Fine tune your 30-second “elevator speech” at the Orange County Young Professionals’ “Open Mic Networking Night.” Join fellow business professionals on Thursday February 3rd at 5:30pm at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce office. Refreshments (beer, wine, snacks) will be served. You’ll have the chance to practice your business pitch and receive valuable feedback from networking professionals. Free if you reserve in advance – $5 at the door if you don’t! Call 845-457-9700 to register or visit http://www.orangeny.com
The greatest thing about owning your own business is that you are your own boss. The hardest thing about owning your own business is that you are your own boss! This is known as the Entrepreneurial Curse. And quite honestly, it is both a blessing and a curse. You have complete control over your business, and for many entrepreneurs, this is a great fact. But, it can also cause many entrepreneurs to feel like they are completely alone, with no one to help them along the way.
3 Steps to Next Level Business Success: Ready, Set, Go!
A Professional Development Seminar – Hosted by National Association of Professional Organizers, New England Chapter (NAPO-NE).
Presented by: Lisa Montanaro
Certified Professional Organizer®, Business & Life Coach, Motivational Speaker
- DATE: Saturday, September 11, 2010
- TIME: 9:00am – 1:00pm
- LOCATION: Doubletree Guest Suites Boston/Waltham
550 Winter Street Waltham, MA 02451
Unsure if you are getting the most out of your business? Unclear as to whether your business is going in the right direction? Feeling like you could use a business plan revamp? Then get ready to take your business to the Next Level!
In this presentation, Lisa Montanaro, will help you create a plan designed to implement business growth by focusing on three phases: Ready (assess), Set (strategize and plan), Go (take action). Regardless of the level your business is ready to move to this workshop will help you get there.
By the end of this 3-hour workshop, you will:
- Learn active business planning strategies
- Be able to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses in your own business
- Receive examples of best practices for business owners
- Learn the benefits of blueprinting your business operations so that you can create balance in your work life & a clear exit strategy
by Guest Blogger, Monique MacKinnon
A scattered mind produces scattered results in business. Scattered means: “occurring or distributed over widely spaced and irregular intervals in time or space” and “lacking orderly continuity” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/scattered). If it is taking you longer than anticipated, expected or desired to build your business, then tweaking your focus may be the “next best” step for you at this time. When I saw Donald Trump “live” in person last year, I learned that “lack of focus” was the cause of his financial downfall and near catastrophic ending in the early nineties. So, if your focus needs fine-tuning, check out these five business distractions:
Business Distraction #1: Are you unclear about and aimless in your purpose and use of passions? What is your purpose in life? Do you know yours, and if yes, are you consistently placing your attention and energies on fulfilling it? What are passions: “intense emotions compelling actions” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict/passion)? Without this clarity about and focus on your purpose and passions, you will end up resorting to trial and error – and perhaps lots of pain and frustration too – to make profit from your purpose and passions.
Business Distraction #2: Are you sometimes close-minded and pessimistic about your current situation and the future? Here is how you can tell: When you are presented with challenges and problems, do typically open your mind and see the potential inherent in these? Adopting this perspective will allow you to attract the vision or answer about how to move gracefully and successfully through it.
Business Distraction #3: Are you more reactive than proactive? Do you prefer to wait and see what happens in life or take matters into your own hands and carve your own path?
Business Distraction #4: Do you resist instead of welcome change? If you have a habit of accepting the status quo instead of focusing on continuous improvement: making good “things” – including yourself, your offerings and you current situation – even better, then you are change-averse. Instead of reducing expenses, think about how you could improve productivity, performance and profitability through innovation and by working collaboratively (including sharing costs) and in new ways with partners, competitors and suppliers, instead of doing it all yourself in the same old way, which will create the same old results. To save time and effort, join You Are In Royal Hands (http://tinyurl.com/LinkedInCollaborationClub), where we discuss ways you can accomplish this.
Business Distraction #5: Do Bright Shiny Objects pull you off course? Entrepreneurs and people with an entrepreneurial spirit are adept at looking out for and jumping on opportunities. Are you one of these people who see, seizes, and sticks with opportunities through the up and down cycles of business and life?
What are the opportunity costs of being scattered in business? Several exist, including lost: time, money, clients, business opportunities, energy, health, vacations and spiritual and emotional fulfillment.
