Five Tips to Controlling Summertime Chaos

newsletterCHAOSkidsRegardless of your age, marital or socioeconomic status, at one time or another, you will experience stress and anxiety. Each changing season produces different stressors. Summertime has the pendulum swinging from how to keep children from fighting and saying they are bored to keeping them free from sunburns to an upcoming move to a new neighborhood. The body’s initial reaction to stress is fight or flight. Symptoms of excess stress include feeling mentally and physically exhausted, problems sleeping, tension headaches, bowel disturbances, a lowered immune system, and irritability.

Here are five tips to control summertime chaos:

1. Laugh. You have probably heard that laughter is the best medicine. Research shows that laughing produces endorphins which cause you to relax, experience joy, and ease pain. When feeling stressed picking up the telephone and speaking with a friend can often bring a smile to your face that will aid in producing the feel good endorphins. Also, turning on the television and watching your favorite sitcom can aid in reducing stress and anxiety.

2. Evaluate your diet. Limit caffeinated products because caffeine is a stimulant. Alcohol consumption should also be restricted since alcohol is a depressant. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over commercially processed items. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables are easier for your body to digest than commercially processed foods such as cookies and chips. However, there is nothing wrong with occasionally indulging your chocolate craving.

3. Exercise. Engaging in exercise is another way for your body to produce endorphins. Taking time for a walk after dinner or meeting a friend for a game of racquetball can raise your level of feel good endorphins while getting you in shape physically and mentally.

4. Have a MAP (Master Action Plan). When you stop to think about what is causing anxiety such as an upcoming move or the absence of a spouse during a deployment you can develop strategies to cope with the stress. Creating a step by step plan on how to walk through the action will allow you to empower yourself by taking charge of the situation. If you are experiencing stress on how to keep the children entertained during summer vacation you can develop a daily schedule so that the child knows what to expect throughout the day; children thrive on routine. Having a Plan A is great but having Plan B and Plan C will ensure you have covered whatever may be thrown at you with minimal disruption.

5. Increase Productivity. Productivity creates an atmosphere of positive change and is more fruitful than worrying and doing nothing.

It is impossible to ignore or reduce all stressors from our lives. However, when you are able to recognize your limits of stress and know how to use practical strategies to reduce stress you will control summertime chaos. Therefore, laugh and exercise to raise your endorphin level. Be productive and design your MAP to navigate stressful situations. Lastly, don’t forget to occasionally indulge your chocolate craving and enjoy your summer.

Finish It Up Friday: Why I Don’t Require My Team to Work on Friday

unnamedFriday – oh how that word can invoke a series of fleeting emotions ranging from dread to delight.

I have coined the phrase Finish It Up Friday as a way to make a mindset shift from dread to delight. It is the day to sleep in an extra hour. It is the day to enjoy that first cup of morning coffee knowing there are no real deadlines for the day. There is no better way to start a Friday than listening to the birds chirping, reading morning inspiration, and enjoying that first cup of coffee.

I and my team work long arduous hours Monday thru Thursday. We do not prescribe to a normal 8 hour day. My day is typically starting by 5 or 6 am and ends around 10 or 11pm. My team works diligently providing fabulous services and meeting deadlines so that I meet my deadlines so my clients meet theirs. Much of what my team does for me is often not seen by others. They are busy researching and gathering statistics for my clients or for whatever program I am currently working on. They are busy writing media releases, preparing marketing materials, proofreading and taking care of the invoicing.

Just as many of us observe Sunday as a day of rest I and my team observe Friday as a day of rest. Adopting a casual Friday allows me and my team to recharge our batteries. When we have a fresh brain we are more creative. Also, since they know that I do not expect them to be available on Friday they know they can schedule personal appointments and plan their time off accordingly without fear that there will be work that needs to be completed.

Not much quality work gets completed when you or your employees are mentally exhausted. Using Friday to follow up with clients, finish up a few tasks or projects, and plan for the following week is a great way to unwind and prepare to enjoy the weekend. I am usually only at my desk a few hours on Friday morning taking care of loose ends. Making time to review my week and self-reflect on what went surprisingly well and what was a bit off provides me growth opportunities. I learn from the lessons of the week.

