With the need to maximize profits, companies are under constant pressure to maximize profits any way that they can. Take the automaker Volkswagen for instance. Volkswagen gamed the software in nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles to pass emission tests. The emissions from the cars were almost 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides. Dishonest accounting factors led to the downfall of Enron and WorldCom. In fact, since 1980 more than half of the 10 largest corporate bankruptcies were the result of unethical business practices.
The question now is do businesses that resort to unethical business practices gain an advantage over their competition? A recent study showed that the stock price growth of 100 firms with the most ethical cultures outperformed the stock market and their competition by almost 300%. They had a lower turnover of employees and higher employee job satisfaction. All in all good ethics lead to good business as we see in the infographic below. What are you doing to breed good ethics in your business to help it succeed? Reply in the comments below.
Ransomware is on the rise. Until recently, ransomware used to be a crime targeted at consumers and small businesses. Cybercriminals who carry out these attacks have become more confident in their abilities and have elevated their game to take down some of the biggest companies in the world. It only takes hackers six minutes to compromise an organization, 60% of the time. Ransomware is not industry specific, meaning no one is safe. Like any other types of crime, ransomware has been responsible for a multitude of high-profile crimes. There are many infamous attacks documented, but I would like to focus on three high-profile cases.
Horry County Schools
Horry County Schools in South Carolina was brought to a screeching halt due to ransomware. Earlier this year hackers gained access to the school district’s network through an outdated server. The attack locked computers that contained sensitive intellectual property and lesson plans. Teachers in the school district had to create new lesson plans and Wi-Fi was shut off at some of the schools as a precaution. At first, the school district stated they would not pay the ransom for the decryption key. This decision was later reversed and the school district paid out nearly US$10K in Bitcoins. The attackers are believed to be from a country outside the United States. Currently, the FBI is investigating this crime.
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
Ransomware can even bring a hospital to its knees. This past February the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles found this out the hard way. The attack locked computers and encrypted patient information. Routine medical practices such as CT scans were unavailable, and patients were sent to other medical centers for their scans. Doctors and nurses resorted to pen and paper to keep track of what was going on because no computer access was allowed. The stakes were particularly high in this attack because critical (and sensitive) patient data was hijacked. The hackers used this to their advantage and demanded a US$3.6 million ransom. The cybercriminals eventually reduced the ransom and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center ended up paying US$17,000 in Bitcoins in exchange for the decryption key. The FBI is investigating this attack as well.
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Perhaps the most infamous cyberattack was the hack on Sony Pictures over the film “The Interview,” a comedy centering around two American spies trying to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Sony Pictures received an email threatening terrorist attacks at cinemas if the film was screened. This attack also included the leaking of unreleased Sony films, portions of films scripts, 47,000 Social Security numbers, and employee emails discussing anything from Angelina Jolie to the James Bond film script “Spectre.”
Is your data backed up and is it restorable?
The FBI has estimated that cybercriminals have collected US$209 million in Q1 2016 alone, on pace for a $1 billion year and up from US$23 million in all of 2015.That said, if a business, or its users, have an appropriate data backup plan in place the consequences of these attacks can be minimized. Organizations need to be asking themselves, “In the event of a ransomware attack, is our data restorable?” Threat detections and anti-virus software are not going to protect you from these sophisticated cyberattacks. Your data must be backed up and it must be restorable to a point in time prior to the ransomware attack! Learn how Mozy can help.
Last month, I was at the salon for a hair trim. My hairdresser, who also owns the place, lamented that a branch of hers outside town just closed shop. When I asked why, she said her employees have all left.
Sad story, indeed, and the sadder part is it happens to a lot of businesses.
Unique employee perks from different companies
Recruiting new talent is no walk in the park. It requires time and manpower. The costs can easily pile up, too, especially if your turnover rate is high. Once they’re on board, the challenge is retaining the high-performing ones. They’re your company’s backbone, after all.
The solution? Add handsome employee perks into your compensation plan.
Speaking of handsome, we’ve found some of the best, if not most unique, employee perks offered by different companies.
