Monthly Archives: October 2016

New Overtime Rules

Big company, small company, lots of employees, or one employee, your HR load is about to ramp up. That’s because new overtime regulations take effect on December 1, 2016. For any employee that makes less than $47,476 per year, they can no longer be labeled as exempt from overtime. More bluntly—if you have anybody working for you below that pay threshold, you probably have to pay them overtime after 40 hours of work.

Let’s jump back for a moment and explain a few of the not-so-clear laws that you as a business must comply with if you hire employees. If you’re looking for some light reading to cure your nighttime bout with insomnia look no further than the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. This is the set of laws that governs how you pay your employees.

It includes things like minimum wage, the fact that you have to pay workers on a regular payday, and all of those deductions that you take from your employees’ checks.

The FLSA does not cover things like vacation, holiday, sick or severance pay, holiday hours, special weekend wages, fringe benefits or discharge practices. All of these items are covered in your employment contract.

And yes, the FLSA does dictate overtime pay. In the past, if your employees were hourly, (also called non-exempt) you had to pay overtime pay for more than 40 hours of work. But there were exceptions to this overtime pay rule. You could be an exempt employee if you were a teacher or an administrator in a school, outside sales rep, and certain computer related occupations. Seasonal employees like fisherman, newspaper delivery workers, some farmworkers, and babysitters or people who cared for the elderly in a casual capacity. Finally, if you were paid less than $23,660 you could not be considered exempt. There were all kinds of workarounds employers could use to classify employees as exempt but now, the pay threshold overshadows almost all of those workarounds.

There are many more highly complicated rules for designating employees as exempt or non-exempt that haven’t changed but the pay threshold more than doubling from $23k to $47,476 means back to hourly wages rather than a salary—something that has traditionally meant a more professional status.

What does the change look like in more practical terms? First, back to the days of timecards. The modern day equivalent are online platforms that allow for clocking in and out on a mobile app but the idea is the same. Your employees have to be detailed with it. If they worked until 11:30 at night getting ready for a sales call the next morning, they have to clock the hours. If they took 45 minutes for lunch, they have to clock it. If they don’t, you are in violation of the law. If they reach their 40 hours on Thursday, they can’t work Friday unless you pay for the overtime.

Second, if you’re like most small businesses, you allow your employees to work irregular hours as long as they get their work done with excellence and on time. Under the new system, the more employees you have, the harder it will be to allow them to come and go as needed. You’ll likely find it easier to hold them to set hours.

Along the same lines, you’ll probably be less enthusiastic about telecommuting. When hours weren’t tracked you weren’t as concerned about the amount of work they got done in an hour because if they’re working from home, they’ll work until the project is done.

Not under the new system. Now, every hour is important because you have to pay overtime even if they aren’t as productive a certain day.

How Will You Pay Overtime?

Employees’ gut reaction was to be excited about the change but there’s a problem. They’re not going to be paid for overtime; they just won’t get it because businesses don’t have the extra money. The National Retail Federation said the same thing in a press release. If that’s you, you will likely feel the push to micromanage more so employees get more done in the 40 hours they have each week.

No Special Deals

Under FSLA, some things you can negotiate but you can’t skirt the new regulations by negotiating with your employees. There’s a workaround, of course. If you have an employee that’s close to the $47,476 threshold that regularly works overtime, give them a raise. The pay bump might be cheaper than paying overtime hours or hiring another employee to take on their overtime workload.

The Ironic Part

If all of these new rules have you a little down in the dumps, there’s a bit of irony to it. Congress, made up of the people who passed the law, might have forgotten that many of their employees are working a huge amount of overtime hours without pay. They, too, will fall under the new rules and most Congressional offices don’t have the money to compensate their staffers. And some Congressmen aren’t too happy about it.

Congress is allowed to exempt themselves from the rule but even they know that doing so could be political suicide.

What’s not funny is that many Congressional workers are young budding politicians themselves who are willing to work the extra hours to get a career boost. Under the new laws, that won’t be easy to do anymore.

Turn Weaknesses into Strengths

realize this one sounds a bit crazy, but keep reading. I’m not suggesting that anyone go out and create more weaknesses. No, that’s not a way that anyone is going to make a livable wage as a consultant. Nor are you going to win many clients by stating that’s what you are doing.

Here’s what I mean and how to do it.

There are things in this world we are afraid of. Or things in this world we are hesitant to do. There are things in this world we have never even considered doing…like eating uncooked carrots or carrot cake or wanting to have anything to do with carrots. But when you thoroughly look at the numbers on carrots…they are definitely good for you.

I had never considered doing videos. In fact, standing in front of a camera and trying to sound intelligent scared the heck out of me. And for money? No way. But a client asked me to do it, I somehow said “yes,” they paid me to do it, and now I routinely – weekly – do opinion and how-to articles both for my consulting practice and for my clients. I’m starting to get asked to do a lot of speaking engagements. Haven’t done those yet because they involve a lot of traveling which I’m trying to avoid because I have a bazillion kids…but I might do that soon, too.

So, how do we maximize our weaknesses?

Go outside your comfort zone and own it.

My entire consulting practice – at least this second version of it – was built off of one project management article I wrote that another organization stumbled on. They asked me to do more. And that turned into more, and new requests to do other things, and then requests to lead projects, and on and on. All because I went outside my comfort zone and wrote one single article. We have to continually do that in our consulting practices to grow as professionals, stay fresh, stay challenged, and continue to offer things to our potential client base. Always offering just the same things will put you out of business fast.

