Thursday, September 27, 2007

Take a look at Google Docs...

This may be another tool that can help your collaboration efforts in your business. Google Docs allows you to store your docs, spreadsheets and presentations in a secure Internet site. Multiple editors can make changes and update files without having to keep track of multiple versions. Check it out!

Ten Web 2.0 Startups That *ARE* Targeting Small Businesses

SmartBiz is a great site for small business resources. Recently, SmartBiz Editor, Rich Karpinski, shares Web 2.0 startups that are targeting small business. From "Nextel-style" push-to-talk service for the PC, trip planning tools, cash flow management solutions and open source web-meeting services; Karpinski profiles services that may indeed, enhance your BIZ! Read More

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How NOT to use PowerPoint...

How are your sales presentations looking? Are you getting your pitch across? Is your audience engaged or finding the cure for insomnia? Take a look:

Monday, August 6, 2007

10Q Interview with Palo Alto Software Founder and President, Tim Berry

For all of us in the "Entrepreneur Community" that have had to write a business plan and use a software program to have it all make sense; we probably owe a little something to Tim Berry.

Tim Berry is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, and expert in business planning. He has a Stanford MBA degree, is author of several books, and president and founder of Palo Alto Software, creators of Business Plan Pro. He is also the founder of, the world's most viewed and referenced business-planning site.

For years Tim has been giving entrepreneurs and small business leaders tips, stories and, how Tim modestly puts it, "sometimes advice". He writes regular columns for and AllBusiness and is always delivering new content at

Recently, Tim shared with me how he started, some tips, stories and...a little advice.

1. AZSB: Tim, can you please take us through how and why you started Palo Alto?

TB: I started Palo Alto Software because I believed in business plan software and nobody was doing it right. I had been consulting in business planning for years and I developed templates because I wanted my clients to understand that the plan has to be their plan, the owner’s and implementer’s plan, not the consultant’s plan. I wanted empowered clients who used me as extra knowledge and experience, but understood that they had to implement the plan. After I’d been using my templates with clients for years, several clients suggested that they should be productized, and I liked the idea.

2. AZSB: Who uses Palo Alto’s products? Start-ups, corp. business units, Marketing etc?

TB: Business Plan Pro is a tool to help people handle the mechanics of developing a business plan: it helps people starting a business or running and growing a business, plus teachers and students, consultants and their clients, and people who are merely thinking about starting a business. It is used by some middle managers to develop group plans, product plans, expansion plans, and ad-hoc plans addressing special issues in the business.

Marketing Plan Pro is a tool to help people develop marketing plans. It is used mainly by owners and operators who want to focus in on marketing strategy and implementation, and by middle managers in larger businesses.

Of course you can’t do a business plan without a marketing plan, and Business Plan Pro includes a lot of material related to the core marketing strategy and implementation, which leads me to the key differentiator between the two: Marketing Plan Pro doesn’t do the whole financials of the business, doesn’t worry about assets or liabilities or cash flow, but just the sales and marketing. Business Plan Pro does the whole business. Both products include marketing strategy and sales and marketing expenses, but Marketing Plan Pro goes into more detail.

3. AZSB: I purchased Business Plan Premier Pro online. What does the rest of your business model look like? Do you sell direct or through channels?

TB: As you indicate, our most important channel is the web. We sell a great deal over the web. We were early on the web, we’ve done a great job there, we give a lot of valuable information for free at, and we sell and support at And I write my views on

We also sell a lot through retail, especially mainstream office and electronics stores. We sell approximately two out of every three units of business plan software sold through the US retail market, meaning major stores including Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, CompUSA, Fry’s and others. We’ve been in retail a long time. We respect the retail business very much. It’s important for branding.
We also sell direct to some specialized users. McDonalds, for example, purchased 600 copies. We’ve had programs for dealers of Intel, Progress Software, Autodesk, some others.

4. AZSB: How is Palo Alto different from other business planning software/service providers?

TB: We are the only software company I know of focused entirely on software tools for business planning. We don’t write business plans for people any more, we don’t consult, we are dedicated to making tools that facilitate the process of planning to make it easier but without taking away the value or the insight you gain from developing your own plan. . We do the mechanics. We help our users manage outlines, texts, tables, charts, formatting the page, doing the table of contents, doing the detailed appendices in the back, even managing simple tools for plan vs. actual analysis, export to PowerPoint or PDF or Word or other formats.

Our competitors in retail are software publishers. They package and distribute software. Their business planning software is not their main business. Different competitors have copied our earlier software versions, and one made a copy of our packaging that was so close that our sales reps called to complain about us supposedly bringing out a new version without telling them.

The vendors we compete against on the web are hard to describe because there is such a broad range, from pure unmitigated junk like selling sample plans – which is intellectually dishonest at best – to some serious competition.

