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How to Create a Winning Business Culture

When  a once-growing business stumbles, the cause is sometimes an overlooked culprit: the company culture.   Many good businesses with solid ideas, a great market and talented people start to lose their grip on growth after failing to win victories that seemed within grasp.   Slowly, the “win or die trying” mentality gives way to deciding how best to fail.

This saps energy from the business as people stop believing they can be successful.  “There is no obvious moment when the danger of failure becomes clear,” says leadership expert John Hamm. “But there is a moment  when a business enters the risk zone—when challenges arise and there are no clear answers. It is at this fork in the road that business owners must intervene with specific messages and actions aimed at getting everyone back into the winner’s mindset.”

Here are seven ways to keep a culture of winning alive in your business:

1)            Set reasonable goals:  There’s a thin line between an invigorating challenge and a deflating expectation. Business owners – and especially hard-charging entrepreneurs – should realize that not everyone may share their level of maniacal commitment.  Sure, top performers are often inspired by stretch goals.  But goals that are clearly beyond a reasonable expectation of success are worse than easy goals—they can actually damage your company’s energy.

2)            Avoid the trap of “pseudo-wins.”  Everyone likes to reward small wins.  And that’s great.  But it becomes a problem when that’s all there ever is and everyone starts to major in minors. In other words, keep your perspective. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important, and where the wins are most needed. The danger in seeking minor wins all the time is that when everyone seeks those small satisfying moments that can be gained from simple tasks, nobody tackles the tougher jobs. 

3)            Banish lame excuses.  Every workplace has the equivalent of a “the-dog-ate-my-homework” excuse.  Don’t buy it.  Some tolerance is required, but there should be clear lines as to what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  In other words, define clearly what success looks like so there’s no confusing it with something that is really a failure. Huge amounts of energy are expended on complex excuses and playing the blame game.  Shortfalls are certain; and expected.  But what you want is an insightful explanation for the gap so the problem can be fixed.

4)            Don’t tolerate sloppiness.  The nice guy in all of us wants to avoid the perception of being a hardcore drill sergeant and will politely overlook a cut corner, incomplete report or other shoddy work.  But sloppiness often stems from laziness or simply not having enough pride in the finished product.  Successful businesses don’t allow sloppiness because they know it equals death.

5)            Discourage data fudging:  Achieving and measuring victories often requires interpreting data of one kind or another.  But data can be interpreted to fit whatever you want it to fit. This “editorialized data” is a big danger.  Business owners, as eternal optimists, have a tendency to signal  their dislike of bad news. When that happens, others will begin to shape and color the data to meet your expectations and needs. Feedback becomes corrupted and the likelihood of success begins to plummet.

6)            Measure what matters: The right metrics will help enormously.  Look for reality – not what you simply expect.  Measuring what matters is critical to successful execution. Once your plan is set and underway,  you must rely on feedback (metrics) to make course corrections along the way. 

7)            Make your commitment to winning absolute:  “A tolerance for excuses, corrupt data and a distorted view of what is really happening ‘out there’ is akin to boiling a frog one degree at a time,” says Hamm.  “The frog can’t tell how hot the water has become until it’s too late.”  You must avoid the rationalization that occurs when winning seems out of reach and keep your commitment to making it work.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A New Dental Discount Plan for Small Business

When it comes to offering a dental insurance plan as an employee benefit, most small business owners have to pass on affordability grounds.  Cheap or low-cost dental plans are nowhere to be found. But low-cost, easy-access dental discounts plans are something worth chewing on, and a newly launched service called Brighter is providing a way for small businesses and even startups to offer employees access to deep-discount dental services for a tiny annual fee.

The Brighter Small Business Plan – at an annual cost of just $49 per employee (that could easily be a monthly charge under most insurance plans) – can save that and then some in a single dentist visit.  Overall, Brighter estimates that employees and family members can cut their dental costs in half, with no limits on dental visits and discounts of 54-65% on all procedures,  including exams, cleanings, x-rays, fillings, crowns, extractions, root canals, TMJ, broken teeth and bridges.

Brighter’s mission, in part, is to help provide affordable dental care to small businesses and employees who don’t have access to or can’t afford dental insurance.  And Brighter, a startup itself, walks its own talk by encouraging its employees to take time out of the work day to visit a dentist during a designated week every six months.

What’s more, with Brighter you aren’t stuck with choosing a dentist from someone’s narrow, pre-defined list. Brighter gets patients the best possible price on dental care through a partnership with Careington International, a leading provider of dental discount plans. Careington has negotiated up to 60% discounts on nearly every procedure with over 25,000 dentists in 87,000 locations across the United States.

The prices you see on Brighter are the prices you will pay to that dentist – no asking for estimates or waiting until the end of the visit to find out how much you owe. And since you can see exactly what a procedure costs on the Brighter website, you can also shop around for the absolute best dental deal. And since finding a trusted local dentist can be difficult, Brighter also lets members plug into social media sites to find and select a dentist based on recommendations from friends in their personal networks. 

