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Many business leaders find themselves asking: “Why can’t it be easier? Why is it so hard for us to make decisions together and get some of the simplest things done?” Whether your company is a professional firm, family-owned business or manufacturer, people with different communication styles can get tied into knots working together. That in turn challenges productivity and everyone’s desire for a harmonious environment. “I’ve discovered that metaphors are an easier way to explain why people are having challenges working together,” says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, ACC, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business. “The metaphor creates an instant…
“Friends and family are still the largest source of capital for companies in the early stages of development, but the current funding market presents several additional options for young companies. Be open-minded and investigate numerous sources of capital,” says Thomas C. Armstrong, corporate attorney at Berliner Cohen and a FINRA registered investment banker. Smart Business spoke with Armstrong about the financing options available to startups and emerging enterprises. What are the choices when it comes to raising equity capital? Friends and family. When starting a company, many times they are the primary source for capital. That’s true even in Silicon…
Tax planning is a key component of mergers and acquisitions for both buyers and sellers. It can impact the deal price and play a role in the post-transaction integration. Tax issues are probably more stressful for sellers, because if there are tax exposures they may need to make representations and warranties. It also can have a bigger impact on the seller’s individual taxes. However, from a buying standpoint, if you want management to stay on but there’s a tax problem, say with executive compensation plans, that can have an adverse effect on operations prospectively. “It’s one of those things where…
Information and data are critical to the operation of every business. Whether running a local law firm or a multinational manufacturing operation, information technology systems are essential to your ongoing success. As data and technology become more and more entrenched in business operations, they can also represent a serious vulnerability. Data connects, facilitates and supports every part of most organizations. What happens if disaster strikes and critical information is suddenly unavailable? For many businesses, a loss of data or system functionality would be a catastrophic event. Every second without working technology systems may lead to a significant loss in revenue.…
Finding a bank for your business is different than applying for a car loan. Instead of just needing a source of capital, you also need a partner that can help your business grow. “You’re looking for a relationship that will allow your business to prosper,” says Andrew M. Phillips, vice president, relationship manager at Bridge Bank. Smart Business spoke with Phillips about how to find the right bank for your business.How does an owner find a bank that fits his or her business? First, look for a bank that is truly dedicated to serving businesses. Long lines for tellers and…
Every day, small business owners make mistakes by failing to disclose issues when selling their businesses, risking potential legal entanglements. “Selling a business is not unlike selling a house. In California, there is a duty to disclose. Although a broker representing the buyer or seller has fiduciary obligations, by law, the onus of disclosure falls on the seller,” says Gregory M. Gentile, a partner at Ropers Majeski Kohn & Bentley PC. Smart Business spoke with Gentile about pitfalls owners should avoid when selling businesses.What can a seller do to mitigate the risks of selling a business? Finding the right broker…
Ask 10 practitioners to explain analytics and you’ll get 10 different answers. The field is still evolving as people come at it from different backgrounds. But at its core, analytics is about replacing gut-based decisions with ones that are fact-based. The challenge is that today’s “facts” are buried in enormous data sets. Leaders must work with all employees to pinpoint meaningful data and use the knowledge gained to provide a better product or service. “It involves executives thinking quantitatively and asking the right questions,” says Dave Czerwinski, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences at San José…
“The most innovative ideas come from conditions that are constrained or set.” I’ve always thought of myself as more of a task manager than an innovative, creative person, and those words from ShareThis CEO Tim Schigel, subject of this month’s cover story, resonated with me because not knowing where to start is a familiar experience. At first glance, it seems counterintuitive to place limits on innovation. Wouldn’t keeping all options available lead to more possibilities? That, in turn, would be expected to produce better results, since you’re able to select the best solution from among a larger pool of ideas.Setting…
I’ve read hundreds of great quotes from amazing leaders describing “leadership.” One of the simplest comes from Fuchan Yuan, who identified three essentials: “humility, clarity and courage.” Humility seems to be a character trait that people either have or don’t. Although many people perceive CEOs to have large egos, great leaders know that leadership is NOT about them as individuals. Clarity is highly valued by most organizations. “Why do we exist?” “Where are we going?” and “How will we get there?” are essential questions that leaders need to answer if they are to build high-performance organizations. Courage is expected of…
