WASHINGTON, January 5, 2015 – Rare it is that anyone succeeds in keeping all of their New Year’s resolutions. Small business owners are advised to appreciate that they must both make and keep goals, as, those who stay put are always left behind.
Here are some ideas for moving ahead in the small business world.
- Develop an employee handbook with the help of a qualified employment attorney. The handbook will become the single most valuable document the business has to direct and prohibit behavior, and to protect itself from all measure of employee related problems.
- Cyber-security is a critical concern for all small businesses. It is no longer a computer problem: it is a business problem. The hacks and the devastation that came from breaches and malware were well publicized last year. There is every reason to be concerned.
- Improve password security on your company computers using a two-step authentication, and purchase AppGuard (discussed in a previous column)(www.samakow-protects.com) to completely and permanently eliminate malware attacks.
- Consider hiring an IT professional, or at least outsourcing the position. Train and delegate key employees to be the internal company watchdogs for your business.
- Demand proof of vendors’ cyber-security measures. Customers of small businesses will not appreciate disclosure of their information by a third party vendor.
- Keep sensitive information off of network computers. Use a separate computer for business functions, such as banking, and assure employees cannot access this computer to check email or browse the Internet.
- Limit physical access to the company computers to essential employees.
- Pay less tax. In order to accomplish this highly desirable goal, spend the money and obtain professional guidance from a Certified Public Account and an experienced tax attorney.There are many ways to legally pay less tax. Incorporating can provide many options. Consider becoming a Limited Liability Company – this form of doing business can provide both financial and protection benefits.
- Investments are not the province of only the wealthy. Pay attention to what you have done and what you are planning. Capital gains can significantly increase a business’ tax burdens. Some investment gains can be tax-free. Again, consult the professionals and develop a plan.
- Consider installment payments if there are to be business gains, such as the sale of business assets or investments. Payments can be spread out over several years, thus reducing the tax rate and the tax due year by year.
- This year, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees must provide their employees with a minimum level of health insurance.Check on credits from the government for employer-paid health insurance for employees. If a business with less than 50 employees chooses to provide its employees with affordable healthcare through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), the government might pay for some or all of the employee insurance premiums. These credits are not available to big corporations, but exist currently as an Obamacare tax credit. Once again, check with a professional and plan appropriately.
- Learn the basics of employment law. Invest in an attorney who can assess and advise on all of the business’ legal responsibilities. Good intentions and fair dealings with employees are unfortunately not always enough in the face of an employee lawsuit.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act requires payment of federal minimum wage, something most employees must abide by. The Act also addresses overtime requirements. Compensation must be the same for all employees: The Equal Pay Act says so.
- Businesses must have anti-discrimination policies. Discrimination is illegal if based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender or age. Businesses also cannot fire employees or fail to consider otherwise qualified applicants because of a disability without first trying to make reasonable accommodations.
- Businesses must have anti-harassment policies.
- If your business is one that involves employing drivers to transport goods or customers or clients, your business must have a zero-tolerance distracted driving (which specifically includes a “no texting while driving”) policy.
- Make the business handicap-accessible. The failure to provide equal access to a business to disabled individuals is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Businesses must protect their employees’ health and safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act details minimum standards.
- Consider social network marketing. Pick three or four places to engage your customer base and consider having an employee do so regularly. Websites that provide reviews of businesses are valuable resources. If a customer or client is satisfied with your business, ask them to write a favorable review.One favorable review is a start. Two is better. By the time there are fifty, nobody is reading them anymore because all who have read them up to that point have already called or visited you.
- Give back to the community. This should not be done solely for the publicity value, but should be undertaken as a separate goal of the business. Why? Because it is the right thing to do, and those that do often find rewards in forms and in places never imagined.
Best wishes for keeping your resolutions.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.