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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.


7 Steps to Start a Business

Tuesday, April 05, 2016
  By Kat Rico
  


Ok, so it can end up being more complicated than 7 steps, but we’ll do our best to keep it concise for you. Do yourself a favor and hold off on the business cards until you’ve completed these steps.

*Full legal disclaimer: Depending on your industry, where your business is located, and the type of business you are operating, this may not be a complete list. As a business owner, YOU are responsible for complying with the law. Do your due diligence BEFORE starting your business.*


  1. 1. Location check – Where will your business be located? If you’re operating out of your home, you need to check with your landlord or HOA to make sure you are not violating any clauses about home based businesses. If you’re renting a space, verify with your landlord and the city/municipality that your business will not violate any existing zoning laws.

  2. 2. License check – Some businesses require special licenses that can take months to apply for. Colorado has an “Occupational License Database” online at: http://www.advancecolorado.com/business-colorado/occupational-license-database.

  3. 3. Local registration – You may or may not need to register your business with your city or county, you’ll want to check both to make sure. This can also vary if your business is home based. The key to look for is a “Business” section on their website, from there you should see information about potential licensing requirements. While you’re there, pay attention to how to pay sales and use tax if this applies to your business, you may need a separate tax license.

  4. 4. State registration – In Colorado, you must register your business with the Colorado Secretary of State. Again, look for a “Business” section and you’ll find information about how to register your business. The entity type you register as will affect your taxes as well as how much legal separation there is between you and your business, so choose carefully. It can also be difficult and expensive to change your entity type after you’ve started, so again, research is key. You can search here and make sure your desired business name is available in your state as well.

  5. 5. Federal registration – For tax purposes, you’ll likely need to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS online. Your entity selection will affect how income from your business appears on your tax return and whether or not you’ll be responsible for paying estimated taxes.

  6. 6. Separate your banking – This is a really big deal, even for small single owner businesses. Set up a separate bank account! Your banker will need your EIN and to see you’re in good standing with the Secretary of State. Both your accountant and attorney will recommend you don’t ‘pierce the corporate veil,’ which in essence means that you are walking, talking and acting like a business, and this is especially important with finances. If you co-mingle funds or operate your business from a personal bank account, not only will your accountant charge you more to sort it out, but it can put all of your funds in a legally liable position if something goes wrong.

  7. 7. Walk the walk, talk the talk – Now you can do things like buy business cards, technology for your business, take jobs and make sales under your official business name. You’ve still got a long way to go towards building your dream business, but you’re going in the right direction!

Still lost? Check out our upcoming workshops for "So You Want to Start a Business" or "Make It Official" for classroom training, or register for consulting.

SBDC Regional Event - Google's New Rules

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Location: The Summit


Is your Google listing not what it used to be?
Are you frustrated because you've noticed a drop in your website's ranking on Google over the last year? Has your traffic slowed to a trickle?

Well, you're not alone. Late last year, Google released one of their largest changes to their ranking criteria since 2011. Many sites that had been at the top of the page 1 for years dropped dramatically and businesses watched their revenue dry up.

If you're concerned that your website ins't getting the kind of traffic that is should or want to start your website off on the right foot, the East Colorado and Larimer SBDC invite you to to join us Tuesday, March 29th. Google expert, Chadd Bryant, will clearly explain Google's new rules and walk you through the Top 10 factors that Google is paying attention to this year.

During this workshop, you'll discover...
- How to write enticing content that also appeals to Google- Two ways to get more people to click on your listing - How to avoid being punished by Google ever again

Presented by:





Chadd Bryant,   Red Rocket Web Specialists 

Special Instructions: 

Individuals must cancel three business days prior to event for refund. Saturday and Sunday are not considered business days. 
Acceptable cancellation methods include by phone 970-351-4274 or emailing Kyla.Benson@EastColoradoSBDC.com
No refunds will be granted if registrant fails to cancel three business days prior to event.


This event is sponsored by a partnership between:

     
     
     





Hiring, Connecting With, and Keeping Employees

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On October 20th, the Larimer SBDC held our second Small Business After Hours event targeted at the restaurant and food product industry. We pulled together a great panel covering a variety of restaurants and a food manufacturer to specifically address workforce issues faced in these industries.

       
Carolyn Reed
Silver Mine Subs Franchises
Ryan Houdek
The Melting Pot,
Rodizio Grill, Social
Mark Havens
Cafe Vino
Josh Skow
Canyon Bakehouse

Restaurants and food product companies face unique issues when it comes to workforce. Some restaurants, like the Silver Mine Subs franchises owned by Carolyn Reed, are looking for entry level employees. Others like The Melting Pot, Social, and Rodizio Grill owned by Ryan Houdek, or Café Vino which is managed by Mark Havens, are looking for experienced restaurant staff who match the culture of their establishments. For food product manufacturers like Canyon Bakehouse, CEO Josh Skow says finding someone whose character traits align with the company goals is most important. Regardless, they all face the same larger problems of hiring the right person that fits with their company values, overcoming generational issues, and employee retention. 

