by Attorney Carl E. Person
Office and Telephone Consultations Are Free
Carl E. Person, Attorney at Law
325 W. 45th Street - Suite 201
New York, NY 10036-3803
Tel: (212) 307-4444
Fax: (212) 307-0247
Copyright © 1994 by Carl E. Person. Permission is given for non-commercial users to send a copy of the data processing file for this work by electronic means to a specific individual for his or her own use, and then only if the entire file is sent, including this copyright notice, but no permission is given for anyone to copy or transmit this file for or to any person for public viewing or downloading. It is intended by the author of this work that the work shall be made available in electronic fo rm only through LawMall.
The purpose of this booklet is not what you think - to make a profit for the writer or to enable you the reader to earn more money than you are now earning. Yes, the booklet should do both of these things. But the underlying purpose is to be able to tra in persons to work for small business, so that I and other small-business employers don't have to train you at our own expense. This training (through understanding the matters discussed in this booklet) will enable you to be of significant help to small business, which will help me and other small businesspersons prosper.
Many of us cannot prosper because of the failure of our school systems to train people to work for small business. Thus, we as small businesspersons are forced into either (a) conducting a training program for new employees, only to see the employees go elsewhere for money after they have been trained at the businessperson's expense; or (b) don't hire any employees (or hire fewer employees), which is why many small businesses don't and can't grow.
This booklet is a training program for persons who want to work for and prosper from small business.
There are many things you must know, which small businesspersons don't have the time to teach you when you are working for the business.
Accordingly, by reading and understanding this booklet, and applying the principles to your career in small business, you will become a highly valuable employee of small business, and no doubt go on to become a partner of the business (or another), or bec ome the founder and owner of your own small business.
Enough with the reason that this booklet has been written. I just want you to know that what is offered is the result of more than 25 years' experience in small businesses of various types, including the practice of law as an individual (sole) practition er.
By reading this book carefully, and applying its teachings, you will be able to understand what motivates a small businessperson, which will give you the insight into what is being asked of you, even if the small-business owner doesn't have the time to te ll you these things himself/herself.
This understanding is the key to your success. If you can give me what I need as a small businessperson, you are going to be very valuable to me, and I will reward you appropriately, because it is good business to do so, and because I don't want to lose you.
I'm really putting the cart before the horse, but I want you to know that there are things you can do to obtain employment with small business when competing with many others for the same position.
The key is to let the prospective employer know that you are aware of the things he/she needs from you, and that you are quite willing (if not even a little bit anxious) to do these things. I'll let you know the key thing later on in this book which is v irtually irresistible when heard by the interviewing employer. As long as you appear (and should be) honest in your expression of the key phrase to the prospective employer, and know how to develop the concept, it seems very difficult for the employer no t to put your resume on the top of the list.
Businesses don't generally categorize themselves in their classified employment opportunities advertising. You have to know how to read the ads to figure out whether the job is being offered by small business or something else.
If you see a well-known company name, the chances are about 99% that the company is not a small business. Also, if the employer is a government agency, then obviously the agency is not a small business. A cautionary note, however, is that within large c ompanies and governmental agencies you might well have small, independent divisions which function similar to a small business. You might well wish to consider opportunities with such divisions or agencies.
The main way to read the classified advertising, however, is to see the extent to which the job is specialized and limited. The more limiting the job, the larger the employer, is a general rule you can follow. If you see an ad seeking an assistant, admi nistrative assistant or other job reciting a variety of different tasks to be performed, you are probably dealing with a small business or someone who is a manager of a division.
Another sign is salary. Small business is more apt to pay less than big business or a government agency. This doesn't mean that small business is not the place to work. It means that small business needs someone like you to help make it grow, so that y our salary can be increased substantially, beyond what could be paid in a large company for persons with your experience.
When looking for other employment, you have to do what is best for yourself, and take the consequences of your employer into account. Try to avoid leaving the employer in the lurch. But also protect yourself by not giving any signs that you are looking for a job (because the employer may worry about what you plan to take when you leave and terminate you on the spot, leaving you in a financial plight).
I have seen the signs over the years, which are calls from someone name "Marie" or "Joseph", please call back right away. These probably are guarded calls from employment agencies trying to arrange for an interview. When I see these signs, I recognize t hat the employee is going to leave. Some employers may decide to fire at that point. So be careful and figure out a better way of maintaining contact.
When showing up for an interview, dress for the part. Don't show up in blue jeans, for example. Overdress rather than underdress. Be prompt, after all the first impression you make may well be decisive. The small-business employer is seeking a person who is responsible and reliable, and by showing up late for this important interview, it is clear to the interviewer than you lack both traits and really don't care whether you get the job or not. Obviously, you should not be offered the job unless your overpowering personality and knowledge of what the employer is seeking is strong enough to overcome your late arrival.
Don't tell the prospective employer that you are interested in benefits (for there may not be any), and don't say that you will only be using this job as a stepping stone, and intend to leave when something better comes along. Also, don't give the impres sion that you will be dissatisfied and unable to live on the salary which is offered. If you have to have more than the amount mentioned, you should state why you have to have such amount, and hope that the employer agrees with you, which he might. He m ay have misjudged the marketplace because, as a small businessperson, he/she might not be keeping up with current salary levels.
Don't tell the employer that you are going to have a second job, and that you have $60,000 in student loans to pay off and that you are saddled with the medical expenses of your two crippled parents. The employer is heartless but he/she doesn't want to be burdened with your problems. He/she has enough problems already.
The interviewer (who will be the owner of the business, or someone very close to that person) would like to believe, from what you say, that you are understanding of his/her problems and that you are going to dedicate yourself to helping him/her solve tho se problems, and free up the small businessperson to do other, more important things.
Also, don't tell the interviewer that you expect to work 9 to 5 with every weekend and numerous holidays off. Small business requires more than 9 to 5 and if you want to succeed in small business, as in many other situations, you must apply yourself beyo nd the nominal working hours of 9 to 5. You'll find that you will want to complete a task even if it requires you to stay late. You might tell the interviewer this, saying that this will enable you to start on a new project first thing at the start of t he next day.
Understand and be prepared to talk about priorities, long-range goals and short-range strategies to reach the goals. You'll learn about many things in this booklet which will be of interest to your prospective employer, and you might even refer to the booklet and suggest that it would be a good thing for his/her other (if any) employees to read. This would make you app ear, to the interviewer, to be a team player to maximize profits in his/her business even though in doing so you are increasing the value and competition of your (prospective) co-employees.
If you prevail, and I'm confident that you will, more quickly than persons who haven't read this booklet, you may be offered a contract. Or maybe you will not be offered a contract.
New York is an "at will" state, meaning that you can be fired at will if you have no contractual protection, other than for any unlawful employment discrimination (and possibly other than for certain types of whistleblowing, which is rarely protected, I s hould quickly point out). Thus, be prepared not to have any contractual protection.
The small-business employer has various reasons that he/she may not want to give you a contract. One of them is the lack of money to assure that there is sufficient money to pay you and keep the business going for the duration of the contract. The busin essperson may want to keep his/her options open and be able to terminate your employment if things are getting rough financially, or if you don't work out, or if you can't get along with the owner's spouse or paramour.
On the other hand, you may be able to obtain an employment contract, which you would want to have in writing, rather than oral, but you might suggest that you prepare a simple one-page agreement for him/her to review. This will enable the employer to avo id legal fees, and the one-page feature makes it appear that you will be writing it yourself, when in fact you should have your lawyer prepare it for you, but making it look like you prepared it.
You would want to have the length of your employment, what your job is to be, the salary, that the contract may be terminated for cause (a provision for the employer), that you will agree not to compete within a 1-mile radius for a 2-year period after ter mination of your employment (another provision for the employer), that you will hold in confidence whatever trade secrets you learn from your employer or while on the job - let your lawyer discuss this one with you before using it); that any inventions re lating to the employer's business belong to the employer (also, discuss this provision with your employer). Basically, try to get a contract of a certain number of years' duration but give the employer certain protections in return.
Let's get down to some basic things. You must realize that small business and big business are miles away from each other. Let me try to list some of the main ways:
Earlier I mentioned the "key" which will enable you to get the job. As I see it, the key is the employer's time.
Take me, for example. I am a small business person. My most valuable asset is my time. I only have so many hours per day to spend doing what I choose to do, which is a wide variety of things, such as writing this booklet, sending a fax to the editor of a newspaper, trying a case in court, inventing some type of data-processing system, repairing a broken computer; purchasing, installing and fooling around with Prodigy, Genie or CompuServe software; answering the telephone; settling a case; arranging for a deposition, pay some bills; type some letters; make some photocopies; make a few calls; order some supplies; talking with prospective clients; talking with current clients; doing non-legal research in various libraries or databases.
