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The Right Way to Reject a Job Candidate

rejectedMost small businesses today know about the importance of online reputation and the power of social media to help or hurt that reputation. Dozens of websites and rating services, from the majors such as Yelp, Twitter and Facebook to those serving specific business sectors such as travel, are open for anyone to express an opinion.

What many business owners haven’t yet realized, however, is that the so-called “Yelp factor” reaches into the job interview process as well. With social networks allowing everyone to share their experiences, good and bad, through a wide range of social media platforms, business need to be aware of how they deal with job applicants as well as customers.

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Rejecting a job candidate the right way can avoid negative comments and finger-pointing, notes Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek, a firm that offers a variety of small business services.

When a business decides not to hire someone, it is free to let the person know or not know he or she didn’t get the job. In the past, most businesses chose the latter approach since there were no consequences one way or the other. If these companies were aware of any ill will these actions generated, it wasn’t something that kept them up at night.

Things are different today. Job applicants freely share their experiences, good and bad, through a wide range of social platforms. Being treated poorly after applying for a job always makes for a good story and word travels fast if it’s a particularly bad experience.

It simply makes good business sense to treat job applicants in a dignified and professional fashion. Not only does it go a long way toward soothing wounded feelings, it elevates the perception of the business and creates goodwill.

Here are some tips on rejecting a job candidate the right way:

1. Don’t wait. Prompt notification of a job-seeker’s status significantly reduces the individual’s anxiety and stress. After a decision has been made, let finalists know the outcome.

2. Reach out in one of three ways. Ideally, a brief telephone call is preferable. It’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s also the quickest, most direct way to make contact. An email is the next choice and takes little time to compose and send off. Finally, a rejection letter can be sent as long as the tone is right. In any written communication, be sure to:

  • Address the applicant by name.
  • Thank him or her for taking time to apply and interview for the open position.
  • Get to the point clearly and politely.
  • Add a brief, positive comment about interview.
  • Encourage future contact, where appropriate.
  • Offer feedback, where appropriate.

3. If the job applicant barely missed the mark, or demonstrated talents and abilities that might later be of interest, encourage him or her to “please keep us in mind.” If it’s possible to provide a little feedback on where the applicant fell short (delivered in an upbeat tone), it might offer some insight into areas where he or she can seek improvement for the next job interview. This honest approach is often greatly appreciated by the recipient.

4. End on a positive note. Thank the candidate once again for his or her interest in the open position and wish them luck in their search for the right job.

5. In most cases, it’s best not to include any details regarding other candidates (including anything about the person actually chosen). This information is open to misinterpretation and may only aggravate the situation. And if there’s no plan to consider this applicant again, don’t tell them “We will keep your resume on file.”

Just as applicants can go to Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to complain about a bad job-hunting experience, when they are treated well they will likely share this news as well. This can be great publicity for your business and assist in the future hunt for qualified job candidates.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

5 Ways Business Owners Scare Their Employees

scareWhether you know it or not, being a business owner also requires being a leader – especially if you have employees. If you don’t display good leadership skills, you won’t get the most from your employees, and your business will suffer.

Despite good intentions, many business owners and managers unknowingly strike fear into employees simply by what they say – or don’t say. And fearful employees are not productive employees. They react to fear with the primitive ‘fight, flight or freeze” instinct and begin to focus only on their own survival, says Christine Comaford, a leadership consultant and author of the new book “How Teams Become Brilliant Together” (Portfolio/Penguin 2013).

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Here are five ways that business owners inadvertently scare employees into a dysfunctional state:

1. You “help them out” by giving them solutions. When you constantly tell people what to do instead of encouraging them to figure things out on their own, you develop a business full or order-takers instead of innovators. By training them to always ask, you end up with a group of workers who are perpetually frozen in survival mode.

On the other hand, when you engage people in problem-solving themselves, you create a sense of safety, belonging and mattering.

2. Your meetings are heavy on sharing and point-proving, and light on promises and requests. Meetings that are rambling and unfocused send people into fear and confusion. But short, high-energy meetings that have a clear agenda keep everyone motivated. Ideally you should focus on only enough information sharing to solicit requests from people who need something, and promises from people who will fill that need.

If you tune up your communication, the result will be meetings that are efficient and effective, and that keep your employees happy as well as productive and accountable.

