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Archive for March 2012

7 Ways To Control Fraud in Your Small Business

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Few people wake up in the morning and say “I’m going to rob my employer.”

Over the past few years, the media attention has been captured by cases of corporate fraud involving very large or publicly traded businesses. What about the fraud that we never hear about?  According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), small and midsize companies suffer a greater share of fraud losses than do the largest companies. Business owners shouldn’t give up on being trusting of your employees, but, it is always wise to know what’s going on in your company and back that trust up with verification. A hostile or non-supportive work environment causes employees to more easily justify fraudulent behavior.  As the business owner you must be the ethical example, setting the tone and culture that empowers your employees

Auditing is one of the primary accounting policies used against embezzlement. Auditing should be done by a separate accountant to assure the reliability and faithful representation of the financial data. More so, regular audits specifically monthly audits should be done. Furthermore, surprise audits must also be implemented.

Here a 7 more ways that can help keep fraud out of your business.

#1. Ask behavior-specific interview questions The first place to stop fraud is at the door  during your interview process. “Every business that has employees is prone to fraud, but there is no specific stereotype. Try to learn more about a person’s behavior and ethics during the interview. Ask them detailed questions about their resume or what you might find if you requested an investigation from a previous employer.  If the person has something to hide, they won’t come back.”

#2. Check employee references. When hiring new employees, check references and perform background checks that include employment, credit, licensing and criminal history. The cost is far outweighed by the benefit.

#3. Control who reviews sensitive documents.  Business owners should control who receives bank statements and other sensitive documents. It is not farfetched for a small-business owner to have a separate post office box for the purpose of receiving bank statements, customer receipts or other sensitive documents.

#4. Consider independent review. All account reconciliations and general ledger balances should have an independent review by a person who is not a part of the day-to-day transactions.  There should be regular spot checks and reviews, providing a deterrent for fraudulent activity.

#5. Checks should require more than one signature.  Require two signatures when issuing company checks. It is also imperative that checks should not be signed by the same employee who prepares the company’s expenses vouchers.

#6. Documentation of receipts, vouchers, checks, etc. These source documents are used in preparing financial statements. These documents can also be used to detect embezzlement in the workplace. By implementing a strict policy of documentation, business owners can easily identify embezzlement or fraud.

#7. Control Petty cash and bank reconciliations. Your amount of petty cash should be maintained at a minimum and must integrate a voucher system as well. Receipts and other source documents concerning petty cash transactions should always be kept for documentation purposes.

Some Red Flags of Possible Fraud

  • Not allowing someone else to access their work area
  • Prefers to be unsupervised by working after hours or taking work home
  • Financial records missing or altered
  • Lack of organization in the work area
  • Unexplained or sudden change in behavior
  • Sudden poor morale or lack of teamwork

Written by Beverly S. Davis

March 27, 2012 at 1:53 am

Posted in Entrepreneurship

5 Key Principles To Building A Thriving Business Culture

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“The greatest enemy of a good plan, is the dream of a perfect plan” 

One of the most important things you will do as an entrepreneur is create the culture for your business.  Seems like a simple task at first thought, but are you sure you’re getting it right for you? It’s vital that you hit the ground running and get it right the first time. So what is the key to creating business culture? The key principles to creating business culture go far beyond your mission statement or the financial goals you have.   

As an entrepreneur you are your brand, and your brand is the eye of your culture. Culture is what priorities and values you personally carry within you. The goal of your businesses culture is to put those priorities and values into motion for others to see and experience.  To create business growth, your culture must be effective and to be effective you must cause a positive improvement to people’s lives.  Your culture ultimately will be the catalyst for your business reputation and growth.

 

Key principles to think of when creating your business culture:

#1. Be the example

By letting what’s inside of you show on a daily basis you will convey to your team, customers and business associates what you stand for.  Be sure that what you say is a mirror image of what you do. You are the soul of your business culture. What you say and do is what your business culture will ultimately become.

#2. Build the ‘Right’ team

Make sure you know the difference between who is good and who the best is. Your business culture will be sustained by your loyal good workers, but your culture will thrive and grow because of team members who are the ‘best’ at what they do. Create a diverse culture of  employees who focus on the company’s day-to-day, and employees who focus on the company’s future.

#3.  Stay innovative

Don’t settle for doing a good job, strive to the best job. You and your team should constantly be coming up with new competitive ways to work.  Ongoing training is a must for you and your team. Have monthly workshops and attend conferences to stay away from mediocrity.  Revise your business services often to stay ahead of the curve . 

#4. Be visibly motivating

The public will buy into things that are positive and uplifting. Stay motivated about your business and the services you offer. This creates an invigorating culture that becomes a magnet to the public. Be sure to keep your team enthusiastic. Try having team building events on a regular basis that not only involve your employees, but the public as well.

#5. Keep an open dialog

Create vehicles for your team to express new ideas, what they like about their job and what they don’t like. Make a point to have regular group meetings, as well as one-on-one meetings where employees can speak freely.  How your team engages with you and each other will make a huge difference in the culture that will be presented to the public. A team that is able to express itself freely reward the company with hard work and loyalty.

Creating a value centered business culture is simple, but most entrepreneurs fail to execute these simple key principles. Doing the right things well, every time, requires consistent discipline and the integration of your personal brand into the very heartbeat of your business everyday. 

Written by Beverly S. Davis

March 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

Posted in Branding, Leadership

Women Entrepreneurs: Is Your Brand Talking To Men?