Netflix: no regular working hours
At Netflix, employees are free to come when they please, provided they get the job done. Work hours are not tracked. No standard number of days per year is required, and even vacation days aren’t logged. As long as employees deliver the performance required of them, big vacations are not a problem.
Google: 50% salary after an employee’s death
Google’s acceptance rate is a measly 0.2%, according to a 2015 report by Business Insider – about 7,000 from the more than 3 million applications they receive worldwide each year.
Aside from Google being Google and its employee perks among the most sought-after, the company’s death benefit package warrants that should an employee pass away, the surviving spouse or partner receive a check amounting to 50% of the Googler’s yearly salary for the next 10 years.
Accenture: gender reassignment
Accenture follows a strict non-discriminatory policy within the organization. As part of its commitment to uphold equality in the workplace, the company supports initiatives that promote the well-being of their LGBT employees, including domestic-partner benefits in some countries. Its enhanced health package also covers gender reassignment procedures.
Airbnb: $2,000 annual travel stipend
Airbnb employees are entitled to a $2,000 yearly travel coupon they can use anywhere in the world, as long as they stay in an Airbnb listing.
Scripps Health: on-site massages
Medical, vision, and dental benefits form part of Scripps Health’s employee health and wellness plan. Healthy living and preventive care programs include health coaching and workshops, screening and assessments, and even on-site massages.
Salesforce: paid volunteer time-off
Salesforce encourages its employees to give back to their communities through volunteering. Each employee is entitled to a seven-day paid volunteer time-off per year. When they max out their volunteer hours, they’re awarded a $1,000 champion grant they can donate to the cause they care about.
Facebook: $4,000 baby cash
Aside from “baby cash” amounting to $4,000, parents at Facebook get 16 weeks of paid parental leave. Parental leave covers maternity, paternity, and adoption leave.
Keeping your employees happy revolves around two things: lots and lots of appreciation and a fun work environment. And if you’re much too small a business to afford lavish employee perks, the key is to craft a benefits plan, as well as nurture a company culture, that shows you value your employees on a personal level.
Most small to medium-sized businesses will need all the help they can get to survive in a very competitive marketplace. Because many neither have the capital nor the manpower to bring their businesses to greater heights, they need to be much more creative to succeed. That means reading up on different online education resources to help them understand the best business practices to grow their business at an accelerated rate despite any shortcomings.
As an SMB owner, you need to absorb as much information as possible from the best and most trustworthy online education resources. The following are good places to start.
Harvard Business Review
The site is chockful of news about the latest business trends and events. There are also thought-provoking pieces about numerous industries, some of which will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business works within your market.
Catering specifically to startups and small businesses, Inc.com is your go-to place for information about the most recent developments in the startup market. The site is also known for the Inc. 5000, which lists down the fastest growing private startups and SMBs in the US. This list is a great place to see the needle movers in your industry, as well as potential competitors and business partners you need to watch out for.
The site features a more diverse list of topics that are not limited to the business spectrum. Nonetheless, Forbes has very vibrant entrepreneur, business, and technology sections with influential and accomplished contributors sharing their tips and advice regarding success in their respective fields.
This app brings the classroom to students through their Apple devices. Educators can develop lessons, compile reading materials, and mediate discussions among students, and more. SMB owners can access content from open universities related to their industries. The materials available from the iTunes U app provide SMB owners with lots of information and opportunities to help them achieve success.
Known as one of the best platforms for offering online courses, Coursera allows SMBs to choose free or paid courses related to their industries. They can take the online classes at their pace but within a specified period. Once students pass a course, their success is recognized with an official certificate, which they can share with friends, colleagues, and employers.
Similar to Coursera, Udemy is an online course marketplace designed to help people improve their skills and knowledge about a topic. However, whereas Coursera offers mostly academic-oriented courses, Udemy provides more practical courses for professionals and SMB owners to help them gain an edge in the workplace, if not their market.
With the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED puts itself in a unique position over other online education resources for SMBs. The TED Talks, which are videos from industry leaders who discuss thought-provoking ideas in front of a live audience, will help inspire you to rethink and approach subjects related to your market in different ways. TED videos are short—18 minutes or less.