Yes, I get angry at the business of selling sample plans. We started it in a way, because our customers clamored for sample plans to be included with the Business Plan Pro software product, which now includes 500 of them. However, we never intended for them to be anything but examples, idea generators, and now the Internet is full of people selling sample plans as if there were some value – there isn’t – in a sample business plan. As if you could buy a plan instead of making one. To make it worse, a lot of them are selling the same sample plans we include with Business Plan Pro, for free. It’s bad for the world to pass around the idea that a bought plan is useful. Every plan is unique, and has to be. Even if you’re in the same business as the sample plan you use, you have a different market, different management team, different strategy, different resources … it’s dumb to think you can just buy a finished business plan.

Regarding consultants and business plan writers, some are very good and very professional. We don’t compete with them at all, in fact we work cooperatively with several of the better business plan consulting businesses, and with hundreds of consultants. We recommend consultants and we never take any commission or payback of any kind. Business Plan Pro is a great addition to a consulting engagement, because it empowers the client to understand the plan and tweak it on their own, focusing the consulting on know-how and experience, not just writing and doing the numbers. A lot of smart consultants use it automatically, because the cost is nothing compared to the cost of a reasonably good consultant, so everybody wins. The part of the market that makes me nervous are the business plan writers who pretend they can produce something useful for a few hundred dollars, because business plans don’t get stamped out like cookies. It takes thought. And the person with the knowledge and experience to be useful as a business plan consultant has a market value of several hundred dollars per hour.

5. AZSB: From the start in 1983 as a “consulting and market research firm” what other directions have you taken Palo Alto and what are your plans for the future?

TB: I’m proud to say I executed my own plan consistently over a long period. The idea beginning in 1986 was to create a product that could offer people my knowledge and experience inside a software product, without cynically trivializing the thinking and insight that goes into planning. That took a long time to do. I developed templates in 1987 and sold them as “Business Plan Toolkit” until finally, as computing offered more power and more capability to software developers, we developed Business Plan Pro as a standalone Windows product in 1994. That also marked the important step of professional programmers who took what I had done originally in spreadsheet macros and turned that and a lot more additional features into a complete application. From then on, we no longer depended on Excel or Lotus 1-2-3, and as an author I had the luxury of an environment in which I could control the interface, and build instructions and examples into it.

Marketing Plan Pro was developed first as a custom product for Hewlett-Packard, but, thank goodness, the contract allowed us to offer it to the rest of the world too.
We’ve also learned a lot of things that didn’t work, and we’ve learned not to publish anything less than excellent products. Through the years we’ve developed and dropped Business Budgeting Toolkit, Sales and Market Forecasting Toolkit, Financial Forecasting Toolkit, Cash Plan Pro, DecisionMaker, Incorporation Toolkit, Cash Compass, and others.

Where are we going in the future? It’s exciting times for Palo Alto Software right now. Last Spring I stepped aside and named Sabrina Parsons, 33, Princeton grad, with a great track record in Internet marketing, entrepreneurship, and running the marketing of our company, as CEO. She named Noah Parsons COO and Cale Bruckner VP Product Development. We now have a great team of young committed managers who, although they are all in their early to mid thirties, have years of experience with business planning. They are complemented by some gray haired heads too. We’re sticking to our mantra, helping people to succeed in business, but looking to do more and better in the future.

6. AZSB: Do you have a business “philosophy”?

TB: Yes. It’s about value. I wouldn’t be able to work as hard as I have if I didn’t believe that we are giving real value to our customers. People who have the good sense to spend $100 with us are much better off for it. When I walk out of the office at the end of the day, I know that what I’ve been doing is good for people, I’ve helped them. I’ve empowered them to see their business better.

That philosophy has worked very well in building a company. I believe that things don’t work well when people don’t believe that what they’re working on is a good thing. Our people feel good about what we do, and that makes people happier, and the company healthier.

Regarding business planning, it’s about the process, not the plan itself. The business plan is worth the implementation it causes. The plan saved in a drawer is useless. What I strive for is the live plan, the plan that becomes a management tool, and that happens when the plan is tracked and reviewed and revised as assumptions change.

7. AZSB: Palo Alto is a recognized leader in Business Planning Software; what are some of the challenges you face in order to stay in front of the pack and continue success?

TB: We’re on our 11th version now. We’ve always believed that the right way to run a software company is to constantly make it better. Our software development team is full time and year-round. We have lots of challenges. It’s frustrating that people are trafficking in sample plans, contributing to the dangerous myth that you can find or buy a business plan for your business instead of developing one. And for a long time we’ve had to navigate through the paradoxical waters of people wanting a business plan to be easy while we want it also to help you run your business and give you valuable information. We could make it really easy if we didn’t believe it is there to help you conceive, start, run, and grow a business.

8. AZSB: If you were to change an event in your business since launching, what would it be?

TB: Wow, it’s been so many years, and we’ve been operating in the real world, which means we deal with uncertainty and we make mistakes. At one point we had $65K in credit card debt and three mortgages, and that was hard.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Once I decided people could see through the difference between $99.95 and $100 in a direct mail campaign, so I changed the price to $100, and response plummeted. Once I went into retail with dull brown dignified packaging, which didn’t sell at all.. And once when our sales took off I ignored my own teaching on cash flow, and ran out of working capital. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. I write about my mistakes on my blog. You can find that as a category.

