Monday, February 24, 2014

Small Business Tips from “People in the Know” (Part 1)!

Calling all Small Business Owners.........

In this 5 Part Series, You will find Strategies and Information to help you find success in Your Small Business.

I have compiled these tips from my favorite connections in finance, hiring and background checks, social media, marketing and more.  Many are even actual small business owners themselves!

Part 1 focuses on helping you with the initial set up and financial questions that face all of us wanting to start our own business.

Every small business owner begins with what we believe is a great idea.  We have found our passion and want to use that passion to create our own business.  While that is a start, there are many other things to consider if we want to be successful.

Knowing what kind of business (product or service), whether we want to be a corporation or LLC, and even if we plan on running it ourselves or taking on partners or employees, are all important decisions. 
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While we may know what we want, consulting with an expert is best.  Getting guidance from the beginning will go a long way towards focusing us in the right direction.

Mark Peduto (Source*1) established his own law firm in 2000.  He understands first hand the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Here he shares his Top 3 Tips on what you need to consider when setting up your business:
  • Take the time and money to set up your small business properly by consulting with an attorney and/or an accountant. The type of small business you plan on running and whether or not you are going to have employees is important.  This decision affects the style of company and the information you need to supply to the IRS and the State.
  • If your business will require contracts, hire an attorney to draft them.  Again, the type of contracts you need depends on your business.  An attorney can guide you.  The idea of any contract is to define everyone's rights and responsibilities as clearly as possible and protect the business owner.
Both of these tips will save you financially and personally in the long run. 
  • Peduto also states that hiring “an experienced insurance broker is a plus. Your broker will recommend all the necessary insurance, and at the best prices.”

One of the top concerns for any small business owner is controlling your finances.  Having a handle on your cash flow is crucial to keeping your business running.

At some point, most small business owners look for ways to save money.  We can “go paperless” by using the “cloud” to create projects and for our invoicing, we can become more energy efficient, and even buy refurbished equipment (many others will be discussed in future articles in this series).

As President and founder of Lexington Wealth Management, David Dedman knows what it is like to run his own business.  Dedman is also the writer of my favorite financial blog, “The Diligent Advisor”.

I especially find his Strategies for Business Owners articles of interest.  They are filled with concrete tips to help you navigate the finances, investments, and taxes associated with small businesses.

For example, Dedman’s “Deductible Dozen” series outlines the Top 12 Deductions available to small business owners.  Here are his first 3:
  • Your Home Office ~ If you keep an office in your home that you use primarily for business purposes you can deduct it. It isn’t limited to a full room. You may also deduct a percentage of the square footage. That percentage would also include things like the mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc. 
  • Office Supplies ~ Any supplies that you need to run your business are deductible. Rule number one….keep those dang receipts! These expenses will help offset your taxable business income. If you have trouble keeping track, use a service like Expensify or Shoeboxed. I have started to use Shoeboxed and love stuffing everything in an envelope without a second thought! 
  • Your furniture & Other Stuff ~ If you use a desk or file cabinets you can deduct these. Purchases of office furniture can be a 100% deduction in the year of the purchase or you can deduct a portion of the expense over seven years (depreciation).
      Don’t forget about that new iPad you bought for your business,       or the computer, copier, fax machine or even the scanner are           all tax-deductible. You can take a 100% deduction for the year         you bought it or depreciate  over 5 years.

You can find the rest of David’s Top 12 Deductions and more information for small business owners here (Source*2).


There is no doubt that having your own business is challenging.  However, with the tips here, and those found in the rest of this 5 Part Series, You Can Succeed!

Please Pay it Forward and Share this article with other Small Business Owners You Know! Thanks!


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5 Tips for Managing the Screening and Interviewing Process


Author Michael Matalone, President of The Excelsior Group, shares his tips to help you make the best possible hire.  You can read more from their blog at http://www.excelsiorp3.com/.

