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Wednesday, 02 November 2011 00:06

Claiming the New Hire Retention Credit

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As 2011 draws to a close, now is a good time to start reviewing all available tax credits to determine if implementation before year-end is warranted. One easily overlooked yet extremely powerful credit is the New Hire Retention Credit. This credit was included in the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010 (HIRE), signed into law on March 18, 2010, and allows a credit up to $1,000 for each qualifying retained worker. HIRE does not limit the number of qualifying retained workers.The credit applies to qualified employers for tax years ending after March 18, 2010, that hired and retained…
Monday, 31 October 2011 20:01

Lois Melbourne on work force reorganization

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Whether you’re rebuilding an engine, painting a house or reorganizing a company, the amount of prep work you put in at the beginning makes all the difference in the project’s outcome. That said, let me ask you about your last reorganization:- Has it been successful?- Is the new structure outperforming the old?- If not, how much focus was placed on “putting the work force back together” before and during the “taking it apart” process?Companies spend a lot of money on their on-boarding practices, performance reviews, succession planning and other initiatives. But when it comes time to lay off people, they…
When Phillip Carter was 25 years old, he spotted a dilapidated house that at one time had obviously been a beautiful home, and he decided to see if it was for sale.When he asked the man at the bank if he could buy it, he challenged Carter to make him an offer. Carter said $8,000, and the man said, “Sold.” Carter immediately knew he had paid too much, and it became evident that he had no idea what he was doing in the process of actually buying it.Despite that, he got a home improvement loan for $10,000 and fixed the…
Insuring your business against an emergency is a vital and prudent step to take when owning a business. Most businesses have workers’ compensation and insure their buildings, but there are other types of insurance that business owners may want to consider as well. Choosing the right type of insurance for your business can seem like a daunting task; however, when you choose the right insurance, it can protect you and your business from substantial loss. Many businesses are underinsured because of the expense, but in the event of a crisis, insurance policies can help your company weather the storm and…
Almost without exception, companies make the claim that they won’t make their auditor decision based solely on fees. While fees are important, those charged with corporate governance (typically the audit committee) should consider factors beyond quoted audit fees, which are only the tip of the iceberg.“Of course you should select an auditor qualified to conduct the engagement according to professional standards. While the auditor must maintain independence, that should not prevent the auditor from being consultative. It is perfectly acceptable to talk to your auditor about business concerns such as improving access to capital markets, increasing revenue, using resources more…
Barry Davis’ company, Crosstex Energy Inc., had always been extremely successful since he started the midstream energy service business in 1996.“We averaged a compounded annual growth rate of about 100 percent a year,” Davis says. “It was an incredible journey and everything was up and to the right.”The company continued growing — going from $1.8 billion in revenue in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2007 to $3.5 billion in 2008.“One of the key learnings for us in this experience is whether it’s personally or as a company, sometimes our greatest strengths can become a significant weakness,” he says. “It was…
In today’s economy, companies should be doing everything they can to prevent or eliminate temptation on behalf of their employees. Many employees are truly struggling financially and putting food on the table is a basic need for all of them. Where will the money come from? Many will look to the most ready source of cash: their employer.“Knowing what might provoke an employee, even an otherwise lawful, ‘good’ person, to blur the line between legal and illegal activity is the key to fighting fraud effectively,” says Randy Cochran, a director with Crowe Horwath LLP.Smart Business spoke to Cochran about how…
With an estimated 80 percent of the value of S&P companies in their intellectual property holdings, businesses cannot ignore the impact of IP on their bottom lines, their equity value and their day-to-day operations.Intellectual property law is among the most complex and misunderstood fields of law and represents a veritable mine field for businesses, says David G. Henry, Sr., a member of the Intellectual Property Group at Dykema Gossett PLLC.“Failing to recognize intellectual property issues as they arise, asking the wrong questions, or acting upon the many myths surrounding the proper handling of IP issues can lead to substantial losses…
Many people think that the only time networking is important is when job searching, but networking offers many benefits to business owners as well. Networking is the key to finding out who your ideal clients are and positioning yourself in front of them so they know who you are and what products or services you offer. If you don’t have a good network of contacts and connections, growing your business could be that much more difficult.Networking not only puts you in front of other business leaders in the community, but it also helps you meet potential clients face to face…
Friday, 30 September 2011 20:01

