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Posts Tagged ‘Compliance’

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: NolaPro (Cloud Accounting)

February 27th, 2013 ::


Getting a five-star rating from CNET is nothing to be humble about. NolaPro is a cloud-based accounting system that includes invoicing, order tracking and inventory tools. Not just for accounting, NolaPro also has extensive CRM capabilities and is customizable for your business. NolaPro can also act as an employee time clock, do your payroll and integrate with other Web apps. It’s also available in a desktop app. You can try the NolaPro tool for free for 30 days; after that, subscription rates start at $9.99 a month.

9 Employment Trends You Need to Know About for 2013

January 18th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What does 2013 hold in store for your employees and your business? According to the 2013 Workforce/Workplace Forecast from The Herman Group, 2013 will look much like 2012, with most employers adopting a “wait-and-see” approach to hiring and U.S. unemployment remaining above 7 percent for the year.

Here are 9 other trends you need to know about:

  1. Recruiting will intensify in many industries. Both big and small companies, especially in the IT sector, will feel pressure to hire due to burned-out, overworked staff. The bad news for small employers is that with big companies (with bigger benefits) hiring too, competition will be fierce.
  2. Trained, experienced workers will be in short supply in many fields. Consider promoting from within and providing your entry-level employees with the training they need to move into higher positions. Also develop relationships with local schools, colleges and universities to give you a pipeline to educated workers.
  3. Communities will become more aware of the lack of skilled employees, and smart local leadership will invest money and effort into developing the local workforce for the careers of tomorrow.
  4. Gamification will be used in training, performance evaluations and as a bonding tool to make work more fun and build relationships. It’s an especially important tool for companies seeking to engage their Millennial employees.
  5. Companies will use social networking to recruit new employees and to train and develop those they have. Don’t forget the internal social networks that even small companies have: If you’re looking to hire, try looking for referrals from your existing team.
  6. Companies will keep trying to do more with less—cutting staff and hiring independent contractors to squeeze still more productivity and profit out of their teams. There’s a right way and wrong way to re-engineer, Herman Group notes. Try to do it without cutting staff.
  7. “Job churn” will grow as too many employers continue to ignore what’s needed to create a happy, engaged work force. “There is a tremendous pent-up energy for job-hopping, which many employees have been putting off for years,” Herman Group warns. Ignore it at your peril.
  8. A second Obama Administration will likely mean greater regulation. You’d be smart to have access to an attorney with HR expertise, just in case. Herman Group believes that the Affordable Care Act may spur small and midsized employers to move from providing health insurance to taking part in “insurance exchanges” and funding their employees’ purchase of coverage there.
  9. Last, but not least, your small business might see more competition in 2013: Herman Group believes more unemployed people will take advantage of the growth in independent contracting by starting their own businesses (or at least becoming freelancers) to supply the services that businesses need.

Image by Flickr user brian Dhawkins (Creative Commons)



6 Legal Tips to Start Your New Year Out Right

January 14th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Want to make 2013 a year of unprecedented growth for your business? I asked the experts at online legal service RocketLawyer for their best tips.

1      Properly incorporate. The No. 1 legal mistake made by small businesses is the failure to incorporate. When you incorporate your business, you create a legal entity separate from yourself that conducts business, generates income, and assumes tax and legal liabilities. By creating a “corporate veil,” incorporation legally shields your personal assets in the event that your business faces a lawsuit. Online legal services offer free incorporations (you pay only the state fees!) and cost-effective monthly legal plans for small businesses. Plus, you can get legal advice from real attorneys and documents ranging from hiring agreements to contracts.

2      Start the New Year on the “write” foot. According to a recent Rocket Lawyer survey, one in four businesses have had trouble collecting payments from their customers; and of those businesses, 60 percent have written off bad debt. To ensure payment, always create a contract that clarifies what work will be done, for what pay, and the billing procedure before beginning the work. Creating a contract is essential to ensure on-time payment and puts you and your client on the same page.

3      Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow. Expand your presence online by monitoring information on business-focused websites such as Google +, Yelp and Manta.  If your online presence on such sites is not maintained internally, your company may be buzzing in places whether you’ve created a profile or not. Claim your company profile and help it attract more traffic by adding your logo, product and service offerings, social feeds and more.

4      Cultivate peace of mind.  Create a Buy-Sell Agreement, commonly referred to as a “Business Will.”  This document details what happens should one party leave the business, either through active means (alive) or circumstance (death).

5      Protect what’s earned and what’s given. Intellectual property is a legal fortress that protects your valuable assets and defends against your competitors.  Do yourself a favor and know the advantages of, and the differences between, trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and patents.

