Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“Small Business Spotlight” - Joe Soltis and Soltis Consulting!

As a slight departure from the usual “Small Business Spotlight” article, I am taking this week to feature and congratulate Joe Soltis and his company, Soltis Consulting, on 19 Years in Business!

Joe started Soltis Consulting in August 1994.  With over 25 years experience, Joe uses his skills and business acumen to help other Small Business Owners achieve their goals.

Joe considers himself as part of a team with every client.  He helps to oversee their “day-to-day” business operations, as well as develop new business.

Soltis Consulting focuses on creating “streamlined business operations” for each client.  Their services include business development and planning, organizational process development, financial resource management, training, and much more.

Each client can be assured that Soltis Consulting will provide them with a strategic program tailored to their needs.  Joe can assist with everything from basic business services to a more in-depth program covering lead generation and and sales.  He will even help create and implement automated accounting systems.

Joe is also a huge proponent for Small Business.  He publishes an online newspaper, “Small Business Owner Weekly Review”.  Each edition features many articles of interest to the Small Business owner.  The topics cover business strategy and operations, business structure, and much more.

 A prolific writer, Joe writes many articles throughout the year geared toward educating and encouraging other Small Business Owners.  He shares these articles on many of his Social Media platforms.  His blog can be found at http://soltisconsulting1.wordpress.com/ .  As always, his focus is on promoting communication and sharing knowledge.

According to Joe;
“Communication is one of the most basic functions of management in any organization, and the importance can never be over emphasized.”

On a personal note:  Joe Soltis has been a wonderful friend.  He was one of the first to welcome me when I entered the world of Facebook, and he regularly contacts me with help, suggestions, a pep talk, or just to chat.  I have found his commitment to helping other small business owners unparalleled.

I encourage you to learn more about Joe Soltis and his business, Soltis Consulting, through the links in this article and the links below.  You are sure to find information and tips to help you with your Small Business.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SoltisConsulting

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And once again, Congratulations Joe and Soltis Consulting for 19 years in business......and we all hope for many more!

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Monday, July 29, 2013

8 Easy Tips to Help You Take a Vacation ~ and Why You Should!

#SmallBiz #VacationTips #Entrepreneur

Are You Planning to Take a Vacation?

Many “Solopreneurs” would answer a resounding “No”!  And just as many would probably continue that by saying “and I don’t plan to”!

Taking a Break from Your Small Business is Possible ~ If You Plan, Plan, Plan!  "Tweet This"

I have found 8 Steps that You can Take to both create the time you need and help you organize your business so you can relax while you are away.

The reality is that any steps you take now to reduce your workload and pre-schedule what is necessary will help.

You Need To:

  • Decide When ~ The important thing is to choose a time that works well for you and your business.  You can lessen the impact of taking time off by opting for a slow time of year.   Mine usually happens to be summer and major holidays. That is traditionally when businesses are not interviewing or hiring. No matter what time you choose, put it in your calendar.  Treat it as you would an important appointment.

  • Defer and/or Complete Outstanding ProjectsAny projects that are not vital you can choose to put off until your return. Those that are important, or near completion, will require extra hours to finish before you leave.  Besides freeing your calendar, this also helps lessen your stress so you can relax during your vacation.

via Kimberly Kline, Access Profiles, Inc.

  • OrganizeI suggest you notify your clients at least 2 weeks in advance of your vacation if at all possible.  Offer to do what you can before you leave and reconnect with them when you return (with ample notice this should not be a problem).

  • Hire a Virtual Assistant or Contract EmployeeI have never utilized this tip, but it can make sense if your business requires it.  Keep in mind that hiring either a virtual assistant or “seasonal” employee would require you to take the time to rearrange your schedule and bring your hire up to speed.

  • Pre-Schedule Your Social Media Posts or Blogs (here is where using Hootsuite has been invaluable to me).  This will keep your “social media presence” active so you don’t lose ground.  I also try to check in at a minimum while away. Remember, this is vacation!

via Kimberly Kline, Access Profiles, Inc.

  • Pre-Pay Outstanding Bills ~ I have found this gives me the peace of mind to enjoy my time off, and I don’t come back to a stack of bills to pay!

  • Invoice for Completed WorkThis helps clear your desk and it is nice to have a check or two to return to!

  • Make a Priority List ~ Write down what you will need to attend to and when for your return.  Having a “re-entry” plan is important for getting you back up to speed.

If you still think taking a week long, or longer, vacation is out of reach, explore the option of “short breaks”.  Maybe you can arrange to get away for a long weekend or two.  The key is to find what works for you.

Most importantly, with the right prep work you can and should enjoy your time away.

via Kimberly Kline, Access Profiles, Inc.

