The News Archive

March 21, 2016

Moonlighting on the Rise

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:31 pm

Today’s higher cost of living is causing many people to go out and get second jobs. In a 2015 survey, it was revealed that more than one third of people who already have full-time jobs work on the side and of those, more than 90% say that they will continue working the second job throughout 2016. The reasons why Americans are moonlighting vary, but the same survey also found that more than 50% of moonlighters do so in order to deal with the rising cost of living.

If you suspect your employee is moonlighting and it is affecting their work you can discuss their poor job performance. If they admit to having a second job, there are a few routes you can take. There is always the option to fire them; but make sure you are doing so because their job performance is suffering and not because of the 2nd job since, chances are, there is no rule against moonlighting in your employee handbook.

More apt, though, is that you just wish that your employee’s performance improves. In which case, you can discuss why they are moonlighting in the first place. If their reason is, like so many, that they need to supplement their income; you can always offer them incentives such as bonuses to meet certain goals or expectations. More so, if they are moonlighting because they need the challenge, you could offer them a chance to move up in the ladder, such as becoming management. If neither of these options are a good fit for you, you can write up your employee for their suffering job performance, and warm them that if their moonlighting continues to affect their work, they will be terminated. In some cases, your employee might quit their second job. However, as Rieva Lesonsky in the article, “Are your Employees Two-Timing You” always take into consideration, that if forced to choose between two jobs, your employee might choose the other one. After all, your business might be the proverbial other woman.

“Are your Employees Two-Timing You” Lesonsky, Rieva. Smallbiztrends.com Jan. 27, 2016.

February 11, 2016

Increased Wages: Should Your Small Business Follow the Trend?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:02 pm

As it stands now, the federal set minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but the start of 2016 saw an increase of wages for many cities, states, and companies that (in some cases) put them well above the country’s minimum wage. Beginning New Year’s Day, 14 states increased their minimum wage above the federal standard; and several more states, like California and New York, have policies in the works that will increase minimum wages to $15 an hour from $10 and $9 respectively.

In addition, several large cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are implementing their own higher wage rates outside their state’s set levels. Even more shocking, several big companies such as Target, McDonalds, and Facebook are also increasing wage rates. With so much emphasis on higher wages, should small businesses in the states that are holding to lower hourly wages consider following those states and companies that have elected to raise wages?

Some people argue that higher pay results in higher prices for both services and goods. This, they state, only serves to hurt the local economy. In these cases, the higher initial pay is offset by and increased cost of living. These people also argue that increased pay also means that many employees will experience reduced benefits to cancel out the cost of filling starting positions—after all, the money has to come from somewhere.

However, some argue that higher minimum wages makes for happier employees that work better and stay longer. Content employees, they say, are essential to a company’s longevity because it means that productivity is increased and less resources are wasted training replacements for jobs that have revolving doors in companies where the pay is lower. For these reasons, many small businesses are choosing to increase their wage rates while some start out at the federal set minimum wage, and then, through pay raises, increase their employee’s wages dramatically once certain criteria are met such as meeting productivity goals or being at the job for a certain amount of time.

January 4, 2016

Responding to Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:02 pm

Even though the holiday season is over, many people are still out giving—they are gifting their reviews. Over the next few weeks, many small business owners can expect both praise and complaints to come across the main review websites like yelp; but how much do reviews actually effect businesses and what can you do to help counter complaints?

According to a study done by Bright Local, 98 percent of consumers now read online reviews and what they look for is not surprising. Only 13 percent of people will even consider using a business with a 1 or 2 star rating, and will not even bother to read the reviews. So if your only review is a negative one, it can greatly affect your business. Since the number one factor for most people when deciding on a business is their star rating, it is important to cultivate good reviews. Even though most consumers will only read reviews that are 1 to 3 months old, a bad review from the past can still affect your over-all star rating. After all, 68 percent of consumers trust businesses with higher star ratings more.

So what do you do if you get a negative review? The first step is knowing that you received one. It is important to look up reviews for your small business every few days. Many of the most successful small business owners like to respond with personal messages to both positive and negative feedback within a few hours.