How Bill Conner refocused Entrust

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Bill Conner was constantly busy as the president and CEO of a publicly traded company.In leading the security solutions company Entrust Inc., he and his team had so much to keep up with, and it was exhausting. So he decided to take the company back to being privately held about two years ago. It freed up his and a lot of other people’s time.But the decision wasn’t just good from a time management perspective; it also gave them a new opportunity to really focus on new capabilities and customers and transform the business, which had more than $100 million in…
Friday, 30 September 2011 20:01

Kim Andres’ keys for succeeding together

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North Texas continues to be on the socioeconomic forefront of metropolitan areas acrossthe country — and for good reason. Our region has continued to have a below average unemployment rate and strong economic fundamentals when compared to other areas of the country. Most significantly, these measures are occurring despite a less than ideal economic climate and a population that is growing at rates higher than the national average.I believe the ability of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to outperform many other major metropolitan areas is strongly connected to innovative thinking that enables us to continue creating and capitalizing on opportunities that…
In the last five fiscal years, Carlos Sepulveda has grown Interstate Batteries fromabout $700 million in revenue to $1.5 billion in revenue. In that time, he’s invested in facilities and people, and now has more than 1,600 employees at the Dallas headquarters.The growth, while impressive, has created its own problems, including the conflict that comes from deciding which opportunities to pursue.“It really comes down to a matter of we need to vet the opportunities we’re going to pursue because everything can’t be a priority,” Sepulveda says.Different people evaluate opportunities based on different criteria most relevant to their position and experience,…
Nothing tests a business owner’s leadership skills more than a crisis. How one reacts when confronted with an urgent situation is a strong indication of his or her effectiveness as a leader. There are several qualities every leader must possess to successfully weather a crisis, whether that person is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the owner of a small, family-owned business.You need to be able to think and act rationally when confronted with a stressful situation and assess a crisis from every angle to see how it will impact your business both legally and financially, and influence…
Would one of your customers recommend your company to a friend or colleague? In the telecommunications industry, client satisfaction is historically very poor. Ken Williams, vice president of client services at Simplify Inc., says the key to breaking that trend is to fill the gap and bring a high level of service to the customer.“Client retention comes down to serving your clients well — putting your clients’ success first,” he says.Smart Business spoke with Williams about how to improve customer service and satisfaction.What are the keys to improving client loyalty?I think of them in two broad categories: job performance and…
The construction industry is second only to the restaurant industry in business failures. In fact, from 1990 to 1998, a period of relative strong economic activity, more than 91,000 construction businesses failed.The grim odds faced by leaders in this industry often result from poor transition of management along with failure to see the risks inherent in the business.Proactive management of ownership transition risk will help “ensure a graceful exit” and future business continuity, says Marc McKerley, partner, construction services at Crowe Horwath LLP.Smart Business learned more from McKerley about managing the risk associated with ownership transition.What risks are posed by…
I woke up one Friday morning like I do on most days — around 5 a.m. to get to the office around 6, but this day was a little different. This was the day I “run the rock,” a 5K race.I was invited to run by someone very near and dear to me, and this invitation was definitely more meaningful than most, because it came from my son.Together, side by side, we would take on this beast. A 5K might not seem like much, but my son is not even 10 years old. I, on the other hand, am old…
Like every company, each day at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, all of the law firm’s employees walk out the door. They head home into the sunset to relax with their families, watch TV and pursue their outside hobbies and interests. And each night, as all of his employees leave, Ken Menges has to hope they’ll all come back the following day.“The first thing that has to be accepted in a law firm or any other professional services firm, be it consulting or accounting, is that all of your assets are your people,” he says. “All the people…
Monday, 14 May 2012 15:15

