Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to Our Clients and Friends from the Members of SCORE Chapter 114 _______________________________________________________________ Another Great Year for SCORE Chapter 114

This article was written by Jack James, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor and Newsletter Editor

clip_image002The figures are in for FY 2009 and we have exceeded our goals with your continued participation.

The total client services were 17,347 contacts for the year, up 30% from 2008.

There was significant improvement in our workshop attendance. There were 9,158 attendees or a 49% increase. Our workshop program keeps getting better with an expanding curriculum of small business courses at National University and various libraries. Take a look at our website, www.score114.org to see the workshops available. Good percentages are free and you have to sign up early, as many have wait lists.

Face to face counseling was up 8% and Cyber counseling was up 19%.

Our 92 dedicated counselors are the reason we are successful with your participation.

We plan to exceed these results in the coming year. We have innovations planned for 2010 which will make counseling and workshops a more rewarding experience.

We hope you will continue to join us. Call 714-550-7369 and make an appointment.

Time for Your Annual Business Checkup

This article was written by Dick Ginnaty, CPA

clip_image001It’s November and it’s time for your business’s annual checkup. Now is the time for you to call your accountant and have a year end tax and business review of your business. It is now (before year end) that your accountant can make the biggest impact on the amount of taxes you will be paying. If you wait until after year end, their bag of tricks (strategies etc.) are substantially reduced.

I encourage my clients to review with me in November for several reasons. I want to check their QuickBooks files for errors, I want to estimate their tax position for the current year (and hopefully reduce the tax burden), and I want to talk about the next year in the financial planning sense.

Checking the QuickBooks files for errors lessens the time it will take me to prepare the tax returns in the spring when my time is at a premium, and should lessen the bill accordingly. More importantly however, by correcting any errors now, the true financial picture will emerge making for better tax planning.

Checking for QuickBooks errors, and tax strategizing is a current year task but don’t forget about talking to your accountant about next year’s plans. The benefits of this annual conversation are many. One, the accountant can incorporate the tax, and financial implications of your plans into future strategies. Second, and maybe more importantly, it requires you to think about next year, and to articulate them The mere commitment to the meeting will require you to clarify your thoughts about the coming year, and reviewing those plans with your financial advisor may uncover some inconsistencies or holes in your thinking.

Finally, having a once a year conversation with your accountant, will bring him up to speed about your industry issues, and keep him in tune with your thoughts, and plans going forward.

Good luck and here’s hoping it “all adds up” for you.

P.S. If there is any area in accounting or tax that you think needs to be addressed in this column please e-mail me at Ginnatycpa@aol.com and if it is of general interest, I will address it in future column

Blogging Can Cause Damage to Your Company’s Image

This article was written by Bern Lefson, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image001Today's bloggers can and do release anger and possible trade secrets.With this new method of expressing themselves, employees need to know what the boundaries are when commenting about their employer.  This dictates that the employer writes a policy on blogging that will provide the protection needed or enable the employer to take appropriate action.  Before taking any adverse action, however, employers should carefully consider whether the blogger's actions may be legally protected.  Rash employer responses can result in claims of unjust termination, discrimination, retaliation, and/or violations of state or federal laws, thereby compounding the damage caused by the blogger's posting and, in many cases, causing more damage to the employer than caused by the original posting in the first place.  Here is a sample policy an employer may consider.  It was written by Keisha-Ann G. Gray senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law in New York .

XYZ acknowledges the growing popularity of Weblogs or "blogs," personal Web sites, and other public Internet communications as a means for sharing experiences, ideas, and opinions with the public.  However, because of the legal and other ramifications that may stem from publicly posting material, we have adopted the following policy regarding public Internet communications both during working and non-working time.  Public Internet communications.   This policy applies to all Internet communications that may be accessed by the public, including but not limited to blogs, personal Web sites, and discussion forums.  Blogging not permitted on company time.  

