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Archive for December, 2013

Happy New Year’s Eve!!

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

End-Of-The-Year Checklist for Business Owners

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

An article from the Small Business Center at Fox Business discusses how to wrap up 2013 so you can hit 2014 running.

There are a couple of steps to take to make sure your business is legally fit for 2014. By doing so, you’ll be making sure your business gets the right start in the New Year, and you won’t end up paying extra in administrative fees and fines. Here’s what you need to consider before the calendar hits 2014:

1. Incorporate or change your business structure: If you’re like many small businesses you may have started as a sole proprietorship or partnership. But many businesses eventually outgrow these business structures. If your business is not incorporated, you may want to incorporate (either by forming an S Corp or LLC) to shelter your personal assets and perhaps give you more flexibility and cost savings when it comes to your taxes.

If you choose to incorporate, you can look into a “delayed filing” option with a document-filing company. This option lets you get all your paperwork submitted now, then it will be held and filed on the first business day of 2014. This approach will simplify your tax paperwork, since your business will have the same business structure for all of 2014.

2. Close any inactive businesses: If you’ve ever registered a business with the state and are no longer operating it, you need to file a formal termination with the state as soon as possible. Why? Until that paperwork is in, you’re still going to be charged for any fees associated with the business, you’ll need to file an annual report, as well as submit any tax returns.

To close a business, you need to file an “Articles of Dissolution” or “Certificate of Termination” document with the Secretary of State where your Inc. or LLC was formed. Keep in mind that you will need to settle any owed taxes before you can do this (but again, the sooner you take care of this, the better…when it comes to taxes, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away).

Make sure to take care of these matters while it’s still 2013. There’s no reason to keep paying for a business that’s basically been retired.

3. Hold an annual meeting for your Corporation or LLC: If you’ve gone through the work to incorporate your business, make sure you keep it in good standing. If you haven’t held an annual meeting for your Corp or LLC this year, be sure to get one in before the end of the year. Along with the meeting, you’ll need to generate written minutes/resolutions to be signed by the shareholders (Corporation) or members (LLC). If this will be your first meeting, you can find free meeting minutes online to use as a starting point.

4. Make sure you file an annual report for your corporation/LLC: Most states require some form of an annual report filing (some every year; some every two years). If your state requires you to file this report, there is a specific due date for filing each year. In some cases, it’s on the anniversary of your business’ incorporation date; in other cases, it’s when your annual tax statements are due; and in some cases, it’s at the end of the calendar year. Missing this deadline can result in penalties and late fees, and depleted state budgets mean that we’re seeing several of these late fees grow.

5. File an “Articles of Amendment” to record any company changes: If you made any changes to your business (for example, if you changed your business address, dropped the .com from your official company name, authorized more shares, or a board member left), you’ll need to file an official notification with your state.

This may seem like a pretty trivial thing, but it’s actually essential to keeping your LLC/Corporation in good standing. For example, if your business happens to be sued and your paperwork isn’t up to date, it’s possible that the plaintiff will try to come after you personally.

6. Review your estimated tax payments for 2013: Now that we’re nearing the end point of the year, review what your business has made year to date and assess your estimated tax payments to avoid underpayments or overpayments. You’ll want to adjust your final 2013 payment (which is due Jan 15, 2014) as needed.

The next few months will be busy, but set aside some time to address these legal obligations. It will help you save money in fees and penalties moving forward. And what better gift could you give your business than a fresh start for the New Year?

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

An informative article from the Wall Street Journal about companies trying to boost productivity by micromanaging seating arrangements. By shifting employees from desk to desk every few months, scattering those who do the same types of jobs and rethinking which departments to place side by side, companies say they can increase productivity and collaboration.

Proponents say such experiments not only come with a low price tag, but they can help a company’s bottom line, even if they leave a few disgruntled workers in their wake.

In recent years, many companies have moved toward open floor plans and unassigned seating, ushering managers out of their offices and clustering workers at communal tables. But some companies—especially small startups and technology businesses—are taking the trend a step further, micromanaging who sits next to whom in an attempt to get more from their employees.

“If I change the [organizational] chart and you stay in the same seat, it doesn’t have very much of an effect,” says Ben Waber, chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, a Boston company that uses sensors to analyze communication patterns in the workplace. “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.”

Mr. Waber says a worker’s immediate neighbors account for 40% to 60% of every interaction that worker has during the workday, from face-to-face chats to email messages. There is only a 5% to 10% chance employees are interacting with someone two rows away, according to his data, which is culled from companies in the retail, pharmaceutical and finance industries, among others.

Want to befriend someone on another floor? Forget it. “You basically only talk to [those] people if you have meetings,” Mr. Waber says.

Companies should think carefully about who they put where, according to experts who study office design and workplace psychology. Grouping workers by department can foster focus and efficiency, says Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, but mixing them up can lead to innovation

In his dissertation, Mr. Catalini examined the impact of proximity at an academic campus in Paris. When scientists were shuffled around to different buildings because of an asbestos problem, the result was more experimentation, he says. The shake-up produced some bad ideas—but also more breakthroughs.

MODCo Media, a New York advertising agency, has tested three different seating arrangements over the past few years. For about six months, the company intermingled its accountants and media buyers, hoping they would begin to absorb each others’ skills through “osmosis” and “overhearing phone calls.”

The experiment ended up saving MODCo “a couple hundred thousand dollars a year,” says CEO Erik Dochtermann, but it turned out badly for the accountants. The media buyers began to understand the financial side of the business so well that MODCo no longer needed a full accounting department. Now, the media buyers “do the accountancy on the fly” and the company’s chief financial officer checks their work, says Mr. Dochtermann.

Other seating configurations have helped inspire new products and expedited the training of new employees, he says.

