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When Every Day is Bring Your Kids to Work Day

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Last Updated: Feb 20, 2013
Working at home with young children under foot presents a unique set of challenges. Here are three things you can do keep your kids happy and your business running smoothly.

Ever worked in the regular corporate world and participated in “Bring Your Child to Work Day”? I have. It’s pretty nice to show your kids you work and have them sit in on meetings with you, etc. And, in reality, they usually end up playing most of the day – depending on their age – at some company organized group activities where they get t-shirts, etc. At least that’s the case from my past experiences with previous employers.

Fast forward now to where we are today. We’re working in our small business, meeting face to face with OUR customers, performing hands-on work directly for clients who put food on OUR table. We are the boss. It’s make or break every day, every week, every month, and every year. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing and sometimes it’s living client invoice payment to client invoice payment (replacing the old living check to check concept) and we’re barely getting by. That’s reality.

I realize that not every small business is run from home and in the midst of a family and possibly small kids running around. However, that is my reality and I’m guessing that’s the reality for some of our readers out there. So what if every day is “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” for you? How do you cope? How do have a productive day? How do you put on a professional face with your clients?

I’m an independent consultant, so I’m basically a sole proprietor and the business I have is me and my experience and what I can bring to the table each day. That’s probably the case for many of you as well. And for me, I have nine children, seven of them still at home. Two are in college, one is in high school (all three are currently doing coursework from home) and then four children who are four years old and younger.

If you’re in a situation where you are trying to run a small business in the midst of smaller children who aren’t yet in school or otherwise self-sufficient, here are my three key pieces of advice – things I put in practice just about every single day – in order to have more productive and successful work days.

Wear them out. If you have small ones at home you know they probably have more energy than you do every morning. First and foremost…wear them out. If they are going to be anywhere near your work environment, you don’t want them amped all day long while you try to wedge in work here and there or jump on calls with customers or potential clients. Start the day by getting them up very early, getting them all ready for the day, and then run them ragged. That’s what I do every day. I get all four up, get them ready and – after we have our family breakfast – I then take them to the park for 60-90 minutes. Running them hard at the park means they come back calmer – sometimes down right tired – and I’m ready by 9 or 10am to start a more productive workday with far fewer interruptions and background noises. My wife works out of our home as a photographer as well so it helps both of us to have far more productive days than would otherwise be possible.

Set up a structured oversight schedule. I’m writing this with the assumption that you have at least some help at home to watch the small ones while you accomplish your important tasks and serve your clients. Thankfully, I do in the form of my wife (the work-from-home photographer) and three older kids who are working on their education online from home. We are able to set up a staggered schedule so that someone is always supervising the smaller ones while everyone else can have productive work time. If you don’t have that type of arrangement, you may need to hire out some time, but you can be creative in order to keep costs down.

Timeshare with your spouse. Finally, whether your spouse is staying at home as a parent, is part of your business, has his or her own business from home (as mine does), or works outside the home, figure out some time sharing small kid oversight with your spouse. It may be part of each day, or it may be one day a week. Whatever you can work out will help you to be more productive and – in the case where you’ve had to hire out some childcare – it will help to reduce that overhead cost.

© 2013 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®.  May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author of A Real World Project Manager’s Guide to the Successful Project. He has over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at www.bradegeland.com.

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Are You a Slave to Your Home Office?

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Last Updated: Feb 3, 2015
Don’t let home office isolation get you down. Here are easy ways to combat the problem.

Dear Janet:

About a year ago I quit my job and started working at home full-time. Now, I’m finding isolation and managing my time better are crucial.

There are many days when I find myself working for 14 to 16 hours — or longer! I come right downstairs to my office in the morning, stopping only to grab a cup of coffee. With few, if any, interruptions, I am productive, but on days when I have no outside appointments, I may not even go outside. Sometimes I don’t shave. I feel isolated and it’s uncomfortable.

There are other times that I don’t FEEL like I’ve gotten anything done.

I begin working on the most important task, but hours later find I haven’t gotten to other priorities. It’s as though old tapes are playing in my head saying I haven’t gotten anything done because I’ve been home all day.

I love working from home and don’t want to go back to an office job, but I’m having difficulty coping. Any suggestions?

–Jim

Dear Jim:

How familiar your concerns are! When the office is only footsteps away, it’s tempting to slip in to get “one little thing” out of the way before breakfast, and to return after dinner to complete a job. The result? You never seem to get OUT of the office. And that is bad for you and your family.