The Brighter basics are simple:

  • Find a Brighter dentist from the network, online.
  • Join Brighter to tap into the member discounts.
  • Pay your Brighter dentist directly.

With Brighter, business owners can build a cost-effective, do-it-yourself (DIY) dental plan that will give employees something to smile about.

Here’s the list of Brighter cities and states:

Brighter Cities: Atlanta | Austin | Baltimore | Birmingham | Boston | Buffalo | Chicago | Cincinnati | Cleveland | Columbus | Dallas | Denver | Detroit | Fort Worth | Hartford | Houston | Indianapolis | Jacksonville | Kansas City | Las Vegas | Los Angeles | Louisville | Memphis | Milwaukee | Minneapolis | Nashville | New Orleans | New York | Norfolk | Oakland | Oklahoma City | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | Portland | Providence | Raleigh | Richmond | Riverside | Sacramento | Salt Lake City | San Antonio | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Jose | Seattle | St. Louis | St. Paul | Virginia Beach | Washington DC

Brighter States: Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | D. Columbia | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | Mississippi | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

5 New Keys to Cutting Small Business Health Insurance Costs

Health insurance remains as expensive, confusing and out-of-reach for most small businesses as ever.  If your business already has a health insurance plan, you probably know that costs keep rising.  And if you don’t, all of the talk about health insurance reform so far has probably only made your business even more befuddled.  And now this: A new survey by shows that less than 20% of business owners believe they’d find better benefits if they shopped for health insurance this year.

 But hidden in the health insurance fog are some valuable benefits and cost-saving opportunities – plus potential pitfalls you should know about.  Basically, small business owners who haven’t boned up on the latest changes could miss out on important chances to save money. Recent changes now in effect can help you get better benefits for little or no additional cost, including free preventive care screenings. There are also big-dollar tax breaks that can benefit some businesses with existing plans (see Claim your Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit).

And here’s something else you should know:   Insurers in many states are looking to attract more small businesses and have started offering lower rates to new customers, which means your business may be able to save money by switching carriers this year.  Here are five key to getting the most from your small business health insurance right now:  

  1. Take advantage of recent changes: In addition to new small business tax breaks, health reform has mandated new benefits in plans now being offered that include preventive care screenings at no cost, and no lifetime limits on your health coverage.  But watch out:  If your business bought health insurance before reform passed in March 2010, your plan is probably “grandfathered” under the old rules and won’t provide the new benefits.  While the new benefits won’t lower your premiums, they don¹t seem to have increased prices for small group plans either.  And free screenings might head offer bigger health problems later, saving your business money in the long-run.  Plus, small business owners no longer have to worry about one employee’s illness maxing out the coverage on the entire plan.
  2. Customize benefits to costs:  Ask employees what benefits they really need and want, and construct a health plans that gives them only the benefits they are willing to help pay for.  (Always keep in mind, however, that it¹s illegal to ask employees to provide specific information about their health history or what kinds of benefits they use most.)  But, you can find out if they¹re interested in chiropractic care or dental insurance – benefits they could pay for on their own. You might also create an anonymous survey to find out what benefits they value most, or if they¹d prefer higher monthly premiums with low deductibles, or vice-versa.  
  3. Share the costs:  Consider the possibility of having employees contribute to monthly premiums, especially if they want broader benefits.  According to the eHealthInsurance survey, many small employers are still unaware that they can have employees share the cost of monthly premiums.
  4. Investigate new health coverage options:  More and more small business owners are exploring plans that include Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flex Spending Accounts (FSAs).  Such plans often come with higher deductibles, however, which many employees fear.  Under many new plan designs, it is now easier for employers to contribute to an employee’s HSA account and eliminate that fear of a high-deductible, while still saving money.
  5. Shop for different insurers:  It’s tempting for time-pressed small business owners to shop once for a plan and move on.  And some business owners stay with a long-time insurance provider on the mistaken assumption that their favorite doctor or hospital only accepts the plan they have. But it’s a good idea to re-shop for coverage every two or three years to be sure you¹re still getting the best deal.  Big companies switch all the time to save money, and you should too. 

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Essential Guide to Hiring Teens for Summer Jobs

About four million teenagers will hold summer jobs in the U.S. this year.  If you plan to be among the millions of small business owners who provide those jobs it’s important to know the special rules that govern teenage workers.

Government statistics show that young workers suffer a disproportionate share of on-the-job injuries.  According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at least 160,000 teens suffer work-related injuries or illnesses each year; about a third requiring emergency room treatment. That can put your business at risk. And many injuries occur in businesses you might not think of.  For example, more than 75% of incidents happen in the retail and service industries – not sectors usually considered more injury-prone such as manufacturing and construction.