3. You give feedback to employees without first establishing rapport.  In short, you must be able to influence people, not just boss them around.  Here are three shortcut phrases that can help you do that:

  • “What if…” When you use this preface to an idea/suggestion, you remove ego and reduce emotion. You’re curious — not forcing a position, but kind of scratching your head and pondering.
  • “I need your help.” Specialists call this a “dom-sub swap” because when the dominant person (the boss) uses it, they are asking the subordinate person to rise up and swap roles. This is especially effective when you want a person to change their behavior or take on more responsibility.
  • “Would it be helpful if…” When a fearful employee is unable to move forward, offering some options will help them see a possible course of action or positive outcome.

4. You focus on problems, not outcomes.  Instead of asking ‘What’s wrong?’ and ‘Why is this happening? You should ask ‘What do we want?’ and ‘How will we create it?’”

Being outcome focused is more energizing and fills people with confidence. Avoid saying things like “Let me help you” or  “I’ll make it better for you.”  Instead, say “What outcome would you like?” and “What will having that do for you?”

5. You talk about change in the wrong way. Most business owners and managers want their businesses to change. That’s the only way to grow and get better. But as we know, most employees – and people in general – fear and resist change.

People tolerate change better if it’s framed the right way – more like “sameness with a difference.” Try presenting change as merely an improvement in what is already being done. The bad stuff is being removed, and the good stuff is being added. You might even avoid using the word “change” at all and instead use “growth” which is less daunting to most people.

“All business owners want to outperform, outsell, and out-innovate the competition,” says Comaford. “And most of us have teams that are quite capable of doing so. We just need to stop scaring the competence out of them.”

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Obamacare Small Business Quick Start Guide

Obamacare.v2Whether you’re angry, happy or just plain confused about how “Obamacare” (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, or ACA) will impact your business, my best advice is this: Get over it!

Official start date is January 1, 2014, but some provisions are already in place (such as healthcare tax credits for small biz) with more coming soon. Time to buck up and figure out what it means for your business, what steps you need to take and how you’re going to deal with the changes.

Many business owners and entrepreneurs are still in “wait and see” mode. That could be a mistake if you end up overpaying for existing coverage, or want to get first time coverage and face health expenses before getting your coverage in place.

Details Unfolding

Details of healthcare reform are starting to unfold. The U.S. Small Business Administration, for example, has launched a new website ( and blog ( devoted exclusively to explaining it for small business. And while the SBA’s take on ACA is certainly biased to the upside, this new resource does offer a helpful gateway to information about how it will work.

Keep an eye out for something called the Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP. This program, launching in October, is designed as a (relatively) hassle-free way for you to find health insurance. If it works as promised, you’ll be able to choose the coverage level you want, what portion of employee costs you want to pay and tap available tax credits. You can sign up to receive email updates about SHOP at the website.

Starting in 2014, you or your small business can also get insurance through a new type of non-profit, consumer-run health insurer called a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP). As with other co-op setups, these insurers will be run by their small business and self-employed customers themselves. Such CO-OPs are meant to offer consumer-friendly, affordable health insurance options to small businesses and must meet the same state and federal quality and financial standards as other plans. You can find more at the website.

Here are some key provisions based on the size business you are, from self-employed to 50+ employees.


Health insurance coverage for the self-employed will be in place and available through a new competitive health insurance marketplace in each state no later than January 1, 2014, with open enrollment starting October 1, 2013. You’ll be able to choose from four levels of coverage that pay different percentages of your costs.

Under 25 and Under 50 Employees

One provision already in place is a tax credit (way better than a simple deduction) for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees that pay a portion of employee health premiums and meet other criteria. Right now, the credit maximum is 35% of what you pay for coverage and that will go to 50% in 2014.

Small Business Majority, an advocacy group for small business, has a handy Health Care Tax Credit calculator on it’s website. You’ll see it on the right side of the homepage at:

Also starting in 2014, businesses with fewer than 50 employees can use the SHOP system to secure coverage. The assumption is that competitive pricing and pooled purchasing will lower costs significantly, although that’s yet to be seen.  Right now, small businesses pay about 18% more on average than big companies for equivalent coverage.

50 or More Employees

This is where mandates kick in. Starting in 2014, businesses with more than 50 full-time (defined as working 30 or more hours weekly) employees must offer health insurance or pay an “assessment.” The details of this “Employer Shared Responsibility” and other ACA tax provisions are available on the IRS website at See Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions under “Hot Topics.”

