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Five Ideas to Attract Staff During the Great Resignation

You’re not alone if you’re having trouble attracting and keeping staff. A convergence of issues has created one of the greatest talent shortages in our lifetimes. With boomers retiring in large numbers, pandemic and opioid deaths, people not wanting to work for low wages, child care availability disappearing, tighter immigration policies, people rethinking their life choices, and so many other factors, it’s no wonder small businesses are having trouble finding workers.

The good news is small business owners still have a lot in their control to be able to attract the perfect candidate to our workplaces. Here are some ideas to help you do just that.

  1. Be open to multiple options when it comes to what an employee looks like

If you require a 40-hours-a-week, onsite worker who has to dress in formal clothes to come to work, you need to rethink everything. Many talented people are choosing to work part time, and it might just be easier to find two part-time workers instead of one full-time employee.

How much of the job can they do virtually?  This opens up your hiring pool nationally and perhaps even internationally. Consider also temporary versus permanent. And consider outsourcing certain functions as well.

The key is to be open to creative ways to get the job done.

  1. Make fun a vital part of your workplace

Even if there are numerous deadlines and serious work to be done, your workplace can still be fun. A good start is bringing food to work; camaraderie always blossoms around food.

Add in extra activities like movie or games night, take weekly team lunches, start an amateur sports team, or encourage co-worker get-togethers after work. Decorate the office for each holiday, and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and employee successes. Create fun projects such as a volunteer day for a local charity, or support a team entry at a local fun run.

In short, create a culture where employees can not only have fun, but be themselves.

  1. Add perks, and not just the usual suspects

Employees are demanding more of their employers, and the best businesses are listening and delivering. Beyond increased pay and the usual benefits – 401K, health insurance, vacation, and PTO – here are some new additions:

  • Flex hours – more say in when they work
  • Work-at-home days – more people are working at home at least part of the time
  • Pet insurance – a New England CPA firm offers this to workers now
  • Extra PTO – one marketing agency in Texas provides unlimited PTO, no questions asked
  • Child care – any way to make this easy on parents is a plus

Other perks to think about are holiday gifts, bonuses, free dry cleaning, free car washes, and employee discounts.

  1. Embrace technology

Employees want the best tools you can give them so they can do a good job.  Be sure your employees are fitted with the latest hardware and software so there is less stress around the inevitable tech glitches that occur. There’s nothing worse than having a deadline and coming across a software glitch that wastes precious time.

  1. Apply marketing techniques to hiring

Instead of posting the old boring job ad, create a campaign to find employees. Make sure your social media is up to date and mirrors the fun culture of your organization. Be sure to look in places you may not have traditionally looked for candidates. Create a job interview process that’s interesting and enthusiastic. You’re definitely competing for talent, so doing all of these things will help you win.

We may be in a period of staff shortages, but there are still millions of people who want to work. Do just a little more for your employees and candidates than the small business down the street, and they will want to keep working for you.

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How to Reconstruct Tax Records After a Disaster

While it’s not always possible to prevent an emergency, you can reduce the likelihood that an emergency will become a disaster by being prepared.  Here are some tips to do just that.

  • Store your documents in a waterproof and fireproof safe that is convenient to access.
  • Make copies of your important documents—store paper copies in a different location than the originals. If making digital copies, store them in the cloud and/or on a portable storage device
  • Make an inventory of your documents—critical documents to protect include identity documents, court orders, property records, financial and legal documents, and medical records.

In the event that you suffer a loss to your records, the IRS has helpful tips for reconstructing them.

  • For tax records, get free tax return transcripts instantly by visiting the Get Transcript tool on IRS.gov.
  • To request a copy of past returns by mail, file IRS Form 4506 and (if applicable) write the appropriate disaster designation, such as “HURRICANE HARVEY” in red letters across the top of the forms to expedite processing and waive the normal fee.
  • For personal residence and real estate, take photos or videos as soon after the disaster as possible. Contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of your home to get copies of documents.  Establish a basis or fair market value of the home by reviewing comparable sales within the same neighborhood.  Review insurance policies, as they will establish a baseline figure for replacement value.  If improvements were made to the home, reach out to the contractors who did the work to see if records are available.  For inherited property, check court records for probate values.  If the property was held in a trust, contact the attorney who handled the trust.
  • To establish the current fair market value of vehicles, research online tools such as Kelley Blue Book. If the vehicle was purchased from a dealership, ask for a copy of the purchase contract.
  • To catalogue lost items and values of personal property, look on mobile phones for pictures that might show items in question. Check websites that can help establish the cost and fair market value.  If items were purchased with a credit or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank to request past statements. When no photos or videos exist, draw a floorplan showing where each piece of furniture was placed and take the time to list memorabilia contained on shelves and tables.

