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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

Top 15 jobs that will see hiring growth in 2020

(BUSINESS NEWS) LinkedIn releases the 2020 Emerging Jobs Reports which looks at trends and growth. A lot of changes are happening, especially in tech.

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While many are hanging their stockings by the chimney with care, we’re digging into the end-of-year data that runs rampant at this time of year – and we love it. Such data has been released from LinkedIn in the form of its 2020 Emerging Jobs Report.

LinkedIn explains this report as: “The Emerging Jobs analysis is based on all LinkedIn members with a public profile that have held a full-time position within the U.S. during the past five years. Once the talent pool has been identified, we then calculate the share of hiring and Compound Annual Growth Rate for each occupation between 2015 and 2019 to identify the roles with the largest rate of hiring growth. These become our Emerging Jobs.”

The report finds that trends for U.S. jobs in 2020 will see data and artificial intelligence continue to grow as time marches on. Additionally, data science is booming and is starting to replace legacy roles.

The trends also state that increased insurance for mental health is driving up demands for behavioral health professionals. Lastly, the report finds that it’s never a bad time to be an engineer.
As for overall industry trends, it was found that online learning is here to stay while more smart cars are coming our way. Also, the future of tech will rely heavily on people skills.

Location trends found that secondary cities have the jobs (like Austin, hollaaaa!) and tech is taking over Washington D.C. And, as pointed out in many of my articles this year, remote work will continue to become more and more mainstream.

The report then listed the top 15 emerging jobs in the U.S. These include:

1. Artificial Intelligence Specialist (74% annual growth)
2. Robotics Engineer (40% annual growth)
3. Data Scientist (37% annual growth)
4. Full Stack Engineer (35% annual growth)
5. Site Reliability Engineer (34% annual growth)
6. Customer Success Specialist (34% annual growth)
7. Sales Development Representative (34% annual growth)
8. Data Engineer (33% annual growth)
9. Behavioral Health Technician (32% annual growth)
10. Cybersecurity Specialist (30% annual growth)
11. Back End Developer (30% annual growth)
12. Chief Revenue Officer (28% annual growth)
13. Cloud Engineer (27% annual growth)
14. JavaScript Developer (25% annual growth)
15. Product Owner (24% annual growth)

When looking at how your company is growing, it is worthwhile to look at how the world around you is expanding, and if you’re job hunting, this list shows job titles that are quickly getting more competitive!

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Business News

Unicorn goes extinct – is the scooter movement in trouble?

(BUSINESS NEWS) The scooter war may be coming to an end with many companies, like Unicorn, closing their doors and refusing to fulfill orders and/or refund customers.

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Scooters, scooters, scooters – it seems like that’s all us city-dwellers have heard about these past 3 years.

Since the inception of rental scooters in Santa Monica in 2017, more and more companies have thrown their hats into the ring, resulting in intense competition. Through this brand rivalry, many of the scooter-centric companies have gone bust, including the most recent shut-down, Unicorn.

Unicorn is a newer brand of electric scooters, under the brand name Unicorn Rides. The supposed up-and-coming scooter company was created by well-known tech CEO, Nick Evans, the maker of the ever-popular tracking device, Tile.

Unicorn was meant to be a product that wowed customers, with special bells and whistles not seen before with other scooter brands. The company boasted a unique, rugged and waterproof battery, enhanced motor output for riding through hilly areas, an integrated smartphone app, and even extra storage for grocery shopping and other errands.

But when Unicorn sent a very worrisome email to a large portion of its customers last week (350 paid-up, un-served customers), it quickly became clear that the company wasn’t going to live up to the hype. In fact, it was obvious that the company wouldn’t live any longer at all.

The gist of the email included an announcement that the company would be shutting down, strictly due to finances. Apparently, the company spent the majority of it’s money on Google and Facebook ads, as well as loan repayments which, they explained, resulted in their inability to fulfill existing orders or refund anyone who had already purchased the $699 device – a huge blow to customers.

