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Using e-mail to market your business, the right way

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Using e-mail to market your business, the right way

45441568 - email concept with laptop and handsE-mail is one of the most popular marketing tools for small businesses today. But federal law requires that anyone sending out e-mail for commercial purposes follow some specific rules or risk costly penalties. Unfortunately, each year small businesses unknowingly run afoul of these e-mail marketing regulations.

The CAN-SPAM Act covers business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-mails that advertise or promote a commercial product or service. (CAN-SPAM stands for ‘Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing, by the way!) The penalties for violations of CAN-SPAM can add up: The Federal Trade Commission can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per non-compliant e-mail sent.

Luckily, the rules for sending out business e-mails are simple to understand and easy to follow. For starters, the subject line of your e-mail must accurately reflect the content of your message. Your “From,” “To,” and “Reply-To,” information must accurately identify you or your agency as the person or business who initiated the message. You’ll also want to make sure that you disclose clearly that your e-mail is an advertisement.

In the e-mail text, you need to disclose where you’re located. Your e-mail must contain the street address, post office box or private mailbox used by your business. You’ll also need to include in your e-mail information that can be used by an e-mail recipient to easily opt out of getting future e-mails from you. There must be no charge for someone to opt out of your e-mails. Opt-out requests also must be processed within 10 business days. And you may ask only for the recipient’s e-mail address to honor an opt-out request.

The CAN-SPAM Act also addresses how you create and maintain your e-mail list. Don’t ever add people to your e-mail list without their permission. For example, you wouldn’t want to add e-mail addresses from business cards you collect at a business conference unless you have permission from each individual whose card you collected. In addition, you don’t want to share, sell or transfer any e-mail addresses you have collected to another e-mail list.

Lastly, make sure that if you hire an outside company to handle your e-mail marketing that you hire a reputable one. You, along with your e-mail marketing company, may be held legally responsible for any violations of federal law. Want to learn more about CAN-SPAM? Go to this link.

Prenuptial agreements in estate planning

29100123 - prenup marriage agreement and penThe concept of a prenuptial agreement probably isn’t foreign to you, and you even may have a strong opinion of whether they are truly necessary. We want to share with you why a prenup is an important part of estate planning at any financial level.

Most of the time, people think of a prenup as asset protection in the case of divorce, but that isn’t always the case.

Instead, a prenuptial agreement can be an important tool in defining which assets are jointly owned and which are separately owned. It also can spell out which living spouse has the authority to give away something that is truly their’s, and what goes to whom in the event of a death of a spouse. This is especially important if a second marriage results after a divorce or death from a first spouse.

This legal document basically is a way to protect significant assets, heirlooms and estate plans that one or both parties could bring into a new marriage. This isn’t just about protecting one specific person, but the legacy and estate for children, grandchildren or other family members.

Do you now realize a prenup may be in the best interest of your estate planning? Or maybe you are worried it is now too late for this important legal document within your estate planning. Either way, we are here to help you and look forward to discussing this legal document and your current and future estate planning needs.

The art of successful telecommuting

45720671 - woman working in home office hand on keyboard close upNationwide, it’s estimated that 43 percent of all employees work remotely at least part of the time. Research shows that telecommuting has numerous benefits to employers (such as more productive and engaged workers) and employees (less time and cost involved in commuting and greater work-life balance).

Yet Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reveals that telecommuting yields the most benefits to employees and employers when workers do not spend 100 percent of their time at home. They’re more engaged when they spend some of the workweek working remotely and the other part working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost, according to Gallup, occurs when employees spend 60 percent to less than 80 percent of their workweek — three to four days — working off-site.

Why is this the case? There are numerous factors that come into play. One important one is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue. Numerous studies show that telecommuting workers on average are as productive or even more productive than employees who work in the office and who have greater distractions to deal with. But when an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize achievements, according to Gallup. When the manager and employees are in different locations, there are fewer opportunities for this to occur. That can leave telecommuting workers feeling undervalued and less engaged. Managers need to make sure they are celebrating the successes of — and offering advancement opportunities to — both in-office workers and telecommuters.

Another reason why a 100 percent telecommuting plan is not always ideal is that fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect with their co-workers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Human beings crave connection with others. Employees form bonds with other employees in office break rooms, lunch rooms and at the water cooler and coffee pot. Even small amounts of face time with co-workers and managers can help increase the odds that an employee’s telecommuting efforts are successful for everyone involved.