Hiring Processes

Harness Technology – Using a digital application process helps Carolyn efficiently sort through applicants. She sets the metrics on the program to give weight to people with prior restaurant experience.Interview Best Practices – Sometimes it’s easier to find out if they’re not a right fit. Ryan asks disqualifying questions during the interview; if a candidate is expecting to always make $300 per shift, they’re probably not a good fit for his restaurant.Company Culture as a Hiring Tool – All of our panelists agreed that they are looking for candidates that fit their company values and culture. If there is a mismatch in the beginning, it is likely to cause a variety of problems later.

Generational Issues

Millennials Are… Different – Between a difference in learning styles, work ethic and a need to like their boss, millennial present a new set of challenges for business owners with generationally diverse workforces.Communicating with Millennials is… Different – According to Carolyn, you need to set your expectations for millennial workers upfront and in a clear manner. When communicating and coaching them, you have to decide if you will take a less direct tone or if the employee is worth the time it may take to get them trained.
An Intergenerational Approach is…. Different – The need to like their boss presents a unique opportunity for millennials in intergenerational workforces. “We are the missing element in learning a work ethic,” says Ryan. At the Canyon Bakehouse, they have a shift that is managed by a baby boomer with mostly millennial workers. Giving the team well-communicated shared goals helps them work as a team.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Employee Retention

Compensation is More than a Paycheck – Providing benefits like health insurance add to the value an employee gets from their paycheck. Café Vino also has a profit sharing program. Mark says this gives him an extra 35 bosses telling him how he can do it better, and it also helps employees feel vested and take ownership of the business.Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly – Normalize feedback and coaching processes and address issues quickly and casually. From the manager standpoint, always document even verbal warnings, and don’t be afraid of using write-ups as a second step. The kindest thing you can do for your employees is let them know what the issue is and how to correct it quickly and professionally.
Honor Employees on a Regular Basis – Say goodbye and thank you to employees every evening, keep gift cards for when you catch employees doing something right, celebrate employee milestones on a regular basis. Hire the right management, because they will properly train your employees and provide them the right encouragement.
Of course it is difficult to capture a panel discussion like this in a few hundred words, but we want to make sure to share these insights with you. Are you in this industry? We’re planning for 2016 right now, so send your feedback on possible topics to kat@larimersbdc.org!

We will be continuing with our Small Business After Hours series with a Health & Wellness Businesses “Funnel Vision” workshop coming up on November 10, 2015.

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!

Restaurant & Food Industry Workforce Issues Panel

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Restaurant & Food Industry Workforce Issues Panel

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

No matter what business you’re in, attracting and retaining top talent is always an issue. How do you retain and reward good employees? How do you successfully recruit qualified employees? What workforce issues are you dealing with now? What works? What doesn’t?

Just for our restaurant and food businesses, we’ve assembled a great panel of professionals to address these workforce issues. Come prepared with your questions and get answers from people who have been there and done that!

Our Panelists:

  Ryan Houdek moved to Fort Collins in 1995 to work as a Computer Engineer for Hewlett-Packard Company. In 2004, Ryan decided to change careers and open The Melting Pot restaurant in Old Town. Then, in 2008, he opened Rodizio Grill in the historic train station. Later, in 2013, he opened Social with his business partner Ty Fulcher. Ryan currently lives in Rist Canyon with his wife Christine and dog Frodo.

 

  Carolyn Reed is president at Silver Bloom, LLC, a restaurant management company, since October 2012. She has experience with multi-unity restaurant management with an emphasis on restaurant design and construction management. As a restaurant franchisee of several Silver Mine Subs locations stretching from Cheyenne to Denver, her knowledge spans all aspects of restaurant management and operations.

 
  Josh Skow is the co-Founder and CEO of Canyon Bakehouse, a dedicated gluten free bakery located in Loveland, CO. The business was started in 2009 after seeing a need in the market for quality gluten free breads that were nutritious and tasted good. Canyon Bakehouse branded products are now sold in over 10,000 stores across the United States and Canada. Josh is a graduate of Kansas State University. In addition to owning and operating several businesses, he has held operations and sales positions with several major US and International food ingredient companies. Josh and his family reside in Colorado.

 
   Mark Havens is a Fort Collins Native, and after traveling the US in different capacities in the service industry returned home in 2009. Hired as the general manager he reinvented Café Vino taking a staff of 16 to 60 in a few short years. His passion for Café Vino is seen in the staff’s morale, his innovative ideas and providing an exceptional experience for his guests every night of the week. Mark is one of the hardest workers in Fort Collins, if you don’t see him at the door, he might be serving your dinner, making your drink, working as our handyman or possibly washing dishes in the kitchen.

