Everything you should know before hiring private contractors for your business

woman talking on phone call smart phone earphones
Hiring independent contractors instead of employees can save you 15 to 30% on payroll taxes and benefits.

  • Hiring private contractors can be tricky when it comes to properly filing taxes and worker’s comp insurance.
  • If a contractor functions like a full-time employee, misclassifying them which invite hefty penalty fees.
  • If you operate in multiple states, adjust your policies to follow the state with the strictest laws.

Jessica Stuart learned the hard way the risks of relying on independent contractors. In 2016, her Washington, DC-based production company, Long Story Short Media, filmed in 40 states and hired local crews for each project. The next year, it got slapped with an insurance audit, requiring Stuart to get proof from each of her vendors that they all carried workers’ compensation insurance – or be on the hook for back payments.

“It took us down this massive rabbit hole,” she said, “looking at: Is it 52¢ or $100 that we owe to Montana, because we filmed there for two days?” Many companies rely on employer of record firms – like TriNet or NPI – to avoid headaches. But if you plan to handle compliance in-house, here’s what to know.

Know your ABCs

Federal and state worker-classification laws vary widely, so consult with a lawyer who’s well-versed in the rules everywhere you operate, said Tracey Diamond, a labor and employment attorney at law firm Troutman Pepper. In some states, independent contractor relationships are subject to the “ABC test,” meaning you must show that a) the contractor’s work is not under your company’s direction and control, b) it is outside the course of your company’s usual business, and c) the contractor has an independent business to do that work.

Beware the permalancer trap

If a contractor works for you full time and has no other clients, and you’re exercising control over that contractor’s work, it’s time to consider reclassification, said Craig Gehring, cofounder and CEO of MasteryPrep, a test-preparation company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that employs about 50 staffers and 150 contractors.

“Let’s say we have this person who’s writing items for us every day, and they’re following all our guidelines, and they’re coming to all of our company meetings. They’re just an employee at that point,” Gehring said. “Let’s not try to figure out how we can color outside the lines.”

Gauge your risk tolerance

Hiring independent contractors instead of employees can save you 15 to 30% on payroll taxes and benefits, said Richard Reibstein, co-head of law firm Locke Lord’s independent contractor compliance practice. But if you’re caught misclassifying, what you’ll owe in back taxes, benefits pay­ments, fines, and federal penalties could easily obliterate those savings. And that’s if you don’t get sued. If you operate in multiple states, Gehring advises mitigating that risk by tailoring your policies to the one with the strictest laws.

As for Stuart? Well, she’s found that strict compliance has been well worth the cost. Her company still hires contractors, but it now has 27 full-timers on its staff. Monthly overhead has more than doubled since 2016, but profit margins have also increased. “It was an investment,” she said. “But in terms of the trajectory of the company, we’ve grown exponentially ever since.”

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6 tips to make work meetings more productive and valuable

business meeting
If meetings interrupt your progress, try asking which meetings actually add value to your team.

  • If you lead meetings at work, it’s important to ensure they’re concise and make the most of everyone’s time.
  • Provide an agenda, clarify action items to stay on track, and recap what needs to get done.
  • Check in with your coworkers to ask which meetings they think are the most valuable and productive.

If you are like most business owners, you start the day by reviewing your calendar and seeing how many meetings you have for the day. Often, there are quite a few each day, many of which are marked as urgent. This can be a total productivity killer – not to mention a mood killer as well.

In fact, meetings are one of the first things I go over when I start working with a new business coaching client because it takes up such a huge portion of their day. When I find a client who is struggling with the constant barrage of meetings and interruptions, we go through a series of questions about the meetings that they hold. Questions like:

  • How many meetings do you have on an average day?
  • Do you have to be present for all of them, or are any of them able to be passed off to one of your team members?
  • Do all of the meetings you currently lead or participate in add real value?
  • Or have they just become a dull routine?
  • Which ones really add the most value?
  • Which meetings could be canceled, or made less frequent, or shorter?
  • Which meetings need to be added or extended?

1. Always plan your meetings in advance

If you don’t have an agenda, don’t hold the meeting. The chances of you going off the rails and wasting time on things that don’t create value are very high. Instead, postpone the meeting until you can dedicate a bit of time beforehand to lay out the agenda.

2. Start strong

Start on time and start strong. Jump right into your agenda, and get to the point. Everyone’s time is valuable and if you spend five or ten minutes of each meeting getting warmed up an hour or more might be wasted a day on small talk.