I spend one hour each day recording what I have done that day (so I can bill clients for the work done) and deciding what I need to do the following day, in order of priority. Thus, at the end of the day, I have to take time off to sit back and list what specifically I want to get done tomorrow, in the order in which I want to do these things.
Sometimes I have 30 items on the list, and obviously I recognize that I won't have the time to do all that I have to do.
I (and every other small business person) wonder what it would be like to have someone who could do a significant part of my varied list. I don't have the time to do all of these things, nor do I have the time to teach anyone to do all of these things (e specially if the person is going to leave me for greener pastures in a few months or within several years). Accordingly, I just do the things myself, and try to become as efficient as I can in doing all that I do.
But, I muse, it would be nice to have a versatile person working for me who could do some of the things that I have to do every day.
This is where you come in. Just tell me in a believable way that you can help me out and do some of these things for me. To be believable and workable, you are going to have to convince me that you can learn how to do many of these things without requiring me to teach you, that you can either do some of these things right now, or that you can learn without involving any sig nificant time on my part. If you recognize that I have a very busy schedule (often 18 hours or more per day), you will realize that I don't have the time to act as a teacher for my employee(s).
This creates the problem for the small businessperson and his/her employee(s) that the employee often has nothing to do because the employer has no time to explain what should be done next.
For example, if I am busy in a meeting, or at trial, or on the telephone with an actual or prospective client, I do not want to interrupt these events to show my employee how to do something. I as a businessperson have decided (without telling my employ ee) that I don't want to interrupt what I'm doing to give my employee work which is there, but which he/she is unable to do without some startup direction.
The employee should not take offense. What I would want, however, is for the employee to have a backlog of work which he/she can do, which will require the employee to find time when I am available, in advance, and not to wait until I cannot be reached. This requires forethought on the employee's part.
My reasoning is that I am spending my time trying to maximize the money I make, and that the employee's time is expendable and low cost in comparison to my prospects with the work which I determine I must do.
The message to the employee is to be self sufficient, learn how to do more things, learn how to learn without any significant involvement on my part. This can be done by observing what I do, and listening to what I say.
For example, when making photocopies, I want each of the copies to be checked for clarity, correct page positioning, any blank sheets eliminated, the pages tapped down neatly, with the correct type of staples placed in a specific place.
Also, I want the employee to know how to cure copier jams. Most of what I want someone to learn is relatively easy. It's only the vast number of things which have to be done which is difficult, and alawmallost impossible for me to be a teacher of these skills in light of the fact that the employee will not stay with me for more than several months or several years.
There are ten million employers, I believe, who would be willing to hire a person who could save the employer (or me) perhaps 3-5 hours per day. Such a person is very valuable and could obtain compensation of perhaps $600 per week to start, even to many small businesses, if the employee is as good as represented.
I could make a hell of a lot more than $600 per week if I had an assistant who could save me 3-5 hours per day. I might have an increase of 20-30% in my income by reason of having such an assistant. Alas, there is no such person because there are no tra ining programs of which I am aware. I tried to start such a training program, but the bureaucracy took its toll and I had to close down the school before the training program got started.
A description of the "Personal Assistant Training Program" is annexed as Appendix A at the end of this booklet. This booklet is an effort to give an overview of what the program itself would teach.
Perhaps you now can answer my question to you, "What is Your Most Valuable Asset?" The answer is, from my standpoint, the ability to save my time, and the amount of such time you can save.
You may have a brilliant personality, a beautiful or handsome appearance, a relative who is a movie star, a diploma from Bronx Science and a degree from Harvard, but if you don't know how to save my time, you are less than worthless to me. You are a majo r liability. You could cause me to lose the valuable time I do have available.
If, on the other hand, you can save 3-5 hours of my time per day, you are a very valuable asset to me, one which I would like to save (by proper treatment and compensation) and prosper from, by making more money with the time I have freed up.
I described a typical day at pages 6-7 above. How much of these matters could you help me out with. Obviously, you cannot try the case, but many of thing listed items are things which you could do for me.
One of the main problems is getting the information upon which you can act. When I am the only person who can find the telephone number of the client, then I make the call.
It's faster that way. When I am the only person who can operate the word processing equipment, then I type the letter. When I'm the only one who can use the laserjet printer to print out an envelope, then I print out the envelope. It seems that much of what I do is something which a new employee cannot do, and my willingness to spend valuable time teaching someone how to tie his/her shoes is very little. If a person can't learn how to use the copier on his/her own, then I just don't have the time to t each the person.
This is the trap that many small businesspersons are in, including myself. And if you recognize this trap, and figure out how to deal with it, you should be highly employable by small business.
After you get the job, you might try to break down the tasks of your employer, to indicate the things you can do with just a little bit of prior assistance or training, and the things which you cannot do at the present time (but which would be "work in pr ogress" for you to try to learn, if you want to maximize the number of hours you can save each day for your employer.
Tell yourself truthfully, if I (as your assumed employer) asked you to go to Macy's and buy me some underwear, what would be your own internal reaction? And what would you say to me?
Let me clue you in on something, which you should remember as one of the main points in this book.
I work 18 hours per day, and some of the hours are spent doing "personal" things and some are spent doing cognizable "business" things, but all of them are things which I have to get done during the day, and each of these things takes up some of my time. If you want to be of help to me in saving my time, and especially since you can't try any of the cases I have to try, or make any of the court appearances I have to make, there are some things which you can help me out on, and even if some of them happen to be "personal", you are failing in your job (to save my time) if you refuse to do the personal errand; you are making a big mistake because I'll remember that you refused to do this and later on you will cease being my employee, at a time that suits my convenience rather than yours; and you are losing the opportunity of making more money for me and for yourself.
The idea that you shouldn't be doing personal things has no meaning in a small-business context. I might need you to pick up my car, buy a newspaper (because I want to see what movies are playing and whether my client's trial is being reported - what dif ference does it make to you, whether my purpose is personal or not; besides, I have to read the newspaper as part of my business activities.
But, I don't want to have to make apologies to you for paying you your salary. I just would like you to do whatever I want, without question, and trust me to do the right thing.
I don't distinguish on my list between personal and business items. I merely have things to do, and I want someone to help me do as many of them as possible. You should have the same attitude, and do what is needed. The benefit is that I (or any other small businessperson) will be able to maximize his/her income and profits, and be able to pay you what you are worth. The deal is right so don't worry about this "personal" and "business" distinction.
In big business, when the "personal" work is done, the salary is being paid by someone other than the manager for whom the personal work is done, which is the reason that "personal" services are frowned upon in big business. But in small business, it's a ll part of the mix and must be done by someone, and I would rather have most of the personal things done by someone other than myself. If you develop the right attitude for small business, you can make a lot of money.
The main reason, I believe, that it is difficult for a small businessperson to hire a suitable personal assistant is the proliferation of technology, with competitive variations, which makes it impossible for a businessperson to obtain an employee who is familiar with the technology that the businessperson works with every day.
Let me illustrate what I mean by giving you some of the technology that I work with every day: (i) Ventura publisher; (ii) Microsoft Word; (iii) Microsoft Windows; (iv) MS-Dos; (v) Foxbase or fox Pro; (vi) Lotus 1-2-3; (vii) CompuServe; (viii) WinFaxPro; (ix) ProComm; (x) Norton's Disk Doctor; (xi) Jumbo backup system of Colorado Memory Systems, Inc.; (xii) Lexis; (xiii) Nexus.
How many of these are you familiar with?
If you work for me, you should become familiar with most of them, and do so on your own, although I would explain how you can use the learning programs provided with the software or equipment.
I had to learn all of these things on my own. And you should be able to do so too, and if you do, you will become very valuable and you can make a lot of money.
Years ago a person merely had to learn how to type, and the skill was interchangeable as to all brands of typewriters. But this is no longer the case. I cannot sit down with any old word processing program and do what I have to do. I have to study the manual for awhile to figure out the main things I need to know, then I can start working, but more slowly. There is a learning curve for each item, and I am up to speed as to each of the items as to the things I need to use such items for. I would want my assistant to take over many of these functions from me, but he/she could only do so after becoming familiar with the equipment and software.
I know this, and therefore I give preference to a person who is computer literate, because such person will already know some of the software and equipment, and will have an easier time picking up the rest.
