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COVID-19 Impact & USERRA

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SHARING FROM THE U.S. Department of Labor / Published April 21, 2020

During these challenging times, our nation’s Guardsmen and Reservists are answering the call to duty to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. We owe a duty to them to ensure full compliance with the employment and reemployment rights of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)

The Veteran’s Employment and Training Service (VETS) interprets and provides guidance on USERRA and investigates complaints filed under this law. VETS offers the following frequently asked questions and answers:

Does this fact sheet create new USERRA rights and obligations in light of COVID-19?

No. The statute and regulations still govern USERRA rights and obligations. This factsheet addresses some scenarios that might arise from the application of USERRA in the context of this pandemic.

Does a member of the National Guard or Reserves who is called to active duty in response to the COVID-19 emergency have employment and reemployment protections under USERRA?
  • Yes, if called to duty under federal authority. National Guard or Reserve duty under federal authority (such as Title 10 or Title 32) is covered by USERRA.
    • National Guard duty under state authority, commonly referred to as State Active Duty, is not covered under USERRA. However, members of the National Guard serving on State Active Duty may have similar employment protections under state law and should contact the appropriate state office for assistance.
    • Note that the authority under which orders are issued can change, even in the course of a service member’s performance of service.
Can a service member be furloughed or laid off upon return from uniformed service?
  • Yes, if it is reasonably certain that he or she would have been furloughed or laid off had he or she not been absent for uniformed service.
May an employer delay a service member’s reemployment out of concern that the service member’s service in a COVID-19 affected area may have exposed him or her to COVID-19?
  • No. If the employee satisfies the prerequisites to reemployment, the employee should be promptly reemployed in the job position that he or she would have attained with reasonable certainty if not for the absence due to uniformed service.
    • Promptness generally depends on the length of time an individual was away, ranging from the next day after returning from duty, if the deployment was relatively short, to up to fourteen days in the case of a multi-year deployment.
    • When reemploying a service member who might have been exposed to COVID-19, an employer must make reasonable efforts in order to qualify the returning employee for his or her proper reemployment position. This can include temporarily providing paid leave, remote work, or another position during a period of quarantine for an exposed reemployed service member or COVID-19 infected reemployed service member, before reemploying the individual into his or her proper reemployment position.
Where to Obtain Additional Information:

Important USERRA-related resources and compliance assistance materials for employees and employers are available through the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service website at www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra, which contains a USERRA elaws Advisor, FAQs, fact sheets, and links to the statute and implementing regulations. Our toll-free information and helpline, available 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, is 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). The Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve also provides resources available at www.esgr.mil.

U.S. Department of Labor                             1-866-4-USA-DOL
200 Constitution Ave NW                              TTY: 1-877-TTY-5627
Washington, DC 20210

/Portals/13/USERRA-COVID-19-Impact.pdf

 

A Little About VAMBOA

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association is your non-profit trade association.  There are other associations out there for Veterans and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) that also address some of the needs of population.  We are a little different than other associations.

As the CEO of VAMBOA, I’d like to explain how we are different and some of what we offer so that Veteran and Military Business Owners may gain the most benefit from VAMBOA.

VAMBOA’s focus is to provide those we serve with as much valuable information and as many resources as possible.  We also want to make it easy for you to access it. We are highly cognizant of the fact that small business owners have limited time and must use it wisely.

It is not possible to attend all the conferences that will yield helpful and provide you valuable resources and also be away from your business.  Additionally, it can be very expensive and not only in the time away from your business, but the cost of travel, hotels, meals, conference fees.  More importantly, you can lose or compromise business by not being there to work with clients, prospects and your team.  Small business owners wear many hats and operating a successful business requires you to be engaged and there more often than not.

VAMBOA has evolved and in a few words has become the “Go To Place” for Veterans, Service Disabled and Military Business Owners to obtain resources and do so online.  We work hard to provide you significant value on a regular basis.

VAMBOA’s team performs extensive research in all areas of business that are important to you.  We write, edit, and post online on our blog a minimum of three important articles weekly to keep you informed without you having to leave your seat or your office.

VAMBOA has over 7,200 registered members and an extensive database of other Veteran, Service Disabled and Military Business Owners.  We are approaching a quarter of a million combined fans and followers on social media.  We regularly use various social medium platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In to put forth important information for you.

