Troy Sympson

Thursday, 10 November 2011 12:15

Social media and recruiting

Cleveland, Ohio-based Blue Technologies is the title sponsor for the 2011 Midwest Social Media Summit. As a part of that sponsorship, Smart Business sat down with Blue Technologies to see how they have implemented social media into their business.

In the video below, Betsy Meyerson, Sales Trainer & Recruiter for Blue Technologies, discusses how a company can utilize social media in its recruiting efforts.

For more on social media and business:

Social media and marketing

Embracing social media

The changing role of salespeople

Betsy Meyerson is the Sales Trainer & Recruiter for Blue Technologies. Reach her at (216) 271-4800 or bmeyerson@btohio.com. Visit Blue Technologies on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thursday, 10 November 2011 12:07

Social media and marketing

Cleveland, Ohio-based Blue Technologies is the title sponsor for the 2011 Midwest Social Media Summit. As a part of that sponsorship, Smart Business sat down with Blue Technologies to see how they have implemented social media into their business.

In the video below, Kelly Waite, the Marketing & Database Manager of Blue Technologies, discusses how a company can utilize social media in its marketing efforts.

For more on social media and business:

Social media and recruiting

Embracing social media

The changing role of salespeople

Kelly Waite is the Marketing & Database Manager of Blue Technologies. Reach her at (216) 271-4800 or kwaite@btohio.com. Visit Blue Technologies on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Communication needs are changing, and if businesses don’t keep up with new and emerging technologies, they could quickly be left in the dust by their competitors.

But with new technologies launching almost every day, it can often be difficult to know if the latest “next big thing” will actually help your business or just be a waste of money.

While there are many buzzed-about technologies being pitched to business owners, there are certain technologies that, if properly implemented and maintained, can really change the way a company carries on day-to-day operations and interacts with its customers.

“The business world is always changing and, with the proliferation of new technologies, that change is exacerbated,” says Kurt Fennell, vice president of product management for Time Warner Cable Business Class. “You don’t need every new technology that comes out, but there are things that can really make a difference for businesses of all sizes.”

Smart Business spoke with Fennell about current technology trends and what businesses should be paying attention to.

What current technology trends should business owners be most aware of?

There are three main technology trends right now that business owners would be wise to pay attention to:

  • The migration from TDM to IP. Businesses are looking for increased flexibility, scalability and value, and moving from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to Initiation Protocol (IP) applications helps them achieve that. Traditional services such as voice and conferencing can now be run over IP infrastructures, thus simplifying integration, enhancing communication and improving interactions.
  • An increase in mobility. With more companies employing mobile workers (people who work on the road) and teleworkers (people who work from home or some other remote location), there has been an increase in wireless applications. These applications allow employees to be more productive and more collaborative, regardless of where they may be working.
  • The emergence of managed services. With companies now able to get more bandwidth, flexibility and scalability due to the migration from TDM to IP, we’re seeing an increase in mobile managed services, such as storage, messaging and security.

How are the phone needs of businesses changing?

There are two key things that today’s businesses want:  the ability to self-manage and the ability to utilize more advanced features.

Self-managing means that a business has remote access to things such as call forwarding or hunt group configuration. A hunt group is the ability for a call to be routed to a station or person based on a set of rules. For example, you could have one telephone number for your sales department. If a call comes in to one of your phones and that salesperson can’t answer it, the hunt group will route the call to another salesperson who is available to take the call.

Advanced features include capabilities that allow your people to interact with customers in the way they want to — like having an auto attendant or Web access for live chats.

How are Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) changing the way employees do their jobs?

A VPN enables two locations to be connected together on the same network, so you can transparently and securely share information between those two locations, as if they were existing on one network. An example of this would be a company’s headquarters connecting to its branch offices, so that employees in the branches could access the file server, e-mail server and/or Internet connection of the headquarters.

