SIMPLE PLAN: Employee Retirement For Small Businesses

Simple Plan

What is a SIMPLE Plan?

A SIMPLE plan is a retirement plan that companies can offer to employees, given they have no more than 100 employees. SIMPLE means Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of small employers. In insurance, insurance companies often serve as trustees who manage SIMPLE plans on behalf of the employer.

Who Can Start a SIMPLE Plan?

SIMPLE planning can be achieved by employers of not more than 100 employees who earned $5,000 or more in the preceding calendar year. But despite meeting this requirement, if an employer is already sponsoring another retirement plan, they cannot engage in SIMPLE planning.

SIMPLE plans can be sponsored by various business types and organizations, including S-corporations, C-corporations, sole proprietorships, and partnerships. Related employers (businesses under common control, for instance) are categorized and treated as single employers. Even a tax-exempt employer or governmental entity may start a SIMPLE plan insomuch as they meet the basic requirements.

Pros and Cons of SIMPLE Planning

SIMPLE plans are no doubt necessary, with marked advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few advantages and limitations of SIMPLE plans.

Pros of SIMPLE Plans:

Minimal paperwork to set up

There are instances where you can set up a plan online, depending on the provider, and the paperwork associated with SIMPLE planning is essentially less than what you’d be required to fill out for other types of accounts, like a 401(k) plan.

Low start-up and maintenance costs

There are retirement plans that demand costly fees to open and maintain the accounts. With SIMPLE plans, your business typically is demanded lower upfront and managing costs.

Money put into the plan is tax-deductible

It is possible to deduct contributions on tax returns when using SIMPLE plans.

No IRS filing requirements

Your plan provider handles reporting requirements to the IRS.

Cons of SIMPLE Plans

Employer-matching requirement

SIMPLE planning requires businesses to match employee contributions exactly, up to a certain percentage.

Lower contribution limit

The contribution limits placed on SIMPLE plans are lower than those on other retirement accounts. For example, as of 2020, 401(k) plans have a contribution limit of $19,500 and $6,500 for catch-up contributions.

Withdrawing requirements

With SIMPLE plans, you cannot withdraw any money from the account you reach age 59½. If you take money out before then, a 10% penalty and income taxes on your withdrawal will be levied.

No Roth contributions

With SIMPLE plans, there’s no option to have a Roth version of your SIMPLE IRA. So, you can’t fund your account with post-tax money and successfully evade taxes on the money when you withdraw it.

SIMPLE Plans Contributions

SIMPLE planning makes it possible for small businesses to join millions of other employers who have established retirement plans. They also allow some flexibility in the type of contributions employers provide to employees.

Employees contribute to SIMPLE plans by establishing and consenting to a salary reduction from each paycheck, as much as $6,000 a calendar year. Contributing employees receive a matching contribution that is equal to their salary reduction contribution (i.e., up to 3 percent of their pay).

Alternatively, employers may institute a “non-elective” or fixed contribution of 2 percent of pay for eligible employees. It is also acceptable for employers to reduce the matching contribution amount to a limit of one percent of compensation, but certain restrictions will apply to this choice.

Trustees execute SIMPLE plans, and the contributions towards SIMPLE plans are transferable from one SIMPLE plan to another tax-free SIMPLE plan in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. However, to effect such a transfer to tax-free contributions in another type f retirement plan, there is a 2-year waiting period after the employee first enrolls in the SIMPLE plan. Until this 2-year period elapses, any transfer from a SIMPLE IRA to an IRA other than a SIMPLE IRA will incur tax repercussions.

Employee Elections

When it comes to SIMPLE planning, everything is based on a calendar year, except in a situation where an employer initially sets up a SIMPLE plan effective as late as October 1 of the calendar year. At least once a year, employees must be offered the chance to enter into a SIMPLE plan salary reduction agreement. Election periods must last at least 60-days, and employees must receive notice about an upcoming enrolment opportunity before the stipulated period for the election.

Other election features

Election periods should fall annually before January 1 of each calendar year (i.e., November 2 to December 31). Another suitable date range can be chosen given that there is more flexibility with the election period requirement when a SIMPLE plan is initially established.

There is room for employees to make a new salary reduction agreement during the election period or modify a prior agreement.  A copy of the SIMPLE plan’s “summary description” must be sent to employees when they receive notice about the election period.

There is also room for employees to elect a termination of their salary reduction contribution towards a SIMPLE plan whenever they so choose. However, suppose employees opt to end their contributions at a time other than a designated election period. In that case, employers may preclude them from participating again until the commencement of the following calendar year. Employees may also be allowed to select the financial establishments they would like to receive their SIMPLE plan contributions during their election periods.

Notification Requirements

Employers should give each year’s notice about the enrolment period, and they should ensure to:

  •  Include a copy of the summary description of the terms of the SIMPLE plan. They may achieve this by providing a completed copy of IRS Forms 5304-SIMPLE or 5305-SIMPLE, and this includes the procedures set in place by the financial institutions for withdrawals.
  •   Provide information on the employer’s method in contributing to employees’ SIMPLE plans, for example, whether they would match employee contributions by up to 3% of their pay or by some other authorized method.
  • Specify to employees that they can choose their financial institutions to serve as trustees for their SIMPLE plans. If the employer takes the responsibility of deciding the financial institution to receive contributions for all employees under the SIMPLE plan, then be sure to include this information, stipulating that employees have the right to transfer their contributions to a SIMPLE plan at another financial institution, and this should incur them no cost or penalty whatsoever.

There are two additional facets of notification employers should consider:

  • Mention that employers may provide extended periods of election time to their employees (for instance, extending the election period to 90 days or providing quarterly or semi-annual election periods).
  • Employers should also mention there are substantial penalties for failure to notify employees before an election period.

Trustee Requirements

A critical aspect of SIMPLE planning is choosing a financial institution to maintain employees’ plans. This is, perhaps, one of the most essential decisions employers or employees will make regarding SIMPLE planning. Trustees work closely with employers to receive their contributions, invest those contributions and issue certain required information. Within the confines of SIMPLE planning, some types of institutions can be designated as trustees: banks, savings and loan associations, insurance companies (that issue annuity contracts), insured credit unions, or IRS-approved non-bank trustees.

Simple Plan

Trustees must agree to:

  • Accept and deposit contributions.
  • Detail and make available to the employer a summary description each year that includes:
  • the specific name and address of the employer and trustee;
  • a detailed description of eligibility requirements;
  • a the specific benefits provided;
  • a the time and method of making salary elections; the procedure for and effects of withdrawals and rollovers (including the penalties for early withdrawals).

There are three additional trustee requirements:

  •  the trustee must provide a statement of the account balance and activity of the account for the year within 30 days after the close of each calendar year to the individual.
  • The trustee reports SIMPLE plan information to the IRS, the same as with any IRA account.
  •  A trustee that is a “designated financial institution” by agreement with the employer should also agree to transfer, upon request, an individual’s SIMPLE plan balance to another IRA or SIMPLE plan IRA without cost or penalty to the individual.

