So You Want To Start a Business

So You Want To Start a Business

That’s great! You will be one of 3,190 individual’s (2015 figures, via the Kauffman Index) across the United States who is adding to a still-vibrant economy, in spite of war and recession elsewhere. In fact, entrepreneurship is actually up from 2014, by about 10 percent, so clearly some people are still hopeful about the economy, Wall Street aside.

Like many entrepreneurs, you may have to shoulder the burden of the workload by yourself for a while, with part-timers on call when things get really crazy.

Those part-timers can help you get through the sticky stuff, so go ahead and hire them. Young and strong, or older and wiser, they are an important addition to your business. If you are successful, they may even transition along with you to become permanent, full-time employees.

But there are rules, even when hiring part-time or temporary help, and you could lose your precious startup – and everything else you own – if you are not careful to follow them.

What Defines Part-Time

You do. Not the government, and not some anonymous management company, but you. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies whether your new employee works 14 hours, or 30 hours. However, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes “part-time” as working one to 34 hours per week, so that is a good guideline.

Mandatory Benefits

What are you required to offer, or pay? Mandatory benefits include workers’ compensation and Social Security – or a short-term benefits package for disability, depending on your state. You are required to pay minimum wage in most cases. This is equivalent to $7.25 per hour.

Starting out, you may want to keep it simple and hope that your employees are healthy and capable. On the other hand, a small, simple, very carefully crafted benefits package may be just the incentive your new employees need to work just that much harder to help you succeed.

Health Insurance

Don’t forget the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) for health insurance. Again, depending on your status as an employer, etc., you may not have to offer anything to those working less than 20 hours a week, but your insurer can advise you and help you plan for an acceptable minimum of coverage – perhaps with employee participation.   

The law says you must pay for health insurance if you have 50 full-time employees or more. This is the 2016 threshold. This means you either offer health insurance, or pay a tax penalty. You can get around this by cutting hours, or dividing your company into two parts (e.g., manufacturing and sales), and some larger firms are doing just that, but that’s kind of a shabby way to meet the letter of the law while ignoring the intent.

If your employees are seasonal – if, for example, you build sailboats, but only in the summer – you are required to offer health benefits to employees if there are more than 50 of them, and they work for a consecutive 120 days (4 months) in a row.

Whatever you do, remember that any health insurance you offer must meet the guidelines of “affordability”. That is, it must not exceed 9.56 percent of your employee’s combined household income.

There is a caveat, of course. Since you, the employer, are unlikely to know what your employee’s combined household income is, you can take advantage of any one of three “safe harbor” stances. These are:

  1. The amount of wages on the W-2 form
  2. The rate of pay, typically calculated at 130 hours per month or more times the hourly wage
  3. The Federal poverty line, or FPL, takes the position that the coverage is affordable if your employee’s contribution is not greater than 9.5 percent of the FPL for a single individual during the calendar year.

Best Advice

Good employees are a treasure beyond gold. Learn to spot them, and reward them, outside of mandatory state and federal employment guidelines. For example, that Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas bonus may mean more in the long run than all the niggling little attempts you make to stay precisely within the law.

Small Businesses & Parental Leave

Small Businesses & Parental Leave

Without a strong team of dedicated employees, a business of any size can suffer. If you run a small business, you undoubtedly rely on your employees and in turn try to offer them benefits and other incentives for staying with and supporting your small company. While many employees of a small business are offered health insurance and even a retirement plan, parental leave is another story. It continues to baffle business owners and employees, alike, that in a developed country like the United States, women are not guaranteed time off from work to care for their newborn after birth.

Although larger businesses are required to provide employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave, through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), smaller businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide the same kind of leave. If you’re not required to provide parental (or maternity) leave, here are some reasons why you may want to consider offering it for expectant parents in your company:

Employees May Return After Leave

If you decide to provide parental leave your employees, there’s a good chance that a majority of the employees will return to work after leave. By providing parental leave, giving either men or women an option to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child, you are taking action and showing your employees that you care about them and their families. In turn, you are more likely to have employees that value you as an employer and express mutual respect.