Another aspect of a VPN is the ability to tie in mobile or remote workers to that network environment. Normally, this is done through software components that talk back to the VPN, connecting the remote or mobile workers to the network. This offers increased mobility and the ability to access company resources in a secure fashion. Secure remote capability is vital to doing business in today’s technological business world.

How does mobile Internet tie in to all of this?

With a large increase in mobility and the need for employees to be connected while on the go, applications such as productivity tools, messaging systems, video, etc., need to be always available and as fast as possible. Whether employees are connecting their laptops or smartphones with USB cards or Wi-Fi devices, they need to be able to access the applications they need to do their jobs. They also need to be able to connect and interact with colleagues and customers across the country. With the proliferation of 3G and now 4G networks, the mobile Internet allows workers to always be connected.

What would you say to business owners who don’t think they need all this new technology?

There are more traditional businesses that are not on the forefront of the adoption of technologies, and there are other more tech-savvy companies that always adopt technologies early on. There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when to adopt a new technology, but it does make sense for a business to take advantage of those technologies that could improve productivity, enhance operations and save money.

If you have a business that has employees who need to collaborate in any way, or need to maintain a flexible work environment, you should look at what these technologies can do for you. Doing so can not only help you attract and retain the best and brightest employees, it can also help you remain competitive with other businesses that may have more resources than you do.

Kurt Fennell is the vice president of product management for Time Warner Cable Business Class. Contact a Time Warner Cable Business Class account consultant at (877) 407-4260 to discuss your communications needs.

Besides people, a company’s most valuable asset is its intellectual property. Because of this, organizations must ensure that they’re doing all they can to protect this vital asset.

Smart Business spoke with Rockie Brockway, GSEC, GCIH, GSNA, Cisco TSS/Security, the security practice director for LOGOS Communications, Inc. dba Black Box Network Services, about intellectual property and what businesses should be doing to protect their valuable data.

What threats do companies face when it comes to their intellectual property?

Cybercrime has evolved over the last two decades, from brute force attacks for bragging rights in the ‘hacker’ communities to billion-dollar black and grey market profit centers. Today, we are seeing very sophisticated tools that can control millions of hacked ‘zombie’ computers for a single purpose, like mass spamming or attacking other Internet resources. And, these tools come with 800 numbers for live tech support just like any other software you might purchase at your favorite home electronics chain. The bottom line today is that it is easier and cheaper for new or developing companies to purchase stolen trade secrets in an effort to be competitive than it is to develop it themselves, and such incentive opportunities will always create markets, legal or not. This demand translates into exceptionally ingenious ways to exfiltrate critical intellectual property from organizations and presents a large challenge for the security industry as a whole to keep up with the innovations being developed as a result of these new markets.

The other primary threat to an organization’s intellectual property is geo-political in its nature — state-sponsored hacking with the intent to gather as much competitive intelligence not only through stolen IP and trade secrets but also through business methodologies in an effort to try to get a leg up on other countries in these shaky economic times.

What are some ways data can be stolen?

Lost USB sticks, stolen laptops, improper disposal of documents, disgruntled employees, third-party vendors, not to mention targeted hacking attempts and even ‘hacktivism.’ If you can think of a vector for data loss it probably can be done. But the tried-and-true threat vector in the war against data loss ends up being the human factor and social engineering, which has also vastly improved in the last decade. Today, spear and whale phishing high-impact targets, such as CEOs, presidents and board members, and getting them to navigate to a website that installs a malicious application that hasn’t been seen before is commonplace and once that foothold is in place, a little patience goes a long way. If you look at the recent slew of high-profile attacks that resulted in severe data loss like RSA, Oak Ridge Labs and others they all share the same MO — targeted spear phishing, malicious code execution, staying low and under the radar of existing security countermeasures and data exfiltration.

What preventive measures should companies put in place?

