BBB Infographic: Top Five Small Business Scams

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Top Five Small Business Scams

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Written by Kirstin Davis, BBB Marketplace Director

The Small Business Administration reports the percentage of self-employed seniors has been steadily on the rise since 2000. The data shows the percentage of individuals 62 years and older who were self-employed increased from 4.2 percent in 1988 to 5.4 percent in 2015. Better Business Bureau knows scammers often target seniors, so it is important senior business owners stay adept to common scams occurring to small businesses. Here are a few tips for small business owners and local nonprofit organizations who have a lot to think about and ways to avoid these common scams.

Internet & Phone

Watch out for ransomware, phishing, URL hustle and spoofing scams. Scammers play on fear, convenience and lack of technical knowledge. BBB receives complaints each year from business owners who have been scammed out of money or important business information by people who know how to speak in business terms.

Directories

A business owner or office manager may receive an invoice for a printed or online directory renewal notice. Scammers are counting on the fact that business owners have a lot on their plate and will make these notices appear legitimate, local or industry targeted. Keep a list of directories you are published in and evaluate the values of those directories on an annual basis.

Office Supplies

Business owners may receive a box of supplies as either a “gift” or with an invoice included.  Scammers are taking the opportunity to see if a busy owner will pay the invoice with no questions asked. If the “gifted” items are sent back, the business may receive a bill for a high percentage restocking fee. Another red flag is a contact describing a “going out of business” sale offering significant discounts on supply items that are misquoted or never arrive at all.

Overpayment

A scammer may over pay for the item or service and then ask for a refund to be sent by wire or cashier’s check. Most likely the form of payment was fraudulent and the scammer is trying to pocket the over payment. The business owner is then out of the product, if sent, and additional revenue.

Vanity Awards

“Best of” or “Who’s Who” in your industry are great recognition. Business owners want to be sure the award is legitimate and that it isn’t just a way to pay very high prices for plaques to display in your office.

Follow our blog for more consumer protection tips and information on BBB investigations.

Workplace Gift-Giving Dos and Don’ts

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It’s that time of year where companies are preparing for the holiday and gift-giving season. Giving and receiving gifts may be enjoyable, but it is important to understand proper workplace etiquette before going shopping.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips for gift-giving in the workplace:

Follow Office Policy

Before you do anything check with your manager or human resources department to understand the inner-office gift exchange policy. There might be certain stipulations on what you can and cannot give for gifts. For example, it might be against company policy to give cash or alcohol out during business hours.

Skip Your Boss Unless Its Baked

While it’s tempting to give your boss a gift as a thank you for his leadership, it’s not actually appropriate to give a higher-up a gift. If you are set on giving your manager a gift, opt for baked goods or something homemade that doesn’t cost a great deal. You can also pool your money with co-workers to give a present that’s from the entire department.

Stick to the Agreed Upon Amount 

Office gift exchanges usually have a price limit to avoid overspending. Don’t try to impress your colleagues by going over the agreed upon price. Shaming co-workers is not the best way to create office camaraderie. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to participate in any gift exchange, simply bow out. It shouldn’t be a requirement in your company to partake in the festivities. So don’t feel bad if you sit this one out. Again, you can always bake cookies and bring those to your office mates instead!

Avoid the Risqué 

Pass on any gifts that come across as sarcastic or vulgar. Even if you know the gift recipient very well, crude gifts have no real place in the office. Stick to something appropriate that compliments the receiver to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.

Say Thank You

Mind your manners and be sure to thank the person who took the time to get you a gift. You can do this by either sending a thank you note or by shooting over an email of gratitude.

5 Things That Make Exceptional Employees Stand out

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The lifeblood of any organization for better or worse runs through the group’s workforce, so identifying exceptional employees allows you the opportunity to nurture those seeds of their enthusiasm, energy, and drive to take maximum advantage of their potential. Building a stellar team does not materialize out of whole cloth, but rather is stitched together over time with the individual threads that your employees represent. Unfortunately, employee dissatisfaction often results when talents go under-utilized or unappreciated, so spotting the exceptional team member is the first job of the manager.

Standard interview questions and performance reviews do very little to single out the exceptional employee from the rest of the herd. For the managerial team looking to identify those candidates, it is always better to monitor daily attitudes and motivations of your employee over the quarterly review scores emerging from the human resources office. Keep an eye out for these five distinctive behavioral and performance indicators that indicate an exceptional employee.

1. View their Job Description as a starting point

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The exceptional employee views their job description as a mere starting point when it comes to taking on the daily challenges that any growing or established company might face on a day-to-day basis. Their primary goal is to get the job done when they see that their assistance will help get the project to completion. Once this behavioral pattern begins to assert itself, you know that you have a dedicated team member placing the organization’s goals above the petty complaints of employees who jealously guard their time behind the safety of their job description.

2. Quirky and Independent Personalities

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A quirky and independent personality is not only refreshing in the confines of the typical business environment, but its presence also signals the confidence of the owner because quirky personalities naturally tend to push the status quo in innovative directions while shaking up the “group think” that can fester around the boardroom table. Such a personality type looks at the world from a different angle than the employee sitting in the next cubical, and that altered perception helps fuel constructive attitudes throughout every office in the building. Conversely, the excellent employee also knows when to place those quirky traits in a drawer when the job at hand calls for pure reasoning and professionalism. In short, they know when it is time to play and when it is time to work.