How to Start SIMPLE Planssmall business coach

To start up a SIMPLE plan, here’s a step-by-step approach:

  • Choose a financial institution
  • Develop a written agreement to provide benefits to all eligible employees
  • Give employees specific details about the above agreement
  • Set up an IRA account for each employee

Choose a Financial Institution

SIMPLE planning requires choosing a financial institution to serve as trustee of the SIMPLE plan to hold each employee’s/participant’s retirement plan assets. These set-up accounts will receive the contributions you make to the plan. Another route would be to allow employees to choose the financial institutions that will receive their contributions.

Execute a Written Agreement

You can use forms to set up a SIMPLE plan. You can make use of SIMPLE form templates or prototype documents from a mutual fund, insurance company, bank, or other qualified, as well as an individually designed plan. These documents detail the SIMPLE plan and may not be filed with the IRS.

Annual Notice to Eligible Employees

You must notify each employee before the start of an election period of:

  • The employee’s right to make or change a salary reduction choice under the SIMPLE plan;
  • The employees’ ability to choose any financial institution as a trustee of the employees’ SIMPLE plan;
  •  The choice to make either matching contributions or non-elective contributions;
  • A summary description (usually provided by the financial institution); and
  • A written notice that the employee can freely transfer their balance without cost or penalty if they opt for the employer’s default institution.

Set Up a SIMPLE IRA for Eligible Employees

A SIMPLE plan must be set up by or for each eligible employee, and all contributions to the plan must go into the SIMPLE plan.

Simple Plan

When to Set Up a SIMPLE Plan

SIMPLE planning can occur at any time from January 1 through October 1 of a year, provided you didn’t previously maintain a plan. But this requirement doesn’t apply in the case where you were stepped in as an employer after October 1, taking over from one who had already instated a SIMPLE plan. In this case, you can freely set up another SIMPLE plan as soon as it’s administratively feasible after your business comes into existence. In the case where you had previously maintained a SIMPLE IRA plan, then you can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan only on January 1 of a year. A SIMPLE plan cannot have an effective date before the date you adopt the plan.

Eligibility to Participate in a SIMPLE Plan

An employee (including a self-employed individual) can participate in a SIMPLE plan if they

  •         earned at least $5,000 in compensation during any two years before the current calendar year and
  •         anticipates receiving at least $5,000 during the current calendar year.

When it comes to SIMPLE planning and implementation of requirements, employers can sway towards less restrictive than more restrictive measures. Employers can’t impose conditions for participating in a SIMPLE IRA plan.

However, an employer can exclude the following employees from a SIMPLE IRA plan:

  •         Those employees covered by a union agreement and whose retirement benefits were bargained for in good faith by the employees’ union and the employer
  •         Non-resident alien employees who lack U.S. wages, salaries, or other personal services compensation from the employer.

Simple Plan

Operation and Maintenance of a SIMPLE Plan

Having stipulated the persons eligible to create and participate in a SIMPLE plan and the basic steps involved in creating a SIMPLE plan, it is imperative to outline some critical operational questions to answer SIMPLE planning worries.

What are the contribution rules?

SIMPLE plan trustees are responsible for holding the contributions made for each eligible employee. A SIMPLE IRA is funded by:

  • Annual employee salary reduction contributions (elective deferrals), which is limited to $13,500
  • For employees age 50 or over, a $3,000 “catch-up” contribution is also allowed

Employer contributions

It is up to the employer to choose annually one of the contribution methods listed below and inform employees of the various contribution methods, letting them decide which method they would use for the following year.

  • 2% non-elective contribution: In this case, 2% of each eligible employee’s compensation (salary) is deferred, regardless of whether or how much the employee deferred.
  •  3% matching contribution: This involves matching the employee’s elective deferrals on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 3% of the employee’s compensation.
  •  The employer may reduce the 3% limit to a lower percentage, but such deductions may not go lower than 1%. The figure may not go lower the 3% limit for more than two calendar years out of the five years ending with the calendar year the reduction is effective. The employer isn’t allowed to make any other contributions to a SIMPLE plan.

When deciding employer contributions, you must follow the definition of compensation as stated in the plan document. Compensation generally refers to the pay an individual receives from you for services rendered that year.

Automatic Enrollment: this feature allows an employer to deduct a fixed percentage or amount from an employee’s wages and contribute that to the SIMPLE plan without the express attention of the employee at each deduction unless the employee chooses to contribute nothing or to contribute a different amount. These automatic enrollment contributions qualify to be classified as elective deferrals.

Annual Election Period: Employees can change their contribution levels each year during the plan’s election period. Such election periods must last at least 60 days, and employees must receive prior notice about an upcoming election opportunity.

When employees want to stop contributions

With SIMPLE planning, employees can opt to terminate their salary reduction contributions to a SIMPLE plan at any time. If they choose to do so, the SIMPLE IRA may preclude them from resuming salary reduction contributions until the next calendar year begins. In such cases, the employers must continue to make those non-elective deductions on behalf of these employees.

Where are contributions deposited?

Once you send the plan contributions to the financial institution you selected, that institution takes on the charge of managing the funds. Employees can move their SIMPLE plan assets from one SIMPLE plan trustee to another. SIMPLE plan contributions can be invested in individual stocks, mutual funds, and other similar types of investments. It is up to the employee to make the investment decisions for their account.

S an employer, you’ll need to give each participating employee an annual statement that clearly shows the amount contributed to the employee’s account for that year.

When must contributions be deposited?

Employee salary reduction contributions: These contributions should be effected within 30 days after the end of the month. The amounts would otherwise have been payable to the employee (and self-employed individuals) in cash.

Employer matching or non-elective contributions: These contributions should be made by the due date (including extensions) for filing your federal income tax return for the year

Who owns SIMPLE IRA contributions?

Contributions to SIMPLE planning accounts are always entirely vested or owned by the employee.

What are the basic withdrawal rules?

Contributions and earnings can be withdrawn at any time. A withdrawal is taxable in the year it is received. If a participant in a SIMPLE plan chooses to withdraw before they attain age 59 ½, a 10% additional tax generally applies. If this withdrawal occurs within the first two years of participation, the tax is raised from 10% to 25%.

When a participant withdraws funds from a SIMPLE plan, the IRA may continue participating in the employer’s plan. The result of all contributions and earnings from SIMPLE plans is that they would be distributed in line with SIMPLE plan distribution rules.

Rollovers

SIMPLE plan contributions and earnings may be rolled over from one trustee to another with tax-free repercussions. A tax-free rollover may also be possible for a swap from a SIMPLE plan to a plan that is not a SIMPLE plan, but this can only be possible after at least two years of participation in the SIMPLE plan.

Participant loans

SIMPLE planning does not permit loans. However, SIMPLE plan accounts allow withdrawals as they are IRA accounts.

How to ensure your SIMPLE plan is operating within the rules?

It is essential to set up cheeks to ensure your SIMPLE plan operates within intended rules and boundaries. You should conduct an annual self-audit concerning your SIMPLE plan.

Other than the first year you set up your plan, SIMPLE plans must be maintained for a whole calendar year. Once SIMPLE plans are operational, you must continue your SIMPLE plan for the entire calendar year and funding all contributions promised in the employee notice.