Designing a plan for the upcoming week has shown to increase productivity and increase income. Taking time to plan the tasks I will delegate, prepare for client sessions, and set aside time for writing also reduces the stress that would normally be felt if I had not planned to enjoy a successful week. I have learned when planning what I will delegate I must set up my emails to my team so they do not post until Monday morning because they are so very dedicated they will work on the tasks over the weekend regardless of the due dates.

Finish It Up Friday is a great way to self-reflect on your week, finish up projects or tasks that didn’t get completed, and prepare for the new upcoming week. Know your energy level and planning for self-care is key to success. I encourage you adopt a Finish It Up Friday and allow your employees extra time off. They will reward you with continued hard work, an increase in productivity and creativity as well as loyalty.

New Overtime Rules- Stay Within Budget- Know Your Options

overtimeDid you know that rules for paying overtime have changed? They changed on May 1st, 2016.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to release a new overtime rule in May that could have a big impact on small business payrolls.” “The current weekly minimum for salaried, overtime-exempt employees is $455. That will increase to $921 a week for most full-time salaried workers when the rule changes this spring.” “Small employers may misclassify employees as exempt just because they receive a salary and perform non-manual work.´ read the full article at http://www.manta.com/resources/small-business-trends/small-biz-owners-not-aware-of-new-federal-overtime-rules-impact-on-payroll/

Remember you don’t have to pay for full time employees.
You have options.

Stay within Budget
1099 Contractors – you may choose to use 1099 Independent Contractors. There are rules to follow if you use this classification for your help. They are not employees so technically you cannot dictate their schedule. They work when they want to and you contract with them for work when you have work to do. I’ve seen this used in the construction industry, real estate industry, and by many small business owners who do not need full-time employees. I’ve also seen this used by small business owners who did not want to pay the appropriate taxes or benefits as would be required by having employees. They prayed they didn’t get flagged for an audit and were prepared to play dumb if caught. I don’t condone this practice. At the end of the year you will need to issue the worker a 1099 if you pay them over a certain amount if you are following the rules. Consult a tax preparer or enrolled agent for guidance.

Free Lancers – there are several freelance websites where professional list their skills. You post the job and they bid on the job. The freelancer is typically charged a fee to bid on the job and/or when he or she wins the job a percentage of his earnings is paid to the agency. A freelancer is responsible for paying his or her own taxes. You do not need to issue a 1099 to a freelancer. Consult a tax preparer or enrolled agent for guidance.

Interns – summer interns or interns who work during your busy season can be a great boost to your business productivity. Most states require you to pay your interns at least minimum wage or a fair wage for the work performed.

Regardless of who is performing the work you need to stay within a budget. This can be accomplished by asking the employees how long they estimate a project will take to complete. This should be asked prior to preparing a proposal. When assigning work you need to let your employee know how long you expect him or her to spend on the task. If the task is going to take longer than anticipated they should let you know that it will take longer, how much longer and why. This allows you to pull the plug if going over budget or devise a new strategy.

Employees don’t often recognize the costs associated with making errors. Whether it is wasting copy paper and printer ink, boards, and other construction materials, or baking products they don’t see how this is costing the employer. They also fail to recognize they got paid to do the work wrong and then got paid to do it over. Training and supervising your employees can reduce the cost of mistakes. Mistakes can easily run up overtime costs.

Now is the time to take a look at how you pay your employees or workers. Make an appointment with your accountant or enrolled agent to explore what is the best option for you and your business. You won’t grow your business unless you focus on the net and stay abreast in changes to the rules, regulations, and laws.

Internship 101 – Summer Interns

2016 intern

I see people soliciting requests on Facebook for interns for the summer. One business announced they had openings for 24 interns. Really – your business truly needs 24 interns? How is it possibly running now without those billets filled? Do you have staff who can realistically manage 24 interns? Let’s talk about an internship.

