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Holiday Party Liabilities: What Businesses Should Know about Hosting Holiday Office Parties

Holiday Party Liabilities: What Businesses Should Know about Hosting Holiday Office Parties

The holiday season approaches and businesses throughout the U.S. are making their preparations. Many businesses will soon be hosting office holiday parties to bring holiday cheer to their employees and customers.

While most office parties tend to be merry, they can also open up businesses to liabilities, including discrimination, sexual harassment, and DUI-related accidents.

Before you think we’re recommending a “Bah Humbug!” on office parties, we’d like to offer you some best practice advice. After all, we like to throw a good office party just like everyone else.

Best Practices for a Safe, Merry and Liability-Free Holiday Party

Below are some best practices that may help minimize your liabilities and make your office festivities a merry event.

Designate an Office Party Chaperone or Two

Make sure you’ve designated people to keep a sober eye on the festivities. This is particularly important when alcohol is present.

What Do You Call the Party – Holiday or Christmas?

While some people might be offended by the word “holiday”, the realities are that the season is full of religious holidays. To help keep your business safe from religious discrimination, stick with the generic “holiday” when naming your party.

Make Attendance Voluntary—Not Mandatory

Mandatory attendance to a fun office party might not be so cheerful when an employee feels forced to participate. Required attendance could open your business up to a Fair Labor Standard (FLSA) and state labor claim. Make sure your office invitation specifies that participation is voluntary.

Keep Tabs on the Alcohol

Limit the amount of alcohol served at your party. This means no “beer-drinking” parties. Many offices will provide two tickets for alcohol servings to help manage consumption. Also, your chaperone should keep tabs on everyone ensuring they are behaving properly while consuming alcoholic beverages. It’s also a good idea to stop serving alcohol at least two hours before the party ends.

When Someone has One Too Many, Be Prepared with a Free Cab Ride Home

Make sure you’ve arranged with a cab company for rides home for people who imbibe too much. Businesses should include the cost of offering “free” cab rides home in their party budget.

Forget the Mistletoe and Watch for Inappropriate Behavior

A holiday party is a good opportunity to relax and have fun. It’s also an opportunity for people to get too relaxed. Unwanted hugs, kisses, and lewd behavior could open your businesses up to a sexual harassment situation. If your business has a sexual harassment policy, distribute it to everyone prior to the party as a reminder.

By limiting the risk of holiday party liabilities, you’ll help keep your business and your employees out of harm’s way—and keep your holiday celebrations fun.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Event Planning Tasks

Are you considering a holiday party for employees and guests? We understand that small business owners have a lot on their plates already. A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited could help take some of those tasks off your plate.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us take care of the details so you can relax and enjoy the festivities too.

With Google+ Shutting Down, Small Businesses Should Audit Their Social Media Presence  

With Google+ Shutting Down, Small Businesses Should Audit Their Social Media Presence  

Google recently announced that it would shut down the consumer version of Google+ (G+), their social media network in August 2019.

The shutdown announcement was tied to a potential data leak risk that affected up to 500,000 accounts. However, it’s been apparent for some time that G+ has been a steadily shrinking presence in the social media world.

The Promise of Google+ that Never Materialized

G+ was created in 2011 as a response to consumer’s concerns over the growing influence of Facebook.

Google worked to align G+ to search engine results. They asked that content authors use their G+ accounts to add search weight to their latest posts.

Until 2015, Google encouraged local businesses to use G+ Local to gain traction in search results. Today, many of those local content features—reviews, posts, events—are found in Google My Business.

While Google touted 395 million active Google+ accounts, the social media network never managed to pull people permanently away from Facebook or other social media outlets.

Over the years, it became somewhat of a ghost town. Its impact over local search results ended long ago.

Time to Audit Your Marketing

Many small businesses followed Google’s lead to promote their G+ pages on their website and marketing collateral. Just this week, we found the G+ logo on a couple front entrances of local businesses.

You should take the time to remove G+ presence from your:

  • Website
  • Email signatures
  • Store signage
  • Printed collateral

If you have G+ account, consider downloading your content and deleting the account.

The Lesson to Small Businesses: Be Strategic with Your Online Presence

The shutdown of G+ shows how disposable social media networks can be.

As we’ve seen with G+, Facebook and other social media networks, features for businesses come and go based on decision totally out of your control.

If you’re building your total online business presence on social media networks, you could be a corporate whim or an accounting decision away from losing it.

The best strategy for your online presence is to build it first with something you own—and control. Post your content, articles, tips on your website then push it out to your online outposts—the social media networks your target market is using.

