Time for new World Order

(Political insolvency on all fronts is leading to narrower options)

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Although many observers are skeptic of the phrase ‘world order’, yet its definition in the post 9/11 era has mandated new interpretations regarding many political, economic and social concepts around the world. Discussing any of the previous eras, whether post WWII or post-Cold-War era is bound by one unifying notion, which makes theorizing and governance more feasible and approachable than the current realities around globe. The fact that world order was centered around the concept of STATE was inevitable since the global ideological struggle (Capitalism VS Communism) was based upon application by state. Therefore, neither sides was ready to accept any alternative for the presence of state and its authority, even though the competition between the poles was more like a clash and conflict.

The rise of non-state actors and their overwhelming influence in decision-making circles has placed the international community with several obstacles without any evident solution in the near future. The influence and role of many intergovernmental non-state actors is also bound and limited by many variable and new domestic or regional legislations, which only expands the power of non-governmental actors around the world. In addition, majority of global actors and IGOs have not been able to cope and align themselves with new political guidelines and criterions to contain the means and factors behind emergence of non-state actors. However, there are many non-governmental actors around the world with superb record in helping humanity and aiding states in law and order promotion. Nonetheless, the violent non-state actors or what the modern world call terrorism and rouge elements are the actors that influencing our world today. Unfortunately, the notion of proxies has been transformed into having non-state actors as allies in a certain country or region to mandate certain policies and gains, which only complicates the job for the international community.

Narrowing down the focus of this subject would be facilitated if the Middle East is considered as a study case, where non-state actors have been the real cause of distress and instability or order and stability in some cases. In addition, the influence of this geographical region in the world contains many other aspects other than political variables, due to its complex ethnic, religious and sectarian divisions, which have been politically mobilized and misused.

Fortunately or unfortunately is a judgement for future generations, yet modern non-state (non-governmental) actors have been able to achieve and accomplish much farther goals and gains than many states in the region. Although the resources and means of wealth were always controlled by the states, yet Middle Eastern governments have proven to be the most incompetent around the world, even though they had numerous models and examples from around the world. Therefore, non-governmental organizations have been able to create complex and well-built social networks and popular bases for themselves. The influence of those NGO came to reality and was capitalized through organized and planned political endeavours, armed conflicts, and violent methods and in case of Yemen total take-over of power and ousting a government. The efforts of the international community has proven to be unworthy as the mindset of those organizations is still unclear, since majority of the conflicts are still ongoing. Therefore, finding solutions and placing authority in the hands of legit and elected governments is far from the reach.

The notion of categorizing states by their cooperation with the international community, economic distribution to the world markets and alliances has been useless, as conceptualizing the world based on realism and liberalism is irrelevant.

