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Oct 30, 2014

Fostering Good Relationships in the Workplace

Earlier this week, rumors were swirling that a rift between Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and team management might cause the team to trade Lynch before the end of the year. While coach Pete Carroll has since denied those rumors, some still believe Lynch may not be a Seahawk next season. 

Whether the reports are true or not, it still points to the importance of fostering good relationships in the workplace. Liking the people you work with can make the difference between loving your job and dreading it. Here are three things every small business owner must know about creating a positive work environment:

  • Encourage open communication. One of the best ways to nurture good relationships is to make employees feel valued and heard. Encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas, and when possible, implement their concepts. Knowing they can make a difference will inspire them to put their best work forward.
  • Spread a positive, can-do attitude. Just like a cold, your energy can and does spread to others. Emit a negative aura, and you can bet teammates will pick up on it and internalize it, even subconsciously. On the flip side, by being positive and energetic, your employees will take your cues and align their emotional states for the better. Just be sure to maintain authenticity and don’t sacrifice honesty for a ‘brave face.’ 
  • Pitch in. We’ve all had those bosses who seemed off limits behind closed doors. But some of the best leaders are ones who are accessible and willing to roll up their sleeves to get the job done. Be that type of leader, and your employees will respect you even more.
How do you build a collaborative team environment in your business? Let us know in the comments section. 

Oct 29, 2014

FitBit Enters Smart Watch Market

Shortly after Apple unveiled its Apple Watch a few weeks ago, Fitbit announced that it, too, will enter the world of smart watches. The company introduced three new wrist-based activity trackers — the $249.95 Fitbit Surge, $129.95 Fitbit Charge and $149.95 Fitbit Charge HR.

The most notable of the watches is the Fitbit Surge, which features eight sensors and can track its wearer’s location with GPS — a great asset for runners. The wearable technology can also monitor pace, distance, elevation, calories burned, quality of sleep and more. In addition, using LED lights that reflect off skin, the devices can detect changes in blood volume, tracing your continuous heart rate.

Users can see information on a backlit LCD screen, as well as through accompanying apps on iOS, Android and Windows phones. Fitbit Surge also syncs with your nearby phone, allowing users to control music functions and see who’s calling.

The Fitbit Surge and Charge HR won’t be available until 2015, but the standard Fitbit Charge, which lacks GPS but offers many of the same monitoring capabilities as Surge, is available now. 

Whether you’re a small business owner on the go or an aspiring entrepreneur, the new FitBits can help you reach your fitness goals to stay healthy for success in entrepreneurial endeavors.

Oct 28, 2014

Scarier Than Ebola: Preventing the Flu in Your Office

Senior Financing Consultant Steve Nilssen gets his flu shot.
Influenza season is almost here, and while it’s been overshadowed by Ebola this year, that doesn’t make preventing it any less important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year. Of that, 200,000 require hospitalization, and anywhere from 3,000 – 50,000 have died in a given year — a much larger number than Ebola thus far.

Similar to the initial signs of Ebola, flu symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle pain and fatigue. Nausea and vomiting may also be present. The flu season typically begins in the fall and peaks in January or February.

Since flu spreads easily through close contact or touch, it’s especially important to take steps to avoid the disease in an office setting. Aside from washing hands on a regular basis, the best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccine as soon as it’s available. Whether it’s in shot form or nasal spray, these vaccines prevent against viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season. Typically, that includes two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and an influenza B virus. 

If you’re a small business owner, keep your office running smoothly by encouraging employees to get a flu vaccine this year. Here at Guidant, we brought a nurse into our office yesterday to administer flu shots. Other places to get a vaccine include doctor’s offices, pharmacies and walk-in clinics. In some communities, public places, such as libraries are even offering them. Check your local bulletin to see where flu vaccines are available in your area. Many are covered under common insurance plans.

Oct 27, 2014

New Light Shed on Retirement Status in America

Last week we celebrated National Save for Retirement Week, dedicated to educating people on the importance of planning for their golden years. Unfortunately, just as that week came to a close, new survey results revealed that middle-class American adults aren’t saving enough to survive in retirement. 

The survey, which polled 1,001 adults age 25 – 75, exposed that employees had an average of $20,000 saved for retirement. On top of that, one-third of Americans didn’t contribute to a retirement savings plan at all, and those who did only put aside $125 per month. As a result, 50 percent of middle-class adults in their 50s said they’d have to work until they were 80 to make up for lack of savings. 

Ironically, on the heels of those results, the IRS announced last week that it would raise annual contribution limits for retirement plans to account for cost-of-living inflation. The updated limits will increase annual rates by $500 to $18,000 for 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the Thrift Savings Plan. The catch-up contribution limit for those over age 50 also increased from $5,500 to $6,000.