VAMBOA also connects our members with corporations that are seeking a diverse network of suppliers that includes Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans and Military business owners.   We put forth their needs to our membership and contact individual members in the areas they seek for their Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Requests for Information (RFIs), to work with them and more.  We follow up and help you gain their business.

VAMBOA does not charge our members and all of services and connections are free of charge to you without dues or fees.  We also do not send you endless emails trying to sell you products or services.  VAMBOA relies solely on corporate sponsorship.   Corporations that sponsor us can easily connect to our huge audience.   They too don’t have to leave their offices and work to accomplish this goal nor do we go back to them over and over to sponsor various events.   We keep it simple and provide considerable value.

We place their corporate outreach to our members front and center in a variety of ways and repeat their message to engage and accomplish their goals.  We use the power of our huge database and the Internet including direct outreach, exposure on the VAMBOA website, emails, newsletters, social media posts and articles.  VAMBOA has impressive traffic with an outstanding US Alexa Traffic ranking of under 17,000 of all the billions of websites on the Internet (with Alexa the lower the number the better with Google being #1).

VAMBOA invites Veteran, Service-Disabled and Military Business Owners to join our association so your business can connect to companies that seek your skills and diversity.

You can register here: https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

VAMBOA also invites corporations that recognize the Veteran Business Owners are awesome and want to connect with them in an easy, efficient and cost-effective way to become sponsors.  Please send us an EMAIL!

SMART Goals for Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Starting and running a successful business takes a lot of personal fortitude and discipline. Whether you are a solo-entrepreneur or you have a large team at your back, your ultimate success will come down to whether or not you can set and achieve your goals.

 

A great way to put together and stay focused on achieving your goals is using the SMART goal setting technique. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.

  • Specific – Exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable – How you plan to measure your goal.
  • Achievable – Is your goal realistic?
  • Relevant – How does your goal relate to your business?
  • Time-sensitive – When do you want to achieve your goal?

 

With this information in-hand you have a very clear plan of action. However, there are still challenges that can arise and can lead to failure in reaching your goals and having a successful business. The main roadblocks to SMART business success include:

 

1.) You don’t commit.

You cannot sit around hoping that your dreams will fall into your lap. You MUST create a deliberate and concrete plan for your success and stick to it.

 

2.) You don’t factor in problems.

Regardless of how well you plan, problems will arise. Try to be flexible and factor in obstacles that may derail you for a bit. Your plan may even need to be revised from time to time due to unforeseen problems, as you move toward your goal.   The important thing is to be flexible and adjust to current circumstances.

 

3.) Your goals aren’t realistic.

You need to make sure that you have set reasonable, realistic, and manageable goals. You cannot change everything all at once. It is nice to dream big but try to tackle the dream one small piece at a time.

 

4.) You are afraid to fail.

Failure is an important tool to learn and failure provides you information on how to refine your strategy and move forward in obtaining your goals. Your missteps will provide you strength to overcome obstacles. Try to see failure as a stepping stone rather than an end.  It is said that failure provides you the proper perspective for success

 

5.) Your plan is vague.

Your plan must be as specific as possible. It helps you to focus on the individual parts and helps you identify the next steps you need to take.

 

Developing a SMART plan is an excellent way to help you foster discipline and focus on your goals with strategies and tactics to achieve them. Never allow yourself to become derailed by outrageous dreams, roadblocks, fear of failure, or fear of commitment.

The Best Time of Day to Make Important Business Decisions

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

 

As a small business owner, you every decision you make directly impacts your business and your bottom line. Did you know that certain times of day are better for work and making decisions than others?

 

People are naturally wired to be the most productive during the first two hours after we wake up. We make our very best analytical and reason-based decisions at this time of day.  For most of us, this is early in the morning. It makes a great deal of sense to get a good night’s sleep and wake up and then make your decision.

 

In general, we typically start the day strong and refreshed, by mid-afternoon we hit a slump or wall, and then gain a “second wind” around dinnertime. That mid-day lull is when you are more likely to be irritated, sluggish, or simply feeling drained. This is one of the worst times to try to make important decisions of any type. If you can put the decision off until the next morning you will be refreshed and better able to handle it.

