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Have any of your employees tried to do a selfie in the office in response to the one Ellen DeGeneres took at the Academy Awards last month?

It was one of those moments that seemingly everyone was talking about and trying to recreate in the days after the Oscars. It served as yet another reminder of the blazing speed with which information can travel in this day and age when it hits the right note.

If only that new product your company has been working on for the past six weeks had the same ability to captivate the masses. Unfortunately, that product would probably get much more famous, much more quickly if it was a total disaster that left you scrambling to explain what happened.

Outside of getting really lucky and stumbling upon the next great innovation that changes the way we all live, work or play, you’ll probably have to work a little harder to build an audience for what you’re selling.

But one thing you can do as the senior leader is take advantage of this ubiquitous communication tool and start using it to sell your brand. Don’t leave it all in the hands of your social media team.


Get involved

This isn’t a call to start micromanaging the efforts your people are making to build a following for your business on Facebook or Twitter. Rather, it’s a suggestion to take part in the conversation and engage your audience on a more personal level.

It’s safe to say that many senior leaders who have a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account don’t actually manage their own account. They have their IT team post pre-formatted messages at designated times through platforms like HootSuite. The times are selected based on thorough research into the most likely parts of the day for messages to be seen.

It makes sense. You’re busy running a business and you probably don’t have a lot of time to sit around poking at your smartphone to send tweets. But when you’re completely removed from the process, you miss a chance to share the passion you have for what it is your company produces.

I’ve said it in previous columns, but it bears repeating. People like people who are real and genuine. If you use social media to talk about your product and respond to feedback both good and bad, you show yourself to be aware of what’s happening in the world. You’re not just counting up the dollars each month to see if you made a profit. You’re taking an interest in how your product or service is being received by consumers.


Have fun

But it doesn’t always have to be about work. Take a picture of your dog or your son or your granddaughter having a good time. Share a video clip you saw on YouTube that you thought was funny. Round up your leadership team and take your own selfie for all your followers to see. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Life is too short not to.


Mark Scott is Senior Associate Editor for Smart Business Los Angeles. Reach him at (440) 250-7016 or


It’s easy to make the unfair assumption that if a business decides to file for a tax extension, the leaders have been spending the months leading up to the April 15 tax deadline procrastinating on their paperwork. But that’s not necessarily true.

Rather than rushing to file in a hurry, a business tax extension is a major asset in a company’s corner as it means getting extra time to prepare and file properly. But what does being granted a tax extension for your business mean and what do you need to know when you decide to file for one?


Get your deadlines in order

Typically, the IRS approves business tax extension requests so long as they are submitted by 11:59 p.m. on April 15. They will grant you six more months to work on your taxes. Use Form 7004 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns) on the IRS’ website and e-file or send the form along by mail.

For companies organized as corporations and partnerships, be sure you have the correct deadline in place for when your returns are due.

The extended deadline for calendar year 2013 S corporation returns is Sept. 15, 2014. Not extending this deadline to file may cause your S corporation to owe a 5 percent penalty of unpaid tax for every month the return is late with a cutoff point of 25 percent.

Partnerships, with extended deadlines, have 2013 returns that are also due on Sept. 15. Failure to file on time can result in owing penalties of up to $89 a partner each month the return is behind, for a maximum of 12 months.


Talk to your accountant

Email and meet up with your accountant to evaluate your tax liability and any other confidential information. Be sure to bring along any paperwork that concerns banking, investments, expenses and revenues.

Even if you feel confident that you can handle working on your own taxes, federal tax laws are constantly changing. An accountant may find some deductions and write-offs you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.


Make extensions part of your tax strategy mentioned that for businesses that need more time to contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension Plan, filing for an extension can actually be extremely beneficial. An extension on Form 5305-SEP (Simplified Employee Pension — Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement) means that the extra time ensures the business doesn’t need to have the money in place until the due date of the tax returns.