Creating a Parental Leave Policy

Whether you want to include both women and men is up to you, but when you create your parental leave policy it should be clear and you should be consistent with no exceptions and included in all employee manuals and in terms of employment. (Yes, even small businesses with a small amount of employees should have employee manuals and terms of employment.) When creating your policy, consider the FMLA:

  • Employees must be employed with your company for at least 12 months and works a regular work week (or works a minimum of hours per week).
  • The time of leave must be continuous, not broken up over a period of time (such as 6 to 12 weeks).

If you can’t offer paid leave or can’t afford to be without your employee for 12 weeks, consider alternatives such as working from home or allowing your employee to bring the child to work (if it’s safe and suitable).

Prepare Your Business

Just as you would with another lengthy absence in your company, you should have a plan for conducting business without an integral employee. Depending on the type of business you run, you have a few options that may work such as temporarily offering up or delegating tasks to existing employees, hire out your work to freelancers, or hire a temporary employee during the time of your employee’s absence.

Startup Trends of 2016

Startup Trends of 2016

Startups are dramatically impacting modern society, and it is safe to say that they are shaping this new generation. Unlike larger organizations, these agile companies take much larger risks and give opportunities to unproven new visionaries in the hopes of bringing something great to the consumer. New startup launches are everywhere. They appear in developed and less developed countries with equal flare and enthusiasm in pursuing product and service perfection. The year 2015 was recognizable for the startup trend of 3D printing, the exaggerated usage of drones, and the ‘internet of things’. Some inventions were great while others had some issues. Competition and consumer expectation are demonstrably growing bigger and bigger each year. 2016 is expected to be a year of improving the services and products created last year, with that handing out some world-changing ideas. Let’s take a look at the trends we hope to see from startups in 2016.
Tech for Everyday Living
First on the list is the improved usage of Wearables in multiple industries. Consumers are showing great demand for wearables, and it is a seemingly addictive product niche. Almost 80% of the initial adopters of this technology consider the Wearables market to be a significant strategic asset to the future of their business. The spending on Wearables by previous consumers is expected to have a repurchase percentage of 90%. There are also new customers ready and willing to adopt and install them in their businesses as well. Even though Smart home devices were greeted with some skepticism, after additional adoption occurred, and people started actively using them and connecting every tech product in their home to it, the trust factor was developed. Along with Wearables, it is expected that in 2016 Smart homes adoption will hit full market penetration and will become commonplace for many families that desire progress and security in their lives. When you have already connected everything in your life to one system, the risk of having your personal information leak or hacked does increase. To fight this, many companies will work on developing privacy protection for potential consumers in order to meet their needs. This opens up an entirely new market for the cyber privacy business.
More Advanced Technology
The creation of Smart cities really started getting noticed in 2015. These systems allowed zones to be controlled through one, all-connecting system. The aspect of health is also a major focus. Digital health has exponentially grown. Some examples are faster sequencing of DNA, in depth clinical analysis, technological advancements, and online services for mental healthcare. A new movement took shape in the form of autonomous cars. Autonomous cars are becoming more and more popular as people are willing to accept them because of the many benefits they carry (safety, health, environment). This is still in its infancy and the software has many details that still need to be worked on. Even though it is a much more budget heavy endeavor, the space exploration segment of startups will have a significant role in 2016. Small developers are going to be the backbone for the leading two companies, SpaceX and BlueOrigin, in their quest for knowledge.
All things are moving in the tech-direction, and as more and more individuals bring their own ideas to the table, it is only expected that daily life will get better, easier and more innovative.

Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

If you are a small business, are you ready for the latest requirements in Obamacare? If you haven’t heard, starting on January 1, 2016, businesses with 50 to 100 employees will be required to offer insurance for their employees. According to the Affordable Care Act, if employers fail to provide affordable health coverage to their employees in the upcoming year, businesses will face a tax penalty (which can result in up to thousands of dollars).

I thought a business with 50 employees was considered small?


Last year, businesses with less than 100 employees was still considered small and wasn’t required to offer insurance to full-time employees, but revisions to the Affordable Care Act lowered the number to 50 employees or more. While this may be beneficial to hardworking employees, it’s a bit trickier for small businesses.

