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Considerations in Forming a Sole Proprietorship

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The most common types of small business are sole proprietorships. As discussed in previous blog posts, many small business owners ferret out their economic niche from a specific hobby, interest, or expertise which they can best accommodate from the privacy of their own home.

Independent business owners should consider their relationship with the organization when deciding whether to incorporate. Legally, a sole proprietor often can’t separate from their business. The obligations between the person and organization stay one and the same. 

As for the positives, some business owners benefit from the ability to take their organization in unique directions based on their own judgment. Often, the owner can’t effectively delegate their vision to a newcomer. Small businesses often start with specialized concepts. Sometimes, the only necessary staff within the company maybe you, the one business owner.

Various negatives may also rear their heads. For example, some may perceive the company as less established as, for example, an LLC (limited liability company) or a company that has undergone formal incorporation. 

Business partners may view the company with greater suspicion. Remember, legal liabilities for a sole business owner and the organization itself are one and the same. The possibility of a “fly-by-night” operation may loom larger in the eyes of potential contractors.

Given the integration of a sole proprietorship with the business owner, the proprietor bears all the burden when problems arise. Furthermore, these organizations often hold less organizational backing, so funding and investment revenue present greater challenges. Finally, an ultimate sale of the business may bring further logistical issues. Outsiders may show little interest in a company tailored to the ambitions of one individual.

Positives are manifold for the right business owner. Sole proprietors may control their own schedules. Also, the simplicity of a sole proprietorship can make the process of tax preparation more agreeable. Businesses’ expenses are deductible, and the process is done much easier in general. Furthermore, sole proprietorships are much less expensive and easier to start up without the process of establishing an LLC or incorporating.  

Incorporation separates much of the owner’s legal responsibility from that of the business. The incorporation process also may loosen the grip of the owner on the business itself. After all, the process of registering a business implies the presence of other stakeholders. When others share an indispensable role in the organization, the process becomes worthwhile. 

In the end, the business structure must fulfill the needs of the owner. Sole proprietorships suit certain owners’ needs more than others. Some business ideas are unique enough that the owner should exercise the types of control that sole proprietors offer. Also, sometimes the founder simply doesn’t need a large, complex organization. 

Hence, when starting a new business, always consider the benefits of non-incorporation, as well as different types of incorporation. Many new owners may in fact benefit from incorporation as an LLC or, more formally, as an S or C corporation. However, other proprietors can satisfy their obligations independently. Assuming other stakeholders don’t complicate operations or legal matters, the simplicity of sole proprietorship should remain a viable option.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Online Security Tips

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

No company is a fortress, least of all small businesses. However, threats from outside are very real. Outside hackers as well as internal saboteurs can ruin a company. As the Internet comes of age, the good business practice requires that business people grow in sophistication just as the motley crew of potential scammers does the same.

1) Relationships with Employees

Creating a culture of security can save a business. One data breach can ruin a company. Access to a company’s online records merits careful consideration.

On an ongoing basis, workers should receive education about the dangers of online interlopers. Not every computer operator may understand even basic security concepts, such as the dangers of opening attachments. Periodic security courses can refresh employees’ knowledge regarding outside scammers, and the education can even benefit the employee in the long term.

At the very least, measures should be taken to ensure the separation of online life between work and home.  The use of workplace confidential information on unsecured home devices could make easy marks for scammers hungry for confidential information they can sell online.

Assuming the employee has an email account, the employee should know the basics of online scams such as “phishing,” fake online antivirus scams, and any of a host of more insidious schemes that may install malware or spyware onto company computers. Here is a link to some of the most common scams: https://uk.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-5-most-popular-scams-in-2020.html.

Additionally, former employees commonly defraud small businesses with the information they carry off from the worksite. Employers should be as realistic about their own needs as they are about their relationship with their workers. As employees leave the team, their logins should be deleted immediately. Password management software may help with this process. Applications such as Dashlane or Lastpass may prove invaluable in managing IT aspects of any sort of offboarding.

In any case, good business practice demands (1) careful education of employees regarding good security practices, and (2) consideration of the terms of employee separation.  

2) Consider Industry Standards: Different Industries may have Different Forms of Sensitive Information

Some businesses may handle specialized information subject to unique legal requirements. For example, medical records may constitute PHI (Personal Health Information). In such cases, contracting businesses need to adopt practices under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to ensure compliance. These practices may include seemingly extreme measures including computer privacy screens, injunctions against in-office cell phones, and measures to keep medical records out of the open air. Such measures may seem silly but are important for small businesses contracting with medical organizations that handle protected health information (PHI). Violations of HIPAA may range from medical ridicule to identity theft. These violations may also result in any range of consequences from jail time to monetary fines.

Other similar privacy laws may include the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA). Many smaller businesses handle confidential information under FERPA and HIPAA. Protection of such information is crucial and may require special training under each statute.

