Dr. Laura, America's #1 Relationship Talk Radio Host
On: SiriusXM Stars Channel 109
Call 1-800-DR LAURA (1-800-375-2872) 11am - 2pm PT
Image 01 Image 02
Blog
05/07/2010
IconTen Really Cool Things I Learned At eBay Live! 2007 Cliff Ennico www.creators.com If it's June, it must be time for eBay Live!, the annual trade-show-cum-Woodstock for the eBay community. This year's event was held in Boston, and I was privileged to host programs dealing with the legal, tax, and personnel aspects of running a "real" business on eBay. If you think eBay is only for folks living in remote rural areas, be advised that more than 10,000 people, most of them serious eBay sellers, attended the event. Here are 10 of the really cool statistics, selling resources and people I learned at this year's eBay Live! 10.According to CEO Meg Whitman, there are more than 233 million registered eBay users around the globe, up from 200 million at last year's event. 9.eBay sellers have given more than $100 million to charities around the world through eBay's "Giving Works" program, which allows sellers to donate a percentage of their auction winnings to designated nonprofit organizations. 8.If you're a fan of YouTube.com or other online video sites, you can now create "video listings" of the stuff you're selling on eBay and post them on your auction pages. Consider: instead of describing in words the vacuum cleaner you have for sale on eBay, you can post a video of a sexy "Desperate Housewives" type using the vacuum and demonstrating just how well it picks up dust devils. Just keep it clean, folks. 7.eBay business consultant JackWaddick ( jwaddick@oakviewtraining.com ) said that by far the biggest announcement at this year's eBay Live! was PayPal's new "Security Key" - a device that (for a one-time $5 fee) generates a unique six-digit security code for your account every 30 seconds. You enter this number, along with your username and password, each time you log into your PayPal account so identity thieves and other fraudsters can't access your account even if they hack your password. To find out more go to www.paypal.com , click on "Security Center", then "Security Tools", then "PayPal Security Key Overview" (hey c'mon, guys - something this big should be on the home page, shouldn't it?). 6.The coolest title I've ever seen on a business card - Carrie Jeffries, "Head Dreamer" of Creative Career Cafe, a direct marketing consultant for small businesses based in North Smithfield, Rhode Island (www.createtheworkyoulove.com). 5.Bizfilings.com, one of the leading online incorporation services, announced that they just acquired toolkits.com (the former "CCH Toolkits"), which among other things helps small businesses register for state sales, use and other business taxes in their home states. So now anyone forming a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) through bizfilings.com will automatically be able to register for state and local taxes at the same time, without having to seek an accountant's help. To my knowledge, this is a service not offered by any of the other "do it yourself" online incorporation services, and will give bizfilings.com a major edge over their (many) competitors. 4.Are you using QuickBooks(r) for your online selling business but can't find an eBay-specific "chart of accounts" to upload into the program? Oregon CPA Cathi Aiello ( www.allegroaccounting.com , eBay ID allegro-accounting) offers customized "chart of accounts" templates for a variety of eBay sellers beginning at $19.95. 3.Have you always wanted to own your own Internet radio station? WS Radio ( www.wsradio.com ), the host of "eBay Radio" and "Entrepreneur (Magazine) Radio" on the Internet, is selling franchises in America's top 50 cities - for more information, go to www.wsradio.com/myhometown . 2.eBay sellers who use Apple's Macintosh computers now (finally) have a listing tool of their own - GarageSale ( www.iwascoding.com/GarageSale ). With GarageSale Mac users can finally compose eye-catching auctions quickly using an intuitive Mac-like interface, and in the fraction of the time it would take to do it on eBay's web interface. Not only this, but GarageSale also integrates perfectly with iPhoto, and includes photo storage (always a big issue for eBay sellers). Thanks to eBay University instructor Janelle Elms ( www.janelleelms.com ) for introducing this one to me. 1.The most powerful new eBay resource I saw at eBay Live! 2007 was Avalara.com ( www.avalara.com ). Based in the Seattle, Washington area, Avalara has developed a "sales tax calculator" that it offers free of charge to eBay sellers. You just type in information about your product and your winning bidder's Zip Code and the calculator tells you exactly how much to charge for state and local sales taxes. Avalara is one of only three software providers nationwide to qualify as an "authorized vendor" under the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP), a proposed law that would require online vendors such as eBay sellers to collect and pay sales taxes to the state and local governments where all of their winning bidders reside (currently eBay sellers are required to collect and pay sales taxes only if the winning bidder lives in the same state they do). If (as is highly likely) Congress passes legislation enabling the SSTP to become law in the 22 states that have already endorsed it (and you know the other 28 states won't be far behind), Avalara.com already has in place the software tools that will help eBay sellers keep track of the more than 7,500 jurisdictions in the United States that impose sales taxes. Expect big things from this company. Next year's eBay Live! will be held June 19-21, 2008 in Chicago. If you're selling on eBay or even thinking about it, ya gotta be there! Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconFour Secrets To Successful Negotiating By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I have been running a fairly successful business for some time now, but I know I can do better. The problem is that I don't like to negotiate - I end up giving up way too much because I find the process so unpleasant. Do you have any tips that will make me a more successful negotiator without becoming an S.O.B.?" Negotiating is one of the three most important business skills (the others are selling and accounting). Show me a good negotiator, and I'll show you (usually) a successful businessperson. A lot of people don't like the negotiation process - when was the last time you truly enjoyed haggling with a used-car dealer? But that's because you don't realize what negotiation really is. Negotiation is NOT a search for the "perfect deal", because there is no such thing. Negotiation is NOT an argument or fight - although to hear an intense negotiation under way between two equally passionate business people you might easily mistake it for one. What negotiation IS . . . is a game. That's all. Just like chess, checkers or baseball - two individuals or teams match up against each other, and the player or team with the better brains, spirit and luck walks away the winner. And not just ANY game, but a very specific one - poker. Show me a good poker player, and I'll show you a good negotiator. Why? Because, like a negotiation, a poker game takes place on two levels: the actual and the psychological. When the players are dealt cards in a poker game, they are holding "hands", and some hands are stronger than others. That's the actual game - who has the better cards. But poker is also a psychological game. Because the players cannot see the other players' cards, they try to "bluff" the others into thinking that their hands are stronger or weaker than they actually are. Very often, the victory in a poker game goes not to the player with the strongest hand, but to the player who persuaded the others that he had the strongest hand (or that the others had weaker hands). Just like a business negotiation . . . Here are four universal rules that, if followed closely, will make you a better negotiator. Rule # 1: Never Want the Deal Too Badly. You never can get a bargain on something you really, really want. Once the other side sees you are desperate to have something, they will make sure you pay top dollar for it. In any negotiation, the loser is always the player who needs the deal more than the other player does. Your goal in any negotiation is to persuade the other guy that he needs the deal more than you do, and that you are prepared to walk away from the table at any time and look for better deals. Rule # 2: Never Give Up Something Without Getting Something in Return. Never agree to something, even something you don't care much about, without getting something from the other side in return. You may be tempted to give up something because you want to appear proactive, friendly or nice. But negotiators are funny people - whenever you do that, they don't see it the same way you do. Instead, they think you are weak, or that you need the deal more than they do. So they start bargaining harder by asking for even more "freebies" from you. Before someone will negotiate fairly with you, they must respect you - and they won't respect you if you make it too easy for them. Rule # 3: Never Agree to Something That Doesn't Make Sense. Never get so caught up in the momentum of getting a deal done that you forget why you are doing the deal in the first place. If the other side asks you to give up something that will make the deal no longer worthwhile to you, tell them so - and offer up a compromise that will give you what you need while addressing the other side's (legitimate) concern. Rule # 4: Know When to Stop Negotiating. Like any game, negotiations don't go on forever. The longer it takes to get a deal done, the more likely it is that the deal will never happen. At some point, the benefits to be gained by haggling over small points are outweighed by the negatives - when that point has been reached, and you've got a good deal you can live with, don't try to "gild the lily". Get the deal done, and move on. Want to become a better negotiator? Here's how: Get the all-time classic book "Getting to Yes", and memorize every word; Go to antiques shows and flea markets, look for items you don't really want, and offer the seller 50% or less of the sticker price - if they don't accept or sharply reduce their price, walk away - if they accept, buy it and sell it later on eBay; Go to Las Vegas and learn how to play poker - you might even be able to deduct it as a business trip. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2008 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
Icon"Global Warming" No Excuse For Poor Customer Service Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "My wife and I run a small lawn sprinkler service with five employees. We have over 3,000 customers in our area, who pay in advance for sprinkler service each February. The weather this April was unusually cold - the ground didn't start thawing out until early May so we weren't able to turn people's sprinklers on until then. Once the ground got soft we started driving around to different neighborhoods turning peoples' sprinklers on, but we're way behind. Also, a lot of people were on vacation, working or whatever when our crews stopped by their homes. So now the weather's been hot the past few days, and we're getting dozens of angry phone calls from customers saying their lawns are burning up because we haven't turned their sprinklers on. How can we convince them that it's 'global warming', and not our fault?" If you're looking for sympathy, pal, you've come to the wrong place. Your customers have already paid for service this year, and it's your job to provide it, cold weather or not. No one can control the weather, of course, but this isn't really a weather problem - it's a customer service problem, and that's always within your control. You had an entire month to plan for how you were going to handle this (admittedly tough) situation, and you