Monday, December 17, 2012

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

Small Business Tips

As we approach the end of another year, I am revisiting this article on reflection.  I believe that it 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.   We are wondering what changes it will bring and what is in store for us.

I 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.

Will You Re-Invent Yourself in the New Year?  "Tweet This"

For me, the first step is to determine what it is about yourself you want to change, and what you 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.  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 does not have to be a daunting or overwhelming 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.

I believe if we can make the “personal” changes, 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 I don't make "New Year's" resolutions for my business until the Fall!  Find out why in; "Fall is Really my "New Year", and It Should Be Yours Too!".

I think this quote from George Bernard Shaw sums it up completely:

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

So I 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!

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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.

5 Steps to Help Grow Your Small Business!  "Tweet This"

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 Your Business.  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 some possible steps you can take:

You Can Diversify

You can choose this 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 and Pinterest 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 way to get your business noticed and widen your reach. (You can read more about the benefits of business 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!


      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 I dispel 4 Common Misconceptions about Background Checks. 

      The entire process surrounding Background Checks and the companies that process them is filled with Misconceptions and Mystery.  Here I will discuss 4 of the most common of these and try to “clear the air”.

      • Misconception 1:  Detectives Conduct Most Background Checks.

      The majority of Background Check Companies do not bill themselves as “detectives” or private investigators.  They  are careful to conduct all inquiries using a signed release and with full disclosure (a universally suggested best practice).

      A Good Background Check Should Always be "Transparent"!  "Tweet This"

      All parties 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; there should be no mystery in what is done during the Background Check process if done correctly.  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.

      #background checks & #SmallBiz

      Learn about Misconceptions 3 (Online Background Checks) and 4 (Background Checks & Small Business) by
      Reading the Entire Article on LinkedIn.... 

      The Background Check process should not 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, I 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 My “Common Sense” Take on it All!

      #SmBiz #BackgroundChecks

      There is no doubt that Background Checks have been in the news ~ even government contractors have been charged with falsifying records.  It can be confusing.  Here I will try to share my "common sense" view on it all........

      For me, 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.

      I am going to attempt to break down these issues, discuss what they mean to you, and give you “my 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 for this movement is that if asked this early in the hiring process, those with past records are being discriminated against.

      The thought now is to only address the issue of a past criminal record after a “conditional offer of employment” has been made.  At that point, it is acceptable to perform a background check to determine whether the applicant has a criminal record.

      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, I see others also doing so in the near future.

      My Take:  I agree with the premise of “Ban the Box”. 

      I think that 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 a criminal background check and rescind 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.

      I 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.

      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).

      My Take:  The background check report is only as good as the source used to obtain it.

      I believe 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!

      Cartoon by Dave Carpenter

      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 I feel 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.

      My Take: Employer and Employee “Rights” need to be a part of the same equation. 

      I believe that the 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”.

      Best Practice ~ Approach Background Checks with Common Sense!  "Tweet This"

      Bottom line, in the issue of Background Checks, I 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!

      Please Pay it Forward and Share!  Leave a comment too, I would love to hear from You!

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