Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Hey kids! Want to take a space adventure? Start here
and travel from planet to planet to learn about Earth, our solar system, find homework help and play some neat games along your journey!
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Small Business With Huge IT Issues
Small businesses are gasping for breath in today's business world. Burdensome regulations, the uncertainty of healthcare, not knowing what tax obligations they'll face and a struggling economy have a deeper impact on the little guys as compared to their big brethren.
The definition of small business is vague at best. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 requires the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to periodically review maximum business size standards to consider factors such as inflation, economic trends, the degree of competition within the various business sectors, average firm size and federal government agency contracting trends.
There is no one-size-fits-all standard. Each North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code has its own criteria to qualify based on number of employees or average annual receipts. The designation is dependent on industry, and breaks down by sector within each.
Generally speaking, a manufacturing or mining industry with 500 or fewer employees qualifies as a small business. Certain manufacturing industries qualify with up to 1,500 employees.
Most non-manufacturing industries are considered small with less than $7 million in average annual receipts. A service industry falls into this category. Unless you're a computer programmer, data processor or systems design firm who can earn up to $25.5 million and still be classified small.
There's an itemized table on the SBA website for those of you who want more detail on this. Find it here.
Why is this important? Because there are several government loan programs available from the SBA for those who qualify. Certain government contracts must be awarded to a small business if they qualify.
And small businesses need all the help they can get. Particularly those with 20 or less employees that make up the bulk of small business in America.
Not many have room in the budget to spare for an IT department. Yet it may be one of the most important functions in business today.
The success of any business depends on marketing. What is today's marketing channel of choice? The Internet. Your business must be visible wherever people gather. And that's online.
Your website can drive people through your doors, either virtual or brick-and-mortar, or it can keep people away. A well-designed website can be one of your greatest assets.
But it's no help at all if people don't know it exists. So you not only have to build a website, but it has to be found on search engines.
There are thousands of manufacturers who build the same widget you do around the world. How does Google know which website to list and where to rank each?
It's called Search Engine Optimization. And it's a specific skill set learned by those who specialize in such things.
Does your company want to sell its widget online? You'll need an e-commerce site and online marketing campaign.
Fortunately, there are companies across the web that focus on helping small business design, create and market their websites. Some even include social media components.
You'll even find sources to monitor your online reputation. Even if you don't have a website or other online presence, someone may be talking about you in a blog or Twitter post.
It's the equivalent of yesterday's water cooler. "Have you tried the egg rolls at that new Chinese restaurant yet? They're the best!" kind of thing. Or at the other end of the scale: "I'll never go back to (insert company name here). Their service folks had no idea what they were talking about and rude to boot."
If someone is talking about you, good or bad, you need to know about it. And the sooner you address criticism, the easier it is to turn it around to your advantage. Your handling techniques are seen by the same people who just saw your company slammed. Resolution carries more weight than the infraction.
Does your small business have a cyber security plan? Make sure it includes network security, protecting personal information, how to respond to security incidents, file-sharing, password protocol, laptop theft, insider abuse and anything else specific to the online safety of your business.
The Internet is a valuable business tool when used wisely. Yet it carries a great deal of risk. Small businesses may think they're immune because a cyber crook wouldn't gain as much bounty as they would stealing from a larger company.
But in fact, the opposite may be true. With fewer resources, a smaller business doesn't often have as many security measures in place. A crook may find them an easier target. IT strength is essential, no matter what size your company.
Labor in America
My father was a structural ironworker. He was one of those guys that appeared the size of an ant when you gazed up at a steel structure that touched the sky, the framework of a soon-to-be office building.
He laughed off our concerns. If you could walk a straight line on the ground, why couldn't you do the same on a girder 900 feet in the air?
His mood would soon turn somber as he silently remembered the countless co-workers and union brothers whose funerals he attended. Life cut short from a workplace accident.
He was well-compensated for the risk he took. Yet compensation was relative. Cleveland's harsh winters and finicky lake-effect rains made it hit or miss whether you could put in a day's work. Injuries were frequent. You had to be at the peak of physical health to climb the iron. Time missed was pay lost.
He carried high levels of life insurance, knowing too well that one's situation could change in a heartbeat.
Dad never missed an opportunity to credit his labor union for taking such good care of those in the trades. They understood the needs of those they served, above and beyond the weekly struggle to make ends meet. They provided benefits that would not have been otherwise available to those engaged in such high-risk activity.