Use your extended time wisely

Filing an extension puts you at much less risk of facing an audit than will rushing to get your forms finished by April 15. It’s important, however, to bear in mind that once you file for an extension, you need to stay organized and focused on getting your taxes filed. If you’re missing any documents, work on obtaining them as soon as possible so it makes the filing process smoother.


Name: Deborah Sweeney

Title: CEO

Company: is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, provides startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. Deborah writes about issues that affect companies of all sizes and shares tips that she has found to be useful in her own business endeavors.

Reach her at (877) 692-6772, or on Twitter at @DeborahSweeney or @MyCorporation

I was fortunate to meet the most influential person in my career right out of high school. This was the only time in my career where I was working for someone else and despite the fact that he had no formal education, he created one of the most successful independent record companies of all time — Ruthless Records.

If it weren’t for Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, there wouldn’t be a Snoop Dogg, a Dr. Dre or even a Beats By Dre line of audio devices on the market.

Wright taught me that the most important lesson of all is to listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts. I’m a huge believer in education, but you can’t let your degree bog you down, and you can never rest on your laurels.

The key to success is being passionate about what you do.


Show how you feel

Are you passionate about your brand? Beyond the obvious goal of hiring good people, you need to be able to speak passionately about your company, as if it’s a person you are madly in love with, and lead by example with unbridled motivation and inspiration.

Once you do that, it’s easy to get the right people on board. Your passion for your business will be contagious and when it comes from a real place, you’ll be amazed by how many people will want to sign up with you.


Listen to your voice

Your inner voice is usually the right voice. Trust your gut when that next star employee walks through the door. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Give them a shot so that you have a chance to mold that person into the superstar they’re meant to be.

Time is not the equalizer of greatness. Just because someone hasn’t done a job for a long time — or even at all — doesn’t mean that they won’t perform well. I’ve had employees with absolutely no experience outperform other employees with 20-plus years of experience. Rely on your instincts to suss out the good from the bad — and ultimately, the great from the good. Look for passionate people who are willing to learn from you and grow with you. 


Demand honesty

Create a culture where honesty rules because you can’t build a great company if everyone is too afraid to speak up and say anything besides yes. When the right people at your company can be open and honest with you, they will inherently help you weed out the things and employees that are holding the company back.

If you have to start setting up systems in order to ensure your team is doing their job, you’re already in trouble. The right people are self-motivated, and you will discover that when they’re given the leeway to make their own decisions.

Finally, allow your team to be honest, even when they don’t like a decision you’re making. Even though you’re passionate and following your instincts, you can still make a mistake, too.


Name: Terry Heller

Title: Founder

Companies: Heller Holdings LLC; Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

Terry spent 12 years in the music industry directing and producing music videos for Eazy-E, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Linkin Park and The Black Eyed Peas.

Reach Terry at (310) 473-5999, or

Learn more about Terry at:


Learn more about Plan Check at:

Twitter: @PlanCheckBar


Over the course of my career, I’ve been both the young entrepreneur and the seasoned leader. In both roles, I have discovered that the foundational tenets of a successful corporate culture remain constant.

No matter the industry, the annual revenue or the number of employees, a truly great CEO will define and cultivate a strong corporate culture. In it, the company’s leadership participates from the floor rather than the fortress and the team is empowered and feels appreciated.


Step down from the ivory tower

Whether you’ve built your company from the ground up or you’re stepping into a leadership role at an established business, it’s essential to step back and observe the current culture and determine how to assimilate from the start before you walk in with a blind takeover.

If you sequester yourself in your office in an attempt to establish rank, or work exclusively with direct reports and executive peers, it can be hard to see and experience the one-on-one interactions that define the culture from the employee perspective.

Eat in the lounge or break room. Attend meetings of the rank and file, not just the C-suite. Don’t say you have an open-door policy; walk out that door and be accessible to your team. It’s the only way to identify what elements should be fostered and which components could use guidance and improvement.


Provide real world perks

Contrary to popular belief, you can likely put away the Xbox, pingpong table and endless soda. Today’s employees are looking for real perks in the form of resources. Whether it’s better health care coverage for family members, managerial training, outside education, remote work opportunities, flexible hours or even healthful snacks or workout opportunities, it’s important to support your team with whatever they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Taking the time to discover and execute on the team’s needs in and out of the office will increase retention of valuable talent and ensure a positive work environment.


