Monday, June 28, 2010

Re-post from Sysomos Blog: Why Corporate Social Media Fails

Here's a blog post that I thought was interesting. The post reviews two obvious problems, lack of planning and inadequate resources. It then describes a few other less obvious issues. Certainly the lack of decent content is a problem, but how many companies think about all of the implications of social media. The final item, "The failure to build relationships" is an observation that makes the entire post worth reading.

Social media works well when companies use it to build relationships. Companies that use help encourage customer conversations are successful. Companies that think that Facebook or Twitter are simply innovative billboards are not. Check out the post. Why Corporate Social Media Fails

By the way, this post is an interesting example of the effect of social media. I read a status update on Linked In that referred to this post. The update was also shared on Twitter. The update was from a person that once worked for a not-for-profit where I had been a volunteer. However, I connected with her originally because she was the sister of a respected co-worker. It is a small world, and social media makes it smaller.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who is on your team?

In the last week or so, I’ve been thinking about teamwork. The Word Cup is big news. Basketball teams are fighting over new talent in the NBA draft. Lance Armstrong is assembling a team for the Tour de France. Teamwork is in the news.

A well run business is like team. Businesses have owners and managers and workers. In big businesses the various players are pretty well defined. Small businesses tend to be more like pickup games though. Owners and employees do whatever job needs doing. It’s not all that different from showing up at the ball field where one day the team needs a left fielder and another day the team needs a short stop or a catcher. Specific skills may not be as important as simply being there to do the work. That works fine until the team realizes that it is good enough to play in a tournament. That’s when the team captain goes out and tries to recruit ringers. Unfortunately the new players rarely lead the team to victory. No matter what their skill or talent, it is not a substitute for practicing and playing with the team.

Think about how this applies to business. Many small businesses rely on employees to do whatever needs doing. It is simply too expensive to hire a lot of people, and until the business gets to be a certain size there is not be enough work for full-time employees. The owner usually manages the business, does the bookkeeping and payroll, hires and fires employees, manages compensation, keeps up with rules and regulations, and pays taxes. Since none of those things have to do with making or selling products and turning a profit, the business owner does all those things in his or her spare time. When tournament time comes, and the small business owner is struggling with financial statements and taxes or trying to understand insurance or deferred compensation, he or she goes out to find an expert. Unfortunately, just as with the softball or basketball team, the new player often does not know enough about the business to make a difference.

The way to victory is sign the players to your team before the tournament. You can do this even if you do not have any money by choosing the right people when you seek advice. When your books got too involved, did you ship them off to the least expensive book keeper you could find? Do you shop for a new accountant every year? Is your insurance agent simply someone you send money to every year? Is your attorney’s business card buried in a stack of cards in your desk? If the answer to any of these questions is, “yes,” then I have a new idea for you.

Find a single professional that will assemble a team for you. Many professionals recognizing the value of a team approach have developed relationships with other professionals. For example, many CPA’s routinely refer clients to the same team of advisors for legal matters, insurance, investment advice, and even hiring assistance. If you already have an accountant, attorney, book keeper, insurance agent, or investment advisor, ask that person for recommendations. Find out if they routinely refer to each other or if they ever work as a team. If you don’t already work with any of these professionals, then be sure to ask about professional relationships with other service providers when you are hiring them.

After you have identified a team of professionals that will work together for you, take the time to meet with them to discuss your business and your needs. You might try to meet with them together. If your CPA acts as a business advisor, then he or she may be able to help you do this. Consider a business lunch. The amount of time you spend with each professional will vary. The amount of time that you spend may vary. You may find it desirable to pay for a consultation. The short list below describes some of the things you might want to discuss.
  • Attorney: You will want to discuss the form of your business and related liabilities and regulations that may affect your business.
  • Accountant: The topics here include tax planning and structuring your accounting system so that it will provide you useful information. Other topics include cash management and accounting controls. Depending on the form of your businesses, you may also want your accountant to help you figure out how to distribute income.
  • Bookkeeper: You may not have a separate bookkeeper if your books are simple or if you do not have a large volume of transactions. However if your books are complex or you have a lot of entries, or if you have payroll, then hiring a bookkeeper will be more efficient than doing it yourself and less expensive than having your accountant do the work personally. Ideally your accountant will handle the bookkeeping for you by assigning it to a bookkeeper or junior.
  • Insurance Agent: The obvious items to discuss with your insurance agent include anything having to do with property or liability insurance for your business. If you or your employees drive for business, then you also need to discuss auto liability coverage. If you are a sole proprietor in a partnership or in some other business where you can be held personally liable, you should also review your personal coverage. If you provide health insurance to your employees, you may have a different agent for the health insurance.
  • Investment Advisor: The discussion will include retirement planning and related issues. Your CPA will advise you on the tax consequences of various retirement plans and deferred arrangements. Your investment advisor will actually help you set them up for yourself or your employees.
 The objective is to create a team of professionals that know you and work together. Ideally one individual such as your CPA or planner can coordinate the work that they do. If that is not possible, then you can do it yourself. They key is to assemble your players and have them become part of your team early. If you wait until the tournament or the finals, it will be too late.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hiring older workers