9. AZSB: What advice can you offer our readers about starting a small business?

Offer value. Give your customers something of value, and give them more value than what you charge them. That’s the best strategy ever. Respect your customers and their intelligence.

1. Stay focused. Strategy is focus. Set your identity based on what you’re really good at and how you’re different from anybody else, and make that the key to your marketing. Tell people how you’re different and why that’s better for them. And make it the truth when you say it.

2. Understand planning is vital. Your plan will be wrong but you’ll track how and why and where and how much, and that will lead to management. You steer by correcting, but you can’t correct if you don’t plan.

3. Always watch the cash flow. Cash flow is not intuitive. We think in terms of profit and loss but profit is an accounting concept, and doesn’t always mean cash. This is especially important when you sell to business customers, because business customers don’t pay on time. Also when you’re dealing with products, because you have to buy things before you sell them.

10. AZSB: How would you like the public to view Palo Alto Software?

TB: We are dedicated to helping people succeed in business. We are focused on planning – not just the plan, but the whole planning process – and on entrepreneurs, small business, and middle managers. We believe in what we’re doing.

AZSB: Thanks for your time, Tim.

TB: My pleasure, Dave.

To learn more from other leaders of entrepreneurship and small business, check out the Interview Section of AZ Small Business.

Friday, July 27, 2007

True CRM for Small Business

This week I had the opprtunity to review InfusionCRM from Infusion Software and I was impressed.

What I have found over the years is that most small businesses use a contact management application like ACT!, to manage sales contacts and opportunities but then may use another system to track customer information and still an additional system to manage and track the success of any marketing campaigns they may run.

InfusionCRM combines Marketing and Sales Automation, E-Mail Management, E-Commerce (including shopping cart), Billing and Accounting functions and Help Desk in one comprehensive, easy to use solution. InfusionCRM even offers MortgagePro specifically designed to meet the needs of mortgage brokers and professionals.

InfusionCRM is delivered in a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model, which means their is no software to load or internal IT support required. Implementation is simple and delivered over the phone or on-site in just a couple days.

Infusion Software is a local success story, based in Gilbert. For more information give them a call at 480-807-0644, visit them at the Infusion website or even attend a free online demo.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

10Q Interview with Jigsaw Health CEO, Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is widely recognized as a pioneer and visionary in the high-tech industry who created ACT!®—the best-selling contact manager—used by millions of business professionals around the world. Sullivan was named as one of the “80 Most Influential People in Sales and Marketing History” among the ranks of Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Jack Welch, Donald Trump, and Bill Gates. Sullivan was also honored with the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award not once, but twice! First for creating and marketing ACT!®. And again for SalesLogix®, the leading mid-market customer relationship manager.

So why start a company focused on chronic health conditions?
For the past 30 years, Pat Sullivan has struggled with the recurrent symptoms of Candidiasis, Mercury Toxicity (from dental amalgams), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Chronic Fatigue, and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Suffering from these conditions has driven Pat to discover the pieces to his own health puzzle. His motivation to find them came from his deep-seated belief in cause and effect—if there is an effect, there MUST be a cause!

I had the opportunity to work for Pat as Vice President of Product Management at SalesLogix and recently had the chance to catch up with him for this edition of the AZSB 10Q.

AZSB-1. Pat, why did you start Jigsaw Health?

PS: Jigsaw Health was born during the process of writing “Wellness Piece by Piece”, a book about my own health odyssey. Thus the puzzle metaphor. (More details at, or download the pdf eBook for free.). This is the 20-year shortcut I wish someone had given me long ago. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but what I’ve found is an underlying thread to most chronic health issues, and I’ve put it all into layman terms in telling my story. (Don’t have time for the book? We’ve summarized the roadmap into “The Top Ten Common Causes of Chronic Conditions” .

My own journey, struggle, and discovery provides the inspiration and guiding principals for Jigsaw Health.

AZSB-2. Who uses Jigsaw Health’s products?

PS: About 60% of our buyers are women, but Dave, many of these women are buying for their families and most if not all have some kind of chronic condition that they are trying to find an answer to. Thousands of people come to our site every day and read the depth of information that we have on many conditions. Some of these people end up buying a product but most really appreciate the help they get from the information we provide.

AZSB-3. What is your business model? (How do you Market your products)

PS: Jigsaw Health is a product formulator and an online retailer. We’re like – designing cool products with our own unique slant, contracting the assembly to manufacturers, and then staffing the online store with people who are eager to help customers solve problems. We rely heavily on the new art of Search Engine Optimization and Persuasion Architecture. I say “art” because getting all the variables to make a website really do a great job of selling requires constantly tweaking dozens of variables. There is science to it, but it usually feels more like an art form. Getting it right is hard and it requires constant attention.

