Browsing Articles Written by

Melinda Emerson

Work your Biz Wednesday: Why Your Small Business Needs a Board

By September 21, 2016 No Comments

You may have the best small business ideas in the world, but succeeding in business requires you to understand the business of running a business. Operating a business of any size is not like mixing together the right ingredients for a casserole and then letting it cook in the oven. It's a continual, evolving process, and you have to develop and tweak your processes and systems to make it work. One of the best ways to learn to run your business better is to pull together a board of advisors.


Work your Biz Wednesday: Financial Terms Every Small Business Owner Should Know

By August 31, 2016 No Comments

There's no shortage of small business advice about marketing, social media and inspiration to not give up, However, the small business owner must pay attention to the financial nuts and bolts of business operations. It’s the best way to make the wisest business decisions. You may encounter terms on business websites or when working with an accountant with which you are unfamiliar to you. Don't skip over them. They can be crucial in your thinking as a business owner. Here is a core glossary of financial terms every small business owner should know.

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Work your Biz Wednesday: 5 Great Ideas For Building a Dynamic Website

By August 17, 2016 No Comments

For a small business, a website is the most critical tool for branding and generating sales. Its your welcome mat.  If you’re an ecommerce business, it drives the revenue that makes your company viable. If you’re a service business, it’s the best way to demonstrate your expertise. Regardless of whether you sell goods and services, your company's website should convey the solutions you offer, and you'll need to drive traffic there

Here are five ideas for building a dynamic website that provides your small business with a powerful marketing platform!


Work your Biz Wednesday: How Can I Make my Small Business Attractive to Angel Investors?

By July 20, 2016 No Comments

If you’re considering seeking funding to either launch or grow your business, angel investors are one potential source of financing worth considering. But realize: angel investors get pitched every day, and turn down 90% of the startups that approach them. What can you do to put yourself in the best light possible to increase your chances of getting funded?


Work your Biz Wednesday: How Do I Fire a Beloved Employee?

By July 6, 2016 No Comments

The only thing worse than firing an employee is firing one you truly love. The reasons for having to fire a beloved employee vary: maybe you’ve outgrown their skillset, you’re selling the business, or you can’t afford to keep a full-time employee on. Whatever the reason, you want to cushion the blow for this person that you’ve come to rely on so heavily.

Get a Firing Strategy

You’ll want to consider when and how you’ll fire this person. Doing it on her birthday may not be the most heartfelt strategy, so find a day that has no significance. A Friday is a good option, since you’re headed into the weekend, which gives that individual time to reflect on her new situation.

Expect that she’ll have questions about why you’re firing her, and prepare your answers. Always tell the truth. If the reason is that your company is in financial difficulties, make it clear that it was in no way her fault. If she did have behavioral concerns, you should already have addressed these with her in the past and given her fair warning that if she didn’t improve her actions, she would be terminated. If you’ve reached the point of firing her, she shouldn’t be surprised, as she had the option to make changes for the better.

Respect Their Privacy

Firing an employee should always happen behind closed doors. It’s nobody else’s business, and you don’t want to incite panic among your other staff, who might be concerned that they’ll get the axe too.

You can either plan to let her go immediately or give her two weeks to wrap up her work. While she might prefer to get paid for an additional few weeks, don’t be surprised if she gets upset and walks out then and there. Have a plan for how you’ll handle the work she was doing. Is there someone on your team who can take it over? Can you spread out the work until you get a replacement if that’s your plan?

Do Your Best to Help

If you loved your employee, you’ll naturally want to help her transition into something else. If you have contacts that could help her find a job, offer to connect her to them. Write a glowing recommendation, making it clear that performance wasn’t the reason you had to let her go.

Offer to advise her in finding her next career move if she wants your help. But understand if she doesn’t; people take being let go personally, and she may react negatively, despite your efforts to aid.

Leave the Door Open

If your reason for firing a beloved employee is financial, let her know that if things improve, you’d like to have her back. If it’s possible, consider simply cutting back her hours or working with her on a freelance basis if your finances permit.

No one takes joy in firing an employee, whether it was warranted due to bad behavior or not. If you find yourself in that situation, do it with grace. You never know when your paths will cross with this person again, so leave things as good as they can be. If it’s possible to part as friends, that should be your objective.


Work your Biz Wednesday: The Most Important Task Small Business Owners Neglect

By June 22, 2016 No Comments

The first time you said to someone, "I'm starting my own business," you probably felt a sense of pride and empowerment, as well as nervousness. When setting up a small business, you want to plan for as many contingencies as possible, and prepare for anything the marketplace or business world may throw at you.

But when you read up on tips for small business owners, one thing you probably won't see is information about a crucial activity: the internal audit. Yes, the word "audit" is scary, but the internal audit is actually about allaying fears.

The internal audit helps ensure that your business operates as it should, that you are able to effectively manage risks, and that your business remains in compliance with regulations and laws that apply to it.

Financial and Operational Discovery

Setting up a small business usually doesn't involve the creation of an internal auditing department. Budgets are tight, and personnel often have to play many roles simultaneously. But you can internally audit your business using the team you already have to gain information about operations and finances. At least two people should be involved to prevent auditors from simply assuming their own work is in compliance, and to open up channels of communication about processes and regulations. Discussing the results of the audit, and preparing a report on it helps your team understand why internal audits are important, while giving everyone actionable information that can help your business flourish.

Make Internal Auditing Your Responsibility

The first step to conducting a self-audit is to define what you want to achieve and what benefits you expect to come away with. Define a series of objectives, and identify any risks associated with them. If you have known problem areas, highlight them so the audit can focus on them. When planning audit activities, determine what you plan to look at, how intensely you will examine particular areas, and for what time period. Each task should have connected with it the name of the person who will be able to help you acquire the information you need.

It's possible you'll have to change course at some point during an audit, should new matters of importance come to light, and that's OK. The information you gather during your audit should be used to create a deliverable product (typically a report) that drives specific actions. Plan to evaluate those actions at a specified interval after the report is prepared and note if the improvements you expect are being achieved. Subsequent audit procedures will need to be fine-tuned to better meet your needs as your business grows and changes.

You Can't Correct Issues You Don't Know About

Internal audits are about discovering issues that need attention. You, as a small business owner, probably know which areas are most suitable for being audited. In general, the following small business functions benefit from an internal audit:

  • Expenses – because if you don't know where your company is spending money, you don't know where it's wasting money
  • Customer Service – Do you know how satisfied customers are? What they've praised and what they've complained about? How do you plan to put this information to use?
  • Data Quality – including inventory reports, cash balances, and accounts receivable and payable. This data must be current and accurate for these processes to benefit you.
  • IT Security – including security within your business and between your business and the outside world
  • Disaster Recovery – including a detailed plan of how to recover operations in the event of a natural disaster, theft, or other catastrophe. What are the top priorities after a disaster?
  • Compliance – whether with internal, industry, or government regulations, including compliance with tax laws. Regularly monitoring compliance can help tremendously if you become the subject of an outside audit.

Regulatory Compliance Begins with Your Team

At minimum your small business must comply with payroll, Department of Labor, and tax regulations. If you're in industries like healthcare, financial products, or education, then you will have to comply with many other regulations as well. Knowing exactly how the well-oiled machine that is your small business operates is step one to ensuring compliance on all fronts. When your team knows that internal auditing is a priority, they're more likely to understand the importance of external audits and be prepared. If you're setting up a small business, I invite you to sign up for my weekly newsletter for regular guidance on the exciting and challenging world of today's entrepreneur.