obviously didn't take advantage of it. Did you take any steps to warn your customers that turn-on service was going to be a bit late this year due to an unusually cold April? Did you tell your customers in advance when your crews were going to be in their area to turn their sprinkler systems on? Did you make an effort to re-schedule customers who told you they weren't going to be home when your service crews were in their area? Obviously, it's too late to do any of that now. You've got some serious "damage control" to do; otherwise you are likely to lose lots of your customers, who will tell everyone who asks (and, believe me, people do) exactly why their lawns are brown this year. Here are some things you should do immediately: change your office's VoiceMail message, adding a statement that "sprinkler turn-on service will be slightly late this year due to an unusually cold April; we will call you when our service crews will be in your area, but if you need immediate service please leave a message and one of our representatives will call you today to schedule your turn-on service"; have one of your employees return every angry customer call you have received so far (as well as every customer who wasn't home when your service crew was in their neighborhood) and schedule their turn-on service so they know at least when it will happen; dedicate one of your work crews as a "swat team" and have them do nothing but service these angry customers - pay them overtime if you have to; as for customers living in neighborhoods you haven't visited yet, have another employee call each household a week in advance with the following message: "we are planning to visit your home on [date] to turn on your lawn sprinkler for the year; if you will not be home that day, please call us immediately so we can obtain some information from you to help service you better;" if a customer responds to that message, explain to them how to turn the water on in their basement (this is the only reason your service crew would need access to their home), and ask for the access code to their electronic garage door opener (most lawn sprinkler controls are in the garage) so the crew can access the sprinkler control without having to enter the house itself - that way your crew will be able to stay on schedule, and the customer won't have to worry that they missed your call because they were in the shower and couldn't hear the door bell ring; if a customer refuses to co-operate, reschedule their turn-on service for a time when they will be home, and add that to the call list for your dedicated "swat team" crew; consider renting extra trucks and hiring "day laborers" on a temporary basis so that each of your five employees (six, including you) can be out in the field servicing your customers at any given time; offer a discount on next year's service to those customers who made angry phone calls to your business - don't wait for them to ask for it. People install sprinkler systems so that their lawns don't burn up in the summer heat. If their lawns burn up because their system wasn't turned on in timely fashion, it's your fault, not the environment's. That's an "inconvenient truth" you ignore at your peril. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconTop Ten Ways to Lose a Customer Jill Hart CWAHM.com After days of searching online, I found a website that I thought sold the item I needed. Excited, I scoured the website for the price of the product and the payment. Unfortunately, I never found the information. After ten minutes of searching, I gave up. No matter how many visitors you are able to attract to your website, there are still ways to lose them before making a sale. Below are the top 10 ways to lose a paying customer. Navigation - One of the easiest ways to turn off a website visitor is create a complicated website. If a customer struggles to find their a product, they will more than likely get frustrated and leave the website before they buy. When I first designed my website I had no idea about design. Looking back, I'm not sure I accomplished pretty and I did not create an easy website to navigate. Much like the one I mentioned earlier, my website was frustrating to visitors. Busyness - The wrong type of website can turn off visitors and repel sales. Create a website designed for your target audience. For example, if you're selling aromatherapy products, you'll want a relaxing environment. However, if you're a life coach you want to pump people up. Your website should be full of life and activity. Sizing - Many websites make the mistake of sizing their design to fit their screen. Unfortunately, the standard resolution that most monitors are sized to (800 x 600) does not always match. When this happens, visitors must scroll not only up and down the page, but left and right as well. To eliminate this frustration, set you width to no more than 800 pixels. Point of Contact - When visitors to your website have a question they want to be able to easily find your contact information. Many websites display their email address, phone number, or a link to their contact information either in their menu or at the top/bottom of their website, which makes it easy to find. Hidden Pricing - Customers want to have all of the necessary information before they make a purchase. Make sure your prices are available up front. When customers have to dig for pricing information, there's a good chance that they will get frustrated, give up and leave your website. Customer Service - You can set your business apart from all the rest by offering fast, friendly and helpful service to your customers. Try to respond to emails and phone calls within twenty-fours hours. Smile while you type or talk on the phone because your customers will hear the lilt in your voice and respond. Follow-up - If your customer asks a question about a product or service, follow up within 48 hours to see if they have further questions. Many times this follow-up can lead to a sale. Neglecting follow-up can