​Advice for small businesses poised to hire their first employee

(BPT) - For small-business owners, hiring a first employee is a significant milestone - one that directly affects the company's growth, future success and culture. Hiring staff means enhancing your business' ability to grow, but it also presents unique challenges.

From affirming that the person you hire has the credentials to do the job and is the right personality fit for your organization, to ensuring you don't run afoul of payroll taxes, workers' compensation and other legal requirements, making that first hire requires a lot of preparation. When you're getting ready to make that first all-important hire, keep some guidelines in mind:

Understand costs

You hire a first employee to help your business grow, but the costs associated with that growth can be significant. It's important to weigh carefully the benefits of hiring against the related costs. According to the Small Business Association, these can include:

* Wages and taxes, including unemployment, Medicare and Social Security taxes

* Workers compensation insurance

* Recruiting and training expenses

* Benefits

* Payroll management

* Equipment, including software licenses and data plans, to help an employee do his or her job

Seeking candidates

Finding the right employee for your small business can also be a challenge. While professional hiring services can do the legwork for you, most small-business owners manage the hiring process themselves. You'll need to consider where to advertise for candidates, what professional requirements you'll want them to meet, what wage you'll offer and how you'll handle the interview process.

"We work with thousands of entrepreneurs and how to set wages is a frequent topic of interest," says Michael Alter, president and CEO of SurePayroll, Inc., a Paychex company. Alter co-founded SurePayroll, and since then it has grown from a small business of four people to a company that employs more than 200 people. "As payroll providers, we know that wages are set by the market, not the employer. Researching and offering a competitive wage will help you to attract and keep the right candidate."

Another critical component to consider is fit. A comprehensive pre-employment screening can help you make better hiring decisions. In addition to reviewing candidates' resumes and references, your screening may include a background check, drug screening, behavioral assessments and skills testing.

Prepare for payroll

No one works for love alone. Your new employee will expect to be paid on time each pay period with the appropriate amount of withholdings taken out of his or her check. Managing payroll, however, can be costly and time-consuming; a small business with 10 or fewer employees may spend up to $2,600 per year on direct labor for payroll, according to SurePayroll. What's more, if you don't know or understand tax laws and requirements, you could find your company facing IRS penalties.

In the past, outsourcing payroll wasn't always a practical option for small businesses with just one or two employees. Today, an online service such as SurePayroll can help small business owners manage their own payroll affordably, accurately and efficiently by paying employees and paying and filing payroll taxes. These services handle all the calculations for paying employees; calculating, paying and filing federal, state and local payroll taxes anywhere in the country; and notifying tax authorities of new hires. Mobile payroll apps also allow owners to run payroll on the go anytime, anywhere. Visit www.SurePayroll.com to learn more.

Next steps after hiring

In addition to completing necessary payroll tax forms, benefit enrollment forms and employee information files, you'll need to complete a New Hire Reporting form that helps state and federal agencies track down parents in regard to child support payments.

You'll also need to set up a storage system; the IRS requires all companies keep employment tax records for at least four years. Additional post-hiring tasks will include:

* Verifying an employee's eligibility to work. Federal law requires employers to verify that an employee can legally work in the U.S. You'll need to complete and submit an Employment Eligibility Verification Form within three days of making a hire.

* Fulfill your obligations under your state's new hire reporting program. Federal law requires all employers to report all new hires to the state within 20 days of hiring.

* Secure workers' compensation insurance.

* Establish a bookkeeping system.

Hiring that first employee can be exciting and challenging. Fortunately, with some planning and the help of online tools, you can ensure the hiring process goes smoothly, and each worker who joins your team contributes to your business' continued growth.

Courtesy of BPT

The most-overlooked financial planning tool that's free to everyone

The%20most-overlooked%20financial%20planning%20tool What did you do with that envelope that used to arrive once a year with estimates of your future Social Security benefits? You might have reviewed the information. You may have even filed the statement away as a reference. Now, this powerful financial planning tool is as close as the nearest computer.

"Often, people don't think of their Social Security statement when thinking of their financial well-being," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. "But your statement can be a valuable financial planning tool."

Your SSA statement is now available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement. It provides an estimate of the amount of Social Security benefits you could receive upon retiring, but it can also help you with retirement savings strategies, estate planning and making decisions about disability insurance.

Retirement saving

Knowing how much your Social Security payments will be can help you better understand how much you'll need to save in other vehicles to fund your lifestyle during retirement. After reviewing your statement online, you may decide to adjust your 401(k) contributions, open an IRA or seek other avenues for funding your retirement.

The statement can also help you work with your current employer to ensure they're withholding the appropriate amounts.

Estate planning

Your online statement will also give you an estimate of how much your survivors might be eligible for if you die. This information covers both spouses and minor dependent children.

"This could be useful information when you're planning how you will financially take care of your loved ones if you pass away," Griffin says.

Estate planning often involves considering what sources of income will be available to survivors, and knowing how much Social Security benefits yours could be eligible for can help in the planning process.