To be continued

Resolution Methods for Privation & Adversity

Part 14: The economic factors for generating, sustaining and developing wealth to fight poverty (10) (Stimulating wealth flow)
(Based on the thoughts & theories of Ayatollah Sayed Murtadha Al-Shirazai)
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The flow of wealth and funds will result in active and healthy economy, where citizens have access to funds for consumption, transactions are facilitated and inflation is contained and reduced. However, accumulation of wealth and funds, will freeze and prevent them from a healthy flow in the markets, which will also prevent the creation and flow of new wealth and fund generation methods. Therefore, the Islamic system has discouraged accumulation of wealth and the 34th verse of Quran’s 9th chapter indicates: “and those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, give them tidings of a painful punishment”. (Note: the phrase way of Allah would not necessary hold a religious aspect, as other verses of the Holy Quran and traditions of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household, indicate that any action, deed, statement and effort which would benefit the people is considered an action in the way of Allah.)
The prohibition of accumulation in this verse is not bound to gold and silver, but since those two items are the most notable and known examples their names are mentioned. Presently, states around the world have maintained a continuous policy of wealth accumulation under the name of (RESERVE) or (Emergency fund). Unfortunately, billions or hundreds of billions in dollars and precious metals are stashed in reserves and funds, where the entire management process of these funds are granted to administrational bureaucrats.
Nevertheless, the methodology of Imam Ali (P.B.U.H) shows that funds received from taxation or other sources were granted to the masses immediately, as Imam Ali never left any funds in the state treasury at the end of the day. This methodology and policy of Imam Ali would assure that all the funds and wealth of a nation is directed to the masses, including the lower class. Therefore, poverty and privation is minimized vastly, flow of wealth leads to stronger economy and this trend would ultimately benefit the state and its citizens on all levels and aspects. In general, once the consumption ability of the masses is increased, the investment opportunities are available in a broader range, infrastructures, cultivation, manufacturing and mining are sought to be excellent opportunities for wealth growth. Nonetheless, this strong and healthy economy would translate into an ability to pay more taxes, which will also end up in the hands of people in different shapes, services and plans.
Therefore, pouring the reserve funds into the hands of the masses would create and enormous direct and indirect ability to diminish poverty and privation, which would lead to a stronger state and public. This method would also increase the gross domestic production, which is the real reserve fund and power that could support and sustain any currency regardless of the size of an economy.
According to some historians and researchers, the necessity of stimulating flow of wealth and funds was among the primary reasons behind the Prophet Mohammad’s decision to change the goods exchange methods to currency and monetary system. The system considered gold and silver as standard for exchange, comparison and equivalency, where the worth of the currency was set. Therefore, for instance 1 Dinar was equivalent 4.6 g of gold and other measurement.
The shift to this system enabled the consumers to explore various options for trade transactions, as transportation and other related aspects to any trader deal were facilitated. Therefore, exchanging a good for another was not the method to conduct a transaction, which also prevented some goods being kept aside until expire, because the goods exchange method made them unpopular.

Business & Trade in Shia Narrations

Business and Trade Principles According to Shia Islam

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Providing for family and dependents or even one’s self, is the primary goal of all humans, which varies according to each human’s complacency and satisfaction. Therefore, from the beginning of creation until this specific moment and regardless of ideological and political affiliations, the effort to secure a certain mean of financial security is a mutual tendency of all humans. The religion of Islam, Prophet Mohammad and his holy household (pbut) have presented enormous amount of solutions and plans for financial security and earning sustenance in a legitimate and un-proscribed way.

According to an ordinance by Imam Ali(a) to his son Mohammad Ibn Al-Hanafia, he categorizes sustenance and means of living in two parts.

  1. A sustenance (Mean of living) that rushes to you
  2. A sustenance (Mean of living) you have to rush to

Obviously, the first category is the sustenance that is guaranteed by God to all of his creations and subjects, as the Quran states, there isn’t one creation, which its sustenance is not provided by God. The second category has been interpreted by other Imams as pursuit of business and commerce, which has been presented as the primary source of blessed sustenance. Prophet Mohammad has narrated in an ordinance to Imam Ali, ‘sustenance is ten parts, nine of them are in commerce and one part in others ways. Therefore, the importance of trade and commerce in Islam is undeniable, which has urged some western scholars to argue that Islam is a capitalist system, since it praises free trade and circulation of wealth.

Islamic Conditions on Trade & Commerce

To distinguish the difference between the previous and contemporary economic systems and the Islamic system of commerce and economics, Islam has placed several conditions and standards. These conditions and standards are a combined sets of jurisprudential and ethical codes to govern the trading affairs of Muslims, regardless of capital, shares, costs, profits and market variables. In addition, these codes are sufficient to address social equality, wise investment, wealth distribution and transfer among different classes and the legitimate approach to accumulate wealth without confiscating the rights and efforts of others. The primary goal of Islam in urging the believers to invest and adopt trading as a mean of living, is to create a complete and strong socio-financial network that secures a stable, decent and honorable life for the members of society. In addition, the personal aspect of trade and commerce is directly linked to the importance of family and holding its strong bonds to create good members for the society as well.