This means, I hope you realize, that you are better off in your job search if you have some computer literacy. I would suggest that you buy an old computer (if you can't afford a more modern one), such as an IBM XT or clone, or 286, which are worth only $200-$500, and could be bought for a lot less at auction. (Read The New York Times each Sunday in the back of the classified advertising section (Section 10) for the auctions which are to be held during the forthcoming week. You will be able to buy an i nexpensive computer at one of such auctions. (See if you can buy the manuals too.) You might want to hire someone for a few dollars ($25 to $100) to get the equipment going, and to teach you some basics, and show you what learning software is available.
I have a van which is parked in NYC and anytime I want to use the van I have to spend time to go to the parking lot and pick up the van, and then return to the office. The amount of time is about 30-45 minutes. I would like my assistant to have a driver 's license and be willing to do this task for me without any problems of attitude. It's all part of the mix, as I like to say. Actually, I would prefer doing this job myself, just to take a break, but a good assistant might insist upon doing it, so that I don't waste my time.
There are also the time-consuming other details which must be done, such as vehicle inspection, annual or biannual registration, and insurance, together with evidences of same. My assistant should keep track of these things so that I always have a regist ered, inspected and insured vehicle.
Also, the vehicle has to be brought in for maintenance and repair from time to time, which the assistant should do, instead of me.
Finally, there are various errands which may require the vehicle to be used by the assistant, such as the meeting of a client or relative at the airport, or the rush delivery of papers for signature to another borough of Manhattan.
Communications come into my office in various ways, but the main ways are mail, telephone, fax, hand-delivery, federal-express type, and walk in (which is minimal). I can usually handle the walk-in and "paper" type of communication, but the telephone com munication requires a little bit of organization.
As to incoming calls, I need to have a message taken on an appropriate form or log as to each call to tell me (in legible handwriting) (i) the identity of the caller; (ii) the date and time of the call; (iii) the message; (iv) the person called (which in a one-person office would represent no problem); and (v) the telephone number, including area code, of the caller.
To me, each of these requirements is obvious. If the messages are not kept in a log or on a quickly recognizable form, I'm apt not to see the message as quickly as I should see it, which could cause me to miss an important appointment, for example. The l egibility requirement means legibility to me, not you. I have to be able to read your writing, so write carefully, and make sure that you have taken down the name and telephone number correctly, even repeating the spelling and numbers to the caller to ve rify them. The messages should be complete, especially when a message in fact is given, and not just "please call". In one instance the clerk of a judge called me and said that the judge wanted me to be in his courtroom within the hour, but the message merely said judge wants to see me. I failed to be in his courtroom within the hour, which could have been disastrous for the client involved (but thankfully was not).
In any event, I must have care taken of my telephone calls, some are of critical importance and others are not, and a new employee cannot tell the difference and shouldn't try to tell the difference.
Standing instructions: I may wish to give standing instructions as to certain callers and types of calls: For example, I do not want to talk to any salespersons who are trying to sell me something; I don't want to talk with Joe Jones, Gary Geek and Lind a Lobster (all fictitious names).
Also, if I am not in the office, I don't want my whereabouts disclosed. For example, if you tell every caller that I'm not in today, I'm in Omaha, Nebraska. One of the callers might be my opponent in a case where a key witness lives in Omaha, and you wo uld be giving away the fact that I was meeting or attempting to meet with the witness or someone he/she knows. So, the best thing is not to divulge where I have gone or for how long, unless I tell you otherwise.
Also, many small-business persons don't want to talk with creditors or bill collectors, but a small-business persons would ordinarily want (or even be anxious) to talk with persons who owe money to him/her.
The way you answer a telephone may be important to the small businessperson, and you should learn how he/she wants the telephone answered. In many cases, the same incoming lines are used for different business/professional activities involving different names. For example, a lawyer who runs a real estate company might have the same telephone lines servicing both activities. Instead of saying "Law Offices of Joe Jones and Jones Real Estate", the better practice is to say the last 4 numbers of the teleph one number, such as "4444". This is a tip-off to the caller that the person answering the telephone is unable to use a single business name to answer the telephone, but it also hides the names of the various activities from the caller who is dealing with only one of the activities. This is much better than telling the caller each of the businesses which your employer is in. Disclosure of each of the businesses in which your employer is engaged, will cause some persons to avoid doing business with your employer. It seems unfair, since large companies engage in many different types of businesses and this seems to be a benefit instead of a detriment.
As to outgoing calls, you should learn how to look up telephone numbers of persons or companies which you requested to call. If you don't know how to look up the numbers of my clients, you are forcing me to stop and look up the number myself, and if I do that much, it's alawmallost easier for me to dial the number while I have it in mind than to find a piece of blank paper, and a pen, and write the number down together with the name of the person to be called, and then hand it to you, then wait for you t o make the call. Please, give me a break, learn how to look up telephone numbers.
In my case, the numbers exist in various places, starting from the best to the worst:
(i) my Rolodex cards, which have telephone numbers of clients, judges, opponents contained on a case card, alphabetized under a Rolodex section called "Cases". Each case has one card. Thus, as to cases, the persons to be called cannot be found under th eir name, but have to be found in the case card. The rest of the telephone numbers under the Rolodex are alphabetized by the name of the individual, company or government agency.
(ii) my computer. I carry home with me in a computer diskette a lot of the information which I need, including work in progress (to continue with at home). This information also includes many of the telephone numbers found in the Rolodex, including som e numbers which are not in the Rolodex. Of course, if you don't know how to use a computer or how to access my databases, you won't be able to look up the number by yourself, and will be interrupting whatever I am doing, which will irritate me in many in stances, even though I may not show the irritation. I want you to learn how to do things, including look up telephone numbers in the various places the numbers may be.
(iii) in the case files. To look up a number in the case files, you would first have to know the name of the case, where the case files are stored, and where in the case files a telephone number might be. For example, my case files are stored alphabeti cally by case-designating alpha-numeric characters (such as JJ1, meaning case number one of Joe Jones or LL3, Lana Lobster's case). These case designators are either 2 or 3 characters because in my data processing activities, I want to minimize the lengt h of the case reference. In naming a data processing file, I have only 8 characters which I can use to name the file. I start off with the case designator (i.e., the 2 or 3 alphanumeric characters) so I can quickly locate in a computer or in diskettes a ll files which relate to a specific case. Also, when maintaining data bases, such as what matters I have done on a case (which I enter daily), I refer to the case by its 2-3 character case designator. This is the type of basic information which you shou ld pick up when starting to work for your new employer.
Now that you know how to find the case files, within the files themselves you are apt to find the client's telephone number by looking for the file headed "fee agreement", which usually has the client's telephone number and address on the fee agreement. If looking for the number of an opposing attorney, look for correspondence which has the law firm's name, telephone number and fax number on the letterhead.
(iv) Of course, there is always the telephone book.
(v) Also, you might ask the operator (but not in my office, since there is a forty-cent charge for each request).
(vi) Also, you might ask a co-worker, but don't ask me, except as a last resort.
This brings me to an important point I want you to remember, and I'll make the point through asking you a question. If you and I both knew that it would take you one-half an hour to find the needed telephone number and that I could find it in 1 minute, would I want you to ask me for the number?
What is your answer? Should I be asked to save 30 minutes of your time? The answer is NO. I cherish each minute of time which you can save, and I'm not worried about the 30 minutes you might have to spend, a lot of which may be (non-recurrent) learning time anyway. My main purpose in writing this booklet is to get you to think like me. I want to turn over to you as much work as possible, regardless of the time it takes. If you, working for 7 or 8 hours per day, can save me 2 hours, that isn't bad. With experience, you can save me 3-4 hours, which is great. Do whatever you can do to increase this saving, but don't use my time to do this.
The answer, then, is I want you to waste your 30 minutes of time to find the number (which costs me perhaps $5) rather than waste 1 minute of my time (the cost of which is incalculable, because I have only so many hours in the day). Finally, you should maintain your own Rolodex (and possibly computer database) of telephone numbers so you don't bother your employer by coming to in look at his/her Rolodex all the time. It might be set to a number which he/she is trying to call, and yo u might lose that setting. Also, your frequent trips into the employer's office to use his/her Rolodex would be an unwanted intrusion and cause some waste of time in the process.
A final point about telephone calls. You should try to sound business like and helpful. Also, don't argue with callers. Your pronunciation should be acceptable (e.g., learn how to say "asked" instead of "axed"). You represent the business while speak ing on the telephone, and your representation should be of high quality. If it is not, you will scare some business or opportunities away.
Sending out a communication from a small-business office often involves a series of skills which an employee should learn as quickly as possible.