In the email, Evans stated that they actually could have continued to press forward with production and fulfillment, and that it may have been enough to fund the business, but they ended up opting against this route as a lack of sales could have resulted in future customer upsets.

In the same email, Evans went on to more deeply explain their money trouble: “Unfortunately, the cost of the ads were just too expensive to build a sustainable business. And as the weather continued to get colder throughout the US and more scooters from other companies came on to the market, it became harder and harder to sell Unicorns, leading to a higher cost for ads and fewer customers.”

This explanation isn’t leaving a better taste in their customers’ mouths though. Buyers like Rebecca Buchholtz are very unhappy, and rightfully so. Buchholtz told The Verge “I am upset he basically robbed everyone of his customers and is closing without delivering any scooters.”

It’s important to mention that Unicorn did not go the typical funding route for its product, either. Instead of just using angel investors and investment firms, Unicorn chose to go a different route – scooter pre-orders. Crowd-funding through pre-orers is not a completely unheard of avenue, though. Unagi Scooters, for example, successfully funded its first campaign for its new scooter (appropriately named Unagi) on Kickstater in 2018, raising over $242K. The main difference here is that Unicorn’s “pre-order” was not through a platform such as Kickstarter, which actually protects buyers from incidents like this.

In his email, Evans alludes that they’re still trying to refund (at least partially) their customers, but he also specifically said that it “looks unlikely”. Their website is still working, but pages like their shipping update and pre-order cancelation pages, which still show up in Google’s search results, are now dead links, resulting in 404 errors. This makes for a pretty clear statement on what’s to happen with the company’s existing customers.

unicorn 404

But it’s not over yet! If you are an affected customer of Unicorn’s, don’t fret. Most banks have fraud-protection and buyer-protection, so if you pre-ordered using a credit or debit card, we recommend contacting your bank.

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Business News

Court green lights demoting an employee for physical disabilities

(BUSINESS NEWS) Court rules the Americans with Disability Act doesn’t fully cover employees – but is the law actually open to some interpretation?

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Wrongful termination is a hot topic these days, especially in relation to employees with disabilities. It’s commonly thought that if you have a disability, you’re safe and that no one can fire you for simply being disabled. But did you know that’s actually a myth?

When ex-Sheriffs Deputy Brigid Ford injured herself on the job, she was faced with the hard truth about the law surrounding disabilities.

Ford, who worked 12 years as a Sheriff’s Deputy, was injured when a car ran a red light and ran into her patrol car, smashing her hand. This resulted in constant pain and an inability to use her right hand. She spent the next few months working in alternative, lighter-duty areas of the department. But even after a year, she was unable to return to her initial post.

Because of this, the Sheriff’s department offered her 3 options:

1. She could move to a civilian job, with a cut in pay. This would include any associated accommodations she may need.

2. She could resign.

3. If she didn’t choose either of the above, they claimed she could be terminated.

Ford ended up choosing a demotion, and then elected to sue the department for violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). At the end of these proceedings, the court found that the demotion was reasonable.

But is this really the standard application for the law?

Although there are many myths associated with the ADA, the law clearly states that in order to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee, you must go through an “interactive process”, which means there must be some back and forth to accommodate the employee.

In Ford’s case, she was unable to continue her initial job as she was not provided with all the accommodations she requested and therefore, only had enough accommodations to continue with a civilian job.

What’s strange about this situation is that she was provided with a few in-depth provisions that would meet her needs, such as training for her supervisors, extra breaks when needed, so she could deal with her pain, and a more ergonomic work station. However, when she requested a voice-activated software for her computer, which would limit her need to use her right hand, she was denied.

The court stated that if there had been a lateral position available, with no decrease in pay, and Ford was qualified for the job, the ADA would have protected Ford a bit better, favoring this option over demotion.

Nevertheless, with the rise of documented disabilities in America, the lines the ADA draws for employees and employers-alike continue to seem blurred. Just like many other laws, the act seems to be open to some interpretation, but at the end of the day, when something like this is brought to the court system, American citizens are truly at the mercy of our court’s Judges and how they translate the laws.

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