I was making plans to expand my business, now I don’t know if I can or should


For most small businesses, expansion means success. However, with expansion comes more employees and with more employees comes required insurance benefits. While many small businesses care for their employees and want to offer full-time work for all who qualify, some employers may need to draw the line on how many full-time employees can work for the business (full-time is at least 30 hours per week).

Sometimes I hire seasonal employees, do I have to offer benefits to them?


If you own a business that requires more employees during a certain time of year, such as the holidays or during the summer months, you are not required to offer health insurance unless you staff over 50 full-time employees for 120 days or more.


Is there a way to get around the new changes of Obamacare?


There’s no way to get around the Affordable Care Act and it’s not worth trying or the risk. Some businesses try to split into separate entities (with less than 50 full-time employees). This won’t save you any money in the long run because Obamacare treats related companies as one. If it’s more time you need, the federal government is giving businesses (who have all of a sudden become “large”) until April 1, 2016 to comply to the new changes.

I still have no idea what I’m going to do!


Most small businesses will agree that the Affordable Care Act can be overwhelming and confusing, particularly if you don’t have a human resources department to take care of all of the new changes or simplifying the process for you. Take advantage of the extension, but don’t wait until the last minute.


If you’re struggling to wrap your mind around the changes, consider contacting your local or state chamber of commerce, hire an employee benefits consultant, or speak with a licensed insurance broker who can help you find the right health plan that will be best suited for your business.


Even if you feel like the Affordable Care Act has set you back a bit as a business, don’t give up on your dreams of running a business; celebrate your success!


Advice for Startups

Advice for Startups

It doesn’t matter if you are a fresh college graduate, recently retired worker or an average middle-aged person just wanting to try something new, there is always an opportunity to start your own small business. That is the beauty of a small business; it can be started anytime you want. That is not to say that starting and maintaining a small business or startup is a piece of cake. On the contrary, you have to be prepared to do a lot of work in order to be successful. Many people invest a lot both economically and intellectually at an initial stage and often don’t plan for the long term. The key is to have a solid plan of action to avoid failure. Let’s face it, there is a chance that your business may not work out the way you want, but if you follow some basic advice, it will increase the chances of success by a huge margin.

How to get started

Obviously, the first thing you need is to find out the kind of business you want to start. Here, it is important to keep a few things in mind. The most common mistake people make at this stage is that they choose whatever is trending. While there is a chance that it may work for a short duration, the odds are low that it will be a success in the long haul. Pick an idea that you are passionate about, and that you are confident about executing. Do your research and be sure that there is a market for your product or service. Choose something that combines both your passion and current market need. These are a few things you must ask yourself at this stage:

  • Will it be worth the time and money spent?
  • Do customers need it? Will customers like it?
  • What is the future of this small business?
  • Am I really confident about doing this?
  • Who are my competitors? How am I different/unique?

Another significant factor which can make a huge impact on business is the location of your company. Ensure that the placement of your small business is within the reach of the customers. Even if your shop is online, make sure you are reaching the right audience and are able to be found by potential customers.

Protecting your investment

It is imperative that you are on the right side of the law when starting your own business. Securing your business from fraud, copyright infringement, and other legal troubles can be vital, especially if you have come up with the “next big thing.” When it comes to online companies, the risk is even greater in the form of cyber-attacks, copycats, and even online scams. Brick and mortars stores are also in danger of lawsuits or other legal issues involving employees. Therefore, it is quite imperative to make your business safe and secure. In this case, knowledge in business law can help significantly. A deep understanding or trusted consultant in Business law can help you steer clear of any unwanted situations that may arise while you are developing out your small business. Be aware of the laws in your area prior to starting your own small business. If this is not an area of strength for you, be sure to reach out to professionals who can help you through the process.

How do you protect your small business from legal issues? Please leave your comments below:

Fight Cyber Attacks in a Big Way

Fight Cyber Attacks in a Big Way

As a small business, if you’ve been keeping your fingers crossed hoping that you won’t become target of a cyber attack, your luck may be running out. Just because big corporations, such as Target, have been hit hard, who’s to say that you’re immune? Sure, you are a small business and maybe you think you’re just a blip on the radar in the business world, but if someone wants to get access to your information they will find a way. If you are a business of any size, you have private customer and employee information that should never get into the wrong hands. Regardless of the size of your company or the number or your employees, it’s vital to protect yourself against cyber attacks. Here are a few ways to stay a little bit safer without losing sleep at night.