 






10 Signs You Need Better a Better Understanding of Your Business Finances

Tuesday, September 08, 2015
      by Brian Cathcart, CPA, MS
Larimer SBDC Consultant
The Financial Lab

You are probably really good at providing the products and/or services of your business. But you might not feel so competent or confident about the accounting and financial analysis part of your business. Maybe you need to change your mindset regarding your financial reporting as something to get excited about. 

Don’t you get excited about things that make you money?  Financial reporting and analysis makes you money!

10 Signs You Need Better a Better Understanding of Your Business Finances
  1. You don’t know the role of accounting or what accounting means. 
  2. You are not using financial information regularly to make better business decisions.
  3. You don’t know how to calculate your break even or how to calculate sales necessary to achieve a desired level income.
  4. You don’t know what accounting infrastructure means.
  5. You don’t know what accrual based accounting means.
  6. You don’t understand why the balance sheet is the most important financial statement.
  7. You don’t understand why it is necessary or how to perform monthly reconciliations and close the books.
  8. You have a large accounting role without adequate training and education.
  9. You are a business owner or manager that would like to freshen up on all this accounting stuff.
  10. You are not excited about monthly financial analysis.
Do any of those strike a chord with you? The good news is the Larimer SBDC is here to help! We have free, confidential, individual business consulting with professionals like myself who understand the impact financials have on your business growth, as well as several upcoming training options. 

Check out the following helpful classes that are coming up soon:

Thursday, November 5  1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
QuickBooks: 3 Part Series
Friday, November 6 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Basics of Bookkeeping: Know Thy Numbers
Wednesday, November 18 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM  
TAXES - Get Informed and Organized Now!

Need help sooner? Classes don't fit your schedule? 

Click here to request an appointment.


Five Technology Solutions That can Help You Grow and Protect Your Business in 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

12:00 - 1:30 PM


Five key technologies that you should be using in 2015 to take your business to the next level:
  1. 1) Network Security & Data Backup -  Is your network and data really secure?
  2. 2) Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  - Are you nurturing your existing clients and bringing on new ones?
  3. 3) Social Media & Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Can potential customers find you on the web? 
  4. 4) Client Service & Support Ticketing systems – Are your customers experiencing world class customer service? 
  5. 5) On Line Payments & Electronic Invoicing – Want to get paid faster?
You will walk away with an actionable game plan for evaluating how important these technologies are for your specific business.   The course will provide an outline for how to implement a solution that best fits your needs and at a price you can afford.   Technology doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  




Our event sponsor for this session is:

 

Are Business Plans Dead?

Monday, April 27, 2015
by Kat Rico

Business plans have long been touted as the method for success if you are starting a new venture, but is the traditional business plan dead? Many entrepreneurs are intimidated by the idea of creating a document that can end up being in excess of 30 pages, let alone determining which sections they need and what goes in them. It’s also easy to assume that if you’re a small business (whatever your definition of small is), you don’t need a business plan, especially if you’re not seeking financing. 

So do you really need a business plan?
Short answer: Yes.


A business plan should be a guiding document for your business as a whole. It is not a static document that you create once, leave and never look at again. Your business plan should be what guides your vision and drives actions for all the decisions your business will make. Ideally, you should be revisiting your business plan at least annually, maybe even quarterly, to make sure you are on the right track. 

Does it need to be a massive 30 page document?
Short answer: Maybe not.

Not all businesses are the same, so it make sense that not all business plans need to be the same. Following are key elements you should have in any business plan, traditional or not:
Executive Summary – This is a short summary of what is in your plan, including what your vision for your business is, what your product or service is, and who will buy it. Do yourself a favor and write this section last, even though it is at the front of your plan.
Marketing Plan – Include information about the demographics of where you will be doing business and who your customers are, as well as how you will reach them (flyers, social media, website, events, etc.).
Operations – Give a snapshot of what the day-to-day practices of your business will look like, who will be your suppliers and who your key partners are.
Financials – This is arguably the most important part of your business plan. Where is the money coming from, where is it going, and how long will it take for your business to be profitable? Be honest about this section, overinflating numbers won’t do you any favors in the long run.
Goals – Use the SMART framework for setting your business goals for the next year, three years and five years out. This will help guide your decisions in the meantime and give you something to celebrate when you hit milestones.

While a traditional business plan may be overkill for some businesses, it is a very important guiding document, and the look of it will vary depending on how it is being used. You may even end up with two or three versions of it, one for you as the business owner, one to show to potential investors, and one for your management team.

Don’t let the process of writing this plan intimidate you! It is best that you, as the business owner, write this plan yourself as opposed to hiring someone to do it for you, because the plan will mean more to you in the end. There are templates available for free online to get you started, and the Larimer SBDC is here to help with free, confidential one-on-one consulting, as well as classes designed specifically to help you write a business plan.