The conditions and principles to conduct legitimate and proper trade and commerce are:

  • A trader or an investor must gain knowledge in jurisprudence and know the specifics of what is permissible, impermissible, legitimate and illegitimate, to secure a safe and pure sustenance and wealth.
  • Refrain from trading and investing in any product or service that harm humans. (Drugs, Alcohol)
  • Refrain from trading and investing in any product or service that has been prohibited by the Islamic Law (Sharia Law…for example don’t sell alcoholic beverages).
  • Islam prohibits the monopolization of any product or service that is considered a necessity for a specific nation. These products include the primary ingredients of any meal, like flour, salt, fuel and oil.
  • Islamic strictly prohibits bribery in any transaction, which inclusively covers bribery in trade and commerce to gain special rights or favors above other investors and traders.
  • Islam prohibits paying more for a product, although it is not demanded to increase its value in the market.
  • Islam prohibits selling a product under its value to create instability in the market and cause losses for other investors and traders.
  • Islam strictly prohibits misrepresentation. This notion is another type or definition of LYING, which has been identified by the narrations of Prophet Mohammad as the key to all sins and wrongdoings. Therefore, lying in business or any aspect of life is strictly prohibited and impermissible.
  • Islam prohibits financial misconduct in business and trading transactions, which might cause hardships and difficulties for consumers and enables few individuals to accumulate wealth illegitimately.
  • Islam prohibits trading and investing in stolen goods and products.

In addition, there are tens of other conditions and principles for investment and trading, which are the perfect means to protect all sides of any transaction. As mentioned in previous articles, the religion of Islam is a faith, which gives the best rights to all individuals regardless of their faith and affiliations. Therefore, commerce and trading business is not secluded from this notion, which has made the Islamic system as one of the most desired revenue and wealth generating methods in the world. The notion of banning interest accumulations on debts and lending funds, has created an alternative for the current global banking system, which is solely depended on interest and illegitimate business conducts to generate wealth. However, due to the lack of development in the Muslim countries, many scholars and western observers are skeptic about the implementation of the Islamic system of commerce and trade in business transactions. Although, it might be right to argue, why hasn’t Muslims taken any advantage from this system, it must not be forgotten that political instabilities in the Middle East has prevented many development and advancements in the region. The Islamic system has gone even further in securing the rights of all sides in any transactions by offering ethical, moral and social suggestions in trading.

  • Do not ask for discount after the finalization of a transaction.
  • Do not do business in a dark place, where the flaws of your product cannot be seen.
  • Being a silent partner is very recommended if it helps a new or troubled trader.
  • Do not sell something by quantity if it is sold by quality in a specific place.

And there are hundreds of other recommendations and suggestions for traders, investors and consumers which focus on a healthy, honest, fair, and ethical business transactions.

Bridging the Generational Divide at Work

By Amanda C (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

Have you seen any of the innumerable articles online about how to deal with “millennials” in the workplace? There must be another half dozen of them every day. The sheer number of these articles points to a basic, significant characteristic of today’s workplace: That even though one generation is always on the way out while another is on the way in, the modern workplace has an historically unique hodgepodge of generations, with Boomers and Gen Xers and the Millennial crowd all trying to work toward common professional goals despite major personal differences.

At its best, this generational diversity can animate and enliven a professional team. Older members of the workforce impart wisdom and experience to younger ones, while the younger set brings energy, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas.

But of course, members of different generations do not always get along this way—despite some truly valiant efforts. Different members of the workforce bring their own values, perspectives, and expectations to the workplace—and while they may try to connect and to get along, their efforts may not always bear fruit.

Perhaps your business has generational conflict, and you’d like to be the leader who pushes the entire team toward greater empathy and collaboration. For those with a genuine interest in bridging the generational gap at work, there are a few considerations that might deliver results, or at least pave the way toward greater understanding.

