SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

No Lunch for You! New Study Says Your Boss Judges You For Taking Lunch Breaks

H.R. expert weighs in on new findings and why the research is so troubling

A recent study has discovered that many employees are afraid to take their lunch breaks. Rather than appear ‘lazy’ before their manager or boss, they opt to skip their appointed lunch break…even though that Gone to Lunchcan have a negative impact on their ability to perform as well as their general mood and well-being.

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert says, “The study found that almost 20 percent of employees are worried their boss judges them when they take a lunch break. 13 percent worry that their coworkers judge them for taking a break.”

And, sadly, Wilson says that these fears are not unfounded.

“The same study found that bosses do indeed judge employees for taking breaks. 22 percent of bosses believe that employees who take regular lunch breaks are not as hard-working as employees who do not, and 34 percent of bosses say that they take into account how often an employee takes lunch breaks when they are evaluating their job performance,” says the Chicago-based president of the employee solutions firm Employco USA.

Unfortunately, says Wilson, this particular management belief (that employees who take lunch breaks are slacking off) can actually be harmful to a company. “Almost 90 percent of employees say that a lunch break makes them feel refreshed and ready to return to work with a clear mind. Other research has borne out the fact that taking breaks is good for an employee’s mood, precision and creative abilities.”

Wilson says it’s time to start changing the way that bosses think about lunch breaks and for managers to step up and start encouraging people to take their lunch breaks every day.

“Don’t think of it as losing money,” says Wilson. “But rather a way to improve your bottom line and retain your staff. A happy, rested employee is an employee who is going to give 100 percent and be a credit to your company.”

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Six Years Later – SBS EOL

Can you believe it – it was six years ago in early July that Microsoft discretely announced the end-of-life for Windows Small Business Server. And the world has never been the same since. Along with you, I certainly have strong opinions on this. Lord knows we hashed out our seven stages of grieving over these six years and, if a recent post-up to the “You Knew You Grew Up With SBS…” group on Facebook is any indicator, several of you still have resentments LOL.

But I really want to simply recognize that six years have passed.

It’s an appropriate time to ask out loud how have you transformed in that period. It’s a big question: Office 365? Azure? AWS? Retired? Took a day job? I’ve heard all of the above and more. I’d like to hear from you. Perhaps you can join the above-mentioned Facebook group and share your “six years later” story for a future blog and/or feel good therapy outlet to just get it all off your chest!

Speaking for myself, I’ve learned to run a much more efficient business that essentially had to recreate itself from the bottom up. As they say in business, if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you do it differently and faster? The answer for me is yes. I’m getting traction with my new niche in analytics but not so much trying to recreate an SBS-like community for Office 365. Different vibe.

erin
Figure 1: A blast from the past – how many of you remember Erin (Bourke-Dunphy) Chapple from the original SBS team in the late 1990s? She started right out of college with SBS and has now gone on to be THE Corporate Vice President for Windows Server (she’s a real executive now). Shown here in her original SBS office circa late 1990s.

Also noteworthy with the arrival of July, we’ve incremented our newsletter to Year 13, Issue 1. That’s because we originally launched our newsletter(s) during July – the month of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) (aka Inspire). And a little-known fact is that this is our 17+-year of publishing as our earlier newsletters had a different name and cadence. If you’d like to learn more about the original “Small Business Best Practices” newsletter from July 15, 2001, click HERE. 

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FEEDBACK! 

