Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Challenges and Rewards of Working from Home!

Created by Kimberly Kline, API

We appreciate being able to "Work from Home"!
We are still grateful for and excited by 
running our own "home-based" business and, for us, the wonderful flexibility and feelings of accomplishment 
far outweigh any "cons".
Here we take a look at what some other real "work from home" business owners have to say about their experience.....  

Running a business from home 
comes with a unique set of rewards 
and challenges.  

Issues like isolation, work/life balance, and professional perception are heightened for the home-based business owner.

To research this piece, we reached out to our network of home business owners for their opinions on the challenges and rewards they face. We soon found similar threads among the many answers we received.

One of the most common problems mentioned was the tendency to not set definite “office hours”:

“The biggest drawback I face with working from home is ending the business day. There is always something else on the list to be done. It's a vicious circle to be sure!”
Penny Perasso, (Promotional Products & Graphic Design)

The feeling that you are “always at work” is a hard one to break when you are constantly “at the office”.  We have learned that, barring a special project or rush job, it is important for us to simply stop.

If you are working from a traditional office, there would definitely be a more or less set "quitting" time. So you need to treat your home office the same way. No one can maintain their health and sanity without down time.

Another challenge is fighting the misconception that when you work at home, you are not “really working”

Justine Pretorious finds she is often “labelled with a stereotype that I don't really work if I work from home.” 

Not being taken professionally without a traditional office can definitely be a concern.  
When we started our business in 1996, there was definitely a prejudice against home-based businesses. However, we believe this is changing. As more and more small businesses are being run from a home office, and much of that business is done online, the need for a “brick and mortar” office is lessening.

Many times when you work from home it is also hard to make others understand that you are not automatically "available":

“Neighbors, family and friends think I am not doing anything important and always ask me for favors.... I learned how to say no very quickly!!”
Veronica Nourse, Cupertino Soap Company

Setting boundaries is absolutely necessary. As Ellen Mattli, Owner of Mattli Mechanical Commissioning Business explains:
“I definitely have to set firm boundaries and ignore calls or emails to get my work completed.”
You need to let others know 
you are unavailable 
during “working hours”.  
Stop yourself from taking personal calls or answering that email from a friend - do exactly what you would do if you were “at the office”.

Self-discipline is also a challenge:
“It takes tremendous discipline and focus to manage business and home life. It is too easy and convenient to go golfing on a nice day. Sit outside and enjoy the weather.” Anthony Mannella, Director of Compliance and Enforcement, CAIRSS Corp.

Diane Bianchi, who has owned a variety of small businesses, has found what works for her, and many others agreed:
“What I do is totally plan out my day with time frames for each activity and I stick to it, no fail. Since I started doing this I get a lot more done, and no goofing off!”

Perhaps the biggest concern 
home-based business owners face 
is the isolation.  

Many expressed that not being able to run down the hall to bounce ideas off a co-worker or get support are definite drawbacks.

“In the corporate world, I could walk down the hall to the graphics group for advice. Now I'm it, for both strategy and application.” Karen Runtz, Director, Marketing and Communications, Sunbelt Business Brokers (Canada)

However, as a group, many have found ways to combat this:

“Even though I am a solo entrepreneur, I hire a bookkeeper, hire a marketing consultant, work with a printer..... This is my virtual team.”
Ann Gatty, Business Learning and Life Coach

And Darcy Nybo, a Freelance Writer makes this suggestion:
“If you get a network together of people with businesses like yourself, you'll find it makes life much easier.”

Coline Walther, Sole Proprietor at The Virtual Virtuoso, seconds that:
“I try to make it to as many networking events as I can, and meet friends for coffee or lunch once week.”

Establishing a professional network, 
whether in “real life” or online, is a great help. Reach out to local business groups. Find groups on Facebook and LinkedIn 
that interest you. Whatever you choose, you will have opened up yourself to a whole new support system.

What it Takes to Run a Business from Home!  "Tweet This"

Despite these challenges, 
the majority of Home-Based business owners have found great rewards running their business.  