  • Remember what all employees want, regardless of their generation—and that’s to be recognized and affirmed for their work. For all the articles out there about how older and younger workers differ, all employees bring a basic need to the workplace, and that’s the need to feel like they are important and appreciated. Even when you give some tasks to older workers and different tasks to younger workers, then, make sure you are clear in communicating what each person brings to the project, and why it matters.
  • Try creating a mentorship program in your workplace. Older employees have experience and insight from which younger workers can benefit; as they impart their wisdom, they may find themselves encouraged and reinvigorated by youthful energy and by new ideas. You can foster all of this, very formally and officially, by starting a mentorship program at work, and allowing members of different generations to bond one on one.
  • Note that different generations bring different assets to the workplace—beyond their resume accomplishments and their formal skills. In particular, younger employees will bring enthusiasm to what could otherwise be a jaded and complacent workforce. Take advantage of this, and as you hire and form teams, try to harness the power of different attitudes.
  • Acknowledge that conflict erupts in all work settings, in particular those with different generations represented. It’s just a fact of life, and trying to avoid conflict from ever happening is an exercise in futility. Rather than pretend like your office is immune, instead try setting up some procedures and policies for dealing with conflict effectively—including some channels for employees to offer candid feedback.
  • Give older employees plenty of opportunities to keep learning. One of the reasons older employees can resent younger ones is that they start to feel obsolete. Don’t let that happen. Instead, provide opportunities for older employees to learn about things like social media and digital marketing. Keep them in the loop, and allow them to sharpen their skills.

Communication, the celebration of differences, opportunities to offer constructive feedback while also seeking avenues of professional improvement—these are the hallmarks of a workplace culture that values all generations, and fosters true unity and collaboration.

But we’ll add one more thing. Always be clear in articulating the goals of your business. Let all members of the team know what they’re working toward, and they’ll be more likely to pitch in and do their part—in whatever way is best suited for them.

 

The Best Cloud-Based Apps for Small Business

By Ali Reza

As technology continues to advance, more businesses are turning to cloud-based applications and services. Cloud computing allows them to access a wide range of services without the added expense of having to create and manage a physical infrastructure. Files and data are available at their fingertips from remote locations. This is especially beneficial for small businesses that are looking to operate more efficiently and cost effectively.

Cloud-based applications are available for a multitude of areas from customer relationship management (CRM) and human resources (HR) to accounting, project management, and more. There are hundreds of apps to choose from, so selecting the best one for your small business can take some time and research. Explore your options to see what fits your specific needs. Here are a few worth checking out:

Dropbox: Whether you have remote employees or are constantly on the go, Dropbox gives you access to your files when you need them. You can save any type of file including spreadsheets, photos, videos, and music and give others access from wherever they are. This makes file sharing a snap and keeps your email from getting clogged with large files. Employees can work from home or on the road and still have access to all of the files that they may need and share with others.

Skype: Forget costly international phone calls or traveling to meet with colleagues or clients. With Skype you can use your computer as a phone. You can video chat or message your contacts to hold meetings and talk in real time. In addition, you can also send and receive files. Keep in touch with the click of a button and see when others are available and online to chat.

DocuSign: Tracking documents that require signatures can be costly and frustrating especially if they need to be sent to multiple people. With DocuSign you can electronically mail important files and designate exactly where each person should sign. All they have to do is follow the program instructions and their electronic signature is added and the file is returned to you. This is a secure and legal way to quickly and efficiently get documents signed and have a digital copy on file.

Salesforce: CRM is an essential part of a successful business. With Salesforce you can boost your sales pipeline and better manage your leads throughout the entire process. You can also create more customized marketing tactics and collaborate more effectively. With the analytics component you can drive solutions and evaluate the impact of different strategies and projects. Choose one service or many services depending on your needs and customer interactions.

Google Apps: Google offers a wide variety of cloud-based apps that can be beneficial for keeping small businesses organized and connected. You can store and send files, share calendars for easier planning, and hold group conferences with Hangouts. Employees have access to the information they need when they need it and it can be constantly updated.

