Monday, December 26, 2016

Are You Ready to Say Goodbye to 2016?

Created by Kimberly Kline, API

It happens at the end of every December…. 

It is time to say goodbye to the past year 
and hello to the next!

But this yearly ritual often means different things to different people.

Some are sad to see the past year go.  Maybe they had some great things happen to them or their family.  Or they simply lament the passing of time.

While others are more than ready to start fresh.  It may have been an especially hard year ~ losing a loved one or problems with their job or family.

No matter what the case may be, there is no one that will not be effected one way or another when the clock strikes midnight.

That includes me!

After all, it is an exciting time when we get to herald in another new year.

And one of the first things many of us will do 
is make some New Year’s Resolutions.

But I, for one, will not be taking this traditional path.  The beginning of a new year is simply not the best time for me to decisions about what I want to accomplish or change in the coming year.

While I applaud the desire to make positive changes through our resolutions, I am here to say that I will not be making any.

That is not to say that I don’t welcome the idea of fresh starts, and the beginning of a brand new year seems like the perfect time for this.  By its very nature it comes with feelings of hope and possibility.

I, however, choose not to participate.

This time of year I recognize that I simply have too much on my plate to really focus on making any big decisions or setting goals.
I have to do what is right for me.”  
excerpt from “No New Year’s Resolutions ~ Who is With Me?”.

No New Year Resolutions ~ Why I Choose to Look Back Instead!  “Tweet This”

So instead of looking forward, I find that the older I get, the more reflective I become.

And one of the first things I think about is how truly lucky I am.

My family is my rock…and nothing I have ever or will ever accomplish happens without them and their unwavering support.  I only hope they feel they get the same from me.

I am also lucky to have so many of you 
that continue to read what I write and, hopefully, find some value in it.  
You keep me going.

Finally, I am excited and thankful for a new venture I have recently set in motion (I will share more about this in the coming weeks!).  Just like when I first started by blog, this path has revitalized my drive and passion for what I do.

I now have a new perspective and out of complacency has come purpose and drive.

What more could you ask from a year?

I wish you all 
the time to reflect on the good things 
that have happened in the past year, 
and a chance to look to the coming year 
with hope and wonder.

Enjoy, and see you again in 2017!!!

Authored by  

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Need a Holiday Break? Why We All Require Time Off!

Created by Kimberly Kline, API
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” ….. so starts out one of our favorite holiday songs and, for us, this couldn’t be more true!

At API, we are crazy about the holidays. From a week or two before Thanksgiving right on through the passing of the New Year, we are hooked ~ although some might argue that our holiday excitement starts more like right after Halloween!

We love immersing ourselves in everything holiday ~ all the decorating, baking, shopping, and wrapping that comes with the season. We also love getting together with family and friends whenever possible. But our absolute favorite time is when we can sit with a hot cup of tea or a glass of wine, enjoy the tree lights, and watch a holiday movie ~ even the sappy ones.  

It truly is our happy time.

But then, “work” interferes and we are pulled out of our holiday reverie to attend to our small business. And while we are truly thankful and grateful for that small business, we need a break.

And there is no better time for us to take that break than during the week between Christmas and New Years!

But getting this time off doesn’t come easy!

We work like fiends to clear off our desk of any outstanding work, invoice what we can, and shut the books. We even write and pre-schedule a few blog articles and other social media posts all in the quest of being able to take a true holiday.

Of course when you have your own business, it may not always work out that way, but we definitely try!

We find that we truly need that time to relax. 

Gearing up for the holidays is a hectic, albeit, joyous time. We often find ourselves on overload. And despite really needing a good night’s sleep, our brains are going a mile a minute with all the things we need to do for our business and in our homes and that sleep is often elusive.

There is no doubt that a holiday break is what we need.

To that end, our goal is to be online less frequently and only do what is absolutely necessary to keep our business running.

Our family and friends deserve the attention and the fun!

Are you ready for a holiday break of your own?  Or do you think owning your own business makes it impossible?

We are here to tell you, it is not only possible, it is a MUST!

We all need time away. We need a break both mentally and physically.