3. Stay focused

It’s easy to get sidetracked. It’s more difficult to stay on task but well worth the effort. Follow your agenda, and if you do find yourself on a tangent, write it down as a future action item and address it at another time.

4. Give everyone a chance to speak

Beware of one or two strong personalities hijacking your meeting. This includes you! A simple trick to give a voice to the quieter participants is to give them a moment to “jot down” their ideas, thoughts, or input to be shared with you later.

5. Clarify action items as you go

Got a long meeting and don’t want to miss anything? Flag all-important action items as you go, including:

  • Who?
  • Does what?
  • By when?
  • To what standard?
  • How to close the loop?

6. Recap after the meeting

After the meeting is over, send out a meeting recap email outlining the action items and discussion points that were covered in the meetings.

If needed, put the recap into your project management software as well.

Above all else, be consistent with your actions. A calendar full of pointless meetings is nothing to aspire to. A calendar full of well-planned out value-added meetings that will help propel your business forward is.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I tried a 5-step productivity hack to help kick my procrastination habit – here’s how it works

woman using laptop and phone at home
Procrastination makes life much more laborious and burdensome than it should be.

  • Procrastination is a life-long battle, but it’s a winnable one – if you follow the principles of emotional intelligence.
  • While procrastinators might seem productive, the habit causes excessive anxiety and burnout.
  • To quit, first acknowledge the need to change, identify your feelings, begin tasks earlier, schedule tasks in a calendar, and use the “five-minute rule.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I used to be a master procrastinator. I say “master” because I felt my procrastination was with a “purpose.” It was justified.

I’m extremely busy, I’d tell myself. And since I have so many things to do, I’ll push off this important stuff so I can focus on the urgent (also important) stuff.

I had also seen the effect of “Parkinson’s Law.” You know, the concept that states that “work expands to fill the time available.” To combat that, I’d often wait until I had just enough time to complete a task before staring work on it.

“That’s how I can get the maximum amount of things done,” I told myself. But there are some big problems with this thinking.

First, I tended to underestimate scope. I thought I knew how long it would take to complete a certain task…but it often ended up taking longer, so I was late. Or I rushed the job – but didn’t give it the time, attention, or deep thought it deserved.

Additionally, I lived under constant stress. I was very productive – running a business, spending time with my wife and kids, even serving as a volunteer several hours a week. But extreme productivity was accompanied by extreme pressure.

I can’t continue like this, I told myself. So, I started to make changes. Those changes led to positive results, like relieving stress and increasing the quality of my work, my family time, and my joy.

Each of the following tips are founded on principles of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions with the goal of producing real change.

1. Acknowledge the need to change

If you’re a master procrastinator like I was, you have to stop making excuses for procrastination and acknowledge the reasons why it’s bad. Otherwise, you won’t be convinced there’s a need to change.

First and foremost, procrastination is evil because it often causes you to not give a desired task or project the time it deserves. But there are other problems, too.

“Procrastination makes life much more laborious and burdensome than it should be,” a friend once shared with me. “It also makes it a lot less fun, because it increases the worries and anxieties about getting things done the right way and on time instead of just doing them.”

And now that we’ve established that, say it with me:

Procrastination is bad.

Procrastination is bad.

Procrastination is bad.

2. Identify and understand your feelings

There are several emotions and feelings that could contribute to your procrastination habit.

They may include:

  • Fear (of doing something you don’t enjoy or the sheer size of a task or project)
  • Pride (I’m so productive, I’ll focus on other more urgent things and do this tomorrow.)
  • Anxiety (There’s just so much to do, I need a break.)

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these feelings. But by identifying and understanding them, you can deal with them.

Fear of a huge project is natural. But could you break that project up into manageable tasks?

Being proud of your productivity is OK, to a degree. But might you need to say “no” more often, to give the proper time and attention to the more important things?

Anxiety is natural. But can you set a time limit on your break, maybe 15 to 20 minutes? Otherwise, you’ll head down the YouTube rabbit hole and your anxiety will give birth to, well…more anxiety.

3. Work on stuff earlier

For master procrastinators, the idea of working too early on a task is stupid.

What if something changes and causes me to want to do this thing differently?

Or what if I don’t even end up having to do this thing at all?

(Believe me, I’ve thought of them all.)

But remember:

Just because you start working on something doesn’t mean you have to finish.

The beauty is that by starting, you get the juices flowing, allowing you to reach a state of flow more quickly so that you get more of your thing done than you anticipated. (More on this in step 5.)