Most organizational change efforts, large or small, life-saving or mundane, are destined to fail. Generally, they don’t fail because of a weak concept but because of poor execution, often stemming from a lack of buy-in from the people who have to actually change their attitudes or behavior — your employees. In this inaugural column on organizational leadership and change, I will suggest a simple rule of thumb to strengthen any change effort. In future columns, I will expand on the idea and offer additional tips. In most pre-change situations, your staff will fall into a pattern something like this: 20…
I am privileged to work for and honored to lead an iconic, lifestyle brand that satisfies the growing consumer demand for healthier foods and beverages, a brand that is rapidly growing from a nationally recognized symbol for health and wellness to a global one. Getting Jamba Juice to such a great place was no easy task — the company had its share of challenges when I came on board. I have always been inspired to do my best work against the biggest challenges and the opportunity to lead Jamba’s turnaround has given me the chance to put into practice lessons…
After witnessing the Dust Bowl’s impact on the Midwest, the founders of Lundberg Family Farms decided they needed to take care of the soil and treat it as a living organism when establishing the Sacramento Valley business in 1937. “When they arrived here, they started to farm using cover crops that would produce nitrogen from the air, like a legume or vetch. They also would idle the ground. At that time, it was counter to the methodology of burning,” says Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms and grandson of one of the company’s four founders. The organic rice pioneer…
Tim Schigel sensed where the Internet was headed and developed a platform that changed the way people connect. “I had this notion that people were going to become the center of the Web, not domains or websites,” says Schigel, chairman and founder of ShareThis Inc., a widget featured on more than 130,000 websites that allows Web surfers to share items through social media networks and email. While sharing is now accepted as an integral part of Web use, that wasn’t the case in 2005 when Schigel reached out to a professor at the University of Illinois, David Goldberg, one of…
Thursday, 27 February 2014 05:23

How to handle three hot tax issues for 2014

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Smart Business spoke with Tyler A. Shewey, an associate at Berliner Cohen, about three tax issues that are receiving more attention in 2014.What is happening with sales and use taxes? The California State Board of Equalization (SBE) has focused on several areas lately. One area relates to delivery charges. When a business invoices customers, it must provide a separate line item for shipping charges paid to a common carrier in order for that portion of the charge to be exempt from sales tax. If a business ships merchandise using its own vehicles, invoices must specifically state that title transfers to…
To provide or not to provide? That is the most pressing health insurance question facing companies across the country this year. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act moves forward, many businesses are making strategic decisions regarding health care benefits. Those that have sponsored health insurance for years are now considering dropping coverage and reallocating resources. But what are the true costs of dropping coverage? While the questions may be simple, the analysis can get fairly complex and extend beyond easily identifiable costs. Smart Business spoke with Sholly Nicholson, human resources manager at Sensiba San Filippo LLP, to examine some…
The performance of the average mutual fund, exchange-traded fund (ETF) and hedge fund investor lags the performance of their funds. “The average fund investor loses money by engaging in active investment timing,” says Marco Pagani, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Finance and Interim MBA Director of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business at San José State University. Smart Business spoke with Pagani to learn more about the ability of fund investors to time the market.How is the timing ability of fund investors measured? Fund performance is computed using time-weighted returns — the geometric mean — which measure the return…
Thursday, 27 February 2014 04:51

How to get real about your emotional risk tolerance

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The current market is making some investors question their allocation strategies amid concerns of volatile equity markets and where bonds might go. Your portfolio strategy, however, needs to be about how you want to be positioned in the market for the long haul, taking into account your financial risk capacity and emotional risk tolerance, says Sabrina Lowell, CFP®, chief operating officer at Mosaic Financial Partners. “If you’re investing with a sound, diversified strategy, the conversation shouldn’t be that much different if the market is up, down or flat,” Lowell says. “If you’re not trying to outguess things, you’re just making…
While it is obvious that directors and officers shouldn’t steal from their company or commit other criminal acts, running a business can be very complex and it’s a good idea to set clear policies and procedures for what should and shouldn’t be done, says Nicole S. Healy, a partner with Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley PC. “For public companies, there are rules like those in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that require certain controls and seek to enhance the directors’ oversight. However, in addition to complying with legal and regulatory requirements, any time there is a significant scandal, lawsuit or regulatory change,…
