Identifying the ideal team player

The best team players have three virtues: humility, hunger, and smarts.

According to Patrick Lencioni of management consulting firm The Table Group, these traits are sometimes inherent in personality, but more commonly they show themselves through how a person reacts to life, work, and personal development over time.

Humility allows a person to drop their ego and put a team ahead of themselves. Humble people recognize the contributions of others and don’t step on others to get to the top. If a team member lacks this characteristic, they will not be able to build trust and work through conflict over time.

Hungry people are always trying to learn more, improve themselves, and achieve more responsibility and recognition. This drive will propel them to work with a high level of self-motivation and see that projects are completed quickly and correctly. Their ambition will keep them moving upward towards the next opportunity. A person that isn’t hungry will have a hard time getting the desired results and will likely only perform at the bare minimum required.

Smart team players understand how to talk to other people. Listening, asking the right questions, and engaging the team in conflict resolutions are all qualities that a smart person will bring to the table. People without this emotional intelligence will tend to create interpersonal problems that require constant mediation from others.

Lencioni suggests that these virtues should permeate interviews, performance reviews, and even personal introspection to help identify the best way to hire, retain, and coach employees. Deficiency in even one of these areas can cause problems for business, and it can take time to correct a culture problem caused by weak team players.

Avoiding high payment fees in a small business

Avoiding high payment fees in a small business
Only 11 percent of shoppers used cash during 2016, according to creditcards.com.

For small businesses, this means lots of credit card processing fees are coming out of each sale and that can be expensive.

According to small business financing blog Nav, there are three ways for a credit card processor to charge fees: flat, interchange plus, and tiered pricing. Flat fee providers, such as PayPal or Square, use one rate for every transaction no matter the price or volume. Interchange plus models use a flat percentage fee along with a small charge for each sale, such as 30 cents. Tiered pricing applies three different rates depending on what type of card is used; such as debit, credit, or rewards, and is more expensive when manually keyed in.

It is easy to see that a per-transaction charge of even 30 cents could be devastating to a business that sells a high volume of cheap items, such as a dollar store. In these situations, it is entirely acceptable to list a minimum purchase amount for credit processing to make the sting of a per-transaction charge less painful.

As such, The Simple Dollar recommends that small business owners do their research and shop around for the best rates that their business can command. Those currently using or considering a tiered pricing structure, for instance, have reduced the complexity of their accounting and found savings by switching to a flat rate service. While an online search can be helpful, reaching out to other local businesses can be a great resource to see what works for those in a similar situation.

When it comes to equipment, purchasing a credit card terminal can save money over the long run compared to renting it each month so don’t be lured by the promise of savings from the credit card company. Additionally, many of the newer options such as Square provide a free scanner that can be used with any smartphone or tablet to act as a digital register both in a store or on the go.

Who can use the new business tax deduction?

Who can use the new business tax deduction?

Recent reforms in the tax code will be a significant benefit for small business owners who claim company income on their personal tax returns, according to The New York Times.

When income is declared in this way, it is called pass-through income, and the legislation will impact as many as 40 million taxpayers with small businesses making up almost half that number and ‘non-business’ individuals making up the rest. In many cases, a full 20 percent of all pass-through business income will be deductible, and further changes to deductions for depreciable property can help certain types of businesses as well.

Individuals that operate sole proprietorships and contract out to other companies, as well as people that claim income from things like hobbies or vacation home rentals, will fall into the non-business category. Even before these changes, it was desirable to declare this income to make use of other deductions like home offices and equipment. With the new deduction on income.

How to cope with small business burn out

Entrepreneurs often have no problem jumping head first into their business, working long hours, and keeping things running through sheer force of will. Unfortunately, even small business owners with the highest levels of willpower and determination will reach a point at which they feel stuck or burnt out. Instead of letting these circumstances keep them down, Forbes magazine suggests using a few specific strategies to help get through the rut.

In the beginning, merely acknowledging the feeling of being stuck is critical to moving forward with solutions. It can be tempting for owners with incredible perseverance to want to hunker down and keep fighting rather than look under the hood to see what’s causing the problem. They should, in fact, be asking themselves a lot of questions about how they got into the current state of affairs.

Fear is an emotion often tied to entrepreneurs because they are usually creating their own story as they go and the need to get everything right all the time can be overwhelming. In these cases, admitting that failure is not only okay, but also a necessary part of many businesses’ success can be a powerful release.

Once the stuck feeling has been acknowledged and probed for answers, it is often a good idea to take a break and attempt to find a new perspective. Exercise can help clear the mind and let the brain wander a little. This is productive for coming up with solutions to problems in the background while helping to recharge the physical body at the same time.