Assuming that the employee doesn't compose, type up or print out the letter, there are still things which have to be done, which the employee should have in mind, such as:
a. Preparing an appropriate envelope, which might be done by hand (in an emergency, but ordinarily not, because it doesn't look professional), by typewriter, by computer or by dedicated word processor directly onto the envelope or onto a label. You shoul d learn how to address an envelope as soon as possible. It's not as easy as you think.
b. Putting a package of documents or a cassette, for example, into an appropriate envelope. You'll find that some envelopes are too weak or too small. Some need additional support with strong tape. Make sure you know where your inventory of unusual env elopes is kept. Larger packages might have to be put into boxes or red folders for mailing. Also, consider the boxes available at the post office. Thus, this is an area which is relatively easy for you to learn, and which will save considerable time of the employer. Don't hesitate to help; you will demonstrate your value to your employer by doing whatever is needed to save his/her time.
c. Postage is another problem. I have a long-time distaste for the two or three meter companies because of the exclusivity they enjoy and exercise. Even though the businessperson owns a postage meter machine, he/she has to rent the meter itself from the one company which made the machine, at a quarterly (i.e., 3-month) cost which is obscenely high, and then there are the late fees on top of that. I have done away with meters for the past 10 years by using postage stamps. Make sure that there is a supp ly, and you can now call the U.S. Post Office for delivery of stamps to your place of business. Make sure you know the main postage rates which you ordinarily deal with and the Post-Office telephone number to call to obtain rates which you don't know. A lso, make sure you have a small and a large postage scale which can help you determine how much postage to use. You will need a supply of $.29 stamps as well as a much larger supply of $.23 stamps (although I just use $.29 stamps and pay more postage tha n I should as a result). When my office runs out of stamps, I am out of business to such extent, and any business would want the postage inventory to be watched and supplemented as needed. When I have no postage stamps available, I'm unable to put letters in the mail, including letters which I have to certify have been mailed on a certain date. After 4:30 p.m. or so, it's too late to go to the Post Office, and I cannot drop any more mail in the mail box because of the lack of postage. In many cases the lack of postage isn't mu ch of a problem, but there are times when the lack of stamps will cause difficulties and the resort to emergency purchases somewhere, including the main post office at 8th Avenue and 32nd Street in New York, New York, which is open all night for stamp pur chases and mailing.
d. Mailing and Federal Express. Make sure you know when the Post Office picks up from the mail box you use regularly (which is set forth on the box itself), and if necessary, find an alternative box or use the Post Office itself when fast delivery or dat e of post mark is important. You should also know where to go after 8:00 p.m. or so when most federal express offices are closed. There is an office at 42nd Street and 11th Avenue which remains open until 8:45 p.m. There are several other late offices as well. Learn where they are because you will have occasion to use them, if something absolutely has to be delivered to another city by tomorrow. Too often unexpected demands on my time cause me to be unable to make an 8:00 o'clock deadline at my local federal express office, but I know I still have the additional 45 minutes to get to the last-closing federal express office. I use it about once every other month.
e. Messengers. Know how to use and deal with messengers. Have the telephone number ready for use, and get the package ready for pickup on a timely basis. Give the messenger dispatcher the case designator (i.e., the 2-3 character case code) so the cost of the messenger service can be billed to (and recovered from) the client or other designated activity. This case designator code will appear on the invoice to be received from the messenger service at the end of the month.
Another point is not to hand a messenger your package or ask the messenger if he is here to pick up the package for delivery to The New York Times (for example). The reason is that you want the messenger to tell you where he is to deliver the package, so you are assured that the messenger is the one you requested and not the wrong messenger, or a thief.
Learn how to cope with the routine mechanical problems of the employer's copying equipment, including the replacement of toner cartridges, the addition of paper, the elimination of red-lighted problems (by opening up the machine and removing jammed paper) . One trick if everything else fails is to turn the machine off (wait about 5 seconds) and then turn the machine on again, to cause the machine to forget its problem and start from the beginning once again. This trick works about 10%-15% of the time.
Never turn any equipment (computers or other) off and on quickly. This will send a surge of electricity into the computer or other equipment which could cause severe internal damage by exceeding the electricity limits which the computer was built for. T hus, when turning off a computer or other equipment, you should wait at least 5 seconds for the electricity to drain out, and then turn it back on (causing another flow of electricity to come into the equipment without overlapping from the earlier electri cal flow).
Have the name, telephone number and machine identification information (type of machine and its serial number) ready to make service calls to the copier maintenance company. Call as early in the morning as you can, because you will be put on a first-call , first-served list for service. Also, ask for and write down the service-call number assigned to your call, so you can check back with the dispatcher to ask why nobody has shown up.
Also, turn on and check out the copier as soon as you arrive in the morning to ensure that the copy quality is acceptable, and if not put in a service call.
The people who service your copier will not ordinarily be the persons who service your computer(s). Many of the smaller problems your employer will probably be able and willing to solve. I install new software, replace floppy drives and hard disks, and install and add cards for modems, backup equipment, monitors, and the like.
But there are times at which I am too busy to do this, and would prefer to have new drives added by a qualified company. Also, there are times when I have computer difficulties which I don't know how to fix. At these times, I call upon a computer repair firm. You have 3 basic choices (assuming you have no on-site warranty or maintenance contract in effect): (i) you can take your computer to a repair firm; (ii) you can call the repair firm to pick up your computer; and (iii) you can call for on-site rep airs. The cost is the least if you take the computer to the firm for servicing; a pickup and delivery charge is added if you have the repair company arrange for pickup and delivery; and on-site servicing is far more costly, but sometimes useful, if the c omputer still works and you don't want to dismantle the computer and lose it for 1-2 days.
Generally, the repair firms are able to fix your computer and return it to you in the same day, if you deliver it to the firm at 9:00 a.m. or so.
Find out which firms have a good reputation. You might want to use more than one, especially if one firm can't fix the computer problem. Prices will differ, and you might want to shop around for the right price.
In my office I have a lot of copying to be done. I would want everyone who does copying work to follow these basic rules:
1. Know how to use the automatic feed and collating/sorting features on the copier;
2. Know what light/dark/automatic setting is desired by the employer. My equipment uses too much toner and I set the copier to the lightest setting to offset this problem.
3. Know the number maximum number of pages which should build up in each bin of the sorter. When you reach this level, take the copies out of the sorter and set them aside. The reason is that pages beyond this maximum number might cause the sorter to jam and bring your copying job to an end while the sorter is unjammed.
4. After a document has been copied and collated, always look at each collated document which has been reproduced, and do the following things: (i) look at each page for quality, and while you are doing this count each page (referring to the page number at the same time) to make sure that the document is complete; (ii) tap the pages down to ensure that the document is uniform on all four edges; (iii) staple the document in the way wanted by your employer, using the size of staple which is appropriate for the size of the document. Learn about the different types of staplers, their idiosyncrasies, and the types of staples they use (and make sure you maintain an appropriate staple inventory).
5. Sometimes, your copied document will not be stapled but put into a binder of some type. Learn about the different types of binders which are available, including ACCO, spiral, GBC Binding and Velo-Binding. Learn where you can obtain these different t ypes of binding supplies or where you can have occasional binding done for you at a commercial copier shop.
Prepare a master list of supplies, costs and sources, including telephone and fax number. Refer to this master list, and revise it when necessary. Maintain your inventory by determining how much you have of the various items which your employer uses (co nsumes), and determine what level of inventory you should maintain. Toner for the laserjet printer and toner and other supplies for the copier are of major importance because they are more difficult to obtain, and may take from 4 hours to 2 days to obtai n. So, out of precaution, put in your order when you still have an unopened 6-pack of toner on hand for the copier and a single unopened toner cartridge on hand for the laserjet printer. Don't allow any running out of supplies to disrupt your employer's business.
Also, learn how to replace the toner cartridges and other supply items (fuser oil and roller wiper) which you will need for the copier and laserjet printer. Also, make sure you have a firm which can repair your laserjet printer, which often will be the c omputer repair firm you use to fix your computer.
Accounts receivable are the moneys which are owed to your employer. Your employer may want you to stay on top of the accounts receivable to try to obtain payment of them. Your small-business employer may be so wrapped up in sales and job completion that he/she may not have any time left in the day to devote to accounts receivable, and would want you to take over this function with little or no discussion.
I can recall a Ms. Black (not the real name) who called frequently to inquire about payments on a machine I leased for a 5-year (60-month) period. I'm sure Ms. Black called my office about 180 times during this period. She was quite effective, even to t he point of calling one or two days before the money was due to inquire whether the check went out. She was truly a squeaky wheel which we wound up greasing, just to stop her irritating calls.