Additionally, you increase the quality of your work – because every time you revise your thing, it gets better. (Procrastinators, on the other hand, are basically always turning in their first draft.)

So, have you:

  • Just finished a meeting? Start planning the next one.
  • Got an idea? Don’t just write it down. Start fleshing it out.
  • Been assigned a task? Start preparing it now (or the same day, if possible).

4. Put it in the calendar

In the past, if I couldn’t work on a task or project right away, I’d add it to my task list. This assuaged my anxiety, as it made me feel that the task would get cared for.

Bad idea.

I ended up with an “impossible” list, a list of tasks so huge that it was impossible to finish anytime soon. So things towards the end of the list just kept getting pushed to the next day, and the next day, and the next day….

So, instead of adding important tasks to a list, schedule them in your calendar.

Make sure to schedule enough time to actually get your task done, or at least make significant progress. And don’t fill your calendar with back-to-back tasks, meetings, and appointments; that’s just setting yourself up for burnout.

Instead, if you’re reasonable about your expectations and give yourself time to breathe, you’ll do more and better work in the long run.

5. Use the five-minute rule

Finally, if you find yourself with some free time and you need to convince yourself to start working on a difficult task, follow the five-minute rule:

Force yourself to work on a task for just five minutes, with the understanding that you can quit after five minutes if you like. (Face it, you can do anything for five minutes.)

This simple mental trick is usually just to get you started – and it will often turn into much more than five minutes. But even if it doesn’t, you’ve done the hardest thing of all:

Gotten started.

So, remember: Fighting procrastination is a life-long battle.

But it’s a winnable one, especially if you:

1. Acknowledge the need to change.

2. Identify and understand your feelings.

3. Work on stuff earlier.

4. Put it in the calendar.

5. Use the 5-minute rule.

Use these techniques to drastically increase the quality of your work, lower anxiety and stress, and leave your procrastination habit behind – once and for all.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 types of people you need in your professional support network

collaborate
Sponsors have the most influence. If you don’t have one, consider ‘promoting’ a mentor.

  • Behind every successful person is a powerful support network.
  • You need mentors, truth-tellers, advocates, and sponsors in your network.
  • Evaluate your support system and find people you admire to fill in any missing rolls.

Leaders who reach the pinnacle of their professional goals don’t do it alone. Behind every success story is a solid support network.

Everyday support comes from partners, friends, and family, but a support network is much more. It’s made up of people who, in their unique, individual ways, can help us to thrive, grow, and achieve our professional goals.

Kathryn Heath, founding partner of Flynn Heath Holt Leadership, posits that a solid support network consists of people who fulfill four distinct roles: mentors, advocates, sponsors, and truth-tellers. You can rely on your support network to help you do everything, from navigating office politics to charting a successful career path to giving day-to-day feedback. The people in your support network do not have to work in your company or even in the same industry, but it helps if most of them do.

Here is how each unique support network role is defined. Take stock of who is in your system now and figure out which roles are missing. Or get inspired to build your support system from scratch.

1. Mentors

A mentor is someone in your company who, through their greater years of experience, can offer advice and guidance, and share their experiences and best practices. The mentor relationship is typically one-way, although being a mentor can be greatly fulfilling.

A mentoring relationship can be a two-way street when it is a reverse-mentoring relationship. In reverse mentoring, a junior team member exchanges skills, knowledge, and understanding with someone more senior. This kind of mentoring offers many benefits and can create a lasting impact within an organization. It increases the retention of millennial and Gen Z workers, empowers new hires to speak up, promotes diversity, and improves new workers’ critical business skills.

2. Advocates

People should have several advocates in their support network. These are the people who enjoy working with you and can speak on your behalf, advocating for your skills and talents. Advocates don’t have to necessarily be in senior positions – they can be peers, direct reports, or senior leaders.

3. Truth-tellers

Truth-tellers offer a sounding board for honest feedback. They typically enjoy a close, trust-based relationship with you and want to see you succeed. It’s because of those dynamics that they are unafraid to provide constructive criticism when you need it. Truth-tellers can be peers, friends, or even family members.

4. Sponsor

Sponsors are the members of your support team with the most influence. They are typically in senior leadership, and have the power and seniority to make things happen. A great sponsor is an influential ally who believes in you and is enthusiastic about publicly endorsing your talents, helping propel your career forward.

