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Exorbitant bankruptcy costs hurt small businesses

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Even when small businesses would benefit from bankruptcy, the cost of filing for such protection is often cost-prohibitive, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Roughly 90 percent of companies that file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy have less than $10 million in debt and property, and their costs are at least $100,000 to $300,000 even if there are no disputes. Fears of losing the business and personal assets during the process keep most from even starting the process.

Recently, hearings in Washington with the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights, and Federal Courts met to discuss the problems small business owners face as well as to propose changes that could be made to the law in the future to make the situation easier. One idea is to alter the filings to be more similar to the Chapter 13 process for consumers. In this case, the business owner might be able to keep their assets in exchange for repaying the debt over several years. Under the current system, debts must be repaid in full up front.

Even without changing the foundation of the Chapter 11 system, there are still many ways in which the costs to the filer can be lowered. Reducing the amount of information and paperwork that businesses are required to assemble and providing a financial professional to help navigate the process would save everyone both time and money. Another change could be eliminating the requirement for an unsecured creditors committee for every filer. This committee uses the bankrupt business’ money to hire lawyers and advisers to ensure that as much money as possible is going to creditors. This is a lengthy process that could be solved with simple mediation and arbitration.

Business

Empathy + Ego = Sales

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Among the wealth of extraordinary articles in the Harvard Business Review Classics series is one, published in 1964, entitled, “What Makes a Good Salesman.”

Before writing it, David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg spent seven years pursuing the clues. During that time, a fellow HBR contributor, Robert N. McMurray, wrote, “We must look into the mysteries of personality and psychology if we want the real answers.”

Mayer and Greenberg’s conclusions: “Based on the insights we gained about the basic characteristics necessary for a salesperson to sell successfully, our basic theory is that a good salesperson must have at least two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive.”

According to Webster’s, empathy is “understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing” the feelings of others. Moreover, according to Mayer and Greenberg, no salesperson can sell consistently without the skilled use of empathy.

Mayer and Greenberg declare that empathy is vital to the process of obtaining honest, accurate customer feedback. Once provided with a strong sense of the customer’s feelings, the empathetic salesperson can react accordingly. With the use of his or her ego-driven techniques, the agent can alter the pace of discussion and weigh alternatives and options before making whatever creative adjustments are necessary to close the sale.

On the other hand, the authors assert that ego drive — a subtle need to conquer–pushes a salesperson to make the deal or else. It becomes a mission, a mandate.

Mayer and Greenberg conclude, it is an active blend of empathy and ego drive — each reinforcing the other — that will best serve the interests of a salesperson’s career.

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Business

How to scale the company ladder

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It takes more to get ahead in a company than just doing the basics.

“Simply meeting expectations is not enough if you want to get ahead,” writes business trainer and consultant Cy Wakeman in her book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace.
If you want to climb the ladder, strive to be a low-drama, high-value employee, Wakeman says.

Victor Lipman agrees, and he’s an author and management specialist with more than 20 years of Fortune 500 experience.

“Be relentlessly reliable,” he says. “Reliability is a cornerstone of business and a fine core personal attribute. Businesses may not often need brilliant bursts of artistic creativity, but they always need the trains to run on time.”

For example, try to become a go-to person by developing as many skills as possible. The more you can do within a company, and the more you can learn about its operations, the more relevant you are to its goals.

Your attitude and willingness to work do matter too. Try to be consistently collaborative. In projects involving multiple participants with conflicting views and opinions, the person who can react effectively with all kinds of people is appreciated.

Also, create strong, enduring relationships. In the corporate world, networking has been and always will be an influential factor regardless of an individual’s status in the company. As much as others may profess that professional advancement is based on merit, individual relationships do have their roles in any company, large or small.

Think about ways and means of resolving an issue that may have been gnawing at the company for years. Although some of these problems are unique to each organization, the more common challenges include containing costs, improving production processes, and discovering new markets for established products.

Be a self-starter. Try to identify obstacles before they get worse. Try to be valued as a team member who tries to make difficult decisions easier.

Keep in mind that any solution you propose is likely to be met with skepticism; if not, the issue most likely would have been solved long ago. Should you succeed–or even make noticeable progress–your efforts could advance your career in ways you had not imagined.

Finally, try to make your boss look good (and if possible, his boss too). This sense can set you apart, showcase potential, and promote an ability to think beyond current circumstances.

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Business

Wait a minute! Gossip is normal?

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Throughout early childhood and beyond, we’re told not to talk about anyone behind their back.

That’s gossip and gossip is bad.