You might want to do something like this for your employer, who may not even be thinking in these terms, but this is something you should be thinking about, and bring up with your employer. Let the accounts receivable run through your hands, and you will be a most important part of the business if you perform by collecting the moneys which are due as soon as possible.
When speaking with the persons who owe money to your employer, you might suggest that you send a messenger over to pick up the check, so that you don't get trapped by "the check is in the mail" trick.
To collect accounts receivables, you should maintain some type of tickler system and a telephone/fax number database which will allow you to communicate regularly with persons who owe money to your employer, and even to send the matters out for collection and suit promptly (but only with the prior approval of your employer) to try to maximize the amount you collect from your accounts receivables.
From the standpoint of the employer, accounts receivables often get the least attention, since the work is not pleasant and doesn't have to be done" in the way that court appearances have to be made.
Set up a simple database with the date of your employer's invoice, the code and name of the customer/client, the account's fax and telephone numbers; the name of the contact person at the account; the amount of the invoice; aged according to how much is d ue for 0-30 days; 31-60 days; 61-90 days; and more than 90 days. This will give you an idea of the problem accounts.
Small business has its ups and downs, meaning that sometimes the small business is flush with money and sometimes it has no money (and no ability to borrow money from any bank). In the lean times, when your employer is waiting for money to come in (throu gh the accounts receivables you are supposed to be working on) you will have a variety of calls from 800 and other numbers asking for the person in charge of accounts payable or asking for your employer by name. These obviously are calls with respect to non-payment of credit card and other invoices.
Discuss accounts payables with your employer, to understand which ones will probably be paid first and which will have to be delayed in payment, with resulting problems in many cases.
Understand that the employer is aware of these problems, isn't able to do anything about it at the moment, and doesn't want to be bothered with them at this time when his/her concentration is on obtain the funds with which to make the overdue payments. Y our job is to shelter the boss from these calls and to give the boss freedom of his/her time to do what needs to be done to get the money needed to make the payments.
When a persistent caller (such as Ms. Black) insists on talking with your employer or the person in charge of paying accounts payable, just tell them that he/she isn't in today, and can you take a message for him/her. Appear cooperative and don't do anyt hing which might inadvertently cause your employer to lose his tenuous relationship with the creditor or supplier.
All businesspersons have appointments which must be met, and I maintain all of my appointments on a master computer (database) calendar (including both "business" and "personal" appointments). You should be able to access such a calendar and learn how to determine if your employer is free at a specific date and time, to be able to make tentative appointments for him/her, to be confirmed after reviewing the dates/times with your employer. You will also find that you will be having appointments yourself, which would have to be calendared, possibly in the same database system which your employer uses.
There is commercial software available to maintain calendars, although I wrote my own system using FoxBASE or FoxPro (a database program).
Periodically, you should print out the calendar to enable you and your employer to carry with you a copy of the calendar entries, which will enable him/her and you to determine when away from the office what open dates you have.
Maintaining calendars is one thing, and watching the calendar is another.
Every night, before going to bed, I look at the calendar to see what I have to do the following day, such as court appearances, meetings, deadlines for payment or filing of motor vehicle registration, for example. My database calendar keeps dates in mind several years ahead, such as dates at which additional patent renewal fees are to be paid to maintain the rights under existing rights.
Also, the calendar should be consulted at the beginning of the day, just to make sure that nothing is being overlooked. It does happen that even though an appointment is calendared, the fact of such calendaring is not recalled at the right time and the employer can miss the appointment in spite of its calendaring.
This is where you should be the backstop for your employer. You should maintain your own watch of the calender to ensure that your employer is aware of and meeting all of his/her appointments.
Also, you might consider having the computer set up to warn you be audible signal (similar to an alarm clock) one hour away from a given appointment, to give you and your employer time to adjust to a forgotten appointment.
In organizations which pass on their expenses to clients (such as lawyers), it is important for each expense to be accurately and promptly recorded into some type of data processing program so that costs can be put together for the periodic (usually month ly) statement which is rendered to the customer.
I maintain my expense database on a daily basis, and an employee should know how to maintain the database for his/her employer. My database includes the number of original pages and the number of copies of each original which were photocopied for each cl ient; subway, bus and taxi expenses; messenger and federal express charges; mileage charges on a vehicle. The expenses which can be traced through a specific check are not duplicated in my expense database since I can get the information from the databas es which back up my checking accounts.
Also, any employer wants to know how much money he/she is spending each month, and for what, and wants to see how he/she can save any money on these expenses. This will be a good job for you to perform. Savings can be achieved by reducing your telephone expenses; reducing your on-line database charges; reducing your late fees or failing to take advantage of discounts when paying invoices, and various other things which you can do to lower your employer's costs of doing business, such as by shopping arou nd for lower prices for supply items, and by not buying unnecessary supply items.
Also, accrued expenses (i.e., unpaid expenses) should be added up and compared to the amount of cash on hand which is available to pay such expenses. This in effect is a warning system which will tell the small businessperson when he/she is getting into trouble with accrued expenses exceeding the amount of money available to pay them. Something has to be done, such as reducing staff or advertising or rent. This type of monitoring is especially important and useful when a company is spending one-time ca pital it has received rather than recurrent income which it has earned.
Prospective clients and customers may not like to be called leads, but that is what they are in a sense, and they represent a valuable inventory for your employer. All leads should be categorized and followed up, and whatever information you have on a l ead should be kept in a file for that lead so you or your employer can quickly put your hands on such information when needed.
A lead in any type of business represents the possibility of doing profitable business, and no lead should be discarded until there is good reason. To avoid wasting time, a business should keep its information about a lead available and use such informat ion to make a determination that a lead is no longer a lead and take the lead out of the follow-up system.
Active leads should be followed up in the way which you and your employer agree, so that whatever obstacle to doing business exists can be overcome, if possible, or the lead finally discarded, to avoid wasting the time of you and your employer.
A single lead in my area of law (commercial litigation) could be a case for $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars), and every lead should be treated as an important possible client until the lead is finally discarded. Thus, there should be an inventory of all active leads maintained, and a process of keeping in touch with the lead to see what progress is being made as to whatever obstacle seems to exist in resolving the matter of whether the lead is going to become a client or not.
I don't have enough time to devote to all the leads I get, and need someone to deal with leads in a way that I would deal with them if I had the time. Other businesspersons have a similar objective, I am sure. Something as simple as a telephone call to leads every two weeks or month to say hello might result in additional income or opportunities which otherwise would be lost to the small business.
I do have a vision of what I'm doing although it may not be obvious to anyone. But my vision changes from time to time, and I don't waste time sharing my vision with persons as it changes.
Yet, there are some near-permanent parts of my vision which I should share with an employee, to enable the employee to understand why I do certain things (such as the type of cases and clients I like to get, and the way in which I handle a case). Thus, a n employer and employee should have discussions about the employer's vision of his/her business (how he/she believes the business should be run) to enable the employee to make decisions when the employer is not there, and more importantly when the employe r is there but shouldn't be bothered. This in effect is an attempt to transfer the decisions to the employee, which is difficult to do but needs to be done to try to save time for the employer.
The employer and employee should have a good idea of what decisions are being transferred, and discuss how this transfer of decision-making is working out. I'm talking about the decision by the employee of handling a problem himself/herself without bothe ring the employer. It is a critical process which has got to be done with care, because the employee can do a lot of damage to the employer's relationships and business if the employee doesn't do the right thing.
The employee who can get into the mind of his employer and deal with the problem in the way the employer would deal with it is the ideal. It needs to have the employee understand the employer and his problems, and the employee must understand that he/she is going to be helping or hurting the employer each time the employee makes a decision.
If the employee is able to make correct decisions most of the time, the employer and employee should prosper, but if the decisions are bad, the employer loses money and the employee loses his/her job.
To help understand your employer, you should understand his/her goals, which might be to have an office in each of the top 100 cities in the United States, or to own as many residential buildings as possible in Staten Island, or to make as much money as p ossible in any lawful way possible.
To get to these goals, there are various business steps which the employer decides he must take. These steps are generally decided by him/her and set forth in a "to do" list. These list items must be prioritized, and the work then done.
You should try to talk with the employer about priorities, which will give you an insight into how the employer thinks, and how he/she expects to accomplish the long-term goals. Priorities are assigned for various reasons. For example, the payment of an overdue telephone bill is given high priority because the cutting off of telephone service could cause the business disruption at the least and loss of customers, income and pro fits or to go out of business at the worst.