When I coach leaders, I often have them take inventory of who makes up their current support system. Do they have someone who fulfills each role? Typically, people can easily name their mentor, and maybe two or three advocates. Truth-tellers and sponsors are much more difficult to identify. Some leaders realize they don’t have people in their lives they can look to for honest feedback, or people in their company who are their enthusiastic sponsors.

If you are taking inventory of your own network and realize you don’t have a sponsor, consider ‘promoting’ a mentor to a sponsor. The sponsorship relationship is more collaborative than the mentorship one, with sponsors having more day-to-day exposure to your talents and abilities. A sponsorship relationship can also be reciprocal – while a sponsor is invested in your future and can help develop your career, they also learn from your unique skills and experiences, areas they may be missing.

We don’t have to navigate the challenges of building a career alone. With the help of our mentors, advocates, truth-tellers, and sponsors, we can give one another the support we need to reach all of our goals.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to manage remote workers across different time zones

video call
Flexible schedules and different time zones can make it difficult for teams to collaborate effectively.

  • It can be tricky to coordinate remote workers who are spread across different time zones.
  • To avoid a loss in productivity, create clear agendas and set up a centralized workflow.
  • You can also swap traditional meetings for pre-recorded videos that don’t require real-time attendance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A healthy workflow is an essential element of success for every professional team. However, problems begin to arise when a project manager has to orchestrate a consistent flow within a virtual environment.

The modern shift to a remote-heavy work model has put a novel kind of pressure on teams as they strive to stay on the same page. Flexible schedules and different time zones can make it difficult to be on the clock at the same time – let alone to collaborate together.

Here are a few suggestions for simple yet effective ways to overcome those growing pains and reconcile your team’s workflow.

1. Create crystal clear agendas

Meeting agendas aren’t a perfunctory step for a professional gathering. They’re an art form that, when done well, can revolutionize the productivity of a meeting. Agendas provide purpose, set expectations, empower individuals, and enhance focus.

A good meeting agenda should include the topics being addressed as well as action items, talking points, and other activities. These should be outlined, with each task assigned and meeting objectives unequivocally stated.

The meeting organizer owns the agenda, but it’s absolutely critical to provide the agenda to the entire team before the meeting. By doing this, you ensure that whenever your team is assembled for a few moments, everyone comes prepared and informed.

2. Embrace asynchronous meetings

When you think of a meeting, it evokes images of well-dressed employees gathered around conference tables in the same space. It’s time to throw that idea away.

Instead, try using an asynchronous meeting approach. This is a kind of meeting where communication doesn’t happen in real time and also doesn’t require an immediate response. By sending out a pre-recorded video of the meeting, meetings can take place without the need to align schedules.

An asynchronous meeting can be as simple as an email exchange or communication via some other messaging application that doesn’t require real-time attendance. However, that doesn’t mean you let the conversation run wild.

To hold a real asynchronous meeting, you must provide a sense of structure. Meeting organizers must select a limited number of participants and create an agenda with a clear purpose. As the meeting “takes place,” they must also set clear deadlines, invoke responses, and generally oversee the progress of the event.

3. Set up a centralized, cloud-based workflow

It’s easy to attack the inefficiencies of meetings, especially in an online format. However, the truth is, meetings do offer a sense of structure and forward momentum for a team.

One of the best ways to maintain this progress with a multi-time zone workforce is by setting up a centralized, cloud-based workflow space for your team’s activities. This isn’t just referencing a cloud data storage solution like Google Drive or Dropbox. It can require a full-blown workflow application.

A good workflow app doesn’t just offer universal access to critical team information. It also helps shepherd your team through its activities through things such as setting deadlines and assigning responsibilities. It also provides a central, organized space where your team can upload shared documentation from various third-party applications.

The remote work world has a plethora of benefits. But that doesn’t change the fact that it has thrown a monkey wrench into the workflow of a lot of companies.

The good news is that there are alternatives that can ameliorate the issue. If you’re willing to embrace things like clear agendas, asynchronous meetings, and workflow apps, you can eliminate the bulk of the need for regular meetings – and not shed an ounce of productivity in the process.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 different ways to monetize your blog as a business owner

a woman sitting on a balcony looking at a laptop
Affiliate marketing is one popular way to make money off a blog.

  • Blogs are an inexpensive and low-risk way for creators and business owners to build an online audience.
  • Depending on the size of your audience, you can partner with different advertisers to run display ads.
  • Another lucrative way to monetize your blog is to sell your own products or services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There are a million and one business ideas that any aspiring founder can pursue. However, I believe blogging is one of the best options due to the ease of getting started, low startup cost, and ability to scale.