Starting in 2016, businesses with up to 100 employees will be able to buy health coverage through SHOP.

Here three other helpful features available on the website:

  • Timeline for implementation: What you need to do and when.
  • State-by-state breakdown of new healthcare options for small businesses.
  • A glossary of healthcare act terminology.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

How to Hire Teens While Staying Sane and Legal

Beautiful Young AdultsSoon, teenagers by the millions will be seeking summer jobs – the vast majority at small businesses coast to coast. An estimated 18 million U.S. teens will work this year, one of the highest totals in the developed world.

Speaking as a parent of teens, this is a good thing.  But in its song Teenagers, the rock group My Chemical Romance seems to capture the U.S. Department of Labor’s take on teens with a refrain that says “Teenagers scare the living @#$% out of me.”  DOL, you see, is rife with rules and regulations on teen labor, and prone to enforcing them with fines and sanctions. As are its state gov counterparts.

For example – and not to pick on Portland – but one recent DOL “enforcement initiative” involving Portland restaurants found violations of minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws at a whopping 79% of the eateries. Even kid-focused Chuck E. Cheese locations in San Francisco were fined $28,000 for violating child labor rules. Whoops!

The point is this: If you plan to hire teens for summer (or other) jobs, be careful.

Most rules are common sense, and deal with safety issues. That’s because young workers suffer a disproportionate share of on-the-job injuries. About 160,000 teens suffer work-related injuries or illnesses yearly…about a third of them requiring emergency room treatment.

And more than 75% of incidents happen in the retail and service industries – not sectors usually considered more injury-prone such as manufacturing and construction.

Teens at Greater Risk

Young workers – especially those in their first summer jobs – are at greater risk of workplace injury because of their inexperience. And also because, well, they are teenagers who may hesitate to ask questions and may fail to recognize workplace dangers. (What did that song say?)

Familiarize yourself with federal and state laws on teen employment – especially the rules on what types of jobs teens are specifically not allowed to perform.

Finding Help for Hiring Teens

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 at Look for OSHA Compliance Assistance Quick Start, which helps new small businesses understand the rules and find the right resources. It’s a step-by-step guide to major requirements that may apply.

DOL has a helpful 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 federal and state rules, including limits on hours teens are allowed to work, and jobs they can perform. This is where you will also find information on age requirements, work permits and wages.

Another helpful government site called “TeenWorkers” has a wide range of information on summer job safety for specific sectors such as construction, landscaping, parks and recreation, life guards and restaurants. Under landscaping, for example, you’ll find tips on preventing injury from pesticides, electrical hazards, noise and many others. The small business FAQ section includes a long list of the most common questions businesses have about hiring teens, along with links to detailed answers.

OSHA says that restaurants rank especially high among industries at risk for teen worker injuries, and even has a website devoted to restaurant safety for teen workers. To find it, check the A-Z Index at the top of the OSHA homepage under Restaurant Safety.

A Few Teen Hiring Basics

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.

Before you assign a job to a minor, be sure it’s 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 © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

4 Reasons to Ban the Yearend Bonus

Sure, nobody wants to be labeled a Scrooge. But if you’re among the roughly 50% of U.S. businesses (and shrinking) that still offer traditional yearend bonuses, it might be time to join the 21st century – and plan for something different in 2013.

Too many small business bonus plans operate on autopilot, under “conventional wisdom” that offering yearend bonuses works. But these ritualized holiday handouts can actually undermine your mission, strategy and goals.

“As an employee incentive strategy, the traditional yearend bonus is better suited to the 19th century world of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol than today’s workplace,” says employee recognition expert Michael Levy, CEO of Online Rewards, who’s created incentive programs for a wide range of large and small companies.

In fact, the yearend bonus or gift has already been fading for some time, according to surveys conducted by the human resources firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Five years ago, nearly three-fourths of companies surveyed said they offered yearend awards – a figure that’s plunged to just half, and appears headed lower.

More and more businesses are discovering that “automatic” bonuses do little to reward and retain high performers, nor do they help much with morale or loyalty. Yearend rewards are often too far removed from actual positive actions that occur throughout the year to be meaningful. Business owners who drop yearend bonuses are shifting instead to year-round efforts that have proven more effective.