But, is all gossip bad?

According to some experts, including those at the Harvard Business Review, gossip is an integral part of life itself, not just the office culture.

“We learn who we are through what people say to us and about us,” says Kathleen Reardon, Professor of Management at the University of Southern California. “We want to connect to people.”
“Research shows that everyone participates in all kinds of gossip — positive, neutral, and negative,” says Joe LaBianca, Associate Professor of Management at the University of Kentucky. Idle talk also provides information that can be useful to your career and work.

Linda Hill agrees. “Gossip happens all the time, so you’re going to hear it,” says the Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Listening to office banter is a relevant way of hearing what is transpiring within the company. Informal exchanges of information can be just as useful as formal ones.

Because some gossip is negative, it is crucial to differentiate between the harmful and useful.

Negative judgements about someone’s family or personal life cross the line. To say John is going on vacation is probably not a secret. But to imply that John is wasting money on another expensive vacation — that’s the worst kind of gossip. That sort of gossip reflects badly, not just on John, but the gossiper as well.

Similarly, gossip about company personnel matters or other confidential information puts the company and the gossiper at risk.

Talking about shared interests and people is natural, but temper your comments with prudence and charity. Remember the person receiving that information is going to use it to evaluate your character.

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Business

Opportunities for disabled workers at small businesses

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Two tax credits make it more affordable to accommodate disabled workers in small business.

According to Small Business Trends, The Disabled Access Credit guarantees a credit of up to $5,000 on expenditures of up to $10,250 for modifying equipment, hiring sign language interpreters, providing Braille documents and more.

The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction allows for a tax deduction of up to $15,000 for building new ramps, curb cuts, parking spaces, and other accessibility options at their place of business to accommodate those with special needs.

Generally, the disabled population has a harder time securing full-time employment and statistics show that the unemployment rate among this group was around 8 percent in 2017 compared to 4.1 percent of the non-disabled population. Employers may avoid hiring disabled workers because they feel as though it would be difficult to fire them for poor performance or they don’t understand or don’t want to deal with accommodating someone with special needs.

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What are small business accelerators and incubators?

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Small business accelerators and incubators can provide crucial help to new and growing small businesses in the form of support, direction, and funding, according to Inc. Magazine.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, survival rates for participants in new business incubation programs is 87 percent after five years compared to 44 percent of groups that don’t use the services.

Incubator programs come in at the beginning stages of a startup, and their focus is on providing office space, skills training, networking opportunities, mentorship, and some access to financing. Accelerator programs are aimed at new, but more mature, businesses that need to step up growth.

According to Small Business Trends, incubator programs took off during the 1980s when universities began providing these services to their entrepreneurial students to help get them off the ground. Even today, many startup incubators are educational or government nonprofits that aren’t able to provide much capital investment themselves but instead focus on slow growth and ongoing support. For-profit incubators can, however, offer more early-stage funding in exchange for equity and partial control of the company.

As their name implies, accelerators are meant to take a young company and help it rapidly expand. During the course of months-long, boot camp-style programs, incubators focus on specific development projects and tight deadlines meant to scale a business to profitability while sorting out any issues with strategy, operations, and organization.

According to Harvard Business Review, there were almost 200 accelerators in the U.S. between 2005-2015 that collectively invested in more than 5,000 new businesses with a total of $19.5 billion in capital. While joining such programs will by no means ensure success, many successful names such as AirBnB, Dropbox, and Stripe were able to leverage the access to high-profile investors and mentors to grow their valuations over the $1 billion mark.

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Five qualities of a successful entrepreneur

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Dreaming of starting a business? Wondering what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur? While there’s no one tried-and-true recipe, here are five qualities that successful entrepreneurs tend to have.

1. Leadership
Good entrepreneurs are go-getters who forge out a path through thick and thin. They are effective communicators who know how to rally, influence, motivate and inspire others.

2. Creativity

They’re forward-thinking individuals who are able to create a concept, an approach or a product that has long-term viability.

3. FOREsight
They’re possessed of a good deal of farsightedness, which is needed to look ahead and plan out the strategies needed to take their enterprise in the right direction.

4. Tenacity
Entrepreneurs never give up: they persevere despite obstacles. They work relentlessly, consistently managing to find ways to overcome the problems at hand.

5. Audacity
They’re risk-takers who rise to the challenge of finding success where others have failed. It’s not a question of recklessness, but rather of being able to weigh and tolerate the risks.

These are the secret ingredients shared by most successful entrepreneurs. If this sounds like you, chances are you too may be able to launch and run a successful business of your own.

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