“We need to recognize that our mind, like our bodies, needs to rest and recharge in order to perform at its peak.” excerpt from “Productivity - Sometimes the Best Way to Achieve it is to ‘Scale Back’!”.

The stress of constantly being busy and, as it is with most entrepreneurs, being pulled in different directions, takes its toll. We can lose focus, lose sleep, and our family, social life, and even our health often suffers.

That is why we are a firm believer in time off.
The question then becomes "How"?

Over time, we have discovered some tried and true ways to help us take a vacation. And we use many of these same tips to take our Holiday Break!

All it takes is some serious pre-planning!

Working overtime to complete outstanding projects, notifying clients in advance you will be taking time off, and even pre-paying any bills and invoicing for completed work will help.

Learn more about what you can do to get away “work free” in “8 Easy Tips to Help You Take a Vacation ~ and Why You Should!”.

While all that extra work certainly adds to the controlled chaos of our pre-holiday schedule, it is worth it!

As an added bonus, by the time my holiday break is over, we find ourselves more than ready to dive head first into the coming year.

Will you do the same?

To that end, we wish you all 
a joyous holiday season.  
And we hope it is filled with fun, relaxation, and 
time spent with those you love, 
including some “me time” for yourself!

Created by Kimberly Kline, API

Until next year……….

Authored by   

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Will Our Country be Better Off Treated Like a Business?

Created by Kim Kline, API

“A House Divided Against Itself 
Cannot Stand”. 
 Abraham Lincoln

Our most recent elections are behind us and I have to admit I am very relieved to no longer see the political “ads” cluttering my television.  However, in a very real sense, our political tasks are just beginning.

No matter if President Elect Trump was your choice for President or not, I hope I join with many of you and challenge him and our Congress to view this as a time to pull together, both amongst themselves and among our citizens, and start anew.  Old antagonisms need to take a back seat and a new spirit of cooperation should begin.

The question now becomes, how can we move forward and achieve the balance and progress this country sorely needs?

And an even bigger question....knowing Mr Trump's background, will our country now be run more like a business?

With no prior political experience,  it is not far fetched to think so. Running a business is what Trump knows.  He is comfortable and familiar with the role.  

However, in most respects, Mr. Trump is also used to running the show with little outside interference.  He focused on promoting and fulfilling his own agenda, getting what he wanted done, and taking his companies in the direction he chose.  It was a one-man show.

But do we want our country run the same way?

Should We Run our Country Like a Business?  "Tweet This"

I believe it can work, if Mr. Trump is able to make some adjustments ~ and that means instead of thinking of himself as the head of a large, impersonal corporation, he embodies the mindset of a Small Business Owner!


Imagine Trump as the owner of a Small Business.  He has a closely held, vested interest in its success and growth.  He is willing to “go the extra mile” to ensure it is run efficiently, cost-effectively, and ethically.

Now go on to imagine our Congress as the board and employees of this small business.  They are also invested in its success.  They are willing and eager to put in the work to make that success happen and they desire the ongoing strength of this company at all costs.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  
The question then becomes, how can this 
be accomplished?  
How can a “small business mentality” 
create a more productive government?

I think this can be done by applying the strategies used by successful small businesses to the running of our government

Small Businesses, and their owners, are acutely aware of the world around them.  They recognize the problems and concerns of their customers ~ and do everything they can to alleviate them. 

A Small Business is focused on cultivating respect, loyalty, and a positive image. 

First let’s recognize what makes a business successful.  I believe you need the following:

  • A Strong “Mission Statement” or business plan – the company’s goals need to be well thought out and clear.  No business, especially a small business, can thrive without one.
  • An Understanding of Their “Customer” – that would mean Us! A business needs to recognize their customer’s needs and interests.  And they also must work hard to earn their trust and loyalty.
  • A Desire to Provide A Quality Product or Service – truly wanting to provide the very best to your customer.
  • A Recognition of the “Bottom Line” – realizing the costs involved in running the business and understanding the need to keep the budget in check.

The question then becomes, 
how can our government 
best implement these goals?

