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!

First Step to Starting Your Small Business ~ Set Up & Finance! "Tweet This"

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. 

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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Visit our Website for more Small Business Tips!  Be sure to check out our 
Resources & Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to many of your Hiring & Background Check questions!
Contact Us Now.  
We can Help You with Your Small Business Needs!

*1 - Mark Peduto
Source *2 - Strategies for Business Owners

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.


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.


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, .  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!   

Whether you are an employer or looking for a job yourself, the whole idea of undergoing a background check can be daunting, and even a little scary.

But it doesn't have to be that way! Instead, knowing and understanding what will happen each step of the way is your best bet.

Discover the Life of a Background Check ~ Start to Finish!  "Tweet This"!

Here you will discover a Step by Step Guide to the "Life of a Background Check". You will learn exactly what verifiers do when and why during each part of the process.
  • First Step ~ Get a Signed Release
All employers need to obtain a signed release from each applicant before a background check can be done. This needs to be a "stand alone" document that ensures they understand a background check is being done and gives the background check company access to information where a signed release is required (this potentially applies to education and  employment verifications, and some criminal records among others). Learn more about "stand alone" releases here!

Employers will also need to obtain an applicant's identifying information  ~ this includes name, any previous names used, date of birth, and social security number. Additional information that may be requested are an applicant's addresses for the past 7-10 years, institution and date of highest diploma/degree earned, and driver’s license information. 

If verification of past employments or references is requested, a copy of the applicant’s resume will also be forwarded to HR or their background check company.  

Upon receipt of this information, the employer will inform their provider what they want verified. Depending on the job description, it can be as little as verifying local criminal court information or as detailed as a full background check.

A good screening company would recommend the employer "fit the background check to the job" to determine the scope of the investigation. Find out more about why Here!

This flexibility focuses the background check only on what the employer really needs and is a great way to accommodate the budget and needs of businesses of all sizes. 
  • Verifying the information You requested 
Since all background checks involve some type of criminal record investigation, most verifiers start here.

Best practice is to use actual court records during all criminal record checks. This may involve a combination of logging into a courts online database and inspection of actual court records.  

This is not an “instant” process as many may believe. Some records may be available immediately, while others can be obtained within 24 to 48 hours. But, even more importantly, these checks should not be done by exclusively checking online, independent databases. You can read our thoughts on using online databases as the sole source of court records here.Verifying through the actual courts is the absolute best way to get the accurate and up-to-date information you need. 

Criminal searches routinely focus on felonies first, then lower graded offenses if necessary. Convictions, not arrests, are of the utmost importance, especially if the record involves crimes that would create an unsafe work environment for the employer.  

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

The verification of civil court records is very similar. However, these records rarely contain more than the name and address of each party. This is why it is important to have the past addresses of the subject when searching these records.
  • Verifying Education, Employments, & References
If requested, the next step would be to 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. Verifiers are often required to forward a copy of a signed release before they are able to obtain any information.

Verifiers are looking for corroboration that the information listed by the applicant matches what is supplied by the source. It is always best 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 process verifications.  

When conducting an employment verification, the goal is to match dates and title of employment with those listed on the subject’s resumeMost 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.

Other information that may also be checked is “reason for leaving”, whether the applicant is “eligible for rehire”, and possibly work performance and reliability. By asking about “reason for leaving” and rehire, verifiers are often able to get a better glimpse into the nature of the employment.

It is at this stage that delays can often occur. Many times a company may have to be contacted multiple times before a verifier is able to speak with someone who can answer questions.

In addition, some companies no longer handle verifications in-house and they contract this duty out to another company, much like education verifications. While this can speed up the process, there are times when records must be searched by hand, which may cause a delay. There are also often additional fees involved in this type of search.

For references, best policy is to contact those listed by the applicant and develop one or two additional. This is an important step. References listed by the applicant are likely to only give a positive report ~ although you may be surprised!. This also can take some time.

If the employer has requested a driving record, this request also needs to be submitted. Often proof of a signed release is required.  Best records are obtained by contacting the department of motor vehicles, or a state’s equivalent, for 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 requested, it is important that a verifier checks whether the subject’s license is valid, that they have any necessary commercial licenses, and that they don’t have excessive driving violations.  

After completing all requested reports, the verifier's work is done. Employers now have all the information needed to help them make an informed hiring decision. 

As discussed in previous  articles, “how” an employer can safely use this information in the employment process is another matter. Read more here

The most vital key to each and every step taken during a Background Check is Accuracy.  

This is by far a background check verifier's most important goal and is also crucial to both employers and job applicants! While getting a background check done quickly is nice, speed should never be the first consideration. Taking the time to verify information from the best possible sources is best for everyone.

This is the “life” of a typical Background Check. Following these steps are key to helping everyone achieve their ultimate goal ~ making a great, new hire!
Please Pay it Forward and Share this article on your favorite social sites! Thanks!

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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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To continue with me on my blogging journey, I invite you to subscribe here.

You can also reach me through my website, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn sites.  I hope to see you there!