While each piece of advice up until this point is something that a business owner can do on their own, it is essential for them to remember that they don’t have to do everything alone. Reaching out to a business coach, mentor, peer, or even just a friend can lend a great feeling of support during a stressful period.

Corporate experience aids small business owners

Many entrepreneurs are in a hurry to get away from corporate life to start their own small business, but Inc. Magazine uses two ex-Goldman Sachs employees to explain that many of these same people will benefit greatly from their time at a large company. Rather than starting a business right out of college, or even during school, the exposure to a successful company’s people and processes will help provide a benchmark for solo success. Having a name that people recognize on a resume, meanwhile, might mean the difference between being funded or failing to launch in the future.

Large companies were once small businesses themselves, and the culture that formed the backbone of the initial startup was likely a significant reason for their success. Innovation and work ethic can all be a direct result of the culture of a business, and even if a potential entrepreneur doesn’t agree with the current state of affairs, it will be a point of reference from which to deviate.

Part of that company’s culture will have had something to do with performance, and it is likely that there are many incredibly talented people working in a large business that have accomplished great things during their careers. Not everyone wants to make it on their own, and these kinds of companies also draw bright young talent each year after college. Having these individuals as peers and mentors should not be discounted and provides a healthy dose of competitive spirit for the young up and comers.

A great culture of performance, armed with talented people, will drive systems to help secure the success of a large business well into the future and these processes are found within training programs, logistics, human resources, and every other part of running a vast enterprise. Having systems and processes are crucial if a business is going to scale past the initial stages and it is easy to lack appreciation and knowledge of this without seeing it firsthand.

Ransomware threat grows; small businesses at risk

A recent uptick in hackers using ransomware to take their victims’ data hostage means that organizations should aggressively move to back up data — and teach employees how hackers work.

According to PC Magazine, in a ransomware attack criminals deploy malicious code through email or websites. The code then encrypts computer data so that the company can no longer access it.

Criminals then demand payment for unlocking it.

The technique has been very successful. Ransomware reports rose 35-fold from the last quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016. Some extremely high profile cases have made big news, such as the U.K.’s National Health Service data that cost the organization $100,000 in ransom and an estimated $1 billion in damages.

However, small businesses are just as likely — or more likely — to have a ransomware attack. In fact, according to PC magazine, some criminals exclusively target small businesses, which rarely have the IT resources in place to prevent such attacks. One attack on a small business can not only disrupt commerce, but likely poison relationships with larger companies.

Employees themselves are often responsible for letting the hackers in by downloading malicious files through email. These email attachments can masquerade as innocuous pdfs, but, in fact, they are executable programs. No one should ever click on an attachment in email if they do not recognize the sender.

Even legitimate websites can often host malicious programs and one visit to such a website can mean ransomware infection. Malicious links are one way these programs take over. Users should never click links or popups to update extensions, for example.

Preparation is key. Constantly update all computers. Updates might be a pain, but they are critical since updates often address security issues. Cybercriminals love old operating systems. They know how they work. They may not know yet how to compromise the newest and best systems.

Experts recommend deploying so-called hosted endpoint security to manage computers, networks and mobile devices. These inexpensive programs are provided by companies such as F-secure, Webroot Secure, and Avast.

Finally, a great step to take in avoiding ransomware involves finding a backup solution to fall back on in case the defenses fail and the data is already being held for ransom. Sophisticated solutions exist that allow a company to maintain several layers of backups that can be rolled back to a time before hackers compromised the data just like nothing ever happened.

If you are attacked, should you pay? Experts say no — easy to say but not easy to do if you are facing catastrophic data loss. But remember, these are criminals. There is no guarantee they will restore your systems after you pay and every chance they won’t.

Selling tech door to door

Selling tech door to door Best Buy and Amazon plan to find business that is percolating just under the surface by doing what brush salesmen used to do: Go house to house.

With thousands of gadgets and add-ons available for communication and tasks inside the home, consumers may not even know what they need or what’s available.

But suppose you could get a high tech person to come to your house, and review your needs?

Best Buy’s in-home salespeople hope to do just that. The new program is aimed at ‘unlocking latent demand,’ Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly told The Wall Street Journal.

It’s different than showing up to a store with an item in mind. In that case, the salespeople sell that item. They might have an upsell, too. But it’s probably not what the consumer needs.

The house-to-house program will let consumers know what they could have and how it would help them. Plus, salespeople can schedule installation.

Amazon’s program sends employees to homes to provide free ‘smart home consultations’ that let people test out voice controlled devices and other gadgets like smart switches.

Unlike the traveling salespeople of yore, these consultants aren’t paid on commission and don’t press for an immediate sale. They just tell you what you could have.

