Executive Lifestyles

One Unique Way Women-Owned Business Can Grow This National Women’s Small Business Month

ARTICLE BY: ROBIN CONNOR, DEMASTAR

October is National Women’s Small Business Month. As such, it’s a time to celebrate the progress women have made in entrepreneurship and business. In 1972 there were only 402,000 women-owned businesses in the U.S. Last year that number grew to 12.3 million! Women are forging ahead by making themselves a prominent part of the business world today and continue to fight for equality in pay and opportunity.

While it’s anything but easy for someone to start a business, it can be especially hard for minority-owned businesses, with women-owned businesses falling into this category. Opportunities for growth are often hard to find but they are available, and it’s important to make sure you are looking EVERYWHERE!

One growth prospect some businesses do not know about is in working with local government. Local and state government agencies have a goal to award five percent of business to women-owned businesses. Governments want more and more businesses to be aware of job postings so they have a wider selection to choose from and are able to award the right business with the right job, ultimately giving the best to their communities and at the right price.

Many business owners think their business is not a fit for this type of work, but the opportunities range to cover all types of work. Landscaping, architecture, construction and engineering often come to mind when thinking about government work, but there are plenty of other opportunities for nearly every type of business, like holiday lights, finance, catering, flowers, and even eggs for egg hunts or teddy bears used by the police departments to give to kids in emergency situations.

How do women find these opportunities? They must first be certified as a women-owned business through the Small Business Association’s website. Government agencies post opportunities to their websites, but it can be time consuming for busy owners to sort through various websites and opportunities. Fortunately, there are websites, , that will automatically send business owners relevant job opportunities.

Once notified of an opportunity, businesses bid on the project. This can also be time-consuming, but with websites this process is streamlined so businesses can submit e-bids that are competitive and successful.

With the support of governments through opportunities, women can continue to grow their impact in business. The opportunities are there, we as women simply need to know where to look.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robin Conner is DemandStar’s Vice President of Marketing, responsible for defining, creating and implementing the company’s go-to-market strategy. Prior to joining DemandStar, Robin was Director of Marketing at Avalara where she was responsible for defining and executing the go-to-market strategy for small business. Robin studied entrepreneurship/business at Boise State University and holds a certification in marketing strategy from Cornell.

Executive Lifestyles

Are You A Visionary? 6 Traits To see if your a true visionary

 

There’s a reason many of the most successful businesses in America – Apple, Amazon and others – had a visionary leader behind them, propelling them to achieve their goals at the highest level.

“A vision pushes people not just to do more, but to do more than they think they are capable of,” says Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com), a global thought leader and consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies and is author of the new book Leaderology.

Yet, even though everyone does a lot of talking about the importance of vision, he says, it’s not easy to fully grasp just what it is.

“I’ve discussed vision with CEOs of big companies, serial entrepreneurs, creators of unique software, and many others,” Konovalov says. “Every single person with whom I have spoken viewed vision differently. But in the course of all these discussions I discovered that there were some properties of a strong vision that remained constant.”

  • Vision reflects the highest purpose of leadership. A leader’s vision should include actual benefits for those affected by the vision, such as employees, customers, the leaders themselves, employees’ families and society at large. “A main stimulus of vision is people and the care of their needs,” he says. “If a vision is not formed around people and their needs, then it is not vision but personal ambition.”
  • Vision doesn’t lead to dead ends. A vision is always scalable and should show multiple potentials for expansion, Konovalov says. “But to be able to scale the vision you should maintain an appropriate cognitive distance from it,” he says. “This allows you to see the broader picture while keeping the important details in sight. Stand too close and you see the details, but lose the whole picture. Stand too far away and you lose the important details from which the vision is created.”
  • Vision reveals a path to success. As you pursue your vision, watch for the signs and clues that will help lead you to success. “They will be easy to follow if the vision is strong,” Konovalov says. “Those signs are always around in different forms – words of encouragement, expressions of real need from strangers, and answers to critical questions coming from unexpected perspectives.” Paying attention to such signs helps people spot opportunities while crafting the most effective path to success, he says.
  • Vision means taking on responsibility. If you’re the person with a vision, you are taking on a responsibility that will have an impact on people’s lives.  “And the greater the vision is, the greater the responsibility,” Konovalov says. “But this huge responsibility also comes with incredible opportunities, the kind of opportunities available only to pioneers. It may be intimidating to take on all that responsibility, but it will reward you in return.”
  • Vision should be easy to understand. “Vision involves elegant thinking about complicated things,” Konovalov says. But that doesn’t mean the vision itself should be so complex that everyone is left puzzling over what you’re saying. Just the opposite. “Great vision is genuinely easy to understand,” he says. “The simpler the vision is in its core meaning, the easier it can be shared with employees, customers, and partners.”
  • Vision generates excitement. A person with a vision isn’t nonchalant about it. Strong vision is always accompanied by excitement. “Actually, vision is a strong emotion itself,” Konovalov says. “If someone tells you about his great vision and he sounds ho-hum about it, then most likely he is lying to himself and others. Such a person might have a goal, but they don’t have a vision.”

