6 Useless But All-Too-Common Expenses That Turn Your Business Into a Money Pit

It takes a lot of money to keep a small business going – especially if you’re trying to make that business grow. When money is so important, every single cent needs to be spent wisely.

Many small businesses wind up spending a lot more money than they actually need to spend. Those funds would be better off allocated for growth or expansion. Cut the fluff out of your budget and use your newfound cash to help you build a brighter future.

Unnecessary Office Supplies

You’re always going to need office supplies, but changing the way you do things can reduce the amount you’ll spend. Going paperless is one of the easiest ways to save money. Keeping things digital allows you to save on paper, recycling, toner, and printing supplies. Many small businesses burn through mountains of these materials, and paperless businesses barely use them. Going paperless also makes your business eco-friendly, and that’s never a bad thing.

Leasing a Huge Building

You need to give yourself some room to grow for the next year or two, but not for the next decade. While it is a wise move to opt for an office space or retail space that will give everyone some room to move, it’s not a wise idea to overspend on something that you’ll never completely use. It may be wiser to choose a shorter lease on something slightly smaller. If you have your heart set on that huge building, try to negotiate the lease. You might be able to get it for a little less.

High Health Insurance Costs

You need your employees to be healthy, and offering decent insurance is a surefire way to attract top talent. There’s something else you can do that would benefit both your business and your employees. Start a wellness program. A wellness program is much less expensive than high insurance costs, and people who prioritize their wellness are a little less likely to need to use their insurance. Offer up some healthy snacks and partner up with a local gym for a discounted membership. Encourage your employees to use their sick days to discourage them from spreading germs around the office.

Advertising to the Whole World

Small businesses want to acquire as many customers as possible. They take to the internet to spread their message far and wide in an attempt to be heard by the right people. The problem with that overzealous approach is that casting a wide net is expensive. In addition to its hefty cost, it’s more of a gamble when it comes to locating an ideal customer.

Focusing on highly targeted ads will help you obtain customers and spread your message with little effort. If you don’t sell your products online, limit your advertising to people who live within a tight radius of your physical location. If you do sell online within your country, only advertise to people who fit your demographic within that country. It’s the most efficient way to spend your ad dollars. When you expand your business, you can begin to expand your reach.

Having Too Many Employees

It takes a lot to run a small business, and this means you’ll need people to make things run smoothly. Hiring people whom you can barely afford to pay may hinder you more than help you. It might be worthwhile to spend a little more on a rock star employee who is content to wear many hats, rather than paying several people the minimum to deliver an average amount of effort. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to small business employees.

You can also reduce workload by automating as many processes as possible. The right tools can help you achieve a whole day’s work in just a few hours. Don’t do anything manually unless it absolutely requires live human involvement.

Failing to Follow Rules and Regulations

Making legal mistakes is one of the most expensive situations a small business can wind up in. Small businesses try their best, but sometimes fail to secure the right permits or licenses they need to operate or expand the way they’ve planned. Running a business is a learning experience, but you can’t afford to learn with your money.

It might be worthwhile to retain a lawyer for your small business. You need someone to look over the money, the rules, and the licenses as you grow and change. A lawyer might seem expensive now, but nothing is more expensive than finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Many small businesses work with tight budgets, but sometimes those budgets are tighter than they need to be. Keep a close eye on the books to be sure you’re not tossing away the funding for your success.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana Downer is an avid finance blogger from Sydney, Australia, currently writing on behalf of Learn to Trade– money and finance experts. Interested in all things connected to growing a stable income, Alana might often be found online, sharing her financial tips and participating in discussions. Feel free to reach out to her on @alanadownerLTT.

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to net working can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business, if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as ice breakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals, but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.

Cross-Promotion

If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

If you are looking for financial assistance to invest in your business, look no further than IOU Financial. Our company supports small businesses with easy and quick loans. Contact us today to learn how you can get a secured loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

Benefits of the 401k Retirement Plan for Small Business Employers and Employees

Today’s employees are looking for more than just a salary—they want benefits. Millennials and those from Generation X, especially, are more financially invested in their future than previous generations and are committed to saving for their future.