Reach Out for Help on Tasks

If auditing your marketing materials for G+ logos and updating your website and printed collateral is now another task on a long list you’re trying to get through—consider delegating.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call today at (904) 429-4588 and let us help you with that…and more.

Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity thieves seem to be working overtime these days at the expense of both consumers and businesses.

In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud amounting to $16.8 billion stolen from the wallets of consumers. AV-TEST, an independent research institute for IT security, registers 350,000 new malware programs every day. The number of data breaches in 2018 alone is staggering with major companies like Facebook, Google, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Panera and Orbitz reporting stolen data.

While much attention is paid to consumer identity theft, the danger to small business owners can be even more perilous as both their personal and business identity could be at risk.

Small Business Owners Face Multiple Threats When it Comes to Identify Theft

As individuals, small business owners are just as susceptible to having their personal identity stolen as anyone else.

According to Experian, identity theft can have the following devastating effects on victims:

Monetary: 40% of identity theft victims incur an average $600 out of pocket expenses (even after banks and credit cards absorbed ID theft losses). Losses from debit cards may include the entire amount stolen by criminals.

Time: It could take an average six months to recover your identity—time spent from your job or business.

Lower Credit Scores: ID theft criminals opening new credit accounts in your name can negatively impact your credit. It’s also time-consuming for you to dispute charges made on a fraudulent credit account.

Emotional: 75% of ID theft victims reported being severely distressed over the misuse of their personal information. Feelings include fear, embarrassment, powerlessness & helplessness. In some cases, victims had suicidal thoughts.

Arrest:  ID theft criminals could conduct illegal acts under your identity, leading to police knocking on your door. An unjustified arrest record could take months to resolve.

As a small business owner, you’re especially enticing to business identity theft criminals. Businesses generally have:

  • Larger bank accounts
  • High credit limits
  • Business information readily available online
  • Multiple vendor accounts
  • Employees with access to all of the above information

Basically, identity thieves don’t have to work as hard to steal valuable and vital business identity information for the amount of wealth they can access. Plus, they are less likely to be noticed before they can do substantial financial damage to your business.

Beyond business identity theft, small business owners could be more susceptible to the data breach threats larger corporations face. According to Verizon, 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.

Most small businesses do not have the same resources and larger corporations to prevent data breaches—a fact criminals frequently exploit. The sensitive information they can obtain can impact the small business’ customers and employees alike.

Data breaches can leave small businesses open to:

  • Costly legal issues
  • Time-consuming efforts to resolve customer credit issues
  • Damage to their reputation and lost business

How Small Businesses Can Avoid Being an Identity Theft Victim

Unfortunately, if any part of your small business is online or you conduct business electronically, you’re open to identity theft.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Use Security Software: Make sure your business uses the latest security software, firewall, and anti-virus protections.

Update Operating Systems and Software: Make sure your computer is using the latest operating system and software patches. Hackers are busy looking for vulnerable systems to attack and outdated operating systems and software can be their ticket into your business.

Update Business Registration Information: Your registration information is online. Keep your registration information up-to-date. Identity thieves are constantly looking for suspended or inactive companies for their illicit activities.

Encrypt: Be sure to encrypt all of your sensitive information such as tax records, client and vendor information.

Monitor: Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Also, don’t forget to check your vendor accounts.

Avoid: Clicking on phishing emails or responding to unexpected phone calls from “officials.” Verify the authenticity of phone calls, standard mail, faxes or emails of questionable origin before responding.

Train: Take time for you and your employees to get educated on how identity thieves operate. A trained employee could stop an identity thief from damaging your business.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Tasks

We understand that small business owners have a lot on their plates already—especially if they have to keep looking over their shoulders for potential identity theft risks.

A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can help take some of those tasks off your plate.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help you with your business.

Does Your Website Promote Your Unique Selling Proposition?

Does Your Website Promote Your Unique Selling Proposition?

When potential customers visit your website, can they quickly understand what you do best?

Google would be interested to know that as well. After all, it’s their business model to help online searchers find the best answers to their queries. If your website has the answer for what that user is looking for, then it should be easily accessible to both the search engine and the searcher.

If your business has…

  • The best service in your industry
  • Effective solutions to a problem
  • Most experience
  • A convenient location
  • Most accessible hours

…then your website and online presence should communicate that fact.

We’re Talking About Promoting Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Every business is unique. Most businesses don’t promote their uniqueness.

If your website and online presence say you do the same thing that your competitors do then you’re not really giving potential customers a valid reason to choose you. You’re also giving Google an opportunity to choose a competitor over you in their search engine results.