Rather than just come at clients with the same old offerings, ask them what they want or need. It may be very similar to what you’re offering, but just different enough to give you a learning experience while you get paid for it. In the end you’ll have something new to offer the next client. This is how most of my consulting practice offerings have originated.

Embrace unknown technologies.

A client asked me to write a white paper on VDI – virtual desktop interface. I didn’t have any experience with VDI products or implementations, but when you’re offered a large price to do something like that, you fake it till you make it if you’re pretty certain you’re up to the task and can learn along the way. So I did it and it turned out great. Same for when I was leading a project for a client in an industry that my parent company had never touched before. We all learned along the way, but we did it. And now they can offer that project management and development option to others in that challenging industry. It definitely maximizes your weakness in the short term, but opens up new doors quickly and new revenue opportunities as well.

Know More About Branding Strategies

Finding the right idea to start a small business is the first step in your startup efforts. The challenging part is building a brand around the idea that people will remember. Your great idea enters into a competition with other peoples’ great ideas to gain the eyes of the consumer. How can you build your brand in ways that will keep you in the minds of your consumers?

Start With a Good Logo

A logo helps distinguish your business from all the others out there that sell similar products and services. The pictorial nature of a logo – even if it’s just words printed in a stylized way – helps customers remember you and helps them think of your company as an established, reputable small business. Your logo should look professional, and optionally, include an image that’s in some way associated with your industry. Unless you are an artist or are very proficient in graphic arts, it’s best to have your logo professionally designed for you. There are many sites online that provide that service at reasonable prices.

Once you have a logo, be sure to include it on everything associated with your business. It should be on your website, social media pages, business card, letterhead, envelopes, fliers, giveaways and print advertising. Try to think of the colors in your logo as your brand colors, too, and use those colors whereever appropriate (such as your website.)

Create a Catch Slogan or Tagline

Slogans (also called taglines) are very short phrases that express what your business is about and – more importantly – a beneficial result your customers derive from the business or product. When you create a slogan, it helps distinguish your business from others and make it more memorable. M & M’s slogan, “Melts in your mouth, not your hand,” is one example. Another: Bounty’s tagline, “The quicker picker upper.” Use the slogan where ever you use your logo, and consider having a version of your logo created that includes the slogan.

Get Ready to Hustle

Brand awareness is simply marketing and although social media and other forms of digital marketing have added new options, nothing has changed. The people who hustle the most will find the most success. Don’t look to technology to be your hustler. It’s all up to you. Online marketing is only one channel among all of your networking and offline strategy. Door to door and cold calling aren’t dead.

As entrepreneur Mark Cuban says, “Work like there is somebody working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.”

Get Others in on the Hustle

You don’t have to be the only one that hustles. You need some super fans hustling for you. In modern advertising speak these are, “brand advocates.” Maybe they had such an awesome experience that they talk about it online to their large social following. Leverage those people. Offer free product or a referral fee for anybody they send to you.

Find More Hustlers

Do you know how Uber rose to power? The company looked for the big name social media influencers and offered free rides. You might not have the marketing power to invite Kendall Jenner or some other giant name in the social media landscape but local and regional bloggers with a huge following will work too.

Infographics

You’ve seen infographics—those illustrations filled with facts and other valuable information. If your business is in the consulting sector or some other professional or semi-professional niche, leverage your status as an expert and create a shareable infographic full of facts and figures that your potential customer would want to know. Don’t skimp on this, though. Make it really good. Hire an expert to design it.

Design a Tool

Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes? They’re fun, engaging, and immensely shareable. But they don’t have to be, “who is your ideal mate” type quizzes. They could be something that the customer finds value in relating to your business. If you’re in the roofing business, it could be a quiz to rate how much life is left on their roof, for example. You’ll likely need a programmer to help with this but that isn’t as expensive as you might think.

Sponsor a Community Event

Many small businesses have put their logo in a high school program, on a local 5k, or some other valuable community event. The problem is that your logo isn’t enough. Don’t just sponsor the event, show up! Bring water if it’s an athletic event. Run an all-day contest of some sort, and most important, meet people. Create relationships.

Social Media Ads

If you want to get your business in front of the eyes of potential customers, you have to advertise. If you have no budget for paid advertising, the chances of gaining traction are slim. Even $50 per month for social media advertising is better than nothing.

Team Up

Other businesses in and out of your space are trying to keep their brand in front of their customers too. Explore strategic ways to partner up. A website building company could partner with a video producer to create content for each other or a plumber and electrician could advertise together as a complete solution for somebody doing home upgrades. Splitting the cost of advertising is a cheap way to get your brand to many more people than you could on your own.

E-mail Advertising

A recent report published on Adweek found that 49% of people still prefer brands to contact them through e-mail. You can use social media, text messaging, or phone calls but all of those combined were only 22% of people’s first choice. Look at Mailchimp or one of the other e-mail marketing platforms to get started.

Old School Mail

You probably think sending people old fashioned mail is dead but you would be wrong. That same survey found that 22% of people still respond to direct mail campaigns—especially if they’re 35 or older. Many of the strategies we listed above could be made into a direct mail campaign.

Be Responsive

Sadly, we live in a world where outstanding customer service is becoming an exception rather than a norm. Your brand will stay top-of-mind to your customers if they look forward to dealing with you. Chic Fil A has made a name for itself not just with great food but with equally great customer service.