Vision is a great leadership ability and success instrument, Konovalov says.

“Vision defines and explains why and where effort should be focused,” he says. “And while vision is normally created by a single person, it quickly becomes the property of many, and that’s important.

“No one can accomplish something great on his or her own. Vision is what attracts the people needed to take what you want to accomplish and turn it into a reality.”

About Oleg Konovalov

Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com) is a thought leader, author, business educator and consultant with over 25 years of experience operating businesses and consulting Fortune 500 companies internationally. His latest book is Leaderology. His other books are Corporate Superpower, Organisational Anatomy and Hidden Russia. Konovalov received his doctoral degree from the Durham University Business School. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of business schools, a Forbes contributor and high in demand speaker at major conferences around the world.

Executive Lifestyles, Uncategorized

THE IMPORTANCE OF BACKING UP YOUR COMPUTER

 

By Contributing Writer; Eric Burhrendorf, CEO Evernet

“Backup your computer.” How often have you heard that? More importantly, how often do you do it and are you doing it correctly? One of Connecticut’s top tech gurus warns irreplaceable personal and business files can be lost forever if a solid backup protocol is not put in place.

“The most common cause of data loss is not implementing and following a consistent backup plan,” said Eric Buhrendorf, CEO of EVERNET, a computer consulting and service firm in Hartford. “It’s not a difficult process, but the consequences of not backing up can be catastrophic.”

Buhrendorf further explains a loss of data can happen anytime due to hard drive failures, software bugs or hacker ransomware holding files hostage. Improperly backing up a company’s entire virtual infrastructure makes recovering from a disaster long and costly. As a business grows larger or adapts to their changing environment, they often do not make corresponding adjustments to their backup protocol.  National Record and Information Management Month in April is the ideal time to engage an outside IT firm for a systems’ check-up.

Buhrendorf outlines the key steps his firm follows to protect precious electronic information:

  1. Determine what needs to be backed up: documents, databases, full systems, etc.
  2. Determine retention requirements: this may be dictated by regulations, business preference under risk assessment, and/or budget
  3. Choose schedule and methodology: full daily, full weekly/daily incremental, full monthly, weekly, incremental, automated or manual
  4. Choose technology/product/vendor: onsite, cloud, hybrid
  5. Establish management: Responsible human resource(s) and monitoring method
  6. Establish test restore methodology and schedule; perform tests
  7. Review regularly

“Don’t have a false sense of security by thinking you can ‘set it and forget it,’” said Buhrendorf. “Restore protocol should be established and all scheduled tests should be performed. It’s important to secure your data with a backup product from a managed service provider. The backup system – and not the actual data – will be monitored for security and functionality, and any issues can be addressed ensuring a functioning backup when it’s needed.”

This is critical since hackers are becoming more able to evade detection while weaponizing cloud services and other routinely used technology. A recent example was the highly sophisticated ShadowHammer cyberattack that targeted users of the ASUS Live Update Utility with a backdoor injection. Users thought they were performing a legitimate update when in fact it opened them up to hackers.

The worst-case scenario is not being able to recover data due to a neglected backup system.

Since 2007, EVERNET has provided the most trusted computer support for businesses of all sizes in Connecticut.  For information or to schedule a free consultation visit www.evernetco.com  or call 860-656-7810.

 

Executive Lifestyles

Three signs you should keep your job and three signs you shouldn’t

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 Holly Caplan, Contributing Writer

Growing up I was taught by my parents to get a job and keep a job. Period. It was ingrained in me that once I graduated college, I needed to land at a good company and stay there. The big reward would be retirement at 40 years with a fancy company pen and pension. This was my mindset for years.  It’s what was expected of me, and it is what I aspired to do.