lose you customers. Spam - If you offer a newsletter or other type of mailing list, be careful with what you send to your subscribers. Avoid mailings that look like spam. Choose a template that works for you and that will be recognizable to your readers. Professional Conduct - In the business world it's important that you're professional, especially when dealing with difficult clients. It's imperative to be kind, courteous and take care of business. Refrain from any type of name calling or blame placing. Stand up for your business in a professional manner and treat your customers with respect at all times. Remember the old adage - the customer is always right. Payment Options/Security - Customers want to know that they can trust you with their financial information. Choose a payment provider that offers a secure way to transit orders and credit card information. If possible, offer more than one payment option to give your customers the ability to choose how they will pay. Creating a website that is customer-friendly isn't as simple as one might think. There are many aspects to consider and the designer must choose carefully or risk losing sales. Avoid these ten no-no's and make your website into a successful business venture. About the Author: Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com . Jill and her husband, Allen of CWAHD.com reside in Nebraska with their two children. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconTax Tips for the Home-based Business Owner Jill Hart CWAHM.com Tax season is one of the most nerve-wracking times of the year. From putting together all of the necessary tax documents to finding the right accountant, taxes can be time-consuming, frustrating, and a major challenge. Add in a home-based business and taxes can be downright overwhelming. However, there are some things you can do to make your tax season a breeze. Choose your accountant wisely One of the most important decisions you'll make as a business owner is who you will choose to help you with your bookkeeping and accounting needs. Research accountants in your area and look for one that specializes in small business taxes. Ask if they will prepare both corporate and personal returns if needed. Make sure your accountant is clear on how they charge for their time - especially for questions over the phone. I once worked with accountants who worked with large corporations. They were used to having very little contact with their clients, however with a new corporation I had many questions about how things worked. Needless to say it didn't go well. Our current accountant specializes in small businesses and is available by phone or email if I have a question. Set up your business accounts properly I was told early in my business career that I must make sure to keep my business accounts and personal accounts separate. When I first began running my own business I simply added a second checking account to use for business purposes. There was no cost to do so I was able to set my income aside in this separate account. I also set up a savings account to set aside my taxes each month. This was a big help at the end of the year knowing that all of my taxes were set aside and I could relax instead of scrambling to come up with the money. Keep good records Another way to keep tax season stress-free is to keep business receipts throughout the year. I keep a separate file in the filing cabinet next to my desk just for this purpose. This way I have everything in one place when tax season arrives. If you don't have room for a filing cabinet, consider an expandable folder categorized A - Z. That way you can still divide up the taxes by topic, and won't have to do that come tax season. Keep records of your business expenses throughout the year. Request a list of items from your accountant or tax professional, so that you will know what items to track. Be sure to ask what counts as "business expenses." There are certain deductions that you can take for your home, car, and utilities. Consult your tax professional about these deductions. Know Your Tax Facts It's important to know the date that your taxes are due. Many S corporations are surprised when they discover that some of their tax forms need to be filed by March 15th and not April 15th. Another surprise to some home-based businesses is that if you pay subcontractors over $600.00 a year, you need to send them a 1099 by the end of January. There are many places online to find more information about taxes. One great place to find more information is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website at www.irs.gov . They have sections with helpful information on both personal and business taxes. They also list contact information for local IRS offices where you can also find help. Don't ignore the taxes involved with running a home-based business and hope it will all work itself out. It takes planning and effort to be prepared for tax season. Do your homework when it comes to taxes and find an accountant that you trust to guide you through the tax maze. With the right preparation and help your tax season can be stress-free. About the Author: Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com . Jill is a contributing author in The Business Mom Guide Book and I'll Be Home For Christmas and co-author of the upcoming book, Home Based Blessings. Jill has articles published across the web on sites like DrLaura.com and ClubMom.com. Jill and her husband, Allen of CWAHD.com reside in Nebraska with their two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconHow A Book Pitch Can Grow Your Business Jill Hart CWAHM.com When someone asks you about what you do, do you have a ready answer? Or do you stumble and stammer trying to explain your business? I was recently at a writer's conference where one of the main focuses was learning to create a successful book pitch. My instructor emphasized what a good pitch can do for a writer. She explained that when an editor asks an author about their