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COVID-19: Massive list of resources for Texas professionals

(BUSINESS NEWS) This is a resource list compiled to help any business tackle the various challenges that coincide with a global pandemic like COVID-19.

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Austin skyline

Well, that escalated quickly. We were saddened by the cancellation of SXSW which for 34 years has brought thousands of people to Austin to celebrate interactive, music and tech. Many entrepreneurs, artists and small business owners thrive on their exposure and sales during this two-week festival. Many bars, restaurants and shops rely on this additional foot traffic each year.

Some amazing person quickly pulled together ilostmygig.com where people could report in about the wage, they were losing due to the cancellation of the festival.

Not much later, we may have been complaining about our daily commutes in Austin traffic and the next told that our workplaces were closed, and we would need to start having meetings on Zoom, Skype and MS Teams and work remotely for an indefinite time.

Schools and daycare may have also been closed, with not much notice, so people are balancing doing this new work from home all the time while having a child/children home too. Others in Austin were not sure what their workplaces would do and sat by their emails at 11pm on Sunday night.

We know this sudden shift in our daily lives hurts. This hurts everyone whether you’re a full-time employee, small business owner, local artist and maker, restaurant/bar owner and/or self-employed. A Small Business Friends ATX group quickly pulled together a webinar with resources for their community and we have permission to share here. Many of these are also an attempt to support some of our small business owners in our world here in Austin, TX.

We hope this list provides you with some great ideas and/or resources to do while the world around us in uncertain. This is by no means an exhaustive list (and is highly relevant to Texas) but could also offer you ideas to seek out in your community. Either way, it’s a great demonstration of the power of community – whether in real life or online.

Erin Wike, Career Coach and Lecturer at UT Austin, Owner of Cafe Con Resume and Small Business Friends ATX Co-Founder (Austin-based owner):

TEXAS – Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Disaster Unemployment Assistance During or After Natural Disasters

Design Your Life Workbook – If you need some help with design thinking prompts and guidance on how to explore new opportunities in your business, this guided workbook helps you to draw out what potential there is in an easy format and at your own pace.

Super U Podcast (also on Spotify) (Austin-based owner)
Erik Qualman’s Super U Podcast has tons of great tips on personal/digital branding and stories of people bringing out their superpowers. The March 16 podcast is about Online Classes and Online Learning during Coronavirus Quarantine. He also shares great tips on Instagram (short sound bites)
(And shameless plug, Erin Wike is interviewed on the 2/26 episode about The Modern Resume and Aligning your Passions with work).

The Prowess Project Certification
16-hour certification on teamwork, interpersonal skills, technology and Project Management principles. (Austin-based owner)

Doers Shakers Makers
Sierra Bailey’s Podcast has tons of great tips for tiny, talented business owners around content marketing, scaling, time management, etc. (Austin-based owner)
She also has a free Facebook group and virtual meet ups.

Google Analytics 101 for Small Business Owners (recorded webinar via YouTube)

Social Media Today has a story about LinkedIn Learning
In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco WebEx and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.

LinkedIn Learning has a ton of resources too about learning Google Analytics, Digital Marketing trends, Excel, etc.

Remote Resources by Facebook Education
If you’re looking for reliable content to share with your members on the prevention of coronavirus, or dealing with anxiety surrounding the virus, we’ve compiled some helpful information from leading health authorities.

Lynn Chang, Owner of Career Zen where East meets West in her approach to helping people with their Career Journeys.

  • 20 minutes of restorative yoga is equivalent to a 2-hr nap. Doing this everyday can improve your mindset and wellbeing. Waterfall pose. You can find other yoga and meditation videos from the Career Zen YouTube channel. Leandra Blei Photography filmed and edited the meditation ones!
  • I wrote The 10 Day Career Cleanse to help us during stressful, chaotic times at work. Through inner zen and harmony, we can more easily tap into creativity and innovation for our businesses. Jessica Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories (Austin-based owner) was my editor!
  • Need some extra money now? Remote Side Hustles, Work from home jobs through Rat Race Rebellion, Disaster Unemployment Assistance for small businesses. I’ll have more resources and special offerings to share as we go. Here’s my FB business page for reference.
  • Remember that your path to success is naturally paved with unexpected twists and turns. Stay focused on your vision and use your talents to better the world!