The number one perk cited was flexibility. The ability to set your own hours, work in “less than professional attire”, and run your business “your way” cannot be paralleled.

“I can take time out of my day because my schedule is what I make of it. So when I need a “brain break”, I can change what I am doing...without anyone monitoring me”. Bette Novak, Board Certified Coach, LifePath Assoc., LLC

Many also noted the 
cost and time saving benefits.  
No commute time is definitely a favorite. Mentions of not missing the hour or more drive to and from work and sitting in traffic were common. There are also the expenses saved by not needing lunches out, a large professional wardrobe, or parking and toll costs:

“The first thing that is positive for working at home is I am saving the cost of rent for my office, phones and parking fees.”
John W. Wenzler, Owner at God’s Grace Publishing LLC

Running a Home-Based Business 
is definitely a big undertaking.  
It comes with great responsibility and commitment. However, we believe the rewards outweigh the challenges.
Having full control over what, when, how, and why you do what you do is exciting. You are the master of your own destiny ~ and that is something to be cherished!

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Hire “Fresh” Talent without a Long Term Commitment!

Attention Small Business Owners ~ Hiring "short term" employees is a great way to test the waters.  Find out how....

If your company is in need of help, but you are not ready to make a permanent hire, consider Hiring Interns or Temps!  

Both can inject some new energy into your business and ease the work load on your existing employees.  

Temps & Interns ~ Perfect Way to Inject Fresh Talent into Your Small Business!  "Tweet This"!

But as with anything there are definite “pros” and “cons” in hiring both interns and temp workers.

The "Pros" & "Cons" in Hiring Interns

The "Pros" in Hiring an Intern:
  • Increase Company Productivity Without a Large Dent in Your Budget  - Hiring interns is relatively low-cost. It can also help you meet peak or seasonal needs without a long-term commitment.
  • Provide A Different, “Younger”,  Perspective - Interns can bring enthusiasm and eagerness to your company. They come with a “young” and fresh mindset that can re-energize your operations.
  • Practice “Paying it Forward” -  Interns provide an opportunity for promising employees to develop their supervisory skills. It allows them to take on a “mentor” role and gain valuable experience in leadership skills.
  • Establish a Possible Link to a Future Hire - An intern will become fully trained to the operations and culture of your company. This will make them significantly more qualified for a future open position than the majority of candidates who may apply.
The Possible “Cons” in Hiring an Intern:
  • The Time Required to Bring them “up to speed” - In some instances, interns may be unable to jump right in where needed. A certain amount of training in your company procedures and goals will be necessary. This can create a burden on existing employees.
  • Limited Experience - Interns typically have little “real work” experience and are unfamiliar with an office environment. They also have less past business information from which to draw.

Hiring Temporary Workers is also a great option for a business needing additional help.  Choosing to hire temps also brings its own set of pros and cons.

The "Pros" & "Cons" in Hiring Temps

The "Pros" in Hiring Temp Workers:
  • Eliminates the Need to Provide Training and Benefits - The costs associated with hiring an in-house employee is always higher than the cost of an outside Temp Worker. This is the main reason most businesses opt to hire temps for “non-core” functions.
  • Lessens the Workload on Existing Employees - Temp workers free them to concentrate on other, possibly more important, projects.
  • Provides Your Company with an “Expert” in a Specific Field - Many Temporary service providers build up their “inventory” with workers having specialized skills. By hiring a temp agency, your company has access to those talents.
  • Allows You More Flexibility - Your employ of a temp worker is often “at will” (based on your contract with the temp agency). It is generally much easer to replace or fire the temp employee than it is a traditional employee.
  • Helps Your Business Adjust More Quickly to Market and Workload Fluctuations - It is possible to fill a needed position much more quickly than you can ever do when hiring a long-term employee.
The “Cons” in Hiring Temp Workers:
  • Lack of Company Knowledge - An in-house employee will always have a better understanding of the “ins and outs” of a position and of your company.   
  • Less “Loyalty” or Commitment to Your Company - No temporary employee will have the same vested interest in your company as a full-time employee. The feeling of being in it as a “team” is harder to create. 
Small Business Hiring
Despite the possible problems of hiring interns and temporary employees, the “pros” more often outweigh the “cons”.  