What did you think when you read the title of this post? Does it seem like a good idea? Is it a bad idea? How do you know? Ignore all of the obvious stereotypes of older and younger workers and take a look at this quote from an interview by Beth Kowitt, on June 11, 2010 in the Fortune Magazine section of the website.
70% of all money in banks is held by people over 50. That's an example of an industry that's finally coming to realize that a 60-year-old client might actually appreciate dealing with a 60-year-old banker. Other sectors likely to welcome a more mature approach: adventure travel, luxury cars, lifelong learning, or retail.
The same article discusses strategies that retirees returning to the workforce should use and suggests:
sell yourself as a mature person. Stress your capacity to make smart decisions, your good judgment in managing people, your contributions in brainstorming and business development, and your lifetime connections. This is your advantage.
What do you think? Does that sound like the kind of worker that you want working for you? The proliferation of books such as Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman and Don't Retire, REWIRE! by Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners suggests that more older workers are either choosing to begin second careers instead of retiring, or they are reentering the workforce after retiring. This trend could mean a supply of experienced and knowledgeable workers for your business. Are you in a business sector that might benefit from more mature and experienced workers? Would your customers be more comfortable with older workers?

Finding qualified employees is always a challenge. Recognizing and understanding the trends related to more experienced workers can help you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Are your customers coming or going?

Business owners need to know something about the people that are their customers or could be their customers. Over the last few decades there has been a decided shift from the north and north east to the south, and in recent years people have been leaving California for other areas. This chart by the Pew Research Center describes illustrates migration flows since 1975. The recent housing bubble and collapse has exacerbated these movements, and as this article in Reuters explains, the Midwestern manufacturing states may recover from the housing crisis more slowly than the Southern states.

Graphic representation really puts these movements into perspective. Check out this interactive map from Forbes showing movement from one county to another in 2008. The outflows from Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles startling. The inflows to Atlanta, Dallas, Manhattan, and Seattle are equally startling. It is not hard to figure out which would be the best places to grow a business. You can find the migration for your own county in 2008, by clicking on your county.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tips on self-employment and working from home

If you have been following employment trends over the last few years, then you are probably aware of two important trends.
  1. People in their 50's, 60's, and even 70’s aren't retiring. They are reinventing. They are taking their skills and changing careers. A few recent books such as Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman make this point. There are also a variety of resources such as that provide services directly to the “Boomer” generation.
  2. More people are working from home. This may be because companies are developing flexible work arrangements. It may be because of increased use of contractors.
One thing that links these trends is that many of the “encore careers” that boomers are pursuing involve working at home. Whether this is because a successful career has become the springboard for a second career as a consultant or because the boomer has the experience, knowledge, and skill to negotiate a non-traditional working arrangement, many older workers are not going into an office every day.

This new way of work brings some challenges though, and as Bill Vick from writes in Self-Employment and Working From Home Legal Facts:
Working from home can be a lot of fun and quite lucrative but there are a lot of things that you need to know from a legal standpoint that will help keep you out of trouble. Things such as managing finances, paying appropriate taxes, and following laws that the IRS has created are all important things that you’ve got to learn.
These are just a few of the question you should ask.
  • Am I an employee or a contractor?
  • If I am self-employed, how to I handle my bookkeeping and taxes?
  • What other laws or rules affect me?
Check out this excellent article from to get started on the answers to these questions and others. Self-Employment and Working From Home Legal Facts

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Improve your firm's data security

Worried about data security? An article in the Journal of Accountancy by Ron Box, CPA/CITP/CFF, CISSP provides a handy list of data security best practices. To read the article click on this link. Firm Up Your Data Security
  • Ensure that senior management will support the security policy.
  • Consider using a security policy template or other authoritative guideline.
  • Include consequences for noncompliance.
  • Thoroughly review applicable laws.
  • Use clear and concise ideas to communicate the security policy.
  • Require a regular review process.
  • Review all internal controls for any appropriate modification, including all audit reports since the previous review.
  • Test the system.
  • Use the security policy as an opportunity to establish an ongoing security-training program.