 

How to take advantage of this information?

Prioritize those precious productive morning hours and schedule any important tasks or meeting during the first few hours of the day. This is the best time to review financials, take care of staff evaluations or go over important contracts.

 

If your business is conducted during off-hours, place these important activities into a time slot right after lunch when you are feeling rejuvenated by your meal. Keep all quick decisions that will not harm your business for the late afternoon or early evening. If the timing for your meeting or decision just isn’t right for the morning hours, try taking a walk or short break beforehand to clear your head.   These activities can provide you much needed perspective and renewed energy.

 

Making important decisions for your business is something you do, as a business owner, almost every single day.  Small business owners find themselves making a lot of decisions. It is important to take care of them in the best way possible to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that your employees and customers follow these patterns as well; so try to make requests of them, or tailor your expectations, when they will be at their best too.

Customer Service for Small Businesses – Part 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Train Employees to Provide Excellent Service

Part 2 of 3 of Customer Service Series

 

Many small business owners are still making basic customer service mistakes that are easy to fix. Taking the time to learn, think, invest in your people, and improve on your service delivery will place you ahead of your competition.

 

 

Start by Learn the Ins and Outs of Customer Service Yourself:

-Training Courses

As stated in part 1 of this post, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers quite a lot of free online resources and training materials to help boost your business’s customer service – you take a look at what they offer here:

https://www.sba.gov/course/customer-service/

There are quite a lot of other organizations that offer free training, resources, and mentoring for small business owners. For example, SCORE offers business workshops on a number of topics, including customer service, both in-person and online, with recorded versions available to view at any time.

 

-Get A Mentor

Consider pairing with a volunteer small business mentor who can answer questions and coach you.

 

-Continuously Listen & Read

There are so many experts out there that offer other free resources that can be of value to you and your business. Take the time to find and to read blogs and books and listen to podcasts to continue learning.

 

Train Your Employees to Provide Excellent Service:

For excellent service  every employee needs to be trained on what to do and what not to do.

 

-Hire the Right People

Start by recognizing that all of your employees are actually salespeople and that you need to hire the kind of people who can provide great service regardless of their position. Your entire company culture should revolve around helping your customers. Take your time to choose candidates who have a caring attitude, patience, and the ability to listen, empathize, ask questions, and solve problems.   Hire positive people!

 

-Coach Employees on How To Talk to Customers

Employees need to know how to truly listen to a customer as well as speak to them. A casual-yet-professional style of speaking with a light tone of voice can warm up an interaction with a customer and help your company build a relationship, especially if the customer has a question or minor concern that your staff can easily fix. If there is a problem they need to know how to quickly empathize, apologize, and defuse the situation when dealing with a customer who is upset.  Put together a training plan for all employees on the best way to interact with customers and make sure that they practice these skills.

 

The Telephone Doctor offers customer service training and recommends using the “ASAP” approach to diffuse a problem. ASAP stands for:

  • Apologizing immediately,
  • Sympathizing with the customer’s situation,
  • Accepting responsibility,
  • Preparing to help solve the problem.

 

-Consider Outside Training for Employees

There are quite a lot of organizations and companies that offer customer service training to help take your business to the next level. Consider sending key employees, such as your customer service manager, to an in-person seminar or bringing in a pro to train your whole team.

 

-Model Good Customer Service

Make it a point to solve customer problems in front of your employees so they can see how you want it done.

 

-Watch and Offer Feedback

Make it a point to work near your customer service employees occasionally and offer on-the-spot assistance by making suggestions for alternate ways to deal with customer issues.

 

-Create a Library of Customer Service Resources

A great resource to have for your employees on how to deliver exceptional customer service is to build a library of frequent customer issues and questions as well as their solutions. Make sure to keep adding to the library as new issues and solutions arise. This is particularly helpful for new employees who can learn how to best resolve common issues that come up.

 

 

Exceptional customer service may not come naturally to you, your employees, or your business. Train yourself and your employees to look at things from the customer’s point of view. This is a crucial to creating a culture of excellent customer.  Training can help you identify simple mistakes, help develop ways to combat or solve potential problems, and turn your employees into customer service superstars.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this Customer Service for Small Businesses.

 

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