If you have decided that hiring an intern or temp is for you, these tips will help you find the quality hires you need. 

A great way to find quality interns is to form a relationship with local universities and trade schools. Contact their placement office, department heads, or grad school program. Do this in advance of ever needing your first intern. The better you cultivate this relationship, the more likely you are to get quality interns when the time comes.

You can also use this method for finding a good temp agency. Make sure to be clear with the agency about the skills and type of worker you will be looking for. The more concise you are, the more likely the agency will be to refer someone that will be a good fit.

It is also possible to find companies and individuals to fill your needs through social media groups and connections. Look for people you find yourself seeking advice from or who offer quality information in your groups. These are your “go to” people and can make for a great source.

Just make sure to screen these hires as you would any full-time employee (read our blog article on this subject here).

Over the course of owning a business, it is possible to experience many fluctuations in market demand and personnel needs
Being prepared and willing to hire interns or short-term employees can help you meet, and even exceed, these demands. 
What have you got to lose?  After all, it is only “temporary”!
Please Pay it Forward and Share this article on your favorite Social Sites! Thanks!

Authored by

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is Your Company Ready to Hire? 10 Tips on “When” and “How” to Do It Right!

These 10 tips on hiring are a great way to help you start moving your business forward. Take a look...
Are You in the Market for a New Hire?  

Hiring can be both an exciting and scary proposition. That is why, before you take the leap, you need to recognize that determining “When and How” to hire is just as important as figuring out “who” to hire. 
You Need to Learn "When & How" to Hire for Your Small Business!  "Tweet This"

These 10 Hiring Tips will streamline the process. They will help You Decide “When” it is the best time to Hire and “How” to Find and Choose that New Hire.

You Should Hire When:
  • Your Current Workforce Cannot Meet Demand - If demand for your product or services is more than you can fill with existing employees or the quality of your product or services is suffering due to overwork, it is time to consider hiring.
  • You Need a New Skill Set to Grow Your Company - Maybe something has changed in your product or service that requires different expertise. Filling that gap can propel your company forward.
  • You Can Afford to Hire - It goes beyond the salary. It involves your ability to meet the costs of advertising, training, background checks, and workspace for a new hire.

So now you know the “when”, it is time to discover “how”You will Know "How" by Asking Yourself:
  • Do I Know Exactly What My Company Needs? - What skills and personality traits would make someone ideal for the job?  Do you need someone full time, part time, or would you be better served outsourcing what you need? Creating the perfect job description first will help you determine the best candidate (and is essential when conducting any pre-employment screening ~ find out more about this here).
  • Will I Conduct a Thorough Background Check? - Hiring safely and wisely means verifying all the information listed on your applicant's resume as well as researching past criminal behavior (within compliance laws). This added step will go a long way to ensure you are hiring the right candidate.
  • Have I Looked at My Existing Employee Pool First? - Is there someone currently on staff that could handle these new duties? Is there someone who is currently not being used to their full potential? If not, Do your existing employees know someone who would be a good fit for both the position and with your company? After all, next to you, no one knows your company better!
  • Have I Looked within My Professional and Personal Network? - Be specific about what you are looking for and reach out for referrals from others you know and trust.
  • Have I Looked Beyond My Network? - Sometimes you need to go outside your network to find what you need. One avenue is to look to local universities and contact their alumni placement program. You can get some fresh talent this way.
  • Have I Considered Making Hiring a “Team Effort”? - Find out from your existing employees what makes your company a good place to work. Are there areas where you can improve? What kind of person do they feel would “fit in” well? By inviting them to be part of the interviewing process you are creating a welcoming work environment for the new employee when you do hire.
  • Can I Sell the Advantages of Working with a Small Company? - Emphasize the “personal” attention and encouraging environment of a small business. Make sure to show them ways you would be willing to help them reach their goals (check out my blog on mentoring to find out more). You may not be able to compete with the bigger companies on salary or vacation, but you can offer other incentives to entice workers.
Using these tactics will help you determine both “When” and “How” to make a new hire. They will provide you with the means to find quality candidates who will help your business reach the next level. And isn’t that your goal?

