, research the company, their competitors and verify their site is legitimate. If doesn't hurt to call them before you engage online.
TIP 2: ENCRYPT SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS
Encrypt sensitive documents before you sending them to your accountant. If the accountant doesn’t accept encrypted documents, then don’t send them online. Make copies and deliver them in person. Use only https websites for transmitting sensitive information.
TIP 3: TECHNOLOGY CHECKLIST
Since you will be reviewing expenses for the past year, now is a great time to create a list of your technology that should be protected, including copiers, printers, software services, websites, social networks and point of sale devices. Include detailed information about the service, age and security parameters.
TIP 4: DATA BACKUP
When is the last time you backed up your critical business data? Review your critical data and take steps to back it up it up with an encrypted service provider.
TIP 5: CYBER DAY
Has the CEO taken the time to talk to employees about cybersecurity? Schedule a monthly meeting to have the business owner talk about the importance of protecting the business from scams. Many scams target employees, so have them learn how to protect your company.
TIP 6: IDENTITY THEFT
In order to protect your identity and prevent fraudulent returns, learn the signs. Identity thieves often use letters to obtain sensitive information to conduct further attacks. For instance, you or your accountant might attempt to file your business tax return, but it is rejected, or you may receive a tax transcript by mail that you didn’t request. The IRS has several good references to protect against business identity theft. If you believe you've been a victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS via mail – information is available on their website - http://bit.ly/2ejECXg.
TIP 7: SHRED
Shred confidential business data. Make sure your employees also learn to shred sensitive information rather than simply throwing it away.
TIP 8: BUDGET FOR SECURITY
As you are reviewing your expenses from last year, assess whether your company is adequately protected. An industry best practice is to spend between 5-8% of your IT budget on IT security. The NCSS assists our members in obtaining quality cybersecurity products and services in order to keep your costs low.
TIP 9: ASSESS
Assess the risks to tax information to include your operations, physical environment, computer systems and employees. Make a list of all locations where you keep sensitive business data and implement controls to protect access.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In 2015, the IRS identified 233 business tax returns that were filed using known or suspicious EINs of which 97 claimed refunds exceeding $2.5 million.
- The IRS has found that identity thieves apply for and/or obtain an EIN using the name and social security number of another individual as the responsible party.
- Are you protecting your business identity from tax fraud?
- Learn more about business identity theft at our resource page.
Still have questions, need help?
Contact us at our “Ask-an-Expert” service, mailto:email@example.com or visit us at the link below.
© 2018 National Cybersecurity Society, All Rights Reserved
JOIN THE NCSS
Become a member of The National Cybersecurity Society today and learn more about how to protect your business from a cyber attack.
About The National Cybersecurity Society
The National Cybersecurity Society is a non-profit organization focused on providing cybersecurity education, awareness and advocacy to small businesses. The NCSS provides cybersecurity education tailored to the needs of the small business owner; helps small businesses assess their cybersecurity risk; distributes threat information to business owners so that they will be more knowledgeable about the threats facing their business; and provides advice on the type of services needed to stay safe online.
Click here to tune into BofA’s Small Business Podcast and "The Heartbeat of Main Street,” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America, for episodes covering a range of topics designed to empower and inform small business owners.
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