With the stress of running your own business, You need Downtime.  You need a chance to decompress and focus on yourself, something we rarely get to do.

I guarantee that your good clients will understand.  After all, they are probably in the same boat.

Another upside, You can return rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated.  And that alone makes it all worth it!

Please Pay it Forward and Share this article! Thanks!

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Considering Lying on Your Resume - You May Want to Think Twice!

We are all raised with the belief that telling the truth is important.  Even as little children, our parents praise us when we tell the truth and admonish us when we don’t.

As we get older, things may get a little murkier.  But, in the end, we know that we display a strength of character when we are honest.

However, some people don’t feel that way.  For these people, “the ends justify the means”, and if a lie can get them what they want, so be it.

I frequently find evidence of this in my line of work, Background Checks!

Most often, the emphasis in Background Checks is placed on the Criminal History Check.  However, I believe verifying the skills and experience of an applicant is equally as important.

The truth is, some job seekers do lie about their education, previous employment, and job skills.  That is why a Resume Screening is invaluable.

A quality Resume Screening is a verification of anything a potential employee states on their resume or application.  Besides corroborating or dispelling what is contained in a resume, this kind of verification is also a great indicator of an applicant’s truthfulness.

Using a Resume Screening as part of the hiring process is especially necessary in a tough employment market.  Many job seekers become tempted to “beef up” their resumes with false information - all to make themselves more attractive candidates.

However, what job seekers need to realize is that falsifying your resume is always risky.  Not only can it keep you from initially getting the job, it can also damage your reputation.

Even if you manage to land the position, you should not believe yourself in the clear.  Many companies will re-check your credentials before considering you for a promotion.  In other instances, if a company is merging with or being bought out by another company, background checks on existing employees are run.

An uncovered lie can cost you your job.

It is possible to be truthful on your application despite a problematic work or education history.

Here I will outline 3 Common Resume Lies and What You can Do to Mitigate them:

  • Education and Skills

One of the easiest things to verify, Education is also one of the most often embellished.  In this case, it is best to be completely up front.

Fabricating your education and skills is a very tricky thing.   Claiming you have skills you do not can cause problems when you are expected to display them in your new position.

Instead, if this skill or training is essential to your job duties, my advice is to go get it!  Enroll in a class or training program to bring you up to speed.  Doing so will help you now and in the future.

  • Dates of Employment

In the effort to eliminate gaps in employment, many applicants will list inaccurate dates of employment.  There are two things you can do instead to mitigate these gaps.

You can truthfully explain the reasons for this period of unemployment.  We are in a time of closing companies and downsizing.  It is not uncommon to have been out of work.

It is also possible to lessen the impact of employment gaps with the pursuit of additional training, volunteerism, or self-employment/consulting work.  Be ready for real proof of these claims.

  • Job Titles

It is important to list any job title with the exact words as accepted by your former place of employment.  This is important when verifying your past position, and not something you should embellish.

However, it is with your job duties and examples of projects you completed that you can explain what you really accomplished.  Providing a list of your responsibilities and accomplishments will mean more than a grand job title.

In all cases, being untruthful on your resume can cause you problems.  Even if it is not uncovered during your initial hire, the feeling of having to look over your shoulder, waiting for the shoe to drop is not worth it.

This is what these “9 Famous Fibbers” found out the hard way:

by Barbara Safani via Aol Jobs.

While not all of them were ruined after their deceptions were uncovered, being truthful would have certainly been better advice for their careers, and will be for yours!

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For more on Hiring and Small Business, please visit my blog and website.  It would be great to connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ too!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Control is Just an Illusion: Dealing with Life’s Obstacles


The ability to Handle adversity is our greatest gift.  When things do not go as planned, it is essential that we learn what we can from it and move on......

Recently I was sitting in my living room working.  Tornado warnings were being plastered across my television screen and outside it sounded like a freight train was coming through.  The wind was howling and the skies were dark.  I could see and hear branches landing in our yard.  I expected the electric and phone lines to come down at any minute.

However, just as quickly as it came, the wind and torrential rain stopped.  My thoughts of losing power or even trees hitting our roof and deck never happened.

Then news reports started coming in.  I saw that we had been lucky.  Many in my area were hit much harder.  All day long I saw pictures and footage of major flooding and damage from the wind and rain.

Entire communities were under water and many had damage to their homes and businesses.  People were even stranded, unable to reach their families.

As those affected dealt with the aftermath, I wondered about the randomness of it all.  While I and those around me experienced very little damage, many were devastated.

There simply was no rational or logical explanation.

I think that life is often that way.  The fact is, we are not always in control of what happens to us.