Process is key here, and the object is not to panic and throw solutions in place without having a clear understanding of what you are trying to protect, its impact on the business should they be stolen (or worse), the assets that support the business's critical data and the security compromises and risk the business is willing to accept — basic risk management, which unfortunately can be easily overlooked. This process defines the corporate security policies and comprises the strategic half of a good security model. The tactical half of the model is defined by these policies and needs to protect, detect and react to threats. Given the mobile nature of information technology, endpoint host protections are a must, and I am a big advocate of application whitelisting technology. If an organization has the ability to inventory and classify business-use applications, then whitelisting can be utilized to only allow those approved applications to be able to run on the user systems. For most organizations, malware doesn’t constitute a business-use application so it isn’t allowed to execute. And apart from the obvious countermeasures, such as firewalls and encryption use, identity and event correlation are also crucial to a strong security posture. Again, with the adoption of BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and other mobile platforms, organizations cannot simply rely on their traditional perimeter defenses to protect their intellectual property. Security industry guru Richard Bejtlich recently tweeted that ‘identity is the new corporate perimeter’ and that is a very astute observation. On the correlation side, security information and event management (SIEM) systems gather, analyze and present information from network and security devices, vulnerability and identity management tools, OS and database logs and policy compliance tools and correlate and prioritize the data for not only lower administrative overhead but also for auditing and incident response.

How can businesses thwart attacks?

The answer to this question is almost always tied to the adjacent question, ‘Who is accountable if security is breached?’ Security is very subjective so there needs to be a powerful advocate within the organization that has the ability to fight the appropriate battles when necessary in order to ensure security isn’t glossed over as another optional insurance policy. That, combined with the adoption of an enterprise risk management program that weighs the business risks of everything from third-party vendor access to business critical assets to personal mobile devices on the business networks truly gives organizations the leg up on defending their business. One specific action that I highly endorse is the development of a real security awareness program, and not one that exists solely to satisfy a compliance audit checkbox. Regular awareness training can significantly reduce the potential for success of spear-phishing attacks and other social engineering efforts. Another idea is corporate peer groups, meetings of representatives of organizations in the same or similar verticals to discuss what they are seeing, what works, what does not work and share information security best practices and war stories. There is great value in measuring yourself to your immediate peers in terms of security statistics and practices.

What if, despite a business’s best efforts, IP theft occurs?

There are many variables that go into this equation, but in general, the process should go detect, disconnect from the Internet, determine the root cause of the data leakage, fix it, clean up and then resume operations. This is where the enterprise risk management program should already have answered questions like ‘Can the business afford to disconnect from the Internet in the event of a security incident?’ and ‘Should we make a public statement that could potentially harm our reputation?’ Your legal department should most definitely be involved in this process. Involving the appropriate local, state and/or federal authorities is a must. Both the FBI and Secret Service have been investigating security incidents for decades and are highly qualified to provide expert guidance during the investigation.

How can businesses ensure departing employees won’t take intellectual property with them?

The quick and dirty answer is through data loss prevention (DLP) systems. DLP systems give organizations the ability to classify certain data as important and then assign policies to those documents or files. Policies can range from very simple, such as blocking any outbound e-mails that contains Social Security numbers, to more complex rules, such as only members of the executive board are allowed to write documents classified as containing intellectual property to a USB drive. In reality, however, such systems can be cost-prohibitive to many organizations in the SMB market and many find themselves trying to piece together several disparate technologies with higher administrative overhead to accomplish similar results. Like security itself, the balance between capital expenses versus operating expenses is always going to be different from company to company and may dictate which controls are feasible and which are not.

How can businesses best handle having facilities in areas around the world that may be attempting to steal their intellectual property?

This is a continuing and evolving issue for many global organizations. Some have taken the view that any data that is accessible by users in facilities in certain countries should already be considered as compromised. For these businesses, the strategic action plan becomes one focused on designing system and network controls with the ability to enforce the principle of least privilege on the one hand but do not hinder any employees’ ability to do their jobs. Identity is critical in these situations, as is the ability to restrict who has access to sensitive information and control access to removable media. Some organizations are now deploying virtual desktop farms in these regions to address some of their concerns around losing intellectual property, so their sensitive data does not actually reside in these facilities. Others have decided that a certain level of data loss is an acceptable business risk of having facilities is these areas and keep their actual crown jewels under lock and key. At the end of the day, the business must make the decision on what is and is not acceptable and those decisions must be made through the organization’s enterprise risk management process.