Frequently the problem develops because self-employed people have to handle all the jobs that would be delegated or shared in the corporate world. Unless you are unusual, you are your company’s typist, file clerk, marketing department, salesperson. In short, whatever needs to be done, you do.

Still, most self-employed can reduce the time they spend in their home office — if they really want to. You’ve already taken the first step by recognizing the problem and starting to look for solutions to it.

Here are a few suggestions to make more time to enjoy all the good things in life you’re working so hard to achieve:

 

Manage your time more effectively with these time management forms.

  


About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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What is a Sales Tax Nexus?

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Last Updated: Aug 24, 2015
Do you have a sales tax nexus with other states? What is a sales tax nexus anyway? It’s confusing, but we’ve got help. Here’s what you need to know to be sure your business is in compliance.

If you want to incite stress, a tension headache, and maybe a bit of anger, strike up a conversation with fellow small business owners about sales tax. For businesses that sell outside of their home state, it’s a giant nightmare that is nearly impossible to navigate without help.

Before you dive into the maze of twisted laws and guidelines, you need to understand the basics.
 
  

NEXUS!

Today’s word of the day is nexus. Nexus is simply a connection. Once you establish a nexus with another state, you have to pay taxes in accordance with that state’s laws. The bad news: If you establish a nexus with all 50 states, you have to know the tax laws for each of those states and pay appropriate taxes based on your business activity in each. Or you have to hire a company to take on the task for you.

In more academic terms, nexus is, “maintaining, occupying, or using permanently or temporarily, directly or indirectly or through a subsidiary, an office, place of distribution, sales or sample room or place, warehouse or storage place or other place of business.” How do you create a nexus?

1. Selling Stuff- If you sell a product or service to a client or customer in the state you are located in—you have a nexus. Some states have tried to claim that you have nexus if you sell anything at all over the Internet to their residents.

2. Physical Presence- Do you have an office in the state?—nexus.

3. An Employee- Do you have an employee in the state even if they don’t have an office?—nexus.

4. Warehouse- Are you storing your goods in the state?—nexus

5. Independent Contractor- It doesn’t matter what you call them. If they’re doing work on behalf of your company—nexus.

6. Drop Shipper- Do you work with another company that ships products for your company from that state?—nexus.

7. Trade Show- Did you go to a trade show in that state and make a sale? (or not make a sale?)—you guessed it—nexus.

8. Amazon Fulfillment- Do you sell products through Amazon and they’re warehoused in that state?—nexus.

9. Affiliates- Do you have affiliates whom you’ve never met or don’t even know about who are selling your products on their website based in another state?—that’s nexus.

The Depressing Truth

If you or anybody connected to your business does any activity in another state, you’ve probably created a nexus. Because states are generally strapped for cash, they’re looking for any and all sources of income. Because of that, they’re cracking down on businesses that have traditionally made sales in multiple states but never paid sales tax.

The other problem is that these laws aren’t created at the federal level. These are state-level laws and each state is free to do it however they would like. That doesn’t make for an easy task for any business owner.

Even behemoths like Amazon are having trouble with compliance. You don’t have to look too hard to find stories of Amazon leading the charge against what the company calls “heavy handed” state tax laws. Over the years, the company has refused to conduct some business activities in certain states and has gone as high as the U.S. Supreme Court trying to block states from requiring customers to pay sales tax on online purchases. In 2013, the Supreme Court refused to hear an Amazon appeal against a New York state law requiring state tax on online sales.

RELATED: Amazon and Nexus

What to Do

As a small business owner, you probably don’t have time to navigate the complicated maze of compliance in each state. First, are you getting enough business from other states to justify the cost of compliance? If your business is primarily online, the answer is probably yes but if you’re selling a handful of product in another state, it might be too early in your growth cycle to justify the cost and hassle.

If it does make sense, there are services that can help. One of the most popular with small business owners is Avalara. The company automates sales tax filing for each affected state. Simply sign up, upload your sales data to its platform, and Avalara will generate your sales tax return forms for each state. Another is a free service called TaxCloud. Both services integrate with a number of popular ecommerce shopping carts, and when integrated will automatically calculate the right tax as well as file your returns and remit moneys owed.  At this time (summer 2015) TaxCloud is authorized to file taxes for its clients in about half of the states in the US, but is working to expand that number.

You can get similar services from local bookkeeping and tax preparation business as well as other online sources. You can do it yourself but that will require going to each state’s taxation website, figuring out what constitutes a nexus, and finding and preparing the forms.