Sonya Strattman (Austin-based owner)
Success Strategist for Women in Business
Creator of Women in the Business Arena podcast and program

  • Sonya will have several podcast episodes on dealing with the current environment starting next week. Look up Women in the Business Arena on your favorite podcast app or visit: https://sonyastattmann.com/listen
  • She also has some very specific episodes on topics that will support you during these times.
    1. 3-part series on Navigating business with kids off of school, with illness, etc. Episodes 110-112 starting here.
    2. Overcoming fear EP105.
    3. The Inevitability of Discomfort and How to Move through it EP127.
    4. Deconstructing Stress EP134.
    5. Facing Discouragement & Rising Again EP132.
  • For those in a service business, she has a quick quiz that can help you determine where to focus your attention right now for the most results. Sonya also has accompanying training for each result.
  • Women’s Facebook group called Women in the Business Arena (same as the podcast). You are welcome to join and ask me her questions.

Ruoyun Xu Killian (Austin-based owner)
Founder of C3Nami, a Digital Marketing Agency.

  • Her company is currently working on potentially offering free 20 min advice calls to see how they can support people more on an individual level, but you can always email her, and she will do her best to answer questions.
  • Article about twitters advice on how to adjust your tone during these times.
  • Facebook hub for small businesses.
  • Official City of Austin website.
  • CDC website
  • We here at The American Genius feel the struggles of this time, we hear hundreds of stories each week and know it can be scary living in such uncertainty. We share these resources not only to help you through these hard times, but to show that others are working on, around, and through the problems along side you.

    This list is mostly centered around businesses but the more important element in all of this is you. Take care of yourself and business will return to normal, so wash your hands, stay away from others for the time being, and maybe you can actually catch up on that sleep you’ve been lacking for years.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Business News

Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns

(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.

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Package delivery people holding deliveries. Refund instead of returns are common now.

The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.

When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”

Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.

For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.

Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.

But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.

While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.

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Business News

Google workers have formed company’s first labor union

(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.

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Google complex with human sized chessboard, where a labor union has been formed.

On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.

The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.

“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.

AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.

In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.

So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.

Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.

“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.

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Business News

Ticketmaster caught red-handed hacking, hit with major fines

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after hacking into a competitor’s network specifically to sabotage.

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Person open on hacking computer screen, typing on keyboard.

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after admitting to hacking into a competitor’s network and scheming to “choke off” the ticket seller company and “cut [victim company] off at the knees”.

Ticketmaster admitted hiring former employee, Stephen Mead, from startup rival CrowdSurge (which merged with Songkick) in 2013. In 2012, Mead signed a separation agreement to keep his previous company’s information confidential. When he joined Live Nation, Mead provided that confidential information to the former head of the Artist Services division, Zeeshan Zaidi, and other Ticketmaster employees. The hacking information shared with the company included usernames, passwords, data analytics, and other insider secrets.

“When employees walk out of one company and into another, it’s illegal for them to take proprietary information with them. Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law. This investigation is a perfect example of why these laws exist – to protect consumers from being cheated in what should be a fair market place,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

In January 2014, Mead gave a Ticketmaster executive multiple sets of login information to Toolboxes, the competitor’s password-protected app that provides real-time data about tickets sold through the company. Later, at an Artists Services Summit, Mead logged into a Toolbox and demonstrated the product to Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees. Information collected from the Toolboxes were used to “benchmark” Ticketmaster’s offerings against the competitor.

“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme in a statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.”

The hacking violations were first reported in 2017 when CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations. A spokesperson told The Verge, “Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light. Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

To resolve the case, Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal penalty, create a compliance and ethics program, and report to the United States Attorney’s Office annually during a three-year term. If the agreement is breached, Ticketmaster will be charged with: “One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of computer intrusion for commercial advantage, one count of computer intrusion in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.”

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