A company that wants to both recruit top candidates and keep their valuable employees loyal should consider offering a 401k plan to their staff members. Although this is not a terribly big investment for small businesses, it can go a long way in showing that they care about their team members and their future.

What is a 401K?

401k is an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the most popular of its kind in the United States. Employees are able to defer a portion of their salaries to this retirement plan, which is used to invest in mutual funds primarily, as well as stocks and bonds.

This is a defined-contribution plan where the amount of funds the employees invest and the performance of the funds they invest in determine the balance of the account.

Although they are not obligated to do so, some employers choose to contribute to the employee’s plan, often matching the contributions up to a specific percentage.

This plan does come with certain legal limitations, such as an investment cap of $19,000 for individuals and $56,000 for joint contributions for employers and employees for 2019. Individuals who are 50 years of age or older can contribute an additional $6,000 individually and $62,000 as joint contributions.

Another limitation is the ability to withdraw funds from this plan, which is only allowed upon the age of 59 ½, when the employee changes jobs, retires, becomes disabled or passes away. Some plans allow for withdrawal of funds during a certain hardship as well. If the funds are withdrawn prior to the allowable time, the funds will be counted and taxed as ordinary income and will be charged a penalty.

The plan calls for required minimum distributions (RMDs), which are mandatory withdrawals once the account holder reaches 70 ½ years of age.

Benefits of the 401k for Employees

The 401k is qualified by the IRS, so the funds transferred are eligible for tax benefits. The advantages of the 401k for the employees include a tax break on the contributions deferred to the account as well as a reduction in taxable income.

Let’s say an employee earns $10,000 per month, and contributes 5% of that amount to the 401k plan. That monthly $500 will be transferred to the retirement account tax free, and the employee’s taxable annual income will be reduced from $120,000 to $114,000.

Benefits of the 401k for Employers

The 401k also offers tax breaks for employers for the contributions they add to their staff’s retirement plans.

In additional to the financial savings, offering an employer-sponsored retirement plan will help companies attract and retain top talent. In the current climate, where 55 million Americans do not have a retirement savings plan, and the number is larger in employees of small companies, this benefit would be a big advantage for staff members.

If you are interested in offering this benefit to your employees but need financial assistance in doing so, contact IOU Financial. We work with small business to help them finance their goals. We offer easy and fast loans of up to $300,000.

7 Smart Bookkeeping Tips Every Small Business Can’t Live Without

For small business owners, bookkeeping serves as their personal scorecard. Numbers show your success and failure and give a quantifiable shape to your business results

In a small business benefit, your future is on the line. You need to have a good overview of all the expenses and revenue. Perfect bookkeeping can save you a lot of time, money, and nerves.

To help you establish an effective bookkeeping strategy, we’ve assembled this 7-tip list. If you like assessing the numbers and want to keep crucial business matters in your own hands, bookkeeping is the way out. Let’s explore more.

Never mix personal and business finances

For an up-and-coming brand manager or CEO, it may be tempting to achieve as much as possible in as little time as possible.

The over-dynamic outlook could lead to severe financial consequences. In a lot of cases, company heads will use company money for personal expenses and vice versa. Doing so will only cause additional chaos.

When your business is only starting, spending a lot of money is an attractive thought. To prevent tax-related headaches, issue a business credit card along with a separate business account. Taking care of this takes mere minutes and allows you to earn your company a proper credit rating.

“One might find it surprising that a lot of small businesses and startups fail because of improper financial allocation,” explains Josh McCarty, a marketing and economics writer at Brilliantassignment.co.uk. “Separate your finances because mistakes will happen once your business grows.”

Make use of automation

Bookkeeping was once considered a difficult and time-consuming activity. Accountants and bookkeepers had to do everything manually, but a lot has changed in recent years. With the development of AI technology and automated software, bookkeeping has never been easier. There are no more tedious instances of manually creating spreadsheets.