Please Share this Post and Leave a Comment.  We would love to hear from You!  Thanks!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Social Media, Background Checks and Company Policy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly! Part 2

#SmallBiz #BackgroundChecks
Does Your Company Have a Sound Social Media Policy and what You Can or Cannot Post Online to Stay within Your Company’s Policy? 

In Part 2 of our series on Social Media, Background Checks, and Company Policy, we will discuss why your company should have a Social Media Policy and The 5 Things a Good Social Media Policy Needs.  

If you missed Part 1 where we discussed why you should be concerned about what is "out there" about you, you can find it here.

Social Media Policy and the Law is a “hot button” issue. 
Many companies have social media policies that are outdated or non-existent. Keeping up with the ever-changing “social media world” is a challenge.

The National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) is suspect of any social media policy that is too broad and far-reaching. It has filed complaints on behalf of employees when that policy is perceived to stifle free communication. Current thinking is that the use of social media is equivalent to the “water cooler” conversations of the past, and subject to the same protection.  

Because of this, a company’s social media policy needs to be written carefully.

When drafting a Social Media Policy, Keep in Mind these 5 Points:
(and remember, the Policy needs to adhere to all established privacy laws and NLRB Guidelines)
  • Write a Policy Dedicated to Social Media
Your policy needs to address what types of online communication is acceptable and what is not. A good social media policy needs to recognize that what is posted may not always be flattering, but this does not automatically mean the post can be prohibited.

It is also important that a social media policy states what restrictions apply to former employees. Certain issues concerning sensitive information need to be upheld even by employees that resign or are fired from a company.
  • Write a Policy that Specifically States How Social Media is Used in Your Hiring Practices
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how Social Media is used in the pre-employment background check process, and these methods must be addressed in a company’s social media policy.

A company needs to be very careful in their use of information obtained from social media in their employment screening. It is imperative that the information is completely accurate and compliant. To be compliant, a company needs to refrain from basing any hiring decision on information that is discriminatory or a violation of privacy.
  • Write a Policy that Clearly States Whether You Plan to Monitor Your Employee’s Social Media Use and the Parameters of that Monitoring
Many companies feel the need to monitor what is being said about them, even if what is being said is by their own employees. Therefore, it is crucial that these companies write very specific policies to deal with this.

A good policy will state the extent of the monitoring and should not go beyond what is necessary to protect the company’s interests. It also needs to take into account the privacy of their employees.  
  • Write a Policy that Protects Your Company’s Sensitive or Proprietary Information
A sound policy needs to address this issue. It is important to clearly state that the posting or sharing of confidential information is prohibited. This is done to protect the company, its customers, and its employees from the release of such information. However, it must it be proven that posting or sharing this information would damage the company in a specific way.
  • Write a Policy that is Clear on How an Existing Employee’s Social Media Posts May be Used Against Them
It is important here to keep in mind an employee’s right to privacy and free speech. In fact, many states have laws that do not permit any action against an employee for posts made during that employee’s free time.  

The use of social media by employees is a fact of life.  
Therefore, it is necessary for companies to create a Social Media policy that protects the company’s interests while recognizing the employee’s right to communicate. 

Using Social Media both as part of your hiring process and within Your Business is definitely a balancing act, but one worth mastering!

Please Pay it Forward and Share this article 
on your favorite Social Media sites. And Leave a comment, we would love to hear your views!

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For more information on using Social Media in background checks, Company Policy, and Your Business, please visit our website. You can find out more About Us and Our Hiring