Although it is easy to respond to praise, taking criticism can be much harder. If you receive a bad review, take it seriously. Look for truth and see if there is any room for improvement on your part. This is especially important if you are getting several negative reviews about the same thing.

The next step is to apologize. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the review, the fact of the matter is that one of your patrons had a negative experience and that is something you did not intend. It is important to put your personal feelings aside, and look at negative feedback—even that left by customers you remember and disagree with—objectively. It is five times more expensive to get a new customer than to keep and old one. If their review is valid, make sure to offer some type of restitution. This can be in the form of a discount or even just a vow to improve. However, if there is no truth to the review, you can respond with your side of the story.

If you choose to go this route be wary of sounding defensive. Many of the most successful businesses both small and large, understand that making enemies out of consumers does not pay off. Weigh the benefits of simply giving in and offering some kind of restitution to bad reviewers even if their side of the story isn’t completely truthful. You can respond like this:

We are very sorry that you had a bad experience with us; and although the events you describe in your review are not how we remember them, we still want you to be satisfied with our service. Please feel free to contact us so we can make it right.”

In this way, you allow a graceful out for your customer while letting any potential patrons know that you are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.

December 4, 2015

6 Important Customer Service Skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:51 pm

Customer Service is one of the most vital aspects for a business. This comes in the form of both being able to address problems and also to make sales. There are 6 basic skills that everyone in customer service should have.

1.Patience

This means taking the time to understand the customer’s problems and needs. This maybe as simple as them not being able to find a product in a store, and you bring them to it instead of just saying aisle 5; or it maybe more difficult such as dealing with someone who is already frustrated and angry and wants to return everything they bought. Patience is important in both these scenarios because great service beats fast service every time. Good customer service stems from being able to identify the wants and needs of customer and doing what you can to meet them, all while remaining calm.

2. Staying Calm

Having the ability to stay calm and keep customers calm is a vital aspect of customer service. It does not help the situation if you let an irate customer ruffle your feathers even if they are trying to. Better to stay calm and try to determine what you can do to help them.

3. Attentiveness

This skill is another that can have multiple applications. On one hand, it means helping the customer to the best of your ability while giving them the individual attention each sale or interaction requires; but on the other hand, Clotti in his article “15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs”, describes it as paying attention to recurring problems and trying to find a solution to stop them before it happens.

4. Communication

A great way to avoid many problems is to have good communication skills. This entails being able to relay information in a clear way, without leaving any room for confusion. This can be as simple as watching your phrasing. For example, saying something will be included implies that it is free, so only use that word if whatever it is really is free.

5. Positive Language

This is a simple way to improve over-all interactions with customers. Positive language can do a lot to help solve a problem—or at least give the feeling of solving the problem—or closing a sale. The example Clotti gives is when speaking about backordered items, instead of saying that it is unavailable until next month, say that you can get it next month. Both ways state that the product is not available, but the latter implies not only a sale, but also sounds more positive.

6. Knowledge of the Product

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it is very important. Without complete knowledge of the product, there is no way you can help a customer if issues arise. Also, being able to say how something works, and if it works well, is an invaluable way to close the sale.

Clotti, Gregory. “15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs” www.helpscout.net Feb. 2013

November 19, 2015

How to Interview so You Get the Right Employee

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:58 pm

With the holiday season fast approaching, many businesses are discovering that they need to hire extra help; but once you put the Help Wanted sign in the window and you get some people in that have filled out applications, how do you conduct a successful job interview? In order to hire the best candidate for the job, it is important to keep the interview on task while still allowing for an applicant’s personality to come through.

Even before you conduct the first interview, you should take some time to think about what the most important aspects of the position are. For example, if you need help in the stock room, then you might want to make sure that you hire someone who has had previous experience with inventory management. Make a list of the main job requirements and have it handy during the interview so that you can check off applicants that meet them.