Rockie Brockway, GSEC, GCIH, GSNA, Cisco TSS/Security, is the security practice director for LOGOS Communications, Inc. dba Black Box Network Services. Reach him at (440) 250-3673 or rbrockway@logosinc.com.

Monday, 02 May 2011 16:37

What makes a great salesperson?

Douglas Kolker, the president of Summit Selling Systems, Inc. and the owner of the Sandler Training Center, discusses the 33 behavioral characteristics that define what makes a great salesperson, and how to tell if your salespeople have "the right stuff." These characteristics are weighted based on what they’re selling, to whom, for what price points, in how long a sales cycle, etc.

Universally, the most important four of the 33 are:

1.   Responsibility — Do they take ownership of their actions and results?

2.   Desire — Do they have the “fire in the belly,” regardless of what’s happening around them?

3.   Commitment — Do they have documented, ambitious goals and do they do whatever it takes to reach them?

4.   Self image — Do they have a healthy self esteem? Do they feel good about themselves despite what prospects say and do to them?

Douglas Kolker is the president of Summit Selling Systems, Inc. and the owner of the Sandler Training Center. Reach him at (818) 995-7197 or info@sumsell.com.

As we are coming out of this recession, companies are hiring again and staffing specialists can utilize their databases of qualified candidates to assist companies with filling critical openings with great candidates more quickly.

“The fact that companies are starting to hire again is a positive indicator for professionals, as well as companies,” says Andrew Devore, managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. “For professionals, it gives them the opportunity to explore positions they wouldn’t have considered a couple of months or even a year ago. For companies, they can now look internally and externally for growth. Many companies have the financial resources to start growing their operations by adding new talent. They can add the professionals necessary to take them from where they are today to where they want to be down the road.”

For more information, see How to grow your business through professional staffing.

Andrew Devore is managing director of Skoda Minotti Professional Staffing. Reach him at adevore@skodaminotti.com or (440) 449-6800.

The aging of the baby boomer generation and the number of family caregivers is growing rapidly, which has a financial impact on businesses.

If you want to know whether or not this impact is currently being felt at your business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your employees who are caregivers making telephone calls about their care-giving responsibilities from work?
  • Are they arriving late or leaving early?
  • Are they taking additional time off?
  • Are they reducing their hours?
  • Are they developing health or stress issues that are affecting their productivity?
  • Are they becoming depressed and spending more and more time discussing their care-giving issues with colleagues?
  • Are they retiring early or simply quitting their jobs?

“There are more than 20 million family caregivers now juggling work and elder care responsibilities in the United States, and three-quarters of the caregivers are women,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “Employees who provide personal care to a family member tend to have much higher levels of physical and emotional stress. The cost to businesses in lost productivity related to elder care is conservatively estimated in the billions per year.”

Smart Business spoke with Helms about employees who are caregivers, and what companies can do to assist with their care-giving responsibilities.

What are employees who are caregivers really looking for?

Some employers have found that by taking a comprehensive approach to work-life balance issues, they can help minimize turnover and productivity losses related to elder care, which will deliver a return of several times their investment in this area.

To do this, employers need to start with an understanding of employed caregivers’ top four needs: time, timely information, financial advice and emotional support.

  • Time needs include both scheduling flexibility and personal time (time away from work and care giving in order to replenish energy).
  • Timely information should be provided through consultation and referral services and by increasing both your in-house intranet or outside Web-based services, all of which help employees meet the challenge of quickly finding the right help at the right time.
  • Financial advice often involves helping the employee creatively combine publicly funded services with the resources of the elder and the caregiver.
  • Emotional support includes a caring attitude on the part of family members, supervisors and coworkers — and sometimes the assistance of a professional counselor — which will help the caregiver through stressful choices and tradeoffs.