Bookkeeping software makes our lives easier. For one, the data you need is stored in the cloud. Unlike physical storage, cloud storage is safe from any compromising.

No matter the conditions or situation, your data will be stored safely. In addition to this initial security feature, small businesses should immediately connect their banking accounts to bookkeeping software.

By establishing this connection, you will ensure that your books are up to date and that there is no need for last minute checks.

Do regular check-ups

Most bookkeepers and companies keep track of their reports and records on a quarterly basis. A tip that will make your life easier is to check your reports on a weekly basis. The interval here will give you enough time to grow your business, but you’ll also be able to identify any changes in your revenue.

Having a clear overview of your transactions and the overall financial state is a business advantage you deserve to have.

With each new product launch or a promotion, you can see how good the move was by looking at the reports. By analyzing reports from a certain period, you can see if a move was successful or not. If it was, you can repeat it and invest more money or stop implementing it if it was a failure.

Use tracking software to monitor your employees’ hours

Running a small business can face you against some hardships. If you have a dedicated team of employees, tracking their hours might be somewhat difficult manually.

Without knowing exactly how much has someone worked, you risk budgets deficits, imprecise payments and other spending that you don’t need. To prevent this from happening, have your entire small business use time tracking software.

Employees will also find the change refreshing. With time tracking software, they will know exactly how much they’re being owed and when they have vacation time and what was their sick time.

Bookkeeping will be much easier, and your small business will grow exponentially. Integrate the tracking software and the time tracking software for ultimate efficiency and swiftness.

Always track business expenses

Brand growth is something everyone wants to feel, but not to experience. Why is this the case? When small businesses grow, there is another echelon of responsibilities that you have to take over.

Business expenses are just one of them. Even though you might feel good about having a bigger budget, you will find it annoying to file tax reports. Overspending is often a case, and precisely because of that, you need to track your business expenses.

When traveling, make sure you keep every receipt and categorize it accordingly. There are several apps that allow you to scan the receipts and store them on the cloud.

The move might seem simple, but it’s a bookkeeping tip that every small business can’t survive without. By tracking your business expenses, managing your budget and filing tax reports will be much easier.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

At the beginning of every company’s life, you can most certainly handle all numbers by using off-the-shelf software. However, once you start experiencing growth, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks needed.

Keeping track of everything is important, but many companies tend to shut down because they’re hesitant to hire a professional.

Although it may seem like hiring a professional bookkeeper is unnecessary spending, it’s a massive benefit that can save you a whole fortune. Letting a professional handle your bookkeeping will free up valuable time you can use to focus on making your business grow. Associating yourself with a professional is an investment for the future.

Have your deadlines and tax obligations in a visible place

Bookkeeping is both monitoring the growth of your company and working from deadline to deadline. From tax reports to building business credit, it’s always beneficial.

Tax reports have to be filed, but even the most important deadlines can be missed if you’re overwhelmed. Thus, before undertaking anything new, you should write down all upcoming deadlines and obligations.

Having visible dates will allow you to run your small business without unnecessary stress. Additionally, missing deadlines and ignoring obligations will only bring you problems with the law.

The IRS has many useful tools for calibrating your calendar. If you’re more of an old-fashioned person, you can write them down on a piece of paper. Knowing your deadlines allows you to plan accordingly and increase revenue.

To conclude

Every small business relies on impeccable bookkeeping. Implementing these tips will require minimal effort and bring you maximal results. Remember to always be organized, prepared, and aware of upcoming deadlines. With recent developments in technology, you will rely on software to do the heavy lifting. Just by implementing these tips, you will ensure a fast and beneficial period of business growth.

Guest Post: About the Author

Scott Mathews is a professional content writer in such topics as bookkeeping, work productivity and marketing. Scott`s the biggest passion is blogging and travelling. He regularly takes part in different career growth conferences and contributes his posts to different  websites. Contact him on Facebook and Twitter.