External forces are at play.  Despite our best intentions to live according to plan, curve balls are constantly thrown at us.  The key is to learn to deal with them and be able to get back on track.

I have found that flexibility goes a long way.  Being too rigid and narrowly focused doesn’t work.

Many believe that those who set a course of action and will not be distracted from it are strong and driven.  I think real strength comes from being able to find success despite following an ever-changing and winding path.

Time and again I see people who are constantly thrown obstacles.  They may face illness, financial set backs, even the death of those near to them, but they manage to find a resilience and a joy in life on the other side.

Those people are the ones I truly admire.

I also find this trait often among my Small Business owner friends.

Each of us start our journey of entrepreneurship with a goal and a path to reach that goal in mind.  We develop our business plans and open shop.  Rarely is it smooth sailing.

Most times we are forced to alter our well thought-out plans and follow a completely different course of action.  We may find that our original marketing strategy or even our production methods simply don’t work.

Oftentimes, outside forces derail us.  Recessions, changing laws, and even natural disasters occur. Any belief that we are in control of ourselves and our business is out the window.

Life Happens.

I am no different.  I have had to deal with my own and those I love’s bouts with cancer, the death of my father, and many other things that could have stopped me in my tracks.

However, I had to choose to not let it.  It may not be how I intended, but I still had move on.

The fact is, we seldom have control.  We often fool ourselves into thinking we do, but that is an illusion.

We can, and should, make plans and set goals.  What we can’t do, is expect to never waiver from them.

We need to remember that reality can strike at any time.  Life’s challenges are around every corner and we must learn to deal with them and move on.

Much like the storm that raged through my town, unpredictable winds are everywhere.  Dealing with them and coming through time and again is what makes people everyday heroes....and I know many!

I close with these words from Christopher Reeve;

"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

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Friday, July 12, 2013

"Pretzel Crazy" in this Week's Small Business Spotlight!

A Tasty Addition to my “Small Business Spotlight” series, Sheri Powell and her business, Pretzel Crazy!

Like so many, Sheri’s interest in starting her own business was prompted by the loss of her job.  For the first time in many years, Sheri was not sure what she was going to do next.  

For over 20 years, Sheri had been making caramel and chocolate covered pretzels for family and friends.  Everyone loved them and her pretzels were a big hit.  It was with that thought that Sheri decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship!

So in 2007, Sheri began selling her decorated pretzels.  She started going to local craft shows and church festivals.  It didn’t take long for Sheri to figure out that her pretzels were in demand.  

Pretzel Crazy's 6 Most Popular Flavors

Pretzel Crazy was born!

Pretzel Crazy is a custom pretzel company.  Each of Sheri’s pretzels starts by being coated in buttery caramel and then dipped in either milk or dark chocolate.  Next is where the “crazy” comes in!

Pretzel Crazy pretzel toppings come in many different options.  You can choose candy, think Butterfingers and M&Ms; nuts, like almonds, cashews, and peanuts; and fruits such as cranberries and bananas.  They even offer savory options like Chipotle and Bacon!   Let your imagination run wild! 

Sheri has over 20 flavors of pretzels.  Pretzel Crazy also sells chocolate dipped and decorated jumbo marshmallows and 6 flavors of Crazy Pretzel Bark.  Her pretzels are even available in a gluten free option.

Jumbo Dipped Marshmallows

Pretzel Crazy pretzels and marshmallows can be custom decorated to fit any theme or event.  Sheri has made her unique designs for weddings, showers, bar & bat mitzvahs, and birthday parties.  They are a great idea for Corporate Gifts too!

Really the sky is the limit!

Currently Pretzel Crazy sells its creations online and in 6 local specialty stores.  Sheri also frequents fundraising events, fashion shows, and even sells her pretzels in area office buildings.

To find out more about Pretzel Crazy and all the scrumptious pretzels, marshmallows and bark she has to offer, Sheri would love you to call or visit her through any of the links below: 

Pretzel Crazy's "Circle of Craziness"

Sheri Powell
(412) 526-1300
Friend us on Facebook!

Go Crazy Over Pretzel Crazy!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Truth Behind “Ban the Box”!

“Ban the Box” has become a movement throughout our country.  At its most basic, “Ban the Box” means removing the “box” on any application that asks whether the person has a prior criminal history.

In removing this box, it is believed that the possibility of immediate discrimination towards those with a past criminal record would be eliminated.

It is also thought that by banning this box that the “disparate discrimination” against minorities will be lessened.

Many states have already passed legislation banning “the box” for all or segments of employers.  There are also many states where such legislation is pending.

However, this issue remains confusing for many.