Young workers – especially those in their first summer jobs – are at greater risk of workplace injury due to inexperience. And also because, well, they are teenagers who may hesitate to ask questions (my own teens know everything, so why bother to ask?) and may fail to recognize workplace dangers.

Here are 10 teen hiring essentials:

1. Review federal and state laws on teen employment — especially the rules on what types of jobs teens are allowed to perform, and which ones they aren’t.  Many small businesses, and especially those just starting out, aren’t sure what’s required of them, or where to look for help.

2. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor rules affecting full- and part-time workers in the private sector. The rules vary depending on the age of the young worker and his or her duties. But two things are certain: a) Once an employee is 18, there are no Federal child labor rules, and; b) Federal child labor rules do not require work permits.

3. Dozens of private suppliers sell OSHA compliance materials, and there are many safety consultants to choose from, available easily online. But your best starting point is OSHA’s small business website which offers abundant assistance. Visit: Check out Compliance Assistance Quick Start, which helps new small businesses understand the rules and find the right resources.

4. The Department of Labor has a special website devoted to the rules of youth employment called Youth Rules at  Here you’ll find information and links to almost everything you need to know about both federal and state rules and limits on the hours teens are allowed to work, and jobs they can perform, including key information on age requirements, wages and resources for young workers.

5. Another helpful government site called Young Workers has a wide range of information on summer job safety for specific sectors such as construction, landscaping, parks and recreation, life guarding and restaurants. Under landscaping, for example, you’ll find tips on preventing injury from pesticides, electrical hazards, noise and many others.

6. The small business FAQ section is a must. It includes a long list of the most common questions small business owners have about hiring teens, along with dozens of links to detailed answers.

7. Restaurants rank especially high among industries at risk for teen worker injuries. OSHA even has  a special website devoted to safety for teen workers, covering areas such as serving, drive-thru, cooking, delivery and others.

8. Hours and Age Restrictions: For teens employed in non-agricultural jobs, restrictions on hours and jobs include these:

  • Minimum age is 14.
  • Those 18 or older may perform any job (hazardous or not) for unlimited hours.
  • Youth 16 or 17 may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours.
  • Youth 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs. They cannot work more than three hours a day on school days; or more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
  • During the school year, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. However, during the summer that’s extended to 9:00 p.m.

9). State labor laws can differ. Check the list of State Labor Offices to find the appropriate agency in your state.

10. Before you assign a job to a minor, be sure that it is allowed by law. If you have a specific question regarding the job which you are hiring a minor to perform, contact the Department of Labor’s toll-free help line at 866-4US-WAGE (866-487-9243).

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Rules and Benefits of Employee Credit Cards

Sooner or later, growing businesses face this decision:  Should certain employees have their own company credit cards?  While many biz owners are psychologically opposed to issuing plastic to employees, business credit cards can actually be big time and money savers.  They greatly reduce the number of checks you have to write, provide detailed and itemized expense documentation, and reduce the frequency and cost of employee expense report reimbursements.

They can also save the day.  Say, for example, you have a big presentation first thing tomorrow morning. You send your key employee to pick up the finished presentation materials at the printer, which closes in an hour. Your employee shows up with a signed check for the original quote, but the final total is higher.  What now? If your employee has a business credit card, you wouldn’t have to cut a check in the first place, and there’d be no problem.

Still, there are a several factors to consider when entrusting employees with a business credit card.  Here are three rules that business owners should consider when issuing company cards:  

  1. Set spending limits:  Often, the best way to prevent credit card abuse among employees is to set tight spending limits and “merchant category codes” (MCCs) to limit areas in which employees can spend money on the card.  For example, American Express offers MCC blocking of 281 standard individual and 28 proprietary predefined groups of codes.  By using this feature, business owners can allow employees to spend only with merchants in specified categories. You can also link card holders to a list of MCC codes and enable them to spend at any establishment other than the merchants in the codes listed. You can even restrict spending to specific merchants or locations by using Preferred Supplier Lists.
  2. Issue guidelines and a written company policy:  In other words, do not assume employees know their limits when it comes to credit card spending. Ask employees to read and sign a written agreement that states compliance with the company’s rules for using credit cards.
  3. Review statements regularly:  Regardless of trust in employees or any signed company policies, it is important to remain aware of employees’ spending.  Conduct regular reviews of credit card expenses. It’s easy to do online where you can see precise details of every transaction.  Also ask employees to provide receipts and to reconcile their spending monthly.  Immediately bring any questions or concerns to the employee’s attention.
  4. Capture points and rebates:  Using company credit cards is also a great way to consolidate business purchases, earn points and capture extra discounts. 

For free comparisons of business credit cards that can help your company expand and save money, visit the business card section at CreditDonkey. You can search, compare and apply on the website, finding the best business credit card for your needs.  Card issuers, such as American Express, sometimes offer extra cards on existing accounts at no additional charge for business customers in good standing.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.