The main thrust of our marketing is authenticity. The information for the most part is stuff that I personally learned over the past 20 years. I share things that work and things I feel don’t work. By helping people piece together their own health puzzles, we hope that they feel confident enough in our products to try them. Happy customers are the key to our long term marketing strategy.

AZSB-4. How is Jigsaw Health different from other health product providers?

PS: Most of our products are ones which we built for one person – me! Over the years I found a few products that helped me and many that seemed to have no effect at all. However, most of the time there would be something with each product that I would say, “Gee, I wish it had more of this, or less of that, or none of that.”

For instance, many people with chronic conditions have compromised absorption issues as well as the inability to convert many raw vitamins into the active forms of those vitamins that the body actually is able to use. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to help people overcome these issues by staying up to date on the latest ingredients, delivery mechanisms, and manufacturing capabilities. Magnesium and B vitamins are two good examples.

Magnesium is a major mineral that close to 80% of Americans are deficient in. If you supplement your diet with the true Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), most magnesium products will have a strong laxative effect, especially if you have gastro intestinal problems to begin with, like Irritable Bowel Syndromeor Celiac Disease, etc.

I was one of the thousands of people struggling to take magnesium without getting diarrhea. So I worked with a biochemist to formulate a highly absorbable form of magnesium in a sustained release formula. This allows those deficient in magnesium to take far more that the RDI of magnesium without getting the dreaded laxative effect. (BTW, I’ll bet that is the first and only time you’ve have the word “diarrhea” in a blog post. ;-)

With B vitamin supplements, most do nothing except become expensive urine. First reason is because the cheaper inactive versions of each B vitamin in the formula. But these must be converted by your liver into the active form of each B in order to be used by the body!

Second reason is that the body can only use so many B vitamins at one time and excretes the rest. So we worked to formulate a supplement using only the active forms of each B vitamin in a sustained release formula.

AZSB-5. Do you have plans to take the company in other directions?

PS: We recently signed a distribution agreement with Natural Partners, the second largest distributor to doctors in the United States, which gives us access to doctors looking for better answers for their patients. While our original model was strictly based on selling direct to consumers, we had several good doctors around the country who had already found us and were either recommending our products to their patients, or carrying them on their own shelves. But there are some built in conveniences for a doctor when they are able to order multiple brands from a distributor, so they requested we begin a relationship with Natural Partners.

We have now begun to actively market to more doctors around the country to grow this channel. Much like SalesLogix -- the “big brother” of ACT! which I started in 1996 after I sold ACT! to Symantec – selling through a channel of recommenders is something that I’ve learned how to do and it’s something that we believe will help us grow even more.

AZSB-6. Do you have a business “philosophy”?

PS: If you don’t have empirical proof that customers are telling their friends good things about you, you’re not on the right track. (And unlike the majority of our competitors, Jigsaw Health is not an MLM/Network Marketing company with “downlines” and commission checks for customers who recruit their friends.)

AZSB-7. What is the challenge to your success?

PS: As always, generating awareness. When I started ACT!, it took about 5 years to become an “overnight success.” It usually seems to be like that. We have been building Jigsaw Health for a little over 2 years now, but we’re still hoping to break the trend and hit that “overnight success” status sooner than 5 years! :)

AZSB-8. If you were to change an event in your business since launching, what would it be?
PS: As I mentioned, I wrote “Wellness Piece by Piece” and started Jigsaw Health because I have a passion for helping people just like me who have struggled with long-lasting chronic health issues. But I approached these more as a hobby than as a really serious business. And to be candid, I just didn’t do as much due diligence on the industry and the marketplace as I should have. Turns out that “health and wellness” is an insanely crowded market with hundreds of pitfalls and to top it all off, you can’t even really explain what your products are designed to do with anything more than “grey language” that must be vetted by lawyers because of tight FDA regulations.

Of course, if I would have done that much due diligence, I probably wouldn’t have ever started Jigsaw Health in the first place. And then I would still be searching for a good magnesium, sustained release active B vitamin, etc…and so would all of our customers. ;-)

So not knowing what you don’t know can actually be a blessing!

AZSB-9. What advice can you offer our readers about starting a business here in Arizona?
PS: Other than the general lack of Arizona-based Venture Capital firms, there is really not much difference here than other places. In fact, I much prefer the environment and culture of Arizona to Silicon Valley which I lived in for about a year. Arizona is filled with tremendous talent. And there are quite a few entrepreneurs here with all the support structures in place. In my opinion, Arizona really is an excellent place to start a business. If you have a good enough idea and management team, the VC money will find you.

AZSB-10. How would you like the people to think of Jigsaw Health?

PS: I am most satisfied when I receive emails from customers thanking me about our research articles that helped them discover something off the beaten path, or products that finally started working for them, or the delightful customer service experience they’ve had.

There are so many people who are “walking wounded” desperately seeking answers to their own health puzzle. They’ve usually been to lots of doctors and generally have not received helped much. Most doctors are excellent with acute medicine – the keeping you alive part. But they don’t do chronic nearly as well, and they’ll admit as much.