All blogging and other Internet activity during work hours and/or using company equipment or connections is subject to the company Internet and computer use policies.  Unless specifically authorized by a company official, blogging and other public Internet communications are not permitted during an employee's working time.  During non-working time, the following requirements must be met:

Disclaimer required. Any reference to XYZ, XYZ employees or customers publicly posted on the Internet must contain a disclaimer indicating that the thoughts and opinions expressed belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the company. 

Posting of certain protected information prohibited. Employees may not disclose trade secrets, confidential business information (e.g., business plans, strategies, customer information, etc.) or other proprietary information belonging to XYZ or its customers to individuals outside the company, including through blogs and other Internet postings.  In addition, employees must not disclose certain company financial information in violation of securities laws or regulations.  Employees wishing to post blogs or other public Internet communications should be aware that copyright and trademark law mayrestrict the use and copying of material belonging to XYZ and others.

Employees may not violate the intellectual property or privacy rights of others.  Other prohibited activities. XYZ's equal employment opportunity policy and its policies against sexual or other harassment apply fully to the use of the Internet, including blogging. If conduct is in violation of our policies and/or is seen as compromising the interest of the company, the company may request that you cease the volatile commentary or remove the offensive posting, and may take appropriate disciplinary action.

Other guidelines.  Employees are reminded that they are personally responsible for material they post on a blog or Web site.  In addition, employees wishing to maintain blogs or Web sites should be aware that  they could be held responsible for content posted by third parties, such as comments. Employees are encouraged to monitor and/or restrict such third-party content on any Web sites or blogs they maintain.  

Violations of policy.  Failure to follow this policy may result in disciplinary action, including possible termination.   All blogs and other public Internet communications are subject to the other policies contained in this handbook, including but not limited to the Internet and Computer use policies, equal employment opportunity policy and the policies against sexual or other harassment.

Office and Facility Leasing

This article was written by Dennis Wright, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

In an earlier article I said that renewing an existing facility lease should not be attempted without help from a qualified real estate professional - an experienced commercial real estate broker - and that statement generates questions like this one: “I leased this space on my own and I’m not planning to relocate, so why do I need help from a broker now?” The answer is without help from a broker you won’t know if you’re getting the best lease renewal terms possible / you won’t know if you’re actually leaving $$$ on the table when you renew your lease.

Consider this; when you leased your present facility you probably looked at numerous properties and then, based on what you had seen and learned, negotiated what you felt was fair and affordable rent for the space you wanted. You may have even gotten some landlord concessions, such as a tenant improvement allowance to facilitate your occupancy. Now here we are several years later, the market has changed dramatically, and you are focused more so than ever growing sales and reducing expenses.

So what do you do; do you negotiate for a 3% or 5% reduction in rent, or perhaps insist on a 10% or 15% reduction? If so on what basis? Without up-to-date market knowledge and information from “non-public” sources you are not properly prepared to take that next step. Simply put you don’t know what’s out there, what you ought to be asking for or how and when to go about asking for it. At this point I’m reminded of a few words of wisdom passed along to me some years ago: ”landlords value un-informed tenants”.

First of all a good broker is going to recommend that you begin the lease renewal process well enough in advance that relocating your business (even if you are not interested in doing so at this stage) prior to the end of your present lease term is possible. Doing so, combined with the fact that you have a broker representing you, sends a powerful message to your landlord. Secondly he will gather data on comparable properties, both available and recently leased, including renewals for comparison purposes. You will see how long those spaces have been or were on the market, and specifics on landlord concessions such as free rent, tenant improvement and refurbishment allowances. In addition an experienced broker will know how aggressive certain landlords are in terms of deal making and which landlords may be more motivated than others based on their present financial condition.

With this information you will be properly prepared to take the next step and have the broker begin negotiations in your behalf. Bear in mind though if your landlord comes to you, and he likely will, saying that he could have made a better deal without a broker being involved / without him having to pay a broker commission you have no way of validating that claim. Fact is, the threat of you relocating, be it real or perceived, and the information your broker accumulates to support your negotiations almost always produces the best lease renewal terms possible.