Remember, if your mind (i.e. thoughts and emotions) and actions are mostly focused on low-vibration energies (like fear, worry and doubt) and distractions, they will pull people, things and situations to you that are aligned with these low-quality energies and scattered or unwanted results. So, if you want to upgrade your life, including the type of clients, collaborators, suppliers and investors you attract, you’ll need to shift your focus upwards instead of keeping it on the down low. What is the solution for creating desired business and personal results then? On a micro level, focus on living, making decisions and acting in the now in the directions of your identified dreams and goals. Believe that the details (i.e. the macro level) required to make your goals and dreams come true will appear and you will spot them if you consistently have faith and the right focus: mind and action-wise.
About the Guest Blogger:
Energetic Evolution Creativity Expert, Monique MacKinnon, is committed to teaching open-minded entrepreneurs how to meaningfully monetize their passions. If you are not fully and meaningfully profiting from your passions, there is a strong probability that your business is stuck and preventing you from creating the business and life you absolutely love. To claim your complimentary 15-minute phone “Clear Creative Blocks Forever Session” valued at $100 (for a limited time only), contact firstname.lastname@example.org and put “I want a Clear Creative Blocks Forever Session, please” in the subject line.
So, your business is growing and you are ready to outsource or delegate some of the work. However, you are confused about how to classify a new team member: employee or independent contractor? The following is an overview of classification of workers to help guide this important business decision. As with any aspect of your business that is of a legal or tax nature, you should consider seeking the formal advice of an accountant and/or attorney to assist you. Hopefully, this overview will provide you with enough basic information to ask relevant questions of your business advisors.
Classification of Workers
- Classification of a person as an independent contractor or employee is important for tax purposes.
- For an independent contractor, you must file IRS Form 1099-MISC to report payments of $600 or more.
- If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker, which typically include income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment.
- If you want the IRS to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, you can file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
- As a general rule, an individual is an independent contractor if the person for whom the services are performed has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, and not what will be done, how it will be done, or the method of accomplishing the result.
- An individual is an employee if he or she performs services for an employer and the employer can control what will be done and how it will be done.
Categories of Control
The IRS examines the relationship between the business and the worker by reviewing 3 categories:
- Behavioral Control
- Financial Control
- Type of Relationship
- These 3 areas form a list of 20 factors that the IRS uses to determine the distinction. IRS Revenue Ruling 87-41 outlines the 20 factors in detail.
- Generally speaking, independent contractors retain control over their schedule and number of hours worked, jobs accepted, and performance of their job.
- Employees usually work a schedule required by the employer and their performance is directly supervised.
- IRS Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee, is another valuable resource that discusses the differences between the two classifications.
- Behavioral Control
Behavioral control covers whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training, or other means.
- When and where to do the work.
- What tools or equipment to use.
- What workers to hire or to assist with the work.
- Where to purchase supplies and services.
- What work must be performed by a specified individual.
- What order or sequence to follow.
- Whether worker is trained to perform services in particular manner.
Training is an area where some small businesses come close to creating an employment relationship with independent contractors by requiring detailed training, including “shadowing” of the business owner/service provider, and requirement that services be provided in a certain manner.
Requiring an independent contractor to have taken certain classes is not the equivalent of providing training, but merely requires a qualification level and skill set required for work. It may be a safer route to take when hiring subcontractors. Also, training in company policies is not necessarily the same as training in how to do the actual services.
2. Financial Control
Financial control considerations are as follows:
- The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed expenses.
- The extent of the worker’s investment in the facilities used in performing services.
- The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market.
- How the business pays the worker.
- The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or incur a loss.
3. Type of Relationship
The IRS examines the relationship between the parties:
- Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intend to create.
- The extent to which the worker is available to perform services for other, similar businesses.
- Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation or sick pay.
- The permanency of the relationship.
- The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company.
For more detailed information visit www.IRS.gov and refer to IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide or IRS Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee.
Terms of an Independent Contractor Agreement
The following are typical clauses found in an agreement between a retaining business and an independent contractor:
- Define independent contractor status
- Scope of work (duties & required responsibilities)
- A non-solicitation and/or non-compete clause
- Non-disclosure clause
- Consent to use of trademark
- Payment terms (compensation & out-of-pocket expenses)
- Term of project or relationship/termination
- Obligation to carry general liability insurance
- May also include a governing law provision, indemnification clause, conflict of interest clause, non-hire provision, and request for taxpayer ID number for 1099.
- Non-compete agreements are reviewed by the courts for reasonableness based on several factors, including the nature of the business, the nature of the worker’s duties, the geographic territory encompassed by the non-compete, and the length of time chosen. They are often hard to enforce.