How else can employers help with the work-life balance?

Regardless of company size or type, employers can reap the benefits of encouraging work-life balance among employees. One company is doing just that on their production line, where worker teams can ‘flex’ the start and end times of their team members’ shifts to accommodate the demands of childcare and elder care. Other smaller employers located near to one another have pooled their resources to create an association that arranges backup in-home care. Every employer faces a unique combination of factors regarding this issue with their employees.

Where should employers start?

Creating a family-friendly work environment requires a real commitment from the top. It’s the company’s culture, the unspoken rules, that really make the difference. If a company offers flextime but an employee’s supervisor won’t let them use it, it doesn’t do the employee — or the company — any good. If middle managers don’t see company executives ‘walk the talk’ of work-life balance, good programs may be ineffective. Provide training for your managers. Improve managers’ awareness of the issues surrounding aging and care giving, and help them examine their views on accommodating employees’ efforts to balance personal and family obligations with job responsibilities. Train managers to identify stress related to elder care giving. Let your employees know care giving is an important issue by highlighting information on available resources in employee newsletters and other communications.

Know your employees’ needs. How many employees actively care for aging relatives or expect to do so soon? What proportion of employees’ parents live in distant communities?

Also, take a lifecycle approach. Employees in various age groups have different needs regarding work-life balance. Remember to also communicate with employees without any dependent care needs by presenting elder care initiatives as part of your company’s commitment to work-life balance.

How can employers utilize local resources?

Provide information to employees by setting up an on-site family resource center containing newsletters, books, website addresses and videotapes, or maybe arranging services for direct supports (like geriatric care management or emergency backup homecare). Either way, the place to start is the local community. Contact the state unit on aging. The federal Administration on Aging website (www.aoa.gov) provides contacts in all 50 states. Another option is to research a potential consulting firm’s track record specific to elder care. Also, check with the Alliance of Work/Life Professionals at www.awlp.org.

The reality is that the aging of the American population and work force will affect every employer. Just five years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor predicted 151 million jobs in the nation by 2006, but only 141 million workers to fill them. As baby boomers fall ill and the work force is faced with the responsibility of caring for them, employers who invest now in making the workplace elder-care-friendly can avoid the loss of valuable employees with care-giving responsibilities.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations at the Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or mj@ashtongrp.com.

In last month’s article, the concept of Tax Risk Management (TaxRM) was introduced. TaxRM is an enterprisewide process that is affected by a company’s board of directors, management and/or other personnel, and is designed to minimize tax liabilities and maximize compliance, each within the guidelines of tax laws.

Having provided a definition of TaxRM, this article focuses on elements of TaxRM processes and how they can identify opportunities associated with an organization’s strategy, operations and processes.

“TaxRM is most effective when it is treated as a component of the organization’s overall enterprise risk management (ERM) process,” says Walter M. McGrail, JD, CPA, a senior manager at Cendrowski Selecky PC. “TaxRM should be a key element of every business’s ERM process.”

Smart Business spoke with McGrail about the types of tax risks that exist and how TaxRM processes can help mitigate those risks.

What is the function of TaxRM processes?

When professionals think about tax risks, they generally think of audits and financial reporting issues. TaxRM is about much more than these elements. Among other things, a TaxRM process should quantify the impact and likelihood of tax risks, manage tax risks to a level commensurate with the organization’s stated TaxRM strategy and quantify the benefits associated with proper tax strategy implementation. The last point is a central element of TaxRM: Proper tax strategy implementation can assist an organization in maximizing its after-tax earnings available to shareholders.

What types of tax risks exist?

Profitable organizations pay numerous taxes, including corporate income, sales, excise, payroll and withholding taxes. These taxes arise from decisions made in accordance with an organization’s strategy, operations and processes.