As with any strong business, it needs to start at the top.  President Trump needs to embody the characteristics of a great leader.  It is up to him to create an atmosphere conducive to achieving goals and cooperation.

The Characteristics of a Strong Leader Are:

  • The Ability to Create an Atmosphere of Mutual Respect – a place where all opinions are considered equally.  It is also a place where people's rights are honored and protected (and this is crucial).  This must be the foundation upon which everything else is built.  Any lack of commitment here and nothing worthwhile can be accomplished.
  • The Ability to Clearly Communicate the “Mission Statement” – the goals of the “company” (our nation) must be recognized and agreed upon.
  • The Ability to Delegate – a leader must be able to pinpoint the “best person for the job” and empower them to get things done.  The leader must also be willing to listen to these experts and ensure that any decisions further the ultimate goal ~ in this case creating a stronger and more respectful nation.
  • The Ability to Inspire – a leader must be the driving force within a successful company.  Mr. Trump must embody the strength of character and ideals that lead to success.  In some cases, this may go against his "knee jerk" reactions.  But to really succeed, it is crucial to gaining the respect he needs within his team, with our citizens, and with the world.
  • The Ability to “Own” Mistakes and Learn from Them – a leader needs to be able to acknowledge errors and be able to guide his team beyond them.  There is no doubt mistakes will be made.  It is how Mr. Trump and those around him react to them that will define him and his presidency.

Created by Kim Kline, API

Our Representatives and Senators then need to play their part.  As the “board” of this company, it is imperative that they focus on the ultimate goal of a stable and strong nation.

To achieve this, Congress Must:

  • Agree to and Practice the Concept of “Mutual Respect” ~ there is no room for prejudices or agendas.  Respect means caring about the quality of life of all our citizens.
  • Understand and Believe in the “Mission Statement” ~ all actions need to be taken to achieve the agreed upon goals. 
  • Be Willing to “Step up to the Plate” and Use their Strengths Wherever Needed ~ bring your talents to the table.  Cross party lines if necessary.  Be willing to do whatever it takes to get this country on a good track.  
  • Desire the “Good of the Whole” over the Individual ~ everyone must truly want our country and all its citizens to succeed.  And their is no way to accomplish this without working as a cohesive unit.  

The key is to truly work for 
the "good of the whole" 
and move beyond individual agendas and prejudices.

I am hoping that a little “distance” from this Election can find our leaders and representatives in a more cooperative mood.  It is time to for them to put divisiveness in the past and begin working towards a common goal – creating an America full of hope, prosperity, and good will for all its people, not just a select few.  

We, as citizens, also need to do our part.  Our elected officials are there to “represent” us, so we need to embody a spirit that is worthy.  We must put our own prejudices and divisiveness aside. Remember, we are all vested in the stability of our country and this should unite us as one. 

We are also charged with making sure our government knows what is important to us ~ and that includes electing representatives that will help.  But we also must be willing to work for it.  That includes volunteering and community service for causes we believe in.  Getting involved in our neighborhoods, and beyond, is what makes a difference.

We must also be ready to make our government aware when they have failed us!  That means peaceful protests and voicing our opinions through direct communication with our elected officials and with our votes. 

Let’s make sure our government is doing everything they can to ensure our country is strong, unified, and prosperous – and embracing a “small business mentality" might just be the way to accomplish that! 

I conclude with these thoughts by 
Abraham Lincoln; 

a “government of the people,
by the people, for the people, 
shall not perish from the earth”.

Authored by

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Stop ~ Don’t Even Think of Hiring Before You Do This!!!

Created by Kim Kline, API
Are Your Background Check Release Forms Compliant?

If you are hiring, or think you may be hiring in the future, then you must first think about how to do it safely. That includes writing the best job descriptions and screening your favorite candidates. 

Background Checks are an important part of the hiring process.  
The results supply you with the information you need to make an informed hiring decision. It is also a crucial step in creating and maintaining a safe and productive workplace.

And this is especially true if you are a Small Business. With the limited time and resources faced by many small business owners, it makes sense to “hire carefully, not in haste”. The consequences of making a bad hire can often times cause more harm and cost more money when it comes to a smaller business.