The current medical system really works against the chronically unwell. Jigsaw Health wants to help those people find answers or at least give them hope that the answers exist and you can find them.

AZSB: Pat, it's been great getting caught up with you and we appreciate the valuable information you have shared with us. I wish you and your team, at Jigsaw Health, every success in the years to come. Thanks so much!

PS: Thank you, Dave.

For more information on Jigsaw Health and the products they provide, visit Jigsaw Health

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TriNet Acquires HR Outsourcing Provider John Parry & Alexander (JPA)

SAN LEANDRO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--TriNet Group, Inc., a nationwide provider of human resource (HR) outsourcing services for small and medium-sized companies, today announced the next stage of its growth and expansion strategy through the acquisition of the business of John Parry & Alexander (JPA), an HR outsourcing and consulting services company based in Walnut Creek, California. All executives and employees from JPA have become full-time team members of TriNet. Specific terms of the transaction are not being disclosed. via BusinessWire

Coming this month...the AZ Small Business 10Q

AZSB interviews Arizona small buisness leaders and entrepreneurs.

Starting July 16th, AZSB will be posting e-mail interviews with small business leaders across the state. Entrpreneurs from various industries will share insights, ideas and opinions. Read, learn and share your thoughts.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Administaff Schedules Second Quarter Earnings Release and Teleconference

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Administaff, Inc. (NYSE:ASF), a leading provider of human resources services for small and medium-sized businesses, will release its second quarter earnings prior to the open of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007. A teleconference hosted by Administaff’s management will be held at 10 a.m. EDT to discuss the results and business trends. via Business Wire

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Take a note...

Over the past week I've been using a new tool from Jott which works with your cell phone and serves as a recorder of thoughts, to-dos and more.

After you set up an account, Jott provides an 877 number that you can call and dictate a message to yourself, others who use the service or even groups. Once you complete the message, Jott distributes the note to the desired recipients in the form of email and/or text message, complete with the recording of your voice.

So far, so good. The voice-to-text translator seems to work well with most messages being translated to text exactly how I recorded them. This is really a great tool for anyone who needs to write a lot. Whether you are in sales returning from the field, running a business with much to keep track of or want to capture a post for your blog while you drive; Jott works great!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Finding or Developing Top Talent?

This morning I was on a conference call with a couple of colleagues when the question was posed, "What really is more important to small business employers; Finding great people or developing the talent they have?"

I think when you take a step back, they are really two different conversation threads. For now, let's start the discussion around, attracting top talent.

Good talent is hard to find and when you find a candidate you are sure would be great for your team, you have to compete with other employers to get the deal done. This means that you may have to spend valuable time on the recruiting process; done right, the time spent will be well worth the effort.

So where do you start? First, just saying "We need to hire a sales person..." really won't cut it...a step further, "We need to hire a sales person that has experience selling the types of widgets we sell". Better, but there's more to it than that. Let me take a quick tangent here (for anyone who knows me this is normal). I have a background in software product management (R&D). The product management team is usually responsible for studying the market, trends, competition, how the product should be used, look and feel, user experience, swot, pricing, packaging, launch etc. The first thing product managers do before getting Development involved and building or enhancing a new product is, WRITE A BUSINESS REQUIREMENT. (Close tangent).

When you want to find great talent, start with YOUR requirements of the candidates. Education, background, experience, are all obvious areas in question, but what about your company's culture? Work environment? Your style. Are you looking for someone to be a "company guy" (not being sexist here, just brief) or "one of the guys" or are you looking for someone to come in and bring new thoughts and ideas to the table (and possibly expand your horizon a bit) to help expand your business.

Writing a Candidate Requirement is key to understanding what you really need and want for your business. Having the Requirement doc will be a great advantage in crafting the job description for your candidates and/or recruiters.

When interviewing, ask questions that will give you a glimpse of how the candidate may approach a problem or opportunity; not just what you can already read on a resume.

At the end of the day you are looking for good people, as Rock Bottom Restaurant Founder and Chairman, Frank Day framed up for a friend of mine years ago,

"We want to hire good people. We can teach good people anything. I can't teach an idiot not to be a moron!"

Good luck in finding the right players for your team!


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Top 10 lies of Entrepreneurs

Guy Kawasaki outlines the Top 10 Lies from Entrpreneurs...Sound Familiar?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

GRAND OPENING! ThinkingHR and Arizona Small Business are now Live!

Today it's official, Arizona Small Business and ThinkingHR business blogs are now Live! Both blogs were created to share news, knowledge and opinions on small business (where we make our home) and topics related to human resources. I started posting on both sites a couple of weeks ago and have received some good feedback and have noticed the sites have been added to some well established blogrolls. Being an entrepreneur and in the HR space for now, 20 years, I've learned that transferring the knowledge between us makes it better for all. Thanks for visiting...more to come! Dave June 14 Announcement

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Virgo Capital Acquires Accord Human Resources

Transaction Provides Accord with an Equity Partner Focused on Growth

AUSTIN, Texas & OKLAHOMA CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Accord Human Resources, a leading provider of outsourced HR management solutions, and Virgo Capital, a private equity firm dedicated to the technology-enabled services market, jointly announced today that Virgo Capital has acquired Accord Human Resources.

via Business Wire

A Father's Day Question: Do Workplaces Need to Be More Father-Friendly?

