Friday, June 17, 2005

Effective Employee Performance Reviews

Most employers and employees dread performance reviews, but done correctly, they can prevent small problems from becoming big ones. Jane Applegate, author of "The Entrepreneur's Desk Reference" and "201 Great Ideas for your Small Business," offers the following tips:
* Consider conducting quarterly, rather than annual, reviews of your employees.
* Begin by asking the employee to evaluate himself. Most people will own up to their shortcomings when questioned with respect.
* Heap on the praise before you present your written evaluation. If the employee is hardworking, rarely absent, and never late, mention those qualities up front.
* Be as specific as possible about areas needing improvement. Don't just say, "It's your attitude." Point out calmly that not landing that huge new account means that there will be smaller pay increases.
* Give employees time to explain exactly the circumstances of situations you bring to their attention, and explore what could have been done differently. Get the facts rather than launching into criticism. Avoid a tirade, at all costs.
* End the conversation by making a list of very specific changes that need to be made. Set deadlines for improvement, and make it clear you plan to hold the person accountable.
Source: Jane Applegate, "The Entrepreneur's Desk Reference"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How To Hire A Lawyer

It's best to hire an attorney before you actually need one. Who wants to start screening law firms when they're dealing with the stress of a pending lawsuit or in the middle of a contract negotiation? Beth Gaudio, from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Legal Foundation, offers these tips when looking for an attorney.

1. Begin with smart resources.
*State and county bar associations. Find local contact information through the American Bar Association,
*The Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, a legal network established more than 133 years ago,
*Word of mouth. Ask small-business colleagues for recommendations.
2. Find the right fit.
Always interview two or three lawyers before making your final decision.
3. Ask the important questions.
When you meet with potential lawyers ask questions such as: How long have you been in practice? If your small business is currently dealing with a case, ask how many cases like yours that person has handled. Do they typically go to trial or are most of their cases settled out of court? How much do they estimate this case will cost? How long do they estimate this type of case will take to settle or go to court?
4. Carefully review the terms of agreement.
If you don't understand something a lawyer is saying, ask for clarification. Don't let the lawyer overwhelm you with legal jargon. And don't sign anything until you have time to review the contract and consider other offers.
5. Be thrifty; to avoid quickly racking up lots of legal fees:
* Don't make unnecessary phone calls to your lawyer's office.
* Always put your questions and concerns in writing and keep a copy for yourself.
* Require that your attorney get your authorization for expenses that exceed $200, and ask for copies of all receipts.
* Meet quarterly to assess the progress of your case compared to your budget.

For more detailed information on finding a lawyer, visit and request a copy of Helpful Tips for Hiring a Lawyer, a resource developed specifically for small-business owners.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Make Your Business Cards Unforgettable

A business card is an entrepreneur's best friend, his most valuable marketing tool and an essential element to becoming unforgetable. Unfortunately, too many people have business cards that simply blend into the multitude of cookie-cutter garbage. And that's a shame because a business card is more powerful than you think.
Check out this article by marketing guru Scott Ginsberg and see how your business cards stack up!