HootSuite:  Social media has become an integral part of business, marketing, and customer engagement. With one app you can manage all of your social media accounts and schedule posts to be released automatically on the date and time of your choosing. Track clicks, shares, mentions, and interactions with your posts on different platforms to better analyze what is working well and what is not. If your business is using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, WordPress, or any combination of these platforms, HootSuite can make social media management much easier and provide valuable data.

These are just a few of the apps available to help you better manage and grow your small business. Consider the time and money you can save by moving some of your services to the cloud and how much easier it could be to keep everyone connected and share essential information. Give employees more flexibility with where they are able to work from and how they interact with clients and data. There are also many processes in place to keep your information safe and secure while still allowing remote access to designated individuals.

If you are looking for ways to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and cut costs, it may be time to invest in some cloud-based applications for your small business. If you have any questions on what app is right for your business, feel free to contact me as I provide business consulting services to businesses of all size.

From Employee to Entrepreneur

By Maryam C
Edited by Ali Reza

From Employee to Entrepreneur

The jump from employee to entrepreneur is never an easy one, and it can actually be a little daunting—but it’s also a genuine thrill. Starting your own business means going out on a limb, chasing a dream, and grasping for the life and the lifestyle you crave. The best case scenario? You succeed. The worst case scenario? You do something brave and amazing, you learn something along the way, and at the end of it all you lick your wounds but live to fight another day.

Because the stakes can be high—you’re forsaking the stability of a regular paycheck and possibly investing a good chunk of your family’s resources—it’s obviously important to go about things correctly. The process of starting a company may vary slightly from one entrepreneur to the next, but there are some basic tips that are relevant across the board.

Appraising Yourself

The important starting point is some earnest reflection. Before you take any real action, invest in some deep, candid thought.

Where are you strong—and where are you weak? Evaluating your skills and your personality is important. This is not necessarily to talk yourself out of starting a business, but rather to know where you need to rope in some help. You may have a lot of great, relevant skills but not much financial savvy—which means investing in some business classes or hiring an accountant/bookkeeper may be necessary.

Something else to evaluate: Your goals. Why do you want to start a business? Is it to achieve a certain lifestyle? To have more flexibility in your schedule? More money? Or are you simply really passionate about a particular product or industry? The answer to this may dictate the kind of business you start.

Doing Some Research

Next comes the really difficult part: Turning your appraisal toward the industry in which you want to launch a company. What kind of industry is it that you’re preparing to enter—and is there any room in it for you?

This is where you may encounter something of a reality check. A crowded and competitive industry is going to pose big challenges, and you’ll need a way to distinguish yourself.

Google can be a great tool here, but you may also want to look up some of the industry’s key publications and try to get your hands on a few copies.

Think about how urgently and fervently people want whatever it is the industry provides. How much money will it cost you to deliver a product that stands out—and for how long will the product remain relevant?

Get Down to the Nitty Gritty

The next step is to take things into a more practical, tangible realm. Start with this: Make your company legal. Do some research into the different business licenses required by the city, county, and state. Also check around for any insurance that you’re required to have, or from which you might benefit.

You should also meet with an attorney to speak about business formation. You have several options to choose from—sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability corporation—and you’ll want to discuss the pros and cons with someone who knows. There are legal and tax implications here, and it’s not a decision to make lightly.

Next comes the planning process: Determining how much capital you will need to launch the business and sustain it for a while. How will you get your products manufactured, your marketing expenses met, your overhead dealt with, and a decent cash flow established? And oh yeah: How will you pay yourself?

Think through financing options but also through the different expenses that may, in the long run, be good for your business to incur—including outsourcing important tasks to graphic designers, marketing professionals, lawyers, and so forth.

Develop a business plan, and include within it an elevator pitch. Train yourself in selling your company in 30 seconds or less—because without selling, you don’t have a business: You just have an idea for a business.

The steps obviously go on from there, and continue for as long as your business keeps its doors open—but these first steps will orient you in the right direction toward an exciting and hopefully successful adventure in entrepreneurship.