When I started my blog, all it took was getting my domain and hosting set up and then choosing a CMS provider so that I could begin creating content. Running my blog over the past two years has been an exciting journey. I’ve learned a lot about the digital marketing space and what drives traffic to a website. One important lesson I learned is that no one will visit your website for the first few months of its existence. If you’re experiencing something similar, don’t falter. Create a consistent production schedule, see if you can get some writers to help out for free, and try to guest post on other blogs to boost your credibility.

I also learned that when you start, make sure you’re not starting too broad. For example, if you want to start a blog around plants, start with, say, a blog around dandelions. The more specific you get, the easier it is to rank for the terms you want and the less pressure you will feel to cover multiple topics.

Beyond these beginners’ lessons, here’s what I’ve learned about how you can monetize a blog. You can use display advertising, affiliate sales, or sell a product or service.

1. Display advertising

Display advertising, which can be set up through Google Ad Sense, is the quickest and easiest way to start monetizing your blog. The issue with this approach is that it is also the least profitable approach. Your revenue per thousand visitors will be anywhere between $0.30 to $2.

As your blog grows, you can start partnering with more exclusive advertising networks like Mediavine, which requires monthly traffic of at least 50,000 people, or Ad Thrive, which requires monthly traffic of at least 100,000 people. Depending on your niche, these networks will pay you anywhere from $10 to $40 per 1,000 visitors.

2. Affiliate sales

The second method, affiliate sales, is when you get a commission every time you sell another company’s product. This is the approach recommended to most people getting into blogging, as you don’t need to go through the hurdles of creating a product yourself. Also, you don’t need nearly as much traffic as you would need from display advertising to make a living.

The downfall of this approach is that you don’t control the product or service that you’re offering. At any point, the company you are promoting could discontinue its product or cut its commissions.

3. Sell a product or service

The final way you could monetize your blog is by selling a product or service. This is the most lucrative approach but comes with the most risk. When starting your blog, you’re not going to have any traffic. So not only do you have to go through the time and monetary commitment of building a product or service, you also need to do all the necessary steps to grow your traffic.

The most common approach you’ll see is starting with affiliate marketing. Then, once you have consistent cash coming in, build your product or service in the same space and direct your visitors to your offer rather than to your affiliate offer.

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3 ways to reach Elon Musk’s level of productivity by breaking old habits

Tesla CEO Elon Musk wears a black and white bandana around his neck in front a light blue sky.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Habits allow us to automate many actions to avoid endless decision making.
  • But they can also keep us stuck, so leaders like Elon Musk learn to welcome the unknown.
  • Stay open-minded by arguing like you’re right, listening like you’re wrong, and thinking backward from the solution.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We are, as they say, creatures of habit.

Elon Musk may seem to be a different sort of creature compared to us ordinary humans, but even he thinks and behaves habitually from time to time. What makes him truly unique, though, are the times he chooses to rely on habit – and most importantly, the times he chooses not to.

Habits are good, but only to a point.

On the surface, habits are an amazing thing. They allow us to automate many of our actions so that we don’t have to allocate precious cognitive resources to thinking, deliberating, and planning every single decision of our lives.

The so-called “System 1,” à la psychologist Daniel Kahneman, allows us to get more done with less mental effort. But habits on their own don’t produce remarkable leaders like Elon Musk. Habits are only useful in situations that are mostly known and predictable – where our routinized behaviors will produce routinized results. Musk’s world, safe to say, is anything but predictable.

The best leaders, like Musk, intentionally design their life to make room for the unknown and to ensure that the important thinking, strategizing, designing, and creating are done outside of habit mode. Genius thinking is all about producing novel insights. Rarely do novel insights come out of the humdrum habitual thinking. Because insights, as my business partner Marc Whitehead likes to say, are what we get when we look at the same thing and uncover different patterns.

So what does this mean for you? How can you avoid the safe and explore the unknown without necessarily throwing out the habit baby with the bathwater?

1. Argue like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong

Leaders must have conviction if they wish to build a movement and influence the people around them. But conviction is best built from understanding all points of view and building a compelling case that respects them all.

Taking a defensive stance when introducing a new idea will only serve to confirm your prior opinions. Listening to arguments against a new idea not only serves to strengthen it but nurtures buy-in from the very people who typically seek to object. As Adam Grant talks about in his new book, go into a conversation with your biggest critics asking, “What evidence would you need to change your mind?”

