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Business lessons from the recent IRS scandal

The recent IRS scandals bring to life the human behavior that happens within the government, but also at companies of all sizes. Preparation for these kinds of scandals can help your company in the event that the stuff ever hits the fan.

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IRS scandal reminds businesses to prepare

It is easy to dislike the IRS; they take our money. Even if we like what a good chunk of that money goes toward, it’s still easy to grumble about the entity that takes our money and occasionally makes us prove our accounting. And that is when they are doing their jobs correctly – this week’s news has made it even easier to mistrust the agency. But let’s make a couple of assumptions and perform a little exercise examining our own businesses as compared to the revelations about the IRS this week.

Initial indications make it appear most likely that individual agents in one office took it upon themselves to place extra scrutiny upon organizations with whom they disagree ideologically. How they thought they would not get discovered raises a logical concern that they had made an educated calculation that they could get away with such criminal activity. That is another problem (and a big one), but let’s set that aside for a moment and assume the guilty were acting on their own and within a bubble of arrogant and ignorant power.

Some problems you just cannot plan for

This type of problem is one of the most difficult for us to plan for as we operate our own businesses. What if one of your employees steals and sells credit card numbers of your customers? Do you read all of your employees’ emails to make certain they are not starting a competing business using your trade secrets while working for you? What do you do when it is discovered that one of your employees has been covertly capturing video of people using your establishment’s restroom?

Some problems you just cannot plan for, but you can build some checks and balances into your business to prevent many such problems or at least minimize their duration and impact. First, set clear policies for the behavior of your employees. Second, split responsibilities in such a way that critical elements of activity are overseen by more than one person.

For example, split the responsibilities of receiving and issuing checks from your business account, or as came up in a RISE panel this week, don’t put your IT guy in charge of security of your online and digital data.

And finally, create and maintain a crisis management plan. By simply thinking ahead about the problems you are most likely to face and having even an outline of a plan in place regarding the actions you will take if a crisis occurs, you will increase your likelihood of detecting the crisis early and minimize its impact by reacting quickly.

It is improbable that your company will ever be hated as much and by as many people as the IRS. But guard your reputation by taking some simple steps to detect and recover from problems that occur within your company with or without your knowledge and participation.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. agbenn

    May 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I thought the lesson for business was if you have a business and political leaning, you should probably duck for cover.

  2. Prasanta Shee

    March 16, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Yes, remote desktop technolgies like on premise R-HUB remote support servers allows one to remotely connect computers from home. It provides better security, lower remote support costs, fast resolution to technical problems etc.

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Business News

You can now make Amazon returns at Kohl’s

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is teaming up with Kohl’s to give shoppers a few of the brick and mortar conveniences with online shopping.

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With online retailers giving brick-and-mortar stores a run for their money, some brands are choosing to collaborate, rather than compete. Kohl’s has announced that it will team with Amazon to create “Amazon Experience” mini-stores within Kohl’s locations.

The companies are testing the concept with 10 stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas. If it goes well, they’ll expand that number to 82.

The Amazon Experience stores will be staffed with Amazon salespeople, but Kohl’s employees will run the Amazon returns counter. Customers can even bring unpackaged items from Amazon, and Kohl’s employees will help them pack and ship it back to Amazon, free of charge.

It seems that Amazon is looking to have more physical presence with customers and to make returns easier, while Kohl’s hopes to downsize their store space and generate revenue by renting to other brands.

Just this month, Kohl’s opened four smaller stores that have 60 percent less footage and 25 percent less inventory than their typical stores. Customers can still access the entire Kohl’s inventory at kiosks that also offer in-store pickup.

It’s clear that Kohl’s isn’t afraid to combine the brick-and-mortar and online experiences, and their collaboration with Amazon is further evidence that the brand is adapting to the digital marketplace.

“This is a great example of how Kohl’s and Amazon are leveraging each other’s strengths — ” said Richard Schepp, Chief Administrative Officer of Kohl’s, “ the power of Kohl’s store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon’s reach and loyal customer base.”

Industry experts predict that Amazon may find other ways to utilize their physical presence in Kohl’s to better serve customers.

Amazon has been dabbling in the world of fashion, and having mini-stores in Kohl’s could present an opportunity for Amazon customers to try on apparel before they buy, bolstering Amazon’s in-house apparel brands.

Apparel analyst Tiffany Hogan told CNBC “We could potentially see new Amazon lines popping up at Kohl’s.”

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IBM is putting blockchains to work for banks

(BUSINESS NEWS) IBM is putting blockchain tech to work so that they can launch a banking system for international transactions.

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Earlier this year, IBM unveiled its “Blockchain as a Service” based on Hyperledger Fabric, creating a public cloud service for customers to build secure blockchain networks.

Now the tech company announced they’re teaming up with payment company KlickEx Group and blockchain startup Stellar to change up the cross-border payment game.