Maybe you haven’t been a victim of ransomware, but you’ve certainly heard of it. Ransomware hacks are in the news daily. According to a recent study published by McAfee Labs, ransomware growth increased by 58 percent for Q2 of 2015. But whether you’re a consumer, business owner, or government entity, the question is not “Will I be a victim of ransomware?” Instead, the question everyone should be asking is “When will I be a victim of a ransomware disaster?” Fortunately, falling victim to a ransomware attack doesn’t have to result in a disaster—if you have a proper backup policy in place.
Ransomware first arrived on the scene in 2005. The first known ransomware strain was Trojan.Gpcoder, which affected Windows operating systems. Although ransomware attacks still use screen pop-ups that notify users of the attack and the amount of money required to unlock a computer, other ransomware attacks are more sophisticated and use “unbreakable encryption.” That usually means if your data is not backed up you will not be seeing it again unless you pay the ransom. And, unfortunately, just because you pay the ransom in return for a decryption key does not guarantee that the key will work and that you will get your data back.
Ransomware can infiltrate and spread throughout your systems in a matter of minutes; all it takes is one wrong click. This type of malware typically enters a network through its weakest link—social media or an email with an infected link or attachment. The bad news is that ransomware is easy to create and deploy. The good news is that you can fight ransomware with a solid backup plan.
Have you ever asked yourself: “What would happen to my business if I lost all of my data?” Having a backup plan in place is not just a sound operational practice, it’s often required by law or regulation. For example, HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to have and test a viable data backup and disaster recovery plan. The same holds true in the financial services industry; both the OCIE and FFIEC have made this a priority in their enforcement and audit practices.
If you do not have a backup plan in place, today is the best day to develop one—and EMC is a great place to start. Mozy and Spanning (both by EMC) offer data protection and data restore no matter where your important files reside. Mozy is an endpoint solution that backs up files on your computers to the EMC cloud. Spanning protects your born-in-the-cloud data for Salesforce, Office 365 (including One Drive), and Google Apps (including Google Drive).
Make no mistake about it—ransomware is a growing threat to all businesses and consumers. In 2014 alone, there were 2,122 confirmed data breaches! Fortunately, there are steps you can take in order to harden security against these types of cyberattacks. First and foremost, businesses must have a legitimate backup plan in place. In addition, we strongly recommend testing your backups periodically to make sure they’re intact and up to par. Equally critical is the ability to restore your data to a specific point in time before the ransomware attack occurred.
Whether to lease, purchase or build a location for their venture is among the most important decisions a small business owner makes. Each has its pros and cons.
Buying vs. leasing
All things being equal, deciding whether to buy or lease property usually boils down to how long you intend to remain at the location. If you think the property will suit your needs for a minimum of seven years, you’ll save money by purchasing the space. Buying is more expensive, but you build equity in the property and the value should appreciate. You have a better idea of your ongoing monthly costs if you have a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. Rental rates are more subject to market forces and are less predictable.
However, things aren’t always equal, so consider whether you want to tie up your capital with a mortgage rather than rent and use those funds to grow your business. Future expansion is another consideration. If a purchased property doesn’t easily lend itself to expansion, you’re better off leasing. The bottom line is always whether a particular investment helps your business grow.
You can deduct all or most of your lease expenses. If you buy, you can deduct your interest payments, but nonresidential real property depreciation expenses are written off over 39 years. Ask your attorney or accountant whether leasing or buying makes the best financial sense for your situation.
Location, location, location
Location can make or break a retail business. It’s a situation where you usually get one chance to do it right. Do your homework, and identify your customer demographic and where they are likely to shop or use your services. For your type of business, how important is customer proximity? While competition is good, you don’t want a location where you have too many direct competitors. You pay a premium for a top location, but it also drives your business.
When considering a location, do some traffic monitoring at peak hours for your operation. If the volume isn’t appropriate for your needs, look elsewhere.
Site history is important. There are places where no one stays in business very long. Find out what businesses were previously in the location, and what happened to them. Success or failure doesn’t just lie in management; certain areas just aren’t conducive to retail establishments.