By promoting your USP consistently throughout your website and online presence, you’ll reinforce to potential customers and search engines what you do best.

Your reward? Top of mind presence with prospects. Top of rankings for search engines when people search for services or products you provide.

How Do You Find Your USP?

Ask the experts who know the most about your business. Those experts are your current customers. They’ve already made the decision to use your services or product. Your job is to find out why they chose you over the competitors.

Ask them personally about why they like doing business with you.

Find common themes among different customers. Listen to their language as they describe your business.

Do they use the same lingo you use to promote your business? If not, then you need to start talking their language—those are the words customers like and will be searching for.

What you’ll discover in these conversations are the key differentiators that make up your USP. And that’s valuable information you can use on your website and online presence.

Maximize Your USP on Your Website

Every page on your website should tout your USP.

  • Copy should say it
  • Photos should reinforce it
  • Testimonials should prove it
  • Calls-to-Action should say how prospects can get it

Online presence should follow suit in your:

  • Business listing copy
  • Social media posts

When you hone the skill of communicating your USP to let people know you have the solutions they’re looking for—you’ll stand out from your completion.

When your website delivers real and authoritative value, customers will notice. So will the search engines.

Reach Out for Help

We understand that many businesses owners and managers are too busy to tackle marketing challenges like:

  • Uncovering your USP
  • Communicating your key differentiators
  • Creating quality content that communicates your key differentiators

If that describes you, then consider delegating those vital tasks.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us take that off your plate today.

How Achieving Work-Life Balance is Virtually Possible

How Achieving Work-Life Balance is Virtually Possible

Most small business owners work at least 16 hours more per week than the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now consider that 11 percent of U.S. employees work 50+ hours and that 33 percent work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (according to a Family Living Today study on Work-Life Balance).

All those statistics combine to paint a depressing picture. Basically, most Americans don’t believe they have a work-life balance.

The impact of an imbalanced work-life situation can be profound according to that study by Family Living Today.

On the home front:

  • 38% of the respondents reported a lack of focus and engagement at home
  • 51% felt they missed important life events
  • 40% felt their time with family and friends were ruined by work-related activities

In the workplace:

  • 36% of businesses saw poor productivity
  • 68% reported poor morale
  • 41% experienced high turnover
  • 41% of small business owners and employees reported feeling burnt out and fatigued

Health matters concerning those working over 55 hours per week:

  • Increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Higher risk of depression and anxiety
  • Higher stress and cortisol levels

Apparently, all work and no play is not conducive to a healthy workforce or business.

Solutions to Implementing Work-Life Balance

Many businesses owners and employees report a fear of loss of control or high financial impact when implementing a work-life balance in their lives.

However, in this day and age, doing so is a surprisingly simple process with high rewards in employee and owner satisfaction and increased productivity.

Virtual Assistant Firms, like Business Solutions Unlimited (BSU), can provide invaluable services to small business owners looking to delegate distracting and time-consuming tasks. Our virtual world can help create that work-life balance. Cloud-based services make telecommuting a viable option for many.

Employers could consider offering employees the following:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Remote working
  • Unlimited time off
  • Email responses restricted to a schedule time period (8 to 5)
  • Meeting free blocks of time during the day

Small business owners could gain valuable time in their lives if they delegate many of their tasks:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Website maintenance and social media postings
  • Developing promotional materials, direct mail pieces
  • Data entry
  • Invoicing
  • Digital filing
  • Paying bills
  • Booking flights, hotels, and rental vehicles
  • Prepping for conferences
  • Record keeping
  • Inventory
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Even answering phones (which can be done remotely)

How BSU Improved its Work-Life Environment 

Over the last couple of years, BSU has made an effort to implement a work-life balance. Life events triggered many of the changes:

  • Birth of children and grandchildren
  • Coaching children sport teams
  • Travel to visit loved ones

BSU is fortunate to have a highly skilled staff, specialists within their own industries. Keeping this core group together was imperative to us. That led to the decision to allow flexible schedules and telecommuting as part of the work environment.

The results have been impressive. The staff never missed a beat in performing their duties, meeting deadlines and taking care of our client’s needs. They did all this while enjoying their family life on their terms.

We Want to Help Businesses Enjoy a Work-Life Balance

The move toward a BSU work-life balance inspired our journey toward being a Virtual Assistant Firm. It’s our goal to help small business owners, managers and entrepreneurs gain a work-life balance.

Small business owners struggling for a work-life balance should consider delegating to a Virtual Assistance Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited. We can help you gain that balance and start living the life you deserve.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help your business.