If you decide your SIMPLE plan no longer suits your business, it is possible to terminate the SIMPLE plan.

How do I terminate my SIMPLE plan?

While SIMPLE planning is great, you may want to terminate an existing SIMPLE Plan. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Inform your employees within a reasonable time before November 2 that the SIMPLE plan would be discontinued effective the following January 1.

Step 2: Notify your SIMPLE plan’s financial institution and payroll provider that you want to terminate your contributions, and you won’t be making SIMPLE plan contributions for the following calendar year.

Step 3: It is essential you keep records of your actions, but you don’t need to notify the IRS that you have terminated the SIMPLE plan.

So there you have it. To read more about getting help with you finances, check out this article about ways a financial advisor can help your business.

 

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How to Deal with Workplace Stress

workplace stress

How to Handle Workplace Stress

A silent killer is present in your workplace; his name is workplace stress. He shakes your concentration, depletes your energy, and shakes your confidence. Your colleagues whisper about him and the managers are in denial of his existence. Numerous scientific studies have linked stress to a wide range of physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, headaches, chest pain, stomach upset, and sleep issues. Not to forget the role it plays in mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

According to OSHA, stress is a hazard in the workplace. And it costs organizations an average of $190 billion in healthcare bills every year. This problem affects almost every industry in the world. More than 60 percent of adults have reported that work is among their biggest sources of stress. Researchers at Harvard and Stanford found that stressful jobs can lower life expectancy. The best way to manage stress is to keep it at a healthy level so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. And we are here to help you do that.

1.     Prioritize and organize

One of the best ways to deal with stress in the workplace is by prioritizing and organizing it. Even if you are a disorganized person, planning will decrease your stress. When you are organized with your time, you’ll avoid rushing in the morning and putting in extra hours. You’ll avoid the negative effects of clutter and boost your efficiency at work. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Set clear goals: Before prioritizing, you have to set clear goals. You should clarify your goals and objectives with your manager. Ensure that your to-do list is filled with activities that support your big goals.
  • Prioritize: Prioritizing is all about using your goals to determine the importance of each task. Before working on a task or activity, ask yourself, “Is this getting me closer to my goals?” If the answer is no, it shouldn’t be a priority.
  • Focus on three things: Everything can never be a priority. You need to focus on three things that will have the greatest impact on your goals each week.
  • Set deadlines: All important activities or tasks should have a deadline.
  • Create a to-do list: This is simple and quite effective. To get things done on time, you need to write them down on a piece of paper or an app. Organizing your activities in order of importance and spending most of your time on the important ones will pay off in spades.small business coach

2.     Avoid multitasking

Back in the day, multitasking was a popular method that people used to get more things done during the workday. However, people realized that doing multiple tasks at the same time greatly affected their accuracy and speed (not to mention their mental health). Scientific studies have shown that the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking splits your focus. And you end up doing all your tasks in an average way. Keep in mind that no one wants average. We all want the best. Instead of multitasking, train your mind to focus on one thing at a time.

3.     Focus on progress

What does it take to become a high achiever? Some excel at work by being perfectionists. However, perfectionism can create huge problems for you and your colleagues in the workplace. Nobody is perfect in this world. This means that no one can do everything perfectly all the time especially in a busy workplace. Therefore, don’t focus on perfectionism – focus on progress. Progress involves striving to do your best and congratulating yourself for every step you take regardless of its size. When you focus on progress, you’ll achieve your goals easily and quickly.

4.     Record your stressors

Identifying situations that lead to stress in the workplace is essential if you want to improve your mental health. Working in an uncomfortable space, or with unwilling people can result in overwhelm and stress. Being aware of your thoughts and emotions in different situations in the workplace is one of the best ways to deal with stress in the workplace.

workplace stress

5.     Take time to recharge

The recovery process involves having periods where you neither think of nor engage in work. You need to disengage from time to time in ways that fit your preferences and needs. Don’t waste your vacation days. Whenever you can, take time off to unwind so that you come back to the office feeling energized and ready to perform at your best. If you can’t take time off, turn off your phone and focus on activities that aren’t related to your work for a short time.

6.     Set boundaries

In our modern world, you can be pressurized to avail yourself all the time. You need to boundaries to avoid stress in the workplace. This could mean not checking your email once you leave the office or not answering work-related phone calls in the evening at home. While everyone has different preferences when it comes to balancing their home and work life, you need to set clear boundaries to avoid conflicts and the stress that comes with it.

7.     Develop healthy responses

Stress is part of life. You cannot avoid it completely especially in the workplace. Therefore, instead of fighting it with alcohol or fast foods, you need to make informed decisions when tension rises. Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress. You can also consider making time for your hobbies. It could be reading a novel, playing games with your loved ones or going to concerts. Always make time for people and things that make you happy. Getting good quality sleep is a key ingredient for stress management. Forming good habits such as minimizing gadget use at night and limiting your caffeine intake during the day will pay off.

8.     Relax

Various techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can help you deal with stress effectively. Start by taking a few minutes every day to focus on simple activities such as walking, breathing, or preparing a good dish. Your ability to focus on a single activity will get stronger as you practice. And you can apply it in other areas of your life.

Conclusion

These tips will help you deal with stress in the workplace effectively. What are you going to try out today?

Justin Osborne is a essay writer, he loves to share his thoughts and opinions about education, writing and blogging with other people on different blogs and forums. Currently, he is working as a content marketer at best essay writing service.

 

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My Top Ten Favorite Business Tools for Entrepreneurs

My Top Ten Favorite Business Tools (Updated to 21 Tools) for Entrepreneurs

As I’m working with my clients I’m frequently advising them about business tools that are useful for small business owners and those who are self-employed. Since I believe that marketing is one of the most important small business owner skills, several of my favorite tools fall under that category.

Just as important as marketing is self-development and included are a couple of those tools in my list. I’ve listed 3 tools that I use in coaching my clients and 2 that help with the financial areas of business..

