Monday, December 17, 2012

Looking Back: Now is the Time to Re-Invent Yourself!

As we approach the end of another year, we are revisiting this article on reflection. This is the perfect time to take a look at where you have been and where you want to go! After all, the end of one thing is simply the beginning of something new.....

Many of us are already looking forward to the beginning of a new year, especially after the one we have just been through! We are wondering what changes it will bring and what is in store for us.

We think this is the ideal time to take a moment and re-evaluate where you are and re-invent yourself into what you want to be. Taking a good hard look, cutting yourself a break when you need it, and being willing to shake off the cobwebs opens up a wonderful window of opportunity.
For us, the first step is to determine what it is about ourselves, and even our business, we want to change, and what we feel is fine just the way it is. Like with any big decision, creating that “pro and con” list can help. Remember, this is YOUR list, no one else’s. It is your opinion that counts. This is the time for self-reflection and self-evaluation, so be honest with yourself.

Now that you have your list, take a good hard look at it and see where change is possible. This is where you may have to “cut yourself a break” and accept the things you truly cannot change. Remember, these do not all have to be big changes.  Even little steps are progress. 

Once you have decided what you can and cannot change, it is time to begin the work. For each of the things on the “con” list, identify one or two things you can do to move them to your “pro” list. Create a checklist and methodically work through it to achieve your goals.

This doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here are some steps you can try to help you on your path to “re-invention”:

·        Set Your Goals – Make sure you prioritize your list.  You may feel more success by starting with an “easier” change first. Just make sure to put your goals in an order that makes sense to you. Even a small step in the right direction gets you on your way.

·   “Schedule” Your Time – Make sure you set aside the time necessary to make the changes you desire. Carve out that time and designate it as you would a “must meet deadline” or an unbreakable appointment. This is not the time to get distracted.

·   Reward Yourself – Make sure you give yourself the chance to celebrate your success and give yourself that “pat on the back” you deserve. Change is hard and your work should be recognized.

Many times circumstances and life can get in our way. We lose sight of the person we truly are and where we want our lives to head. The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock.

We believe if we can make the “personal” changes we need, the “professional” changes will fall into place.  There is no way to achieve what we want in our businesses or our careers if we are not clear on exactly “who” we are and are willing to do the work to become the best possible versions of ourselves. 

And we don't think of these steps as "New Year's" resolutions for our business. We re-evaluate and make these kinds of make changes in the Fall! Find out why in; "Fall is Really my "New Year", and It Should Be Yours Too!".

We believe this quote from George Bernard Shaw sums it up completely:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.” 

So go out there and “create” the 
person you were truly meant to be. Let this be a new year of personal and professional growth. You deserve it!
Please Pay it Forward and Share!  Thanks!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

5 Steps to Help Grow Your Small Business

Deciding when and how to expand your business is never easy. However, these 5 suggestions can help.......

When you start your own business, you are usually inundated with a seemingly endless list of tasks. Just keeping up with the day to day demands can be daunting.

The idea of actually growing your business may not even occur to you. But then, one day, you are faced with a possible cross roads. Do you keep the status quo or take a further plunge and expand?

Now is the perfect time to ask yourself some direct questions and consider your options.

How Can I Grow my Business?
Most Small Business Owners are faced with this question at some point. It usually comes at a time when your hard work is starting to pay off and you see real progress in reaching your initial goals.

It is then you may start to think it is time to Grow and Expand Your Company. You may consider increasing your workforce, entering a new market, or something else designed to generate new business.

While there are many possibilities as to what direction you can take, it is vitally important to choose the correct one according to your business and your new set of goals. You should make sure you take into consideration your type of business and the amount of time and money you are willing to invest.

If you weigh your options and decide to move ahead, here are 5 possible steps you can take:

You can Diversify
This is an option whether you are a product or service based business. You can choose to create something new to add to what you already have to offer.

I have used this option. By periodically adding new services, I have been able to expand my client pool and add value to my already existing clients.

By using this tactic, your business has better access to different sources of income. It also keeps your business "fresh" and exciting to your customers!

