Small Business Expert

Tips for Small Business Owners

  • vision

    You’re the Big Cheese. Cast the Vision.

    posted by Mike Kappel
    Featured Article
  • What Is the Minnesota Minimum Wage?


    While the minimum wage debate continues in Washington, the Minnesota minimum wage is set to increase by about 155% over the next couple years. Governor Mark Dayton stated, “I thank the Legislature for recognizing the need to make work pay in Minnesota.”

    New! Minnesota Minimum Wage

    Affecting more than 315,000 workers, the first increase will be

    Is My Small Business Required to Allow Paternity Leave?

    paternity leave for small businessesMany states and the federal government require that some employers offer paternity leave.

    Unpaid leave. The employer gives a father time off under specific circumstances, though there is no requirement for the company to pay for this time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which went into effect in August of 1993, provides paternity leave for eligible employees. Any employer with 50 or more employees is required to provide this time off if the father requests it with reasonable notice.

    When Can an Employee Take Parental Leave?

    parental-leave-for-childbirth-or-adoption-or-illnessNo parent should ever have to choose between their job and the needs of their families, including the duty of caring for children. Therefore, parental leave should be a benefit that all parents can request when needed—to care for a sick child, to take care of an education-related obligation, or for appointments related to the child’s care.

    Under the current Family Medical Leave Act, also commonly referred to as FMLA, eligible employees may request up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured child or grandchild, recover from childbirth, cope with adoption or placement for adoption of a child, or grieve the loss of a child. This applies to both mothers and fathers, as well as foster parents, grandparents, and guardians.

    Small Business Sales Strategy: 3 Methods That Work!

    After World War II and graduating from engineering school, my dad invented one of the very first spray valves for paint cans back in 1960. He formed a company (Univalve Corporation).

    Dad designed the valves and assembly equipment. He held the patents on the product designs. He had the tooling built (injection molds) to produce the valves. He hired workers. He did the engineering, operations, and the sales for Univalve. He also tried funding everything himself.

    My father did all of this for years, while having a wife and four kids at home. Naturally, he was in up to his eyeballs and eventually had to sell the business (i.e., he was financially over-extended). So he sold the business in 1963. And what usually happens next … happened …

    Payroll Taxes Cost U.S. Small Business Owners Valuable Time

    An Abstract of One Hundred Dollar Bills with Narrow Depth of Field.Some U.S. small business owners are spending up to three workweeks per year just handling payroll taxes for their companies, according to a new survey by the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

    Results from the NSBA’s 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey showed that while 60% of small businesses handle payroll on their own, 11% spend more than 10 hours a month on the administration of payroll taxes. Another 43% spent three to 10 hours a month on the tasks, the survey showed.

    Doug Simmons, who handles payroll tax filings and deposits for customers at Patriot Software, Inc., said some small business owners may think they are saving money by handling payroll taxes on their own, but may not realize that there is a cost to their time.

    Turn a Convention “Lemon” into Lemonade!


    Leg wrestling saves a convention?

    My second company, Top Echelon Network, has held numerous conventions every year since 1989. We want our customers to have the chance to meet — and to create memories together.

    As was customary, in September/October of 1998 we were conducting three mini-conventions in three different cities, back-to-back, three Saturdays in a row. We had meetings, seminars, and guest speakers for our customers all day Saturday. Each Saturday evening, we would organize dinner, open bar, and some sort of entertainment (e.g., a band playing live music).

    This particular year, I had a young female superstar working for me who was easily handling every marketing task I threw at her. Besides having a business-marketing degree, she also had a degree in music. Since we were both very confident in her abilities, I assigned her the task of selecting the bands we would hire to entertain our customers in each of the three cities we would visit.

    Has Business Gotten Harder?

    Business has always been challenging, but I personally feel that business is getting harder. It’s harder to start a business than it was 27 years ago. It’s harder to make money.

    First obstacle: Regulations

    There are requirements on new businesses that can suffocate innovation as seen in this Time magazine article: “Health Officials Bravely Shut Down Rogue 11-Year-Old Cupcake Magnate.” A little girl was baking cupcakes at home and selling them, and health officials shut her down. What’s next? … the neighborhood lemonade stand?

    Nowadays, there are more taxes and government regulations on small business. There are more types of insurance needed.

    In other words, the requirements are eating up your limited time and money.

    Do Salary Increases Cause an Entitlement Mindset?

    Most companies conduct their employee performance reviews once a year. We prefer to do reviews every six months.

    6-month cycle

    Why every six months? Because it forces us to recognize achievements and snuff out problems. And, we almost always issue raises (or cash bonuses) at the same time.

    Conducting performance reviews every six months is painful for managers, but it’s better for each individual worker. The six-month cycle has helped us stay in touch with our employees’ needs and support employee retention.

    Economic downturns

    We have passed out raises in some economic downturns, but not during others. It depends on how I feel we’re doing as a company. However, I am a firm believer in this statement:

    “If it’s within your power to give, give!”

    So, yes, I have been guilty of giving out raises and cash bonuses when the economic climate meant that most business owners were not.

    Fighting the entitlement mindset via open letter … educating my employees

    Passing out raises every six months can cause a problem — people start to expect that bump in pay.

    Do You Know the 3 Social Media Rules for Business?

    social media

    Being social with my customers in a [small] convention hall in the 90s.

    So you’re trying to use social media to promote your business? That’s okay, but here’s the first thing you need to remember. It’s called social media … social networking. The key word here is “social.”

    Here’s why …

    The convention hall

    Imagine that you’re at a business convention or a networking event that takes place in a big convention hall. You are one of many people in the room, and you start to make the rounds.

    You introduce yourself to people. You give out your business card. You laugh. You tell stories. You ask questions. People ask you questions. You check out the other people in the room. They’re checking you out.

    Suddenly, you look to your right, and there’s some guy who is overly loud, obnoxious, using profanity, and basically being a jerk. You avoid him. (At least I think you would avoid him!)

    Then you meet someone else who has characteristics and interests that are similar to yours. That person interests you, and you want to learn more about what he/she is doing.

    Later, you might overhear someone bashing your religion or your favored political candidate/party … you will likely avoid that person, too.

    You like people who are like you

    Here’s the bottom line.

    Ignore the Competition (Part I): Invent Your Own Secret Sauce!

    Part One in a Series of Four

    competitionBusiness competition is exactly like competition in sports — there’s always someone better, faster, or more talented coming along behind you. And sometimes, that high achiever who runs past the current leader is you.

    In your startup business, you should look and see who your competition is, but that’s about it.

    Don’t …

    Don’t worry if they have a bigger advertising budget than you. Don’t worry if their product or service is better, stronger, or even less expensive than yours. Don’t worry if they have thousands of employees, and you have a few dozen. And never copy what they’re doing … never!

    Do …

    Ignore your competition, start your business, and get in the game.