At travel website Kayak.com, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Paul English has joked with his colleagues about developing an algorithm to capture all that goes into devising his seating plan for the engineering team.

He uses new hires as an excuse to alter the existing layout and thinks carefully about each worker’s immediate neighbors. He takes into account everything from his employees’ personalities to their political views to their propensity for arriving at work early—or, more important, their propensity for judging colleagues who arrive late.

“If I put someone next to you that’s annoying or there’s a total style clash, I’m going to make your job depressing,” he says.

Young Chun, a product designer at Kayak, is one of Mr. English’s ambassadors in his pursuit of an office with “a balance of energy.” A self-professed member of the “loud” contingent of Kayak employees, she was recently dispatched to the mobile group, where she estimated 90% of the workers were quiet, to get them to be more vocal.

“The first week that I was down there I was like, ‘Oh my god, I could hear a pin drop here,’ ” she says.

It took a few weeks, but Ms. Chun says she was able to get the group to open up and start chatting. Her seating mission accomplished, she was soon switched to another section of the office.

Aspects of a worker’s disposition can, in fact, be contagious, according to Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “People literally catch emotions from one another like a virus,” she says. Her research has found that the least-contagious emotional state is one marked by low-energy and sluggishness. The most contagious is a calm, relaxed state—which she nicknamed “the California condition.”

People with similar emotional temperaments work best together, Ms. Barsade says. But if a manager is trying to get a stressed-out worker to brighten up, the best strategy is to surround her with lots of cheerful, energetic people.

Constantly shuffling people around has its consequences, however. Ms. Barsade says that moving from desk to desk can make workers feel like they have little control over their environment. And some seating experiments can cause a backlash.

For about four years, employees at HubSpot Inc., a marketing-software company based in Cambridge, Mass., switched seats randomly every three months. The seating strategy was meant to reflect the lack of hierarchy at the company, which HubSpot says was especially helpful in recruiting Millennials. Eventually, the company added some structure to the arrangement, splitting workers into loud and quiet groups.

But when HubSpot decided to group its executives in one part of the office, the employee feedback was negative. The executives felt more efficient and liked being able to chat without having to arrange formal meetings, but the employees felt the higher-ups were too far removed. The setup was reversed after six months.

Employees now have the moving process “down to a science,” says HubSpot Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Dharmesh Shah, unplugging their phones and rolling file cabinets to their new spots swiftly.

But having grown to more than 600 workers, the company is facing a new problem: no one can remember who sits where.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Business Lessons From The Best Global Brands

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Fox Business recently discussed four small-business lessons from 2013’s top brands.

Apple just took a bite out of Coca-Cola’s 13-year standing as the most valuable brand in the world, according to Interbrand’s 2013 Best Global Brands list. In fact, technology dominated the top five this year, with Apple at the No. 1 spot and Google coming in at second, and IBM and Microsoft landing at fourth and fifth, respectively. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, fell two spots to take third place.

“We talk a lot about how the speed of business has changed,” says Interbrand Global Chief Executive Jez Frampton, commenting on the shake-up at the top of the list. Frampton says building a brand that resonates with consumers still takes time, but tech companies like Facebook have learned to do so more quickly in today’s day and age.

To help small-business owners make a big impact when it comes to branding, Frampton shares four lessons from Interbrand’s 2013 report:

No. 1: Be consistent. “When you look at great brands, one of the things that sits right at the heart of them is consistency,” says Frampton. “They have a clear understanding of what they mean to the world, and they’re consistent year after year and time after time.”

Google, in his opinion, has also succeeded in this regard, thanks to its “Do no evil” ethos. “It’s a relatively recent company, but the essence of ‘Do no evil’ has set a very clear pathway to what kind of company they are, the kind of culture they want to create and the brand they want to be in the world,” says Frampton.

No. 2: Be nimble. Frampton says startups must be nimble enough to take advantage of gaps in the market.

“Having worked with startups over the years, the business you end up doing is not the one you start out doing. You have to adapt to the market,” says Frampton. That said, being nimble doesn’t have to mean being inconsistent.

“At your heart, you still need to have something that unites your people, and creates a bond between the company, suppliers, buyers … and ultimately with customers and shareholders,” he says.

Frampton adds that businesses that are not nimble enough run the risk of becoming unseated by quicker-moving competitors. “Underneath, you need the speed and agility of newer, younger businesses. Companies like Apple, Google and Coca-Cola have learned to do that. IBM has learned they can completely change direction, and Microsoft is going through that right now, you can argue,” says Frampton.

No. 3: Concentrate on service. “Brands are built through every single experience you have,” says Frampton, discussing Apple’s success when it comes to providing top-notch customer service.

He says customer loyalty is one of the most integral factors when it comes to brand strength, and service innovations like the Genius Bar have given the company a real edge.

“Apple’s genius ‘Genius Bar’ not only creates great levels of loyalty among customers, it creates, in the words of [Harvard professor] Michael Porter, a barrier to entry,” says Frampton. “The ability to hire that number of people, and have them in the position to serve your products is not something you can do overnight … It makes it very, very difficult for anyone to compete.”

No. 4: Use digital to your advantage. Frampton says digital innovation has been key to the success of many of the companies on Interbrand’s list, especially in the case of older, more traditional brands.

“Companies like Burberry have reinvented the way people think about luxury by using digital so well,” says Frampton. He says the company realized it didn’t have the cash to compete with rivals like Prada, so instead decided to dominate when it came to e-retail.

“When you talk to them about their flagship store, they’re actually [talking] about their website and mobile capability. They haven’t just benefited from hundreds of years of industry experience; they’ve carefully thought about the market … and how to maintain an incredibly powerful luxury image through digital,” says Frampton. The takeaway, in this case, is figuring out how to grow your brand through digital – not just maintain it.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.