You Can Target Other Markets
Even though the market you currently target produces sales, taking a fresh approach and looking at what you can offer additional markets could be just the growth push your company needs.

Take a hard look at your products and services. Are there additional markets that may also have a need for them or that have a problem you can solve? Consider these your new "target markets".

You can Buy, Merge, or Partner with Another Business
Pooling resources is a great way to expand. You can consider purchasing outright a struggling or bankrupt business. You can also decide to merge or partner with another similar or compatible company.

Either way, there are definite benefits; a "ready-made" customer base, the ability to retain the best employees from both companies, and the chance to combine resources and knowledge.

You can Open Another Location
This can be a tricky option, but one many small business owners desire. The main consideration here is the capital required. Is this step something you have existing capital to fund or would it be necessary to borrow to finance the new location?

It is important to consider the additional costs to run another location. You should plan for more "man power", utility costs, supplies, and even rent or mortgage costs.

You can Increase Your Social Media Presence
All Small Businesses should be Online! Even in tough economic times, or if no other step for "growth" is possible, being active and engaging on at least a few social media sites is necessary. This can be a "no-cost" to relatively low cost step.

Most small businesses have created the basic Facebook page, established an identity on LinkedIn, and many use Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram on a regular basis.

However, there are also additional platforms to consider. For example, writing a blog is a great way to establish a "voice". A blog can help your business build credibility and establish yourself as an "expert in your field". Writing an ebook can accomplish much of the same. Either way, it is a definite step to take to get your business notices and widen your reach. You can read more about the benefits of blogging here!

What I would caution, however, is that establishing a strong media presence can be extremely time consuming. While the "voice" you create definitely needs to be consistent, employing a professional company to run your social media is a valid expense.

Growing your business can encompass a full blown charge ahead or can simply be a few small steps designed to move your company in a forward direction.

What is most important is for you to fully analyze where your company is at the moment and where you want it to be in the future.

No matter what you decide, keep in mind these words from Benjamin Franklin:

"Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning"!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

4 Common Misconceptions about Background Checks!

4 Common Misconceptions about Background Checks

Many people are still confused about
Background Checks. Stories about abuses and inaccuracies in the background check system create a feeling of distrust about the entire process.
Despite this, the majority of Background Checks are not only conducted completely up front but with a focus on accuracy.
Read on as we dispel the Top 4 Most Common Misconceptions many people have about Background Checks... 

The entire process surrounding Background Checks, and the companies that process them, is filled with Misconceptions and Mystery. And it doesn't have to be that way!

Instead, when it comes to background checks, good employers and screening companies believe that transparency and accuracy is key!

Here we will discuss 4 of the Most Common  misconceptions and try to “clear the air”.

Misconception 1:  Detectives Conduct Most Background Checks.
The majority of Background Check companies do not bill  bill themselves as "detectives" or private investigators. They are careful to conduct all inquiries using a signed release and with full disclosure (as required by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

All parties should know exactly what information is being gathered and have consented to being screened.

Background Checks are designed to verify the information supplied by the applicant and, at a certain point in the process, to determine whether that applicant will be a safe hire.

Despite belief to the contrary, it is not a means to “detect” information on an applicant’s social activities or private life. In most cases, the screening does not extend to asking questions of friends or relatives concerning anything personal (there are some positions in “security sensitive” occupations where this is necessary).

The bottom line; if done correctly, there should be no mystery in what is done during the Background Check process. Everyone involved should be kept up to speed and informed.

Misconception 2:  Only Big Companies Need to do Background Checks.
Anyone who is hiring, even small companies or individuals, would benefit greatly from the use of background checks.

A background check is designed to help any employer make a safe and skilled hire. A small company can be especially vulnerable when the hire “goes bad”. Using background checks consistently as part of the process can help shield a company from litigation or violence in the workplace.  Both of which can bankrupt small business.

Learn more about why background checks are so important to Small Business in "4 Reasons Why Small Businesses need to use Background Checks"!