Obviously, if your business doesn’t need walk-in traffic, location is less crucial. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need convenient access to major roadways or other requirements dependent on the nature of your enterprise. Industrial or office parks may offer better opportunities and costs than buildings located on main corridors.
Building an office or store exactly to your specifications is probably the dream of most small business owners. New businesses may have high tech needs that an older building’s infrastructure can’t accommodate. If it’s an option, pursue it, but consider the downside. Building is time-consuming, and you may need approvals from local planning or zoning boards. Environmental or other property issues can stop a project in its tracks—perhaps permanently. Cost overruns are a given.
Commercial real estate broker
You’ll save yourself a lot of valuable time with a good commercial realtor. Unless you have expertise in negotiating leases, you aren’t likely to save money forgoing a realtor and finding and leasing property on your own. You want a realtor whose sole—or at least major—representation involves commercial tenants. As with other professionals, word-of-mouth helps find a reputable realtor. So does asking local businesses in your intended area which broker they used and whether they would recommend the person. Brokers often specialize, so find a person familiar with your type of business and its needs. A broker should know about any municipal ordinances or zoning that could affect your business—issues you certainly don’t want to discover after you’ve signed the lease or purchased the property.
Secret or deceptive methods have been use for centuries to cover up private messages to keep them out of the hands of enemies or those without the need to know. Steganography or the practice of concealing information dates back at least 500 years. In the digital age our messages have advanced from Morse code to digital code transferred through the Internet. From the 20th century and beyond we still look for ways to protect or conceal our messages just as they did centuries ago, but now we use encryption. Check out this infographic on the evolution of encryption technology, which has abounded throughout the last century and continues to do so today at an accelerated rate.
When you’re starting a small business, you’ll have to decide what type of business structure suits your particular enterprise. There are pros and cons to each type of business structure, and some may not be applicable to your situation.
If your small business consists of just you and perhaps your spouse, a sole proprietorship is the simplest way to go. Basically, you are the business and the business is you. You file taxes under your Social Security number. The downside is personal liability. If your business fails, creditors can claim personal assets such as your home and bank accounts.
If you’re in business with one or more partners, a generalpartnership agreement may make sense structurally. In a general partnership, profits and liability are divided equally among the partners. Other types of partnerships are geared toward special projects or are limited according to investment percentages. While a partnership must file an informational return each year with the IRS, each partner reports income and losses on their individual tax return.
Limited Liability Corporation
An LLC makes sense for many small businesses, as it provides personal liability protection and can consist of various members—not shareholders. For IRS purposes, an LLC is not a tax entity. Proceeds are passed to members, who must pay tax on them. The members themselves decide how these proceeds are divided. Although regulations vary by state, an LLC is relatively easy and inexpensive to set up. You’ll need to:
• Choose a business name. This cannot conflict with an LLC of the same name in your state.
• File articles of organization. This paperwork includes your business name and the names and addresses of members. In most states, this document is filed with the secretary of state.
• Generate an operating agreement. Some states require creation of an operating agreement, and outlining your LLC’s structure and its regulations.
If your business operates as an LLC, all members are considered self-employed. That means they must pay the self-employment tax when it comes to Social Security and Medicare.
The IRS defines an S Corp as an entity electing to pass through income, losses, deductions and credits to their shareholders for tax purposes. Unlike larger “C” corporations, S Corps are not required to pay federal corporate income tax on profits, although some states require S Corps to pay taxes on income. The IRS limits an S Corp to 100 shareholders—all of whom must be U.S. citizens or legal residents—but there’s just one class of stock. Besides individuals, estates and certain trusts qualify as shareholders, but not partnerships or other corporations. As with an LLC, these shareholders report income on their personal tax returns, with taxation at their individual rate. Shareholders must pay taxes on income in the year it is earned, not distributed.
Creating an S Corp is more expensive than creating an LLC. You must initially file as a corporation, then submit Form 2553 to the IRS, signed by every shareholder or shareholder representative. One caveat: The IRS tends to scrutinize S Corps more than other types of small business structures.
Your attorney or accountant can advise you on the best business structure for your particular small business.