What They Are Not

Interns are not gophers or jack of all trades people that do the dirty work no one else wants to do. They are looking to gain key skills that will help them be employable upon graduation using their degree. I recommend doing a job search to see what other employers are expecting in a job applicant similar to what your intern will be seeking. Help your intern gain these skills. Do not expect an accounting intern to answer phones and make copies. They should be working closing with your accountant or bookkeeper. You would not offer an internship to a pastry chef if you own a realty office unless you currently employ a pastry chef and this person would be supervised by the pastry chef. If you are looking for an office manager intern then ensure you contact a college that has an office manager program or you interview possible interns that office management is their major.

Paid or Unpaid Internships

Unpaid internships are almost unheard of today. A search online will reveal many lawsuits against high profile Universities and Businesses for abusing interns and not paying them a fair wage. You will want to know what the policy is for your state. North Carolina Universities offer paid internships as do various levels of government agencies. Know the rules for your state and the state the student is a student. I had an intern from the state of Minnesota in 2011 and on the intern contract, there was a block for me to check “unpaid”. However, I did reward her with gift cards to various restaurants and clothing stores periodically to show appreciation.

If you are near a military base that has a Wounded Warrior Program you may be able to solicit interns. These interns are free to your business because the intern is drawing a paycheck from Uncle Sam. I have personally had an administrator intern with my business for a short period of time. You must remember these interns can be discharged at any time and probably have doctor’s appointments they must attend. You will need to be flexible.

Job Description Be very clear on the work hours and specific duties. You may only need the person to work on a specific project. Write the job description as clearly as you would a job announcement or job description for an employee.

Review resumes: Ask the applicants to provide a resume. Verify his or her achievements. Do not feel you have to take someone who is not a good fit. You will be investing time in training the person or allowing the person to hone a skill i.e. web design, social media management etc.  Ask for references and contact them. Treat this just as you would when hiring a permanent employee. Asking for a resume and references will help the intern prepare for job hunting after the internship.

Conduct Interviews: Be prepared to interview the applicants and ask for references. Ask the person what he or she expects to gain from the internship. Search online for appropriate questions to ask the interviewee. This may be the intern’s first job interview. Help them learn from this experience. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. If the intern is not right for your business offer a few referrals for him or her to contact. Explain to the intern why they are not a right fit for your business. Don’t let them leave wondering. Build up their self-confidence.

Goals

After your interview pick one or two goals for your intern. The intern and his/her advisor will also have goals for the intern. Be cognizant of this and respect the goals the college or university has for the intern. In the paperwork, you will need to list milestones and how the student will reach the milestones and goals for the internship.

Intern Policy

You will need an intern policy. This will be similar to your employee handbook list of rules. You will want at a minimum to include information such as:

  • Work Hours
  • Work Uniform – Dress Code
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • NonCompete Agreement – do this regardless if your state upholds NonCompete Agreements
  • Cell Phone Policy

Contract

You will want your intern to sign a contract. Your contract will be very similar to your employee contract. They will also have paperwork that you must sign for their college or university.

Hiring

You may decide to offer your intern a paying job after the internship. This is a win-win if you and your intern considered the internship a success. Remember, interns are at your business to learn so you set the tone of what he or she will expect when hired by you or another business owner.

Where to Find Interns

There are many websites that are similar to job boards that are specifically for interns to post what type of internship they are seeking as well as the business owner can post a job description. You may also want to contact colleges and universities in your area to see if they have an intern program. Family and friends may be a source for finding an intern. But I caution you to realize that rarely do recommendations from friends and family work out. If the person is not happy there are usually hurt feelings for all parties involved.

 

http://www.internships.com/employer

http://www.internmatch.com/internships

http://www.tweetmyjobs.com/employers

 

Hiring an intern is not something that should be taken lightly. You must know your state rules on whether you must pay or not pay an intern. The same effort you take in interviewing and hiring a new employee must be used when seeking an intern. Interns provide value to you and your business. You provide a valuable opportunity to the intern. Review the list above and design an intern strategy so you both consider the internship a success.

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