Ultimately though, the longest I held out at one company was 14 years, thank you very much.  I was on a roller coaster with highs of success and excitement to lows of frustration and disappointment.  Yet, with dogged determination and loyalty I stuck out it. I was supposed to right?  Wrong.  By staying, I denied myself the opportunity for even more growth and opportunities. Staying was comfortable (even in the hardest times), but it wasn’t always productive.

Even though all of this is in my rearview mirror now, wish I would have known years before how to assess if I should stay or go. I needed some type of guideline to know when it was time to depart.  It would have given me confidence in making the big decision and the courage to pull the rip chord to create change for myself.

Here are three statistics will give you an indication of how employees view their current companies and jobs:

  • 71% of workers said they are looking to change employers
  • 37% of engaged employees are looking for jobs or watching for opportunities, as are 56% of not engaged and 73% of actively disengaged employees
  • 47% of people actively looking for new positions say company culture is the main reason

So if you are feeling like you need a job change, you are not alone. Here are three signs that maybe it is time to take the leap, and three signs that you should tough it out a bit longer:

3 Signs you should quit your job:

 

1.    Deficit in Development:

If you notice that your company isn’t doing anything to develop, train, or promote you, it is a sign that it may be time to go.  This is two fold. First, it shows they have little interest in your future and how you contribute to the organization. Second, your professional growth can be hindered if the company does not actively develop or promote. This deficit can create frustration on the employee’s behalf and it shows that the company is not invested in their people.

2.    Getting Out of Bed:

We all go through periods where our jobs are miserable, or we are just flat bored. Getting out of bed can feel like a chore itself.  If you are not mentally engaged in what you are doing for a living, don’t wait too long to make a change. Staying in a role you find completely uninspiring will do a number on your self worth will and will be detected by your manager. When you feel this stagnancy or boredom linger, it is a sign that it is time to go. Give yourself the chance to find something new that will interest and inspire you!

3.    High turnover:

Employees stay in their jobs if they actually like their work environment. If they have a good boss, work-life balance and consistency, they will stay for a while. But, if these components are not present, most people will jump ship. If you see your respected colleagues leaving right and left, know the issues are most likely systemic. This is a signal that it is time to find a new ship that is sailing in the right direction.

3 Signs you shouldn’t quit your job:

 

1.    If you are under 12 months of employment:

This is the sweet spot, 12 months. Say you get involved in a job that you don’t feel is a right fit or you wish you didn’t take, do your best to make it last one year. Leaving at 6-9 months can look questionable to your next employer. Staying 12-18 months, even if you want to go, will show stability and that you were dedicated to this period of your career journey.

2.    Leadership change is coming:

When you see that the people above you are moving on or moving out, hold tight. This could mean a positive change for you. Their movement makes room for perhaps your advancement, a role change or maybe even just a better work culture. This type of transition can yield professional growth, so watch what happens and then figure out what this can mean for you!

3.    Look for a job while you have one:

It has been said again and again, it is best to look for a new job while you have a job. Even if you know you want to quit, stick with your current position (barring horrible circumstances) while you are on the new job search. Clearly by doing this, you are maintaining your current income, while at the same time you appear more marketable and desirable to your potential employer.

In today’s environment, there is a lot more freedom of choice based on social acceptance of job hops, which can work in your favor. If you find you are in disengaged or perhaps indifferent, don’t waste anymore time. Assess your current professional situation and don’t be afraid to ask yourself if you should stay or if you should go.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Holly Caplan is a workplace issues expert, career coach and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com and connect with her on Twitter, @hollymcaplan.

Executive Lifestyles

5 Ways Small Business Owners Plan Intelligently For Retirement

Preparing financially for retirement can be complicated for anyone, but for small business owners the process often poses even more challenges.

Teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees generally receive a pension. The corporate world can offer benefit plans or matching contributions. But entrepreneurs can’t automatically rely on any of those features; instead they have to put saving/investing plans in place for themselves and their employees.

And often, Small Business Owners (“SBOs”) aren’t preparing sufficiently for retirement. A survey of SBOs, conducted by BMO Wealth Man agement, showed 75 percent had less than $100,000 saved for retirement.

“Small business owners have to do it on their own, and many aren’t preparing properly,” says Troy Bender, President and CEO of Asset Retention Insurance Services Inc. (www.asset-retention.com). “Many feel like they will never make it, but they can. The idea is to simply start.”