  • Trade secrets are the most common form of intellectual property, offer a perpetual monopoly, will not expire like a patent and can be protected through simple non-compete and non-disclosure contracts with your employees.
  • Trademarks protect your logo, brand and business name from unfair use.
  • Copyrights protect other original content.
  • Patents, give you the rights to your invention: a useful and actual process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.

Since you’ve already done all the hard work, make it count!

6       Always keep good counsel. Good legal advice is a competitive advantage and can be the difference between success and failure, so it’s really important to have an attorney to keep you on the right path. There are a lot of things you can do yourself, but an attorney can help you strategize, plan for growth and answer the questions you didn’t even know to ask. In the event of an unfortunate or unforeseen incident, your attorney will be there to help protect you and your business.  Remember, it’s better to pay a little up front than a lot down the road.

Image by Flickr user Steve Snodgrass (Creative Commons)

How to Be a Good Interviewer

January 3rd, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Do your New Year’s plans for your business including hiring new employees? Then you’ll want to make sure you get the perfect person for the job. One of the most important parts of choosing a new employee is conducting a good job interview that gives you all the information you need to make a decision. But many small business owners aren’t sure how to do a thorough interview. Here are some tips to help you.

Be prepared. Before the interview, review the candidate’s resume and job application. Also create a list of questions that you ask all candidates. This not only helps ensure you don’t forget anything important, but also means you’re judging employees from a level playing field by asking everyone the same things.

Focus. Don’t check your email, answer your phone or look at your computer during the interview. Not only is it rude, but you’ll also get distracted. You only have a short time to talk to this person before deciding you want to make them part of your business; shouldn’t you be paying attention?

Ask open-ended questions. Instead of questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no,” ask questions that require an explanation or call on the candidate to elaborate. You’ll get a better sense of the person’s personality that way, as well as fuller descriptions of his or her experience.

Know what you can and can’t ask. To avoid getting in trouble for discriminatory hiring, in general, you should stay away from questions regarding an interviewee’s age, marital or parental status, religion, race, disability or legal immigrant status. (This Nolo.com article provides more information and resources on hiring questions.)

Make it a team effort. If you get nervous during interviews, to the point where you find it hard to focus, consider having a partner or key employee conduct the interview with you. You can take notes and observe the candidate, while your partner can do most of the talking. This tactic has the added benefit of giving you someone else’s perspective on the candidate.

Write it down. Take notes on the candidate’s answers to help you remember what was said, especially if you’re interviewing several people in a row. After each interview, spend 5 minutes or so jotting down the relevant information, including your first impression of the person.

Follow up. Let the candidate know when he or she can expect to hear from you regarding the job—and be sure to follow up when you say you will. There’s nothing worse for a candidate than waiting in limbo to hear about a job offer. What’s more, if you’re not professional about how you handle this, it could affect your business’s reputation on social media.

Image by Flickr user Marco Bellucci (Creative Commons)


Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Wave (Cloud-Based Business Finance Tools)

December 31st, 2012 ::


Microbusinesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) have specific accounting needs, and Wave Accounting wants to be the solution. Recently, Wave released a completely new product suite, a new website and new personal finance tools. Wave’s cloud-based products help small businesses with their customer transactions, invoicing, receipts management and personal finance. Plus, new mobile apps will be launched in January for payroll management and receipt scanning–everything the small business owner needs in one convenient online location. The tools are perfect for freelancers, consultants and contractors that need invoice customization, choice of currency and the ability to seamlessly convert estimates and quotes into invoices.

Year-End Tax Planning for Your Small Business

December 18th, 2012 ::

By Karen Axelton

The end of the year is coming, and that doesn’t just mean holiday celebrations—it also means you only have a matter of weeks to take advantage of some last-minute tax strategies that can save you money.

Contribute to your retirement plan. If you haven’t already contributed the maximum this year and you want to lessen your tax bite, make an extra contribution to your plan before December 31. (Don’t have a retirement plan? There are many options available even for solo business owners, so start investigating and set up a plan for the New Year.)

Make charitable contributions. This is another way to reduce your taxes owed. Consider donating outdated equipment, vehicles or other business assets to a school or nonprofit organization that can use them, and your business can get a deduction.

Make major purchases now. For the past few years, small businesses have enjoyed an expanded Section 179 expensing deduction. For 2012 the annual limit is $139,000, meaning you can expense up to $139,000 in furniture and equipment your bought for your business in 2012. Currently, this limit is scheduled to shrink to just $25,000 for 2013, so if you’re considering a major purchase or buying new equipment, now might be the time to take the plunge.

Accelerate expenses and defer income. If your business operates on a cash basis, you can apply this strategy. Pay expenses before the end of the year (charging expenses on credit cards is considered payment) and give your clients a little extra time to pay you so you don’t have the payments in hand and don’t have to declare the income on your taxes.