Unless you’re a Wall Street firm (where plump yearend payouts remain a staple of the trade), reviewing your strategy could be a good idea.

Here, BizBest offers four reasons to ban the yearend bounty and look for new ways of getting more bang for your bonus buck:

1. Yearend bonuses have little impact on performance.

Traditional yearend bonuses as applied at most small businesses simply don’t have a significant impact on employee behavior. For the most part, they are symbolic rather than strategic. Even if you’ve “always done it,” bite the bullet and ban the bonus. Today’s employees react more positively to the instant gratification of receiving real-time rewards throughout the year, rather than waiting 12 months for a bonus envelope.

2. Payouts or gifts should be based on performance, not entitlement or tradition.

Some of America’s most innovative small companies are realigning holiday bonus budgets to put them more in step with individual performance, as well as overall business goals and results. Instead of offering yearly lump sum payouts, these businesses are creating continuous reward and recognition strategies that recognize outstanding performance when it happens. These timely rewards are better able to target employees based on individual performance.

3. Year round programs are better at strengthening relationships between employees and business owners or managers.

By offering smaller but more frequent rewards throughout the year, you’ll regularly promote behavior that advances your overall business goals and creates a more lasting positive perception among employees – and customers, too.

4. A “meaningful” bonus might be much less than you think.

Numerous studies show that most employees merely want to be recognized for their ongoing contribution to the business. This doesn’t require a Wall Street-sized check. “Many workers are happy with a $25 gift certificate to a local store or restaurant,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray. “Others would be happy with an extra day or two of paid vacation at the end of the year.” Electronic devices, gift cards, travel vouchers and movie passes often serve as better rewards than cash because they are indulgences the employee might not otherwise experience. Cash often goes toward basic expenses (credit card debt, for example), and is less memorable.

Not about being cheap

This isn’t about cutting costs or being cheap. But done right, your investment in bonuses and rewards throughout the year will improve results and help achieve your business goals.

Instead of the stale yearend approach, consider a variety of employee reward and recognition programs, sales incentive solutions and even customer loyalty programs tied to employee performance. Your goal should be to create engaging and purposeful incentive solutions, not simply a bonus plan that people starting thinking about when the weather turns colder.

 Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

8 Ways to Deftly Handle Customer Complaints

When a small business receives a customer complaint it has two basic choices: Treat the complaining customer like a pain in the neck, or use the complaint as an opportunity to improve.

Business owners who are adept at handling and learning from complaints know all too well that one complaining customer might represent many others with the same problem who did not speak up. They’re the ones who tell others, complain about you online, and take their business elsewhere. Here are eight ways to deftly handle customer complaints, suggested by Ron Kaufman, author of “Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers” (Evolve Publishing, 2012).

  1. Thank the customer for bringing it to your attention. “Show appreciation for the complaining customer’s time, effort, communication, feedback, and suggestions,” says Kaufman. “Always keep in mind that the customer didn’t have to come to you at all. They could have simply taken their business elsewhere.”
  2. Don’t be defensive. It’s easy to get defensive when an angry customer is on the other end of the line or in your face. Just remember that customers with complaints tend to exaggerate situations, so getting defensive will only make it worse. When a customer complains, they’re doing so because they feel wronged in some way. You don’t have to agree with what they’re saying. But you do have to hear them out. That’s how you move the conversation in a positive direction.
  3. Acknowledge what’s important to the customer. Even if you think the customer’s complaint is unfair, there is something they value that your business didn’t deliver on. Embrace that value. “What the customer wants is to feel right,” says Kaufman. “When you agree with their value dimension, you’re telling them they are right to value this specific thing.” For example, if a customer says your service was slow, then that customer values speed. You might then acknowledge that they deserve quick, efficient service.
  4. Apologize once, upfront. Every service provider knows that the customer is not always right. But the customer is always the customer. You don’t have to admit you were wrong, but you should apologize for the inconvenience. When you do that, you’re showing understanding and empathy.
  5. Express your desire to improve. When you understand what the customer values, show them things your business does that helps you perform well in that area. Calmly explain what happened. “Show you are sincere about your commitment to do well in the areas the customer values,” says Kaufman. “At the very least, you can say you’re going to make sure everyone at your business knows about the problem so it won’t happen again.
  6. Offer helpful information. Part of hearing the customer out is answering any questions they have about the specific situation. Provide additional, useful information as much as you can. If they ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, tell them you’ll find out.  And then actually follow through. These are additional opportunities for you to say through your actions that you value their business.
  7. Contain the problem. Let’s say a family is at a crowded theme park on a hot day. The youngest child in the group starts to have an all-out meltdown. Suddenly, a theme park staff member sweeps onto the scene and whisks the family into a special room. Inside, they find an air conditioned room with water and other beverages, an ice cream machine, a bathroom, a comfortable sitting area, etc. The only thing missing in the room is any connection to the theme park’s brand. That’s because this room is used to isolate customers from the brand until they’re all — parents and children —having a more pleasurable experience.  “That’s how you contain a problem,” says Kaufman.
  8. Recover. Show the customer you care about them, even if you feel your business did everything right. Businesses worry that they’ll get taken advantage of if they offer vouchers, discounts, or freebies as part of their service recovery. But in reality that rarely happens. “Offer the customer something and then explain that you’re doing so as a gesture of goodwill or a token of your appreciation,” says Kaufman. Businesses do this because they know that a successfully recovered customer can become their most loyal advocate.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Foolproof Framework for Hiring Perfect People