3) The “Right” Security Expertise

Many companies now outsource their information technology needs. As these companies become more affordable, Veteran Business Owners should research IT services that best fit their niche. Many independent companies specialize. For example, legal, medical, and educational IT companies may provide the right expertise for various relevant companies. The expertise of such companies may provide crucial expertise for the unique logistical and legal demands of smaller companies handling sensitive online information.

Finding the right security software can present another problem. The tricky landscape of online security can daunt the most discerning business managers. Some online security applications are outright scams. Others may not quite provide the necessary airtight protection against the most skillful breaches. Many small businesses find larger, established companies such as Norton satisfactory. Others choose to do their own research.

The Bottom Line

In sum, honesty and common sense should prevail in the management of company information. The most sensitive information may include private customer information, gatekeeping data such as passwords, and internal proprietary information hidden within company records. In fact, the standard should be airtight security whenever possible, rather than mere due diligence.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Productivity Strategies for Small Businesses

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

To stay effective, businesses need to investigate methods to streamline operations. Various techniques save time and energy when getting your company or organization above ground. These include organizational methods to streamline project management, information retrieval, employee communication, and decision-making processes.

1) Project Management:

Business cycles rarely flow with perfect routines and without bumps in the road. At times, seasonal cycles control the ebb and flow of resources of even the most stable businesses.  As a result, skillful project management must tackle the unpredictable trials that break the rhythms of even the most stable institutions.

In some cases, the same project rolls around each year. In these cases, project management systems can facilitate review and record-keeping. Applications like Asana can help create plans for these periodic bumps in the road, facilitating the delegation and simplification of tasks.

In other cases, a specific circumstance may arise, and a company has a new dragon to slay. In order to tackle such unforeseeable bumps in the road, organizations should retain the flexibility to mobilize. Cross-training can help employees take on diverse tasks within the company as needed. Also, keeping business operations flexible may allow wiggle-room for novel situations as they arise.

2) Good Information Management and Storage, aka a Good Filing System:

Even before the age of computers, any secretary could describe the benefits of a good filing system. Effective companies need to stay organized. Lost documents and jumbled service can destroy a company’s reputation. 

Applications like Airtable can help organize various documents and spreadsheets. Online applications can supplement well-thought-out systems within the office to ensure information is stored effectively and retrievably.

3) Employee Feedback and Communication:

The workers on the front lines are often the first to know when the first hits arise of a dire new issue. Worker feedback is essential. Proprietary software should include space for comments by operators, and management should take these comments seriously. Open-door policies should allow the rank-and-file to raise issues when appropriate. 

Companies should stay vertically integrated to ensure that the leadership and the rank-and-file stay on the same page. This way, problems are less likely to snowball before they reach the attention of management. Applications like Dropbox can ensure communication between various members of the team.

4) Decision Making: Streamlined Approval for New Initiatives:

How can we define “bureaucracy?” Sometimes, layers of middle management calcify into a concrete wall between innovation and leadership. Hence, skillful oversight protects businesses from careless decisions. Approval processes must be strict, quick, and effective.

A calcified bureaucracy in a large organization can stymie the best-laid plans. Careful scrutiny of processes ensures that only the best products and services go to market. Smaller organizations often struggle to maintain quality in the face of limited resources. Given restrictions in size and resources, the problem for Veteran Business Owners often is not bureaucracy, but lack of oversight.

Several workflow applications, such as Shift, can channel tasks to employees’ inboxes. Such applications can allow workers to arrive in the morning ready to tackle their workload independently.

Overall, productivity strategies should vary with the type of organization. However, the above four considerations can guide management across industries in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. In other words, both newfangled technological approaches and old-fashion office management techniques can help prune time-wasting redundancies from a Veteran Business Owner’s workday.

 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Who knew? Labor and supply shortages are creating havoc and cursing small businesses now more than ever, especially in the wake of reopening. Behemoths such as Amazon and Walmart have their safety nets. Smaller establishments must struggle with what they have. As a result, gaps in service plague the reputations and growth of their smaller counterparts.

Unfortunately for Veteran Business Owners, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, a new record. The pandemic only exacerbated a preexisting trend, and the reasons vary. 

Suggestions have included a lack of training opportunities, supercharged unemployment benefits, a mismatched skill set, and fear due to the pandemic for many. Whatever the cause, a shortage of qualified workers has left employers in the lurch despite a continuously shrinking workforce.

Gaps in service are a result, often leaving angry customers. This anger often shows up online. These days, an online presence can make or break a company. Angry reviews can pose real threats to a struggling business.

The trend nowadays is for buyers overwhelmingly to check their business’ online presence. How can business owners minimize angry diatribes on forums such as Yelp, Bing, Google My Business, and Facebook? Small employers are finding themselves trapped between the rock of the labor shortage and the hard place of customer satisfaction. The best short-term fix is better communication.