In this article, I will explore what you need to know about “Ban the Box” - What is It?, What Does it Mean for Employees?, and What Should Companies Do?

What is “Ban the Box”?

“Ban the Box” legislation restricts an employer from asking about a candidate’s criminal history prior to or during the application process. It is only after making a conditional offer of employment that an employer would be permitted to consider the candidate’s criminal history.

What Does it Mean for Employees?

Employees should know whether it is legal for employers to ask about prior criminal history during the application process.  If it is banned, then any direct or indirect question concerning past criminal records is not permitted (exceptions exist for certain positions where by law no one with a criminal history is able to be hired).

However, after a conditional offer of employment has been made, a criminal background check is permissible.

Applicants should also know that they have recourse if a criminal record is discovered.
Shared via http://www.carptoons.com/

What Should Companies Do?

It is important for employers to follow these guidelines:

  • Consider All State and Federal laws concerning Employment Background Checks.
  • Create a Written Policy concerning Criminal Records (What Positions require a criminal background check and What Offenses are crucial to the job duties and safety of the company).
  • Provide On-going Training of all existing personnel involved in the hiring process.
  • Remove the question concerning an applicant’s criminal history from the initial application.
  • Review any advertisements or job board notices for language that discourages those with a criminal history from applying.

It is also important for a company to clearly outline the procedure upon a conditional offer of employment.

An employer must:

  • Explain to the applicant that a criminal background check will be conducted.
  • Obtain a signed release from the applicant for the criminal background check.
  • Provide the applicant with a written notice of what offenses found during their background check may disqualify them.
  • Inform the applicant that they will have the opportunity to challenge, disprove, or mitigate any damaging information discovered during the background check. 
  • Consider only convictions within the past 7-10 years and pending prosecutions that are relevant to the position.
  • Keep all information discovered on an applicant’s and employee's  background check confidential.

Despite these restrictions, it is still crucial for a company to be aware of their obligations to their existing employees and customers.  They must ensure that their hires are safe.

Hiring a good Background Check company is a great step in this direction.  Qualified Background Check companies stay on top of all EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines and state and federal laws.

A professional Background Check company will also “go to the source” and check all criminal records found during the background check process with the courts.  In this way the information provided is the most accurate available.

Read more tips on Hiring the Best Background Check Company in my earlier article here.

“Ban the Box” does not have to give an advantage solely to the applicant.  If done right, it also provides an employer with the ability to protect themselves while still allowing the opportunity for a “second chance”.

Consider these words from author David Brin;

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else."

Visit my website for more information on Background Checks and find out how they can work for you!  

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Independence - What it Really Means to Small Business Owners!

Created by Kimberly Kline

As we gear up for the annual celebration of our Nation’s Independence, I pause to reflect on what that Independence means to me, and to all Small Business Owners!

The rights our Patriots fought hard for are a big part of my every day life.  I embrace them each time I am free to vote and worship as I choose.  I also cherish the ability afforded me to pursue what makes me happy.

Our forefathers founded our nation on these rights.  They believed in the idea that hard work brings great rewards and that all should have the opportunity to better themselves.

Throughout our history, we have continued as a nation to fight for our rights.  We have encountered those who have attempted to harm us from outside and within.  Each time we rally because we believe in these freedoms and they are important to us.

I also believe that spirit is alive and well in our nation’s Small Business Owners.

Small Business owners embody the idea of independence and freedom.  "Tweet This"

We embrace what is best in our country.  Every day we are a testament to resilience and the “frontier spirit”.

The opportunity to run things our own way drives us.    

Small Business is making a strong resurgence in our nation. Many are realizing the importance of “shopping small” to keep us strong and self-reliant.  Our Entrepreneurs are stepping up to the challenge.

Check out this infographic from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and Babson College and Baruch College.

Their research shows that our Nation’s Entrepreneurs are ambitious and we need to recognize and encourage the “energy and value they bring to our societies”.  Many are opening new businesses or working hard to make their existing ones a success.

And if you are thinking of going it alone, then these tips on "Starting a Small Business of One" will help!

This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the traits of a Small Business Owner perfectly;

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Small Business Owners are trailblazers, and nothing says “independence” more!

I personally celebrate the freedom and independence I feel in running my own business.  The ability to pursue my own dreams is unequaled.  To me, this is true independence.

Photo Taken by Kimberly Kline

This 4th of July, while we celebrate the independence of our nation, let us also remember that it is alive and well in the hearts, minds, and businesses of our Small Business Owners - our innovators, our inventors, and our instigators!

I close with these words from a true visionary, Walt Disney;

"If you can DREAM it, you can DO it."

And that is what the 4th of July is all about......celebrating our freedom to dream and the independence we continue to hold close.

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