Find out more in “If You are not Doing Background Checks on Your New Hires, You are Making the Biggest Mistake Your Small Business can Make!”.

But screening applicants also comes with the responsibility of following certain rules and obligations.  
That means understanding and complying with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines and all applicable local, county, state, and federal laws when it comes to hiring and background checks.  

These laws govern when you can initiate the background check and how you can legally use the information found to make your hiring decision.   

Read “Tips to Help Your Small Business Fly Under the EEOC Radar” for more information!

That is why it is good business to develop a strong hiring and screening policy before you ever even consider finding your first employee.  

Setting up and following a good system from day one sets an important precedent for your small business and lessens the possibility of being accused of discrimination when screening potential employees.  

The entire hiring process, however, cannot and should not begin before you create a compliant 
background check authorization and 
applicant rights disclosure form.  

It is required that these forms are given to your applicant after a conditional offer of employment and before you begin screening

They ensure that your applicants understand that a background check will be done, that they consent to the background check, and that they know their rights in the event that a “red flag” is found during the investigation. This information must be given to each applicant, in writing, before the background check begins either in person or electronically.

That is why creating a compliant background check authorization form is so important.

Created by Kim Kline, API
For a good Background Check Authorization form to be compliant it must follow 6 important rules.

First, It must be a Stand Alone Document.  
This means that your background check release cannot be included with any other documentation, for example your job application. The only exception is if you choose to create a release form that is combined with a summary of your applicant’s rights when it comes to the background check.

You can read more about these rights and other information important to your applicant in “Ready to Hire?  What Your Applicant Needs to Know!”.

Second, your release needs to clearly state the the background check is being done solely to help you make an employment decision.

Third, the release must also explain that the purpose of the background check is to verify information provided by the applicant (on their application and/or resume) and to obtain information from other agencies as pertains to the background check. “Other agencies” would include courts, previous employers, colleges and universities, etc.

Fourth, it must state clearly that your applicant’s consent to the background check may be withdrawn at any time.  
If this were to happen, you, as the employer, would need to halt the screening process. However, it would also be within your rights to withdraw the applicant from employment consideration.

Fifth, your release form must include information on the investigating agency.  
This would be their name, address, and contact information.  This ensures that the applicant knows who will be conducting the background check and how to get a hold of them in the event they wish to dispute any of the findings.

Sixth, the release must be signed and dated by the applicant. Without this signature, you cannot start the background check.

It is also important to understand what your authorization form cannot include.  

You must be careful not to ask for any additional identifying information on your applicant. Your form can only request their name and signature. Any mention of date of birth, address, or similar information is prohibited.

You must also exclude any language that releases your company from liability concerning the background check process or results.
The Disclosure is used to notify your applicant of certain rights in the event adverse information is found during the background check. It may be a separate, stand alone, form or contained within the Authorization form.

If separate, the Disclosure must also be given to the applicant in writing, whether in person or through electronic means, at the time you request they sign the release.

The disclosure is used to notify your applicant of their rights in the event you are considering 
taking any adverse action because of the information found in the report.  

It includes the applicant’s right to be provided a copy of the report; the name, address, and contact information of the reporting agency; and a summary of their rights under the FCRA.

The applicant must also be given the opportunity to correct or mitigate any of the report’s findings. After you have weighed any additional information provided, the applicant must once again be notified, in writing, of your final employment decision. 

For a complete Summary of Rights, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through this link

You have the option of creating your own disclosure form or providing the one found through the above link. If you choose to use your own, make sure that it includes all the information your applicant needs to know by law.

Following these rules will ensure that you are using a compliant background check release and that your applicant is fully informed of their rights when it comes to that background check.

It will also help keep your company from landing in hot water by violating FCRA guidelines or other background check and disclosure laws.

That is why you need to take a look at your employment background check process now.  
Don’t wait until it is too late!
Need Help?  
API can guide you in creating a compliant hiring process for your Small Business. And please Pay it Forward and share this article on your favorite social sites! Thanks!

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