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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Have you MAPS CRM IURed?

Let’s face it. Many members of the SMB Nation community are happily situated at the Microsoft Action Pack (MAPS) membership-level inside the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). Fair enough. But did you know that, with the recent June 30/July 1 renewal date, MAPS has a hidden jewel just waiting for your consumption. It’s related to the five (5) Internal Use Rights (IUR) for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition. This is real value and I’m going to share with you my journey, up-to-the-minute as of this writing.

Bekker’s Partner’s Guide
My journey started when I read Scott Bekker’s IUR posting (Bekker is a colleague who works for Redmond Channel Partner magazine). His missive imparted details about the five IUR licenses for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition in MAPS. Prior to that, I hadn’t been aware of this benefit. You can download Bekker’s guide here.

The timing couldn’t have been better for two reasons.

Cost
SMB Nation has 50,000+ contacts as a long-time community. We have migrated over the years from Microsoft CRM 1.2 to NetSuite to Salesforce and back to Microsoft CRM Dynamics 365 on-prem. We have been happily paying $60/seat per month for our licenses. But the MAPS offer is just too juicy to pass up – the IUR licenses (count ‘em – five) are effectively free after you pay your MAPS annual subscription fee of $475. My current annual CRM financial commitment is 3x that amount and only because we conserve our license usage (can’t wait to do more with more licenses!).

Get Appy!
As many readers know, I’ve spread my wings over the past few years playing in Seattle startups in addition to running SMB Nation. At the Big Data startup LeadScorz, we worked with Versium. Fast forward the movie and Versium has a Dynamics 365 app called Predict that provides insights, appends records and intelligence to your CRM contacts, leads and accounts. It has very basic scoring models but the good news is that it’s free. I’ll write more about Predict at a future date but the point is, that with my current Dynamics 365 on-prem implementation, I couldn’t use Predict (it’s only on the cloud-side aka Microsoft Online Services). Ergo – my motivation to conduct the migration asap to my new CRM instance.

Looking Back
First – proper context needed. Here are the exact details of my current CRM instance: (Version 1612 (8.2.2.112) (DB 8.2.2.2.112) on-premises (SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1). While I’m happy with Dynamics 365, I’m wanting to get more appy as per above (plus there are hundreds of more apps to play with). In Figure 1 – you can see my current environment.


Fig1CRM 

Figure 1: This be our existing CRM instance! 

Looking Forward

To level-set, I’m migrating this offering: for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition (Version 9). When I renewed MAPS, and I assigned out a couple of my IUR licenses, I then wanted to “run” my CRM instance but it wasn’t clear at all how to do this. So I filed a service request with Microsoft and worked with a support professional to stand-up my new CRM instance.

SECRET: The key is to select Dynamics 365 via Admin centers on the lower portion of your left-side column in the Microsoft 365 admin center console. You’ll answer questions about production v. sandbox and what module you want to activate. See the results in Figure #2.

Fig2CRM
Figure 2: The instance setup procedure results in the following instance. But there is much more work to be done.

Migration Madness
Initially in my “simple is hard” technology paradigm, I thought I’d just do a lift-and-shift or forklift migration from my existing CRM instance into the new instance. I asked my current CRM hoster to export the database which resulted in the following files seen in Figure 3.

Fig3 current crm databases
Figure 3: My current CRM database files exceed 10GB.


But after researching this lift-and-shift migration approach and consulting with the fine people on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM group (Facebook), it was none other than SMB Nation fan Julie Yack who educated me that this is both a migration and an upgrade (plus we have limited customizations).
So it’s been a “back to the drawing boards” circular reference as I’m trying to complete this work over the long 4th of July holiday week/weekend when the private sector is napping. Another call with Microsoft support suggested I output my existing database to an Excel file so it can be imported into my new CRM instance. I’m in the process of doing that now with these steps in my existing CRM instance:


• Select data area (e.g. Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, Reports, Marketing Lists, etc.)
• Select Funnel (advanced find) in upper right
• Select Edit Columns, Click OK
• Select Add columns
• Select ALL COLUMNS by clicking the checkbox next to Display Name
• Click OK
• Click OK
• Click Results (this can take a long time to run)
• Click Export Accounts
• Select Dynamic Worksheet
• Select Export on the Edit Columns dialog

Then – in theory – I’d import the contacts, et al into the new CRM instance. Read “even I could do it!” But I have hit a time-out condition/error because of the number of contacts I have, etc. See Figure 4.

Fig4 error exporting accounts to dynamic excel spreadsheet

Figure 4: I can’t export 50,000 contacts successfully at once – one person has told me I’ll have to do smaller exports (think letters A-J; K-S; T-Z).

And there you have it. I’m at mid-point in my migration trading notes with Yack to successfully land this migration!

In my next blog, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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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. 

# # # 

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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10 Easy Ways to Convert B2B Lead with Blogging

Lead generation is absolutely crucial to your business. Lead generation is the practice of finding and drawing in potential customers to your business. There are a variety of ways to do this including via social media or even investing in certain tools that can help you generate leads.

One way you can easily generate leads without stepping outside blog keyof your website or investing in any expensive tools is to work through your own blog. In this article, we are going to look at 10 of the easiest ways for you to convert B2B leads through your blog.