writing project, they have one shot at sharing their pitch and getting the editor excited about their project. A great pitch makes a great first impression and can translate into a book contract. On the other hand, a pitch that is not well thought out can cost an author the chance of selling that project. A good book pitch is a summary of the author's idea, but more than that it's a summary with a sizzle. At the conference, I learned that many authors spend hours crafting and memorizing their pitch. Then, when asked about their project, they are able to give a quick, concise synopsis that not only explains their idea, but makes the editor want to learn more. I believe that the concept of creating a pitch can also apply to the home-based business world. As entrepreneurs, we can put together a summary of our business that will not only explain what we do, but grab the attention of whomever we're speaking with. A good business pitch summarizes the business concept in one to two short paragraphs, usually a total of 50 words or less. To begin, write out a list of the five most compelling aspects of your business. Try to think about your business as if you were on the outside looking in. What would interest you? What would make you want to learn more? Try to answer these questions: Who is my target market? What are my top selling products/services? What about my company makes it stand out? If I were looking at starting a business, what would interest me about this company? Why did I choose this company? Put your answers into sentences and you have the beginning of your business pitch. Try to keep your sentences short and use simple words. You want anyone who asks to be able to understand your answer, not get lost in your words. Take special care to describe what you like about your business. These same things will generally appeal to others as well. While you want to keep your pitch simple, you also want it to give a picture of your business. Let's say, for example, that you run health and wellness business. You wouldn't want to use the statement, "I run a health and wellness business," as a reply about what it is that you do. You want to add in a short description and catch the listener's attention. For instance, you might say, "I operate my own business. We offer products such as chemical-free shampoo and natural snack foods to help others lead healthy lives." When I began my website, I was often caught off-guard when someone asked me about it. I would fumble for words and struggle to express exactly what it is that I do all day. I usually walked away from conversations like this feeling frustrated, and I'm sure the person I was speaking with was more confused than they were originally. After learning the art of pitching, I can now give a short and snappy reply. "I run a Christian-based website for work-at-home moms," I'll say. "I offer resources to help them in their search and am able to make an income by offering advertising." This usually leads to more questions about my website, which is exactly what I hope for. It gives me an opportunity to talk further about my business to those who are interested. The next time someone asks you about your home-based business, remember to share your pitch with them. Take the time to hone your pitch to be as short, yet descriptive as possible. Over time, you'll find yourself refining your words and your answers will become well-crafted summaries that pique the interest of anyone who asks. Word of mouth is one of the easiest ways to build your business and your pitch is a great way to get others talking. Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com . Jill is a contributing author in The Business Mom Guide Book and I'll Be Home For Christmas and co-author of the upcoming book, Home Based Blessings. Jill has articles published across the web on sites like DrLaura.com and ClubMom.com. Jill and her husband, Allen of CWAHD.com reside in Nebraska with their two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconMust You Hire A One-Armed Truck Driver? Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I recently posted an advertisement for a delivery truck driver. Several individuals responded to the ad, but when I interviewed them I noticed that one of the applicants - a Gulf War veteran - had a prosthetic arm. I believe strongly in hiring veterans, and I realize they've made many technical advances in prosthetic limbs, but I'm really worried about this individual's ability to do the job. I'm also worried that if I hire one of the other qualified individuals, this guy will sue me for discrimination. What can I do?" The federal Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA" for short) absolutely prohibits discriminating against disabled persons. I congratulate this reader for knowing that the law applies even to small businesses. If a disabled person feels you are violating the ADA and making it impossible for disabled or handicapped individuals to find jobs with your firm, he or she can certainly sue for discrimination. Yet clearly there are certain jobs people with certain disabilities will never be able to do. How do you avoid discrimination lawsuits without being forced to hire individuals who cannot perform the jobs they have applied for? First, make sure you haven't already discriminated against this individual during your initial job interview. Whenever you interview disabled or handicapped individuals for jobs, you have to be careful that you don't "signal" that you're focusing on their disabilities. So, for example, you would be totally out of line (and could well be sued) if you say something to this individual like "hey, you jerk, didn't you read my ad? I'm looking for a truck driver. How the Heck can you drive a truck with only one arm?" Even though you have a legitimate concern about this individual's ability to do the job, by focusing your attention on the person's disability you make it very likely this individual will feel he is being discriminated against. The