Learn about Misconceptions 3 (Online Background Checks) and 4 (Background Checks & Small Business) by

The Background Check process should not be surrounded by secrecy or misconceptions. The more we address these issues, and bring the entire process “into the light of day”, the better off we will be. After all, Background Check companies and their Clients are really all in this together!  
Please Pay it Forward and Pass it On!  And leave a comment, we would love to hear from You!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Background Checks – What’s Going On, What It Means to You, and our “Common Sense” Take on it All!

There is no doubt that Background Checks have been in the news ~ error filled reports and falsified records that claim a background check was done top the list. It can be confusing. Here we will try to clear up some of this confusion and share our "common sense" take on it all........

Concerns about Background Checks boil down to these 3 issues; the “Ban the Box” movement, concerns of accuracy, and the battle between Employee and Employer Rights.
We will to attempt to break down these issues, discuss what they mean to you, and give you “our take” on it all.

Issue 1:  “Ban the Box”
“Ban the Box” is the movement to omit the question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor” (or a question similar to this) from the employment application. The premise  is that when asked early in the hiring process, those with past records are being unduly eliminated from contention.
In order to address this issue, it is recommended that a background check should only be done after a “conditional offer of employment” has been made. At that point, the applicant has been interviewed and the employer is already interested. 
There are states, cities, and municipalities that have already passed laws to “Ban the Box”, and it is important to know if yours is one of them. However, it is likely that others will also do so in the near future.
Our Take:  We agree with the premise of “Ban the Box”. 
Until a company has determined, using other factors such as skills, personality, and education, that the applicant may be a good fit, there is no need to check for criminal history. At that point, you as an employer then have the opportunity to run an employment background check and rescind or move forward with the offer of employment based on the results.
It is important to note that guidelines on how a company can use a criminal background check and remain in compliance have also changed. In order to rescind an offer of employment, it needs to be determined in advance what type of criminal record would prohibit an employee from performing the job safely. If the criminal record discovered does not fall into that pre-determined category, it should not be used against the applicant.
We believe that a criminal record should not automatically exclude anyone from an opportunity of employment and a “second chance”. In banning the box, those with a record are given the chance to enter the application pool on equal footing.
However, there are exceptions to this. There are industries where any type of criminal record, by law, prohibits someone from employment. In those instances, “Ban the Box” cannot be applied.

Read more about "Ban the Box" and Second Chances Here!

Issue 2:  Accuracy
Take a look at this story:  
Darlene T. Martinez was offered a housekeeping job at a local hospital. The final step was a criminal background check, standard procedure in the hiring process. Martinez, 57, doesn’t have a criminal record, so she was not concerned and felt certain the job would soon be hers.
Martinez now believes a faulty background check cost her that job.
During the background check process, Darlene T. Martinez was mistaken for Darlene Foster Ramirez. Foster Ramirez had been found guilty in 2009 of a dangerous-drug possession charge in Navajo County.
The hospital rescinded its job offer. Martinez was left without a job and the task of trying to make sure this record did not follow her. Martinez has since filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the company that performed the background search citing that the company did not follow correct procedure and for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Source1
This case illustrates ongoing questions about the accuracy of background checks. Errors, like in the Martinez case, can keep innocent individuals from obtaining employment and cause great problems for the wronged party.
Under current guidelines, applicants are required to be notified in writing when a positive criminal background check has been reported. The applicant is then given the opportunity to dispute the report. The reporting background check company is then given 30 days to investigate and ensure that the information is correct or to report that an error has occurred (according to Martinez this did not happen in her case, although eventually her record was corrected).
Our Take: The background check report is only as good as the source used to obtain it.
The proliferation of “online, instant” background checks has been a major contributor to the rash of accuracy complaints. Many of these online databases are incomplete or outdated.
These online records can be used as a starting point, but a good background check company will go farther. Any record discovered online, also needs to be confirmed directly through court records. The initial information can then be cross-checked for matches to name, date of birth, and other identifying information. Performing this additional step goes a long way towards providing more accurate criminal record reports.

Discover more about the difference between a Real Background Check and an Online Search Here!