- Non-solicitation agreements can protect against stealing of clients and/or employees.
For an employee, you can draft a basic employment letter outlining date of hire, salary and benefits package, probationary period, pay raise eligibility, etc. Employees are generally “at will” unless otherwise designated, meaning they can be discharged due to any legitimate, non-discriminatory basis.
The employer chooses which benefits to offer (sick leave, vacation, etc.); benefits are usually not required (check state and local laws and regulations). Benefits are mostly based on industry standards and employee expectations, and are used to entice employees.
As with any major business decision, do your homework — speak with expert advisors, (accountant, attorney, business coach, etc.), and speak with colleagues that have experience in retaining workers in order to find out which classification makes the most sense for your business.
© 2010 Lisa Montanaro. Information provided in this article is intended as a general overview and is not to be construed as the rendering of individual legal or tax advice.
Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Pablo Picasso
How many of us have heard the old familiar phrase, “The shoemaker’s children always go without shoes?” This phrase has become synonymous with almost anyone neglecting his or her own business. We are all guilty of it now and again. We get so busy working in the business that we forget to ‘mind the shop’ in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, in the process, we wind up losing one of the best experts we have on staff – ourselves! So, take a step back, and hire someone with superb expertise – you.
Let’s say, for example, you are a financial planner, but your finances have become a mess. Or perhaps you are a professional organizer, but your office is in complete disarray and you can’t find anything. What type of image does this project to your clients, and the world at large (assuming anyone knows about it!)? Not a very good one. But more importantly, you suffer because of it. You spend all of your best time and energy on your clients, and don’t take your own advice. This is not a great model for running a successful business. You should ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to the business advice you dispense to others. You should be a role model for your clients and other like-minded entrepreneurs.
In the book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (fabulous book that is really about life, not only cancer), author Kris Carr writes about how a good model for healthy living has been established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): wear your seat belt, don’t smoke in the bathroom, and if the plane goes down – put YOUR oxygen mask on first! Great advice in general, but also for an entrepreneur running a business. If you aren’t taking care of business inwardly, you can’t expect to succeed and exude a positive, productive image to the world.
So, how do you avoid the shoemaker’s shoes trap? Start treating yourself like a prized client! You must start doing the inward focused work that you often neglect to do in order to move forward in your business.
- Audit your business based on your particular area of expertise. All of you have a unique area of brilliance that you excel in. Don’t give it all away to others! Save some for yourself. Audit your business based on your area of expertise and figure out what is lacking, what needs improvement, etc. Couldn’t you benefit from hiring you? Most likely, yes!
- Set aside the time for a private boot camp or corporate retreat. You probably advise your clients to take time for their businesses, but when is the last time you booked uninterrupted time for your business? Every year, I book a boot camp or “corporate retreat” for my business. I write an action plan of what I want to focus on, and then I go to town and get it done. It is a great way to pump out projects that have been lingering, brainstorm what the direction of my business will be in coming months and years, and develop a future action plan. It is a time to both be productive and plan ahead.
- Put your business through any checklists, systems, or processes that you put your clients through. You all have them: those great systems, approaches, and processes that you develop and share with your clients. Now, take some time to put your own business through the same systems. Not only will your business benefit, but also you will understand the systems more, see if there are any holes that need to be plugged, and any ways the systems can be improved upon. Therefore, you benefit, but so do your future clients.
- Continue to hire yourself as needed. Once you’ve done the inward work necessary to keep your business running in tip-top shape, don’t neglect it again. If you start to see the shoemaker’s shoes trap rear it’s ugly head in the future, hire yourself to keep it at bay!
Are you thinking of becoming a professional organizer? Are you unsure what it takes to put the professional into organizing? Check out my new audio program, Branch Out: Adding Organizing Services to a Redesign/Staging Business.
Recorded live at the 2009 IRIS Conference in Denver, this 3 hour audio presentation delivers great results. Although presented to redesigners and home stagers, this presentation is also perfect for new or budding organizers looking to start or grow an organizing business!
In this 3 hour presentation, I teach you the basic principles of organizing, share tried-and-true systems, and unveil tips and tools of the trade. You will be able to create an action plan for launching organizing services, as well as concrete solutions to room-by-room organizing challenges.
Bonus! Includes comprehensive Power Point guide in PDF format, and a free monthly subscription to the Next Level Business Success E-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs.
Is the Threat of a Lawsuit a Real Fear?