If you have been a victim of a disaster, you have far more important things to worry about than your taxes. Let us help you take that burden away so you can stay in compliance with the IRS and get on with more important things in life.

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Understanding Sales Conversion Metrics

How effective is your sales function in your business? One way to answer that question at a deep level is to calculate conversion metrics for every step of your sales cycle. These numbers are not tied to any numbers on your balance sheet or income statement, but can help you realize a better return on your sales and marketing expenses.

Your Sales Cycle

The sales process is different for every business. If the dollar amount of the customer purchase is small, the sales cycle needs to be very short or it won’t be efficient. For larger purchases, the sales cycle might be longer.

The first step in determining conversion metrics is to outline the steps a typical prospect takes before they become a customer. Here are a few examples:

Retail example.

  1. Prospect walks into store.
  2. Sales clerk interacts.
  3. Prospect selects item(s).
  4. If clothing, they may visit a dressing room and try it on.
  5. Prospect stands in checkout line.
  6. Customer completes purchase.

Ecommerce example.

  1. Prospect visits website and uses search or navigation.
  2. Prospect views lists of products.
  3. Prospect views product page.
  4. Prospect places product in cart.
  5. Customer completes checkout.

Service example.

  1. Prospect sends email requesting more info or an appointment.
  2. Customer service/sales clerk responds to email.
  3. Prospect makes appointment.
  4. Salesperson and prospect meet.
  5. Sales person perform follow-up activities.
  6. Prospect agrees to price/purchase.
  7. Client signs contract and pays initial deposit.

For each step in the processes above, the prospect can fail to proceed to the next step. Conversion is measured at each step with the percentage of prospects that proceed to the next step.

Not all steps are worth measuring. Sales and marketing personnel must agree on when a prospect becomes a viable lead. Measurements should occur from lead to customer.

Let’s expand on the service example.

  1. Prospect sends email requesting more info or an appointment.
  2. Customer service/sales clerk responds to email.
  3. Prospect makes appointment.

The first meaningful conversion can be calculated between steps one and three. Let’s say in the month of November, the company received 100 emails from prospects requesting more info and 50 made appointments. The conversion rate is calculated as follows:

# Appointments made (step 3)  / # prospect emails received (step 1) = 50/100 = 50%

To improve the 50 percent conversion rate, ask yourself what can be done between steps one and three to improve the prospect-facing activities.

Here’s another example:

  1. Salesperson and prospect meet.
  2. Salesperson performs follow-up activities.
  3. Prospect agrees to price/purchase.
  4. Client signs contract and pays initial deposit.

The second meaningful conversion rate in the service sales process can be calculated between steps four and seven. (You could also measure 3-4, 4-6 and 6-7.) Let’s say 40 appointments were kept and 30 became clients.

# New clients signed (step 7) / # salesperson and prospect meet (step 4) = 30/40 = 75%

To improve the 75 percent, ask yourself what you can do in steps four through seven to improve the prospect’s experience.

 

Actionable Sales Intelligence

As you measure these results over time, are you improving or declining for each conversion? Is one salesperson closing more business than any of the others? How can you improve each step so that conversion is increased? You will have more questions than answers when you first start calculating these numbers. You will also likely have many “aha” moments of insight you can use to improve the prospect’s journey.

If conversion is extremely low in the first few steps, it could be that marketing is not sending you qualified leads. In that case, marketing needs to improve before conversion can improve. If conversion is low in the final few steps, follow-up activities may need to be strengthened.

In any case, measuring conversion throughout your sales cycle will pinpoint the weakest areas so you can improve. When you can increase your conversions, your marketing and sales costs will decrease, and you will become more effective.

And if we can help you with any of these measurements, please reach out any time.