1. Make Your Blog Similar to Your Website

The Problem: If someone is landing on your blog, they may never click over to your homepage. Or, even worse, they might find your blog and your homepage separately and not realize your the company that’s been giving them quality content for months.

The Solution: Connect your blog and website. Of course, on your blog you would ideally have ample links to your homepage but that isn’t always enough. At the most basic level, your blog and main website design should be the same. By using the same colors and themes, you create a visual correlation that allows visitors to either or both pages quickly recognize that they are working within the same company when they switch between pages.

You should also, both for correlation in visitor’s eyes and for SEO purposes, link your blog and main website technically. For example, the URL for many website’s blogs is a subdomain rather than their own. This means instead of completely unique URL for the blog, the blog would have a URL like blogname.websitename.com.

2. Use a Call to Action

The Problem: Most people stumble onto blogs the first time because they asked a search engine a question and your blog was one of the initial choices to hold the answer. So, they often go onto your blog, get the answer they need, and then leave. Unfortunately, while this increases your traffic, you haven’t really drawn in a potential customer meaning you haven’t generated a lead.

The Solution: When you are writing your blog’s content, use calls to action. These are sentences inserted in your content - usually near the end of a blog post - that prompt readers to do more that get the answers they need then click away.

A good example of a call to action is when you see a webpage or blog post that says something such as “call now!” or “visit our website today!”

3. Use Prompts

The Problem: As we noted before, you might have a lot of traffic but few leads through your blog. This is because many people come to your blog for a specific question and leave once they get the answer they need. This is an obvious problem because while they may use your content, they won’t participate in your B2B sales.

The Solution: It won’t always work but one method that many websites use is to prompt visitors to enter their email address. Usually, they are promised deals or updates in return for this information. What this does in reference to generating you leads, though, is that it opens up dialogue with the visitor of your website and creates the potential for their visit to your blog to become a purchase through your company.

4. Stay Updated

The Problem: Once you have a reader hooked on your blog, they are more likely to visit the rest of your website and partake in your services. However, if you stop posting on your blog, they have less of a reason to visit it regularly, and eventually they will forget about your blog.

The Solution: The solution to this is rather simple - just keep posting! Even if you are a smaller company with a smaller following, try to keep your blog updated on a regular basis. If you don’t want to lose readers, keep them interested with content that is meaningful and consistent.

5. Have Internal Links

The Problem: As we stated earlier in the article, a problem can arise when people visit your blog but don’t visit your website in turn. Obviously, this is a problem because while a lot of traffic on your blog is good, a lack of traffic on your main website doesn’t help your B2B leads.

The Solution: Before, we stated that you can help this by linking your website and blog technically and aesthetically. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to link to your main website either. This is also a great way to connect readers to specific pages of your website rather than just sending them to your homepage.

6. Create a Content Library

The Problem: Sometimes, when people come to your site looking for a specific answer, they don’t stick around for the full experience of your blog. As such, they don’t have the time to get invested in or attached to your content.

The Solution: Create a content library. You can make a main database where people can browse through your content but your best bet isn’t to stop there. In addition, consider having a “similar content” section on your blog posts. If you suggest other, relevant content to your readers right away, they are more likely to click around your site and get invested. This, paired with tactics like backlinks to your main website and calls to action, will get you more leads.

7. Use Your Blog as Conversation

The Problem: The problem that many businesses - especially small businesses - have is that they don’t know exactly what their customers want or need. In addition, even if they do, it can take a little convincing to prove to customers that they are your first priority, not just turning a profit.

The Solution: Use your blog as a method of conversation with your readers. Make sure that you reply to their comments on posts and answer every time they fill out a “contact us” form. By doing this, you are hearing what your potential customers are looking for and you are making sure they feel heard and cared about when they contact you.

8.Remember to Utilize Headlines

The Problem: Stepping away from some of the other problems that we’ve looked at in this article, there is the issue of people not clicking on your content at all. This, of course, is an issue. This is because while traffic doesn’t always contribute to leads, you can’t have leads if you don’t have any traffic.

The Solution: One way to try and counteract this is to have eye-catching headings. There are a few different ways to do this - many writers choose to pose a question. However, you should avoid anything misleading or clickbait-worthy. If someone clicks on your article only to be disappointed by the content, your only going to lose potential leads.

9. Utilize SEO

The Problem: This is a repeat of the problem when we looked at headlines. To repeat, though, it can be difficult to generate leads through your blog if you aren’t even drawing in readers.

The Solution: Try to utilize SEO techniques in your content. If you don’t know what this is, SEO stands for search engine optimization. You can do this in a variety of ways such as inserting keywords into your content and making sure your site is user-friendly and loads quickly. The main idea behind this is to rank as highly on a search engine when someone searches a term that is related to your business.

10. Don’t Get Away From Your Customers

The Problem: As we have looked at a lot in this article, there can be a problem when visitors come to your website and only stick around long enough to get the answers they need. However, you can have a problem if you are so focused on generating leads that you forget to deliver meaningful content.

The Solution: The last thing you want to do is to get away from the content that brought new readers to your blog in the first place. So, while you want to implement these lead-generating practices, you don’t want to sacrifice quality content. After all, you can’t gain leads if you aren’t even gaining traffic.

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