  1. Hootsuite is a very helpful business tool with managing your social media posts. You can send one post to multiple social media sites with the push of a button, and you can schedule future posts so that your message broadcasts while you are on vacation or sleeping! Plans start as little as $19 per month.
  2. MailChimp is an email newsletter distribution platform. You can create your newsletter using their templates, add subscribers to your list and send out hundreds of email newsletters a month for free.
  3. Clickfunnels is an online business tool that helps you to build marketing campaigns without the help of a technical person. You can connect these campaigns to your website so that your visitors may view and buy your products or services online. The cost starts at less than $99 per month.
  4. WordPress. You may already be familiar with WordPress. This famous website platform boasts of providing 28% of all the websites on the globe. That’s a lot of sites! These websites are relatively easy to design, but many business owners hire a web designer to set everything up. Adding content and images is really easy; very similar to Microsoft Word. The cost can be as little as zero.
  5. Audible is a way for you to listen to all kinds of books on tape. I consider personal development to be essential for the small business owner. Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational person talked about the benefit of going to “automobile university,” that is to listen to audio recordings while driving your car. I frequently listen to personal development recordings while driving or working out. The cost is about $15 per month.
  6. Quickbooks.  Most everyone in business knows about Quickbooks; but did you know that this billing and invoicing tool can automate your payments from customers? Then you don’t have to manually create bills or chase customers for money. The payment shows up in your account so that you can spend more time with your customers. You can use it to pay your bills too! The cost is as little as $5 per month.
  7. Our 36 Coaching Module Assessment. This business tool is a self-assessment we provide to business owners and self-employed people who are looking to improve their business and take it to the next level. The tool examines your business in 36 areas in your business. We have found that every business owner wants to experience freedom in business. That’s why we decided to become our own boss; to be free from another boss! The cost is zero.
  8. Coaching Agenda. Our clients fill out a weekly coaching agenda prior to each session. Included on the agenda are Key Performance Indicators, Goals and Actions, Biggest Achievements, Challenges, Motivation level, and other important information. This tool tracks your business progress and results helps to achieve forward momentum and identifies obstacles to overcome. The cost for this business tool is included with all coaching packages.
  9. Strategic Plan. In my opinion, one of the most important business tools an entrepreneur can use is the Strategic Plan. Therefore that is one of the first things we provide for our clients. For us, this important document includes your personal vision, values, goals and bucket list. To that, we add your business vision, values, and mission, your business goals and objectives which form the “big picture” and your action plan which breaks everything down into small steps to achieve the plan. The cost is included with coaching packages.
  10. Canva. This simple and amazing content creation site will help you to create all kinds of images, presentations, posters, infographics, social media images and anything you can think of. There is a free version or you can pay $12.99 per month for the pro version.
  11. Promo. is an online video maker that gives you everything you need to make high-quality videos that will help your business grow. easily create videos from scratch or choose from our selection of video templates. No editing experience needed unlimited creative options inside. They have millions of templates for all kinds of business types and it fits all types of content. With Promo, you can also make video advertisements freely and easily. Promo helps you to promote your business or products, improves brand awareness, widen your reach, and engage your customers.

Top 10 Business Tools

  1. Flock. For small businesses, communication plays a very important role. It’s a means of synergizing the office environment so all the relevant divisions can work in harmony. There are several requirements for in-office messaging and video conferencing, which can be addressed with Flock. It is mostly available for free unless you need the advanced features available for a mere $4.50/ month for each user. Since Flock facilitates both messaging and video conferencing at a low cost, it is our personal favorite.
  2. Colorcinch is the cooler, down-to-earth stepchild of photo editing – always dependable, fabulously low-maintenance, and ready to prove their worth. They help you to “cartoonize” your images in a very cool way. Their price range from $3.99 per month to $5.99 per month.
  3. Titan. Another important form of communication for small businesses is email. Aside from interacting within the office environment, email is used to inform clients and customers about your business products and services. Titan allows you to create official email addresses with your business domain that adds to your professional capacity. After a 30-day free trial period, you can choose to continue using this highly professional business tool for only $1.50/ month for each user.
  4. Asana. Small businesses that require a level of symbiosis and planning when executing important projects. Asana is a project management tool for small and medium enterprises to keep employees focused on the step-by-step execution of the projects. You can create daily goals, assign deadlines, and allocate tasks to each member or team and watch as the tasks are completed with absolute effectiveness. Since Asana allows you to classify the project with short-term goals, it makes it easier to follow the progress of individual tasks. The basic project management tools in Asana are available for free. However, if you wish to use the advanced premium features, it’ll cost $11/ month for each user, and for business features, $25/ month for each user. Since Asana is a useful small business tool where you can view each project from different clients on one forum and keep tabs on the development, the cost seems meager as compared to its usefulness.
  5. TimeDoctor. To run a small business with efficiency, you have to take Time Management into account. It is not optional to create effective calendars and schedules for each project for different clients. Time management increases your efficiency in manifolds. Not only can you check the development of the projects, but you can also dock the exact amount of time that your employees dedicated to your business. It can be overtime or slacking that causes delays in your projects. TimeDoctor is an excellent small business tool that tracks productivity and Time Management for all your business functions. You can try it for free for 14 days to evaluate its suitability for your business. You can subscribe to the plan for only $10/ month for each user.
  6. Adobe Creative Cloud. For design-based small businesses, Adobe Creative Cloud is a blessing. It facilitates the use of multiple tools on desktop as well as mobile apps for all your design functions. It is an outstanding tool for creating attractive videos, adjusting features in photography, creating a web design, and programs to detect and track user experience. This small business tool is popular for its proficient design facilities and regarded quite highly among professionals. The plans for Adobe Creative Cloud vary based on how many people use it and for what purpose. For individual use, the price is as low as $10/ month. If you want to use it for business, then it costs $34/ month. Adobe Creative Cloud also offers separate packages for educational purposes, including small businesses that focus on training in design functions. For students and teachers, it costs $20/ month. For Universities, schools, and colleges, it costs as low as $15/ month.
  7. Wave. Small businesses are extremely reliant on regular billing and payments. Since the profits are limited, and there are multiple expenses that you need to consider, payment cycles must be systemized. Wave is a targeted software created to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs. It helps you design customized invoices with your business domain and feature the identity of your brand. You can create recurring invoices for billing and payments and track the income and expenses accordingly. The best part about Wave is it is mostly available free of cost. However, if you wish to associate billing and payments with credit cards, then you might incur additional charges.
  8. Turbo Tax. Maybe your business is a startup and you haven’t developed much complexity. You can do-it-yourself until you can afford a bookkeeper. Tax filing, especially for small businesses, can be really cumbersome. You have to consider all the previous year’s taxes, deductible business expenses, income, etc. That is why TurboTax comes in handy. You can synchronize TurboTax with QuickBooks to access all your income and expenses. It can also track the taxes from the previous year as well as deduct and business expenses associated with travel, advertising, materials, etc. The tool is available for $160 under federal jurisdiction and $50/ state. The cost of TurboTax may seem a little higher than usual, as compared to small business tools that perform other functions, but it is worth it when you get to save a considerable sum in tax deductions and returns.
  9. HelloSign. Another primary requirement for small businesses is signing important documents. When you accept a contract or need signatures from clients, suppliers, partners, investors, or even employees, it is helpful to have the process digitized for efficiency. HelloSign offers the means for you to request the signature from them. Once the process is completed, a copy of the acknowledged and signed document is sent to each signatory for posterity. It helps keep your business functions above-ground and transparent, facilitating trust-building and understanding among all parties. The cost incurred for this most-useful small business tool is a mere $13/ month for each user for the standard plan. You can also upgrade to the business plan, which costs $23/ month for each user.
  10. Paypal. It is a globally-accepted mode of payment for all small businesses. Therefore, you can provide local or overseas services and get paid via simple online transfers. The standard Paypal plan charges 2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction. The Pro plan charges the same, with an additional $35/ month.

Two more honorable mentions: Slack and Basecamp. These two tools provide similar services but Slack is more geared towards communication while Basecamp is for project management. Slack starts at $6.67 per month and Basecamp is $99.00 per month. Both are great tools!