2. Think backward from the solution to find a better path forward

Oftentimes, when setting up at the starting line, all you can see are the obstacles in front of you. They often can feel insurmountable and become the focus of your energy. In these moments, we tend to rely on habit to do much of the heavy lifting.

Instead of this, embrace the water logic of flow. Start, in your mind, at the final end-point, working your way back to the start. Then watch the obstacles disappear.

3. Seek the counsel of dissenters to find common ground for all

If you think you have a brilliant new idea but it has yet to be confirmed through evidence, don’t seek the opinions of those who will build the case for it. Instead, seek the counsel of those whom you instinctively believe will object. Some call this a “challenge counsel”.

They will be the ones to find holes for you to patch. The problems that are better resolved at the outset rather than once they are uncovered in the market. Don’t move quickly to build a quorum around “yes,” rather search out the “nos” then refine towards the better yes down the line.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves before diving into a new business venture

Black business owner entrepreneur
You should know what resources are available to you before you get started.

  • Entrepreneurs should first take a hard look at their own values before jumping into any new startup.
  • Ask yourself questions like is your timing right and should you take this on alone to start strong.
  • If you have a clear roadmap, you can build a business that will bring you more in the long run.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs I know are just waiting for that unique idea to strike them that will kickstart their new venture, put them in control of their lifestyle, allow them to achieve financial independence, and maybe even change the world.

Unfortunately, these goals are often mutually exclusive, and focusing on the wrong ones won’t bring you that business success and satisfaction you crave.

Thus, in my role as mentor to young entrepreneurs, I always recommend that you first take a hard look at your own values and priorities before jumping into any new startup, as the founder or even as a side hustle.

Here is my list of key questions to ask yourself to best route your passions to a business that will bring you more visibility and respect than pain.

Read more: I have multiple streams of income. Here are 5 of my favorite ways to make money, from print ads to affiliate marketing.

1. When is the best time to embark on this journey?

Timing is critical for every startup. I know too many who have failed because of pending family commitments, lack of preparation, or health failure. Of course, if you wait for the perfect time, you may never start. I do first recommend getting some business experience, building relationships, and managing risk.

Some advisers recommend that the best time for a startup is immediately after academic studies, or even earlier, but I find that real business experience, perhaps many years in business, is the best education on the realities of business, current tools, and processes.

2. Should I start out alone, or assemble a team first?

For me, the acid test of a leader and an idea is whether you can persuade other people, and perhaps a cofounder, to join you in your quest. A business is never a solo operation. You need complementary skills for marketing, financials, and operations. If you find no takers, you may not have a future.

3. Is monetary return or helping others your priority?

Only you know whether you can find passion in creating the next Amazon, or bringing joy to people who are suffering. I often hear that the people who have made a lot of money are still not happy, and wish they had taken a different path. Think twice before committing to a business that is work.

A winning strategy today is to combine these objectives, by committing a portion of your profits for a higher cause. For example, Toms shoes agreed to donate a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair sold. The return was far greater than the cost of donated shoes.

4. Do I rely on my own resources or seek investors?

Bootstrapping is always a great alternative, because you can retain full ownership and make all your own decisions. Yet I find that most of us don’t have the financials for that option, so we must share the equity, control, and reward, and rely on funding from family, friends, and professional investors.

5. How do I assign responsibilities and compensation?

Usually, people who are capable and willing to join a startup, especially for a key role, expect to be given a big title and real equity, if not top cash compensation. It takes real work and skill on your part to recruit the right people to the right roles. Friends and family should not be your solution.

6. Would I prefer a local business or global enterprise?

If your comfort level is local, and you don’t like too much complexity, then a small successful business will serve you well. If your goal is to compete with Jeff Bezos, then be prepared to manage thousands of locations and employees around the world, with all the issues to get exponential growth.

7. What do you see as your legacy and exit strategy?

Some people like the challenges of building a product and starting a company, and then doing it again, while others look forward to scaling the business and driving a worldwide public enterprise. Your legacy may be that of a serial entrepreneur, or an industry giant and a worldwide leader.

For example, Richard Branson relishes the satisfaction of initiating innovative startups and rewarding strong team members with the opportunity to run a joint spinoff. His Virgin Group now encompasses over 400 companies, and his legacy as a leader is assured.

Not recognizing these dilemmas early has cost many an entrepreneur their sanity, as well as their businesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and are driven by different values and expectations.