This was a question that was posed in yesterday's BLR Newsletter (The link is below for you to get access to the full article).

So guys, what's the answer to the question above? Do our workplaces need to be more "Father-Friendly". Whether they are or not the article says we don't really take advantage of the time off programs our companies already have for us.

I am a Father of two teen-age boys (15, and 13). Over the years, I have tried to spend as much time as possible with them; coaching getting involved with school work etc. The BLR article states that the more time we spend with them the better off they'll be. This idea almost seems to be a "no-brainer". In fact, the article goes on to claim that, when asked, 7 out of 10 Fathers say they would take a cut in pay to spend more time with our kids. So why don't we do it?

Learn more about the programs your company offers you and take some time off with the kids-it will be great for all.

Happy Father's Day
Full BLR Article

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Exempt or Non-Exempt?

Proper employee classification now, may mean avoiding expense in the future.

There are three main categories of employees that are generally not entitled to overtime: administrative, professional and executive. These categories are typically known as exempt, but there may be some blurring of the lines.
Administrative classification require that those employees have decision-making authority and may be involved with contract negotiations. The professional classification are for those employees with advanced degrees or specific training, but only if they are using those skills while on the job. A lawyer driving a forklift should not be classified as exempt. The executive exemption usually is used for management running the company or a particular business unit. These are all fine lines and mis-classifying employees may cost you.
Department of Labor audits usually come on the heals of an employee complaint. If you have misclassified the employee, you may owe back pay for the entire term of that person's employment. In 2006, the Department of Labor collected over $170 million in back wages. In addition to back pay you most likely will have to pay attorney and consulting fees.

Be careful of docking an employee's pay for coming in late, missing a workday or lost company property. When you dock pay you are linking it to the quality of their work. Exempt employees are "guaranteed" regular pay.

If you have questions about proper employee classification, speak with an attorney or business consultant that deals specifically with employment matters; it may help avoid trouble in the future.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tempe's Limelight shares soar 62% after IPO

Bloomberg News
Jun. 8, 2007 08:34 AM

Shares of Limelight Networks Inc. jumped as much as 62 percent after its initial public offering, as investors bet the company will build a business delivering video for Web sites including and Netflix.

Limelight stock rose $7.98 to $22.98 at 11:24 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, under the symbol LLNW, after rising as high as $24.33. About 16 million shares were sold yesterday at $15 each, netting the Tempe, Arizona-based company $187.5 million before expenses. Read More at AZCentral

PV lawyer-turned-author to release legal thriller

SCOTTSDALE - An anonymous man limping across Moscow's Red Square changed Brent Ghelfi's life.

The image Ghelfi glimpsed from his hotel window gave the Paradise Valley attorney confidence to follow in the footsteps of other lawyers-turned-author.

The result was Volk's Game, set for release June 12, the same day the writer is scheduled to read and sign his first novel at Poisoned Pen bookstore. Read More at AZCentral

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Paychex helps clients get hiring tax credits

(June 7, 2007) — Paychex Inc. introduced Tax Credit Services on Wednesday to help small and medium-sized businesses apply for wage-based tax credits."There is a lack of awareness that these are even available to the smaller and medium-size business owners," said Laura Saxby Lynch, corporate communications director. "And for those who are qualified ..., there's a real tax liability benefit for them."
Wage-based tax credits are incentives for hiring that reduce businesses' state and federal income tax liability. They can be used in the current year or can be held to reduce tax bills in future years.
Paychex customers are screened by the service. They are then contacted and educated about possible benefits.A lot of the program is educational, said Steve Beauchamp, 35, vice president of Paychex product management.
The initial service is free for customers, including the screening and help in obtaining credits. If credits are earned, Paychex will then take 20 percent to 25 percent.
The service has been tested over the last year and has helped hundreds of customers, many who did not know they were eligible, Beauchamp said.The new service determines eligibility for two types of business tax credits: location-based, which benefit businesses that locate and hire people in designated zones; and job creation, which benefit businesses that hire targeted individuals.
Paychex provides human resources services to small- to medium-sized businesses. The Penfield company has about 543,000 clients nationwide. via Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Arizona Moms Share Ideas

I was gathering some news tonight when I came across a site that I haven't visted before. Being that I am not a working, or for that matter, a "stay at home Mom", I had never visited Arizona Moms, hosted by AZ Central.

If you are a "working", "stay-at-home" or "entrepreneurial" Mom, I suggest you check out the site. Great topics, bulletin boards and blogs.

Regulators OK Aetna plan to buy Phoenix company

U.S. antitrust officials on Wednesday gave the green light to health insurer Aetna Inc.'s plan to acquire Phoenix-based Schaller Anderson Inc. for $535 million.