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 A great brand taps into emotions. Emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions. A brand reaches out with a powerful connecting experience. It’s an emotional connecting point that transcends the product. ~ Scott Bedbury/Nike, Starbucks

Making the public aware of your company is the most important component to building your brand. Once you have identified your target customer you’re ready to put yourself out there for the world to see. When you think of your ideal customer who comes to mind? If your ideal customer is women and men, then you have to ask who is my brand talking to? If your brand only speaks to women, you’re thinking too small.  When targeting a specific market be sure your branding is not excluding an entire group from working with you.

Many women entrepreneurs lose out on revenue due to the mixed signal of their branding. Men don’t ‘see’ or ‘hear’ your marketing simply because you aren’t talking to them. As a female entrepreneur your branding strategies naturally lean towards your feminine side. However, the influence of your brand should not be underrated. Don’t let your gender trick you out of potential male customers who  are confused by your brand. Your ability to reach a broad audience and continually reinforce that choosing your company was the right decision, will ultimately determine your businesses success

Marketing to men 101:

Decision Making:

Men tend to make decisions more quickly than women. Men are not browsers. Men shop with a motto “Get what I want and move on.” Men tend to dislike ensembles and look for a single perfect fit that supplies specific results.

  • Keep your brand message quick & to the point
  • Describe your services in short sentences using key words
  • Speak with urgency in your marketing to appeal to a man’s “Right Now” mind

Focus:

Men have a black & white awareness to things. It’s either this or that.Women have an “it depends” type of awareness and are interested in the variation of a service.

  • Offer your services in packages & individually.
  • Clearly state what makes you better than others (what results will he get)
  • Give clear instructions on what actions to take (click here, buy now etc.)

Your marketing will not be very effective if you do not have a strong brand. If your brand only speaks to a small portion of potential customers, your marketing will also be less profitable. Take the time to listen and understand what your male customers are looking for. Look for ways to embrace men so that they are genuinely interested in working with you. If your company offers services that both women and men can use, your brand must be neutral enough to appeal to both. You cannot market to men the same way you market to women.Men and women are different biologically, psychologically and socially.

Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have of you – Stelios Haji-Ioannou

Neutralize your brand:

Business Cards: 

Remember a business card is designed as a way for potential customers to follow-up with someone about a service that person is interested in. Your business card should represent your business, not you. Do not use colors or pictures that say I’m a woman. A standard card with your business name and information will do just fine.  Be careful to choose neutral colors that represent your business, and that men won’t have a complex about carrying. 

Company Name, Slogan & Logo:

Choose a name & slogan that best represents what your services are without speaking to a specific gender. Again, you may want to consult with professionals who can help keep your brand neutral. Choose a logo that will visually clarify your business, not you. Hire someone to create a logo for you. This way there will be no personal influence.

Website:

Pay close attention to your About page.  Yes, you still need to include all the basics,  but a few simple tricks can make your About page a more neutral read that attracts both women and men to our company. Focus on your businesses services and how it will benefit them. Provide a snapshot of your  work history and experience, but limit personal information such as hobbies, personal likes or things that highlight your gender. Again, keep the overall appearance interesting enough to catch your visiter’s attention, but neutral enough to keep potential male customers interested in working with you. 

Branding is the meat of your marketing plan. It is what will make your business stand apart from  competitors.  To be successful it is important that you find ways to  speak to all of your potential clients.  Be consistent with your message,  and it will not be “you” but “the company” your males customers see.   

Written by Beverly S. Davis

March 10, 2012 at 3:39 am

Entrepreneur Mom (5 Tips To Balance The Act)

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If you are like me you enjoy the best of two worlds. I run my own financial service company and I am raising my seven-year-old son. I am passionate about both business and motherhood, but it can be difficult to split equal time between the two.  You feel like you’re being pulled in so many directions to do so many different things, and you want to make everyone happy. After a while you learn to live in chaos. A nice cup of coffee can make things good; a nice hot bath makes things better, but eventually you will have to come up with a balancing act that works for the long haul. I have come up with a few key things that help keep me balanced and I hope that they can help you out too.

#1 Practice ‘Self’ Care

If you are not good to yourself, you can’t be any good to anyone else. Take time at least once a day or once a week to do something special for yourself. Self care for everyone is something different. Spend a day at a spa, take a yoga class, meet a friend for lunch, take a coffee break or just read a book for an hour each day. Take time to relax and reflect on your needs.

 

#2 Be Organized

Much of your chaos can come from not being organized. Have a day planner or note pad that you record everything in that you need to do. Use tech gadgets (ipad, smartphone etc.) to create a calendar that goes everywhere with you. Use a large monthly calendar that you can hang up and look at everyday. Keep supplies available and in a place where you can immediately put your hands on them.

#3 Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

As a mother certain things with ALWAYS come first. If your child is sick or has to perform in the school play you want to be there. From time to time business is just as demanding. Set time boundaries so that you can care for your family and your business. My morning belongs to my son. I spend quality time getting him dressed, eating breakfast and driving him to school. I don’t start any business activity until 9 AM. There is no confusion or overlapping in priorities. Be sure to set strict time frames for business and motherly duties so the two don’t overlap.

#4 Negotiables and Nonnegotiables

There will be times with the lines will cross and you will have to make a little wiggle room.  Cook several meals on the weekends that can be quickly available through the week. Clean the house in sections each day vs spending an entire day doing it. Make a list each month of what you intend to get done. Then break the list down week by week, then day by day.

#5 Ask For Help

It’s very hard to succeed at anything without help, so communicate with your husband, partner or family members about how they can help you. Being a mom and an entrepreneur you’re juggling two full-time jobs. It takes great support in the middle to make each end work.

“Being an entrepreneur mom sometimes is overwhelming, balancing family to work and everything in between. If you can make through one day, one week or one month the simple fact that you’re doing it means you’ve mastered it well.”

Written by Beverly S. Davis

March 10, 2012 at 3:36 am

Posted in Life Balance

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