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Is Your Point of Sale System Secure and Effective?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Retail Industry: Is Your Point of Sale System Secure and Effective?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

If you’re a retail business in 2017, chances are you’ve got some sort of electronic Point of Sale (POS) system. It might be stationary in your brick and mortar location, you may be an online retailer with a virtual POS, and if you do events you’ve probably got a mobile POS. This technology is great, but it comes with a unique set of challenges related to not only operation, but security. We have an important question for you: Is your POS system secure and effective?

          How do you know?

Without getting a degree in cybersecurity, it can be difficult to understand and keep pace with all the changes in payment processing and data security, especially for retailers who have so many other concerns on their plates. According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 8% of data breeches occur within the retail industry, not accounting for credit card company breeches. These breeches put customers’ financial data at risk, and damage consumer confidence in the businesses they shop with. While large retailers make the headlines because of the volume of data compromised in these breeches, small retailers also need to be aware of what they can do to protect their customers’ information.

Join us for our next Small Business After Hours as Ali Harris, Founder and Managing Consultant for Technical Framework, discusses what small retailers need to know about POS systems and cybersecurity. He’ll provide a high level overview of different types of POS systems, how the information they collect travels, security issues this creates, and more. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions from an expert in the IT field and network with other retailers.


Our Presenter

Ali Harris - Technical Framework

Ali is a veteran of the IT world with over 20 years of experience in technology services for small- and medium-sized businesses ranging from five to 300 employees.  Ali founded Technical Framework, an all services provider of computers, networks and secure technology business solutions, in 2010.   Ali’s academic background includes a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University and a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems from University of Phoenix.  In his leisure time, Ali enjoys watching sports and studying emerging technologies for business.  




City of Fort Collins Community Development Scholarship

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
By Stu Crair


The City of Fort Collins (CFC) and Digital Workshop Center (DWC) have announced a $10,000 partnered scholarship opportunity for the residents of Fort Collins.  Named the ‘Community Development Scholarship’, the goal of this scholarship is to “help individuals and professionals to close the technology skills gaps that may exist in the Fort Collins workplace.”

Awards for this scholarship will be primarily divided amongst several sections of the local workforce: non-profits, teachers/educators, job seekers/unemployed/under-employed, and business professionals seeking career transition.

The City of Fort Collins’ Economic Health Office has generously provided $5,000 of scholarship funds to be distributed.  In addition, Digital Workshop Center is matching this $5,000 amount for a total award of scholarship funds available set at $10,000.  Award amounts will range from $250 to $1000 per individual.

“As more educational and work opportunities require technology skills, the City and Digital Workshop Center are excited to partner to provide educational access to a broader segment of our community,” said Jacqueline Kozak-Thiel, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Fort Collins. “We want to ensure that we’re bridging the financial gap for those in our community who are seeking personal improvement and upward skills mobility.”
According to Stu Crair, owner of Digital Workshop Center, this scholarship “is designed to help as many people as possible within our local community who are seeking to improve their technology skills.  There is a serious skills gap between the local workforce and the companies hiring in Fort Collins.  We hope this scholarship will help improve the talent of the local applicant pool as our city continues to grow."

The application process will begin on November 1st and close on December 1st. Interested applicants may apply online at DigitalWorkshopCenter.com/scholarship.  A panel of DWC staff and local professional development experts will review all applications and final decisions made in mid-December.

Complete rules and requirements for eligibility are listed on the scholarship website page.

Founded in 2006, Digital Workshop Center is a locally-owned private occupational school, Adobe Authorized Training Center, and coworking hub with locations in Fort Collins, Denver, and online.  DWC offers professional development and training classes on design software programs, desktop applications, business solutions and advanced computer training concepts.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Liz White at 970-980-8091 or email at liz@digitalworkshopcenter.com.

EPA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces the release of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Solicitation (https://www.epa.gov/sbir/sbir-funding-opportunities) to support the development and commercialization of innovative environmental technologies. The solicitation is posted on FedConnect, and all applications must be submitted through this electronic system.

EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that participates in the SBIR Program as a result of the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982. EPA is calling for small businesses to apply for Phase I awards up to $100,000 to demonstrate proof of concept in the following topic areas: air and climate, manufacturing, toxic chemicals, water, water and homeland security, and greener buildings. See the full solicitation for specific subtopics under each topic area and for details on how to apply. Successful Phase I companies are eligible to apply for Phase II funding, up to $300,000 for two years with a commercialization option of up to $100,000, to further develop and commercialize their technologies.

For general information on how to apply, visit https://www.epa.gov/sbir/how-apply-sbir-contract.


Missed the June 14, 2016, webinar on how to apply for the 2016 EPA SBIR Phase I Solicitation? Learn more: https://www.epa.gov/sbir/sbir-special-announcements

The EPA SBIR Program is part of EPA's Sustainable and Healthy (SHC) research program.

DOL Rules - What You Need to Know

Thursday, June 23, 2016

by Stacy Stolen

Real Value Consulting/VolkBell Insurance



The rules are here … now what?

Here's What You Need to Know

Anyone earning less than $913.00 per week; or $47, 476 annualized base:
• Is now (most likely) entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week
• Is now required to track and account for all hours worked within respective time keeping periods

How you make and communicate required adjustments to an individual's current salaried compensation is up to you, and there are several options you might consider. Here are five simple steps you must take now to comply with the FLSA’s latest changes, and make sure you stay in compliance in the years ahead.
1. Increase salaries of current exempt employees to more than $913 per week or $47,476 per year. Exempt employees earning more than that will not be entitled to overtime.

2. Reduce bonuses for exempt employees whose overall compensation exceeds the new minimums. Increase salaries by the bonus amounts.

3. Reclassify exempt employees as nonexempt and pay them hourly. Of course, you will still have to pay overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.

4. Reclassify exempt employees and pay them on a commission or fluctuating-workweek basis. Consult your attorney to learn more about the fluctuating workweek system, which pays a salary to nonexempt employees whose schedules vary from week to week.

5. Increase staffing levels to eliminate unnecessary overtime.

You can be assured that the DOL, which has already increased its investigative force by 33% since 2010, will put employers under even more scrutiny in 2017 by visiting many employers and auditing; be sure to reach out if you need more information!

DOL Labor Standards Changes

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

by Stacy Stolen

Real Value Consulting/VolkBell Insurance



On May 18, 2016 The U.S. Department of Labor released its final rule regarding the changes to the overtime threshold for the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Among other things, the Department has doubled the minimum salary needed to qualify for these exemptions, from the previous level of $455 a week (or $23,660 a year) to $913 a week (or $47,476 a year).


Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. 1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. 2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. 3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

For more details:
https://www.dol.gov/featured/overtime


Key People to Add to Your Business Team

Friday, April 15, 2016
  By Kat Rico
  

You’re in business for yourself, yes, but you should never be in business by yourself. In order to be productive, you need a team of people behind you! Here are some key people we recommend that you have on your side for better and for worse while you’re in business (in no particular order).
  1. Accountant – You don’t have time to learn all of the tax and bookkeeping ins and outs, and you shouldn’t have to. Of course you should have a basic understanding of the concepts, but an accountant can help you figure out where your business might be hemorrhaging money, opportunities to save on taxes, and whether you have adequate cash flow to hire that first employee.

  2. Attorney – Things happen. Contracts go bad. Maybe you said something you shouldn’t have. Whatever the case, your attorney is there to help you and go to bat for you. They can also help you before you make a potentially bad decision by helping you select an entity type, review a lease, draw up a standard contract to use for jobs and more. Along with your accountant, your attorney can be a strong business ally. The best option is to have an attorney before you need one.

  3. Mentor – This is a person who has business experience, preferably in your industry, that you can bounce ideas off of and will give you constructive advice without sugarcoating reality. Your mentor needs to be someone who doesn’t have a stake in the business (so no investors), they only have a stake in your success. Meet them once in a while and catch up on the good, the bad and the ugly of how your business is doing. Don’t use your mentor just to vent or brag, but to learn about how you can do your business better. As a shameless plug for our services, this is the best area where the SBDC can help!