5 Online Courses to Develop Your Management Skills

As a business owner,  it is important to have the developed skills of a leader alongside other hard skills that will benefit your company. Nowadays, people learn various stuff online, from foreign languages to cooking and programming.  There are hundreds of courses available online and most of them are free. Those that have to be paid for, are still significantly cheaper than offline lessons. Browse this list of 5 of the most effective online courses that will turn you into an awesome leader in no time!

Becoming a manager, Lynda

Lynda is an online learning platform developed by LinkedIn. It offers 1 month free trial and you can try any of the lessons for this period. Taking a course will give you a good idea of the qualities a good manager must possess to be useful for the team and company in general. During this time, you’ll get to know your strengths, discover your personal motivation, and learn how to build a good relationship between you and your employees. Also, you will learn how to hire the right people, how to connect, motivate and engage with your team, and act as a coach and role model for your team.

Management course, Alison

Courses on Alison are specialized to suit your own needs. Here we suggest you try not only one lesson, but complete all three courses to make sure that you’re becoming a qualified specialist. Whether you focus on managing people, individual projects, quality, or corporate leadership, there is an opportunity for you to learn from these courses. You can also try a diploma program that is offered in specialty areas. Taking these programs will ensure your success in the field.

Beginning Project Management, Udemy

In this course at Udemy, you will learn the absolute basics of Private Management. You’ll discover the big picture of it and its life cycle. By the end of the program, you’ll have a great grasp of what Private Management is about, what your roles and responsibilities as a Private Manager will be, and how to move forward in your career.

Growing as a Manager, Future Learn

What differs this program from the previous ones in this list? It has been developed by The Open University Business School – a pioneering institution that is triple accredited by Chartered Management Institute (CMI) – the leading authority on leadership in the UK. Even if you are not planning to work in Great Britain, this online certification will turn your professional skills to the new level.

Business Strategy, EDX

A qualified business owner must not be only the leader and a good team player. They must know how to develop the business. One of the fundamentals of professional development for managers is mastering of business strategy essentials. What helps people to improve their position in the marketplace? A good strategy does. To execute an effective strategy, a specialist must have a grasp of specific tools and frameworks. That is exactly what Business strategy course from Wharton will give to you. Here you’ll gain knowledge that will make you competent enough to evaluate your strategic environment in the present and the future, and engage you in a strategic planning process that works.

Guest Post: About the Author 

Judy Nelson is a writer at https://eduzaurus.com/ whose main topics are dedicated to management issues of different kinds. She used to share her thoughts with all those who were interested in getting useful information on business topics mostly. Her life motto is: “A good leader has to have a purpose that is larger than his daily duties are, and the balanced personality and skills to put that purpose into action.”

Five Tips to Be a Happier, More Balanced Business Owner

If you run a small business, you probably have become accustomed to working hard….really hard. Seven-days-a-week hard, with nary a day off. Admirable, but also dangerous, because you risk burnout, health problems, and grumbling employees. It’s up to you to create a healthier work-life balance, so here are five tips to get you started:

Shorten your workweek:

Nowadays, many business owners feel guilty if they work less than 10 hours a day, including weekends. This is sure to exhaust your mind and hamper your creativity. If you want to increase your productivity, shorten your workweek. Put in no more than 40 per week and try to not work on weekends. Remember, sitting at your desk for long hours doesn’t equate to productivity. Work the hours you actually need to and relax the rest of the time.

Use technology:

We live in the high-tech era, so let technology do some of the heavy lifting for you. Automate your workday with a suite of apps that collect, process and distribute information. AI apps can automatically generate your Twitter tweets, schedule your appointments and alert you to important news. Update your old apps – email campaigns are much more sophisticated than they were five years ago, so use a modern app to manage your email marketing.

Enter the cloud:

Are your data and apps still residing on a hard disk on your computer? That’s a shame, because migrating to the cloud opens up all sorts of possibilities that can make you more productive and save you time. Look at apps like accounting, CRM, design and development. They need to share data to operate most efficiently. By putting your databases on the cloud, you can take advantage of scalable software that is constantly updated and doesn’t take up valuable real estate on your computer.