Here’s a motto every business should live buy:  Hasty hiring brings frequent firing.  Unfortunately, however, the hiring “process” for many firms still consists of little more than posting a job opening, sorting resumes and hiring the first person who makes a good impression and survives the gauntlet of interviews.

But the consequences of poor choices can be severe. If you keep an unproductive person on, you’re damaging your business.  But when you fire someone you face administrative costs, possible severance pay and maybe unemployment compensation. Then you’ll have to pay to attract and train a new candidate. Meanwhile, you pay others more to take up the slack.

Toughen Up Your Interviews

“It’s better to take your time and temporarily be short-staffed than to lower your standards,” says hiring expert Dave Anderson, who’s given over a thousand leadership presentations in 13 countries.  Anderson’s key advice? Become a better interviewer! And use the interview process in new ways to eliminate weak candidates and find the perfect fit.

For example, many interviewers throw softball questions at job candidates. You should toughen up that process and use it to eliminate or “knock out” candidates through smart, rigorous, values-shaped questioning.   This turns hiring around.  Instead of it being an inclusive process, it becomes an elimination event.   “The knockout interview begins before you ever meet a candidate,” says Anderson. “In fact, your goal is to avoid face time as much as possible. From the very first resume, start looking for reasons to cut individuals from consideration.”

It’s About Quality, Not Quantity

Stop believing you have to see large numbers of applicants to find the best one.  You don’t.  It’s exhausting and unproductive to interview lots of the wrong people. Make as many cuts as you can with an initial phone interview. Here are five tactics that will save you time and help you find perfect hires more quickly:

1.            Look for an ability to be faithful in the little things. When it comes to making great hiring choices, no detail is too small. How well a person performs on little things is indicative of how well they’ll perform on big ones.  Start evaluating this capability when the first résumés arrive. As you read them, look for reasons to put some in the “reject” pile, keeping in mind that you want to uphold your organization’s standards of excellence.

2.            Make sure the candidate has the basic ability to do the job.  In addition to making sure that candidates communicate clearly and respectfully, your task is to ensure they can fulfill the core, non-negotiable requirements of the position. For example, you may want to ask applicants if they’re available to work certain days or hours, or if they’re comfortable performing specific tasks.

3.            Let them do the talking:  It’s an interview, not a monologue.  Many business owners try to put job candidates at ease by doing most of the talking and spending much of the interview telling the candidate about the company. Your job as leader, however, is to assess an applicant’s character and competency. Don’t be intimidating or overbearing, but keep in mind that your goal is to evaluate the prospect’s accomplishments, because past performance is far more telling than past experience.

4.            Consider their journey, not just their current location:  Don’t judge applicants strictly by the career “level” they’ve reached.  Dig deeper to determine how they got to where they are. You may be surprised at what you find.  Some people are given a generous head start in life, while others have been forced to navigate many obstacles. These candidates may have faced the kinds of challenges that can forge greater strength of character and persistence.

