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New Overtime Regulations: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Maryland Overtimme RegulationOn December 1, 2016 new federal overtime regulations take effect, making about 4.2 million more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay. Currently, only salaried workers earning less than $23,660 per year are eligible under federal regulations for time-and-a-half pay when they exceed 40 work hours in a week. Under the new rules, non-exempt workers earning less than $47,476 per year are eligible for overtime pay, when they work more than 40 hours. The rule change is intended to have several effects, including: More take-home pay for middle-class families A greater work-life balance Job creation (because employers that previously counted on salaried workers to exceed 40 hours per week may decide to hire additional staff, rather than pay time-and-a-half to existing workers). The new overtime regulations will create some logistical headaches for business owners. Options for Salaried Employees Businesses may have to make adjustments to accommodate the new overtime regulations. If,…

How Small Businesses Can Prevent Cyberfraud

MD Small Business AttorneyIn 2015, NPR wrote about cyberfraud, interviewing several business owners who had been victimized by online attacks. One of the victims was a Seattle businessman whom thieves were able to impersonate online, sending several emails from his email address to his bookkeeper that authorized the transfer of more than $1 million to a bank account in China. And, like other business leaders interviewed for the story, he learned that the bank would not reimburse him for his losses. Unlike private citizens, businesses have little recourse when their company accounts are compromised. If hackers should gain access to your customers’ credit card or debit card information, banks would reimburse your customers for any fraudulent charges. Even so, customers may resent you for failing to protect their information, which is a scenario that could hurt your business. Cybercriminals become more sophisticated every day, so to defend against cyberfraud, businesses must keep up…

4 Ways Small Business Owners Can Attract Customers

Maryland Business LawyerWhen you own a small business, marketing is important to your success – not just at start-up, but throughout your existence. Even your most loyal customers may eventually move to a different city, or reach a point when they no longer need your product or service. But if you have a steady stream of new customers, your revenue shouldn’t be too adversely affected when you lose customers along the way. The following are 4 ways small business owners can attract new customers: 1) Know Your Audience For any small business, the first step in attracting new customers is doing some market research to find out the best ways to reach them. For example, a business marketing to young adults would be better off buying a Facebook ad than a commercial on a local TV station, because young adults often don’t watch TV in a traditional sense – they get their…

New Ground for Divorce — Mutual Consent

MD Business LawyerIn 2015, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation creating a new mutual consent law that expedites divorce, in some circumstances. The law eliminates the one-year waiting period for couples that have no minor children and have a written separation agreement, but it does not remove the one-year waiting period for parents with minor children Previously, even when couples both agreed to a divorce, Maryland law required them to live apart for one year before filing for divorce. That one-year period began on the date one spouse moved out of the residence, so in households where one spouse couldn’t afford to move out immediately, the law essentially forced couples to remain married for perhaps more than one year after agreeing to divorce. Outdated Laws? Many state laws were created at a time when attitudes were quite different than today. For example, some states still have laws on the books that prohibit…

Wrongful Termination Defense

Maryland Wrongful Termination Defense LawyerMaryland is an at-will employment state, meaning that, as an employer, you don’t need a reason to fire an employee. However, there are laws that protect employees from wrongful termination, and if a fired employee prevails on a claim of wrongful termination, the results can be economically devastating for business owners. To avoid being the target of a wrongful termination suit, your best defense is to thoroughly vet all job applicants. An applicant who lacks a solid work history and excellent references could be someone who will end up being a problem employee in the future. Along with hiring the right people, exemplary recordkeeping and clear company policies that define progressive disciplinary procedures can help shield you from a wrongful termination suit. Types of Claims Allegations of wrongful termination fall into one of the following categories: A violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. This law protects…

Top Regulatory Issues Facing Small Businesses Today

Small Business OwnerBusiness analysts are keeping a close eye on proposed rules that are expected to be finalized in 2016. These rules could have an impact on small businesses, especially companies with multiple employees. Following are some of the top federal regulatory issues small businesses should know about, including one rule that went into effect late last year. EMV Cards Credit and debit cards equipped with EMV chip technology are more resistant to hacking than cards with a magnetic swipe strip. With a swipe-strip card, each time a customer makes a purchase, the same code is relayed to the user’s bank to authorize payment, whereas a card embedded with a chip generates a unique authorization code for each transaction. The technology can protect consumers from fraud, but only if businesses are able to process chip-card payments. A rule that went into effect in October 2015 allows MasterCard and Visa to hold merchants…

How to Write a Business Plan

Maryland Business Plan LawyerIf you’re thinking about starting a business and have some time off for the holiday season, now’s the time to start putting your ideas on paper. December is National Write a Business Plan Month, and entrepreneurs who sort out their plans this month can start the new year feeling organized and confident that they’re ready to launch their new business. Why You Need a Business Plan Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic, big-idea people, but sometimes they need help nailing down the details that will help them achieve their vision. That’s the point of a business plan. One good method for getting started on a business plan is to take a look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, known as a SWOT analysis. For example, a restaurateur may be a marvelous chef (strength), but have no knowledge of how to market a business (weakness). Identifying weaknesses in advance can help…

6 Ways to Increase Your Business Credit Score

Business Credit Score - Load ApprovedIn the first few years after opening a small business, many entrepreneurs find they need additional resources to stay afloat. A small loan or buying additional equipment on credit may help businesses weather the lean startup period. But without a good business credit score, entrepreneurs may have trouble getting that kind of help, or finding favorable interest rates. Following are six tips for building and maintaining a healthy business credit score. Separate personal and business finances. Owners should ensure their own bank accounts and finances are separate from the business’s. If one or more business owners should develop a poor credit rating or need to file for personal bankruptcy, that could harm the business, if finances aren’t separate. Get a company credit card. Many financial experts advise young people to use credit cards in order to build a favorable credit rating, and the same advice holds true for businesses. Get…

The Importance of Shareholder & Buy/Sell Agreements

Shareholder AgreementMany people dream of owning their own business and being their own boss, but often, that dream is hard to achieve without some sort of collaboration. That’s why aspiring entrepreneurs may choose to team up with friends or family to launch a business. Those ventures can be successful, but without adequate planning, they can also lead to strain on personal relationships and other negative consequences. Shareholder and buy/sell agreements are essential legal documents for small businesses, especially when friends and family are involved. A verbal promise or a handshake isn’t adequate protection for one’s interests. Individual priorities may change over time, and business partners – no matter how much they trust each other – should always prepare for worst-case scenarios. Buy/Sell Agreements Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Three friends open a restaurant together, with a verbal agreement that they’ll split the profits evenly among themselves. But after a few years, one…