Issue 3:  Employer vs Employee “Rights”
It seems that the pendulum has swung in the favor of the employee or applicants over the employer on the issue of background checks. Applicants with past criminal records are now afforded a more equal playing field than ever before.
Employers feel their right to hire “the best candidate” is being impaired.
Where does the reality fall? It most likely falls somewhere in between.
Applicants can now be hopeful that their “past” will not haunt them for life. Even those with a prior criminal record are afforded the opportunity to apply for a job and at least get their foot in the door.
Employers are concerned about safety and liability, and these concerns are not unfounded. The current guidelines for hiring do not take into account any possible litigation that may occur due to the hire of an “unsafe” candidate.
Our Take: Employer and Employee “Rights” need to be a part of the same equation. 
Guidelines should prevail in the areas of “ban the box”, accuracy, and the recourse given to dispute a record. These are “common sense” procedures that really protect everyone, employee and employer alike.
However, there needs to be some consideration given to the rights of an employer. The current heavy-handed approach cannot work. Employers need to have rights protecting them from undue litigation when hiring according to the guidelines.
Employers also need to have more latitude in deciding what criminal offenses are prohibitive to doing the job safely within their own company. Existing laws governing discrimination in hiring practices will still ensure applicants are not dismissed or not hired due to things like race, sex, physical handicap, or being a member of any other “protected class”.

The bottom line is this ~ when it comes to Background Checks, at API we believe a little “common sense” can go a long way. It does not need to be employers vs employees. The guidelines can be utilized to protect all and ensure a safe and equitable workplace. All it takes is a willingness to work together to achieve what should be our common goal!

Authored by     

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Productivity – Sometimes the Best Way to Achieve it is to “Scale Back”!

Do you need to Scale Back?
Trying to meet the demands of creating the "perfect" life for you and your family, and still keep your business running smoothly, can stress out the best of us. Learning to "step back" may be the only way to save our sanity and accomplish our goals!

No matter what time of year, stress can wreck havoc on your health and sanity. The reality is that these “stressors” are not going to simply go away, and they cannot be ignored.  However, there are things you can do to do more than cope, but to actually thrive. Our suggestion is to learn to “step back”!
Sometimes the importance of “downtime” is given a back seat. The fact is, we need to recognize that our mind, like our bodies, need to rest and recharge in order to perform at its peak.

Stress can impact you both physically and mentally. It will decrease your ability to work productively and even reduce your satisfaction with your professional and personal life.
Stress Effects:
  •      Your Ability to Focus – High Stress levels keep you from being able to identify what is truly important to accomplish over what can wait, or does not need to be done at all. Stress keeps you from prioritizing and using your energy in a way that will be most effective. 
  •      Your Health – Your stress level can greatly relate to your physical and mental health. Lack of sleep and poor eating habits, all indicators of an unacceptable level of stress, both can contribute to an increased susceptibility to colds and headaches. In extreme cases it may even affect your mental health.
  •      Your Family and Social Life – High stress levels can greatly affect your ability to enjoy life or enjoy those around you. Your refrain of “when I am finished” or “after this deadline” will keep you from the truly important things in life.

So, the question becomes, how can you change this pattern?
How can you reduce the stress levels in your life while remaining productive?  
The best way to achieve this is to actually make “downtime” part of your schedule!

We all have those never-ending “to do” lists or that jam-packed calendar of what we need to accomplish that day. Our challenge to you, and ourselves, is to take a portion of that day and make the conscious decision to RELAX and RECHARGE!

The time to start is now!  But how?

Taking these small steps can help:
  •      Learn to Decompress - For many of us, the only way we will ever take the downtime we need to “step back” is to schedule it. It need not be an hour, or even a half hour, but a 10 to 15 minute window can make all the difference. Get up from your desk, stretch, talk a short walk (if you can do it outside all the better!), close your eyes and “chill” – whatever it takes! And if you can manage to work this in even twice a day, all the better! Take a look at our article on "Active Breaks" for more about how this can help You!
  •      Learn to Prioritize – Decide what you really NEED to get done and put anything else on the back burner. Once you accomplish your important goals, your sense of accomplishment will greatly reduce that stress level!
  •      Learn to Delegate – You do not need to do everything yourself – we repeat, you do not need to do everything yourself! This, perhaps, is the hardest to achieve, but will yield some of the greatest results. 
  •      Learn to Reconnect – We are “social animals”. We need to forge and keep relationships with those close to us. Take a little time each day to have a chat with a friend, read a book or watch a movie with your child, or just sit quietly with your “significant other”. The contentment and “closeness” you will feel can keep those “stressors” at bay.
Recognizing the effects of stress, and actively working to reduce that stress, will make you both more productive and happier. The bottom line, we need to place less emphasis on achieving all our goals at once.