Disability decisions

According to the SSA, 62 is the earliest age people can collect a reduced Social Security retirement payment, and the full retirement age is 67 for people born after 1960. But a 20-year-old worker has a three in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age, and the average age of people receiving Social Security disability benefits is just 53 years old.

If you have a health problem that you know will lead to disability, knowing how much you could expect to receive from Social Security may help you make decisions about how much disability insurance you'll need.

With the availability to access your Social Security earnings and benefit information online, it's easier than ever to make use of this important financial planning tool. The SSA uses Experian's fraud prevention services to securely authenticate and safeguard the identities of people accessing their earnings and benefits information online.

To access your statement, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement, create an account and provide the information as prompted. You'll be able to access your benefit information and even see a history of your annual earnings for every year.

For more information on how to live financially smart, go to www.livecreditsmart.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Details on carpet stain removal

Carpet stain removal can be a daunting task. It should also be done with much care and precaution to prevent damage on the carpet. While using the vacuum cleaner will do fine, it will only remove the dirt. Stains are different, thus, they should be treated differently.

Regardless of the approach employed in removing the stains, it is best to act immediately and quickly. If you wait in doing the cleaning, you risk ruining your carpet for good. Whether oil, wax, solid or liquid substances are spilled on the carpet, you need to grab a clean cloth to remove the solid substances or what can be removed from the stain.

Then you have to blot out as much of the stain as possible. If a liquid substance spilled the carpet, there might occur wicking. Wicking means that the liquid substances have pooled at the bottom of your carpet. Hence, it will weaken the fiber of your carpet, causing the stain to spread and resurface; and eventually, serious damage is done on your carpet.

To prevent wicking, you need to cover the area with a thick dry cloth, and weigh it down with thick books or something that is heavy. Leave it overnight and remove the stain as normal in the following day.

In the morning, when you are certain that no more liquid or staining material will come out, blot out the stain using a dampen cloth or sponge. Avoid scrubbing the carpet as it would weaken the fiber and cause the stain to spread to other areas.

Blotting the stain gently will remove the stain without causing further damage to the carpet. If the stain remains after blotting it with water, you may want to squirt mild dish washing liquid onto it to clean. Blot the stain gently and let it sit for an hour before you blot again with a cool damp sponge or cloth until the stain is totally removed.

There are many carpet stain removal products available in the market in case you do not like to use dishwashing liquid detergent. Commercial products designed for removing stains vary based on what types of stains on your carpet.

For them to be effective, you need to figure out what type of stains your carpet has. If it is greasy like oils for cooking, body, automotive or moisturizing, use grease-based stain removal products.

If the stains are acid-based like coffee or urine, your choices are oil-based or acid-based products. In oil-based, the stains are dissolved, while in acid-based, the chemical quality of the spots are changed in order to make them easy to remove.

If you are not certain on the type of stain your carpet has, choose the all-purpose type of carpet stain removal product.

In all your undertakings, it is best to test the carpet stain removal product in a corner of the carpet or in any out-of-the-way area of the carpet, lest, you may risk creating a faded spot that may look more hideous than the stain itself.

by Rudy Silva


Financial tips for new graduates

Financial%20tips%20for%20new%20graduates If you are a new graduate, a college degree is just the first step in the new direction your life will be taking. A new career, potentially a new community to live in and a bit of cash in your pocket to spend - there are a lot of changes happening.

College graduates carry an average of $25,250 in student loan debt, according to The Project on Student Debt, by The Institute for College Access and Success. Compiled with this debt are the potential expenses of job searching, moving, a professional wardrobe and a new car or bus pass. But receiving that first paycheck - and subsequent paychecks - can lead to bad financial management if not properly handled, says John Vaccaro, senior vice president from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

"New graduates should curb their urge to spend freely and think about their future goals to avoid financial setbacks like credit card debt and spending beyond their means," Vaccaro says.
To help prevent new graduates from sinking deeper into the debt hole, and to look ahead to saving for retirement, Vaccaro has some financial planning tips to help grads get the most out of their new paychecks.

* Develop a budget - Almost half of Americans report they're living paycheck to paycheck, according to a CareerBuilder Survey. New graduates should create a budget, including all expenses from rent/house payments, to haircut costs and weekly groceries. Also include space for savings - if possible. Categorize each expense into a necessity category and a discretionary spending category, which will help highlight areas where expenses could be cut - if needed. For example, are payments for cable or satellite TV necessary, or could you survive with free local TV and a less expensive subscription for wireless or mail delivery movie rentals? Setting up a budget can help a new graduate determine if more money from a paycheck can be put into savings.

* Look into work benefits - The first job is a learning experience for many in figuring out benefits and making them work. Recent graduates should take advantage of any employer offered retirement plans like 401(k)s as soon as they qualify. For younger new grads, the combination of time and potential for a retirement account to grow are powerful in planning for retirement down the road. Health, life and disability income insurance are also good benefit options to research. If your company doesn't offer these kinds of benefits, consider obtaining coverage independently.

* Pay off the right debts first - Debt can occur in a lot of different forms for new graduates. Car payments, student loans, mortgages and credit card accumulations are a few of the more common forms of debt. It's a good idea to pay off those debts that have the highest interest rates and are not tax deductible first. Ideally, a person should have enough savings on hand to pay off a short term debt, like credit card purchases, on a monthly basis.