When you have a good idea of what the job consists of, you should make a list of questions that will help you determine if the applicants fulfill the job requirements. It is suggested that you ask about 6 questions for every half an hour of interview time. It is also recommended that you ask all applicants the same questions. That way, it is easier to compare candidates based on their answers. However, when comprising your list, take into consideration that you cannot ask some things by law.

  1. Age or Other Physical Data: including weight, height, race, and gender.
  2. Family Status: including marital status and if they have or are planning to have children.
  3. Financial Status
  4. Disability: While you cannot inquire about the nature of a disability, you can ask if the applicant can complete the job both well and safely.
  5. Housing: including where and how they live. Instead you can ask if they are able to work the required hours and if they have reliable transportation to work.
  6. Religion

Once you comprise your list of questions, make sure to get the answers. When the conversation progresses organically, sometimes questions can be partially answered or skipped entirely. Be flexible enough to allow the conversation to flow, while still being prepared to ask follow up questions that will help you led the conversation back to the original question. This goes back to the idea that when you ask everyone the same questions, it will be easier to pick the best match for the job by comparing their answers.

While it maybe tempting to try to get to know applicants by opening the floor to questions, you should only do so after you’ve already asked them all the questions you had prepared and after you’ve outlined the nature of the position. That way, the interview does not get sidetracked and you have time to ask everything you need to know. Waiting for the end to invite feedback also allows you to assess the applicant based on any questions they ask. Do they seem to understand the job requirements? Are they concerned with benefits or acquiring time off? Are they willing to ask about things that they do not understand? All these can be important clues to the kind of worker someone is.

The final step to conducting a good interview is to consider doing multiple rounds of interviews with more than one interviewer. That way, you’ll get insight from someone else about a person’s character and abilities.

October 22, 2015

How to Write a Maternity Leave Policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:17 pm

When one of your employees is expecting, it can be a stressful time not only for them, but for you. According to a 2008 survey, over 60% of workers had children under the age of 6—and that is a lot of maternity leave. Big companies are regulated under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which details that companies with more than 50 employees must provide both women and men at least 12 weeks a year unpaid leave for medical events including the birth or adoption of a child. Companies with less than 50 employees are often left to make their own maternity leave policies, but many may find that simply not offering any leave is not the best choice.

The reasons for small businesses not providing maternity leave often include false assumptions. Many small business owners overestimate the costs and underestimate the benefits. The reality is that providing some sort of maternity leave is known to create a happier workforce, lower employee turnover, and lower worker absenteeism. In studies conducted by both California and Australia, it was found that providing maternity leave benefits boosts over-all productivity within a company.

Once a small business decides to implement a maternity leave policy based on the potential gains, it is important to take into account all federal and state laws. If the business does not fall under FLMA, some states still have mandates about maternity leave. For example, in California, businesses with at least 5 employees entitle women to two-thirds wages (up to $490 a week) for 6 to 8 weeks. Hawaii’s maternity leave encompasses all women employees no matter how big or small the company they work for, and grants them 6 to 8 weeks leave with up to 58% of wages. However, many sates do not have any laws outlining maternity leave for small businesses.

In such cases, one must first take into account who will be eligible. According to the FMLA, only employees that have worked at a company for at lease 12 months are entitled to any benefits. This is something to consider while drawing up your own policy. You may also want to consider if you will offer paternity leave as well.

Once you know who is eligible, next decide on the type and duration of the leave you are going to offer. Intermittent leave is for single events like doctor’s appointments. This type of leave is usually unpaid and requires a week or two notice. Reduced-schedule leave is good for after the birth or at the end of an expectant mother’s pregnancy. This type of leave allows employees to work modified hours to accommodate things like day-care hours. Finally, block-of-time leave sets aside a certain number of weeks that an employee may take off consecutively. When you make a maternity leave policy, you may want to consider outlining just how far in advance an employee must give notice about an impending block-of-time leave. Any of these types   of leaves maybe paid or unpaid; but offering paid leave (even is it is at a percentage rate) sometimes is better overall. Not only is it attractive to new hires, it encourages valuable employees to stay on so you will not have to find and train replacements.