Take advantage of the health care tax credit. If you have fewer than 25 employees and provide health insurance for them, you may be eligible for a tax credit going back to 2010. Eligibility depends on factors including your employees’ average wages and how much of the insurance premium you contribute. Visit the IRS website for details on the tax credit and how to claim it.

Get organized. You don’t want to be dumping a shoebox full of receipts on your accountant’s desk at tax time. Start now to pull together the records and paperwork you’ll need for your business’s tax return. This way, you can get any missing documents together in plenty of time. Getting better organized will help ensure you don’t miss out on any deductions that are rightfully yours—and that saves you money.

Consult your accountant. The right year-end tax moves for you will vary depending on your business, so check with your accountant now to determine what last-minute strategies you can use to cut your tax bill and maximize your income.

Image by Flickr user Images of Money (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: startupPerColator (Document Creator)

November 30th, 2012 ::


Need a legal document for your business? startupPerColator is a user-friendly, interactive website that enables entrepreneurs to generate the legal documents needed to form a Delaware “C” corporation, free of charge. Available documents include a Certificate of Incorporation, Bylaws, Action by Written Consent of the Sole Incorporator, Action by Unanimous Written Consent in Lieu of the Organizational Meeting of the Board of Directors and an Action by Written Consent of the Stockholders. To help entrepreneurs to get startup financing, startupPerColator also offers users access to a free, customizable term sheet generator that the firm developed based on National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) model documents.


Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor (Health Benefit Website)

November 2nd, 2012 ::

Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor

Is your business required to offer employees the Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) benefit? If so, do you know which employees are eligible for FMLA leave, what entitlements and benefits are provided under the law, and in what situations FMLA leave can be used? All of your questions can be answered at the Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Advisor website. FMLA covers everything from caring for a newborn to a sick relative to some military reasons, and it’s important to know the rules so your business is always in compliance.

Is Your Small Business at Risk of Being Sued?

October 30th, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

If you think lawsuits against businesses only happen to big corporations, think again. According to statistics released by Bolt Insurance Agency, more than half (57 percent) of lawsuits affect companies making less than $1 million in revenue, and one out of every three small business owners has been sued or threatened with a lawsuit.

Even if your small business is not at fault and wins the suit, the cost of defending yourself can seriously deplete your business bank account or, in some cases, even be enough to put your company out of business. According to the statistics cited by Bolt, small businesses’ out-of-pocket costs related to lawsuits top $35.6 billion annually. Aside from the financial costs, nearly three-fourths of small business owners (73 percent) report that a lawsuit hurt their reputation and creditworthiness; 74 percent say it led to an increase in the cost of their products or services; and 71 percent say it forced them to cut back on hiring.

What if the worst happens and you actually are found liable? The average amount that juries award to plaintiffs in a consumer product liability lawsuit is $279,309; in a commercial product liability lawsuit, it’s $725,000; and in a medical, industrial or construction product liability lawsuit, it’s more than $1.25 million.

One area of particular concern for small businesses is employment-related lawsuits. The number of harassment claims (related to issues such as age, sex and disability) has risen by 25 percent since 2006.

The reality is, no matter what your business does (or doesn’t do), you are at risk of a lawsuit. How can you lessen that risk? Of course, buying liability insurance is one good way, but Bolt offers some other tips:

  1. Be prepared. Don’t assume a lawsuit can’t happen to you. Honestly assess risk areas in your business. (An insurance agent, your attorney and/or your HR team or consultant can help here.)
  2. Put things in writing. Don’t close deals on a handshake. Always have signed contracts in hand before starting work for new clients. Also create employment contracts for use when hiring new employees.
  3. Don’t ignore employee complaints. When a minor grievance between employees turns into a harassment claim, it’s often because the boss doesn’t take the complaint seriously. Investigate all complaints by your employees and document what you find. Talk to your attorney if you have concerns about a situation escalating.
  4. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. If you’re trying to save money by not buying insurance, or by not having your attorney create contracts or review documents, you could pay the price later.

Image by Flickr user Wikileaks Mobile Information Correction Unit (Creative Commons)



Web.com Small Business Toolkit: elaws (Employment Law Assistance)

October 22nd, 2012 ::


Knowing which employment laws apply to your small business can be confusing. It’s important to comply with the laws, but can be difficult to do if your company isn’t big enough to have its own HR department. The elaws Advisors from the U.S. Department of Labor are interactive e-tools that provide easy-to-understand information about a number of federal employment laws. Each Advisor asks questions and provides answers based on the responses you give. The online Advisor simulates the interaction you would have with an employment law expert. Also look here for updated DOL employment laws that may apply to your business.