The deal, announced May 24, would see the 1,800-employee managed-care company keeping its headquarters in Phoenix and becoming part of Aetna's efforts to expand the Medicaid side of its business.

"(The approval) is another milestone that gets us closer to the closing, and we're pleased that it went through," Aetna spokesman Fred Laberge said. "We think there's definite value to the Schaller Anderson name within the Medicaid business."

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. Both companies have said they do not plan to cut employees as a result of the acquisition.

Whether Schaller Anderson will retain its name or take on a new one has not been decided, Laberge said.

Schaller Anderson was started in 1986 and provides managed services for Medicaid plans. It was recently named one of the fastest-growing inner-city firms by Inc. magazine. via

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

US Airways flies at the back of the pack for on-time performance

US Airways Group Inc. ranked last among U.S. airlines in April for on-time performance and delayed flights.

New statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed 63 percent of US Airways' April flights were on time. That ranked the Tempe-based carrier (NYSE:LCC) 20th among the 20 major U.S. carriers. Aloha Airlines was first with 89 percent of its flights on time. Southwest Airlines ranked fourth best with 84 percent of its April flights on time.

JetBlue Airways was next to last with a 64 percent on-time score, according to DOT.

US Airways had a number of flights which were habitually delayed or late in April. That includes flights between Boston and Charlotte (100 percent late), Charlotte and Newark (96 percent late) and Atlanta and Las Vegas (94 percent late).

The airline has struggled with delayed and late flights recently due to issues related to reservation systems integration from the 2005 merger with America West Airlines, problems at its Philadelphia hub and weather challenges. via Phoenix Business Journal

Arizona and West poised to beat national job numbers

While the national economy is expected to remain sluggish through the rest of the year, analysts in the West are betting states will beat the average.
Nationally, employment gains are pegged at 1.3 percent for the year, down from 1.9 percent in 2006, according to economic-financial analysis firm Global Insight. Projections for job growth in the West are much stronger with five states, including Arizona, expected to show annual increases of more than 3 percent, according to the latest issue of the Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast.

Only California, with a projected 1.2 percent growth, is below the national average. Arizona is expected to see a 3.5 percent gain in wage and salary employment for the year, behind only Nevada, at 4.3 percent, and Utah, at 3.7 percent.
The Blue Chip Forecast also looks at 2008 with Arizona jobs expected to see a 3.4 percent boost in numbers. That again trails the projection for Nevada, at 4.3 percent, but is ahead of the Utah's 3.3 percent projection for 2008.
The Blue Chip report is put out by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. via Phoenix Business Journal

Monday, June 4, 2007

Arizona Small Business Profile

In Arizona, small businesses are vital to the financial well-being of the state’s economy. Their contribution is essential for economic growth . As entrepreneurs and innovators, small business owners represented a diverse group in 2004 and continued to keep the state’s economy productive. This Small Business Profile was prepared by the U.S. Small Business Administration and provides information on the performance of small businesses in the state using the most current federal data available. According to the Small Business Administration, "small business" is defined as a company with less than 100 employees or less than $4 million in revenues.

Number of Businesses
There were an estimated 396,318 small businesses in Arizona in 2004. Of the 110,153 firms with employees, an estimated 97.2 percent, or 107,018, were small firms. In 2004, the estimated number of employer businesses increased by 0.4 percent. The number of self-employed persons (including incorporated) increased overall by 1.6 percent, from 293,006 in 2003 to 297,672 in 2004. Non-employer businesses numbered 289,300 in 2002, an increase of 4.5 percent since 2001, based on the most recent data available.
(Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment and Training Administration; U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau; U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Women-Owned BusinessesIn 2002 women-owned firms totaled 109,807, an increase of 24 percent from 1997, and generated $16.2 billion in revenues. Firms owned jointly by women and men numbered 59,754 with revenues of $18.3 billion. Women represented 37.4 percent of the self-employed persons in the state.
(Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau.)

Minority-Owned Businesses
In 2002, Hispanic-owned firms numbered 35,102, an increase of 21 percent from 1997. Black-owned firms numbered 6,338, an increase of 77 percent; Asian-owned firms numbered 10,223, an increase of 48 percent; American Indian and Alaska Native-owned firms numbered 6,614, an increase of 20 percent; and there were 348 Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander-owned businesses.
(Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau.)

Business Turnover
There were an estimated 12,421 new employer businesses in 2004, 6.8 percent less than the previous year. Business terminations numbered 17,553 in 2004, an increase of 13.3 percent. Business bankruptcies decreased by 31.5 percent and totaled 480 in 2004.
(Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment and Training Administration; Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau.)

Companies with fewer than 500 employees numbered 93,178 in 2002 and employed 930,225 individuals, or 47.8 percent of the state’s non-farm private sector. Net job gains among firms with fewer than 20 employees totaled 22,473, while large firms with 500 or more employees lost 14,640 jobs between 2001 and 2002.
(Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, Statistics of U.S. Businesses.)

