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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This will only take a second...


Walking into a fast food place I saw a guy park his car in a space near the door, exit quickly, and hurriedly trot inside. As I passed his car I noticed it was left running. Once inside, I told the guy that he had left his car running. He curtly answered that he knew and went about ordering food, quickly dismissing my attempt to be neighborly. My next thought, I should get the name of his insurance agent because he has got to have a better policy than I do.
Dry cleaners, convenience stores, coffee places, grocery stores, anywhere someone thinks they are just going to run in and out, you see cars left unlocked and running. I’ve even seen people leave their cars running at curbside with children strapped into safety seats. It just boggles my mind. What are people thinking?
A professional can steal a locked car in under a minute. An amateur can steal a locked car in less than five minutes. A child, with no auto theft experience, can steal an unlocked, running car in five seconds. How long does it take to get a nonfat no whip decaf mocha latte?
Most popular stolen cars in Maryland according to the NICB:
  1. Dodge Caravan 2000
  2. Honda Accord 1996
  3. Honda Civic 2000
  4. Ford Pickup (Full size) 2006
  5. Toyota Camry 2011
  6. Toyota Corolla 2010
  7. Ford Crown Victoria 1999
  8. Nissan Maxima 1996
  9. Plymouth Voyager 1999
  10. Nissan Altima 2002

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Is your business ready for wild weather?


FEMA Photo library-Liz Roll

The Mid Atlantic is preparing for yet another wild weather event. As we patiently watch the track of hurricane Sandy there is a possibility that the hurricane could combine with another storm and add wintry twist to the event. Over the last several years this area has experienced some wild weather. There were three blizzards in one winter, two back to back. In 2011, there were back to back tropical storms. In 2012, we experienced a derecho storm. And now this weird chance of a hurricane meeting another system and stalling in the area. All of these weather events caused power outages. In the central Maryland region we are blessed with housing and business growth. However, the growth seems to be overtaxing the power grid. The outages occur more often and for longer durations.  

Those that have businesses or are responsible for businesses have even more on their mind. In addition to ensuring that their family and homes are safe, they must also protect their businesses, which in many cases are their livelihoods. We become so accustomed to having electricity we forget all that is powered by electricity, e.g.-gas pumps, ATMs, cash registers and credit card machines to list a few. We also become complacent as to how dependent our businesses are to electricity. As development continues in the Odenton area, power outages appear to be happening more frequently and for longer durations.

Power outages are reported in number of customers without power, not business loss. So there is not one source to determine how small businesses are affected. There are few businesses that can operate without power. Depending on your product you may be able to conduct some business with cash transactions. In the current economic climate any business loss is crucial. Add to that the possibility of losing inventory due to damage or loss of refrigeration and small businesses can really be hurt.

No different than a home, business owners should prepare for storms and power outages. The logistics of preparing your business for a storm and the loss of power after the storm can be complicated.  Having a written plan of action can make the task easier. Take the lessons learned from past outages and make a simple outline. The adage of “being prepared” is true and can significantly reduce either your loss or time your business is down.

Depending on your location and the type of storm you may need to prepare your facility for flooding. This may include boarding windows, sandbagging, moving inventory and equipment.  Your business has many unique facets that have to be examined when developing your plan. Here are a few operational items that should be considered.
  • Purchase generators or ensure generators are in place and operational.
  • Be prepared for cash transactions.
  • What type of telephone system do you use? Newer systems do not work without power or have six hour battery backups.
  • What type of security do you have? As with the telephone system, security systems often have only six hour backups. 
  • Backup computer business files. Sudden and/or prolonged power outages can result in data loss.  When complete, store the files off site. 
  • In the winter, prepare for safe ways to provide heat to your business.  

The biggest mistake business owners can make is not heeding warnings and being caught off guard. We can all learn from the recent storms and past winters heavy snows. Power outages are becoming more frequent. Having a plan of action to protect your business assets may be the some of the cheapest insurance available.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who would you hire?


Who would you most likely hire, someone who has a criminal past or an applicant that has been unemployed for a lengthy duration? Recent polls of hiring managers have shown that being unemployed for two or more years is a less attractive quality than someone with criminal history. Hiring managers stating that it is easier to place someone with a non-felony criminal record. Being out of the workforce for just two years brings into consideration your age and skills that may be outdated or out of touch with evolving technology.

Job applicants leaving correctional facilities often have recent improvements to their education and have learned skills or trades in preparation for returning to the workforce. Six states, Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York, offer the opportunity to receive a certificate of rehabilitation.

Finding work is not as easy as in the past when you could go door to door and speak directly to decision makers. The number of companies utilizing online employment applications grows everyday. Many businesses immediately direct job seekers to their online application. Getting your resume into the hands of the right person is more difficult than ever. Once in those hands you have to impress. A 2012 study conducted by The Ladders job matching service revealed that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing an individual resume. They focus on name, previous position start and end dates, current position start and end dates, current title and company, previous title and company, education.

Even though you may be enthusiastically searching, being out of work may put you into an undesirable category.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Customer service


Just recently I went into a small store. The floor space was setup in a rectangle with a long glass counter on one side. The business’s main products were displayed in the glass counter. I could see one employee moving about the floor and four behind the counter.  One was working with another customer. The rest were talking to each other. I stood at the counter not really looking at the products but politely waiting to be helped. Across from me, two employees were talking and eventually moved their conversation farther down the counter. After several minutes of not being addressed I considered leaving but decided to time how long it would take to be approached. From the moment I started timing, until I was addressed, was four minutes. Which doesn’t sound long, but it is when you are waiting to be helped. This is not the first time I’ve experienced this sort of customer indifference. It is more shocking when you are in a smaller store when the employees outnumber the customers.

How about a bigger store where the employees have desks or stations in plain view of the customers? These stores give the appearance of their attention to customer service but the employees may not get it. You know the kind, the customer service counters with no walls and lots of brightly color shirted employees walking around looking like they are busy. As the wait continues, you start to notice that there is one employee servicing the line, one making copies, two speaking to each other, one on the telephone, and another coming in and out of several doors like they are in some sort of maze. The whole time you’re standing there wondering if you are in fact invisible. Nothing looks worse to customers and adds to their displeasure than seeing unmanned stations with what appears to be plenty of help ignoring the situation. If the employees are in view of the customer they need to be attentive to the customers. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Should sex offenders be allowed to pass out candy?

Sex offenders in Simi Valley, Ca have filed a Federal lawsuit alleging that a city ordinance, requiring offenders to post "no candy" signs on their front doors Halloween night, violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. MD Dept of Parole and Probation, who manages the Sex Offender Registry, has had a similar policy since 2005.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Maryland Employment laws


There are two Maryland laws that became effective on Monday, October 1 and directly affect employers. 

Social media-Employers may not require employees or applicants to disclose a user name, password or other means of accessing a private internet site or electronic account.

Jury duty-An employer may not require an employee who is summoned for jury duty and who serves four hours or longer (including travel time) to work a shift that begins after 5 PM on the day of jury duty or before 3 AM the following day.