The team is launching a blockchain-based system for banks, aimed to lower the cost and reduce settlement time for global payments for both businesses and consumers. International transactions typically take days, or even weeks, to complete.

Blockchains could speed things up, minimize errors, and provide more flexibility and transparency to banks. According to IBM, the collaboration “is intended to improve the speed in which banks both clear and settle payment transactions on a single network in near real time.”

In case you forgot what blockchains are, here’s a refresher course. Blockchains are a secure digital ledger of transactions with bits of information stored across multiple nodes in a network.

Since there’s no centralized hub, it’s less vulnerable to hacking.

Any time an action is taken, the ledger updates and that data is available to anyone with access to the blockchain. Additionally, each transaction is secured with digital signatures and encryption, providing transparency and security.

Blockchains can be used to trace and track transactions along every step of the way, providing a handy place to combine all product information besides just financial dealings.

For example, IBM suggested a hypothetical in which their system connects a Samoan farmer with an Indonesian buyer.

In this transaction, they stated, “the blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalize transaction terms with immediate payment, conducting global trade with transparency and relative ease.”

Instead of scattered information, blockchains collect all relevant steps in a transaction. Currently, they system is used in twelve currency corridors, including New Zealand and the UK, as well as Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Within the next year, the system is expected to handle 60 percent of the South Pacific’s retail industry’s cross-border payments.

Bridget van Kralingen, Senior VP of IBM Industry Platforms, said in statement, “with the guidance of some of the world’s leading financial institutions, IBM is working to explore new ways to make payment networks more efficient and transparent so that banking can happen in real-time, even in the most remote parts of the world.”

Over a dozen banks are part of the initial pilot program, and plan to expand to Southeast Asia, South America, and other areas by early next year.

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A real life robot battle: America vs Japan

(BUSINESS NEWS) Robots are real and America is fresh out of a battle with Japan in a real life robot battle royale.

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What’s the future of sports look like?

Giant. Fighting. Robots.

That’s right, your childhood dreams have arrived, at least I know mine have.

Two years ago, American robotics firm, MegaBots Inc., challenged Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a showdown of the battle of the mechs. The challenge was accepted, but with one simple caveat: the inclusion of melee combat.

And so the Super Heavyweight Title Fight two-years in the making premiered on leading social video platform, Twitch, yesterday evening to tech and sci-fi fans alike who waited with baited breath for such an event.

In order to prepare for the match, the American team needed to build a new bot capable of fulfilling the duel requirement, as well as one that would be a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese fighting machine.

MegaBots, or “Team America,” was able to crowdfund the robot battle through a Kickstarter campaign earning over $500,000 by just under 8,000 backers. With this campaign, they were also able to upgrade their Mk.II behemoth that would be entering the rumble.

Meet Eagle Prime.

More metal. More power. More American.

According to MegaBots, Eagle Prime “weighs in at 12 tons, stands 16 feet tall, seats two, is powered by a 430 horsepower V8 LS3 engine, and costs a cool $2.5M.” This robot is massive; a good foot higher than its predecessor.

Founders Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti commented on the design of Eagle Prime, quipping, “We made it huge and strapped guns to it;” as American as apple pie.

Suidobashi’s robot, KURATAS, stands a few feet shorter (about 13 feet tall), but carries a more sleek and elegant design to it. With a tripod-wheeled base and twin Gatling BB canons with the ability to fire 6,000 bullets per second, it seemed a toss-up as to who would reign supreme in the first mech battle.

While this sounds like an epic episode of awesomeness, don’t expect Pacific Rim level combat just yet. Rather than give a play-by-play of the event, I’ll just tell you straight away that Eagle Prime came out on top in the brawl. To be fair though, it really wasn’t much of a brawl.

Eagle Prime had two years of extra time to be built in preparation for such a match against Kuratas. It was made bigger (and for “funzies”, added patriotic colors to the bot as well as a head of a bald eagle for a “head” as well as a chainsaw-sword-type of device that likely, and ultimately, ended up costing Kuratas a pretty penny in damages.

Really, Kuratas had no chance: there was a bit of overkill on the part of Eagle Prime.

The chain-sword alone raises some safety concerns, especially when we’re talking the future of sports. That said, the pilots of both mechs, Eagle Prime piloted by both Oehrlein and Cavalcanti and Kuratas by Kogoro Kurata, could use a bit more protective gear than helmets, even if the robots in action look like a couple of toddlers fighting.

But hey, it’s a start. And that’s the point.

Maybe one day we will be in giant stadium arenas watching huge robots piloted by humans hashing it out, but we’ve got a long ways to go. And maybe, just maybe, these things could be of use in natural disaster efforts.

Who wouldn’t want to be saved by an Optimus Prime-like, human-piloted “robot” that could withstand whatever was thrown its way?

It’s going to be an expensive endeavor that will require a nice chunk of change in investments and endorsements, though I will say, what a time to be alive.

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