You can see it in his big, wet eyes: He wants to go on the hunt with you. Every day you leave for work, he follows you to the door as if to say “You are TERRIBLE at hunting! You never come home with game. Take me, I can help!” If only you could show him that the hunt got pretty boring over the last 10,000 years, he wouldn’t make you feel so bad about leaving him alone at home. But then again, bringing your number one fan to work might make the time pass a bit quicker…
Having your pet at the office can be a lot of fun for everyone, but it can also be rife with anxieties. It’s best to take a few steps before bringing your quadruped pal into the rat race. When it comes to bringing your pet to work, this breaks down into two categories: Dogs and non-dogs, such as cats, small rodents, birds, snakes, and so on.
The rules for everything that isn’t a dog are quite simple: Unless you are planning on keeping your pet in a cage or your pet is a professionally trained animal that responds to your every beck and call, don’t bring your pet to work.
That may sound unfair, but it’s important to remember that cats and specialty pets are semi-feral, terror-prone animals. Hamsters in a ball are awesome and lap cats can stop wars, but one misstep and you’ll be at your office past 9 p.m. trying to lure your pet out of a ceiling vent with your lunch leftovers. It’s not that you can’t bring your non-dog to work; it’s just that it’s pretty much a terrible idea. If you Google “bring your pet to work,” the first 20 returns replace “pet” for “dog.” Save yourself the stress; leave Mittens at home.
Even if your pet is a highly intelligent loyalist that literally evolved to be a friend and ally to humans, there are still quite a few precautions to take before bringing him to your place of business.
1. Get unanimous approval
This will come as a surprise to most pet owners, but not everyone loves animals. Some people have terrible allergies to dander, others have deep-seeded fears and bad memories, and some just genuinely think of pets as stinky filth bombs. Unless management has set aside a day for everyone to bring pets, email your boss to get the OK. Then get in touch with your co-workers to make sure it won’t inconvenience them. If your pet has any quirks or special needs, inform everyone so they’re all prepared to interact with your little buddy.
2. Be a good owner
This is just a formality bullet point because you’re already a good owner who keeps your pets up to date on shots. Have him wear a collar with a license tag and have a leash or harness ready. Play with your pet for a half hour before you head into the office so he’s feeling loved and a little lazy, and make sure to take him outside every few hours for relief and stimulation.
3. Train your pet
This doesn’t mean your dog has to be ready for a video shoot or obstacle course, or even that it has to be particularly smart. Your pet doesn’t have to be Westminster ready, but it has to know not to poop in the office. It also can’t be barking/hissing/squawking/whipping all about the office while people are trying to work. You want everyone to enjoy meeting your pet and for your pet to enjoy being involved in a part of your life it is normally cut out of, and part of that means having pet that can reasonably control itself.
4. Create a safe place
The key here is to make your pet feel at home instead of territorial. Bring in a favorite blanket or pillow and a baby gate the day before and set up a private spot for your pet to retreat to if the experience becomes too much. Have some treats at the ready for rewarding and leading. If you know there will be other animals there (preferably of the same species), introduce everyone in a neutral space where they can all get to know each other. You can also bring toys for them to smell and get accustomed to one another as well as trade.
5. Total responsibility
As the person who spends the most time with your pet, you know that he has a unique personality on par with any human you know. But that can often blind many pet owners to the fact that a pet is still an animal that operates on instinct and that can’t be reasoned with. Accidents happen, so you have to be on your pet immediately to step in and prevent or fix any problems. Wherever Fido goes, you go. Whenever Fluffy has an accident, you switch jobs to custodian. And if, God forbid, something terrible happens with a co-worker, you should be prepared to replace damaged property and foot medical bills.
Once you take these precautions, you’ll be ready to introduce your pet to your colleagues. And with any luck, you’ll have a new office mascot.
Look, it’s no secret that an office job can be a pain. You aren’t paid for commuting, there’s never enough real sugar for coffee, and the thermostat is never set to the right temperature. To top it all off, our co-workers were not selected for their social compatibility. Not since high school have we been forced to interact with such a motley crew. It’s astounding that work doesn’t more often devolve into an unintelligible screamfest of petty grievances.