Hi, Harry—

                The death of SBS really didn’t affect us much, even though we had basically built our practice around it. Virtualization and Windows Server “1 physical +2 virtual” licensing came onto the scene about the same time, so we simply started setting up a virtual domain controller and a separate virtual Exchange Server on a Hyper-V server (plus additional VMs for other applications if necessary) instead of having it all on one physical box. We don’t miss SBS, really. It was a good value, but it had its headaches, and it often got in the way if you didn’t want to do things its way. Separate VMs for individual roles is really the way to go anyway. Now, if Exchange is a problem, we just get everyone out of Outlook and restart that. If QuickBooks is the problem, we just clear everyone out of QuickBooks and restart that server; we don’t have to get everyone out of everything because one person is having an issue with one application. And we don’t sell cloud as if it were a religion. For those who want it, it’s there. For those who don’t, we are happy to sell on-premises solutions (as long as they still exist; lots of vendors are railroading people into the cloud when they really don’t want to be there, the same way the government railroaded lots of people into the stock market by keeping interest rates pathetic). That said, the message from Microsoft is twofold; first it doesn’t understand small business, and second, it doesn’t care about small business. Its vision is Fortune 500 and then everyone else. If they had eliminated the SBS technical product and replaced it with a SKU for 2 physical licenses for Windows Standard plus 4 VMs plus Exchange and 25 user CALs for everything, at least that would have shown that they understand and care. But we worked around that with our own imaginations.

                I don’t use Facebook myself, so I’m emailing this in case you are interested.

                — Andrew

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5 Multistate Tax Considerations for SMBs

By: Nathan Sykes

As a small business, you’ll eventually be looking at expanding your reach, and that means crossing state lines. The act itself is pretty straightforward — you taxessimply move or open new operations. Of course, it’s more involved than, that but you get the point.

What you’re probably most unprepared for is the multistate taxation system. As soon as your business or organization jumps state lines, this issue becomes a major concern, and one that you’d do well to understand and plan for.

1. What Is Nexus?
Before tax comes into play, you must understand Nexus. It’s also referred to as “sufficient physical presence.” The concept essentially means you’re connected or linked to the region in question, which calls for you to be a suitable contributor to the commonwealth. Any state in which your business has Nexus is a location you can be taxed for.

Step one for any business or professional should be determining Nexus. Generally, it’s defined as where you own or rent property, whether you employ people in a particular state or generate revenue within a state’s boundaries. When a situation is clearly defined, such as you owning a property in another state, it’s easy to determine your status.

It gets tricky, however, when things aren't so clear-cut. For example, you might be hiring a remote worker or employee, visiting a state for some time but earning funds or even dealing with inventory or a warehouse that’s in a different state.

2. Understanding the Interstate Commerce Tax Act
Public Law 86-272, also called the Interstate Commerce Tax Act, dictates the solicitation of sales across state borders. More specifically, an individual state cannot levy income tax on a company or business that performs the solicitation of sales for tangible personal property and nothing more.

But the law itself is remarkably misunderstood and has been altered considerably over the years in regards to what it means. “Solicitation” specifically has been used in many different ways. From the placement of orders to content or item delivery, it can be used differently depending on the court and state in which it’s applied. Because of this, it’s important that either you — as a manager — or your legal team understand the precedent of this law so that you’re not affected by legal traps related to it.

3. Apportionment
Generally, your taxable income is apportioned under either the three-factor formula or single sales factor — more likely the former. However, some states use varying apportionment schemes, which means you’ll have to follow a formula you’re not used to or one that differs considerably from the standard.

This factor is something to keep in mind when dealing with taxable income, so you’ll want to understand the laws and regulations regarding the states in which you do business. If you’re stretched across many boundaries, you’ll want to take the appropriate time reviewing this information before your filing.

4. Credits and Incentives
Tax credits and incentives are great, as they can afford you a little extra capital or revenue to distribute elsewhere. The thing about them, however, is that tax day — or at least the weeks leading up to it — is not the appropriate time to start paying attention to them. Many incentives and credits require you to document and collect proof that you’re eligible, so if you discover them last minute, there's a chance said information might not be readily available.

It’s important to sit down with a financial team and group of legal professionals to identify potential incentives and credits your business can take advantage of over the coming year — for the subsequent tax season.

5. Major Transactions and State Tax
This consideration is especially important for SMBs who are in the process of an acquisition, completing a major transaction of some kind or involved in the sale of a subsidiary.

With federal income tax, issues are ad nauseam. Many focus on the large-scale issues, with state income tax being left by the wayside. This situation is unfortunate because there's always the chance that unexpected or evident state income tax problems will arise as a result of a transaction too. This issue could result in hefty fines or audits later down the line, which are troublesome for major organizations and detrimental for small business.