September 21, 2015

Staying On Top: Competitive Small Business

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:55 pm

Unless you have a very unique product or service, chances are that sooner or later, your small business is going to have to face some competition. Although the economy is on the upswing, many consumers are being a little more careful where their dollars are spent. In order to standout among the sea of businesses like yours, you need to have a competitive business strategy. This starts with staying on top of technology and knowing how potential customers use it to determine where they will shop.

For example, last night I went to order Chinese but the restaurant from which I planned to order not only lacked a website, I also could not find their menu posted online. As you may guess, I ended up ordering from another place. In this day and age, it is essential that almost all businesses have a website. Most of these can be easily and cheaply made one-page deals because most brick-and-mortar establishments only have to have a few details on their site.

The most important thing to include on your site is contact details. This can be as simple as posting the phone number and location of your small business; or it can be more elaborate by having a Contact Us form that people can use to ask questions. It is important to note, however, that if you choose to go this route, that any questions you receive should be answered not only courteously, but also in a timely manner. Think of it this way, every hour that a customer waits for an answer, is an hour that they could be spending on your competitor’s website. Another must-have for your business webpage is an About Us section. This can include a story about what makes your business unique, but it can also simply outline any goods or services you offer.

Some other things that you can consider offering on your small business webpage is a feedback area and a newsletter. Both of these allow you to reach out to your customer and the former allows customers to reach out to you. This is important to help develop a relationship with your customers that can lead to brand loyalty. The more areas of a website that a customer can explore, the more time they can spend on your site. This is important because the more time a customer has to familiarize themselves with your business, the more likely a sale will be made.

You should also consider implementing a mobile version of your website. In the age of cell phones, as many as 4 out of 5 customers may visit your site using a mobile device. The easier it is for them to navigate your site, the better.

Having a well developed website is only the first step in creating a competitive business. The rest is really about staying knowledgeable on the technology available to your field. This includes having recent business systems—whether that means having an up to date point of sale system or using new programs for your back end. Staying on top of the technology can help you stay organized and relevant. It can also help increase productivity, as many newer technologies are designed for ease of use.

Finally staying competitive means learning to use current marketing channels available to your type of business. This might mean implementing a social media campaign but it also may mean using local media to advertise. Check to see what other small business owners are doing to get into the customer’s eye but also do your research to see what strategies will work for you.

August 28, 2015

Does a Decrease in Entrepreneurial Activity Show That the Economy is Improving?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:39 pm

Over the last few years the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity—which uses data from the US census and statistics from the Bureau of Labor to map out new businesses across the country—has shown a decreasing trend in start-up businesses. According to many economists, this might show that the job market is getting stronger.

Here are the statistics that the Kauffman Study found: In 2012, 300 adults per every 100,000 started new businesses. 2013 saw a slight drop to 280 adults for every 100,000 becoming new entrepreneurs. The study also showed that almost 80 percent of new small business owners had not been recently fired from a job. This suggests that individuals that are starting new businesses have already done so or are not doing so out of desperation. What this all means, suggest economists, is that the job market is improving so much that many people no longer are thinking of starting their own businesses in order to create home revenue.

This decrease in the creation of small businesses is good because the start-up market is not so crowded. This means that good companies may have a better chance at succeeding simply because people can find them easier instead of wading through a sea of similar companies. This also means that people in search of a certain service or product have less choices, so money will be spent with a few companies instead of being spread amongst many—which might mean that a higher percentage of new businesses will succeed. It is interesting to note that some experts believe that the reason for the drop in the creation of new small businesses is that start-ups from previous years have become successful and are now hiring.

Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the trend of new start-ups creation has been slowing; and although the correlation between a healthier job market and decrease in the creation of new small businesses is not perfect, it is something to note.

Engle, Jeff. “Kauffman Study: Weaker Entrepreneurship Spells Stronger Job Market” www.wconomy.com april 2014

July 27, 2015

4 Booming Businesses for Entrepreneurs

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:07 pm

If you are looking to start up your own small business the time might be right as small business owners had average revenues of $44,000 in 2011. But if you don’t already have a passion other than entrepreneurship, starting a small business of your own might be tricky. What industry should you go into? Here is a list of 4 hot industries that you can break into with a little start-up money.