5.            Share your core values before hiring. The objective of the knockout interview formula is to find a reason to say “no” to a job candidate. By sharing your core values with applicants, you may find that some knock themselves out for you. Describe your organization’s core values and behavioral expectations before extending an offer. Let applicants know that you have non-negotiable standards for integrity, teamwork, attitude and attention to detail. Then describe what these behaviors look like in practice.

This formula works because it forces candidates to show through their actions that they have initiative, really want the job, and can be an asset to your business.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. Follow us on Twitter @140Main

Keeping Time and Attendance in the Cloud

A BizBest® 60-Second Solution

Time and attendance systems are one of the most searched-for services by small businesses.  And some of today’s best choices are cloud based services that work especially well for business owners who use remote workers, independent contractors or others off-site.

If that’s you, and you need a service you can log into at any time and see when your workers punched in for the day, Labor Time Tracker (LTT) is one solution to consider. It’s an easy-to-use, web-based (cloud computing) employee time and attendance service that uses either plain old phone punching (regular telephone service) or an Internet-connected PC to track time for a small or medium sized business.

LTT replaces hand written time sheets and helps decentralized (mobile) employees punch in their time using a standard phone or any internet enabled device.  It’s a fast and smart way to track employee or contractor time for job costing as well as payroll.  It’s also a great “time clock” for field labor and other employees in industries such as healthcare, construction, government, janitorial and security guards services. What’s more, the system is in both English and Spanish.

Features of this low-cost system rival those of more expensive time and attendance solutions and software used by big companies. It was built for the web from the ground up, so it’s super fast. Other features include:

  • Unique in/out board lets you know where employees are and when they will return
  • Can be used for 1 employee to hundreds
  • Can accommodate multiple locations
  • Offers multiple access levels and security features
  • Auto-adjusts for daylight time
  • Supports all US and international time zones
  • Employees and supervisors can digitally sign and approve timecards and export to accounting or payroll
  • Notice posting lets you send messages to individual employees or entire groups
  • Allows punch-in from any computer, or via cell or land line phone
  • Rounds punches to nearest minute, 10th or quarter hour
  • Prevents workers from punching outside schedule
  • Automatically deducts lunch minutes from a timecard and/or adds payable break minutes to timecard
  • Accommodates multiple in/out punches daily

The cost is $4.95 per employee, per month.  And since it’s cloud based, there are no setup fees, license fees, training fees, support fees or contracts.  A free trial is available at the website.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

How Business Owners can Fight Rising Fraud

 “Back office” and other types of financial fraud are rising at U.S. companies, and are hitting small businesses especially hard. Fraud experts point to the lingering effects of recession, cutbacks that have eliminated financial checks and balances at many businesses, and simple complacency as key reasons.

According to Joseph Wells, a CPA and founder of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, these three major risk factors can lead to fraud in a small business:

1)    Inadequate screening of employees before they are hired. Doing background checks is advised.

2)    Inadequate financial controls around record-keeping, bank accounts and how cash is handled.

3)    Too much trust. Sadly, the very thing that makes a small business a nice place to work also helps thieves succeed.

Some common back office fraud schemes include billing for non-existent goods or services, creating fake vendors, writing checks to dummy businesses or taking kickbacks from vendors.

A recent survey of small business owners by TD Bank, one of America’s 10 largest financial institutions, found that 75 percent are taking at least some steps to protect themselves against financial fraud.  But most aren’t doing nearly enough.

“It pays to be vigilant,” says Robert Dunlop, who heads corporate security and investigations for TD Bank. “Given the influx of new technologies available to small business owners, it’s important to learn about the latest techniques used by criminals, and to be more diligent in defending against fraud.”

Here are some tips for protecting your business against financial fraud:

Employ financial checks and balances.  Perform an internal review of company finances monthly. Make sure payment amounts match all invoices, and check for missing documents.  Running random audits or having a third party audit the books yearly shows employees that you are serious about fraud and deters would-be thieves.

Protect computer systems and practice web awareness.  Being complacent about cyber protection has cost many small companies dearly.  Every computer should have the latest firewalls and anti-virus software. Beware of “phishing” schemes that try to obtain confidential information from you or your employees. These usually take the form of an email that appears to be from a financial institution or service provider, but is fraudulent.  While most are easy to spot, some contain enticing headlines or appear to come from a legitimate address.

Guard sensitive hard copy documents, too.  The digital realm isn’t the only place your information is at risk.  Employees and others can steal your mail, credit card information or checks.  Printed financial statements and other sensitive papers should be shredded or stored securely.  Most financial institutions now let you opt out of receiving paper statements entirely, so that’s something to consider.