Stop Wasting Time: How to Be More Productive at Work

You sit at your desk for somewhere around eight hours each day—but how much work are you actually getting done? A quick Google search for articles on time management suggests that productivity is a major concern across the board; people are concerned that they’re not accomplishing as much as they should be, but they don’t necessarily know how to fix the problem.

It’s not necessarily an easy problem to fix. It really boils down to daily habits—breaking bad ones, forming better ones. Some of these habits may be fairly major. Some may be minor, yet even seemingly trivial habits can be difficult to reshape.

Nevertheless, getting more done at work is certainly possible. Consider some of these tips as you think about which habits to break and which to form.

The Little Things

Productivity boils down, in large part, to your perspective. Many employees think that multitasking makes them more productive—that by doing many things at once, they can ultimately accomplish more. This is not true, and in fact productivity studies have roundly debunked it. Multitasking typically means that you do your work with less focus and less aplomb; you get less work complete, and what you do complete can be suboptimal.

So how can you change? It starts with a paradigm shift. Recognize that you’re going to have a more productive day if, for instance, you only check e-mail once or twice instead of checking it constantly.

This paradigm shift may carry over into the way you plan your day. You may be unused to scheduling e-mail time, or scheduling social media time, because those are things you just do throughout the day. Being really productive may require you to allot 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each day for these things—and abstaining from them in between.

Hatching a Plan

In fact, scheduling and planning are both hallmarks of truly productive people. Taking 10 or 20 minutes each morning to map out your day may sound like a waste of time, but it actually ensures that you make more thoughtful and elaborate use of your day. Take time in the morning to make a list of goals and priorities—things you need to do today prioritized over things that could be pushed to tomorrow—and then segment your time accordingly.

Try segmenting like things together. For instance, schedule a two-hour block for phone calls rather than scheduling them intermittently throughout the day. This keeps your mind focused and removes abrupt transitions.

Also spend some time each morning, and perhaps after each lunch break or major task, simply sitting and regaining your calm. Breathe, regain focus, go over your goals once more, and prepare yourself for the next bout of sustained productivity.

Protecting Your Time

A big part of productivity is being protective of your time—and hedging yourself off from things that are not truly necessary.

Meetings are often a big culprit. There is much to be said for face to face communication, but many companies and executives go overboard. Is it truly necessary to meet and spend an hour talking with someone? Could it be done more effectively over Skype or the phone? Is it something that really could be handled in an e-mail? Be relentless about turning down meetings that you see as gratuitous.

Learning to say no is a big deal for being productive—tough, but essential for keeping your time as truly yours.

Get to Know Yourself

If you really want to be radical about all this, consider this: Get a notebook, carry it around for a week or so, and make notes about where each minute of your time is spent. Then review the results—but be prepared for a surprise. You may find that you’re wasting way more time than you ever thought on, say, social media.

And this, of course, will only point you toward some more bad habits to break in your quest for productivity.

Employment News: 6 In-Demand Jobs

By Amanda C (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

With continual news coming out of the Department of Labor regarding the improvement of the American economy, there is a general feeling of hope and excitement amongst workers.  Consult this list and learn where the most in-demand jobs happen to be and the educational requirements for each role.