1. Food Trucks

Food trucks have been part of the USA’s main dining scene for years. Shows like Eat Street and Food Truck Nation only prove how the American public loves them not only for their novelty, but also for their delicious offerings. Once deemed the roach coach, food trucks now offer delectable food quickly and are becoming the new kings of the fast-food world. Food trucks are so popular that it is estimated that there are over 3 million of them in the US. The cost for starting up a food truck business is $55,000 minimum—which some of the most popular food trucks can make back within a year.

2. Xeriscaping Expert

If you do not live in California, you might not know what this is. It is a type of landscaping where the goal is to drought-proof a yard. This is done by using native plants and non-living elements such as rocks to create a beautiful landscape that can require as little as 30% the water that full grass lawns need. Many good Xeriscapists can charge $1,500 – $2,500 per job—not bad considering most of the start up costs are in purchasing materials and paying laborers which does not need to happen until a job is secured and a deposit made.

3. Legal Marijuana

From farming and harvesting to owning a retail store, marijuana has been termed the new gold rush. Although it is only legal in a few states, it is estimated that it is creating thousands of jobs. Regardless of the debate of if it should or should not be legal, the fact remains that marijuana can be a big money maker. Reformists, economists, and a handful of other experts estimate that the marijuana industry is worth 10 billion – 40 billion annually. Although the start-up costs can vary greatly depending on how one breaks into the industry, it can be said that almost any area is expected to be lucrative.

4. Yoga

Yoga has long been a growing field as many people turn to ways to reduce stress and keep their bodies healthy. This is a great business for budding entrepreneurs to break into because it allows new people to get started with very little capital. With the right personality and skill, a new small business owner can turn a profit with little more than a single room and an instructor.

June 16, 2015

Should You Hire Independent Contractors

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:46 pm

In recent years, hiring workers as independent contractors seemed to catch on. It allows small businesses to hire a lot of workers without having to worry about things like over-time and benefits. However, this business model seems to be fading amongst new start-up small businesses and there are many reasons why such as creating a long-term employee/employer relationship.

New businesses are shying away from the old model of hiring workers as independent contractors mainly because they feel that by creating good jobs, they are creating invested employees and therefore will get a higher quality of work and employee loyalty from their employees. By hiring employees instead of taking on independent contractors, some small business owners feel that they can secure the best people in their field and in turn, those individuals will provide a better service.

Independent contractors are treated as their own businesses and are therefore responsible for their own expenses and taxes. As a result, they are granted autonomy. That means businesses that hire them may find it difficult to tell their workers how or when to do a job. A good example of this is if you hire a web developer to build you a website. You would be hard-pressed to find a way to tell them to work on your website only during the day when they are fresh.

The problems associated with hiring an independent contractor stem from this autonomy; because there is no way to tell them how and when to do the work, it is problematic to train and schedule workers, making an independent contractor workforce sometimes impossible to deal with especially in certain types of businesses. Businesses like Uber that rely solely on the work of independent contractors find it difficult to maintain quality on the rides that their drivers give and also may lose out on revenue because certain busy times or locations are not staffed.

For this reason, some small businesses are leaning towards hiring their workers as employees; but this is not without its faults too. Some businesses are changing their independent contractors to part-time employees, which can be troublesome for those who relied on the flexible scheduling that being an independent contractor allowed. This is especially true for those who have more than one job. Also, those hired as a part-time employee—those who work less than 30 hours a week—may find that they lose valuable working hours. Also, by keeping a part-time work force some businesses get around having to pay benefits such as health insurance. This type of system assures that the business has better control over their employees while removing some, if not all, of the perks of being an independent contractor. Although the trade-off might be gaining job security. As an employee, a worker is already hired for the job and thus they know that they will have a steady stream of work—something that may not be true as an independent contractor.

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