Amp Up Security


Many big businesses, avoiding a cyber attack or after the unfortunate success of an attack, move to amp up their security by hiring a privacy analyst. Unfortunately, small businesses may not have the financial means to hire an expensive but valuable employee for their business. Does that mean you should just hope for the best? Not unless you consider yourself a good gambler.


Even though a privacy analyst may not be possible for every business, cybercrime prevention must be a step in any type and size of business. So, maybe if you can’t afford a full-time privacy analyst, you can hire someone to help you implement a cyber attack plan.

Employees You Can Trust


A problematic employee can make or break a small business. In addition to having a good employee that understands and shares your passion for your business, he or she must also be a trustworthy individual. For instance, if your business handles a lot of confidential information, you need to know that your employees will respect and commit to privacy. Additionally, you need to know that all of your personal and professional information will be kept private and not shared with the wrong people.


Educate your employees about cyber attacks and encourage them to have a smart and safe online presence. It may seem like a “no brainer”, but people often forget about online security, particularly if they’ve never been attacked. Teach your employees (and remind yourself) to be cautious when using social media, change and have multiple passwords for accounts, and pay attention to fraudster-like activity such as suspicious customer complaints.


Stay in the Loop

Once you build up your cyber security and have your cyber attack prevention plan in place, don’t think that the work is done. Cyber attackers evolve as quickly as technology and they continuously find ways to retrieve sensitive and confidential information that can destroy even the smallest of companies. One of the best ways to avoid your chances of becoming a cybercrime victim is staying up to date on security technology and other news in the cyber world. If you can’t have an employee solely dedicated to your security, consult with a professional every couple of months to make sure you are on track.

5 Ways to Avoid Startup Failure

These days it’s not uncommon for someone to change career plans and decide to start up a small business. The great thing is that it’s socially acceptable. Everyone is cheering each other on, saying “go for it!” and “what have you got to lose?” and in reality, some startups succeed and some fail. Maybe you’re ready to ditch corporate America and open up that specialty shop or maybe you finally decided to be an independent consultant rather than rely on being part of a company. If you’ve got the patience and the drive, there’s no doubt you can get started. In order to stay on the right track and be successful, there are some things that you should avoid doing that often lead to the failure of a start up. Make a couple of “right” moves to avoid failure and you’ll be happy you went after your dream job.
Be Confident, Even When You’re Not

Once you begin to establish your startup, it’s important to have familial and friend support, but you need to be confident in your startup and your ability to succeed. If you constantly second guess every decision, how do you expect to sell your ideas and promote your business to others? Sure, a startup is a big, scary, and often times risky decision, but you need to be confident for the sake of your customers, your employees, and yourself. If you fail to be confident, your startup is likely to fail.
Ask For Feedback and Advice

Startup businesses can be intensely personal; a part of you. Unless you have years of experience running your own business, you may need a mentor or consultant. Find someone who you respect and trust to bounce ideas off of, yet someone who is not part of your personal circle (spouse, family, best friend).
Hire the Right People

The beginning stages of a startup are often a whirlwind. You may not expect needing employees right away, but then all of a sudden you do. Eager to keep the business moving forward, you hire the first person who seems qualified. Hiring the wrong people can break your business. Choose people who understand your plan and vision and show potential for having the same passion. It may take a while, but it’s worth the search.
Be Original

Many new startup business owners want to own a business, but rather than choosing something they are passionate about, they base their plan on what’s trending. While this is important to do to some extent, don’t “copy and paste” another existing business. For example, if you are really interested in making specialty cakes, you need to create a style or a product that will set you apart from every other trendy cake shop in your city. The most successful startups are a perfect balance of originality and trend.
Listen to Your Clientele

Your customers will make or break your business. If you don’t care how your customers perceive your business or your products, then you probably don’t care whether or not your business will succeed. Ask for feedback, even if you may not want to hear the truth. Whether customer feedback is positive or negative, listening, learning, and taking action can help your startup grow and have a better chance at returning customers.