Even innocent photocopiers pose risk. “Most copiers built since 2002 contain a hard drive that stores every image scanned, copied or emailed. When you sell or upgrade your copier, the machine is usually reconditioned, but often the hard drive is left intact,” says Dunlop. Once the machine is resold, anyone can simply pop out the hard drive and access confidential information such as income tax and bank records, social security numbers, and medical records.

Use secure online banking.  Online banking is a secure way to manage small business finances. Most major banks now provide numerous levels of online security. Benefits include 24/7 access to real-time information, account transfers and payment management. You can easily schedule and manage payments and will have an audit trail of all transactions.  Be sure to check account activity regularly. Having instant access to payment histories helps you monitor spending for any discrepancies.  

Get proper insurance. Crime and fraud-related losses generally aren’t covered by property insurance policies, so it’s important to protect money losses from workplace fraud.  “Fidelity Insurance” protects your business against criminal acts such as robbery, embezzlement, forgery and credit card fraud. Liabilities secured under this type of insurance usually include money loss coverage (burglary or theft) and employee dishonesty (embezzlement and forgery).

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How to Defuse Workplace Conflicts

Workplace conflicts can sap energy from any small business. Whether it involves employees, vendors or contractors, getting such issues resolved is critical to smooth sailing. Business managers overall spend an estimated 40 percent of their time dealing with conflicts both big and small.

That’s just normal, since disagreements, disputes and honest differences exist everywhere. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, the key is this:  By treating conflicts as catalysts for increasing energy and productivity, you can turn them from negatives into positives. Here are five ways to make workplace conflicts constructive:

1.    Don’t be a mediator. Many small business owners and managers try to be neutral party mediators in workplace conflicts when in fact that’s not their role. Your obligation is to the interests of the business and others who work there, and you need a combination of skills, structure and finesse to express (and impose) your own view on how things need to be.

2.    Open with an icebreaker:  Most people are ready to complain, debate or argue at the outset of any conflict. They’ve conjured up their best arguments and are ready for battle. For best results, don’t go straight to the topic of the controversy.  That will only get people stuck in their positions. “You need to do something different,” says Steven Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, which helps teach conflict resolution skills. What you need is a way to open a conversation about difficult issues in a non-threatening way.

An icebreaker is not idle chit-chat, but a smooth transition. The ideal opener might ask for a person’s own take on something both work-related and positive. For example, if the conflict involves two workers involved in the same project, ask each of them how they became involved and what they hoped to achieve.

3.    Listen closely. Sometimes what you don’t say is more important than what you do. Good outcomes come from listening carefully to others. This sends a positive message that you are genuinely concerned. And it’s simply the best way to get to the bottom of what’s really going on. “To get this going, ask an open-ended question,” says Dinkin. Then listen carefully to that person’s side of the story. Quickly re-insert yourself into the discussion if it turns negative.

4.    Use and encourage positive language:  Any frustrated business owners knows how easy it can be to slip into negativity after a conflict erupts. Always think before you speak. “Remember, it’s a conversation, not a trial,” says Dinkin. “If you keep the language positive, whoever you speak to will likely mirror what you’re doing. Even the needs of the business can be expressed I positive terms, which will lead to a better tone overall.”  For example you can say, “This is affecting the entire business, and we need to address it so we can get everyone focused back on our goals.”  When you keep things positive, you can work toward great solutions efficiently and effectively.

5.    Aim for SMART conflict solutions: Your goal is not just to defuse a situation in the near term, but to come up with a sustainable answer to the problem.  That requires the so-called SMART approach that has the following qualities:

Specific:  Be clear about who will do what, when, where and how.

Measurable: Establish a way to tell that something has been done, achieved or completed.

Achievable:  Whatever solution you come up with needs to fit the situation and be doable by those involved. In short, don’t set anyone up to fail.

Realistic: Check calendars for holidays and vacations; look at past performance to predict future actions and allow time for glitches and delays.

Timed:  Set reasonable deadlines and target dates and provide necessary tools and support to meet those targets.

And finally, “Once you have your smart solutions, quickly put them in writing,” says Dinkin. “It’s the best way to keep people’s memories in line with what everyone agreed on.”

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