How do you know if that person sitting in front of you is truly the right person for the role and  your company?
There are two parts to hiring. The first is sourcing potential candidates, which pretty much anybody can do with the enough time (to search all the job boards and other places) and money (investment in deeper access to search those job boards). Of course it helps if you know exactly what you are searching for.
However, the second part and more challenging is once you find those “potential” resumes is how to properly screen and interview those candidates. And for this part, you need skill and expertise.
Here are 5 ways you can better manage the screening and interviewing process:
1.    Write a great job description.
When crafting that job description, if you are not perfectly clear about the specifics of the role and how success will be defined in the role, it will cost you a lot more time and money trying to figure out who the right candidate truly is.
As a way of getting past your typical, generic job description that fails to accurately define the duties and responsibilities of a role, we at Excelsior created the P3, which breaks down a job’s primary tasks into categories and then matches those tasks with the specific knowledge and skills needed to accomplish each category, how success is defined in executing the tasks in that category, what the ideal and/or required behavioral traits are for each category, and the estimated amount of time that the employee will spend doing the tasks in each category. With this detail, “finding” the right person becomes much easier. It’s like having a GPS for finding and identify top talent.
2.    Have a structured hiring process.
By this we mean step by step details of what, where, when and how you will conduct the hiring process from start to finish. Don’t wing it.
3.    During the interview, know what questions to ask, and more importantly, know what a good response to the question is.
There are a lot of mistakes interviewers tend to make, but one prominent one is asking hypothetical questions like “If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?” These types of questions are designed to determine critical thinking skills, and while they can be useful, they tell you very little about the candidate’s ability to execute the role successfully. To understand that, you need to ask specific questions about the actual tasks they will perform and the results they have created doing these in the past, e.g., tell me when, where, and how you did this, and most importantly, what were the results of your efforts?
Just as important as a great question is a great answer. When listening to candidates responses, you should be listening for the following:
  • The ideal candidate should be able to describe a process that resulted in them achieving a result rather than just talking about tasks they worked on.
  • Listen for both “we” and “I” language. Top talent will share credit and work as part of a cohesive team; however they are also confident and will let you know what specifically they did to contribute to the result. When only “we” is used, it can be a sign that they may not have actually done it. 
  • They should describe the specific methodology and steps they use to evaluate, develop a plan for improvements and track and measure the progress to achieve the end result.
4.    Take note of cultural fit.
Company culture is a “special blend of values, visions, mission, and personality” that is developed over time within a company. Cultural fit is one of the most important factors in hiring decisions, and a candidate’s personal and professional values certainly tie into this. Today, it’s not just about finding the person that can do the jobit is also about finding someone who can fit into the corporate culture
5.    Take time to determine if the candidate “wants to do the job.”
Typically, this is where most recruiters and hiring managers get the hire wrong. They find people who can do the job but not people who want to do the job. The way to do this is be sure and let the candidate know precisely what they will have to do, what resources they will or won’t have and who they will be working with. This allows them to make a good decision about if they want to do the job.
Hiring top talent is an objective, logical, and even scientific approach, when done properly. Most people take a subjective approach and rely too much on “gut” feelings or vague interview questions.
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Monday, February 17, 2014

My 10th Anniversary as a “Solopreneur”!



Ten years ago, February 2004, I embarked on an entirely new journey ~ I became the sole owner of Access Profiles, Inc.  



Up until this time, I had always worked with one or two partners.  We divided the work load, each of us taking what suited our strengths.


Most importantly, I always had someone to bounce ideas off of and to share the responsibility of running a business.  


All that was about to change.


About two years before this, one of the original three partners decided to leave the business.  My other partner and I experienced little transition with this change.  We divided up what our partner had been responsible for and went on our way.


Now, fast forward to February 2004, and my last remaining partner came to me with the news that she wanted to move on.  She was starting her own business and was ready to go in a different direction than where we were heading.


I was floored.  Feelings of self-doubt and fear threatened to take hold of me.  I kept wondering how I was going to manage to do all the work that had been done initially by three of us.  


With little in the way of alternatives, I plunged in.

#MotivationalQuote

I began by streamlining all my procedures and deciding on a concrete course of action.  I scheduled my days to cover everything I needed to do, plus left time for unexpected occurrences.