Experts say you’ll need at least 70 percent of your annual income to live comfortably in retirement — far more than just $20,000. And believe it or not, those retirement savings can be used to invest in more than just a nest egg. Through an arrangement called Rollovers for Business Start-ups, you could use the funds to invest in a small business or franchise of your choice, allowing you to take control of your future and your retirement.

Check out our blog post on a few ways you can start saving for retirement.

Oct 24, 2014

3 Guidant Clients Achieve Their Goals of Business Ownership

Join us in congratulating three more of our clients who left their corporate jobs to join the world of small business ownership. 

Wade Yarbrough’s background is rooted in mathematics and entrepreneurship; his mother was a geometry teacher and his father owned a business that taught him the ropes of the trade. When he was presented with the opportunity to buy an existing Mathnasium franchise in North Carolina, he knew it was the perfect step to take charge of his career. He only wishes he’d done it years ago. Read more of Yarbrough’s story in his press release

For Dr. Iris Hunter, her career is an extension of her life’s work. She was employed for 20 years in the non-profit sector, and as a new FirstLight HomeCare franchise owner, she continues to serve others. “I believe that [this] is my mission work,” she said of her new position as business owner. See how Hunter financed her career move with her 401(k) in this press release

Finally, Ben Drew has always loved the idea of building a business from scratch. An avid runner, he left his career in the banking industry to establish a specialty running store — Run On Hudson Valley. He calls the experience of business ownership “liberating” and hopes his store will serve as a resource to his fellow runners. He’s already off to a good start, as his business was recently featured in the community blog Everything Croton. Check out Drew’s press release to learn more about his store.

Oct 23, 2014

5 Business Industries That Will Thrive This Winter

Last winter was filled with snow and extreme cold temperatures for many U.S. cities. As we round the corner into the dark season yet again, experts are predicting another harsh winter, especially for the East Coast and Southern states. According to Accuweather, the mid-Atlantic region will be subject to high amounts of snow and ice for the second year in a row, while some Southern states may experience higher-than-normal ice threats. 

In light of such bleak predictions, there’s still good news to be had for seasonal small businesses. Here are five of the industries that can expect to experience an increase in sales this winter:

  • Auto repair. With snow, ice and freezing rain comes slick road conditions and an increase in fender benders. While it’s bad news for drivers, small businesses who fix the damage to cars will do well this winter. Similarly, tow trucks that take broken cars to the shop will also see an increase in demand. 
  • Snow removal services. Seeing snow cover your driveway is thrilling when you’re in grade school, but for adults who spend hours shoveling, it can be a painful experience. Home owners and even business owners will call on plowing companies to clear paths for them so they don’t have to lift a finger.
  • Gyms. Exercising outside when it’s 15 degrees can be extremely uncomfortable and less than motivational. Those committed to staying fit during the winter will flock to gyms, where they can meet their exercise goals without risking frostbite.
  • Coffee shops. A hot drink on a cold day can warm the heart and soul. As the weather gets chillier, coffee and tea shops would be wise to stock up on mugs and seating to accommodate those wanting to get warm. Free wi-fi will also be a big draw for households that experience power outages due to the bad weather.
  • Sporting goods stores. Whether it’s a child’s snow suit or a skier’s heavy-duty coat, stores that sell outerwear and winter sports equipment will prosper as people prepare to spend time in cold temperatures.

Oct 22, 2014

It’s National Save for Retirement Week: 4 Ways You Can Prepare

With the cost of living rising and the average life expectancy getting longer, many Americans don’t have enough in their nest egg to cover their golden years without making significant cutbacks. In fact, more than half of all American workers have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments; in some states, that wouldn’t even cover one year’s worth of living expenses.  

In an effort to educate the public on the importance of saving for retirement, this week has been deemed National Save for Retirement Week. Here are a few ways you can prepare for life after career:

  • Calculate your retirement needs. Experts say you’ll need at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living.
  • Start saving early. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be when you reach retirement age.
  • Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan. Automatic deductions make it easy, plus your taxable income will be lower and your employer may match what you contribute.
  • Don’t take a taxable distribution. Withdrawing from your retirement savings early triggers a hefty tax penalty, meaning you’ll lose a chunk of what you worked so hard to save.
If you’re interested in starting your own business, though, there’s a way you can leverage your retirement funds before you reach retirement age. Through an arrangement called Rollovers for Business Start-ups, you can invest up to 100 percent of your retirement funds in a small business or franchise without triggering a taxable distribution. Take five minutes to see if you’re eligible for this alternative form of small business financing now. 
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