Newest Innovation in the Small Business Scene

Newest Innovation in the Small Business Scene

The biggest innovation in the small business scene is the creation of the startup. First of all, startups are not the same as small businesses. Small businesses are usually privately owned, exist for profit and usually are not targeted to have much effect on a large scale. Startups on the other hand, are temporary scalable businesses that, though existing for profit, are targeted at searching out major solutions to problems for the sake of disrupting a particular industry.

Why Small Businesses Want to be Startups

Since startups started cropping up all over the world, the business scene has changed. Many people confuse small businesses as startups, and they are not entirely to blame. Small businesses have begun to copy the startup model. The startup style of business is easily recognized for its innovative approaches and flexibility, which has been a proven factor of their success. The necessity for small businesses to improve sales and performance, and the confusion among most on the distinction between startups and small businesses, has led to this copycatting.

The Small Business Goals

The goal of a small business is to gain profit and maximize on sales. Small businesses are targeted towards gaining the maximum amount of customers within the reach of the business. The availability of the internet has dramatically increased the reach of the small business. This is another factor which has led to small businesses copying the startup model. The startup is usually geared and targeted towards a worldwide market, and the twentieth century globalization trend has brought that worldwide market closer than ever, even to the steps of the small business. Small businesses have the capability to target a wide market now.

Small Businesses Evolve Into Startups

Popular knowledge dictates that while startups are not small versions of big companies, small businesses can be. Current trends have blurred that line. Small businesses are more and more evolving into startups. By emulating the model of the startup, the small business scales faster than it normally would, and can become a big company in a shorter time.

Are Startups Still Cropping Up?

Yes they definitely are, and at much faster pace. The present valuations of startups are at an all time high and this is motivation for the entrepreneur with ideas and ambition. Aspiring entrepreneurs are springing up faster as a result of worldwide economic conditions which have ceased to favor the traditional form of business. Starting a startup requires as little as no funding at all, and several VCs and angel investors are lining up to fund startups at a concentration that is unprecedented. The success of the startup –despite being limited to 1 out 9, can also be seen with the proliferation of accelerators and incubators at a level not seen since the dotcom bubble.

The small business world is growing, innovations abound everywhere and the internet has made a market out of every individual on the planet. Small businesses are leveraging on this opportunity to scale faster than ever.

Don’t Let Startup Upkeep Be Your Downfall: Tips for Continued Success

Don’t Let Startup Upkeep Be Your Downfall: Tips for Continued Success

When nearly seven out of ten startups fizzle out before they hit the ten year mark, it’s no wonder the internet is flush with tips of the trade to help you succeed. However, many starry-eyed entrepreneurs get so caught up in the initial launch and logistics of their potential new empire, they forget to save their marketing energy for the long haul. Although launching a small business is always different, it’s imperative that entrepreneurs approach their efforts by evolving traits of both the “tortoise” and the “hare” in the race to the finish line.

Maintain Momentum

Most businesses want to emerge with a big splash, eager to leverage any and all PR or marketing opportunities they can brainstorm. In the early planning stages, figuring out the most fun, exciting and impactful publicity strategies is exhilarating. However, as quarterly reports pile up and daily troubleshooting takes hold of your worries, bombastic early strategies can quickly slow to a trickle. To avoid this, it’s important to utilize all the tools at your disposal to keep your brand presence strong and relevant without breaking your back to do so.

  • Social media aggregation tools: it’s imperative to maintain a strong media presence for your startup, and there are many tools to help you do so without spending hours a day. Sprout Social or Hoot Suite, for example, can allow you to parcel out a posting strategy that allows you to pre-program posts all at once.
  • “The Fortune is in the Follow Up,” is an old saying that pertains strongly to new businesses. Strategize Your Success points out that a little personal massaging can go a long way. Something as simple as a kind follow-up email can be enough to remind your busy potential clients that you’re around and ready to spring to action.

