Tag Archives: small business

What to do in the Event of a Double-dip Recession

Just when we thought the economy might be on the upswing, fears of a double-dip recession have hit both Wall Street and Main Street. The New York Times recently asked small-business owners what they’re doing differently in this time of economic uncertainty. Some good advice can be gleaned from what the entrepreneurs had to say:

  • “I mortgaged plants and put $11 million in the bank, paying 5 percent interest, as an insurance policy because I don’t know if there is going to be another credit crisis.”
  • “[I]f I see that sales start to drop 10 to 15 percent in a week and see that it’s a trend over the next two or three weeks, I’ll start cutting. The water cooler, and other extras like employee lunches, will be the first to go. After that, I’ll consider asking the staff to take pay cuts, which I prefer to layoffs. Last time, I was the first to take a pay cut. I brought my salary down to what I needed to pay rent and eat bologna.”
  • “As economic news worsens, a small business tends to get paid later and later, if at all. I’ve learned that when the going gets tough, you’ve got to stand up for yourself and show that you’re the least likely person to be bullied….We took two steps. First, we hired an ex-Army Ranger who had served in Iraq to chase down receivables….The second thing we did was let it be known that we’ll fight over a $100 invoice….In this economy, you have to get your teeth out and fight.”
  • “We’re just starting a catering company…but we’re doing it in a very slow-growth mode….In the past, we would have probably purchased an existing building and converted it; you know, we would’ve gone out and borrowed a million or two million dollars.”
Have you changed the way you run your business recently in anticipation of another recession? What do you plan to do if fears of another recession become reality?

Seeking Small Business Innovators

In the hopes of spotlighting American ingenuity, The Wall Street Journal is inviting small businesses to apply for its Small Business, Big Innovation competition. The paper is looking for small business owners who revolutionized their business models to prosper during the current economic recession. The deadline to enter is September 5, 2011. More information can be found on The Wall Street Journal’s website.

Employees, Social Media, and Your Small Business

Can you legally fire one of your employees for a Facebook post critical of your small business? No, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which issued a complaint in late May against an Illinois BMW dealership, alleging that the dealership unlawfully terminated an employee for making critical comments about the dealership on Facebook.

The NLRB’s complaint alleges that a car salesman posted complaints about the quality of food and drink served at a dealership event promoting a new car. Other dealership employees had access to the salesman’s Facebook page. The following week, management asked the salesman to remove the posts, and the salesman complied. However, soon after, the dealership fired the salesman.

According to the NLRB, the employee’s Facebook posts were protected “concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), because they were part of a discussion among employees about the terms and conditions of their employment. An NLRB administrative law judge was scheduled to hear the case on June 21.

The BMW dealership case comes on the heels of other NLRB complaints against employers for penalizing employees based on critical Facebook comments, blog posts, or other social networking activity. For instance, in February, a Connecticut employer settled a NLRB complaint alleging that the company fired an employee for posting a negative comment about her supervisor on Facebook. And in April, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging that a media company violated federal law by restricting its employees’ ability to use Twitter to discuss working conditions with coworkers.

The NLRB’s actions do not mean that every social media post an employee makes is protected by law. In fact, the NLRB recently held that a Tuscon-area newspaper did not violate the law when it fired an employee for unprofessional and inappropriate tweets that included remarks about how Tuscon was “slacking” because there were no overnight homicides and sexual innuendo to describe the employee’s television viewing habits.

While unprofessional and inappropriate conduct may not be protected, the intersection of social media and the NLRA is an evolving area of the law, and it is not yet clear when a Facebook post or tweet crosses the line from protected concerted activity to punishable offense. If your small business is concerned about the social media activities of one of your employees, proceed with caution, because the employee’s actions may be protected by the NLRA.

By: Guest blogger Steven Koprince, an attorney with Petefish, Immel, Heeb & Hird, LLP in Lawrence, KS. Mr. Koprince’s practice emphasizes government contracts and small business law.

Don’t Greenwash When Marketing Your Business

Have a product that you’re thinking about marketing as “green” or “eco-friendly”? You may want to tweak your marketing plans.

Responding to the rampant and unregulated marketing of products as Earth-friendly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is set to update its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (also known as the Green Guides) later this year. One of the proposed changes is a bar on the use of unqualified claims of environmental benefit, such as “sustainable” or “Earth-friendly.” Other proposed changes include limitations on the use of green certifications or seals of approval, claims that the product was created with renewable energy or renewable materials, and terms such as “biodegradable,” “compostable,” “recyclable,” “non-toxic,” or “ozone-safe.” Violators of these guidelines may find themselves taken to court by the FTC.

What to do if you truly believe your product is green and want to shout it from the rooftops? Comply with the FTC’s guidelines. Make sure all of your claims are verifiable. And seek third-party certification from a company like Green Seal.

If you’re a consumer trying to wade through the sea of green labels on store shelves, check out GreenerChoices.org, run by the publishers of Consumer Reports.