Encourage peer support

Satisfied employees work better together for the greater good. It’s been proven that teams are more effective when they collaborate. It’s important for leaders to instill values of ongoing education, learning and questioning. Promoting transparency will decrease competition, improve performance, increase innovation and keep morale high.

Programs and tools must be implemented that support information transmission, like ongoing internal cross-training and mentoring programs. Providing opportunities for specialists to learn new skills and concepts from each other better equips every teammate to resolve issues.

Corporate culture encompasses many, but it starts with one — the one at the top. It’s your responsibility to both establish and honor company values and permeate them into the workplace, while simultaneously listening to employee needs. Show that you’re part of the team and you will nurture a culture everyone can get behind.


Name: Ronald Burr

Title: Chairman and CEO

Company: CallFire Inc.

CallFire Inc. is a technology company providing voice and text connectivity to more than 100,000 businesses. Ron is the holder of eight Internet technology patents in online advertising and market research.

How to reach: CallFire Inc., (877) 897-3473 or

Twitter: @RonBurr or @CallFire



We live in an era of decreasing trust in many organizations and institutions. Ongoing Gallup polls document the erosion of trust that people have in leaders of government, religion, military, health care and business. While fostering trust is always important, it takes on greater significance when the environment becomes unpredictable.

In a predictable environment, people have one foot firmly planted in the system. So, even if leadership is lacking, they can at least count on the system. In an environment marked by transition, however, the stability of the system is taken away. Striving for grounding, people turn to the source most likely to provide stability — their leaders — and hope to find a measure of consistency and trustworthiness. 

During times of upheaval, people are operating from states of withdrawal and hypervigilance that alter their perceptions.

They are looking to leadership for cues as to what is going to happen next. They are scrutinizing your words, body language and tone of voice and comparing it with their picture of the “normal” you. And, because human beings have the tendency to “awfulize,” they may create in their minds unimaginably bad scenarios just from the frown on your brow or the sigh in your voice.

By focusing on the elements below that build and reinforce trust, you can help to minimize anxiety and regain the focus of your people.


Remain humble

Continuous improvement is both an important perspective and a useful process for any leader to entertain. Your personal and organizational journey is not finished. Little can be gained from resting on your past accomplishments. Humility helps foster trust.


Use self-deprecating humor

Having a good laugh at your own expense will go a long way toward fostering a sense in others that you are approachable. Self-deprecating humor is also infectious. It encourages others to lighten up as well and be more open about their issues and concerns.


Admit to being wrong

Few things score more trust points than your ability to admit your mistakes. Changing environments are, by definition, mistake prone as people proceed by trial and error. Externalizing those mistakes has a double benefit. First, it fosters trust — the fact that you’re human. Second, it actually sets up a forum for defining and solving problems.


Honor your word

In an unstable environment, you may find that you give your word in good faith, but then something happens and you have to go back on what you said. Such reversals are normal in change. When they happen, however, be proactive in telling people what happened and why you had to reverse yourself. As long as you’re straight with people, they will trust you and work to deal with the situation.


Project openness

Studies show that people who disclose information — and get others to share — are perceived as trustworthy. Openness allows communication to proceed in two directions. It gives permission for people to approach you not only with feelings, but also with the information and suggestions that you need to become a more effective leader.


Name: Dr. Mark J. Tager

Title: CEO

Company: ChangeWell Inc.

Changewell Inc. is a San Diego-based consulting and training company that works with clients to guide personal and organizational change and increase productivity. The company provides training, speaking and consulting programs to guide transformation. Mark’s latest book, “Transforming Stress into Power,” is available on


How to reach: Changewell Inc., or


Technology provides today’s business owner more ways to connect with customers than ever before. But with all those channels available, it’s more critical than ever that you know what you stand for as you seek to build connections with the people you want to buy your product.

You are your own brand. What kind of brand do you want your business to be?