Labor unions have existed in America since colonial times. Groups of workers in the same trade would conspire to raise wages or dictate working conditions.
Philadelphia printers conducted the first recorded labor strike in 1786, demanding a minimum wage of $6 per week. The average daily wage at the time was between 53 cents and $1, so only those on the lower end saw a benefit. Employers conceded to put a quick end to the strike.
Philadelphia boasts of many labor firsts: the first recorded strike, first labor newspaper, first central body of unions and first labor union political activity.
Unions gained a foothold in the mid-19th century in the U.S. as the industrial revolution began to take shape. Workers moved from the farms to these new factories, mines and other physical labor. Working conditions were terrible with long hours, low pay and safety or health risks.
Women and children toiled there too, usually being paid less than men. The labor movement fought for, and won, betters worker rights and safer conditions.
Labor unions became the backbone of American workers. Unions are the agents of workers within their fold, negotiating pay, benefits and working conditions on their behalf. They created a standard to ensure the rights and safety of their constituents, and became the enforcer of that standard.
The American workforce began to expect these standards. And more.
It wasn't long before carpenters wanted the same pay rate as ironworkers. Just an example here, no offense to carpenters. They are an equally skilled group. But a group that can work inside on a rainy day. Carpenters face certain safety hazards as well, but their life doesn't hang in the balance.
Unions serve as a safety net for their members. Contracts negotiated with an employer spell out specific job functions to be performed by each position. Someone operating a machine might not be permitted to sweep a floor. Even if something they accidentally spilled creates a safety hazard for another employee. They're protecting the maintenance worker by assuring them of job security.
Terminating a union employee is a long, involved process. Even with evidence of due cause.
A group of autoworkers I knew would clock in at the beginning of their shift, and go home to watch TV for a few hours. They would return to the plant in time to clock out at the end of their designated shift. This was a fairly regular occurrence.
They would suffer nothing more than a warning if caught, as dictated by their union agreement. And it would take three such warnings before their jobs were at risk.
A labor contract is a sacred agreement to be honored at all cost. Even if it leads to the bankruptcy of a company. Or a city.
Unions gained strength equal to the rise of American productivity. It was good times for all.
With strength comes power. With power comes corruption. It's an inevitable evolution for many entrusted with such position; whether they be labor, government, education, religious or commerce officials.
Not all, but certain union leaders have had their brush with notoriety. Think Jimmy Hoffa here.
Unions also fight for causes dear to the hearts of their constituents. This makes them lobbyists, a political entity. And they typically direct funds derived from member's dues to whichever candidate best exemplifies their standards.
How much? According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, unions have donated $4.4 billion to political activities between 2006-2011.
Labor unions have achieved their original goal. Sweat shops are outlawed in America. Worker rights have become a standard, regardless if an employee is a union member. One has to wonder if they still fill a need today.
Perhaps their very existence depends on their ability to re-invent themselves in a way to once again become relevant in American society.
Enjoy this reprint from the 2002 Archives of GCFlash:
ROUND LOT: A trading order typically of 100 shares of a stock or some multiple of 100.
The various stock exchanges are geared for trading shares of stock in multiples of 100. Typically, the minimum investment in a company would be for 100 shares. For example, if a company's stock, say Cisco Systems (CSCO), is selling for $15.12 per share (today's close), a round lot of 100 shares would cost you $1,512.00 (plus commission).
Commission schedules are set up based on multiples of one hundred as well, so while some brokerage firms will allow an investor to buy less than one hundred shares (called an odd lot), the commission is usually substantially higher.
In reality, in such cases, the brokerage firm is buying the round lot and breaking it up between investors OR simply adding any leftover shares to their own portfolio. This special attention is the reason for the higher commission charge.
The bottom line: If you wish to invest in a stock, make sure you can afford at least 100 shares (one round lot). Buying in smaller quantities will likely cause the commission to be prohibitive when calculated on a per share basis.
There are some exceptions, as it has been fashionable in recent years to buy a single share of stock for a wedding present, birthday gift, etc. A neat idea, and the gift can grow over time. I received a single share of JR Wrigley (WWY) as a wedding gift. Although this would have equated to about an $80 gift at the time, my wife and I continue to enjoy, every single year, the CASE of chewing gum sent to each stockholder by the company. This dividend outweighs any cash dividend or price appreciation of the underlying stock. It is indeed a gift that keeps giving! *Update: JR Wrigley was acquired by Mars in 2008.
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