Take a vacation:

If you feel you are indispensable all the time, you’ll never get any time off. You deserve a vacation, and two weeks of sun and fun will do wonders for helping you get through the remaining 50. Pick your least busy time of year, and either close up shop or assign tasks to employees you can trust. Maybe two weeks is out of reach right now, but try to get at least three or four days in a block, and build from there.

Stop fretting about money:

Many small businesses have variable cash flows that sometimes leaves them cash-starved. This constant worry will drain all the joy out of being a business owner. The solution is to create a relationship with a trustworthy business lender, like IOU Financial. You can borrow and pay back quickly on convenient terms, with never a pre-payment penalty. Daily or weekly payments mean no large monthly lump-sum repayments to worry about. And with loans up to $300,000, we can give you peace of mind for just about any circumstance.

You started your own business to make money, be your own boss and do things the way you want. But wasn’t the ultimate goal to achieve a happy life? Don’t wait until it’s too late – add some joy to your life right now. Adopt our five tips, plus ones you come across in other articles. If you work with a team, what better way to demonstrate the value you place on work-life balance than to practice it yourself? Protect yourself from burnout now, and you’re more likely to happily remain in business over the long run.

Seasonal Business? How to Prep for Your Slow Times

Seasonality is both a blessing and a curse for a small business. The blessing is that you have a great opportunity to capture the bulk of your annual revenues during the busy times. However, the prospect of one or more slack months in which revenue is punk but bills still have to be paid can truly seem like a curse. The saving grace is that seasonality is, by definition, predictable, which gives you a chance to prepare for the slow months. Here are some tips to shepherd your business through the lean times:

Understand your fixed and variable costs:

Naturally, you’ll need to cover your fixed costs, although it might be possible to postpone some of them. Variable costs seldom go to zero during slow seasons, but you do have the opportunity to slash them significantly. Adjust your monthly budget to reflect your reduced spending. If you find your cash won’t cover your expenses, contact IOU Financial for a quick business loan, often is as little as 48 hours. Our loans are easy to pay back without putting an undue strain on your cash flow. Because these loans are short-term, your total interest costs are tightly constrained.

Conserve your cash:

Build up your cash reserves during the busy season so that you can enter the slow months with a cushion. Once the slack season begins, execute your budget imperatives, including labor reductions and furloughs. A good strategy for seasonal businesses is to maintain only a minimal employee count and fill with hourly temps during the busy seasons. You can postpone inventory purchases until the end of the slow months and consider factoring your accounts receivable to speed up cash collections.

See the world:

Your vacation schedule will no doubt coincide with your slow season. This is especially feasible for mom-and-pop businesses. If you own an ice-cream store in Maine, then it makes sense to shutter the store during the winter and head off to warm climes. Your variable costs will be reduced to the greatest extent with this strategy.

Renegotiate with your suppliers:

Speak to your suppliers about your seasonal requirements and work out better credit terms during the slow period. For example, if your normal terms are 2/10 net 30, see about extending the payment due date to 60 or 90 days. If you’ve been a good customer, your suppliers will be more likely to accommodate your request. After all, suppliers want you to succeed, and it makes no sense for them to force you out of business and thereby lose a customer.

Adjust your marketing plans:

If you don’t have the ability to shut your business during the slow season, try bringing in more customers through sales events and promotions. You can program special events like raffles, classes, and bonus loyalty points for the slack periods.

Shore up your social media footprint:

If you have extra time during the slow period, put it to good use by increasing your social presence. Exploit your accounts on Facebook and Twitter to push out information about your special promotions. Start up or re-engage a newsletter and/or email campaign with useful and timely content that elicits readership.

IOU Financial provides affordable small business loans of up to $300,000, funded in as little as 48 hours. You won’t ever be charged upfront fees, and fixed daily or weekly repayments rids you of large, scary monthly payments. If seasonality is your business’ problem, then IOU Financial is your solution. Contact us today to learn more about how we can get you through the slow season in good shape.