* Rein in spending habits - Look yourself in the mirror and identify your spending habits. If you like to impulse buy, try forcing yourself to delay impulse purchases by 24 hours. Also determine if your spending habits are influenced in any way by emotional factors or peer pressure. Once these habits are identified, it's easier to establish ways to circumvent bad financial decisions.

Courtesy of BPT

Moving? Make sure your possessions are protected

Moving%3F%20Make%20sure%20your%20possessions%20are%20protected The average American makes 11.7 moves during a lifetime, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's about one in six people pulling up stakes each year.
With so many on the move to new homes, new cities and new opportunities, it's important to protect household items while in transit or in storage before arrival at the new location, according to Charles Valinotti, head of product and underwriting with insurer QBE.

Your homeowner's insurance policy will protect your personal possessions, whether they're located in your home or in a moving truck. However, Valinotti cautions that there may be a time limit attached to the coverage, such as a 30-day period, and your policy may only cover up to certain dollar limits on property being moved or stored.

"Ask your agent to explain the level of coverage, what exactly is covered and confirm that your items are insured if you have to store them," he says.

Other points to keep in mind as you hit the road:

* If you're using a professional moving company or shipper, verify that they're insured and bonded to cover damage they may be responsible for. Valinotti says to keep in mind most movers limit their responsibility to basic damage amounts. "You may want to check into buying additional insurance to make sure you're adequately covered during your move."

* If you're packing and moving yourself with a rented truck, take a look at your auto insurance policy. Many policies will cover rental trucks, but only up to a certain weight. "Don't assume your policy covers you when you're behind the wheel of a 26-foot, 13,000-pound moving truck," he says.

* In a self-move, careful packing is critical, as well as keeping your property locked up and secured along the way.

* Note the condition of your items being relocated. Then if you have a claim, the condition of your possessions will be documented.

* Know the value of high-dollar items that will be making the move. "Make a complete list of everything," Valinotti suggests. "Take photos and, if necessary, get appraisals of these items before the move."

Valinotti says before a move is a good time to review your overall insurance coverage to make sure you're adequately covered and whether you need to increase your limits. "A good look at insurance coverage every couple of years is something everyone should do," he says. "And you don't have to wait until you're ready to pack up and relocate."

Courtesy of BPT

A small business owner's guide for choosing a fast, quality print vendor

Guide%20for%20choosing%20a%20print%20vendor Long gone are the days when ordering business cards or banners for trade shows required multiple visits to a print shop, followed by a lengthy wait to get the job done. Digital printing technology has dramatically improved the process, and that's great news for small business owners who need quality print products to help build their brand and their business - especially in a pinch.

"Broader access to quality printing and services such as same day pickup have made it easier for small business owners to build brand identity with the print products that are their tools of the trade," says Karen Post, the "branding diva" and author of "Brand Turnaround."

Before the advent of digital printing, small business owners would be hard pressed to find a print vendor willing to take small orders, fast turnarounds or requests for customization. Now, print vendors are plentiful, and with so many of them vying for your business, it can be difficult to know which one offers the best services and the best deals.

Post offers some tips for choosing the right print vendor for your small-business needs:

* Check out a vendor's capabilities. Does the print shop or online vendor offer all the types of materials you might need for your business? Does the vendor only do business cards and photo cards? Or can they also offer postcards, signs, banners, invitations, announcements, stamps, labels, calendars and note cards? Choosing a vendor with broad capabilities can help streamline your printing tasks by allowing you to get everything done in one place, rather than farming out pieces of work to different vendors. This can also help enhance your company's brand identity by maintaining a consistent execution along with similar look and feel for all your collateral materials.

* How important is face time? Being able to walk into a store and speak with a qualified printing professional face-to-face. Talking to experts in your neighborhood, such as the Certified Print Pros at Staples Copy & Print affords you the opportunity of consulting in person about your print job - and the chance to build a lasting business relationship with a professional who will become familiar with your business needs.

* Can the vendor provide samples? And are they up to your standards? Your print vendor should be able to produce quality samples of a variety of products in multiple formats. Reviewing samples can help you determine quickly if a vendor will be able to meet your quality requirements. Asking for proofs of your job can also help you catch any last minute errors or changes before the final product is produced.

* How quickly can the vendor produce? While digital printing and the Internet have greatly reduced the time lapse between placing an order and receiving it; you'll still likely wait days for your product if you order from an online vendor. Sometimes you need it for an event immediately. Staples Copy & Print Centers now offer same-day service. You can order your print products online at www.staples.com and pick them up at your local center in as little as four hours.

* Check the vendor's reputation. Look for online reviews and testimonials about the print vendor you're considering. Does the online vendor you're thinking of have a lot of satisfied customers? If you'll be dealing with a print shop, is it affiliated with a company that has a strong reputation and brand identity such as Staples? You can learn a lot about how a company will do business with you based on how they've done business with others. In the end, you're looking for quality and convenience at reasonable costs.

Courtesy of BPT