Priorities are often assigned to get rid of nuisance matters first so they don't have to be maintained for long on the to-do list. This will account for some of the items near the top of the to-do list. They appear merely to be done and to be taken off, and do not really advance the employer's main goals in any direct respect.
Some items have to be done because of deadlines. If the deadlines are not made, there may be a substantial loss to someone. For such reason, the item may appear as a top priority, even though the long-run economic importance of the item may not be very high.
Some items appear on the list because of the employer's need to advance his/her long-term goals by putting some items ahead of other matters which also need to be done, but which are not assisting with long-term goals.
To put it another way, many of us are too busy to do anything more than what really needs to be done. But an industrious employer (and similarly an industrious employee) will not limited his/her work to only the work which needs to be done. After the qu ickie items on the list, I often put items (with a high priority) which don't have to be done, and I do these items before the ones which I know have to be done, to ensure that both categories of high priority get done. This is the key for getting work d one. Only do what you don't have to do until it is alawmallost too late to do what you need to do, and then do what you need to do.
In other words, make time for the goal-advancing things which you would like to do, and only do what you have to do when it has to be done. I am thinking of the employer as I write this.
But what rule applies to the prioritization of the employee's activities. The answer to this is whatever the employer wants to have done. The employee is only an extension of the employer, and if the employer wants to use the employee to advance the lon g-term goals, so be it.
Thus, the employee must understand the employer's priorities and follow them. This means that in prioritizing your work, you should understand in what order the employer wants you to do your work, and not to change priorities merely because you would be saving your own time in the process. The employer doesn't care about this saving if he/she has decided that a certain job must be done first. Follow the employer's lead and let the employer determine your priorities. What you might do, however, is ask for his/her reasoning so you can learn from this experience.
You might want to learn who the employer's competition is, and follow anything which the competition is doing. Your employer might not have the time to do this, and your efforts in this regard might be quite valuable. Things such as prices, new products and services, advertising and publicity would be important things to bring to your employer's attention.
All businesses have files, and files are the lifeblood of many office-type businesses. A major insight which you should retain is the importance of files and their availability to a businessperson.
In my list of things to do each day, there are a certain number (often all item) which require that I find and act upon certain information. For example, I might want to write a letter to Mr. Smith similar to a letter which I wrote to Mr. Smith's predece ssor two years ago. It would save me a substantial amount of time if I could find the old letter, and most importantly the data processing file which I used in preparing the letter for Mr. Smith.
To find the letter will take some time, unless my files are readily available. Some are in storage and some are not. Thus, there should be a quick way for you to determine what files are in storage, maintained by you on the computer.
Yet, what would be better would be to find the data processing file for the Smith letter. Thus, you should learn how data processing records are maintained by your employer. In my case, I would have the Smith letter on a diskette alphabetized by case al phanumeric code, and I could find the letter (in the XX3_L01.Doc file, with "XX3" being the case code) in a matter of seconds.
Thus, when I have to prepare a letter to Smith's successor, it will only take me several minutes at best to redo the 3-page letter I created 2 years ago to send to Mr. Smith. How much time would it take for you to do this, assuming you knew how to use Ve ntura Publisher and Word?
Businesses store their records for a certain number of years (often longer) and will mark their records for destruction on or after a certain date, so that the records can be pulled out and destroyed in the records storage area at or after the designated date, and not be a storage cost to the business forever.
You should help the employer with his/her files by creating a record destruction program, but with such protections as sending files back to the client, inventorying where files are kept in storage and when they were sent to storage, and when the files ar e marked for destruction.
Another thing for you to do is review files, suggest files which should be sent to storage, box such files and mark the boxes appropriately, and then update the data processing records. These things will make the office a lot easier to use, and save a lo t of time for your employer.
Your compensation should depend on the success of the small business and how successful you are in helping the small business grow. If you wind up in a dead-end small business, you may be wasting your time. If on the other hand you work for a small busi ness which can profit from your motivation and skills, you compensation should be in proportion to your value, and you should discuss this with your employer.
Your employer will not want to lose you for several reasons: (i) he/she would have to look for a replacement; (ii) this search will cost time and money; (iii) the employer will have to train the new person, which will take time on the employer's part; (iv ) the employer will not want to lose the money which he/she has been receiving by reason of your activities.
The only thing to worry about is whether you and the employer have the same estimate of your worth to the business. Some employees who see big dollars passing through their hands feel that they are responsible for the sales when in fact they are not at a ll, and are merely order takers or cash-register operators. But there are many times when the employee in fact is responsible for the sales and income and properly should expect to be rewarded, or leave if the proper compensation is not forthcoming. Man y times a dispute is merely because of a misunderstanding which can be resolved by reasonable people. Other times the employer may know the truth and be unable or unwilling to pay what you are worth.
One of the time drains on small business is payroll and payroll reporting, which is the reason that many small businesses do not hire employees. I want you to understand this problem.
General Motors is required to comply with numerous federal, state, city and other laws relating to payroll, and does so in fine fashion, with perhaps 20,000 persons involved in various ways with the creation and processing of payroll data, and the creatin g, filing and payment of various federal, city, state and other required tax forms.
As a small business person, I can't do this. I don't have the skills, computers or software to do the job, and I can't spend the time necessary to do this.
I have proposed elsewhere that every small business person in the U.S. should be able to have up to 3 employees as to whom there would not be laws of any kind regulating payroll or the employer-employee relationship. I refer to this with my slogan "The 1 st Three Are Free!", and believe that 10,000,000 new jobs could be created in this country without any tax loss (and instead with a major tax gain for all governments) if small business were freed up from the onerous requirement of doing the government's paperwork as to the employer-employee relationship. The employees themselves should fill out their own forms and pay any required withholding taxes at the local Post Office, which would make the employer pay the employee enough to do this, as be a pay-as -you-go withholding tax system from the employer's standpoint (and prevent the employer from being bogged down with unpaid withholding taxes).
Many business refuse to hire needed employees because of this problem, which you have heard referred to (from the domestic standpoint) as the "Nannygate" problem.
If small business could hire up to 3 employees without any rules or regulations, there would be millions of new jobs opened up virtually overnight.
But getting back down to reality, any employees of small business (particularly the first employee) cause time problems for the employer, and it should be your job to do everything you can to take this time drain away from your employer. You can start by retaining the services of a payroll company such as PayChex or ADP, which will prepare payroll and the related tax forms for as little as one employee.
Your job will be to collect the data for the payroll company, transmit it to them on a timely basis, and ensure that payroll taxes are paid on time. Your employer may not want to use a check prepared by the payroll company because of the varying balance maintained by the employer in his/her bank account. This is the reason for unpaid withholding taxes, and associated interest and penalties which often put a small businessperson out of business. If my idea for "The 1st Three Are Free!" is adopted, the b usinessperson would avoid this as to the first three employees because of the need to pay the employee the whole amount of his/her salary, and if anything less than the full amount is paid, at least it would not be creating a tax lien situation (including penalties and interest) for the employer or employee.
Any first employee of small business should hop right into this area and learn about the various business taxes of NYC and NYS. The accounting firm, if any, for the small businessperson would assist in helping you determine what forms are required to be filed and the information which is needed to be put together for the accountant.
You should learn about the odious occupancy tax and special occupancy tax, which require payment of tax on monthly business rent which exceeds a certain monthly minimum rent. Also, there are various franchise tax forms, and income tax forms.
Your time would be well spent in putting the information together which must be given to the accountant, including the cash receipts summarized by amount and expense category, the checks summarized by amount and expense category, and various reports rece ived from banks and others showing the amount of money which your employer received during the preceding year.
This is one of the main areas of concern for small business because the area is not income-producing, is demoralizing, and is not considered urgent, especially if the small business is unable to pay the taxes.
Your efforts in this area would be appreciated by the employer, and would represent a significant amount of time saving for the employer.
Although I've dealt with this subject above, I want to repeat that the small business person does not differentiate between what is business and what is personal. When I take a vacation, I am working on my business ideas, and talking with prospective cus tomers or clients. Also, I am looking to buy software and books which may be of help. I am not on vacation is what I'm trying to say, and I want you to understand that when I need something done which might look to be "personal" from you standpoint is n ot considered "personal" by me. I'm paying you my money to do what I want and that is business, and I expect you to do these "personal" things or get another job. I also expect you not to gripe about doing whatever I want you to do, because if you don't do it I have to, and my purpose in hiring you is to take over as many of my tasks as possible. So, if you can do the comparatively unskilled items I look forward to having you do some of the more important things, such as research, customer contact, dra fting and implementation of marketing plans, and the interviewing hiring and training of new employees. In fact, I would hope that in due course you could become a profit participant or partner in my activities if permitted by law.