Our company, kathy ireland Worldwide®, is greatly influenced by core values shared by every team member. We handle rejection with confidence. If people aren’t saying, “no” to you, you may not be taking on the real battles of your industry.

Most of our team members have worked, learned, laughed and cried together for the 21 years that we celebrate in 2014. The word “team” is used very casually in many businesses. Not ours. Although this business bears my name, we decided early on it could not be about me. Through the years, we’ve been able to discern engines that move us forward and anchors that pull us down.


Follow the Golden Rule

Are you treating the people you work with as you would want your family members treated? If not, start making a change ... today. I never had a family business, but today, I have a business family. What we have been able to accomplish, with mutual respect and yes, love, is pretty incredible.

Every business needs advocates. Some people recoil when I speak at business conferences about building every business as a brand.

Too many people confuse iconic brands as the only brands. Apple. Disney. Starbucks. McDonalds. Mary Kay. Martha Stewart. These brands climbed the ladder to iconic status because of the dreams of a relentless entrepreneur and a very gifted team.


Prepare for challenges

Each of us has or will have a monetary crisis. Ours came many years ago when 98 percent of our business was dependent upon one partner. That one client filed bankruptcy and left us sputtering and on the floor. We got back up and decided that diversity was our path to the future. Those days were pretty grim.

It was like the movie “Groundhog Day.” We were in debt and starting all over again. Loyalty. Passion. Commitment. Frugality. These are disciplines that are forged in a crisis. Until you hit tough times, it’s hard to know which relationships are authentic. 


Cherish your experiences

I’ve been self-employed all my life — from selling painted rocks to being the first female newspaper carrier in my hometown. A paper route teaches you a lot. Whenever Warren Buffet and I spend time together, we always swap stories about shared experiences from our paper route days.

Last year, Mr. Buffet, Bill Gates, Ndamukong Suh and I all competed in a newspaper toss at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Naturally, Mr. Buffet won the toss. He is not only the world’s smartest investor, he’s never lost his newspaper skills.

The difference is, today, he probably buys more newspaper companies versus the newspapers he tossed as a youngster. More than 30 years later, I’m still the girl with the paper route.


Name: Kathy Ireland

Title: Founder, chair, CEO and chief designer

Company: kathy ireland Worldwide® 

kathy ireland Worldwide® is a lifestyle business that offers designs in fashion, weddings, home, office and other areas. Kathy supports many nonprofits including the YWCA, Dream Foundation, Providence Educational Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

How to reach: kathy ireland Worldwide®,

Twitter: @kathyireland


It’s been 34 years since the United States shocked the world and beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The “Miracle on Ice,” as it came to be known around the world, was completed two days later when Team USA beat Finland and captured the gold medal.

Everyone on the team was praised for the achievement, and the victory still resonates as an example of what can be accomplished in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

But it might never have happened at all without the unwavering commitment from the team’s coach, the late Herb Brooks, to go against the wishes of the U.S. Olympic Committee and build the team his way.


Don’t be afraid

As portrayed in the 2004 hit film, “Miracle,” Brooks explained to the USOC that a new approach was needed in order to beat the Soviets. The committee responded with concern that the team might be embarrassed trying to make such a big change less than a year before the competition. Brooks’ retort was that the team had already reached that point.

Now, if he had not reached his players, if he had been unable to convince them to put in the time, effort and commitment to becoming the best team they could be, Brooks would be a mere footnote in Olympic history.

But he had complete confidence in his plan, and he was willing to put his reputation on the line to see it through. It’s not something that all leaders are willing to do. The fear of failure overshadows the vision of success and the plan often is never allowed to see the light of day.

History is filled with examples of leaders who were willing to take a chance and go after an idea that those around them believed would never work. Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Henry Ford and the assembly line, John D. Rockefeller and his oil business, Steve Jobs and the iPhone.

Each of these individuals had plenty of critics who thought the idea was crazy. And each of these people, and many more throughout history, proved those critics wrong and changed the world as a result.


Why not you?