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The “Dirty Dozen” IRS Tax Scams

Each year, the IRS unveils its list of scams that target unsuspecting taxpayers.  Below are five of the most common tax scams impacting taxpayers today, as well as tips to not become a victim:

  1. Fake Charities are created to exploit natural disasters and other situations such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. Criminals set up fake charities and solicit donations by telephone, text, social media, or email.  The fake charity might have a familiar-sounding name, tricking the taxpayer into thinking they are donating to a reputable charity.  When requested, legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Number (EIN), which can be used to verify their legitimacy by using the IRS search tool: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search
  2. Immigrant/Senior Fraud scammers target groups with limited English knowledge as well as senior citizens. The taxpayer may receive a threatening phone call from someone pretending to be an IRS representative.  The caller might threaten jail time, loss of driver license, or deportation if their demands aren’t met.  The first contact that the IRS makes with a taxpayer will typically be through the mail – they will not initiate communication by phone.  Legitimate IRS employees will never use scare tactics such as threatening to revoke licenses or have a person deported.
  3. Offer in Compromise “mills”—an Offer in Compromise (OIC) is an agreement between the taxpayer and the IRS to resolve a taxpayer’s tax debt. Taxpayers should be wary of misleading and aggressive sales claims that a company can settle tax debt for “pennies on the dollar” or that they can secure larger offer settlements, which often cost the taxpayer thousands of dollars in vendor charges.  Taxpayers should first check if they qualify for an OIC by using the IRS online pre-qualifier tool: https://irs.treasury.gov/oic_pre_qualifier/.
  4. “Ghost” Tax Return Preparers will prepare a taxpayer’s return but refuse to sign the return as the paid preparer. Not signing a return is a red flag that the preparer may be looking for a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.  A “ghost” preparer may require payment in cash only, make up income to qualify the client for a tax credit, claim fake deductions to increase the size of the refund, or list their own bank account instead of the taxpayer’s for direct deposit of refunds.  Avoid falling victim to an unscrupulous tax preparer by choosing your preparer wisely and reviewing their credentials and qualifications
  5. Unemployment Insurance Fraud typically involves individuals obtaining state or local assistance that they are not entitled to, often by coordinating with or against employers and financial institutions. This can entail multiple types of fraud, including identity-related fraud, employer-employee collusion fraud, misrepresentation of income fraud, and more.  There are a number of financial red flags to indicate unemployment fraud, including (but not limited to):
  • Unemployment payments coming from a state other than the state where the customer supposedly resides/previously worked;
  • Multiple unemployment payments made within the same disbursement window;
  • Unemployment payments being made in the name of someone other than the account holder;
  • A higher amount of unemployment payments in the same timeframe compared to other similar customers

Stay alert to these situations to protect your financial health. For more on the Dirty Dozen, here is the IRS web page:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-dirty-dozen-list-warns-people-to-watch-out-for-tax-related-scams-involving-fake-charities-ghost-preparers-and-other-schemes

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The Power of Thank-You Notes

As we approach the holiday of giving thanks, it’s the perfect time to think about how we can use thank-you notes in our businesses and lives to express our gratitude to others.

When to Say Thank You 

There are many opportunities in business to say thank you:

  • When a client or associate sends you a referral that results in business
  • When an employee goes out of their way to fix a problem or make a customer happy
  • When a customer makes a large purchase
  • When a vendor over-delivers
  • When someone sends a gift
  • After a speaking engagement or an event when someone has hosted you
  • When someone provides advice that has been helpful, whether face to face or in a book or article
  • When someone does a favor or something nice that you’d like to reward

Keeping thank-you notes top of mind will help you think of more opportunities to use them.

What to Say in Your Thank-You Note

You don’t have to be a professional writer to make a thank you note sound good. Just write from the heart. Let the recipient know what you are thanking them for. Express a detail about the item or activity involved. And then thank them again.

If you are unsure about what to say, write a draft first that you can edit. Then transfer the version that you are happy with to your stationery. It’s far better to hand-write your thank-you note than to use a computer-generated one.

Personalized stationery for thank-you notes is definitely recommended. They add a formal and professional touch to your thank-you note, enriching the experience for the recipient.

Sending gift baskets can be a good idea, but sending a hand-written thank-you note alone can be the most powerful action you can take, especially if it is not expected.

While many businesses send holiday cards each year, thank-you notes can be far more powerful. If your budget is limited, you might want to replace your holiday mailing with thank-you notes instead.

One more thing to consider NOT doing is making your thank-you note into an advertising event for your company. If you want to send promotional items such as t-shirts, mugs, or other items, do NOT do it with your thank-you card. Sending thank-you notes is not a marketing event; it’s a time for gratitude. Sending clients promotional items can be very welcome; just don’t do it at the same time.

Helping others feel gratitude is the fastest way to experience happiness. Sending thank-you notes is not only good business, it’s good for our health and wellness, too.