Friday, August 16, 2013

The Family Business

Small business owners are always tempted if not obligated by guilt or necessity to hiring family members.  Hence, the term "mom and pop." Hiring family members can have its advantages.

  • They might work for free or cheaply while you are first building your business, especially if they are your children and have no choice.
  • They might just be more loyal than your average employee. 
  • You feel more comfortable having people you know around you in case you mess up or don't know what you are doing. 
  • You don't have to search for employees and worry about trusting new people.
  • They might be less inclined to report you if you are late with paychecks.
  • They might not try to collect unemployment. 
All of these points make it easy for the small business owner to go straight to the family tree when looking to make new hires. 

However, this strategy does have its downsides:

  • Less separation from work and home. Work problems follow you to your home. 
  • Family holidays could become mighty awkward if you had to fire your cousin because he was a bad employee.
  • Family members do take advantage, show up late, do less work - all behind the shield of being a part of the "family."  Just because they are family members doesn't mean they are naturally good employees.
  • The number one downside is that it is very hard to grow your business if you only hire family members.  Unless you have a really big family, most businesses would like to grow beyond the size of their family. 
When you hire family members, you create an environment for your business that says you are just about the family.  Any new employees coming in are going to naturally feel left out.  No matter how hard you try to seem like a fair employer, it will seem like nepotism.  If you have more family members than non-family members, the family culture will dominate. Your small business will be filled with more conversations about personal family business and other inside jokes than work business, and those from outside the family will never understand or fit in.  As a result, outsiders won't truly feel as if they belong in your business or as if they can have the opportunity to become a vital member of the team. Loyalty and group teamwork will suffer when all workers don't feel like an equal and valuable member of the team.  Good employees will only stick around a place where they feel they have an equal chance of advancement and opportunity.  

If you want to ever expand your business, you must think outside the family tree and about how you can recruit the best and brightest to build your brand.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Always Get it in Writing

Sometimes people call you to offer you a special deal on a service or ask you to come to an event or provide you with instructions of what you have to do to complete a particular project.  While this personal phone call is a great tactic to get you to pay attention to what is being requested or demanded of you, it can also get you in trouble.

When you only receive a verbal communication, it can be challenged.  It is a good idea to protect your small business by getting the information in writing via email.  If someone gives you a deadline, ask for a written communication or create one yourself. One tactic is to reconfirm the information over email.  Start your communication by stating "as per phone conversation on such as such date . . . (restate the request made)."  This tactic is especially helpful if you are dealing with someone who is trying to threaten you or claim that you were negligent or insufficient in some way.

Another tactic, is to request a followup email of any invitations, meeting requests and informational requests so that you can better keep track of all your appointments.  Simply ask the person to send the information in writing as you are so busy that you don't want to forget.

As a given, all requests for payments should always be in writing via an invoice or order form before you cut a check. Get estimates in writing for costs of services and have a contract drawn up before work begins, so that you can be assured that the price won't unexpectedly increase.

Lastly, when and if you have to fire employees, it is a good idea to put any employee reprimands and warnings in writing to protect your business and provide a track record of why you had to get rid of a certain employee.

Getting things in writing can help you protect your small business by providing a chain of evidence for all your interactions and expenses so that you have a written account of all business transactions and what happened during each exchange ~ providing easy access to backup evidence against fraudulent charges, false accusations and any claims of wrongdoing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Online Solutions for Troubled Times

Today's massive meltdown of hosting services such as Justhost, Hostgator, and Bluehost as well as a bunch of other services controlled by Endurance International Group and technically owned by all the same people that was caused by only God knows what but blamed on a "router" caused a multitude of small businesses to be without their websites, emails, and now telephone services for basically 6 to 8 hours.  Consumers cried foul, asked for their money back, tried to switch services and cancelled numerous accounts citing loss of dollars, missed opportunities and unprofessionalism as main reasons for taking their business elsewhere.

