Category Archives: Small Business News

How to Protect Your Company’s Data

As a computer systems network manager and member of the nonprofit High Tech Crime Consortium, Kevin McDonald has seen all manner of data disasters: the medical company whose patient treatment records were lost in a warehouse fire; the police department whose website host vanished overnight; even the careless employee whose leaky liter of Coke ruined a computer server. “If you are a small business and you have a catastrophic loss of data, more likely than not you will never recover,” says McDonald, executive vice president at Alvaka Networks in Irvine, Calif. “Data storage is so cheap now, if you can’t afford it you should shut your business down and do something else.”

Yet many small businesses do not adequately plan to cope with data loss. Online backup provider Carbonite, based in Boston, surveyed 1,005 employees at companies with one to 30 Internet-enabled computers in July 2011. That survey and additional research by the company reveal gaps in backup plans: Although 70 percent reported that they do some data backup, 48 percent said they had lost or deleted data accidentally, and only 13 percent felt vulnerable to a data disaster.

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The 10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs in 2012

As the global economy writhes and rattles, entrepreneurship has ever more clearly emerged as the solution to economic recovery. Young startups not only create nearly two thirds of America’s new jobs, they also bring forth innovation that often revolutionizes humanity and provides widespread prosperity. The best part is, ease in creating businesses has increased dramatically due in large part to apps and sites that help entrepreneurs.

Here are 10 of the best digital tools to help you launch and grow your startup:

5 Steps To Lower Employee Turnover

Over the past year, Big Fuel has seen its revenue more than triple, to $40 million, and its head count swell, from 70 employees to 140. But with growth comes growing pains. Like many start-ups, the New York City-based social-media marketing agency had never bothered with a formal orientation program and was finding it difficult to train all these new staff members—many of whom came from disparate industries and lacked experience in social media. As a result, Big Fuel began to experience a problem it never had: employee turnover. As the churn mounted, Avi Savar, the company’s founder and chief creative officer, grew concerned that the company would lose its competitive edge when pitching clients. “It’s a matter of staying ahead of the curve,” he says. So last June, Big Fuel unveiled an onboarding process for new hires. Here’s how the system worked for one recent hire.

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Networking Advice: 5 Tips for an Effective Elevator Pitch

Tell me … what do you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what can you do for me?

And tell me quickly.

Such is the challenge of the elevator pitch – a personal marketing spiel seldom delivered in elevators, but a staple of networking.

A skillful elevator pitch can be the foundation upon which new professional relationships are built. A not-so-skillfull pitch will make sure you are forgotten — or, even worse, leave a bad impression with a potentially valuable contact.

“The perfect elevator pitch should take no more than 30 seconds and incorporate your number of years of experience, areas of expertise, key skills and some key projects or brands that you have been associated with,” says Jessica Bedford of niche recruiting firm Artisan Creative. “If there is anything that makes you stand out, work that into your pitch as well.”

Yes, easier said than done – but doable, nonetheless.

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The Top 10 Things Employers Get Sued For

Employers may unintentionally violate employment laws and never realize the risk they create for the company. Trying to provide some flexibility for an employee, saving money for the company, or just being nice are all ways that an act of kindness can become a business liability.

CalChamber’s “The Top 10 Things Employers Do to Get Sued” white paper details some of the mistakes that could lead to employee lawsuits. Topics include:

  • Exempt and nonexempt employee classification
  • Meal breaks
  • Independent contractor status
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Hours of work
  • Termination
  • Leaves of Absence
  • Final paycheck
  • Deductions from wages
  • Vacation policy

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Family Businesses Should Plan Now for Rising Gift Tax

The 2010 law governing gift and estate taxes is set to expire at the end of this year. For 2013, assuming Congress does not act, the lifetime limits on gift tax will fall from $5.12 million to $1 million. That means an individual can gift, over his lifetime, no more than $1 million tax-free starting in 2013. The top gift tax rate on amounts of more than that $1 million threshold is also scheduled to rise from 35 percent to 55 percent starting next year.

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Small-Business Optimism Hits New Four-Year High

Optimism amongst small U.S. businesses rose to its highest level in more than four years in February, data released Tuesday showed, yet business owners remain concerned about future prospects.

The National Federation of Independent Business‘s small-business optimism index rose 0.4 point to 94.3 from 93.9 in January. The February figure was its sixth consecutive monthly increase and its strongest level since December 2007.

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Consumers don’t expect brands to be flawless

Consumers will embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity.

Two key drivers are fueling the FLAWSOME trend:

  • HUMAN BRANDS: Everything from disgust at business to the influence of online culture (with its honesty and immediacy), is driving consumers away from bland, boring brands in favor of brands with some personality.
  • TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH: Consumers are benefiting from almost total and utter transparency (and thus are finding out about flaws anyway), as a result of the torrent of readily available reviews, leaks and ratings.

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How Form 1099-K Affects Americans With Overseas Businesses

If you are living outside the U.S. and using a foreign address on your credit-card and electronic payment accounts, you will probably not be issued the new 1099-K tax form, says Barbara Weltman, a New York-based tax attorney and author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2012. In the instructions governing 1099-K reporting, the IRS specifically exempts payment processors from having to report transactions made to payees with foreign addresses. (I took a look at what the new rule means for businesses in the U.S. in a previous column.)

Of course, if your accounts are set up under a U.S. address, you will get the form. And either way, if you are a U.S. citizen you must file a Form 1040 and pay federal taxes on your income, regardless of where it comes from, says Wonsun Willey, a tax partner in the Morgan Hill (Calif.) office of CPA firm Sensiba San Filippo. Depending on whether you own property or have business interests in specific states, you may also be required to file state tax forms, Willey says.

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Look Out, Here Comes the 1099-K

Starting in January 2012, business owners will begin getting new tax forms issued by their credit-card and online-payment processors and intended to keep businesses from hiding income. The form, called 1099-K, will document all 2011 transactions processed for sellers with more than 200 transactions and $20,000 in annual gross receipts. The IRS estimates that 53 million forms will be issued by such processors as eBay, PayPal, and Amazon as well as credit-card companies, says Steven Aldrich, chief executive officer of Outright.com, which makes online bookkeeping applications for self-employed people and small business owners. Aldrich spoke with Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein about how small business owners should handle the new forms.

The new 1099-K requirement was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 but is just now taking effect. Why is the government mandating this?

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