I would hope that all employees would get along with each other, particularly where the business is so small. Dissension would be disruptive and cause losses of customers, income and profits.
Accordingly, I would want each employee to share his/her knowledge and skills with the others, for the purpose of saving my time, and permitting the overall business to maximize its profitability, which will enable the businessperson to pay higher salarie s to you and the other employees. The employer is no fool. He/she knows what's going on in the business, and knows who is making the most contribution. This person should be you, and your employer will know that and compensate you accordingly.
Don't be worried about job titles. The owner of the company will probably call himself a Vice President of Marketing or something like that to make it appear to outsiders that there is more depth to the business than there actually is.
Your title can be anything you want (except, perhaps President or C.E.O.). Your function, however, could be to run the company for its owner. Don't worry about titles. Worry instead about doing all the things which you have to do to save the time of yo ur employer.
When interviewing for a job, please don't pin me (a hypothetical employer) down asking about all the benefits you expect. My business doesn't have any medical or dental or retirement or other insurance programs. There are no stock options or bonus plans . Vacations you can take (if you dare - I'm joking to some extent only). I expect you to work as much as necessary to get the job done and not to leave me in the lurch. On the other hand, I will pay you, say, $600 per week ($30,000 per year) and expect that you save 3 hours per day for this salary. For every additional hour you save me per day, I will give you a $10,000 annual raise (which means an additional $200 per week), so in theory if you can save me 6 hours per day, I will pay you $60,000 per ye ar (or $1,200 per week). Actually, I would be willing to pay a lot more if you could come in and help me manage the business, assuming your management makes money for the business. I certainly would want to keep you by giving you a significant part of t he money you make for me.
Thus, you can expect compensation in the form of raises and bonuses to try to motivate and keep you, but only if you are worth it to me.
In the area of expenses I demand certain things. I want you to keep track of each penny I give you as a trustee and fiduciary. I want every penny accounted for, and the unspent amounts returned to me. I don't forget when an employee doesn't return (and instead pockets) the unspent portion. I merely make a mental note that the employee belongs in the penny ante category and cannot be trusted to rise to any higher level.
Thus, I want you, from the very start, to maintain an accurate log of each penny you received from me, and the date, amount, client code, and expense description for each expense you paid, and to enter these amounts in the expense database, and return to me or petty cash the difference.
Please don't ruin your relationship with the employer by requiring him/her to ask for a return of the advanced moneys. This is your job and is a good way for the employer to judge your honesty, reliability, responsibility and character.
There are ways for you to bring yourself up to a minimum acceptable level of skills in the type of technology upon which your employer depends. First of all, you should establish priorities with your employer as to what skills you should develop.
In my case, I have the following priorities: (i) familiarity with the IBM type PC (including a clone), preferably DOS 6.0 or higher operating system; (ii) able to do letters in Ventura Publisher; (iii) able to use Microsoft Word word processing program (n ot too important, however); and finally (iv) ability to use a database program (preferably Foxbase or foxpro), but no database programming skills required.
Each of these four required software systems has learning programs and materials which will allow you to learn how to use the system enough for my purposes. When you start using any system, you will learn how to obtain answers for the occasional question s which will arise thereafter.
Your training should be at home, if possible, and you should train in basic computer literacy even before looking for a job, so that you can sell yourself to an employer that you have a basic computer literacy, which will be encouraging to the employer (o r myself).
Once you have the job, talk with you employer to determine the skills he/she wants you to have, and the order of their priority. Than go about developing these skills.
There is a saying "That's my business" which means that whatever information was asked for, the businessperson is saying that "It is none of your business". What this means to you is that each business has certain information, ways of doing things, conta cts and experience which if learned by competitors would create unwanted competition for the businessperson's business and customers, which could cause him/her to go out of business.
For example, if you saw someone driving around in a new Rolls Royce with a chauffeur and asked him/her how he earned enough money to buy the car, he/she is not going to tell you what he did. This is his/her business which will not be shared with you. It may be that the person's Uncle is a U.S. Senator who is referring federal poverty funds to him in some clandestine and illegal fashion. Or it may be that he/she has some wholly legitimate angle which nobody has figured out, which would be used by many p ersons upon disclosure. In any event, whatever your employer is doing, he/she does not want you talking with others about the business, and at the outset will not be too open about what he/she is doing, for fear that you may talk about the business if yo ur employment should not work out, and that possibly you may go into competition with him/her. The latter fear can be eased in an employment contract, but the other fear cannot, except by confidence and trust, which will gradually arise as you demonstrat e your honesty, responsibility, and understanding of the needs of your employer. The longer you work for the employer the more you will learn and the more you will be taught.
In due course, you will be a confidant and trusted partner, and can expect to receive a participation in the profits in some fashion through a higher salary, bonuses or even outright partnership interest or profit participation.
No matter what happens in your employment with small business, you will (or should have) a valuable experience, which will enable you to learn how to set up and manage a small business, with the cost of your mistakes being borne mostly if not 100% by your employer.
The price which you have to pay is that you will earn less than the salaries at big business to work for and learn from small business. You won't have the attractive office and latest gadgets to play with (or look at). You probably won't be located in t he best areas of NYC, and your customers won't be the most glamorous.
But you will be near the top of a business which you will be causing to grow, giving you a wide variety of skills which you can sell to others or use for yourself.
You gamble in a sense by casting your lot with small business, but there are millions of persons who gambled with big business and have been terminated during the past several years, so that they are getting a late start in working for or owning a small b usiness.
When you near the end of your employment, don't go out in any type of messy way. Be honorable all the way. Don't steal inventory, computers, customers' names, confidential material, know-how, fellow workers, and the like. Be able to come back to visit your employer and to call upon him (and he/she upon you) if possible. Don't burn your bridges even though you are changing from one opportunity to another.
Language for you to use in your resume for small-business employers is attached as Appendix B. It is designed to entice the owner or manager into looking at you more closely and to interview and then hire you, since you seem to be an ideal candidate in ma ny respects. If the job is not to work with the owner or manage, the language should be changed. This resume language was recommended for use in my Personal Assistant Training Program to encourage an interest in hiring graduates. Please read it and see what parts are convincing to you at first reading. It may well have the same effect on the prospe ctive employer if used by you.
I have talked about this above and want to reiterate this requirement. The world has changed since the mid-1980's. Computer literacy is as important as a command of the English language. In fact, I think it is the computer which has caused the apparent job shortage (meaning the inability of a lot of people to find remunerative employment). The reason is that businesses are driven by a large variety of computer-based hardware and software, and that there an increasing inability of a new employee to wor k with or operate the increasingly complex hardware and software.
Thus, jobs go begging and are not even advertised. We as employers give up and figure out ways to do the work without any employees. It isn't that we don't want employees, but qualified employees are difficult if not impossible to find, especially for s mall business, and small employers such as myself just give up trying.
Yet, I'm not giving up. I'm hoping that this booklet will help to create a market of qualified persons (which we can refer to as "personal assistants" for small businesspersons).
It doesn't do any good if a small business hires one person and then can't find a replacement when that person leaves. We must have a market of qualified persons (personal assistants) so that if a job doesn't work out the employee can find a different jo b using essentially the same skills, and the employer can find a replacement employee.
Take a look at the Personal Assistant Training Program described in Appendix A (brochure, pages 35-36). This is what I would like many persons to know, so I and other small business employers will have a market in which to choose an employee who can step into the business with immediate skills and utility, and reduce the amount of time I need to employ to train such a person.
There are a variety of training programs for small business in NYC. Some of them may be useful for an interested persons to attend who wants to start a small business. But I believe that the best experience is to work for a small business near the top, and if you are the only employee of a small business that is exactly the position you would be in, 1 person below the top. (Is the glass I am offering you half full or half empty?)
If you look in The New York Times on Sunday (Employment Opportunities, Section 10, last few pages) you will see advertisements for auctions of business and office equipment and other items by business which have gone out of business. You should attend so me auctions (even for your employer) and learn how to buy needed equipment. You can buy a perfectly good PC (IBM or clone, XT or AT type) for peanuts, perhaps $25, or perhaps $500 to $1,000, depending on the peripheral equipment which is offered with the equipment. I believe you can buy an XT for $50 or less, which would be a perfectly good computer on which you can learn. Try to get the software packages which are auctioned off as well. The older packages are worthless, and shouldn't go off for much ($5 to $25). In this way you could put together an inexpensive computer system for yourself at home.