As a small business owner, you may be one of the 48% concerned about frivolous or unfair lawsuits. According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, actual lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits cost U.S. small businesses $98 million in 2005. That figure may seem large because it includes money spent on damage awards, settlements, legal costs, liability insurance premiums, and costs incurred by insurance companies on behalf of policyholders. Is the fear of lawsuits a real fear? Unfortunately, yes. Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time. In reality, 46% of small business owners have been threatened with a lawsuit, 34% have been sued in the past 10 years, and 62% have made business decisions to avoid lawsuits. Indeed, small businesses bear 69% of the total cost of the tort system to all U.S. businesses.
What is the Best Course of Action?
What’s a small business owner to do? For starters, realize that the best defense is a great offense. While most small business owners fear the law, it is much wiser to use the law as a protective shield. There are many business and legal components that contribute to creating the strongest shield possible – business entities (the type of structure that governs your business), insurance, and intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets) to name a few.
As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face. It is imperative that entrepreneurs understand the basics of the legal side of running a business, and how to use the law as a shield to protect yourself and your business.
Creating a Shield Through Business Structure
The first item a small business owner should consider is the structure of the business. There are 4 basic types of business entities: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company. A common misconception of small business owners is that the business entity itself always creates a legal shield. In some instances (a corporation, or limited liability company, for example), this is generally true. However, if you are a sole proprietor (and, if so, you are not alone, as 78% of all small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietorships), then you essentially have no shield. As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all business debts and other obligations. Fortunately, the law is not the only means to create a shield to protect your business. If the business entity itself does not provide a shield, then you can create one by acquiring appropriate and adequate insurance coverage. Thus, a sole proprietorship that is adequately protected by insurance may have an effective shield.
In the case of partnerships, another misconception is that the partnership is a distinct legal entity that provides a shield. A partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship run by two or more individuals. Thus, the structure itself provides no shield. Again, insurance can be used to fill in the gap, and/or a different business entity can be chosen. For example, did you know that you can create a corporation and the same two people that would have created a partnership will now be shareholders? What about a limited liability company with more than one member? There are many ways for two or more individuals to own a business together. Carefully consider which makes the most sense, not only from an operations and decision-making standpoint, but to garner the most legal protection for the owners involved.
Even with corporations and limited liability companies, there are limits to the force of the shield. Simply creating a business entity is not enough. The business must be operated as a distinct legal entity, including refraining from co-mingling of personal and business funds, keeping personal guarantees on behalf of the company to a minimum, maintaining corporate/business records, and paying business-related taxes. If the business entity is a sham or the owner does not follow the rules in terms of keeping the business shield up, the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” may be applied by a court if the business is sued. Piercing the corporate veil allows a litigant to pierce the business structure and reach the owner personally. Granted, piercing the corporate veil is only applied in very limited situations, but it should be used as a reminder to keep that shield up at all times when it comes to operating your organizing business as a distinct legal entity.
Creating a Shield Through a Written Client Agreement
When you agree to perform services for a client, and the client agrees to pay you for such services, you and your client have entered into a legal contract. The terms of the contract, however, are difficult to recall and prove unless in writing. A written contract is pivotal as it puts clients on notice of business policies and terms, sets a professional tone, promotes consistency of policies, and is legally enforceable in court (the decision whether to sue a client to enforce a contract is, of course, a business decision, as well as a legal one, and should be carefully considered). The contract, thus, helps to prevent misunderstandings and clearly defines the expectations of the parties.
Some entrepreneurs choose not to use contracts for fear that a written agreement may be too formal or legal in nature and, thus, may scare a client away. Again, this is a business decision that should be given consideration, and you should determine if this is a real or imagined fear by communicating with your clients to test the waters. You can also use a “letter agreement,” which may be less intimidating for clients. In the corporate arena, a written contract is generally expected. Another disadvantage of using a written contract is the cost of creating and advising if you use an attorney. While there are standardized contract forms available online and in books, be careful not to accept such standardized forms carte blanche. I often see small business owners fail to adapt contracts appropriately, which causes embarrassing typos, inappropriate clauses, and general confusion. Not only does this look unprofessional, but in extreme cases it can also result in unenforceability of the contract in court. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a business lawyer review the agreement to make sure it adequately protects you, contains the relevant terms, and fulfills the goals you want to accomplish. It is an expense worth paying for to secure adequate protection in the long term.