Only you can turn these questions and related decisions into your competitive edge, as well as satisfying results. It’s easier to set your direction early than to change it later.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 questions to ask to keep employees safe before reopening the office

reopening covid office employees business workers face masks
When bringing employees back into the office, it’s important to make safety habits stick.

  • As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads, office safety protocols are more important than ever.
  • Test your HVAC systems and prioritize having enhanced ventilation and filtration systems.
  • Check in with your employees regularly to see if they’re taking care of themselves and how you can help.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Early on in the summer, no one would fault you for exuberantly plotting your back-to-the-office plan. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 were waning and it suddenly seemed like life was once again approaching normal. However, with the more contagious Delta variant now spreading across the US, you’ll want to assess the potential health risks of opening up the office.

Read more: I spoke with over 2,000 companies about remote-work plans going forward. Here are 21 key themes and predictions of what will happen before 2030.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before bring employees back:

How safe is your physical workspace?

Your office or physical space may have been suitable for work prior to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it will be moving forward. One major example is air quality.

Business owners need to focus on having enhanced ventilation and filtration, said Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program and an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Breathing and talking constantly admit respiratory aerosols that can build up indoors unless diluted out of the air or cleaned out of the air through filtration. And most buildings are designed to a minimum standard that was never intended to be protection against infectious diseases.

Before fixing anything, though, you have to know what your system is doing. Dr. Allen recommends every company “commission” their building, a process by which the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of a building are tested for performance and functionality. “It’s the equivalent of giving your car a tune-up every year, and it’s not done enough,” Dr. Allen said.

There are also many ways to measure and verify the performance of your building, he adds. You can hire a mechanical engineer to determine how much air flow you’re getting. Low-cost real-time sensors can be used to verify ventilation rates. In a typical building, carbon dioxide concentrations are going to be about 1,000 parts per million, and ideally to slow the rate of infection levels, they should be under 800 parts per million.

And fixes don’t have to be laborious or expensive. Bringing a bit more outdoor air in can be as easy as opening windows or spending a couple of dollars to upgrade to quality air filters such as MERV 13 filters. Portable air filters are a bit more expensive at roughly $100 a piece, but they can greatly improve air quality.

How many employees are vaccinated?

You can absolutely ask employees whether they’re vaccinated, and if you’re bringing people back, or considering doing so, it’s not a bad idea. Northwell Health has done numerous surveys to assess their 15,000-person workforce to determine who is vaccinated and the reasons why those who have not gotten the vaccine are hesitant.

“When we started evaluating metrics around why people weren’t getting vaccinated, we got better insight into how to communicate with them and manage our concern,” said Joseph Moscola, executive vice president of enterprise services at Northwell Health.

One survey revealed that 7% of Northwell’s workforce didn’t get vaccinated because they were scared of needles. So the company crafted safe environments with music and comfortable chairs to help make the experience more inviting for those employees. Moscola said Northwell is aiming for a vaccination rate of 90% or higher before it considers its space safe. Currently 77% of Northwell’s 75,000 employees are fully vaccinated.

Also remind people of the risks of not getting a jab. While a vaccinated individual may still get COVID-19, they’re significantly less likely to have severe symptoms or be at risk of hospitalization than unvaccinated folks. That’s why it’s crucial to continue to encourage workers with any symptoms to stay home and get tested, as well as follow CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directives in the workplace. It’s also crucial to educate employees and your community on the advantages of vaccination.

Are employees taking care of themselves?

One way to stay abreast of the physical health of employees is to check in and see if they’re taking care of themselves. This can be done through surveys, asking people if they describe themselves as healthy and well, and also how often they take advantage of any medical benefits. Self-insured employers also have access to claims data through their third-party administrator that can share general information like what percentage of employees had a primary care visit in the past 12 months, or what percentage of people have been seriously hospitalized, said Dr. Shantanu Nundy, chief medical officer at Accolade, a benefit provider for health care workers.

Consider also assessing how employees are doing mentally, he added. You can ask employees to take surveys such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a psychological assessment comprising 22 symptom items pertaining to occupational burnout; the PHQ-9, a nine-question questionnaire measuring depression; and the GAD seven, a seven-item questionnaire measuring anxiety. Employees may not feel comfortable sharing this information, so it’s best to make it optional and tell employees that results are kept confidential.