By taking the time to “step back”, we can achieve a greater sense of accomplishment and productivity 
All of us need to give our minds a chance to become clearer and our bodies a chance to become healthier. Your body, mind, and soul, and those that love you, will thank you for it!    

Authored by  

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Women in Business – My Case for Why We Need to Help Ourselves!

The need to "Help Ourselves", and most definitely each other, should be a driving force for all women in business.  
Here is why......

I present this as a companion piece to another of my articles on "Leaning In" and Having It All!

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." --Eleanor Roosevelt

I read these words by Eleanor Roosevelt and immediately had that “aha” moment.  Maybe real value is only placed on the people who demand it

As women, that is sometimes hard for us to do.  We are raised to believe that it is better not to “rock the boat”.  However, continuing this line of thinking is doing a great disservice to us and to the young women who follow.

The trick is, how do we garner the personal and professional respect of others without sinking to the “bitch” label?  I think we can accomplish this by believing in our own value and “helping ourselves”.

Women in Business Need to 
Remember to Ask for What We Want!  "Tweet This"!

Male ambition and competitiveness is applauded.  That “go get ‘em” attitude is praised.  However, that same drive in women is often labeled as “bitchy” and “unattractive”.  But it is not only men that are guilty of this, but other women as well.

Women need to shatter that perception if we want to move forward, and I believe more and more women are doing just that!  Like the amazing and successful women we are, we are seeing the value of “paying it forward” and being role models for the next generation of professional women.

Our goal should be to inspire women to become leaders in their chosen professions.  We also need to encourage them to reach beyond their own success and help to effect positive change in our world.

And I think women are particularly able to promote that change.  

Women professionals bring natural

qualities to the table that need to 

celebrated.  We are capable of strong

collaboration, conviction, and purpose.
What are our strengths?  
I believe our greatest assets are:

Our strong communication skills.   Women know     how to really listen to the thoughts of others as well as convey our own point of view.  We can empathize even if we do not agree.

Our desire to collaborate. Women appreciate the need to “work well together” and “get along”.  We talk things out and “brainstorm” as a matter of course.

Our ability to ask for help  Women know that asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness.  We understand the need to delegate and if we are unsure of how to proceed, we will ask!

Our “socially aware” point of view.  Women feel a real need to address and "solve" social issues.  We recognize inequality and strive for fairness.  We believe in creating a better world and are willing to put in the work to do so!

Now that we know our strengths, what do we need to do?

We Need to Stop Blaming Others – We need to recognize we can only be treated as we allow ourselves to be treated.  We need to allow ourselves to demand the equal salaries and job opportunities we have earned.

We Need to Stop Using Excuses – We can no longer say what we can’t do because we don’t have the time, the power, or the support to do so.  We need to grab hold of what we want and go “full steam ahead” to get it.

   We Need to Present a United Front - Women need to help women.  We need to champion our own causes and build a strong professional and social network.  It is not the time to be divisive.  Each of us are entitled to make our own choices and it is not for others to belittle them.  (To me, this should be our most important goal!).

"What we, as women, have now earned is a choice.  Each of us can decide our own goals and have the freedom to pursue them. We also need to recognize that one woman’s choice may not be our own.  The celebration should be in the choice itself."  

It is time we take the inspiring words of Eleanor Roosevelt to heart.  The truth is, until we value ourselves, we cannot expect others to do so.  We Must “Help Ourselves”! 

Please help spread the word and share this article on your favorite social sites.  And leave a comment ~ I would love to hear your thoughts!

Authored by

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