The two-year-old Amazon program is currently offered in six cities.

Selling in December can be merry after all

When the weather outside is frightful, selling your house is not so delightful.

That’s what folks say, anyway. But is it always true?

Real estate agents say not necessarily. As with most things in life, it all depends.

Weather is, in fact, a factor and when frightful weather means a lot of snow, showings could slow down. But, on the other hand, a warm winter can be a boon for sellers as home buyers get an early start on the season.

The strength of the local real estate market also comes into play. A strong market can be good even in December. There are always buyers who, for many personal and business reasons, must find a home during the holidays. Those kinds of buyers are motivated.

Here are some considerations for selling during the fall/winter holidays:

– You don’t have to keep your house dark during the season of lights. Decorate, but do so modestly. A Christmas tree can make a home look warm during the cold winter season. Display just a few gifts under the tree. Too many begin to resemble clutter and buyers need to be able to look past decorations.

– Avoid flashing lights inside and out. Stick to simple, classic decorations.

– Limit decorations to the main living area. Although some families go all out decorating every room, as a seller you want to keep decorations of all kinds to a minimum.

– Most agents say that sellers should avoid religious displays, but in some areas of the country this would be acceptable, especially if done modestly. The key is not to overwhelm the house. Make it easy for the buyer to see the rooms.

– Make the most of the season by enhancing curb appeal. Although the trees might not have leaves, the garden won’t have weeds either. Some decorations are seen as welcoming, no matter what the season: A wreath on the door or outdoor lights that emphasize the walkway or special parts of the property.

– If your property looks especially glorious in Spring and Summer, consider leaving out a photo album.

– Play muted classical music to add to the overall ambience, according to HGTV.

– Use light holiday fragrance. Avoid heavy floral scents that make some people cough or sneeze. Don’t overdo it. One scented candle is probably enough.

– Light the fire. Winter is also a great time to show off your fireplace. So spread the warmth!

Small business risk: Fire ranks high

Going into business is heavy with financial risk but, once in business, natural disasters or unforeseen problems can create catastrophe.
Fire ranks high as a potentially devastating risk for business.
More than 75 percent of companies that experience a serious fire go out of business within three years of reopening, according to Phoenix Fire Protection.
Proper insurance can cushion destruction of assets and business interruption costs, but it won’t stem loss of customers, employees and data.
Of these three risks, data loss may be the easiest to mitigate.

* Daily off-site backups are key. On-site backups may seem sufficient unless a fire begins on the weekend or a holiday.

* Check backups regularly.

* Make sure at least two people know how to retrieve backups.

Make a pre-fire or disaster plan: Some of the questions you can ask:

* How can you protect IT equipment from fire or other disasters? If you can’t protect equipment, how will you replace it after the emergency?

* How will you retrieve data? Who will do it?

* Where will you operate? Will you need a generator for electricity? If so, where will you get the fuel to power the generator?

* What are the steps you will take to replace inventory? Is it necessary or possible to insure inventory? What is the worst-case scenario if it isn’t insured?

How to buy a home when there aren’t many on the market

In economic parlance, many describe today’s housing market this way: demand is high and supply is low. In practical terms, this means there are more buyers than homes for sale. While this isn’t true in all areas of the country, it is true in many areas.

According to USA Today, there was a 4.3 month supply of homes nationally in August of 2017. That means it would take a little more than four months to run out of homes for sale if no other homes came on the market. This number was down from earlier in the summer when there was a 4.6-month supply. The normal number of homes for sale is a 6-month supply.

Why is supply of homes for sale so low? Baby Boomers don’t want to sell, according to USA Today. A recent realtor.com survey showed that 85 percent of Baby Boomers aren’t selling but 60 percent of millennials are.

In this market, sellers may easily get the price they want, but buyers must have all their shingles in a row these days.

Here’s how you have the best chance of snagging the house you want:

*Get your financing ready
First get pre-qualified for a loan. This is an informal process where you visit with various lenders, giving them an overview of your financial situation. The lenders can then give you an idea of how much you can borrow and an idea of interest rates. But, beware, this is not a promise to loan you the money. It merely gives you working numbers.

*Shop around
The good thing about pre-qualification is that you can start shopping around before you are ready to buy. You can get an idea of what you can afford and what you want in a house. Even if this isn’t your first time in the market, don’t skip the growing period, according to USNews. If you have been out of the market for more than a year, then you don’t know what is out there.

*Get pre-approved
When you know you want to take the plunge, get pre-approved for a loan. At this point, you should have an idea of which lender you might want to use. The lender checks your credit, verifies employment, and confirms your ability to qualify for a mortgage. With a pre-approval in hand, you are ready to make a credible offer when you find the home you want.