Small Business Income
Non-farm proprietors’ income, a partial measure of small business income, increased by 5.5 percent, from $11.9 billion in 2002 to $12.6 billion in 2003.
(Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce.)


Is eBay a Small Business Marketing Tool?

There's a pretty tired myth with some small business folks that pegs eBay as simply a way for people to unload junk, collectibles, or out of date seconds.

Now I know many of you also know that people are making lots of money running businesses completely on the eBay platform.

I visited with Janelle Elms, a noted instructor for eBay University and author of 7 Steps to eBay Marketing Success on a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

Our conversation focuses on ways that traditional small businesses are finding to tap into the eBay set of tools and online world to help market everything from products to services.

eBay has millions of members and visitors and has developed tools like online stores, blogs, podcasts and web page optimization to help members get their products and services found and sold - these same tools can be used to extend your already existing business and open new doors and opportunities.

Every small business should find out what eBay can do for them.

By the way I'm conducting a marketing session at eBay Live in Boston on June 16th to help eBay sellers learn to use offline tools to grow their businesses.via Duct Tape Marketing

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Is It Time to Outsource Your HR?

Need HR help for your small business? Consider hiring a PEO.

When the time comes to start hiring staff, a lot of entrepreneurs fail to give much thought to all the responsibilities that come with being an employer. The average small-business owner isn’t equipped with either the knowledge or the time to comply with the mountain of regulations required by the government. Fortunately, HR outsourcing--hiring a PEO to oversee your HR tasks--is a solution that not only provides help with compliance issues but can also provide assistance that’s tailored to your company’s specific needs. via Entrepreneur

180-Day Discrimination Rule

The Supreme Court overturned an Alabama Federal Court decision awarding a woman $360,000 in damages for her discrimination suit because she didn't issue the complaint within 180 of the "intentional discrimination" beginning. Although Lilly Ledbetter's salary initially matched that of her male colleagues, over time she received smaller raises. And at the time of the suit, Ledbetter was making 40 percent less than the lowest-paid man, even after 20 years of employment with Goodyear Tires. via Entrepreneur

Using Business Planning Software

Over the years I have written several business plans. If you have not had the experience as of yet, get ready for some work. There are some great resources on the web to get more information. One I particularly like is Tim Berry's Hurdle Book. Berry gives some good insight and practical methodology to putting your plan together.

Berry is President of PaloAlto Software, who produces Business Plan Pro. Business Plan Pro has come a long way over the past few years and is very flexible. In 2001, I tried this application for a plan I was writing. Although the plan templates were very comprehensive and helped guide me through the key areas of the plan, I found it hard to work with and eventually put the plan together using Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The current version (2007) offers much more flexibility in the areas where you will need it most (importing and exporting). I am currently completing a new plan and Business Plan Pro has been great. In the future I hope PaloAlto offers increased flexibility with their spreadsheet formulas.

Business planning is a long arduous process. PaloAlto is not a sponsor of this blog, and I don't work for Tim Berry, but I have looked at a few different business planning tools and found Business Plan Pro to be the best.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Where Small Business Owners Receive Their HR Education

find it interesting when speaking with small business owners, just how limited their knowledge is when it comes to human resource matters, and interesting where they "pick-up"some of their education.

Last month I was discussing issues related to employer payroll and taxes with a group of small business owners in Phoenix. Each "entrepreneur" admitted ignorance when it came to such issues and mentioned they received much of their "education" from the sales reps that came from the service bureaus or Professional Employer Organization (PEO). While I believe that most of the leading service bureaus and PEOs train their personnel very well (and most reps have worked in at least a couple different companies in the space) their knowledge may be limited and not 100% accurate.

All the individuals in our discussions agreed that payroll and "HR stuff" is not core to their business and to outsource it makes sense (10-45 employees).

I completely agree with outsourcing as much of the HR function as possible and what is viable for your business, but before accepting the appointment with the sales rep, do your homework, educate yourself. Knowledge is power! Speak to your CPA, outside counsel (if versed on employment law) or HR consultant. A little time and money spent now may pay dividends in the future!

Why Small Businesses Use Recruiters

If you're like most small business owners, your typical reaction when one of your key employees quits is, "Oh, #*%$!.” Hiring a qualified replacement can be hard, and doing it quickly often seems impossible. What about when you open a new position at the company? Do you relish the chance to recruit the perfect candidate, or do you regret having to dip back into the employment pool? via All Business

What Is "At-Will" Employment?

I have a small company and am planning on hiring some employees. How can I make sure that I am able to terminate them if they do not work out or I no longer need them?

Make clear to your employees that their relationship is an "at will employment" relationship. That means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time for any reason, or for no reason. (However, various laws may restrict your ability to fire someone for wrongful reasons, such as reasons related to race or sex.)

When you first hire an employee, make sure that he or she signs an offer letter indicating that he understands and agrees to the fact that he is an at will employee. That lessens the risk of a problem later on. If you have an employee handbook, make sure the employee handbook spells out the at will nature of the relationship.