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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

10 time tracking tools for productive freelancers, entrepreneurs

(PRODUCTIVITY) We’re all obsessed with squeezing more out of each day, but what if we used one of these time tracking tools to inject more chill time into our lives?

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Part of today’s culture is seeing how much one can get done in a day. We’re always so “go, go, go” and we treasure productivity.

This is incredibly true for freelancers, and, as such, it makes total sense that app and software technology would capitalize on this need. The following apps and programs are designed to help you save time and/or increase productivity.

1. Timeular: This app is designed to visually show you how you spend your time and, as a result, become more productive. Instead of wondering where your time goes every day, you’ll see it visually. This is done through a physical time tracker, where you can define what you want to track and customize your Tracker. You then connect via Bluetooth and place the Tracker face up with the task that you are working on (if you’re taking a phone call, the symbol facing up would be a phone). It then tracks all of your tasks into a color-coded visualization of the day’s activities. Dangerous for people like me who waste a lot of time on Instagram…

2. Bonsai: This bad boy is time tracking for freelancers. You can break down each project and track time individually in order to see where your time is going and how much is being spent on each entity. You then are able to automate invoices based on the time spent. Genius!

3. Tasks Time Tracker: Say that three times fast. This is a phone app that has multiple timers so you can track more than one thing at a time. This app gives you the option to input billing rates to easily track your earning. You can then export all of the info in a CSV format.

4. Azendoo: Everything in one place. This is a time-tracking service that assists your team’s needs and workflow. It puts project organization, team collaboration, and time reporting all in one place. A cool feature on this is you can input how much time you anticipate spending on a project, and then Azendoo compares that to how much time you actually spent.

5. Continuo: Similar to Timeular, you get to see all of your activities in a color-coded format on a calendar. This lets you easily breakdown how much time is spent on each activity and allows you to plan for the future. You are able to see your progress over time, and see how you’ve gotten faster and more productive.

6. PadStats: Described as “a simple app will help you to learn more about yourself”, PadStats will help you track and analyze your daily activities or daily routine. This app includes more quanity-based tracking, allowing data to be more user-oriented and stats to be more accurate.

7. Pomo Timer: This productivity boosting app is a “Simple and convenient pomodoro timer based on the technique proposed by Francesco Cirillo in the distant 1980s made in a simple and clear design,” according to iTunes. For those who like visually simplicity, this app is for you.

8. Blue Cocoa: This program overturns the stigma of a smartphone being a distraction, by turning it into a productivity tool. You start by creating a timer and working on something, and, if you get distracted, the timer senses this and tries to help. This is all in an effort to keep you on track of your task, while tracking the time spent.

9. Timely: A fully automatic time app. This features automatic time tracking, project time management, and team time management. It works to improve timesheet accuracy, increase project profitability, and optimize team performance.

10. Toggl: This is a simple time tracker that offers flexible and powerful reporting. It works to crunch numbers that you’ll need for reporting, all while syncing between all of your devices.

Pick one or two of the above ten, and reclaim your time. No need to “go, go, go,” if you’re a more productive person – this way you can “chill, chill, chill.”

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Business News

Beware: The biohacking obsession is attracting scammers

(NEWS) Biohacking is finding ways to gain a competitive advantage, while excluding the medical world. It’s great to increase your output, but be cautious when picking your poison…

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Wanna live better or longer? [Insert biohack here] will solve all those pesky problems. In all fairness, it’s human nature to seek improvement, especially in our jobs or academics — you know, the things that demand a constant, high performance.

Of course our ears will prick up at the slightest mention of attaining that elusive edge. Remember Aderall in college?

Biohacking isn’t a new topic. The term refers to a wide range of activities to affect the body’s biological systems.

The objective is to optimize health, well-being, and focus. If we are able to effectively manage what we put into our body, our output can increase. It’s not inherently evil.

But social media influencers are key in promoting the latest products/diets/supplements/oils, often doing so for money, not to improve others’ lives. And, there’s a darker side of drug use, both prescription and illegal, leading to potentially dangerous and abusive situations.

The misleading aspect of biohacking is that every body is different.

Regardless of social media promises, people should be wary of ingesting additional products.

Despite the fancy names one can give it, biohacking has the same objective of medicine, but product development typically excludes medical practitioners.

Legitimate medical practices take huge amounts of funding and research to figure out and insure safety, and they’re heavily regulated by the federal government.

A random word of mouth promise about some obscure herbal supplement is not the same thing.

There are no shortcuts to improving one’s health.

And biohacking doesn’t necessarily mean making life more complex. It’s important to start with the basics before jumping to elaborate diet regimens, powders, pills, etc. Simple steps like routine exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep, and healthier meal choices may help get you on track.

It’s amazing to realize what you can change about yourself before joining some random Thought Cult you found on Instagram. And in the case that your health needs a modern, helping hand, do the proper research before falling into the dark internet hole.

Or better yet, consult your doctor.

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Business News

Why JetBlack (personal shopping brand) users average $1500 spent per month

(BUSINESS NEWS) JetBlack’s example sets an interesting precedent for future personal shopping endeavors, especially given they don’t shy away from charging monthly fees.

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Like anything Walmart does, the company’s personal shopping service – JetBlack – faced a heavy amount of scrutiny upon launch. So how is this novelty faring in the current world of Postmates and Amazon Prime?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, JetBlack (which kicked off in New York in 2018) has generated a decent stream of income, with over half of users engaging weekly and spending around $1500 per month through the personal shopping service.

Fifteen. Hundred.

JetBlack’s allure comes in part due to its ability to recognize customer needs and recommend products based on those requirements. For example, someone in the market for a new vacuum cleaner could text “vacuum” to the service and receive recommendations for a wide range of well-rated models.

This intuition makes JetBlack ideal for those who are constantly on-the-go or otherwise too indisposed to visit the store on any predictable basis.

Further, the novelty of being able to have vital ingredients or tools delivered within hours means that JetBlack users are free to spend more of their time innovating, parenting, or working without fear of compromising on quality products. This is JetBlack’s core premise, and the fact that it’s still going strong a year after its inception bodes well for the concierge market.

Part of JetBlack’s success may be attributable to its lack of brand loyalty. JetBlack doesn’t limit users to Walmart products, so it is more universally applicable, thus putting it on par with something like Amazon’s grocery delivery services. This also stands to remove the “cheap” Walmart stigma from the service; since JetBlack draws from a variety of different retailers, users can comfortably assume that they’re receiving the best available product — not just the best available Walmart option.

And to be fair, the anti-Walmart people would have to dig around the site to even know there’s an affiliation – it comes off as a sleek, autonomous startup anyone can get behind.

While JetBlack’s price tag of $50 per month places it in a higher expense bracket than some competitors (e.g., Amazon Prime), the fact remains that JetBlack still errs on the cheap side of personal shopping services — and, given the relative ease with which one can place an order, it seems that JetBlack is poised to remain a staple for its monthly users.

It will be interesting to see how personal shopping services adapt to meet or improve upon JetBlack’s example going forward.

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