3. Diplomacy and Tact

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It’s been noted that most people learn the basics of their social skills by the age of five, and it is as good a starting place as any when it comes to analyzing your employee’s ability to get along with supervisors, subordinates, and peer groups. The exceptional employee understands that social interaction goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of camaraderie that helps propel the organization’s goals. Free with praise, they offer congratulations to co-workers who have earned it, and are supportive to those in need of bolstering to complete their tasks. Identifying exceptional employees that practice these socially interactive skills is important because these actions serve to elevate the entire work staff and act as a marker of managerial talent.

4. Understand How to Read “the Room”

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The savvy employee is capable of “reading the room” and acting and thinking quickly on their feet regardless of the situation at hand. Team members that exhibit the ability to roll with the punches means that that employee can respond to a wide array of circumstances and that will prove an advantage for the entire organization. Utilizing their education, experience, intelligence, and talents, the exceptional employee stands out from the crowd on a daily basis.

5. Asks Questions and Willing to Explore

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The exceptional employee is not afraid to ask questions and explore options. Unfortunately, many team members are afraid to express themselves to the group as a whole and oftentimes even in private. Similarly, exceptional employees look at company policies and procedures with an eye toward improving the mousetrap that they inherited in an effort to make all aspects of the company’s systems more efficient.

Identifying and cultivating superior talent should be your first job in the managerial role, so look beyond the pencil and paper evaluations of the human resource department, and keep your eye on the day-to-day behavior that shows the true potential of your employees.

10 Tips to Stay More Organized at the Office

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Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your workday seems to get away from you. With so much to do and so little time to get it all accomplished, it’s easy to find yourself feeling frustrated, lost, and unsure of where to start. Staying on top of your many responsibilities at work can be a challenge, but with these tips, you’ll be better able to prioritize your tasks and make sure every day is efficient and organized.

  1. Start the day with a clear mind

When you come to work worried and anxious, it’s going to reflect on the rest of the day. Even if you’re stressed from the moment you walk through the door, take a few moments just for you before you get moving. Check your email, brew some coffee in the break room, or swing by your pal in accounting’s desk to chat for a moment; find a way to relax, and make it a part of your routine.

  1. Tackle the hardest jobs first

It’s only natural to dread the hardest tasks on your agenda, but there’s no reason to let them ruin your day. No matter how much you’d prefer to put off the biggest, most challenging projects, taking them on first thing in the morning when you’re still fresh can give you the motivation to get things done while eliminating stressors before they have time to wear on you.

  1. Make a to-do list – and stick to it

There’s a lot on your plate, but that doesn’t mean it has to overwhelm you. Instead of letting the pile of work in front of you get you down, make a to-do list. Write down everything you have to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, and stick to it. Add new tasks as they come up, and cross out the ones completed successfully.

  1. Cut down on meetings

You may feel as though all of those meetings on your calendar are of the utmost importance, but take a good, hard look and ask yourself how many you could miss with minimal consequences. Instead of spreading yourself thin attending non-mandatory gatherings, appoint a coworker to take notes on calls and conferences that aren’t essential.

  1. Take time to clear your mind

It can be hard to rationalize a break when you’re busy, but it’s a big part of staying calm and focused. When the pressure is on, take a few minutes and take a walk, get some water, or use the bathroom. Simply stretching your legs and briefly directing your attention elsewhere can give you the mental reprieve you need to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

  1. Keep your desk clean

A messy desk may not seem like a problem, but when you’re losing important papers, struggling to find agendas, and having trouble remembering what you stored where, it can only add to your stress. Do your best to keep your desk area clutter-free, even if that means requesting a filing cabinet or a set of drawers to put your paperwork in.

  1. Stop multitasking

Multitasking may seem like an inevitability in the business world, but it doesn’t have to be. Even though it may not feel like it, multitasking splits your attention in a consequential way, leaving you unable to give 100% to any one task. Handle a single task at a time, and keep working on it until you are completely finished.

  1. Don’t be afraid to delegate

When you’re used to handling everything yourself, giving over the reins can be very overwhelming. However, it’s also a big part of being an effective manager or team member. If you have tasks you know someone else could take on, don’t be afraid to delegate some of your responsibilities. Give clear directions and a deadline, and move on to something else.

  1. Cut down on email

When you have a quick question for another member of your team, email is often the go-to form of communication. As convenient as it is, however, it can leave you with more work later while you sit around waiting for answers. Instead, make it a point to call or instant message whenever possible, keeping your inbox clear for more important communications.

  1. Ask for help

When you’re stumped and aren’t sure where to turn, it can feel frustrating, especially when it’s starting to impact your productivity. Instead of spinning your wheels, get in touch with a supervisor or another member of your team. Sometimes, talking things out for a minute or two is all it takes to get you back on the right path.

Staying organized can take some commitment, but changing up your routines and focusing on the end goal can keep you attentive and hard at work, even on the longest, busiest days.

What do you do to stay organized? Leave a comment and let us know!