Improving our own business leadership skills
When looking to improve our own skills, we look to fellow business leaders to learn what makes them tick, what sets them apart, and how they got to where they are, in an effort not only to find inspiration, but to discover shortcuts in the form of lessons learned by others. Today, we talk to a leader in the digital industry, Matt Murphy, Founder and CEO of Fusion92, which under Murphy’s leadership, has expanded from its roots in interactive production to become a full-service digital marketing agency and serves as a think tank for innovative ideas for big brands.
Below, you will learn in Murphy’s own words his philosophies on hard work, how he got to where he is today, and yes, there is mention of sharks, so pay attention:
Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?
I was born and raised in Chicago. I’ve lived in Chicago all my life except for college when I spent a few years in Valparaiso, Indiana and a few in Big Rapids Michigan. While I love to travel and could see spending time in other cities like LA, NY or somewhere out west like Wyoming I think Chicago will always be home base.
How did you get into your current career?
I started my company the month I graduated from college. The year prior, I interned for a real estate company and they had asked me to develop an interactive CD to help market one of their properties. So I leveraged a my computer skills from the few years of programming I took early in my college career to develop this marketing tool. I think this experience really opened my eyes to the potential digital marketing possessed.
What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?
I enjoy extreme sports – diving with sharks, heli-skiing in Alaska or anything that goes fast!
What keeps you up at night?
Staying ahead of our competition and clients – complacency is the death of a business.
If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?
I would have to say it would have been the late Steve Jobs. I really respected his ability to innovate and get his staff to rally behind his vision and then bring that vision to market. There are a lot of people with a lot of great ideas, but very few of them see the light of day – Steve had the rare ability to bring his to life.
At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That’s a tough question, I probably really wanted to be a pro athlete but I knew that was somewhat unrealistic. So my second choice at that time would have been a trader or a consultant doing M&A work.
What about you would most people not believe unless they knew you?
I’m really a techie at heart. I love all types of technology, gadgets or widgets – no matter their use.
What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison
Small businesses angry at depletion of COVID-19 relief funds without warning
(ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses are in shock when they find out COVID-19 relief funds are no longer available, with an email update from the SBA.
In May, the Small Business Administration (SBA) sent out an update to borrowers of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for COVID-19 relief. The EIDL program is now out of funds, according to an email sent to borrowers.
The loan program formally closed back in December 2021, but there was a period when small businesses who had already received funding could request additional money. That period is now officially over, and the $345 billion that was allotted for COVID-19 relief is gone.
The impact of EIDL
Many owners and entrepreneurs are outraged and frustrated with the lack of transparency from the SBA. There was no warning that the funds were almost depleted and many businesses were relying on that loan money to keep their businesses afloat as the economy rebounds. However, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman praised the program,
“The SBA has delivered historic economic relief to millions of America’s small businesses through the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program…”
According to an SBA press release, over $390 billion in aid was distributed to nearly 4 million businesses.
Small businesses still need help
In May, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told health ministers that COVID-19 and its effects are not over. Here in the United States, life seems to be getting back to normal, if you discount the horrific inflation and gas prices, which are further impacting the recovery of small businesses.
Congress has been wrangling with legislation (H.R. 3807) that would offer more funding for those that were hit hard due to covid. Getting the House and Senate to agree on this legislation is expected to be difficult. So, no guarantees that more help is coming.
The SBA recommends that businesses who need more resources contact their local SBA office. Virtual appointments can be made for those who wish to avoid contact.
Regularly update your succession plan – it isn’t for setting and forgetting!
(ENTREPRENEUR) You may think that once you have a succession plan in place, you’re set for life, however, it’s recommended to continually update them!
We’ve written before about how the everlasting success of the business will need to outlive you, and this is best conjured up in a succession plan. This is especially true for small business owners and entrepreneurs that have built an empire for themselves but aren’t sure what the future will hold beyond their passing. This is the exact reason that succession plans shouldn’t be set and forgotten, but instead consistently updated.
What are some of the obvious reasons that you may need to update your succession plan?
- Health Issues
- Marriage or Remarriage
- Changes in health in executors or guardians
- Changes in the law
- Changes in Residence
Now, for the not-so-obvious reason: It should be updated when any personal circumstances changes, which most likely happen often. This is why a will is like your home, an investment that needs to be properly maintained, and if it is, it will last a very long time.
Examples include changes in economic or parental status, as well as designations or fiduciaries. Elders could be aging, siblings may be having their own life changes, as well as if any dependents are born with or develop special needs.
“Every state has different laws regarding the administration of a will,” he said.?“For instance, states vary regarding the required residence of an executor, inheritance tax laws, and whether a child can be disinherited by omission.”
The recommended procedure is to review wills and powers of attorney at least every five years.
Lastly, when should a will update to a trust?
- When you have some significant assets (more than $500,000) in your own name.
- If you have special needs beneficiaries.
- If you have properties in multiple jurisdictions (multiple states or even counties).
- If you have beneficiaries you want to control distributions to (e.g., distribute at ages 25/30/35).
- If you have kids from a previous relationship you want taken care of.
- If you may want asset protection (special trust needed).
- If you are a big dog (over $22M if married), to save taxes.
Should your severance agreements include confidentiality clauses?
(ENTREPRENEUR) Confidentiality clauses and NDAs have long been tied to severance agreements – but is that notion becoming outdated?
Severance agreements and their ilk have long included confidentiality clauses, often comprising an exhaustive list of actions former employees may not take should they desire to keep the benefits listed in the agreement. Carey & Associates P.C.’s Mark Carey breaks down the knowledge you’ll need to successfully incorporate a severance agreement – including a stern warning about the future of confidentiality clauses.
There is a long list of things you’ll need when curating a severance agreement, but we’ll start with Carey’s honey-do-nots.
Carey’s primary recommendation is avoiding a non-compete clause where, previously, there wasn’t one.
“As employment lawyers, we see this tactic used every day, but you do not,” he says.
This is because most employment lawyers will advise that a non-compete agreement is largely unenforceable, which sets a poor precedent for an otherwise airtight document.
Carey even recommends against reviewing prior non-compete clauses for the same reason.
He also eschews what he calls the “21 days to sign – or else” philosophy, and he advises that employers should loop themselves into the non-disparagement clause so that employees cannot be blacklisted – something he refers to as “a very real phenomenon.”
What a severance agreement should include is a non-admission provision, a payment provision, a release of all claims to cover any feasible scenarios regarding employee disclosure, a challenge to agreement, a “no other amounts are due” section to release the employer from future responsibility, and a mandate to return any company property. This is a truckload of information, so you’ll want an employment lawyer to help you through the process.
But what Carey warns against is the future of confidentiality agreements, or NDAs. While these provisions have long accounted for employee silence in the face of abusive or corrupt employers, Carey posits that, one day, “confidentiality provisions in employee severance agreements will be banned as a matter of statute and public policy.”
This assertion comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the uncovering of the manner in which powerful people were using NDAs to buy silence from the people who suffered under their direction. Carey points out that it’s a non-partisan issue; corruption isn’t aligned with one specific political party, and the option to come forward with allegations of misconduct is a courtesy that should be afforded to all.
Whether or not confidentiality agreements are ethical is a moot point, and Carey does recommend continuing to use them when necessary – but, sooner or later, one can safely assume that the landscape of severance agreements will change, arguably for the better.
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