“While a lot of people are dealing with clinical depression or clinical anxiety, many are dealing with a new kind of emotional stress due to the pandemic, which can include not feeling safe or heard or included in the workplace,” said Dr. Nundy. “These surveys can offer a comprehensive clinical health and environmental view of how your workforce is doing.”

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4 ways employers can offer childcare support to get parents back to work

parents pandemic
Childcare work pays an average wage of $11 an hour, lower than the $15 minimum wage in some places.

  • A big reason that unemployed people turn down job offers is because of lack of childcare.
  • Working from home isn’t always a solution, especially for those with babies who need constant attention.
  • Employers can help by partnering with a daycare center and offering childcare subsidies or an FSA.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you look at headlines, you’d think that the number one reason unemployed people turn down jobs is that they’re getting massive unemployment payments.

For example, Poll: 1.8 million Americans have turned down jobs due to unemployment benefits and ‘The Rundown’: Millions of Americans turned down jobs because of increased unemployment benefits. And this is definitely a problem. (Working, even for less than unemployment, leads to more options later, an increase in self-esteem, and other benefits.)

They’re drawing this data from a new survey from Morning Consult, a business intelligence firm, that gives some insight into why unemployed people turn down job offers. But, they’re skipping over the number one reason: Lack of childcare.

Read more: Former Disney employees reveal how they’ve turned their unique talents into sustainable businesses – with the help of a Facebook group

Using the same data set, we find out that 1.9 million people have turned down job offers because they didn’t have childcare. And while the survey didn’t differentiate between men and women, I bet that more than half of those 1.9 million people turning down jobs were female.

Childcare work pays a ridiculously low wage – on average, $11 an hour. If these workers are part of the 1.8 million who turn down jobs because unemployment offers more, then higher wage earners can’t turn to work either. If schools don’t open reliably and daycare centers can’t hire enough people, not everyone can return to work.

Even if unemployment insurance ends, why would you take a childcare job for $11 an hour when you can walk across the street and get a job in retail or restaurants for $15?

Of course, childcare is already costly, and raising childcare worker salaries will make it even more expensive. However, your business can help.

Working from home doesn’t solve the childcare problem.

While people worked from home with their children around during the beginning of the pandemic, it’s not a sustainable solution. Women left the workforce in droves because of childcare problems. Even if you’re flexible and want to allow your employees to do two jobs at once (their paid work and childcare), it doesn’t work for many people. Especially for people with toddlers and babies.

You can, however, do things to help.

How you can directly help your employees

You lose money when you don’t have a fully staffed company. Childcare is undoubtedly holding people (again, especially women) back from working. Here are four things you can do.

  • Partner with a daycare center to subsidize costs for your employees. It may be cheaper than raising your wages higher and higher to attract candidates. If you can provide the daycare center with guaranteed clients at a guaranteed rate, they’ll be better equipped to recruit new daycare teachers.
  • Offer childcare subsidies. If partnering with a daycare center isn’t practical, offering employees childcare subsidies may help as well. If an employee has more money to spend on childcare, then the daycare centers can raise the salaries for their employees, increasing their chances of hiring enough staff. More people working in childcare means you can hire more easily in other positions.
  • Give people predictable schedules. While white-collar workers tend to have set schedules or even flexible schedules to use to their own benefits, blue-collar workers often don’t. Giving your retail, tourism, or restaurant employees predictable schedules can reduce their childcare stress.
  • Make sure you offer a childcare flexible spending account (FSA). Employees can put aside up to $5,000 for childcare in pretax dollars and you can contribute part of that. Every penny helps when trying to find quality childcare. (If you want to lobby Congress for changes, this is a good place to start: Even the state with the cheapest childcare costs are more than $5,000 a year, with median childcare costs over $8,000 a year).

Other reasons for turning down jobs

Childcare problems are not the only reason for turning down work. The Morning Consult survey found the following reasons:

  • 13.8%: Childcare obligations
  • 13.0%: COVID-19 or any combination of reasons associated with the pandemic
  • 13.0%: I receive enough money from unemployment insurance without having to work
  • 13.0%: Health/medical limitations
  • 12.1%: I was not given enough money to return to work
  • 11.4%: The job was not within my desired industry/function area
  • 11.0%: The job didn’t allow remote work
  • 10.0%: School/training
  • 10.6%: The job required fixed working hours/not enough flexibility
  • 9.6%: Family/personal obligations
  • 9.5%: The job didn’t offer enough hours of work
  • 8.8%: The job required too many hours of work

Your business can do things to tackle all of these problems, but remember, childcare is the biggest problem.

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