I’ve brought to you some of the best business tools, apps, and technologies that can benefit your business. Try some of the tools in this list and watch your business grow!

Questions about our small business coaching services?

Call us at 1-888-504-0777,

or 

Enter your information below to start growing your revenues and profits today…

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Finding and Training Great Employees

finding and training great employees
Part 1 of 3.

The people you hire to work for your business can be your biggest assets and your biggest headaches; finding and training great employees can be a challenge. They can support and help you to achieve the vision you have for your company – but they can also prevent you from reaching that vision.

Finding and Training Great Employees

Too many businesses overlook the role of employee recruitment and retention when planning for the success of their organization. Staffing is an important exercise that needs to be purpose-driven and strategic, just like marketing.

Employees Think: What’s in it for Me?

It is vital to understand in today’s market that the relationship between employee and employer is a two-way street. Now, more than ever, employees have a “what’s in it for me?” attitude that extends beyond salary and benefits expectations into incentive and rewards programs. The days of simple compensation structures are over.

Now, this may sound like a big headache, but it’s actually a good thing! With some simple systems and open dialogue, you will be able to effectively create – and keep – your dream team.

The Power of Your Dream Team

How much of your own personal time has human resources – staff hiring, firing, issues management, etc. – taken this year? No doubt staff recruitment and retention is one of the biggest challenges facing any business owner today.

The truth is, if you spent half as much time on human resources as you do on marketing, I guarantee your sales would increase dramatically.

Employees Treat Customers Exactly the Way You Treat Them

Customers know the difference between happy employees and disgruntled ones, and it makes a difference when it comes to purchasing decisions. I’ve heard it said that your employees will treat your customers exactly the same way that you treat them. Would you rather have your car serviced by a grumpy mechanic who doesn’t feel his good work is rewarded or a pleasant one who just stepped out of a weekly team meeting?

A successful business owner has confidence in the people who work for him because he believes they are the best people for the job. Employees who know their employer believes in their skills and abilities will go over and above to get the job done, to make the sale.

Successful Business Owner Invest Time and Money in Employees

Successful business owners invest time and money in finding, keeping and training great employees. These are the people who share and support the collective vision of the company.

I’m not talking about a complicated formula or magic concoction. I’m talking about some careful thought and a proactive strategy that will make your business shine from the inside out.

how to get the best employees

 

Finding Your Dream Employees

Building a dream team starts by finding and hiring the right people for the job. Sounds simple enough. You post an ad, find someone who has the necessary qualifications and hire them on.

Not so fast. Recruitment is a complex process that can dramatically impact your business operations. Just like finding and securing the right customers, finding and hiring the right candidates requires pro-active planning and careful evaluation.

Create an Internal Recruitment System

If you currently work with a recruiting agency to build your team, now may be a good time to stop and evaluate the effectiveness of their service. While a recruiting agency can save you the time and hassle of working through the hiring process, it can also cost more money in the long run.

I always recommend creating an internal recruitment system, not because recruiting agencies do a bad job, but because no one knows your business like you do.

 

small business coach

Create an Attractive Business Culture

If you want to attract and retain the highest quality clients, you must have a culture that is attractive and a future that is compelling. Developing an effective strategic plan and including your employees in the process is a good place to start. Determine where you are going, what your mission is and how your organization will treat others. Once you have established your vision, mission, and values, then you must deploy them throughout your organization to ensure that you “practice what you preach.”

An internal recruitment system ensures that the true essence of your business culture is communicated – from advertisement to interview. You also have the opportunity to communicate expectations from the outset, instead of relying on the recruiter to relay this information. The middleman’s thoughts and impressions are eliminated, leaving you to make decisions based on your impression of the candidate and no one else’s.

Step One: Advertise the Opportunity

The first step in recruiting candidates is obviously letting potential candidates know about the opportunity with your company.

But before you pick up the phone to place a classified ad, remember that advertising for potential employees requires just as much consideration and planning as general advertising for your business.

Before You Place an ad ask yourself:

• Who is your ideal candidate?
• What are their skills and qualifications?
• What is their personality or demeanor?
• What are they passionate about?
• What are they looking for in a job?

Once you have a mental picture of your candidate, then you can begin to write an ad that will not only reach them but also inspire them to act (and submit an application).

When writing this ad, be as specific as possible and focus on the benefits of the job. Remember that potential candidates screen job postings with an eye for “what’s in it for me.” Tell them exactly that.

Here are a few sample job postings:

Are you the Marketing Assistant we need?

About You

You’re fun, friendly and have a keen eye for detail. You’re always two steps ahead of your colleagues, and eager to take on new and exciting challenges.

You’ll be the glue that keeps the marketing team operating in a seamless fashion, responsible for website updates, copywriting, event coordination and client relations. You’ll be punctual, responsible, and well put together.

You’ll ideally have an undergraduate degree in marketing or English, and some previous office experience, but a fast learner with a great attitude will also get our attention.

About Us

We are a collaborative team of young professionals. We offer a competitive salary, great benefits and performance incentives.

Think you fit the bill? Email your resume and cover letter to John Jones at [email protected] business.com by Friday at 5 pm.

Are Computers Your Life?

About You

You are smart, outgoing, and a wiz when it comes to computer programming. You’re on your friend’s speed dial for computer emergencies, large and small. Helping people understand the complex digital world is your passion.

You’ll be our Lead Computer Technician, managing our computer repair counter and five Junior Technicians. You’ll have great people skills, mounds of patience, and enjoy working as part of a dynamic team.

About Us

We operate Anytown’s leading computer repair store and are known across the region for our customer service. We work hard, play hard, and offer a competitive benefits package to our employees.

Tell us why this job is for you. Email your resume and cover letter to [email protected] by Thursday, September 23.

Both of these job postings speak directly to a very targeted audience. They’re friendly, colloquial, and communicate the job requirements in an informal way.

Every job posting should:

• Be written in the way that you talk
• Be specific
• Describe benefits
• Include skills, qualifications, duties and job title
• Be written in the present tense
• Have a great headline
• Call the reader to action
• Be simple – in word choice and sentence structure
• Be more exciting than the competition

Now that you have a great ad to post, you need to decide where you are going to publish it. This depends on the level of the job (junior to management) and on the specific type of candidate you are looking to recruit.

Here are the five major places to advertise your opportunity:

Government Employment Center

These are great places to find blue-collar or junior level employees. Candidates register with the center, which keeps their resumes on file. Be cautious with this route – it can produce a wide variety of candidates who are not qualified.

Indeed, Ziprecruiter, Etc

This is a great place to post junior to mid-level employment opportunities. You’re looking for basic qualifications from local applicants, perhaps even for part-time positions, with minimal cost.

Linkedin

Senior employment opportunities that require specific high-level qualifications are best advertised with a broad scope. This incurs a greater cost but will return a greater variety of candidates.

Online

This is a cheap way to tap into a massive database of job seekers. Post your ad online on sites like www.monster.com or www.workopolis.com and watch the resumes come flooding in. A large number of highly qualified job seekers who do not wish to register with a recruitment agency will use these services.