Tax risks are present within each of these elements due to uncertainty in the decision-making process and tax law changes. Among other things, tax risks might pertain to uncertainties in the application of tax law to numerous areas of the business; financial reporting decisions; acquisitions and divestitures; and asset purchases and sales.

Nearly every decision made by a for-profit corporation involves tax implications, and hence, tax risk. With some corporations paying upward of 40 percent of their profits in income taxes, the ramifications of tax risks can be highly significant and can negatively affect a business’s after-tax cash flow.

However, mitigation of tax risks can present numerous benefits to businesses while maximizing tax compliance.

Can you give specific examples of how TaxRM processes can identify opportunities associated with an organization’s strategy, operations and processes?

Let’s suppose an organization has a documented strategy stating that it wants to become a market leader in its industry. In order to achieve this goal, the organization must grow organically or acquire outside firms to increase its market share.

In some instances, the purchase of an external firm may provide significant tax benefits. For instance, if the acquisition is optimally structured from a tax standpoint, the target’s existing tax loss carry forwards may be preserved within the entity post acquisition.  TaxRM processes can also help guide organizational managers in their operational and process-level decision-making. For example, if an organization requires new machinery for manufacturing processes, leasing equipment may provide significant tax benefits when compared with capital expenditures associated with the purchase of a machine. However, the lease versus buy decision will hinge on numerous business-specific factors; it is not always optimal to lease equipment.

What are some prevalent risks that TaxRM processes can mitigate?

Business transactions, including asset acquisitions and divestitures, often present significant tax risks and opportunities for businesses. Involvement of the tax function or an external tax adviser in examining these transactions can yield significant benefits to the organization and potentially improve its profitability. This involvement might also save the business significant costs by ensuring a transaction is structured optimally from a tax standpoint.

For example, in some instances, business owners may desire to change the classification of their organization. If an organization that is taxable as a corporation elects to be classified as a partnership, this election will generally be treated as a full liquidation of the existing corporation and a subsequent formation of a new partnership. This classification change could thus cause the organization to realize harmful tax consequences, both immediately and in the future.

Involvement of the tax function or an external tax adviser in such decision-making can help managers make decisions in the best interests of the organization and maximize the after-tax cash flows of the business.

How can an organization achieve maximum benefits from a TaxRM process?

Again, in order to be most effective, a TaxRM process should be integrated into an organization’s ERM process. In this manner, tax risks can be evaluated simultaneously with other business risks, and the tax benefits and costs of an organization’s strategy, operations and processes can be regularly evaluated. Integrating TaxRM into the organization’s ERM process also signals to employees the importance the organization has placed on TaxRM. If employees can tangibly discern the organization’s emphasis on TaxRM, it is likely that they themselves will place greater emphasis on examining tax risks in their decision-making processes.

Walter M. McGrail, JD, CPA, is a senior manager at Cendrowski Selecky PC. Reach him at (248) 540-5760 or                                                 wmm@cendsel.com, or visit www.cendsel.com.

In the past two months, we have defined tax risk management (TaxRM), discussed the optimal structure of TaxRM processes and provided examples of tax risks. More specifically, TaxRM is an enterprisewide process that is effected by a company’s board of directors, management and/or other personnel, and is designed to minimize tax liabilities and maximize compliance, each within the guidelines of tax laws. TaxRM processes are most effective when they are treated as a component of the organization’s overall enterprise risk management (ERM) process. Typical risks mitigated by TaxRM processes might pertain to uncertainties in the application of tax law to numerous areas of the business, financial reporting decisions, acquisitions and divestitures, and asset purchases and sales.

In this month’s article, Smart Business sat down with Walter M. McGrail, JD, CPA, a senior manager at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC, to discuss how risks can be identified and prioritized in TaxRM processes.

“Prioritization of tax risks is an essential component of TaxRM processes. It may directly impact the effectiveness of a business’s tax function,” says McGrail.

What are some prevalent tax risks?