Easy ways to promote employee wellness

11775457 - group of colleagues descending stairsNearly three-quarters of companies in the most recent Society for Human Resource Management’s employee benefits survey said they offer some type of wellness program or plan. It’s easy to see why: Research shows a strong link between wellness initiatives and lower health care costs, greater productivity and employee satisfaction. Employees participating in wellness programs, for example, are less likely to experience health issues caused by work-related stress and more likely to fit healthy food choices and exercise into busy schedules.

Companies don’t have to invest in costly wellness programs to see benefits, however. Here are some low-cost and high-impact investments in wellness for your office:

  1. Plan daily or weekly walks. Get your employees out and moving, especially if you have an office where the majority of people are at their desks all day. Set aside 15-30 minutes every day or every other day and encourage your team members to walk around the block, travel to a nearby park, or maybe even walk to lunch. Ever tried a walking meeting? Provide employees with information about the benefits of walking.
  2. 3 o’clock drop. Fight the 3 o’clock productivity drop by hosting some kind of physical activity. You don’t have to go all out, but an afternoon stretch or yoga session can get the blood flowing and help energize your team for the rest of the day.
  3. Sign up for a company 5K. Find a good cause to support or make it a fun run. You can train as a company and build relationships in the process. Not into running? Biking or walking are great ways to stay healthy, too.
  4. Stock the fridge with water and healthy snacks. Most company fridges are filled with soda and sugary snacks. Encourage your employees to eat healthier by providing them with options like fruit, veggies and water.
  5. Invest in an employee gym. If you have the space in your building, consider installing a company workout room. If you don’t have the space, think about paying for employee gym memberships, or bring someone in to teach a workout class.

Do you have tenants with hoarding tendencies?

70990327_SAre you a landlord who has just discovered one or more of your tenants is a hoarder? This can be a very stressful situation to handle.

While you have your property to protect, your tenants also have rights. Hoarding has been deemed a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, which means the Fair Housing Act and its protections come into play. Where exactly does this leave you as the landlord?

While hoarding itself is not enough for eviction, there may also be a breach of contract — specifically the rental agreement. Such a breach may allow you to begin eviction proceedings, and may be based on property damage, possession of materials or animals in excess of what is allowed by law or the lease, or materials that block exits or fire alarms.

What should you watch for? Are you suddenly having problems with bugs or rodents? Can your repair technicians not access specific areas? Is your tenant denying you entry into the property?

Once you notice the hoarding issue, you can ask your tenants to clean the areas in question and then reinspect. Just be sure to provide notices and written time frames. You will also want to document the situation through written descriptions, timelines, communications, pictures and videos if possible.

Still stuck? We want to help you legally resolve these hoarding situations at your rental property. Contact us today at 248-613-0007 to see how we can help.

Even if all your employees work in an office, you need a safety plan

36168174 - brainstorming of multiethnic business people at officeThink businesses that have primarily office workers don’t have to worry about workplace safety? Think again! This list of workplace injuries demonstrates that accidents happen in all kinds of U.S. companies. Notice that a number of them apply to workers who spend much of their time behind a desk — not at a construction site or in a manufacturing facility.

As a business grows, so does its risk of costly accidents. Nationwide, occupational injuries cost companies nearly $170 billion each year. Injuries can hurt and even cripple a growing company. That’s why preventing them should be a priority for even the smallest of companies. Plus, providing your employees with a safe working environment is the right thing to do.

Where to start? At the office, slips, trips and falls are the most common hazards. Look around for uneven surfaces, torn carpet or anything else that could cause someone to trip and fall. Clean up any spills immediately and address any surfaces that become slippery, especially during the winter months. Consider having an ergonomics expert make sure your workstations are designed so that they meet basic rules for preventing repetitive injuries.

If your employees drive for business, make sure you have a safe-driving policy and consider banning cell phone use by employees who drive on the job. Another important thing you can do? Create a culture where employees know they can take breaks to stretch and rest their muscles and their eyes.

Divorce, wills and estate planning

10783408 - torn piece of paper with divorce text and paper couple figuresIf you have gone through a divorce, you may think that once it’s final, you are done working with attorneys and legal paperwork. But there is one more set of documents that need your attention after a divorce — your estate plan, including a will, living will and other documents.