Referrals

The most ideal way to find candidates is through your existing network – including associates, colleagues, employees, friends and family. These candidates come to you already vetted by a trusted source. You may also wish to consider giving your staff an incentive to refer their qualified friends and associates to you.

Other Niche Areas

You should also brainstorm a list of any other niche areas that your target market may look for a job. Consider vocational schools, colleges, industry publications, industry associations, small publications, etc.

Conclusion

Once you’ve posted your ad, your next step is to manage the inquiries that come flooding in. These are just a few steps in the process of finding and training great employees.

To read part 2 Finding and Training Great Employees.

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What is the One Missing Key to Your Business Success?

business success

Just like humans, every business has weaknesses. In some cases business owners simply need to work on one or two areas to propel their business to amazing growth and profits. What is the one missing key to your business success?

One of my business ventures was a small service company with 130 employees. Our largest customer was a Ritz Carlton hotel, and the hotel chain was involved with the Malcolm Baldrige Process, a way for organizations to achieve outstanding results. Our leadership team decided to get involved with this process at a state level, and we hired a business coach to help us identify areas of improvement. We grew our profits by more than one thousand percent!

What is the Missing Key to Business Success

There are seven keys to business success according to the Baldrige criteria. Over the next few blog articles, I will be writing about these seven keys. How is your business doing in these areas? Growth normally requires things like small business loans and access to business credit lines but without these 7 keys you will not be managing that growth as effectively and efficiently as you could.

1. Leadership.

Most small businesses are strong in the area of leadership. It takes strong leaders to start and run business. However once your business is going, how do you keep the momentum going? Do you communicate a clear vision, strong values and a compelling mission? Is your team growing, learning and adjusting to the business environment?

2. Strategic Planning.

In my work with small business owners, many do not have a current business plan. That is a huge mistake, especially in this volatile business environment. For example, you would be surprised how many businesses are fortunate enough to get a small business loan but then they don’t use the funds for revenue-generating initiatives and the end result is just more debt and no new clients or business. Every business owner should have short and long term goals, and every employee should understand the goals. Consider all your stakeholders during your planning.

3. Customer Focus.

This area is also a strength for many small business owners. But as a business grows it is easy to lose touch with customers, and without customers your business is dead! Do you have ways of measuring customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction? Are you improving?

4. Measurement.

Speaking of measurement, do you know your business “stats?” In the same way that sports teams know statistics about players, coaches and their offense and defense, you need to track important information. Nearly everyone tracks sale and profits, but do you know the value of your business? What are your key business success factors? Do know how your numbers compared to competitors? You should.

5. Workforce Focus.

Many business owners struggle with finding good employees. Your employees are critical to your business success. Cutting edge leaders believe that their employees are more important than their customers. How do you attract and retain good people?

6. Operations Focus.

The way you deliver your product or service can make you or break you. If you can provide excellent products and services consistently every time, your customers will likely stay with you. Otherwise, you are “rolling the dice.” Wise business owners develop measurable processes that ensure a great customer experience with few exceptions.

7. Results.

This, of course, is the bottom line of all your efforts in business. Once you have determined what is important to measure and have established measures, how are you doing? Are your “stats” improving? How do they compare with your competition or industry? Are your sales and profits growing, or are you struggling like many small businesses? Is your business value growing?

Conclusion

After reviewing these seven keys, what are the top one or two areas that could use some attention in your business? Focus your efforts on the area where your business needs to improve. If you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it out.

Questions about our small business coaching services?

Call us at 1-888-504-0777,

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Finding and Training Great Employees Part 3

Training great employees
Read Finding and Training Great Employees Part 1 and Part 2.

Training Your Dream Employees

Once you have landed your dream employees through a rigorous recruitment process, it is essential that you continue to invest in your decision by putting them through a thorough training process. Training great employees makes them a great asset and grow professionally, and this makes them stay in your company.

Training is Important for Employee Retention

Training an employee is actually an element of recruitment. A new employee’s orientation and training set the tone for their entire employment; this includes their impression of your business, its systems, and respect for its leaders. This has an impact on your ability to retain good people and avoid unnecessary or redundant recruitment processes.

Too often, businesses rely on junior employees to train new ones without any guidelines or ‘curriculum.’ New employees are thrown into the deep end without clear expectations or an understanding of ‘how things are done around here.’

Your Leaders’ Involvement in the Training Process

These elements affect how an employee perceives their own required level of effort or performance. A business that doesn’t give much thought to planning, expectations, and preparation will end up showing a new employee that the same lack of attention is expected from them.

Here are some things to ensure you implement when you create your comprehensive training system:

Prior Learning / Existing Knowledge

Acknowledge your new employee’s prior learning, and don’t overestimate or underestimate their existing knowledge.

Choice of Trainer

Investing time and effort in training employees, make sure the person or people who will be training the new employee are sufficiently qualified and experienced. If an administrator is leading a salesperson’s training and orientation, consider asking another salesperson or more senior team member to assist on specific days or sessions.

Training Materials

Have all the required training materials handy. This includes company manuals, industry guidebooks, common reference materials, work samples and anything else that will aid in the training efforts.

Training Tools

Also, ensure you have the tools available to train your new recruit. Will the training be held at their workstation or another workstation? Do you have all the software you need? All the equipment required? Doing so will ensure the training runs smoothly and the time provided will be used effectively.

Time for Training

Provide more than ample time for training – including time for questions and elaboration. Rushing training benefits no one, including your profits.

Testing to Ensure Mastery

Consider including some ‘tests’ or checks to ensure the new recruit understands each component of the training. Ask the trainer and the trainee to sign-off on each section.

Employees’ Part in the Big Picture

Each team member’s role is part of a larger picture: the company as a whole. Ensure that the trainee understands how their role contributes to the big picture on each level. If they are a junior member of a department, they should understand how their job contributes to the department, as well as how the department contributes to the entire company.

Encourage Employee Feedback

The trainee should be able to ask questions and review information at any time – including after the training process. Create an environment that encourages open dialogue and encourages employees to ask questions when they are unsure of a task.

The other common mistake that many companies make is ending training after the first few weeks of a new recruit’s employment.

Ongoing Employee Training

Training our employees is an ongoing process for every single member of your team, and there should be a system or structure in place to ensure that staff training and development happens on a regular basis. This can include cross-training, employee development, and new systems orientation.

Benefits of Regular Training

Regular training not only benefits your staff and improves their performance, but it allows you – the business owner – to:

• Implement new policies + procedures
• Invest in your staff, thereby improving confidence and morale
• Evaluate staff performance at an individual and team level
• Reward staff based on performance improvements
• Provide a regular arena for feedback and discussion, including positive and negative experiences and issues

One-on-One Training + Evaluation

An effective system of ongoing training for employees is by weekly, monthly, or quarterly staff reviews. When conducted one-on-one, this provides a forum for regular communication with employees to review performance and identify areas for improvement. A one-on-one environment will encourage more open and honest dialogue than if the session were conducted as part of a team.

As a business owner, these sessions are valuable sources of information and insight into the strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of your team.