Bottom Line

Don’t expect things to get easier. States will continue to look for ways to generate revenue. Laws governing nexus will likely get stricter and more complicated leaving quite the headache for small business owners. Sometimes it’s money well spent to hire somebody to tasks like this for you.

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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How to Let Customers Pay with Their Smartphones

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Last Updated: Jul 23, 2015
Accepting payments from your customers’ smartphones is a smart move for your business. Here’s what you need to know about the mobile phone payment options available today.

If your customers aren’t asking already, they will. Doing business with smartphones is likely to become the standard in coming years and as a small business owner, you better be ready when the masses show up with only a phone as a way to pay.

You Have to Change Anyway

The last thing you want to do is invest in a technology that may or may not catch on. It’s not like mobile payment is wiping out traditional payment methods but the good (or bad) news is that you have to invest in new equipment anyway.

Most business owners know that as the United States switches over to EMV credit cards, they have to invest in new card readers anyway. During that switch, merchants can pay a few extra dollars to purchase a card reader that has the technology to accept mobile payments. Experts in the field say that the cost is relatively low—about $250 per payment terminal.

RELATED: EMV Chip Credit Card Processing Guide

Businesses have until October of 2015 to make the switch. That’s when credit card companies are supposed to shift liability for fraudulent technology from themselves to the company with the most antiquated equipment. If you fail to upgrade before that date, you will likely be the one who pays for the fraudulent transaction.

There are plenty of articles online that review the various payment terminals but for small businesses with a relatively simple system, your point of sale company will have plenty of valuable information to offer.

How Do I Sign Up?

There are a number of mobile payment options available to you. Apple Pay is the most talked-about, largely because of Apple’s massive marketing engine, so let’s look at it in more detail. Once you upgrade your equipment the sign up process is easy. Your payment provider will set up Apple Pay for you. Apple Pay accepts Visa, MasterCard, and American Express cards and there is no additional fee for using it. Just the normal merchant fees you were already paying.

RELATED: Merchant’s Guide to Apple Pay

The customer’s payment is charged as a card present transaction and all of the current rules regarding fraudulent activity apply. Remember those rules will likely change in October of 2015.

To process a return with Apple Pay, it could be as easy as the customer tapping your payment terminal with their phone. In other instances, you may have to manually process the return but all you have to do is ask the person for a number in the Passbook app of their phone.

If you have a rewards program, Apple Pay will not currently link with it but the company has promised that when it releases iOS9, you will have that option. Of course, you will probably need a programmer (called a developer in the computer world) to help with that.

You can already integrate Apple Pay with your app if you have one, but again, it will take a developer to help with the integration unless you have those skills yourself.

For more information about integrating Apple Pay, read more here.

Other Options

Hats off to Apple for making you think Apple Pay is the only way to accept mobile payments but it’s not. Another lesser known way is the upcoming Android Pay. Much like Apple Pay, customers can use their Android-based phone to pay using their NFC-enabled payment terminal.

As of now, companies like Best Buy, GameStop, jetBlue, Macy’s, and McDonalds will accept Android Pay. Because Android and Apple Pay work with the same technology and setup is the same for both, you can accept both payment systems without any financial outlay. The only challenge is training your employees on how to accept payment options from the various devices.

A Little Lower Tech

“Mobile payment” doesn’t just involve using your smartphone. Paying outside of a traditional credit card terminal is still commonplace especially among small business owners. PayPal Here uses PayPal along with a card reader you plug into a mobile device to accept and process credit card payment. Square and Intuit Payments are two other options but as the U.S. moves to EMV technology, these payment types will have to evolve.

Square saw it coming and designed a new reader to process chip cards and others will certainly do the same.

What About Security?

According to most security experts, you have nothing to worry about with mobile payments. Even if a hacker could find a security flaw in the software, iPhones have a chip embedded in the phone that protects against malicious use. Each time a customer uses Apple Pay, the phone generates a one-time use code for transmission instead of sending the credit card number. (Called tokenization among mobile pay experts.) Even if somebody intercepted this code, it would be useless to them.

Of course, hackers will try and likely succeed at some point but currently, experts say not to be worried.

Bottom Line

Wallets will likely be a thing of the past not far into the future. Cell phones are the payment device of the future. Admittedly, Americans aren’t adopting mobile pay as rapidly as companies like Apple and Google would like but look for adoption to speed up once more businesses, like yours, install NFC readers and the process becomes more mainstream among consumers.

Copyright 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted or republished without permission.

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