The cautious approach will only get you so far in life. Sure, there are times when you need to be a little bit more conservative and think about what could be at stake if you’re wrong.

But sometimes, in order to grow, you have to stop trying to collect that elusive final and convincing piece of data and just go for it. And who is to say that your idea won’t be a game-changer that transforms the way we live or work?

If you believe you have a solid idea and you have a plan in place to make it work, it’s time to give it a shot. Summon the courage that enabled you to be a CEO and build the business that you now lead. If you’ve done your homework and gathered the information to reach this tipping point, it’s probably OK to rely on your instincts to take the next step.

As Brooks often repeated to his team as they prepared for their moment of truth, “You can’t be common. The common man goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon.”


Mark Scott is senior associate editor of Smart Business Los Angeles. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Los Angeles, please send an email to You can also follow us on Twitter at @SmartBiz_LA.

This is an important question when it comes to any opportunity in sales strategies: Is the deal worth winning?

In the early days of a business, it may seem that any opportunity is worth pursuing. In the long run, that may have been true. While profit is the senior goal, so is credibility and having customers who can positively recommend your product or service.

But before long, it becomes necessary to make sure opportunities are worth winning. The precision of that evaluation becomes more vital as a product or service becomes more complex, as there can be a number of hidden costs that aren’t taken into account. 

Here are some key considerations in evaluating an opportunity as to its profitability:


Revenue potential

Any opportunity falls above or below a threshold of profitability for a company. It is important to establish that threshold early on. It becomes a primary goal of a company to sell and deliver products and services as far beneath that threshold as possible, while still maintaining desired quality.

Figuring in this factor can and should be part of a company’s sales process and worked into sales strategies. If this is done, and is also incorporated into the company’s CRM solution, the profitability of any opportunity can be seen all the way through a sales cycle. That would be part of rating it as to its priority.

The possibility of future business is another aspect to revenue potential, which can be weighed as a factor in evaluating the profitability of a deal. Shrewd companies will take a smaller profit if it means more business up the road.


Strategic value

Dovetailing in with revenue potential is the strategic value of the opportunity to your company. Take a look at how well this potential deal fits in with and helps you make your company’s strategic targets.

Examine the leverage potential of this opportunity. Will you be able to leverage this deal into others? This may mean more sales from the company you just sold to, or it could mean deals from referrals.

If the company you are selling to is a leader in its industry, its purchase and implementation of your product and service may mean you are acquiring an entire sector of industry.


Risk potential

Any opportunity should be evaluated as to its risk. In addition to the risk of the sale occurring in the first place, there are a number of other risks that should always be examined.

Is it possible that your company will not be able to deliver the product or service? What is the possibility that your company won’t be able to deliver on time?

Then there are questions that nobody wants to ask and even fewer want to answer: What if your customer causes your solution to fail? What would be the impact on your business? How possible is it that your prospect company could find a solution to their problem themselves, thereby killing the sale completely?

You’ll want to make these analysis points part of your sales process, and work them fully into your CRM solution. Each will be a standard point of evaluating opportunities into the future.

All sales strategies must take this question fully into account: Is the deal worth winning?

Nikolaus Kimla is the CEO and partner of


Learn more about Nikolaus Kimla at:

Twitter: @Pipelinersales

At one time or another, we’ve all tried to find the secret to being happier at work. Even the most upbeat employees are going to have those times when they just don’t feel the same level of energy and passion about coming into the office each day.

Last year, in an effort to boost the health of my staff at BNI’s headquarters in Upland, Calif., I stumbled across one of these secrets. I found that the secret to being happier at work is actually being healthier at work.

Here are five ways to not only be healthier at the office, but to be happier too.


Drink water

It is easy in an office to reach for readily available hot coffee, tea, cocoa or soft drinks, but what your body needs in order to both work effectively and release fat stores is plain, pure water. Plastic bottled water usually contains BPAs. Instead, drink filtered water or glass-bottled mineral water.

Many people experience chronic, low-level headaches, which can often make you unproductive at work. When we are dehydrated, one of the signals our body gives is that low-grade headache. Try drinking half your body weight in ounces in purified, preferably alkaline (mineral) water for headache relief.