Much of the country is still recovering from the recession, making it difficult for companies to secure financing. Northern California, however, is an exception. “It’s definitely a bifurcated market right now. The environment for financing is very robust here in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs,” says Kelly Cook, senior vice president and market manager at Bridge Bank. “If you read the Wall Street Journal or the Economist, they say banks are still not really lending. That’s not the case here.” Smart Business spoke with Cook about the financing environment and methods available for companies to get funding.Why is the…
Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. There is very little room for error. Therefore, it is important to learn as much as possible from other people’s mistakes and try not to repeat them. In the past three years as an entrepreneur, I have accumulated a long list of “lessons learned” from my own experiences as well as from what I’ve observed from other entrepreneurs. Here are my top five things to avoid when doing a startup:1. Having team members with identical skill sets and backgrounds when your company has fewer than five people.…
You know that you need to harness your data to stay competitive, but where will you find these data scientists? Before rushing to hire an army of computer science candidates with doctorates, understand what successful data science teams do. Data scientists write code that applies complex algorithms to analyze and transform data into actionable insights, and help IT departments determine optimal structure for data storage. But transformation and storage are only pieces of the larger data life cycle. Data science teams also need to do the following: Identify with business stakeholders what initiatives will solve a real need. Visualize and…
Not long ago, I went to Wal-Mart with my daughter. The store had certainly changed from the days of Mr. Sam Walton. Piles of discarded clothes languished in shopping carts outside the dressing room. Items were in disarray aisle after aisle. It took several tries to get help from distracted associates. Later that day, I went to Amazon.com to buy a book. Like Wal-Mart, the Amazon homepage was chock-full of products — everything from running shoes to watches to power tools. And yes, books. I did some searching, but still needed to wade through several listings to find what I…
While political battles and a glitch-prone website have dominated media coverage of health care reform, the Affordable Care Act also has brought about a major change in the way medical service is being delivered. “We’re in this dramatic transformation where health care providers, hospitals and physicians are coming together in an integrated model,” says Greg A. Adams, executive vice president, group president and regional president of Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Region, considered a model for the future of health care. Adams, speaking in November at the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, Calif., says the health care system is…
When James D. White came on-board with Jamba Juice Co. in December 2008, same store sales dipped 8 percent and the company lost $149 million for the year. The recession had prompted consumers to cut discretionary spending, and smoothies just weren’t considered essential. Management created a road map to get the business back on track. “We made a commitment that we’d effectively turn the company around in a three-year-time horizon,” says White, chairman, president and CEO. “I’m happy to report that we completed the turnaround. In 2012, we registered our first year of profitability as a public company.” That included…
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has been in the news for years, but the effective date of July 1, 2014 is fast approaching. Any U.S. business that makes a payment to a foreign vendor or investor will need to determine whether or not the payment is subject to FATCA. The act’s new disclosure requirements cast a pretty broad net — especially with business becoming more and more international, says Chris Paris, regional tax leader in the Greater Bay area at Moss Adams LLP. “It’s either going to be a big demand on businesses’ internal resources, or they will…
While tax laws continue to affect estate plans, protection of assets has become an increasing priority as baby boomers age. “There’s been a lot more conversation in the last five years about asset protection, not just about the client’s assets, but also about protecting the assets the children will eventually inherit,” says James P. Cashman, a partner at Berliner Cohen. Smart Business spoke with Cashman about trends in estate planning and what has occurred in response to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which changed estate, income and gift tax laws. What has changed with estate and gift taxes?…
Not since the emergence of the cloud has information technology received more attention than the current buzz surrounding big data. As with cloud computing, it can sometimes be hard to decipher what big data really means. Former SGI chief scientist John Mashey originally popularized the phrase, using it to describe the relentlessly expanding boundaries of computing — bigger processors, bigger memory, bigger networks and so on. Today, big data refers more specifically to harnessing value through analytics from a vast amount of data flooding business and government agencies. Data is everywhere Analytics and big data have become top 10 strategies…
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