You may dread this task if you’re emotionally and possibly financially fatigued, but bear with us! There could be long-lasting effects if you fail to update your estate plan. A divorce typically changes what you want to happen in your future and with your assets, and that needs to be reflected in

This includes updating your will with any changes to guardians if you have minor children, changes to property and asset distribution and even changes to the executor. Additionally, consider any changes to powers of attorneys for medical or financial decisions on your behalf. The divorce also could have tax implications for your estate plan.

You also will want to make sure you update beneficiaries on the following: retirement accounts, life insurance, and even bank accounts that are listed as pay-on-death. Don’t assume that a divorce will automatically change these things or revoke the way they were established before the divorce occurred.

You may think these are not urgent changes, but we disagree. It is important to update these as soon as possible after a divorce, and we invite you to contact our offices at 248-613-0007 to get started.

Small business optimism is climbing

45523323 - long hours spent in front of computerOptimism among small business owners is reaching new highs. According to a recent USA TODAY/Allstate survey, 64 percent of companies with 100 or fewer employees say their businesses are doing well, up from 61 percent in late 2015. Looking forward to the future, 72 percent of the respondents believe the next year will be a great one for their companies, up from 64 percent in late 2015.

The USA TODAY survey mirrors the results of other surveys targeting small businesses nationwide. Small business optimism is showing its first consistent increases since the Great Recession. According to Capital One’s latest Small Business Growth Index, 50 percent of small business owners feel current business conditions are good or excellent, up from 41 percent a year ago. The same percentage of business owners expect business conditions to improve in the next six months – the highest level since spring 2012.

That optimism is for the first time translating into consistent hiring activity. In a national survey of 16,000 businesses with fewer than 500 employees, the New York Fed found that more than 60 percent expect their revenues to grow in 2017, and 40 percent plan to hire more employees. Payroll provider ADP said that small businesses are hiring an average of 93,000 workers each month in 2017, up from an average of 61,000 last year.

How to know if you need a confidential agreement

44560229 - illustration of a confidentiality agreement letter with fountain penYour small business may have been given a confidentiality agreement to sign in the past, but have you considered having your own confidentiality agreements to protect your business?

Let’s look at what might call for a confidentiality agreement – also known as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) — in a business setting.

Basically, this is a legal document that protects confidential information you are about to share with another party. It serves to discourage the other party from disclosing information they learn from you.

Here are some scenarios that may require a NDA:

• Are you looking to sell a piece of technology or a product created in a special way? Or perhaps just licensing its use? In these circumstances, you’ll want an NDA in place.

• Are you about to share confidential information or propriety information, agreements or client lists with an employee? The last thing you want to do is share all of this and then watch that employee leave your company, launch his or her own business with your property or share it with a competitor.

• Are you preparing an offer to a potential investor or partner? If so, you are about to give a lot of private and sensitive information that could involve you and your business.

• Do you have a buyer interested in your company? Make sure you and your business are protected before you share sensitive information. Not everyone looking to buy is serious.

A confidentiality agreement is not something that should be based on a template. Each NDA should be specifically tailored to your business needs and your private information. We can help you create an NDA, or review one you’ve been given to sign. Let us help protect you and your business.

Are you paying enough attention to your competition?

10012051_SAre you paying enough attention to your competition? Whether a company is B2B or B2C, performing periodic audits on the competition can provide valuable information. Here are a few ways to gather business intelligence:

  • Look at your competition’s website and other marketing avenues to try to get a sense of their unique selling proposition. Maybe it’s amazing service, overnight delivery, low price or green business practices. What can you learn from what they do well and apply it to your business?
  • Get a feel for their customer service efforts. You might call their customer hotline. Are you immediately put on hold? For how long? Is the music pleasant? Once you do get through to a sales or customer service rep, are they pleasant and helpful? Would you want to do business with them after this experience?
  • Stay alert. Consider setting up Google Alerts on each competitor and its key people. You can set up alerts by company name, individuals’ names, keywords and more, and have them delivered to your inbox daily.
  • Tune into their social channels. It’s a great way to keep up with the latest news, products and/or services of your competition. Since social channels are becoming an increasingly popular and effective way for companies to recruit and retain customers, you’ll want to make sure your online efforts are every bit as good — or better — as theirs.

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