Bender lists five ways small business owners can wisely plan for retirement, which include:

  • Decide how much to save each month.  An ideal average for saving per month is 15 percent of your pay, Bender says. If that seems too much at first, you might ease into it. “To begin, you may start with 5 percent and then ramp up 2 to 3 percent each year,” Bender says. As a better gauge, he says, note that an employee with a 401(k) can contribute up to $18,500 of their salary for 2018 if they’re less than 50 years old. Someone aged  50 and over with a 401(k) can save $24,500 a year. A good goal is to try to match these amounts annually.
  • The SEP IRA. As defined by the IRS, a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan provides business owners with a method to contribute toward their employees’ retirement as well as their own retirement savings. “It doesn’t have the start-up and operating costs of a conventional 401(k) or profit-sharing employee plan,” Bender says. ”Your business pays no taxes on annual earnings, as it grows tax-deferred.
  • Rule of 100.  “Retirement accounts that offer the highest return may seem ideal, but a business owner who goes down this path can be easily overwhelmed and stressed,” says Bender. “As a business owner, you generally already have enough stress, which can manifest in so many ways. A basic rule to follow is known as the Rule of 100.” Under that rule, you subtract your age from 100, and what’s left over is the percentage of your portfolio you put into investments with some risk. For example, if you are 50, then 50 percent of your assets would be at risk and 50 percent would be allocated conservatively – placed in a bank account, or perhaps in an annuity, for example, to provide income for you in your future.
  • Life insurance. A small business owner with a family should have 10 times their annual net income in life insurance. Bender says. “The life insurance can be set up to provide a Tax-Free income in the future, too, that a small business owner can draw from,” Bender says.
  • Key Person Insurance. Like having life insurance to provide financial help for your family when you pass away, a SBO may want to consider “Key Person Insurance.” The death benefit offered through “Key Person Insurance” helps ensure that should a “key person” within a company pass away, there will be continuity of the business for its employees (and customers).

 

“You need to save for the necessity stream as well as the discretionary stream,” Bender says. “You should get the basics down and really look at covering your lifestyle, so you can look back and smile from the thousands of hours you worked owning a business.”

 

About Troy Bender

Troy Bender, President and CEO at Asset Retention Insurance Services Inc., can be found at (www.asset-retention.com), and has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance and annuity industry. He started his career in the financial services industry as a bond and stockbroker with Merrill Lynch and then moved to Prudential Securities. In 1999, he started Asset Retention Insurance Services Inc. Bender also co-authored the book “The Ultimate Success Guide” with best-selling author Brian Tracy, and Troy has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates around the country, and has been in Newsweek, Designing Wealth magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Ca. License # OD73702.

Executive Lifestyles

HOW TO HANDLE WATER COOLER TALK THAT TURNS POLITICAL

Interview with Mike Schmidt

by: Claire Crowley, Staff Writer

Today’s political landscape seems more polarizing than ever before. Most people save their political discussions for when they’re amongst friends or family, but what happens when the watercooler chat at work turns political? Can your employer limit your topics of conversation while at work or on social media? What can you do if you feel that you’ve been offended by a political conversation in the workplace? We interview labor and employment law attorney Mike Schmidt of the New York based law firm Cozen O’Connor to get some clarification on these issues for both employers and employees.

Mike, please tell our readers a bit about yourself:
I am a shareholder at Cozen O’Connor, and the Vice Chair of our firm’s national Labor & Employment Department that provides cost-effective advice and litigation defense to companies and management. I also am the host of an employment law podcast called “Employment Law Now.” With new episodes every two weeks, you can find and download the free podcast on iTunes or on my separate web site at http://www.employmentlawnow.com.

You’re a labor and employment law attorney. What exactly is labor and employment law?:
Very generally, labor and employment law involves the law and rules governing the employer-employee relationship, and best practices for ensuring that the workplace is appropriate and compliant with governing legal requirements.

The growing divisiveness in politics today has left many employees wondering what topics are acceptable for their watercooler chats. Do employees have the right to free speech while at work?
It is important to understand that the notion of “free speech” as a matter of Constitutional protections applies only to public employers, and not private employers. With that said, there are various laws on the federal, state, and local levels that restrict an employer’s ability to regulate discussions over certain topics (though mostly during non-working time).

What, if anything, can employers or human resources departments do in the event that their employees’ watercooler chats get out of hand?
It really depends on what is meant by “out of hand” and the nature of the “chats.” Employers should make sure that they have appropriate and effective workplace policies that address inappropriate harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and violence in the workplace, and should have a mechanism in place to address discussion that violates such policies or otherwise makes an employee (or group of employees) uncomfortable to the point of not being able to do their job.