Auditing at the speed of business

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Companies are affected by external environments that are constantly changing due to new technologies, regulations and economic conditions. With the speed of these changes, audit committees and management are demanding their internal audit functions to provide increased, faster assurance.To meet these growing expectations, internal audit groups can no longer afford to dedicate significant resources to routine functions as opposed to focusing on new risks arising from these changing environments. A good way to provide assurance on high-volume, stable processes — including procurement, AP, AR, etc. — while reducing resource requirements, is through continuous auditing.What is continuous auditing?Continuous auditing is the…
Smart Business spoke to Nicole Cinquini-Bray of Phoenix Energy Technologies about how the right technology can help trim your business's energy budget. In just a few short years the Enterprise Energy Management (EEM) market has gone from baby to boomer, projected to grow from an estimated $0.7 billion in 2010 to $3.6 billion by 2015, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. A rising star in the sustainability and clean tech spaces, in the wake of economic crisis this emerging market has significantly upped its pace and its client base in 2010 — and it appears that this is…
Immigration is currently a hot-button issue, so it’s not surprising to hear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently hired 500 new auditors in its quest to crack down on undocumented and unqualified workers.Businesses who rely on undocumented workers take note: If ICE audits your business and finds you have knowingly or mistakenly hired illegal aliens, it will assess up to a $250,000 fine per undocumented worker and $1,000 per mistake on each completed I-9 form.In my experience, I often find that employers are unaware of the stiff penalties associated with hiring undocumented workers. They believe their audit risk is…
How strong are your relationships with your customers? Many companies overlook the opportunity to get to know their customers, a process that can lead to finding new and different ways to expand their business relationship.“Our success comes through relationships and partnerships,” says Bart Beatty, director of Sales and Business Development for Simplify Inc. “Our business allows us to solution-sell. That’s extremely important because we offer so many options and products that we have the ability to give the customer the right solution — to not be hamstrung to one product or carrier. Our solution-oriented partnering empowers them to make informed,…
Technology has opened up doors for a new class of high-tech criminal. Business owners and consumers are bombarded with articles and news reports warning against the dangers of identity theft, computer hacking and other scams that were unheard of 25 years ago.While it’s important to keep your computer and financial records safe from unknown tech-scam professionals, the criminal your business could fall prey to may be much more familiar. Unfortunately, many of the most common types of fraud cases are internal.Smart Business spoke to Glenn Lauter and Paul Orsborn of Comerica Bank about what you can do to protect your…
By the end of 2008, Tom Sanderson had grown weary from his boardmeetings — or lack thereof — at Transplace.The third-party logistics company had gone from four on-site board meetings a year to two onsite and two via phone. But in reality, it had evolved to a point where there was only one board member he could get to regularly attend the two on-site meetings, so everything was really just done over the phone.“That’s not a good situation as a CEO to have a board that isn’t really engaged in giving you advice and challenging your assumptions and helping you…
In order to raise revenue without raising taxes, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) included some provisions that have had business owners up in arms since the act was signed into law last year.Small businesses were facing mountains of paperwork, thanks to a requirement contained in the PPACA requiring them to submit Form 1099 to the IRS for all purchases of goods and services of more than $600 annually, regardless of what businesses were purchasing.“With all the attention paid to this issue, businesses need to know the facts about the reporting requirement’s repeal, as this relates…
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 16:42

Gary Godsey's tips for communicating bad news

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Partnerships and relationships don’t always have a happy ending. On occasion, your personal leadership will be tested to the maximum when you are faced with delivering bad news. Bad news can come in many forms: reduction in work force, getting out of a certain line of business or simply ending a relationship that may have been in place for years. Leaders sometimes shy away from “doing the right thing” when it comes to properly communicating bad news. First and foremost is the simple gesture of reaching out in a personal way — delivering the news with compassion and a personal…
More and more companies are using network-based or cloud-based “virtual” solutions to lower cost and increase efficiency within their telecommunications environments.“When you are dealing with limitations in hardware, software or staff, cloud-based virtual solutions can do in minutes what takes hardware and software solutions months and millions of dollars to pull off,” says Elan Crane, vice president of systems and virtual solutions at Simplify Inc. “The right team of engineers and integrators will strategize, design, prove concept, build, test and implement new systems or augment existing systems. Very few advisers in this space have been providing virtual solutions for more…
Applying for a loan can be confusing for a small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, especially if you’ve never been through the process. In addition to being asked to provide a significant amount of information, you also may encounter unfamiliar terms when seeking financing for your business.Smart Business spoke to Jim Terrell and Donna Mittendorf of Comerica Bank about understanding financial jargon you may come across when applying for a loan.What are some common terms I should be familiar with? Terrell: A few of the common terms that you may come across include the following: Assets. This refers to what…