Also, you might try looking at Buy Lines or other classified ad publications which offer used computer equipment. Friends might have equipment which you could "borrow" which they otherwise intend to throw away. Use the term "borrow" and the owner may no t mind. The way that the equipment becomes obsolete, you'll never get any request to return the equipment.
I work 18 hours per day or more in some cases, but I don't consider a lot of what I do as "work". For example, I outlined this booklet while watching a movie in Chelsea one Friday evening and am writing this booklet during the weekend. It isn't work. I t is activity I enjoy doing.
If you find a small-business job you like, a lot of what you do will not be "work" but will be creative and learning. Of course there will be work, but the extent to which you can take over the employer's to do list, you will be in line for a personal as sistant of your own, to free you up to do the higher-skilled work of your employer (who may now be your equal partner).
If your work is a chore and you complain a lot about it (even to yourself), you should consider whether you are getting enough out of the work. You may be bogged down in something which could be delegated to others, and you may not be doing the type of w ork which your employer really hired you to do.
In any event, your activities in small business are supposed to be career-defining and you should try to do the kinds of things which will help you with your career. This may be one reason why working longer hours occurs. The routine work is done during the day, and the creative, career-expending work is done at other times, to your enjoyment and benefit.
Realize that small business often has no ability to borrow from a bank in the classic way, because small business often shows no profits for tax purposes. Thus, banks often say they can't lend money to small business and lend instead to big businesses wh ich later go into bankruptcy.
There is a loan program for small business, however, of which you should become aware. This is through various Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Disocover and other credit cards which advance money to the card holder. The total amount of borrowing pow er by one individual card holder can easily reach $75,000 to $100,000 or more.
If you are thinking of going into small business, you should lay the groundwork for getting as many credit cards as you can while you are gainfully employed, because after you no longer have a job and instead are in your own business you may not be able t o get any credit cards.
Your role for your employer should be to manage his/her credit cards and overdraft arrangements with the bank to enable all cards to be maintained and the account to have sufficient funds at all times to cover any outstanding checks.
This takes time and should be done by you, not the employer, but it does require some degree of trust on the employer's part, to involve you in this part of the person's business.
You should also try to get involved in the employer's tax reporting and payment, as well as keeping track of tax problems, and acting as an intermediate between the employer and the accountant and, sometimes, with IRS.
Once again, the employer is trying to find the time to bring in the money needed to resolve these tax problems, and you can help him/her by sheltering the employer from some of the communications which are generated by reason of taxes and failure to repor t or pay taxes.
The bottom line is that all tax problems can be cured with payment of the money demanded, including penalties and interest. The problem is that the employer doesn't have the money to resolve the tax problems and believes that a solution to the problem (i n the form of income or profits) is just around the corner, and needs your help meanwhile to provide the time for the employer to bring in the income needed to pay off the tax problem.
Some of the problems can be cured by watching expenses and making sure that taxes are paid before other expenses, and reducing payroll when needed to reduce payroll taxes.
Small business is not just owned by your employer, it is owned by the spouse (and possibly the children) of the employer, in the sense that what the employer or spouse want you should give, otherwise be prepared to leave. If not, you will be creating a f amily dispute.
Businesses can be financed in a variety of ways, which you should understand, so you can think like a small businessperson.
The main financing is "sweat equity", which means that even though I may be worth $200,000 a year to General Motors as a middle manager, I choose to work for myself for nothing, and contribute the value of my time (which General Motors says is worth $200, 000 per year). The problem with this is that General Motors has the money to use my services fully, whereas in my own business I may not have the money to do what I am capable of doing, which means that many small businesspersons are underemployed for la ck of capital.
Initial capital often comes from the businessperson himself/herself, and may not be much money. Sometimes the businessperson's family contributes venture capital to the business. Even thought the contribution is made in the form of a "loan", it is not r eally a loan in the class banking sense because the loan has little likelihood of being repaid. The loan is really a venture capital contribution without the benefit of an equity position in the business, and is closer to estate planning in nature than b anking. Loans may also come from credit card advances, as explained above, which may be the most significant and available source for small business today.
Banks probably will not lend any money unless the businessperson puts up collateral in the form of marketable securities (such as AT&T common stock). If the businessperson has marketable securities, he doesn't have to borrow money. He could sell the sto ck and use the loan proceeds in his business.
Then there is the possibility of bringing in investors or partners who could contribute say $100,000 or $500,000 in capital to a growing business in exchange for a significant share of the equity.
Finally, when a business is beginning to take off, and has receive an infusion of private capital from private investors, the business might decide to go public and raise money through a public offering of securities. If this occurs, you would want to be in on the ground floor months before this occurs with ownership of common stock in the business. The reason is that you would want to get in when the stock is selling for the proverbial penny a share, so that you are not hit with income or gift taxes on your receipt of shares when they are selling for the public offering price of $5.00 or $10.00 or more per share.
We have discussed this before. You should be honest. But it is tough. Some of the world's largest fortunes have been based on illegality or dishonesty, and this is true to this day. Dishonesty occurs everywhere, and not only at the top. My advice to you is to be honest, so that persons can trust you, but don't be afraid to go into the "gray" area where the rule of law is not clear. The "gray" area of law shelters you or your employer from competition, and enables you to charge more for your products and services because of the lack of competition.
Sometimes you find out that your "gray" area activities were unlawful, such as by the court holding that you in fact infringed a patent and owe $35,000,000. Other times you may prevail in the gray area. I don't consider the gray area as dishonest. It r epresents good business.
Part of honesty is maintaining good business ethics. If I had to write an Ethics Code consisting of one rule I would probably write: Try to be fair with the persons with whom you deal.
Litigation can be an economic disaster for small business and one of your duties in a small business might be to handle complaints and claims, to try to adjust them and do what is right, so they don't grow into litigation.
Also, you would probably be the main person for dealing with information being sent to or received from lawyers representing the business in any litigation involving it. You should be the person instead of the owner, in order to save his/her time. Accord ingly, to some extent your activities as the number 2 person in a small business would be "paralegal". It is interesting to note that many chief executive officers ("C.E.O.'s") or presidents of large companies say that more than 50% of their time is spen t on legal matters.
One good way to avoid litigation, is for someone (preferably you) to always be on the lookout for wrongdoing or possible wrongdoing which might cause litigation. I can't give you a list, but such things as employment discrimination, false labelling, stea ling ideas, inducing persons to breach their contracts, fraud, false advertising and accidents caused by improperly-maintained premises come to mind.
Your business should have access to a lawyer to represent it in general matters, and you might well be the person who does most of the dealing with the firm. There are various ways to find a lawyer and each of the of value: referrals from satisfied user s; lawyer advertising in the yellow pages and in newspaper, magazine and computer classified; looking up descriptions of lawyers and their names in Martindale-Hubbell's or West's computer data bases; and going into data processing files (in Westlaw or Lex is) or into the local courts to see what attorneys are handling similar types of cases.
The way that I find a lawyer in cities outside of New York is to go to the end of the alphabetized listing of lawyers for the city in question and find a lawyer who practices alone and has been out of law school for 3 to 5 years. Such lawyer is seldom ca lled (because he is at the end of the list), he/she doesn't have partners (which means that the lawyer has a lower overhead and will generally work for a lower hourly rate), and the lawyer has enough experience (so that he/she knows what to do) but not to o much experience (in which case the hourly rate would be too high). I have been pleased with all of my selections, I might add.
Accountants should be used on a regular basis to obtain the income and expense information, prepare sales tax and occupancy tax returns, prepare financial statements (unless the business is too small to use or need them), to prepare tax reports for review , signing and filing by the business, and to prepare annual income and franchise tax returns.
Your activities will be needed to get the needed information to the accountant, and to save your employer's time in the process.
I hope that this booklet is instructive to you. I have offered the best that I know to try to bring you up to a level which would be acceptable to many small businesspersons. There are millions of jobs waiting for qualified persons, but our system of la ws government education and employment makes it too difficult to provide the training which is needed at a price you and small business could afford. The next best thing is to tell you what you need to know, and offer some solutions on how you can acquir e that information. I think this booklet will accomplish that purpose for you. Please let me know what you think about the booklet, and offer any suggestions you may have for improvement. Thank you.
Carl E. Person
325 W. 45th Street - Suite 201
New York NY 10036-3803
Tel: (212) 307-4444
Fax: (212) 307-0247
Copyright © 1994 by Carl E. Person (see extended notice above)