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Three Keys to Successful Small Business Hiring

Confidence. That’s the vibe from the small business community in early 2011. Small businesses are hiring—and raising prices. What does this mean for your small business? Time to think about recruiting.

The just-released National Federation of Independent Businesses Small Business Optimism Index shows a gain of 0.4 points in February. Although weak sales are still among the top small business concerns, hiring and future plans to hire are solid.

With small businesses poised to hire once again, it’s time to find ways to attract the best and brightest employees. So without further ado, here are three tips for hiring:

(1) Know what you need: Create a job description outlining exactly what you need from a new employee. If you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it? You need to hire an employee that can help your business grow. Be specific about the skills and experience needed to manage the tasks at hand.

(2) Consider virtual assistants: If you aren’t sure you need a full-time employee—or if you have a diverse set of tasks you need to accomplish that are likely beyond a single person’s skill set—consider a virtual assistant arrangement. You could use several virtual assistants that specialize in areas like customer service, word processing, etc., and still not take on the overhead of a full-time employee.

(3) Never stop recruiting: Always keep your eyes open for a possible gem of a new hire. Even if you aren’t hiring now, that could change with a surge of new business. Keeping a file of potential rock stars on hand could benefit you down the road.

Check out this video that offers more tips on small business hiring advice:

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Should You Go To Work Sick? Not!

You’ve gotta love employees who stick with you in sickness and in health—but do you really want employees getting everyone else in the office sick?

Especially in a down economy, it seems workers are willing to come to the office even when they are fighting the flu. Indeed, an Accountemps survey reveals that 67 percent of employees admit to “at least somewhat frequently” coming to work when they are feeling ill.

But is that the smartest business move? A better small business policy may be to let workers telecommute from a virtual office when they are feeling sick. That way, they can keep up with important e-mails and a few phone calls without spreading the cold, flu or other virus to the rest of the crew. It seems many would agree.

Indeed, at least a third of employees would prefer their sick co-workers stay home. Thirty-four percent of workers surveyed said they worry about being exposed to bugs when their co-workers come in to the office sick. By contrast, only 8 percent are impressed by their co-workers’ dedication.

Who or what is influencing the decision to come to work sick? Perhaps job loyalty, perhaps income constraints, or perhaps pushy bosses. Although half of employees said their managers encourage them to stay home if they aren’t well, 11 percent said their bosses frown on them taking sick days.

“Most people are well-intentioned—they show up even when they aren’t feeling well because they don’t want to fall behind in their work or burden colleagues who cover for them. However, they risk spreading their illness to others and affecting the entire team,” says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies, 2nd Edition. “Employers should encourage staff to stay home if they are under the weather and provide tips on what employees can do to prevent the spread of illness in general.”

Which camp does your small business fall into? Would you rather let sick workers stay home and rest? Do you have systems in place that make it possible for them to connect to the office virtually or keep up with clients through intranets while they are on the mend? More and more, technology makes it possible for even under the weather employees to keep the ball rolling—without infecting the entire office.

Interestingly enough, Connecticut could become the first state in the nation with a mandatory sick pay day bill. Check out this new video on sick days:

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Are High Gas Prices Giving You Indigestion? Here’s Some Help.

Great article in USA Today about how gas prices are impacting small business owners. Rhonda Abrams penned the article that brings the crisis in the Middle East a little closer to home by pointing to the still-rising oil prices and the burden on small businesses.

Down in Miami where I live, it was costing me $40 to fill up my tank two weeks ago. Literally overnight the cost rose to $55 a tank—and I do a lot of driving. Even though I work from a virtual office, I still have client meetings around town and a teenaged daughter to drive halfway around the world and back every week. I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from. As a small business owner myself, the rising gas prices are a painful pinch.

In her article, Abrams offered 10 tips for saving money on gas, including driving less, changing work hours, using the phone, and even buying an electric vehicle. All good suggestions. You should definitely check out her article when you get a minute. But first, here are a few more gas saving tips from Davinci Virtual Office Solutions:

  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.

  • Check and replace your car’s air filter.

  • Drive the speed limit.

  • Remove extra weight from the vehicle.

  • Pay cash for gas to get a discount at some stations.

  • Check your local radio station Web site to find out the cheapest gas prices in your area.

  • Avoid constant braking.

  • Cut back on the air conditioning—roll down the windows instead.

  • Don’t rev your engine.

  • Buy gas early in the morning or late at night while gasoline is densest.

  • Drive at a steady pace.

  • Avoid bumpy roads that eat up gas mileage.

  • Get regular tune ups.