Small Business Best Practices 2018

Best practices involve business owners finding and using ideas from outside their company to help improve performance and morale in the workforce. Operating a small business can be a challenging process at times, but small businesses can receive substantial benefits through professional development. Here is a list of the best practices that small business owners should focus on this year:

Have A Solid Foundation

Being successful starts at the core of the business. Owners should make sure that they have a solid team in place. Small business owners should look to hire people who share their passion and dedication to achieving success. Owners should hire employees based on the demand for their services. Small business owners should only consider hiring someone when the business is suffering from being short staffed.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations for all employees and demanding accountability can make a huge impact. Small business owners should consider bringing all the managers and executives together monthly to discuss each department in the business. This is a good opportunity for small business owners to give and receive feedback.

Be Punctual

A common trait among successful business owners is that they are always on time. Staying on time will help small business owners develop better relationships with their partners and clients. Punctuality holds the business owner accountable and helps your day run a little bit smoother.

Small business owners should respond to any questions or concerns that a customer has in a timely manner. The faster that the business responds, the more impressed a customer will be.

Avoid only responding when a client initiates the dialogue. Try to answer questions in advance. Never let a client feel that the business doesn’t value their support.

Avoid Getting an Ego

Many small business owners can be stubborn at times. However, the most successful owners aren’t bothered by criticism or feedback. Business owners must be good listeners, willing to accept that things may not be going well and focus on the changes that need to be made.

Use Updated Technology

Running a business can be complex at times, as there are multiple variables that can impact outcomes. Small business owners should rely on data. Using data based decision making allows small business owners to take an objective viewpoint and keep track of important records. Protect yourself and your employees by installing cyber security systems.

Document Everything

When small business owners provide clear documentation for everything, that promotes transparency. Employees should have a clear idea of what is being asked of them. Documentation makes it easy for owners to bring on new employees while also stopping the business from being over reliant on a few employees.

Market Your Business

Your small business may not be a branding giant but there are small marketing steps to take to make your business more visible.

  • Stay active on social media accounts
  • Use paid advertising
  • Promote special events or sales
  • Make sure your contact information is updated and available

Marketing your business will increase revenue and your customers while also helping you connect to the community around you.

Always Think About the Future

Small business owners should incorporate policies that will be successful right now and in the coming years down the line. Owners should constantly look ahead so that they can continue evolving and avoid becoming outdated. Stay consistent and focus on the longevity of your business.

Emphasizing Customer Service

The most successful businesses have made proving excellent customer service a major point of emphasis. Dealing with unhappy customers is something that every business will have to deal with at some point. If the business handles the complaint with professionalism, that will enhance their reputation in the industry.

Save Money

Small business owners should try to put aside at least $1,000 to $1,500 a month. That way they can have a peace of mind concerning their finances and avoid fears of going out of business. Many business owners have said that getting their finances in order has helped their relationships with vendors.

Embody Your Mission Statement

Create a mission statement if you do not already have and let that be the heart of your business. Small business owners should enjoy the process of creativity. People and products are important, look to surround yourself with good people and strive to create innovative products.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for NextGen Wealth. She often produces content for a variety of business blogs.

Are You Interviewing Wrong?

When a valuable employee has moved on from your organization, or there is a need for additional manpower to handle growing responsibilities, management may want to fill that position as soon as possible. However, it is imperative to give this process the time it deserves in order to hire a candidate that would fit all the criteria needed to make a valuable addition to the team.

It’s frustrating when a new hire doesn’t work out, and this can negatively affect the team’s productivity and company culture. If your department doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto new hires for a reasonable time, it’s time to consider if you may be interviewing wrong. Learning better strategies to this process will help you choose the right candidate from the get go.