Find reasons to walk

When you have to move from your office to another office, take the stairs or walk the long way around. Another way to increase your physical exertion is to park further from the door at work.

Use your break time to take a longer walk or spend part of your lunch walking. Some offices have started walking clubs, where several staff members walk together in the morning before work or on their lunch break.

Simply walking 20 to 30 minutes per day can increase your body’s release of feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin, norepinephrine and serotonin. It can also help your fat-burning systems melt away excess body fat. 


Bring your lunch

Such a simple change has the ability to make a huge difference in how healthy you are overall. Pack a power lunch made of fresh, organic vegetables and whole grains, such as brown rice, steamed quinoa and fresh fruit. This enables you to avoid the temptation of easily accessible fast food, fried foods and foods high in sugars.


Find an accountability partner in the office

Anytime you are trying to make major shifts in health habits, it is powerful to have someone to help you with the changes. Pick someone who has similar goals to your own and who you know can be positive and supportive. Plan regular times to check in with each other, use various methods of contact (email, text, phone calls, as well as face to face), and, most of all, be honest!


Find your positive attitude

There are many studies that substantiate how much your attitude affects both your health and your level of happiness in life. When people consistently take the negative view on things, their immune systems become depressed, their overall outlook on life dims and they can become negative and unhappy about everything.

Being happy is always a choice. Learning how to choose to be positive goes a long way in creating health and happiness.

Ivan Misner, Ph.D., called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN, is considered one of the world's leading experts on business networking. Dr. Misner has written eleven books including the three New York Times Bestsellers, two #1 Bestsellers and a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior. 

Learn more about BNI:

Twitter: @bninetworking
Twitter: @IvanMisner

Few brands have forgotten about the waves created by the 2009 debut of “United Breaks Guitars.” The video was made by musician Dave Carroll who was upset about United Airlines breaking his guitar on a flight from Chicago to Omaha, Neb.

When it went viral, it cost the airline countless customers. How many customers? The Huffington Post estimated through the 4 million users who viewed the video, that it was about $180 million worth, or 10 percent of their market cap.

In response to the video, United apologized, complimented the song and even asked to use it for future internal training. They assured Carroll that because of the incident they were changing their customer service policy. But even with their apology and promise to change, United’s image never fully recovered.

So what do you do in the age of social media when you get a customer complaint that goes viral faster than the average criticism, and reaches a good portion of your audience and beyond, painting your brand in a bad light?

Here are three tips on how to handle the situation gracefully and recover with your reputation intact:


Don’t delete anything!

If your complaint comes in the form of an online public comment, don’t delete it. It’s so easy to just delete a comment from Facebook or a tweet that you don’t want too many eyes to see. But by the time you delete it, someone’s already taken a screenshot of it and circulated it through retweets and on Tumblr.

This makes your brand look even worse, like you’re desperately trying to cover your tracks. Instead, keep the comment up and respond promptly — though not so quickly that you make errors in grammar and false information alike.


Admit it was your fault, and make it public

So now you have a public complaint that you haven’t deleted and a public, quick response all ready to go. Not only should you respond on whatever medium the complaint is on, but if it’s a large enough mistake on your part, publicly make an additional statement in the form of a press release, blog post, video or some other outlet that presents the ability to make a grander than usual gesture. 

Be sure to include what it is you’ve done. Acknowledge that the incident was your fault, how you can learn from the experience and what you can do to make it up to the customer. Being honest and genuine about the problem will always win over backtracking and denying that you’re at any fault to begin with.


Offer what you can

Whether you’re an international airline or a local mom and pop shop, don’t let an unhappy customer leave your place of business as an unhappy customer. By the time you’ve handled the situation personally, your customer should have a smile on his or her face and something positive to say about your business. If that means offering a free product or service, it’s a meaningful gesture to provide to keep the reputation of your brand on the up and up.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start — up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services.


Learn more about Deborah Sweeney:

Twitter: @DeborahSweeney
Twitter: @MyCorporation

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