  • Car pool

  • Telecommute


That should be enough to get you started. I’ll continue sharing new tips from time to time as I come across them. Hopefully gas prices will start going back down soon. But for savvy small businesses that are determined to find ways to slash their fuel bill, these tips will take you a long way. If you have tips to share, please let me know in the comment box below. I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, check out this video to pick up a few more tips from the pros at AAA:

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Three Ways to Save Time and Money with Accounting Software

If time is money, then you’d better find ways to save some—especially in a still-recovering economy and especially if you are starting a new business venture. Working from a virtual office may cut out commuting time, but that's not the only way to save money and time.

Think about it for a minute. Getting a new business up and running—and keeping it up and running—is a time-consuming task. From developing the winning idea, to incorporating your business to managing the accounting—a small business owner’s job never seems to end.

Esther Friedberg Karp, owner of CompuBooks Business Services in Toronto and a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, says the big challenge is making sure you spend your time wisely and track the money coming in and going out.

"In my experience, businesses fail because owners don't properly understand their finances. They get buried under the hundreds of other demands on their time, or they put off tracking their company's financial health until it's too late to save the enterprise.  Thankfully, there are tools and simple tips that can ease the accounting process while freeing up hours, which ultimately helps keep the business dream alive and well."

So what are those simple tips? Chris Davey, an accounting professional liaison at Intuit Canada, has some he’s willing to share with time-stressed entrepreneurs looking for ways to save time managing money.

  1. Say goodbye pen and paper, hello software: You can slash the hours you spend looking at ledgers and receipts by going digital. It’s easy to see where money is coming from and going to with computer software that lets you search through transactions.

  2. Get paid on time: You might do a great job, but are you getting paid? Delays in accounts receivables can be costly, but so can tracking the status of your invoices. Financial software helps you save time as you seek to collect money.

  3. Use your accountant's knowledge, not their time: Accountants are worth the fee for advice, but is it worth it to pay them to sort through your shoe box full of receipts? (Hint, hint: the answer is “no.”) If you keep tabs on your accounting throughout the year you can save time and money come April—when taxes are due—by just e-mailing your electronic files to your accountant.


"It's no surprise that entrepreneurs would want to minimize the time they spend on managing finances and concentrate on doing what they love—being a successful business owner," said Davey. "Saving time on the back-end means more time for other important tasks like marketing, customer service and following competitors. With the right tools, resources and know-how, taming the 'back-office beast' can be done more efficiently than one may think."
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Five iPad Apps That Power Your Small Business

So the iPad 2 made its much-anticipated debut today. Doubtless, it’s even more “magical” than the original. But does your small business really need an iPad?

Let me help you make the small business case for this tablet computer so you can buy an iPad without feeling guilty about shelling out the $500-something it will cost you.

First, let’s review the specs: The iPad 2 features an entirely new design that’s 33 percent thinner and up to 15 percent lighter than the original iPad. The iPad 2 boasts the same 9.7-inch LED-backlit LCD screen with a new dual-core A5 processor for faster performance than the original. The iPad 2 also has two cameras, one front-facing VGA camera for FaceTime and one rear-facing camera that can capture hi-def video.

“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” says Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”

350,000 Apps To Choose From
iPad 2 runs almost all of the 350,000-plus apps available on the App Store—and there are more than 65,000 native iPad apps available in 20 categories, including business. Keyword: business.

So let’s look at five small business apps that could make the iPad 2 a good investment for road warriors, virtual office users and always-on-the-go entrepreneurs:

  1. Cisco WebEx Meeting Center: You can join WebEx meetings from your iPad from anywhere. If you do a lot of online meetings, this is a free app that will drive greater productivity for your team.

  2. WorldCard Mobile: If you are an entrepreneurial networker, you’ll find this $5.99 app handy. Recommended by the Wall Street Journal, WorldCard Mobile is a card scanning app that transfers information from business cards to your iPad using the camera.

  3. OmniFocus: This app won the 2008 Apple Design Award for best iPhone productivity application. You can keep track of tasks by project, place, person or date. The cost: $19.99.

  4. Mint.com Personal Finance: This free app lets you track, budget and manage your money on the go. You can add all your online banking accounts in one place. Set up a budget, do more with your money and take charge of your financial life.

  5. Keynote: This is a presentation app, complete with animated charts and transitions. The app includes themes, custom graphic styles, and other effects. This app runs $9.99.


There are hundreds of productivity apps you could install on your new iPad 2—many of them free. So whether you work from a virtual office or a traditional office space, the iPad 2 could help you work smarter, faster and more efficiently. Case closed.
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