correct way to answer this question is as follows: "as you saw from our ad, one of the essential functions of this position is driving a truck. Are you aware of any circumstances that would restrict or prohibit you from performing that essential function?" I know, I know, it's tough to remember all that, and it does sound a little "legal-esy", but that's the way the law requires you to ask that question. The next step is to determine if driving a truck is an "essential function" of the position you've advertise. Let's say you had a position that involved 95% clerical work, and 5% driving a forklift in your warehouse. If a person with a prosthetic limb applies for this position, he or she clearly can perform the clerical functions (the "essential" part of the job), but his or her ability to drive the forklift is in question. The ADA in this instance would require you to "restructure" the job and eliminate the forklift-driving component as a "reasonable accommodation" to the applicant's disability. Based on your e-mail message, I am assuming that driving a truck is an "essential function" of the job you've advertised. You are correct in pointing out that medical science has made tremendous advances in prosthetic limb technology in the past few years. Since this applicant is neither blind nor illiterate, and presumably knows that he is applying for a position driving a truck, he obviously thinks his disability won't stand in the way of his being able to do the job. Why not have him prove his ability by performing a short driving test in one of your company's trucks? If you do: be sure to test him under actual "combat conditions" (don't just have him drive around your parking lot; have him carry out an actual delivery so you can see firsthand how he is likely to perform on the job); be sure to "ride shotgun" with him so you can evaluate his performance, and have another individual present during the test so he or she can corroborate your evaluation; if you conclude that the applicant isn't qualified for the position, take detailed notes during the test documenting specific tasks he is unable to perform, and keep those notes in your employment records in the event he does sue you; and most importantly, be sure you require this test of ALL applicants, so it doesn't look like you're singling him out because of his disability. If he flunks the test - consider whether you might have another open position he might qualify for and, if you do, encourage him to apply for that position. Hiring a vet is one of the most noble things any small business can do, and you should go a little out of your way to find room for him in your organization. Not only is this the patriotic thing to do, but I think you'll find, as many of my readers have, that vets are incredibly loyal, grateful, disciplined, hard working employees, and can be a major asset to any small business. This guy did you (and a lot of other people) a big favor once by serving in the armed forces during wartime, and you owe him . . . big time. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconWhen You Realize You Really Goofed Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I am so confused and sick in the stomach about selling on eBay and the IRS. I have so many things around my home that I have been saving and collecting for many years now. My daughter is 22 and I have saved so much of her stuff from her childhood also. Not to mention I have always over the years loved shopping at yard sales and thrift stores which in return has caused my home to be very cluttered with closets running over. I have made myself stop buying from these places because I end up buying things I do not need. I also became addicted to eBay a few years back, and for about three years got caught up in buying way too many things. Mostly dolls, teddy bears, and old toys - mementoes of my childhood. I have them all over the house. Some of them I have donated to thrift stores and some I have been selling on eBay. Much of the stuff I list on eBay does not even sell and when I pay eBay's fees I suffer a loss, but some things I have gained on. I do not count on this for my income and never considered it a business. The thought of having to go back over the past few years and amend our tax returns because I may have made a profit selling something on eBay or in my local 'pennysaver' makes me feel ill with stress. I am afraid it is going to cause me to get sick with worry and enable me from functioning properly. I take medication for problems of excessive worrying, depression and anxiety and this is the kind of situation that can trigger me to get sick again and it scares me real bad. Thanks so much for any help." A lot of longtime eBay sellers are waking up and finding out they should have been paying taxes on their selling profits. Unfortunately, I can't give this reader the "get out of jail free" card he so badly wants. Since he obviously didn't keep good records of what he sold and what he paid for it (most eBay sellers don't), this reader has no idea whether he made or lost money at the end of each year. While the amount of any profit or loss was probably small, given that these were household items and not precious antiques, still . . . the law is the law is the law. If you have a hobby and you make as much as One Dollar in profit, the IRS wants you to report the profit as "hobby income" on Form 1040 and pay the taxes on it. If you fail to do so, and the IRS picks up on it during an audit, you're toast. For peace of mind, if nothing else, this reader should go back and attempt to figure out if he made a profit in any of the years he sold on eBay. If he can document that overall he lost money each year, then he's probably okay - the IRS does not require you to report "hobby losses" on your tax return (they actually prefer that you don't). If the records show that this reader made a profit in one or more prior years, he has a difficult choice, neither of which will be stress-free. If he amends his tax