I soon found myself too busy to dwell on what could go wrong and instead focused on keeping my head above water.


Little by little I found myself not just coping with the added responsibilities, but welcoming them.  


I loved having the freedom to take my business in the direction I chose, without having to answer to anyone else.  I could pursue new business and find ways to increase awareness of my company on my terms.


I soon entered the world of Social Media (something that had not been possible before due to my partners’ lack of interest).  I created a Facebook page and joined LinkedIn.  Both helped me to get my feet wet.


Then gradually I was able to add other social media platforms and a blog.  While I still have a long way to go in getting them where I want them to be, it is a start.

#BackgroundChecks

And it is all mine.  My company is “me”....and my brand reflects that.  I am the creator and originator of all that is Access Profiles, Inc. ~ and I am proud of that.


Even if I still have a long way to go, I know that the path I take to reach my goals will be of my choosing.  If I falter along the way, so be it.  But I know I will learn from it and move on.


And each time I reach a milestone or accomplish a goal, I can truly say “I did it”.

Express Gratitude

However, despite having the sole responsibility for my company, I am never really alone.




I have you, my wonderful clients, connections, readers, friends and family that are with me every step of the way.  You have all offered me your support and encouragement.  For this I will always be extremely grateful.



I could never have done it without each and every one of you!


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Join me on my journey by visiting and subscribing to my blog, www.accessprofilesblog.com .  There you will find tips to help you on your journey too!


Let’s connect!  Find links to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other pages too, here!  

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Life of a Background Check ~ Start to Finish, What You Should Know



Do you know what happens during an employment background check?

If your answer is “no”, you are not alone!   

Many times you may think you understand what happens during a background check, and other times you may really have no clue!

Here I will share with you a step by step guide to the Life of a Background Check.  You will see what I do and why during each step of the process.



Read on.......

  • The first step ~ Getting the Signed Release.  
As my client, I would require you to obtain a signed release from your applicant.  This ensures that the subject understands a background check is being done and gives me access to information where a signed release is required (many education, employment, and sometimes criminal records among others).

The release contains the subject’s identifying information (name, any previous names used, date of birth, social security number).  It also shows addresses for the past 7 years, institution and date of highest diploma/degree earned, and driver’s license information. 

If you want past employments or references verified, I would also request a copy of the applicant’s resume.  

Upon sending me this information, you would also inform me what I need to verify.  Depending on the job description, it can be as little as verifying local criminal court information or as detailed as a full background check.

You can discover more about Fitting the Background Check to the Job Here!

Giving you this flexibility allows you to choose only what you really need among my services.  In this way I can accommodate businesses of all sizes. 

  • Verifying the information You requested 
Since all background checks involve some type of criminal record investigation, I start there.

I use actual court records during criminal record checks.  This may involve a combination of logging into a courts online database and actual physical inspection of court records.  

This is not an “instant” process.  (You can read my thoughts on using online databases as the sole source of court records here).  Most records can be obtained within 24 to 48 hours, but that is not always the case.

My search focuses on felonies first, then lower graded offenses if necessary.  Convictions are of the utmost importance, especially if the record involves crimes that would create an unsafe work environment for my client.  

The importance of being accurate requires diligence in investigating these records.  My goal is to make sure that any record found matches with the identifying information of the subject.  The ideal situation is to match more than one of these identifiers.  This helps ensure the record in fact belongs to the subject.

The verification of civil court records is very similar.  However, these records rarely contain more than the name and address of each party.  Therefore it is important to have the past addresses of your subject when searching these records.


  • Verifying Education, Employments, & References
If requested, I would then concentrate on verifying education, employments, and references.

Education verifications can involve anything from high school diplomas, college degrees, and even certificates or professional licenses.  Many times this is where having a signed release is crucial.  I am often required to send in a copy of a signed release before I am able to obtain any information.

What I am looking for is corroboration that the information listed by the applicant matches what is supplied by my source.  I always prefer to go directly to the institution where the degree, diploma, or license was issued.  However, many are now using a “clearinghouse” instead of their own registrar office to run verifications.  