Pay attention to state tax concerns, especially when working with larger organizations. Don’t expect them to consider all angles, because most of the time, they’re most concerned with federal influence.

Cover Your Bases
The central theme of many of these considerations or potential “issues” is that you should invest the time to understand how tax filings — state and federal — factor into the future of your business. Even a small mistake can result in inordinate fees or lengthy financial audits, which are never helpful or light on overall impact. Even major organizations struggle with the legal ramifications and consequences of poor tax handling. The last thing you want is your SMB suffering simply because you were unaware or unfamiliar with particular regulations and rulings.

If you don’t have the time or resources to invest, then absolutely hire a legal team to handle your tax and resulting finances. You can work with them directly to gain a better understanding, cut down on risk and cost and ensure everything is up to speed.

Joshua Lawrence, a partner at Hodgson Russ, advises, “A number of companies—Avalara and TaxJar are probably the most well-known—specialize in multistate sales tax compliance. They can assist with some of the administrative and practical burdens by automating the determination of tax rates, filing returns, managing exemption records, etc. Such services may also assist in determining the taxability of a company’s transactions.”

He continues, “However, in the case of software and SaaS, where questions of taxability and “sourcing” are often highly fact-dependent and reliant on interpreting case law and rulings, getting the advice of a tax professional, such as an accountant or attorney whose practice includes state and local taxation, is the best way to mitigate the risks associated with misinterpreting state tax laws.”

Staying up to date with state and local tax regulations that will have an effect on your small business is the one of the most important steps in successfully running a business that crosses state lines. Just because your business is small doesn’t mean it can’t have a large outreach, you just need to be aware of the risks and address them correctly.

Bio: Nathan Sykes writes about the latest in business and technology at his blog, Finding an Outlet.

 

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AT&T to launch wireless plans bundled with video after Time Warner win

(Reuters) - AT&T Inc (T.N) will launch two new unlimited wireless plans next week that will be bundled with a new video streaming service called WatchTV, in the company’s first move to pair entertainment with phone service after closing its $85 billion acquisition of media company Time Warner Inc.

 

ATT

FILE PHOTO - An AT&T logo is seen at a AT&T building in New York City, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

The No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier is putting to use Time Warner’s stable of content, including TV channels like TBS and CNN, to drive sales of the wireless plans at a time when carriers have struggled to find growth.

“This is the first step to transforming how content is created, distributed and consumed,” David Christopher, president of AT&T mobility and entertainment, said in an interview.

WatchTV, which will have over 30 live channels but no sports or local news channels, will be free for customers of the new wireless plans. It will cost $15 per month as a standalone product. Customers who sign up for the higher-priced wireless plan can also get HBO for free, the premium TV channel with the hit show “Game of Thrones” that AT&T acquired as part of the Time Warner deal.

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Trump officials roll out new rule for small business health insurance plans

 Insurance

By Tami Luhby, CNN

New York (CNN)The Trump administration is taking the final step Tuesday in its plan aimed at making health insurance policies cheaper for some small businesses.

But the move could weaken some of the Affordable Care Act's consumer protections for those buying these plans and make coverage more expensive for those who remain on the Obamacare exchanges.

The administration is releasing its final rule governing association health plans, which allow small businesses and the self-employed to band together based on their industry or location and buy health insurance. The rule stems from an executive order that Trump signed in October aimed at providing alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, which it is bent on dismantling.

The rule allows association health plans to be regulated in the same way as large employer policies. That would free them from having to adhere to some of Obamacare's rules, particularly the one requiring insurers to offer comprehensive coverage. So these plans would likely have lower premiums, but also provide fewer benefits -- which could leave sicker and older workers out in the cold. Also, the offerings could be less attractive to young women if they don't cover maternity benefits.

Plus, the proposed regulation would allow associations to base an employer's rates on the gender, age and industry of its workers, which could leave firms with many younger men paying less, but those with older workers and women saddled with higher premiums. Currently, the Affordable Care Act bans insurers from basing premiums on gender or industry and limits the amount that can be based on age.

However, plans would not be allowed to set premiums based on workers' health status, which critics of the executive order had feared. It also maintains state regulators' oversight of these policies.

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