A word of caution: stay away from “legalese.” Use plain English so that the agreement is easy to understand and helps, rather than hinders, the understanding between you and your clients. If you do use a client agreement, here is a list of sample clauses you should consider including:
- Definition of the parties (define your status as an independent contractor if the contract is for corporate organizing);
- Services to be performed;
- Code of ethics for your professional association, if applicable;
- Pricing and payment policies (pricing structure, retainer guidelines, travel time or expense, charges for supplies or products purchased on the client’s behalf, cancellation policy, when payment is due, fee for bounced check, credit card acceptance, payment of expenses, etc.);
- Provision of materials, equipment, and office space;
- Assurance of insurance coverage;
- State law governance;
- Permission to take and use photos for marketing purposes, if appropriate;
- Term of agreement/termination of relationship.
Now, go forth with shields raised!
“We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
By now, you have probably heard the term “Coopetition.” Coopetition is a contraction of the words cooperation and competition, meaning essentially cooperative competition. In the business world, coopetition means collaborating or partnering with your competitors in an innovative way so that both parties benefit. The most successful entrepreneurs realize early on that the old military adage, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy … Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer” applies just as well to the business world. Of course, we all know that your competitors are not truly your enemies (at least I hope they aren’t!), but the idea of keeping them close is the point. A creative collaboration with your biggest competitor in the same industry may be the best opportunity for boosting your business.
Many of you are already familiar with the idea of collaborating with your competitors through membership in an industry specific professional association. For example, I am a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the premiere association for my industry. I attend the annual conference every year as a participant or presenter, belong to a local organizers’ neighborhood (an informal chapter), frequently engage in discussion on the organizers’ email list, and serve as a mentor and business coach to new organizers and organizers-to-be. I have partnered with other organizers in various ways, as well as share referrals back and forth. This coopetition with other organizers has enriched my business in ways that are immeasurable. I’ve benefited greatly from these relationships and from keeping an open mind in my approach to dealing with my competitors.
It is smart business to capitalize on the positive aspects of a competitive situation. However, for coopetition to work effectively, both parties need to clearly define their roles, making sure not to overstep boundaries. The goal is to find a way to partner with your competitor (read: colleague!) so that both parties can substantially benefit from the collaboration. Look around at your competition, and identify competitors that share the same zest for business and success that you do. You want to make sure that you align yourself with a competitor that you respect and admire, and that exudes the same sense of professionalism and level of expertise.
What are some ways that you can engage in coopetition that will boost your business? Here are some examples of strategic alliances between competitors that are innovative, creative, and effective:
- Develop a joint venture project together. Some of the best business ideas are born out of competitors joining together. For example, in my industry, organizers are collaborating together to offer certification prep courses, train new organizers, design organizing products, etc.
- Share a booth at an expo, tradeshow or business showcase. Not only will this help each party keep costs down, but as we all know, two minds are often better than one. You may come up with great new ideas to market your industry and businesses, offer more products, and gain more attention from participants and the media.
- Co-present with a competitor. Co-presenting is a wonderful tool when done well. I have had the opportunity to present with colleagues to offer workshops that I may not have been able to do on my own. The participants benefit from hearing two different presenters, which helps keep the workshop fresh and interesting. Each presenter only has to do half the work, which makes your job easier overall.
- Advertise with a competitor. Advertising is expensive. Sharing that expense with a colleague or competitor to promote types of service, your industry, or an event you are doing together is a great way to maximize advertising costs.
- Refer leads to each other. This is probably the most common form of coopetition. But don’t lose sight of how powerful it is! What you give out almost always comes back. If you cannot service a prospective client, find a colleague or competitor that can. The potential client will view you as a true professional and resource-provider, and the competitor will be grateful and will usually reciprocate in the future.
- Co-author an article or book together. Writing does not come easy to many people. Consider sharing writing responsibility by co-authoring an article or book with a competitor. This may be the most effective way to get published in your industry. For example, if you teamed up with 9 competitors in your industry and all wrote one chapter, voila, a 10-chapter book is born!
- Offer a teleclass or webinar together. You’ve probably seen this many times where two business experts team up to offer a teleclass or webinar together. Many times they are in complementary industries, such as an interior designer (or life coach, or wardrobe consultant, etc.) and professional organizer, or a financial planner and accountant. Again, two minds are better than one, work is shared among the presenters, and the participants get to hear from two experts. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Think broadly, keep an open mind, and seek out collaborative opportunities to boost your business with coopetition. Used wisely, it is a fantastic tool to add to your business.