Many tax risks exist for any organization; however, one of the largest risks an organization faces is the risk of proper tax compliance. IRS audits are costly, time consuming events. The risk of an IRS audit should be mitigated by an organization’s TaxRM process. While TaxRM processes are seemingly the domain of the tax department, tax professionals are dependent on data from outside the tax department. For instance, tax managers must understand the basis of information presented in a business’s financial statements, including the derivation of GAAP-based accounting estimates. Without such an understanding, a tax professional may improperly prepare tax-basis financial statements, increasing the likelihood of an IRS audit. Furthermore, tax professionals should bear in mind that there exists no standard of materiality in the event of a tax audit. Unlike audits of GAAP-basis financial statements, where a threshold of materiality governs the audit, every item in a tax-basis financial statement is material. This is a significant, often overlooked tax risk that organizations must assess and mitigate.

How should tax risks be identified?

One way to promote tax risk identification is through risk workshops. In these workshops, participants from various levels of the organization jointly voice their concerns regarding prevalent tax risks. Workshop participants must possess a personality that affords them the ability to freely voice their concerns. If participants do not possess this personality, the workshop will not optimally identify risks.

Additionally, risk identification in workshops requires participants to identify foundational risks rather than superficial risks or effects of risks. For example, workshop participants might enumerate ‘poor tax compliance’ as a risk. However, poor tax compliance is a consequence of risk realization, not a foundational risk itself.

Poor tax compliance might be caused by the receipt of inaccurate information from a business’s operations. Going a step further, a lack of accurate information might be caused by an outdated IT system, a lack of an appropriate data entry policy, or a poorly executed but well-intentioned data entry policy, among other things.

In any event, it is essential for participants to identify foundational risks in order to properly analyze and mitigate them and the exposure associated with these risks.

How should tax risks be analyzed?

Once identified, tax risks should be quantified along two dimensions, impact and likelihood, before a detailed analysis of the risks is performed. The impact of a risk denotes the consequences of its realization. For instance, if a risky event is realized, this realization may cause the business to be subject to tax-related interest and penalties.

Furthermore, while the realization of tax risks will generally have a negative impact on the business’s after-tax earnings, numerous spillover effects may also occur. These spillover effects may include degradation in the business’s revenue, profits, reputation with customers and reputation with suppliers. It is important to include spillover effects when quantifying the impact of tax-related risks.

The likelihood of a risk is the probability or chance that it may occur. Likelihood is a function of the business’s internal environment, including the tone at the top set by management and the board of directors; business’s organizational structure; chain of communication; assignment and authority of responsibility; human resources policies and practices; and the culture of risk awareness present at the organization. It is also a function of the controls designed to mitigate the likelihood of risky events, including the implementation of risk assessment and monitoring policies.

Lastly, the likelihood of risky events is dependent on the business’s external environment, including its susceptibility to regulatory changes and shifts in its competitive landscape.

What types of tax risks should businesses prioritize?

Businesses should prioritize high impact/high likelihood tax risks, as these risks present the greatest exposure to the organization. High impact/high likelihood risks may be known to the organization due to their frequency of occurrence, but they must be properly mitigated to ensure the business does not suffer frequent, severe consequences. High impact/low likelihood risks, including ‘Black Swan’ events are also of high importance. A business is often highly vulnerable to such risks as employees may be unfamiliar with their occurrence, and proper ways to mitigate these risks in the event they arise.

Walter M. McGrail, JD, CPA, is a senior manager at Cendrowski Corporate Advisors. Reach him at (866) 717-1607 or                        wmm@cendsel.com, or visit www.cca-advisors.com.

Jonathan Ebenstein, the managing director of Skoda Minotti's Marketing Services Group, discusses website design and development.

Your website is a strategic marketing tool, just like an advertisement, press release or brochure. It must fit into the overall marketing strategy you have established for your company. It should be charged with accomplishing specific pre-determined marketing goals and objectives and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your brand.

For more information, see Frequently asked questions about websites and SEO.

Jonathan Ebenstein is the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or jebenstein@skodaminotti.com.