returns for the prior years in which he made a profit, he will have to pay interest and penalties on the overdue taxes, and he may be "waking a sleeping Rottweiler" in the form of an IRS audit to see if he's failed to report any OTHER income. If he decides not to amend those returns, he will have many sleepless nights hoping he won't get audited until the statute of limitations on each return expires (currently three years from the filing date, unless the IRS suspects fraud, in which case there is no statute of limitations). Is there anything this reader can do? Yes. He can't change the past, but he sure can change the future. He should get into compliance this year, by keeping good records for any eBay listings and sales he makes during the current tax year which began on January 1. If he shows a profit at the end of the year, he should pay the taxes due plus a little extra, say 5%. Why the extra 5%? In a word, "penance" for his past sins, and a little insurance in the event the IRS audits his past tax returns and discovers his goof. The IRS (and any other government agency, for that matter) is always going to go easier on someone who they see is working hard to get into compliance than they will someone who sticks his head in the sand and hopes the Bogeyman will go away. As an IRS agent once told me, "even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over." Happy April 15, everybody, and remember: this is one of the many reasons we have liquor. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconWhen You Can't Trademark Your Name Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I have a business name that I am thinking of trademarking. My concern is, if I do not trademark the name and use it in business, what is stopping someone else from trademarking that name (after I begin using it) and taking it away from me? Is this possible?" In the United States, the only way to protect an unusual or distinctive business name is to register it as a trademark with the PTO - the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( www.uspto.gov ). Not everything can be trademarked, however, and even if the PTO grants you a registered trademark, someone else can challenge it on a number of grounds (such as fraud, or infringement of another trademark such that the public will be confused between the two). I've said it before in this column: if you have a name that a trademark lawyer says you can trademark, do everything short of violating the law to register the mark with the PTO. That is the only effective way to prevent other people from using the same or a similar name in the same or a similar business. Beg and borrow from your relatives to pay your trademark attorney's fees. Hit up your credit cards or lines of credit to do so. Getting that federal registration - which entitles you to put the "R in a circle" (reg;) next to your name - will deter a lot of bad guys out there who may be tempted to rip off your name once you start becoming successful. But what if your name cannot be trademarked, or you just can't scrape together the money to register it? The law allows you to claim your name as a "common law" trademark by putting the letters "TM" next to the same wherever it appears. So, for example, "Succeeding in Your BusinessTM". Technically, you're supposed to use the letters "SM" when claiming a common law mark for a service as opposed to a product, but the latest version of Microsoft Word doesn't have "SM" in the "Symbols" directory, only "TM", so you're stuck using that (memo to Bill Gates - while you're working the kinks out of Office 2007, could you fix this glitch, please? Thank you.) As Mark Twain once said about investing, "if you have to put all your eggs into one basket, watch that basket!" The same applies to "common law" trademarks. If you are using one, be sure to document exactly when you first used the mark in interstate commerce. Keep files with examples of stationery, correspondence, product labels, marketing brochures and other literature that clearly shows the "TM" next to your name and the date(s) you were using that name in commerce. If someone who registers your name as a trademark later on claims they were "first to the courthouse" and tries to sue YOU for infringement, the burden will be on you to prove that you were using the name before the other guy did. You will need every scrap of evidence you can muster. But I would go beyond that if I were you. Check the PTO's records on a monthly or weekly basis, and the minute you see someone has filed an application to register your name as a trademark, don't wait for the PTO to take action. Instead, file a challenge or protest of the other company's application, and let the PTO know you've been using the mark in interstate commerce before the application was filed. Your trademark attorney will know how to do this. At the same time, your trademark attorney should send a scathing letter to the company that applied to register the same name as yours, telling them to withdraw their application and demanding that they "cease and desist" using your name. The letter (called a "cease and desist letter", appropriately enough), should be sent by registered or certified mail, along with copies of documentation showing exactly how long you have been using the common law trademark in commerce. Common law trademarks can be effective, but only if you are diligent and stay on top of what your competition is doing. If a competitor registers your name with the PTO and continues using the name for five years without a challenge, the registration will become "uncontestable" and you won't be able to challenge it. While you may be allowed to continue using your name if you can prove you were using it in commerce before the other guy registered his "uncontestable" mark, if the other guy is a Fortune 500 corporation with millions of dollars and an army of lawyers to make your life miserable in court . . . Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconWorker's Comp For Beginners Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I started out in business several years ago as a solo contractor. About three years ago, I hired my first employee, and today I have about five full-time and part-time people working for me. I have a terrific accountant, and have always paid my income and payroll taxes on time. About six months ago I had to lay off a guy because new construction was slowing down in our area. He filed for unemployment benefits, and now I'm getting nasty letters from my state Labor Department saying they need to audit my books. What's going on here, and why didn't anyone tell me about this?" Sad to say, your predicament is a fairly common one for small business owners - especially those who, like you, started out as "solos" and then started hiring employees. Life becomes much more complicated when you hire your first employee. Most people know that they have to pay employment or payroll taxes on their employees' wages, and hire a payroll service to do all of the necessary paperwork. But there's another set of laws in just about every state you have to be aware of when you hire employees. Unfortunately, accountants, lawyers and payroll services sometimes forget to tell you about them. These laws go under the general heading of "workers' compensation" or "workers' comp", and they can really trip you up if you're not careful. There are three types of workers' comp program: Workers' Compensation Insurance . Traditional "workers' comp" is a form of insurance that provides compensation for employees who are injured in the course of employment. The idea is that by providing coverage for workers from state funds, the workers will be less likely to sue their employers for damages resulting from on-the-job injuries (yeah, right). Every state law is different, but virtually all workers' comp programs require you, as an employer, to purchase insurance in minimum amounts for each one of your employees, and keep the insurance policies up to date. Most employers maintain only the minimum amount of coverage required by law, as they figure they "will be sued anyway" if an employee is injured on the job and that there is no real benefit to paying more than the minimum premium each year. In any event, workers' comp is no substitute for a general liability policy covering you against lawsuits resulting from injuries and accidents to ANYONE that happen on your premises. Just about all states have a workers' comp program of some sort. To find out your state's requirements, go to www.workerscompensation.com and click on your state when the map of the United States pops up. Unemployment Insurance . In addition to workers' comp, many states require employers to pay into an "unemployment compensation" system that provides benefits to workers who are "between jobs". Once you hire your first employee, you are required to make periodic payments into the system. If you fail to make these payments, and a laid-off worker files for benefits, your state Department of Labor will view you as a "scofflaw" and will take legal and administrative action to bring your business into compliance. To find out about your state's unemployment comp program, search on the Web for "[your state] unemployment compensation", or visit your state Department of Labor's Website. Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) . Lastly, in Puerto Rico and five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island), employers and employees (through payroll deductions) are required to contribute to a "disability fund" to provide temporary benefits to persons who are unable to work due to employment-related injuries, or who become disabled while they are "between jobs". Some of these states allow employers to provide their own disability coverage for employees in lieu of contributing to the state program, but other don't. A useful summary of state TDI laws can be found on the Web at workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/pdf/temporary.pdf . Generally, if you are self-employed and have no employees, you are not required to provide worker's comp coverage for yourself, or pay into state Unemployment Insurance or TDI programs. You are also not required to provide coverage for "independent contractors" who work for you. However, if the IRS or some other government agency reclassifies your "independent contract" workers as employees, you will be getting a nasty letter from your state Labor Department demanding you make contributions retroactive to the date you first began working with them. Some payroll services will help you comply with your obligations under state workers' comp, Unemployment Compensation and TDI laws. Sadly, however, most don't - they deal only with employment taxes. The only sure way to make sure you don't make any mistakes here is to retain the services of a good "labor and employment" attorney in your area BEFORE you hire your first employee or "independent contractor". Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. His latest books are 'Small Business Survival Guide' (Adams Media, $12.95) and 'The eBay Seller's Tax and Legal Answer Book' (AMACOM, $19.95). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2007 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
Make an Appointment
Stay Connected
or connect at a place below
Normal Gear
Latest Poll
What is your biggest fear when you are involved in a small talk conversation with people you don't know?
Saying the wrong thing
Not remembering names
Not being able to make a clean get away
Not knowing what to talk about
Archives  |  Results
Programs
About Dr. Laura
Letters
E-mail of the Day
From Listeners
Audio & Video
YouTube Videos
Stay at Home
Parenting
Relationships
Simple Savings
Work at Home
Tip of the Week
Subscription
Membership
Help & Support
Family Premium Help Center
Podcast Help
Contact Us
Legal
Terms of Use
© 2015 DrLaura.com. Take on the Day, LLC
Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy
Powered By Nox Solutions