Senior Staff Mentoring Junior Staff

If you have a large staff, consider pairing junior staff with senior staff and establishing mentorship relationships. This is a powerful way to build the synergy of your team and frees you up from weekly meetings with each staff member. Instead, each senior staff member can report back to you on the results of their regular training sessions, and you only need to conduct these sessions with your senior staff.

Team Training Events

Team training events are great team builders and provide insight into how your team interacts as a whole. These can take the form of “lunch and learns”, where senior staff or guest speakers conduct an hour-long session with staff members or more social team-building exercises with a less formal program.

Team training exercises will shed light on the leaders and followers in an organization and bring together employees who may work outside of the office. These can be especially helpful if you and your senior staff do not see the team ‘in action’ on a daily basis.

Keeping Your Dream Employees

Now that you have spent hours of time and potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars recruiting and training your staff, your human resource job is done, right?

I suppose you’ve done what you’ve set out to do: get the right people working for you. But what happens when those people get bored? Or stolen by another company? Or feel they’ve “done all they can do” at your company?

The final step in the overall recruitment process is employee retention. This includes keeping your employees happy, supporting their development, and giving them an incentive to continuously improve their performance.

Your Work Environment

The environment you create for your staff has a huge impact on your employee retention rates. This includes the interior design and layout of your office or business, the lighting, plants, and kitchen amenities available. It also includes the culture of the company – what is the general working atmosphere? Are most people loud? Quiet? Is there a buzz or hum to the office space?

The bottom line is that employees should enjoy and feel comfortable coming to their workplace – they do spend most of their waking hours there.

Spending a little more on comfortable office furniture and amenities like coffee, tea, snacks, and social spaces will go a long way toward keeping your employees happy at work.

Recognition, Rewards, and Incentive Programs

Did you know that many employees place more value on positive public recognition for a job well done than they do on salary?

Recognition and rewards are powerful tools when it comes to keeping employees happy. Positive feedback from those in more senior positions has a higher perceived value than a 3-5% salary increase – and it costs the business little to nothing to implement.

Retaining Your Employees

Incentive programs are a formalized way of rewarding employees for their achievements and successes. Clear targets and milestones are identified, and when an individual or team reach those milestones they are rewarded with bonuses or prizes.

Recognition, rewards, and incentive programs are an important part of employee retention, as well as team building. They will be discussed in further detail in the Team Building chapter.

Professional Development Programs

Another common reason employees choose to leave their positions is professional development. Many feel they need to move to another company in order to develop their careers or gain more responsibility. They may not necessarily dislike their current role, but become bored or stagnated and believe they have ‘done all they can do’ at that particular company.

Keeping good people means providing opportunities for growth and advancement within your company. This benefits the company because you can hire from within, and save money and time on recruiting and training new staff. It also benefits your employee and increases their loyalty toward your business.

Staff Retention

Professional development programs are an important part of staff retention – but they are also an important part of business growth and development. A company with staff who are always increasing their knowledge and improving their skills will stay on the ‘cutting edge’ of their industry and have an advantage over the competition.

Ongoing training and development should be a primary focus for any growing business. Here’s why:

• Increases productivity
• Increases staff retention
• Increases workplace safety and morale
• Increases customer service
• Increases sales

Professional development programs typically focus on the big picture ambitions of the company and its staff members. The longer-term goals and career ambitions are recorded and taken into consideration.

Professional development can be easily worked into your ongoing one-on-one training systems. Keep a folder or binder for each staff member that outlines current role responsibilities, short and long term goals, and areas for improvement, and review it during your weekly or monthly meetings. Identify specific areas for growth, and develop plans of action for that growth.

For example, if your marketing assistant wants to grow into a marketing coordinator or manager role, and needs to improve her people management skills, consider putting her through a management course.

Simple System Tools for Employee Retention

Maintaining this program doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task. With some simple system tools and a commitment to regularly scheduled meetings, you can have a clear and effective program for your staff.

• Evolving job description documents to monitor roles, responsibilities, and tasks
• Regular performance evaluations
• Goal planning worksheets
• Continuing education programs at local business schools
• Regular meetings between staff and supervisors
• Rewards and incentives
• Difficult to re-organize
• Best for smaller lists

Conclusion

Finding and retaining employees is one of the most challenging issues that small business owners are facing. Implement these practices and see your business take on a life of its own!

Questions about our small business coaching services?

Call us at 1-888-504-0777,

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Find and Train Great Employees Part 2: Screen and Interview Candidates

interview candidates

Step Two: Screen and Interview Candidates

Screen and interview candidates is one of the most time-consuming aspects of the recruitment process, so you will need to work out a system to manage the response to your job posting.

Screen and interview candidates is a system that will also ensure you ask all potential candidates the same questions, and provide them with the same information about the role as well as about your company.

1. Decide whether all inquiries will be handled by one person or several.

To screen and interview employees whether it will be handled by one person or several, depends on your staff resources and capacity. A system will allow multiple employees to assist in the process.

For example, if your candidates have been instructed to submit their resume and cover letter to you through email, designate a single email address and inbox to receiving and responding. This way you or another staff member will not be bombarded by emails and can designate an hour of time each day to managing the inquiries. If your candidates are calling in, designate a unique phone number or answering machine for this purpose.

2. Decide how inquiries will be responded to.

This can be as simple as an email acknowledging receipt of the resume, or specific instructions on an answering machine. Ensure everyone receives the same information, and that you receive the same level of information from all candidates (resume, cover letter, portfolio, references, and other relevant information.).

If you have asked candidates to call you instead of submitting their resumes through email, create a standard checklist of questions to ask them, as well as of information to provide them with. You may wish to create a script. Some questions might include:

• What kind of job are you looking for?
• Why do you think you would be well suited to this position?
• Tell me a bit about yourself.
• What makes you interested in our company?

Use this opportunity to get a feel for the applicant’s personality, and trust your initial impression. Create a form on which to record this information, and file it with their resume when you receive it.

3. Devise a process for reviewing resumes or applications.

The easiest and most time-efficient way to do this is in a single session, after the stated deadline, and not as you receive them. You may wish to enlist the assistance of a senior colleague to provide a second opinion.

Review the resumes and application materials, and divide the applications into three piles: interview, no interview, and maybe. From here you can begin to call candidates and set up the first interview.

It is also a good idea to be in touch with unsuccessful candidates, and politely let them know that you will not be asking them in for an interview. If you anticipate your response rate will be overwhelming, you may wish to consider stating in your advertisement that only successful applicants will be called.

Step Three: First Interview

The first interview is also a screening interview; your objective is to develop a first impression of the candidate as a person and to determine if they are qualified for the position. If you feel you have found an ideal candidate, this is also your opportunity to convince them to choose your company over any others they may be considering. Good people don’t stay in the market long.

Interview Candidate Structure

You will need to decide on a structure, or system, for the interview process as well. Will you be conducting the first interviews, or will another manager? Will the interviews be conducted one-on-one, or will several employees participate? If you are replacing an employee, you may want to consider inviting that employee into the interview to provide insight into the role.

Interview Candidate Materials

Just as you are asking the potential candidate to come prepared to the interview, you must be as well.