Read the Fine Print

While some people are natural detail-oriented and wouldn’t dare skip a single line of fine-print, many of us, much to the chagrin of our bank accounts, don’t come over details that could have negative long-term effects on a start up. For example, if leasing a commercial space, Lisa Girard for Entrepreneur notes that many commercial spaces are wracked with hidden fees, utilities and the potential for costly misfortune. For example, many buildings built prior to the 1990s still contain asbestos, or lead if built before 1970. If your business offers a unique product or proprietary service, it’s also essential to ensure all the patents are in order. Although it’s tempting to assume there isn’t anyone lurking to ride the coattails of your wonderful idea, Sansone and LauberMissouri Lawyers,  points out that there are many people and companies that are just waiting to “unscrupulously violate patent owner’s right.”

Create a Lasting Culture

Employee “quit” numbers are up, according to Forbes, and the cost of losing an employee is not only astronomical, but the disengaged employees that leave or often disengaged leading up to the decision, which also hurts bottom line and productivity. In a nutshell, employees who feel valued and engaged can help give your company wheels that helps give it those extra miles for the long haul. Bill Conerly for Forbes notes that in order to maximize retention and culture, business owners should:

  • Track retention: look for trends and arcs in employee happiness, engagement and productivity
  • Give employees a path: no one wants to sit around feeling like a cog in a cubicle all day. Giving employees a long term purpose and goals can help them feel like the work they do is leading up to something rewarding.
  • Increase Flexibility: Draconian rules and rigidity can make employees feel trapped and undervalued. Although there needs to be a balanced schedule and professional environment, flexible hours and accommodation of personal schedules can go a long way to keep employees happy.
  • Keep an Eye out for Stressors: whether it’s a jack-hammer outside or a thermostat stuck on 90 degrees . . .or even a particularly loud talker . . . office stressors can quickly turn a tranquil environment into a high-stress zone.
Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

Big Business Tools on a Small Business Budget

All businesses have to start somewhere. There isn’t one huge corporation out there that didn’t start out as a small business. The key to success for a small business will undoubtedly derive from a solid business plan that revolves around 100% customer satisfaction. Many may aim for this, but few actually achieve it. One way to achieve that customer satisfaction is as easy as getting the service or product they paid for to them in a timely manner.

Popular Shipping Systems

Timely shipping is something larger corporations have deciphered, and it is a big reason why they continue to excel. The ability to get your product out to consumers effectively without breaking the bank is key, and yet often overlooked by most start-ups. There are numerous shipping services and software that help small businesses integrate shipping systems to their business plan. Services like Veego, Orderbot, Uship, Ordoro, Shipstation and Shiply make it easy for small businesses to set up shipping systems through USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL. These cloud services offer a way for businesses to not only ship orders using a desired shipping service, but also provide a way to manage orders and keep a detailed history of every item purchased.

Orderbot – All in One Hub

Orderbot for instance, allows businesses to centralize all sales channels. It will keep track of all your sales channels in one hub. With a very user friendly interface, Orderbot makes it easy for you to keep track of invoices and to fully manage your orders from beginning to end. What really makes Orderbot stand out from the rest is their comprehensive inventory management feature. It keeps track of your inventory in real-time ensuring that you do not oversell; which can be key when attempting to keep customers happy. Consumers expect to receive what they pay for, and they want it as soon as possible. Ensuring that you do not bite of more than you can chew, the unique inventory management tool offered by Orderbot ensures that you receive orders for the inventory you actually have in stock.

Shipstation – One Stop Shop

Alternatively, Shipstation is a one-stop-shop for all of your ecommerce needs. They offer a free 30-day trial and can integrate sales channels such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Bigcommerce and more. They make it easy to ship from any desired shipping service such as FedEx, UPS or USPS among others. They also offer very competitive monthly plans that do not cost an arm and a leg. With the cheapest plan starting at $25 a month, small businesses can set up a strong foundation for effective shipping. Logistics are more important than what people give them credit for. A strong and solid foundation can propel your business to the top and set it up for success.

Having a strong shipping process enables you to get your product out to customers quickly. It no longer requires owning your own cargo trucks. These new methods of transporting goods have become so cost effective that even startups and small businesses can turn a profit. These systems allow you to get products out to customers quickly, and help grow your business into large corporation easier than ever before.