Interview Mistake #1: Choosing Someone You Like

As people, we tend to gravitate towards people we like, typically those that are similar to us. You may bond with a person because they are from your hometown, or like the same sports team. While it’s important to like your colleagues, you must strive to use objective criteria instead of subjective criteria during the interview.

It may be advantageous to utilize a job screening assessment when recruiting new employees. This is a test that evaluates a potential candidate’s knowledge and skills in a specific area. Whether you choose a computer test or a paper test, the answers will give you a comprehensive view of the person’s expertise in the area, and a preview of how valuable they could be to the team.

That being said, it’s also not a good idea to hire someone when you have no gut feeling that they will work out. If a person seems rude, arrogant or simply disinterested, don’t hire them just because they aced their job assessment.

Interview Mistake #2: Not Asking for Input From Multiple People

Most employees don’t meet their new colleague until their first day on the job, which is too late for them to provide their input. Instead of single handedly selecting a new employee, utilize the peer-to-peer interviewing technique, which allows existing employees to interview potential candidates on a one-on-one-basis.

This provides several benefits to both the interviewer and the interviewee; your staff members can evaluate their potential new coworker and ask questions to see how they would fit into the team. The interviewee can use the opportunity to ask questions about the working hours, management style, and typical day on the job which they may not have been comfortable asking leadership.

Improving your interview process with simple adjustments can help you make a better decision about bringing on the right candidate. Remember to discuss the criteria most important to the team, and focus on assessing whether the individual meets those criteria.

Guest post: About the Author

Grace Ma is a Managing Director at Ex-Consultants Agency (ECA). ECA is a specialized executive search firm that focuses on placing former management consultants into project-based and full-time roles. Before joining ECA, Grace worked as an Engagement Manager at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) and VP of Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Parental Leave and Small Business – How to Do What’s Best for Your Business AND Your Employees

Small business owners have come to realize that allowing employees to take parental leave is a good policy despite its costs.

It’s a great way to recruit and retain good employees, plus provides these benefits to you:

  • Employees are more likely to return to work after taking time off after having a baby
  • You have the opportunity to cross-train other employees to fill in for a person out on parental leave
  • You can train junior employees to take on new responsibilities
  • It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at how you distribute responsibilities within your company
  • Generally, employee morale will be higher if you offer parental leave, a fact than can save you money by helping you to avoid frequent turnover

If your company has 50 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave is optional for companies with fewer than 50 employees, at least from the viewpoint of federal law. However, your state might have parental leave laws that apply to you. These laws provide job protection for a specified number of weeks when parental leave is needed.

Parental leave is indeed popular – 80% of employees at small companies would take advantage of it, according to the Family and Work Institute. Of course, any paid portion of the leave will only serve to increase its popularity. An interesting statistic is that 91% of small businesses that provide paid parental leave report no noticeable effect on performance and profitability, according to ThinkGrowth.

It makes sense for your company to devise a parental leave policy that meets your needs and those of your employees. Your policy should be included in your employee handbook so that all the terms are understood by all.

The policy should spell out features like:

  • Scope: Under what circumstances can employees take parental leave – maternity, adoption, accepting a foster child, etc. – and whether it applies to both parents.
  • Benefit: How much leave time can employees take, and whether they will be expected to work from home.
  • Pay: How many leave days, if any, will be paid.
  • Notification: How far in advance must an employee request parental leave.

When an employee requests parental leave, a manager or the owner should review the employee’s duties and methods with other employees who will be filling in during the leave period. It’s important not to overload other employees, which might require the hiring of temporary workers. The review process should encourage brainstorming to see whether more efficient methods are available.

It’s a good idea to build relationships with freelancers or staffing firms so that a ready source of temporary labor is available during parental leaves. While employees appreciate the opportunity to take parental leave, they don’t want to be burned out by assuming the work of employees on leave in addition to their own workload.

Employee abuse appears to be rare. Employers should require some sort of documentation for non-obvious (i.e. other than maternity) situations. Employers can add flexibility to parental leave by allowing employees to use saved up vacation days and sick time to provide some paid time during the leave.