• Have an outline prepared for what you would like to cover? Topics include company history, job description, interview questions, compensation structure, availability, and room for advancement.
• Bring two copies of a typed job description. Include all tasks the candidate will be responsible for completing or assisting with.
• A company profile or overview document (other marketing collateral will also work here).

Interview Candidate Attitude

Begin to build a relationship with each applicant. The purpose of the interview is not just to discuss the job description, or for the applicant to get all the interview questions “right.” It is to determine if this person has the right attitude for the job, and whether or not they will fit in with the company’s culture and its employees.

Keep the interview professional, but make sure the applicant is comfortable. Interviews test our ability to perform under pressure, but you will want to gain an understanding of the applicant’s true nature. Remember that even if the applicant is not well suited to the role they have applied for, they may be suited to a future opportunity with the company.

Interview Candidate Questions

The questions you decide to ask the candidate are highly specific to your company and the role you are hiring for. Take some time to brainstorm what you really need to know about each person, and what questions you can ask to get that information.

Keep in mind that part of the objective of the first interview is to get a sense of the candidate’s personality. You will want to ask questions about their responses and begin to establish a real relationship with them.

Here are some starter interview questions to get you going:

• Tell me a little bit about your background.
• What has been your first impression of our company/product/services?
• Tell me about a time when…[insert a likely scenario they will encounter in the position]. How did it make you feel? How did you handle the situation?
• What advantages do you feel you have over the other candidates?
• What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
• Tell me about an achievement you’re proud of.
• Why did you leave your last position?
• Where do you see yourself in five years?
• …and so on.

Make sure you take good notes or ask a junior member of your team to take notes for you. Also, record your impression of the candidate after each interview. You will want to be able to reflect on each interview before inviting the candidate to the next phase of the selection process.

When the first interviews have been completed, review your notes and discuss your first impressions with other employees involved in the process. Then, decide who you would like to invite back for a second interview, and let the unsuccessful candidates know they are not right for this particular role.

Step Four: Second Interview + Reference Check

The second interview is used to confirm your impressions of the applicants you believe are well suited to the job. It can also be used to get more information, or to more closely compare two solid candidates.

Make sure you only offer a second interview to those you are considering hiring. If you are on the fence about a candidate, chances are your instincts are right, and bringing them in for a second interview is a waste of their time and yours.

Callbacks

When you call a candidate to invite them to come in for a second interview, remain professional and don’t make any allusions to a job offer. If your impression of the candidate changes during the second interview, you do not want to have to go back on something you said. Let them know what you thought of them based on the first interview, and ask if they would be interested in meeting with you a second time.

Give yourself and the candidate at day or two between interviews to reflect on the first interview and prepare for the second.

Interviewers Can Change

You may wish to change the person or team of people who conducted the first interview. Usually, the second interview is conducted with more senior team members at the table.

Interview Candidates Questions

While the second interview is often less structured than the first – a relationship has already begun to be established – you should still prepare a list of questions for the candidate.

These questions should focus on the specific tasks related to the job, and on providing more information about the culture, systems, and values of the company. You can also use the second interview to ask questions you may not have had the chance to in the first interview.

Office Tour + Introductions

Once you have determined that you have found the candidate for the job, take them on a tour of your office or business, and introduce them to your staff members. This is a good way of gaining an initial understanding of how the candidate might interact with your existing staff members.

Calling References

This is the final – arguably most important – step to make before offering the job to the candidate. You should ask your candidate for at least three employment references, and perhaps one character reference.

Call each reference contact, and explain who you are and why you are calling. Then ask if they have a few moments to answer some questions about the candidate. You will want to find out information about punctuality, professionalism, skills, and their reason for leaving. Cross-reference this information with your interview notes to ensure consistency between the candidate and their reference.

Step Five: Hire Your Employee

Provided their references are solid, now is the time to make them an offer of employment.

Call the candidate personally to offer them the job. Make sure you congratulate them and express your enthusiasm in welcoming them into your team. You will also need to follow up your conversation with a letter or email that includes the job offer document or contract.

In the case a candidate declines the job offer, you may wish to do a reference check on your second pick candidate and make them an offer.

Good luck!
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What is the One Missing Key to Your Business Success?

business success

Just like humans, every business has weaknesses.  In some cases, business owners simply need to work on one or two areas to propel their business to amazing growth and profits. Entrepreneurs can benefit from the services of small business coaches, who can assist them in identifying areas that require improvement while also guiding them toward business success.

One of my business ventures was a small service company with 130 employees. Our largest customer was a Ritz Carlton hotel, and the hotel chain was involved with the Malcolm Baldrige Process, a way for organizations to achieve outstanding results. Our leadership team decided to get involved with this process at a state level, and we hired a small business marketing coach to help us identify areas of improvement. We grew our profits by more than one thousand percent!

Seven Keys to Success in Business

There are seven keys to business success according to the Baldrige criteria. Over the next few blog articles, I will be writing about these seven keys. How is your business doing in these areas?  Growth normally requires things like small business loans and access to business credit lines but without these 7 keys, you will not be managing that growth as effectively and efficiently as you could.

1.  Leadership in Business.

Most small businesses are strong in the area of leadership. It takes strong leaders to start and run business. However, once your business is going, how do you keep the momentum going? Do you communicate a clear vision, strong values, and a compelling mission? Is your team growing, learning and adjusting to the business environment?

2.  Strategic Planning in Your Business.

In my work with small business owners, many do not have a current business plan.  That is a huge mistake, especially in this volatile business environment. For example, you would be surprised how many businesses are fortunate enough to get a small business loan but then they don’t use the funds for revenue-generating initiatives and the end result is just more debt and no new clients or business.  Every business owner should have short and long term goals, and every employee should understand the goals. Consider all your stakeholders during your planning.

3.  Customer Focus in Your Business.

This area is also a strength for many small business owners. But as a business grows it is easy to lose touch with customers, and without customers your business is dead! Do you have ways of measuring customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction? Are you improving?

4.  Measurement in Your Business.

Speaking of measurement, do you know your business “stats?” In the same way that sports teams know statistics about players, coaches and their offense and defense, you need to track important information. Nearly everyone tracks sale and profits, but do you know the value of your business? What are your key business success factors? Do know how your numbers compared to competitors? You should.

5.  Workforce Focus in Your Business.

Many business owners struggle with finding good employees. Your employees are critical to your business success. Cutting edge leaders believe that their employees are more important than their customers.  How do you attract and retain good people?

6.  Operations Focus in Your Business. 

The way you deliver your product or service can make you or break you. If you can provide excellent products and services consistently every time, your customers will likely stay with you. Otherwise, you are “rolling the dice.”  Wise business owners develop measurable processes that ensure a great customer experience with few exceptions.

7.  Results in Your Business.

This, of course, is the bottom line of all your efforts in business. Once you have determined what is important to measure and have established measures, how are you doing? Are your “stats” improving? How do they compare with your competition or industry? Are your sales and profits growing, or are you struggling like many small businesses? Is your business value growing?

Conclusion

After reviewing these seven keys, what are the top one or two areas that could use some attention in your business? Focus your efforts on the area where your business needs to improve. If you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it out.

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