Business owners should build trust with their client base. Patrons should understand that they can work with the management of a company. These kinds of positive working relationships best protect smaller businesses from online reputational issues, which may leave business owners feeling helpless in their marketing efforts. Good working relationships often rest on a foundation of good communication, one of the variables that managers may control in this economic environment.

Methods of communication may vary. Updating profiles on relevant online business platforms is an easy first step. The business’s profiles on the above online platforms should provide up-to-date hours and terms of service. When possible, these sites should also include explanations for any changes in these terms. Additionally, a business owner should address any negative reviews directly as soon as possible.

Some verbal strategies can improve the outcome of discussions with a dissatisfied customer. For example, first, the person in charge should remain calm during a confrontation. Second, active listening can demonstrate that the manager understands the grievance.  Active listening methods generally emphasize engagement in the discussion. In other words, managers should not remain passive targets in these matters. One such technique may involve rephrasing the complaints in a manner that demonstrates a genuine understanding of the customer’s issues with their service. 

Finally, management should demonstrate their understanding of the weight of the problem and if possible, let the customer know the relevant steps for resolving such issues in the future.

Early communication with dissatisfied customers may prevent escalation or even an angry Yelp review. Overall, the goal is a synergy between the needs of the client and the capacities of the owner. During these novel times, business owners should engage any necessary communication techniques to achieve a meeting of the minds that leaves all parties satisfied and at peace.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

Pandemic Labor Shortage Hiring Strategies

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The pandemic continues to keep workers at home. Real concerns about the Delta Variant loom large. Plus, continuing financial support motivates low-wage employees to stay home. Lower-wage employees often have the best reasons to snub less-than-optimal work arrangements. Concerns of such employees may range from childcare to vocational development. The result burdens many small businesses with serious labor shortages. Hence, current economic circumstances have only increased the necessity of wise hiring practices.

Know Your Capacities

Small businesses must stay mindful of their own needs and capacities. Some companies over-hire, leaving unnecessary workers to be idle and bored. Others burden a small number with an impossible workload. Before the start of the hiring process, owners should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to gain a clear understanding of their human resources needs.

Bored and idle workers become dissatisfied, even as they remain on company time. At the same time, overworked employees could simply walk off the job and leave the owners in the lurch. A healthy business provides a well-planned, balanced workday. 

Hence, management should gauge each task for the time and effort requirements. Not infrequently, an overwhelmed business may panic at their workload and over-hire. The resulting crowd of low-level workers may feel undervalued, undertrained, and ignored. Similarly, an employer may under-hire. Often, employees are expected to hit the ground running due to their experience or qualifications. Sometimes these expectations unduly burden newcomers and managers alike.

Granted, businesses cannot always afford expensive training programs. Sometimes expecting a hire to “hit the ground running” is the only option. However, ideally, this cost-benefit analysis regarding both training and the number of employees aids in the creation of a well-balanced workforce.

Know Your Platform

The Internet has long taken over the hiring process. The shift from paper to online applications has yielded pluses and minuses both for applicants and businesses. From the perspective of Veteran Business Owners, this shift opened the floodgates for countless frivolous applicants. Shifting through irrelevant, frivolous, or downright silly applications has become par for the course. When possible, business owners need to seek out jobs sites that specialize in their field. For example, encore.org and idealist.org specialize in nonprofit positions. Itjobspro.com connects employers with skilled IT professionals, and salesgray.com links business owners with sales professionals.

The list is endless. General job sites provide a cheap alternative but add to the burden of the hiring process. Small business owners generally spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the hiring process itself. A bad fit may cost still more in training costs, as well as the cleanup following termination. The miracle of the Internet provides countless opportunities to zero in on applicants who have at least done their own work to tailor their applications to their own interests and skillsets. Specialized jobs platforms are key resources to streamline the hiring process.

Involve the Team in the Hiring Process

Especially for a long-term commitment, consider the splash a new hire could make in the company pond. The involvement of future colleagues could ensure a “good fit” in the hiring process. In many cases, coworkers will spend many hours a day together. Often, the involvement of the team could safeguard long-term office tranquility should the newcomer take root in their new office home.

However, this process should ensure fairness. Many workplaces have corporate cultures that discriminate, explicitly or implicitly. Some interview practices may land certain employers on shaky ground. Beware of excessive prying into recreational activities, hobbies, and interests, or home or family life. Short of landing employers in legal hot water, such questions may simply deprive both parties of fruitful opportunities.

Conclusion

As always, balance is key. An employer’s rewards in the hiring effort will likely be proportionate with their investments. Companies should plan wisely and implement judiciously. The result following onboarding should leave a balanced, satisfying workday for everyone.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

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