  4. Banker – Don’t just have a bank, but a banker. A real person you can call at your bank when you don’t understand a fee, need to buy some equipment or need to order checks. Communicate with them on a regular basis. Your banker is your friend and can alert you to potentially fraudulent activity, but only if they know how you normally spend your business money.

  5. Marketer - Your marketer should be able to help you identify who your customers are, how to reach them, and understand if you're reaching them. The best description we've heard comes courtesy of our Social Media Specialist, Amy Alcorn, who told us, "Not having a marketing person for your business is like trying to flirt and winking in the dark." Don't invest money in advertising, online or otherwise, without talking to your marketer about your strategy.
Of course, there may be a couple of other people you want to regularly consult with about your business depending on your industry, but these are a good starting point to build a supportive network to help your business succeed.


Top 5 Business Real Estate Tips

Friday, February 12, 2016
by Kat Rico

Our first 2016 “Small Business After Hours” event drew another great crowd! Presenter Andy Smith of Chrisland Real Estate Companies gave us some valuable information on expectations for leasing real estate for a retail business. In case you missed it, we wanted to give you a recap of what was discussed!

Andy gave us definitions for nearly 30 common real estate terms, a few worth noting are:
Baseline rent – This is typically the advertised rent cost for a property. Lessee beware though, this may not include all of the property fees, such as maintenance, snow removal, parking arrangements, etc.
Triple Net/Net Lease/NNN – A type of lease that includes the tenant paying maintenance, real estate taxes, and insurance premiums.
Rent escalator – The agreed upon amount of increase for costs associated with the lease, including rent. A common rate for a rent escalator is 3%.

Along with all of the great terminology, here are the top 5 tips we’ve pulled together from Andy’s presentation:
1. Everything is negotiable - This includes everything right down to the tenant finish costs; can the landlord front the cost for any finishing and add it to the monthly cost of the lease? It’s worth asking!

2. Find a real estate broker to represent your interestsThe landlord has a broker, but that broker is working for the landlord’s best interests. You want to have a broker working for your best interest. If you engage a broker, your broker has a fiduciary duty to you and only you. Worried that the landlord will not want to work with your broker? Actually, it’s the opposite; most landlords prefer to work with someone (like a broker) who already speaks their language.

3. Think about your timeline, now double itThese things take time! The days of 2-3 page leases are gone, most are more like 20-30 pages now. Along with a broker, it’s recommended that you retain an attorney to review and interpret the lease for you, so you know what you’re getting in to.

4. Location, location, location - Is the space you’re looking at good for its convenience or as a destination? If it’s for convenience, it’ll probably be easily seen from a major street and have ample parking and your customers will be going there for you. If it’s for a destination, your customers will go to the area as an attraction. Destination spaces tend to have a higher rent premium. 

5. Parking and pedestrian traffic - Does your lease include specific parking spots for your customers or employees? Is the parking in front of your business leased to another nearby shop? Clarify these details before signing a lease. Also, the city should be able to provide you with vehicles per day and pedestrian counts for the area you’re looking at leasing, but you have to ask.

Of course this doesn’t encompass every question that was asked last Tuesday, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of what was covered. Are you looking at leasing a space? Meet with an SBDC consultant to discuss what that means for your business before you make the leap! Schedule an appointment by calling 970-498-9295, or send us a request at: http://www.larimersbdc.org/consulting.

Call For Instructors!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Do you have valuable knowledge or a particular set of skills you'd like to share with small business owners? The Larimer SBDC is seeking instructors to develop and teach new classes for the Larimer SBDC beginning in January 2016. We are entering our planning stages now, so please submit your ideas and contact information to:

Terri Donovan-Keirns
terri@larimersbdc.org
Program Coordinator|
Larimer SBDC

We're looking for classes that will be unique and challenging for our entrepreneurs. Volunteering to teach a class with the SBDC is a great way to share your expertise with new business owners and contribute to a more diverse economic community. Contact us today!