What would you suggest that an employee do if he or she has been upset by inappropriate remarks about race, gender, ethnicity or religion while at work?
At a minimum, an employee in this situation should avail himself or herself of the complaint procedure established by the company. If none, the employee should raise the issue with a company human resources professional or management employee with whom the employee feels comfortable. A company cannot attempt to investigate and resolve an issue about which it knew nothing.

How would you advise a business owner in their approach to discussing with employees a policy of limiting political discussions at work?
First, to the extent possible (and to the extent the policy is consistently applied), employers should consider advising employees to refrain from engaging in excessive political discussions during the time they are supposed to be working. Second, it is also important that employers tell employees to be sensitive to the fact that political discussions can often become emotional and highly charged, and that in no event should a discussion about politics rise to a level that otherwise violates the company’s other workplace rules (such as anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies).

Let’s chat about social media. It seems like everyone has a social media account – whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Social media accounts are prime platforms for unfiltered discussions. Can employers monitor the social media accounts of their employees?
This is a very broad question, and really depends on what is being monitored, why, and by whom. Employers should avoid surreptitiously “friending” or connecting with an employee under a different name as a ruse to gain access to otherwise private posts, and should also give thought to the reason(s) for monitoring so as not to stumble upon information or pictures that might form the basis of a manager taking inappropriate adverse action against the employee. Many jurisdictions also have laws that prohibit employers from demanding or requesting that an employee provide social media account passwords.

Can employers ask that employees don’t discuss certain political matters on social media?
It is less likely that employers can appropriately limit an employee’s ability to engage in political discussion on social media during non-working time, particularly as many jurisdictions have “legal activities laws” that generally prohibit regulation of off-hours off-premises political activity.

How can our readers follow up with you if they have more questions:
If someone is interested in potentially seeking legal advice on a particular matter, he or she can look at our web site (www.cozen.com) and also contact me directly at mschmidt@cozen.com or 212-453-3937.

Executive Lifestyles

Fresh Patch Founder’s Tips on How to Nail a Spot on Shark Tank!

By:  Andrew Feld, CEO / Fresh Patch & Contributing Writer

Making an appearance on Shark Tank can be a great opportunity for a company looking for extra capital. As you may know, competition to land a coveted spot on the ABC show is steep. Just ask Fresh Patch founder Andrew Feld. He successfully landed a spot in season 9 of Shark Tank. Below are some tips from Feld to fellow entrepreneurs on how they can also get in front of the sharks.

Bring the energy! The Shark Tank casting directors are viewing thousands of submissions so you must make yourself stand out from the pack. My wife is a film producer so I was lucky to have her help with my submission video. Every time she recorded my pitch she would say “more energy, more energy!” She had me doing jumping jacks and push ups between takes.

Do your homework! When you go on Shark Tank you are walking into a room of big egos. Sharks assume that you already know their backgrounds and that you know what each of them can bring to the table as an investor. Direct your pitch to all of the sharks instead of just focusing on one. In fact, I was so sure that the pet-loving Robert Herjavec was the best shark for our dog product. I was shocked that he was the only one who decided to pass on my product!

Be passionate! Sharks love to invest in entrepreneurs who wear their heart on their sleeve and are willing to do whatever it takes to make their company successful. Running a business can be a rollercoaster and the sharks prefer to invest in entrepreneurs who won’t let anything stand in their way.

Definitely haggle! The sharks are not afraid to make a low-ball offer for your business. If this happens, the worst thing a contestant can do is agree to the first offer they are given. Accepting a low ball offer devalues your company, but more importantly, it does not make for good television. The back and forth negotiation process is an integral part of the show. You might end up getting a deal with a shark, however, your episode may never see the light of day because it lacked entertainment value.

About Andrew Feld and Fresh Patch

After years of just making it as an actor in Los Angeles, founder Andrew Feld decided it was time to take control of his career. With a love for animals, Feld always knew he would work with or help them in some capacity. When pee pads and synthetic grass toilets weren’t working with his own dog, Chloe, he developed his own solution – Fresh Patch!

Bringing home a new box or different type of grass to test out with Chloe each week, it took several months before he had a working prototype. With humble beginnings, he made his first deliveries out of his car. Now, Fresh Patch is quickly expanding into the ultimate in-home training system for dogs! Dogs want to “go” on real grass, and Feld is proud to give our furry friends a convenient way to do so, indoors.

http://www.freshpatch.com