Yes, today's outage was an inconvenience and horrible for all those impacted.  However, server outages happen daily across the globe in one form or another to a lot of people.  Some last only a few minutes, some a few hours, and some days and weeks.  Websites get attacked and hacked, emails get blocked as spam, mechanical and technological failures occur and have always occurred.  Yes, it seems like hackers are growing, spying is everywhere and every single day someone somewhere is attacking your wordpress blog with spam comments and causing your site to crash. However, we are also becoming more and more addicted to instant access to our websites, emails and other Internet-based forms of communication.  We want to pay $2.99 for our website and have it never go down.  This reasoning is a bit unrealistic and sets you up for gross disappointment.

So, how do you save money and not have a server outage ruin your small business?

First of all, accept that server outages are going to happen and you will lose some business when they occur.  That is life. These losses can be regained in the future so don't despair for too long.

Second, don't put all your eggs in one basket.  Meaning, don't buy all your services from one cheap-o provider.  Diversify your communications.  Have backup free email accounts like yahoo and gmail for if and when your work email goes down.  Don't set up your VOIP phone service with your website hosting service and with your Internet provider.  Have different accounts.  Yes, they means remembering to pay multiple bills.   However, when one goes down it doesn't mean all go down.  If your office Internet goes out, you can go to a coffee shop and still read your emails and work on your website.  If they are all the same provider, you don't have that option.

Thirdly, develop a presence online in multiple forms.  Have a social media site as well as a website. Chances are pretty good that your website and your Facebook and your Twitter are not going to all go down at the same time.  Use your social media sites to keep up with your clients during website server outages and communicate with people who have questions.  These services are also useful when your telephone service goes down and you can't be reached.  You can quickly post that you are still open for business and give alternate ways in which you can be reached.

Lastly, maintain a positive outlook.  Doom and gloom never got anybody anywhere. So, don't you start.  These situations are momentary hiccups on the road of life.  Treat them as such and deal with them with a calm attitude and before you know it all your invaluable technological services will be back up and running at 100% with no worries for you or your clients.

You don't need to go out and buy the most expensive web hosting service you can fine.  Because, chances are, that service will go down at one point in time.  Instead, plan for the inevitable and work with what you got and take advantage of the multiple of online solutions for your business.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Storage Ideas for Small Spaces

A cluttered room is often the result of living or working in a small space.  As stuff accumulates, the room will quickly look like a dump with over-flowing shelves and stacks piled up in the corner.  Working in an office full of papers piled in boxes and every corner occupied with mounds of stuff is often not a comfortable place to work.  In addition, it sends the message to clients that you are not very organized.

Here are some ideas to make the most of the space you do have with little money:
  1. Snap and go plastic shelves that you put together yourself can be an affordable way to get items off the floor and into some kind of order.
  2. Bankers boxes for magazines can help keep them neat and orderly. These letter-sized boxes can also be used for daily files that require easy access.  They don’t take up much space and can be put right on your plastic shelves.
  3. File cabinets.  They can be expensive.  However, you can get them used at thrift stores for about 20 dollars.  Just keep your eye open for those good deals.  Network and get old file cabinets from other businesses.  People throw out file cabinets all the time as they upgrade to new ones. You can put more than just files in your filing cabinets.  You can put extra supplies such as copy paper, packing tape, scissors and extra computer cords to get them out of your way and save space in your desk area.
  4. Store extra folding tables and folding chairs in the closet and bring them out only when needed.  You can save a lot of space by storing things that aren’t used daily and bringing them out only when needed.  There is no need to have a lot of extra chairs around if you can fold them up and put them away until needed.
  5. Label boxes, folders and file cabinets for easy put away and retrieval.  If things are labeled, you will be more likely to put things in their appropriate place and also find it easier to find them when needed. It just takes a few minutes to make a label, but it will save you valuable time in the future. 

So, make the most of your small space by getting organized and presenting an organized and competent appearance to your clients.