But the fact of the matter is that we will end up spending a third of our adult lives together, so it behooves us to try and treat each other with respect. If we can all do each other the following kindnesses, it’ll be the weekend before you know it.
1. Decorate tastefully
The easiest way to make work bearable is to make your cube into a sanctuary. Family photos, band lithographs, and graphic art are all great, so long as they are tasteful. Exercise common sense, though; no nudity, for example. Boticceli’s Birth of Venus is a welcome exception, but keep your framed Leonard Nemoy at home. You should also feel free to bring small religious items, but, to quote “The Man,” “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” That is, you’re here to work, so keep it low-key and, most importantly, the private matter that it is. The main point here is to decorate in moderation. Minimizing how much beige is in your field of vision is one thing, but too many pictures and knick-knacks can be distracting and send the message to your bosses that you’d rather be anywhere but here.
2. Keep the humor light
Humor is great for making and deepening personal connections, and pinning up cartoons is a great way to let your co-workers know that you’re more than just another person in a cube. But humor gets a lot of people in trouble. Far Side cartoons are ubiquitous on cubicle walls because they are unexpectedly funny yet unoffensive. But do yourself a favor and keep anything political like Tom Tomorrow to your Facebook timeline. Memes are also dangerous territory, as many are politically or sociologically oriented and are the textual equivalent of being screamed at. Unless, of course, it’s an Office Space meme; so long as it isn’t clearly directed at any of your co-workers.
3. Neutralize your smells
First off, if the office smells like anything other than paper, plastic, and carpet, it smells bad. You can do your part by showing up bathed and in clean clothes. Don’t bring scented candles to work, don’t keep an open car freshener in your drawer, and absolutely do not wear perfume or cologne. This isn’t singles paper pushing, it’s your job, and so long as you don’t smell like you just went swimming in the East River, no one cares if you wear designer fragrance. Not to mention, there are some people who are genuinely allergic to their components, so just don’t do it.
Then there are your food smells. The break room invariably becomes a hodgepodge of rather strange smells, but that is where they should stay. For those of you who like to work through your lunch breaks, stick to cold lunches like sandwiches or salads. Heating your meal just makes it smellier, so if you’re having fish or something particularly spicy or fragrant, suck it up and endure the small talk with your co-workers in the break room. You never know, you might find you actually like them.
4. If I can hear you, you are too loud
Speaking of table manners, if you’re going to eat at your desk, chew with your mouth closed. This goes double for gum. Actually, no matter where you are, don’t smack your food.
For many, phone calls are unavoidable, so make sure your ringer is turned down. If you need to take or make a personal call, do it on your cell phone outside of the office. When it comes to intraoffice communication, there’s little reason to call or pop in. It’s 2016; if it can’t be asked or expressed in an email or instant message, it’s because your computer has exploded.
And for the sake of your ears if not your cube mates, turn your music down. Ask any 13 to 25 year old—your music taste stinks. It doesn’t matter what it is, no matter if it’s reigned atop the Billboard for 20 weeks; or if it’s Pitchfork’s current favorite coveted album; or if it’s your buddy’s avant-garde, lo-fi foray into salsa-soweto-polka-fusion; nobody wants to hear it. It goes without saying that, unless you have been dubbed the office DJ, you should only listen to music on headphones, and at a volume that isn’t spilling out in sharp, tinny screeches. You were probably not hired to be a musician, either. Incessant whistling, finger tapping, or bouncing your leg is annoying—yes, to everyone. And if you love to sing, Stewie Griffin has a message for you:
6. Find your own dang supplies
You’re more likely to be told to “keep your hands to yourself” in sexual harassment training, but you should extrapolate that to mean “keep your hands within your cube.” Just because someone is out of their cube doesn’t mean their stuff is up for grabs. The only supplies you get for free are the ones out of the supply closet. If you didn’t get it out of the closet or with your own money, it’s not yours. Quickly borrowing a nearby pen is one thing—so long as you immediately return it. But if you’re constantly snagging highlighters or someone’s staple remover until they ask for it back, then you are why work doesn’t buy better pens. Your office manager would be happy to order you a new stapler, so leave Milton’s alone.
We’re all just marching towards 5:00, so in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, be excellent to each other.