Doing Business with the Government

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Doing Business with the Government

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

9:00 am  - 11:00 am

Larimer County Building


Have you ever thought about government contracting but didn’t know where to start? Join us for an interactive workshop about what government agencies buy, how you can market your products and services to federal and state agencies, and where to find opportunities.  You’ll also learn about the small business certification programs that can help you get your foot in the door. 

The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will show you basics of getting started.  The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Connect2DOT Program Manager will tell you about working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  If you want to get a slice of the billion dollar pie, don’t miss this workshop!

Agenda:
9:00 - 10:00: Federal Government Contracting
Learn the steps for doing business with the government
Registering in SAM and using online marketing tools
Presented by Kathryn Rowe, PTAC
10:00 - 11:00: Doing Business with CDOT
What CDOT buys and the certifications that can get you in the door
Forecast of anticipated 2015 CDOT bid opportunities
Presented by Cathy Kramer, Connect2DOT
11:00-12:00: Networking and Consulting
Stay after to network with other small businesses and talk with the business counselors from PTAC and Connect2DOT about your business

This is a FREE event, but pre-registration is required! Save your seat today!




10+ Retail Holiday Boot Camp Takeaways

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Our Small Business After Hours series is proving to be a hit! Nearly 30 people representing a wide variety of retail shops throughout Fort Collins attended our September 22nd event.

Alyson MacMullan of Peak Retail Group gave us some great takeaways for retailers to remember as they enter their holiday planning period.
1. Lay all your key dates from November through January (yes, January) on a physical calendar
• Sometimes you may see correlations on paper that aren’t obvious in a digital format.• Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year!
2. Determine your goals for the holiday season
• Do you want more sales in dollars or in transactions? Do you have targets for how much inventory you want to move? Are you aiming for less January markdowns?• If you don’t have data from last year to drive your goals, make sure you begin collecting it this year! What works? What doesn’t?
3. Pick a color pallet for your store displays and stick to it!  
• Highlight high margin inventory in your displays.• Hint: It doesn’t have to be red and green, in fact, your store’s brand colors work very well! 
4. Consider all elements for the in-store experience: Sights, sounds, smells 
• Offer extras like a free stocking stuffer, free gift wrapping and bounce back offers with every purchase.• Do everything you can to keep shopping stress-free and easy for your customers. 
5. Proper staffing is a challenge for retailers during the holidays
• Signs are your silent salespeople. Make them informative and interesting so customers can answer their own simple questions.• Arm your salespeople with mobile payment options so they can help customers avoid lines at the register.
6. Social media is your friend!
• Post every day! Use a planning/scheduling service like SnapRetail, Hootsuite or SproutSocial to help you plan out several days in one easy shot.• People love contests and flash sales, utilize these techniques!• An image is worth 1,000 posts. Show your staff decorating the store!
7. E-mail is your friend too, but be cautious
• Find an e-mail template and stick with it for the season. It will make your life easier and your customers will recognize your communications.• ONE offer per e-mail only, and keep it clean and concise. People are already stressed during the holidays, your communication should make it easy for them.
8. 12 Days of Christmas Promotions are very effective!
• Drive traffic into your store by offering serious discounts (50-75% off) on a high margin, highly stocked item each day.• These are top secret deals! Resist the urge to reveal the promos early. Pre-schedule deal communication to save yourself a headache.
9. Your merchandise assortment shouldn’t vary dramatically during the holidays; the majority of your stock should be tried and true items 
• NEVER run out of your top sellers, that’s a missed opportunity!• Don’t accept late deliveries from your vendors. Communicate clearly and directly when you need your merchandise by and if they can’t meet your deadlines, don’t accept deliveries.
10. Restock key items for January and mix up the look of your store

Sound like a lot of information? We assure you, this was only the tip of the iceberg! 

Thank you Alyson for all of the excellent information you provided!

If you’re a retailer and need help digesting and applying this information, we encourage you to schedule with a Larimer SBDC consultant now to help with planning out your holiday strategy!