  • Biomedical Engineering.  Professionals in this field are responsible for developing and designing artificial organs and prosthetic limbs.  Most entry-level positions in this field require at least a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, or at the very least, a four year certificate from an accredited program.  For professionals interested in faculty-level positions or engaging in research in this field, a Master’s degree is typically required.
  • Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts.  These technology professionals have the ability to configure and organize the internal IT systems used by corporations.  Usually requiring a BS in Technology or Computer Science, candidates in this field are in high demand as office settings become more virtual with workers operating in off-site environments.  Additionally, added potential is given to workers who have this type of background and who also hold MBAs in Information Systems.
  • Home Health Care Professionals.  As Baby Boomers continue to retire, the field of home health care is an ever expanding one.  These individuals help elderly or disabled clients with ongoing health needs, and advise families on nutrition, cleanliness, and overall health.  Professionals in this field typically require either a certificate from an accredited institution or an Associate’s degree.
  • Physician’s Assistants.  A professional who serves as Physician’s Assistant engages in duties related to administration of medication, conducts physicals, counsels patients, and is key in maintaining the overall flow of a medical office.  A PA is required to have a Bachelor’s degree in the field.
  • Pharmacy Technicians.  A Pharmacy Technician works under the supervision of a lead pharmacist and is responsible for preparing medication and delivering upon customer service needs.  Pharmacy Technicians are responsible for completing a program that typically lasts for six months to two years—depending on the program, a professional in this field usually holds a Pharmacy Technician Certificate or an Associate’s degree.
  • Computer Software Engineers.  The role of a Computer Software Engineer is one that is ever changing, largely because technology processes continue to develop at such an alarming rate.  A professional in this field is responsible for applying theories of computer science in the design and development of software.  Degrees held by these in-demand professionals are typically Bachelors-level and focus on computer engineering, computer science, mathematics, and information technology.  Moreover, this field is one where a professional has the option of also working independently or on a freelance basis—there are many organizations that are searching for contract workers.

The salary ranges for these fields do vary, as do the demands placed on professionals who operate in these areas.  In order to know if one of these fields is right for you and your career, take the time to properly research salary information and other statistics.  Up-to-date, factual information can be found on job resource websites such as Glassdoor.com.

 

Time Management: Do You Have to Work a 5 Day Week to Be the Boss?

By Amanda (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

The idea of being the person in charge and owning your own company is incredibly appealing to many people—especially because there is a belief that with entrepreneurship comes complete freedom. However, this idea of “freedom” is a bit ambiguous.  Any person who is considering going into business for themselves must realize some startling truths—prior to cutting their corporate ties.

You Can Work Whenever You Want—All of the Time

A typical misconception about self-employment and entrepreneurship is that a person ultimately has the freedom to work whenever they want—setting their own hours and calling the shots.  Now, understand that on some levels this might be true.  However, when you are just starting out, the reality is that you might end up pulling some very long hours, especially as you work to establish and grow the company into something that is sustainable.  “Entrepreneurs” who slack in the grassroots stages of a business oftentimes find themselves back in a corporate cubicle when their business idea crashes and burns.

At the same time, it is not a far-fetched dream to say that someday it might just be possible to work a part time schedule as the boss.  Should you get into the position where you have an effective and hardworking staff who knows what is expected of them, internal processes that promote productivity, and a healthy revenue cycle, then yes, you might just end up achieving enhanced work/life balance as a business owner—but you must realize that is a goal to aim for, not one that will be automatically achieved as you just start out.

Work/Life Tips for Entrepreneurs

Therefore, it must be asked: How can an entrepreneur successfully manage their time as they ensure that their business has legs to stand on?  Follow these tips to become a master of your own time:

  1. Recognize and respect your “prime time.”  Every person has a time of day where they are most alert and most productive. This might be early morning for some people or late at night for others.  One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is having the flexibility to work when you are productive.  Work around your natural highs and lows.
  2. Set deadlines—and stick to them. Starting out, you might have fewer deadlines on a daily basis than that which you experienced while working in a corporation.  Nevertheless, don’t slack in this department.  Hold yourself accountable.  Being timely right now will help you establish a good reputation with your customers.
  3. Schedule downtime.  As we noted, it can be very hard to achieve work-life balance when you are starting out.  Therefore, schedule downtime into your days.  If you don’t take some time to relax, you will get burned out, and your work will suffer.
  4. Create a “No Work Allowed Zone.”  As an entrepreneur, you might spend time working from home.  In this regard, it is very easy to have this work continually spill over into every facet of your personal life.  Create a boundary zone where you do not respond to emails, you turn off your phone, and your files are set aside.
  5. Get enough sleep. It’s not necessary to elaborate on this point.  Ultimately, every person needs enough sleep to be successful—entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule.
  6. Create a to-do list a day in advance.  At the end of every day, identify what you must accomplish the next day and prioritize accordingly. Identify the phone calls you need to make, the projects you have to work on, etc.  Surprisingly, people who do this at the end of a workday report less anxiety and are more likely to sleep better because they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them the next day.
  7. Know the value of your time and be aware of “time vampires.”  Ultimately, as an entrepreneur you are in charge of your own success—you must identify what your time is worth.  Moreover, be aware of people or things that encroach on and abuse that time.  There is always going to be something or someone who wants your help (and your time) for free.  Identify who/what these things are and devise a strategy for keeping them in check.