When conducting an employment verification, I am looking to match dates and title of employment with those listed on the subject’s resume.  I also check “reason for leaving” and whether the applicant is “eligible for rehire”.

Most times this is the only information that a company will verify (although it is sometimes possible to get salary information), even with a signed release.  At times it will only be dates and title.  By asking about “reason for leaving” and rehire, I am often able to get a better glimpse into the nature of the employment.


It is at this stage that delays can occur.  Many times I have to call a company multiple times before I am able to speak with someone who can answer my verification questions.

Some companies no longer handle verifications in-house and they contract this duty out to another company (much like with education verifications).  While this can speed up the process, there are often additional fees involved in this type of search.


For references, my policy is to contact those listed by the applicant and develop one or two of my own.  This is an important step.  References listed by the applicant are likely to only give a positive report (although you may be surprised!).  Because I am often playing “phone tag” with these individuals, this step can take some time.

If you have requested a driving record, I would have also submitted this request.  Often a signed release is required.  I contact the department of motor vehicles (or a state’s equivalent) to obtain this information.  

Unless the applicant is being given a company car, or they are required to drive a company truck, many clients skip this step.  However, if you do request this, it is important that I check whether the subject’s license is valid, that they have any necessary commercial licenses, and that they don’t have excessive driving violations.  

Life of a #BackgroundCheck 

While every company is different, it is my policy to write and send my reports as completed.  In this way you are getting your requested information in as timely a manner as possible.

After completing all the reports, my work is done.  You now have all the information you need to make an informed hiring decision.  As I have discussed in previous blog articles, “how” you can safely use this information in the employment process is another matter.  (Read more here). 


The key to all the steps in a Background Check is accuracy.  

For me, and my clients, speed should not be the first consideration.  Taking the time to verify information from the best possible sources is best for both you and your applicant.


This is the “life” of a typical Background Check.  Following these steps are key to helping you achieve your ultimate goal ~ 
a great, new hire!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

My 100th Blog Article ~ Time to Celebrate!

Celebrating 100 Blog Articles










Eureka, I have done it!  You are now reading my 100th blog article!








When I first started writing this blog, I never really imagined that I would be capable of writing 100 blog posts ~ especially when I was struggling with the first.


(If you want to see how far I have come, take a look at my first few posts Background Check breakdown Pt. 1, Why You Should Run a Background Check on Yourself, and Face to Face Communication!)


My goal then was to simply write some articles to help “brand” my business.  What I have found instead is that blogging has been a wonderful, rewarding, and crazy journey.  In fact, I believe it to be the singular most satisfying thing I have done both for myself and my business.


Personally, I have enjoyed a freedom of expression and creativity that I had been lacking.  Running my own business has always been a time consuming prospect ~ as I am sure many of you will agree.  While I thoroughly enjoy the challenge, it didn’t allow me an outlet for my voice.


I felt I had a perspective to share gained from the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship and life.....and Blogging was the way to do it! 


Suddenly I could share my viewpoints on topics I found interesting, in hopes that others would feel the same.  It was also a fantastic way to provide information on the often misunderstood world of background checks.

Access Profiles ~ a Small Business Blog

This is where the benefits of blogging on my business has been unparalleled.  I am able to spread the word about the background check industry in ways never afforded to me before.


People that come across my blog are instantly aware of what I do and, most importantly, why I do it.  Through my articles I have worked to dispel myths about background checks and shared my thoughts on how using them in the hiring process can be done right.

I have even gained new clients through the added exposure blogging gives my business.  These new clients shared that they already felt they “knew” me and understood how I work through reading my articles.


What could be better?


Now I am celebrating the 100 chances I have had so far to reach an audience.  I will marvel at how daunting that seemed at the beginning and feel a great sense of accomplishment now that I have succeeded.  


I can only hope that this is simply the first leg of my journey.  I want it to be a long one.


I sincerely thank all of you for coming back time and again to read what I have to say.  It is appreciated more than you can know. 


Onward to 200..........



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