In closing, it is definitely a good thing to be your own boss—but you should never start your own business with the idea that you will have complete freedom. Think rationally and realistically—and always work hard.  That’s the only way to ensure that you have the freedom to call the shots in your own life.

6 Tax Audit Red Flags

Here it comes.  April 15th.  The date otherwise known as the annual deadline for filing income taxes.  In the past year, the IRS has faced some significant budget cuts, meaning that staffing numbers have been reduced when compared to previous years.  That means that taxpayers across the country may face a lessened chance of actually being audited.  However, realize that this is a cautionary tale—and not everyone is going to get off so lucky.  Learn about the red flags that make your chances of being audited by the IRS higher.

Things to be Aware of

  1. If you run a small business—you need to be able to prove it.  It’s true that few people immediately make a profit when they start their own business, and a loss is acceptable by the IRS—at least up to a point.  If you start reporting losses for three years or more, the IRS is going to begin to assume that your “business” is more of a hobby and that you aren’t looking to make this a venture that will ever be profitable. This can ultimately activate a field audit, a process that happens one-on-one, in-person, and is significantly more difficult than a simple correspondence audit.   In order to avoid this, keep meticulous records that show that you were dedicated to your business, the time you spent on it, and other supporting materials.
  2. If something looks odd, explain it.  The IRS searches for instances of unreported income, so if you look to explain something in advance that looks off or odd, you reduce your risk for being audited.  A for instance: your net income is low. In this regard, include a statement that explains how you handled yourself financially—whether you ran up your credit cards or tapped into savings, etc.  Providing this information can help in the long run.
  3. Report all of your income.  The majority of your wages are going to be found on W-2 forms.  Interest, dividends, and capital gains will be reported on 1099 as well as income you earned through contracting or freelancing work.  Realize that these forms are not only sent to you, but also to the IRS, and there is an automated process that is used for ensuring you have reported these documents. Therefore, don’t pretend you didn’t receive something—the IRS will send you a bill in the mail for any additional amount that you owe, and the agency has the right to garnish your bank account and seize property.
  4. Report any money overseas.  U.S. taxpayers who have bank or investment accounts abroad are required to report any income they earned on these accounts to the IRS.  Moreover, a recently established law, called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, means that a foreign financial institution might start reporting this income to the IRS directly.  If you have had an account for several years and have never reported it to the IRS, you could face some serious penalties and back taxes if the agency catches wind of it.
  5. Watch the home office deductions. Most people have one primary office, either on company property or in a home.  Therefore, don’t report a deduction for both if you cannot explain why you have two offices.  Moreover, if you have a primary office through your company that is available for you to use the majority of the time, it’s recommended that you skip taking a home office deduction at all. It’s a huge red flag.
  6. If you sold your home, report it.  The title company will end up sending you and the IRS a 1099-S form that records the proceeds from this sale.  Even if all proceeds are tax exempt because they don’t exceed federal limits, it’s necessary to report the information on the 1099-S anyway.  This again comes back to the fact that the IRS matches forms through an automated program and not reporting this could trigger a correspondence audit.  While you may very well be in the right, it’s still a headache you don’t need.

In closing, an IRS audit is a headache that no one wants to deal with.  As the April 15th tax deadline approaches, make sure you consult with a trusted and ethical accountant to protect your interests and ensure that you are following all of the rules to a “t.”