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Archive for April, 2010

Officially changing a business address for a limited liability company involves notifying the commerce department in the state where your business is registered.  Many states have a method for updating your address online, while others may require mailing in a form.  You will need to know your business’s employer identification number (EIN), your state-issued ID number, as well as your old address and new address.  Often a small fee will be charged to process the change, since the government must inform a number of registries about the change.

You will need:

Your business’s EIN number

Your state-issued ID number

Old address

New address

Step 1:

Contact the commerce department in the state where your LLC is registered, either in person, by phone, or online.  The commerce department may have a specific division or office that works with business registrations.  There may be a form to fill out that can be downloaded off their website, or they may have a procedure in which to complete the process online.  For example, the state of California, it is Form LLC-12, and it is available online.  In the states of Georgia and Utah, the process is entirely online.

Step 2:

Have your business license and articles of organization handy.  These documents will include all the information you will need to complete this process, including your EIN number, your state-issued ID number, official name of your business, your former business address and any security codes.

Step 3:

If the process uses a form, download the form or get a copy from the office of the department of commerce in your state.  Print it out or fill it out electronically, making sure to fill in all the information requested.  Enter your new address in the space provided.

Step 4:

If the process is online, submit the requested information screen by screen as it asks on the website. At the beginning, it will most likely ask you for your name and some kind of security code to verify your identity.  It will ask you for similar information as a form does.  Enter your new address on the screen where it requests it.

Step 5:

Pay the necessary processing fee.  Whether you are filling out a form or the process is online, pay the necessary fee either by check or credit card.  If you pay electronically, make sure the webpage where you conduct the transaction is secure.  The best way to tell this is if the URL at the top is an “https:” address.

Step 6:

If you are filling out a form manually, mail the completed form and check to the address provided.  Or, if you are completing the process online, submit the form and payment when the website requests them.  Make sure to get a receipt of your credit card transaction for your records.

References:

State of New York Business Registration

http://www.dos.state.ny.us/corps/llccorp.html#dchange

State of California, Form LLC-12

http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/llc/forms/llc-12.pdf

State of Delaware, Division of Corporations Fee Schedule

http://corp.delaware.gov/Aug09feesch.pdf

State of Georgia

http://sos.georgia.gov/corporations/faq.htm

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Few grants offer general operational support to startup nonprofits, especially in our present economy.  There are thousands of grants out there, but submit grant applications to charitable foundations that have supported organizations similar to yours.  Lists of donors are often available on an organization’s website, and a list of organizations supported by a particular foundation can be located in the Foundation Directory.

Major Charitable Organizations

Most large corporations offer grants to nonprofit organizations.  These corporations include financial institutions, auto manufacturers, power companies, steel plants, and Fortune 500 companies.  You can find information about grants these businesses offer on their websites.

You can also find names of active foundations through nonprofit organizations.  For example, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) lists their major contributors between programs, as well as on their website.  Major contributors of PBS include: the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Adobe Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, Orfalea Family Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation.

Local Charitable Organizations

You are most likely to find funding from foundations within your community.  Take advantage of any business connections you may have which are connected to a charitable foundation. If the foundation knows you or knows of you, they are more likely to work with you.

The Foundation Directory, http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/, is a comprehensive database of private grants that may be accessed for a fee, or you may be able to get access through your local nonprofit association.  A list of federal and state grants is available online through www.usa.gov.

Operational Grants

Most grants provide funding for a particular project with a limited time span.  Grants that offer general operational support typically are the smaller, local grants with less specification on what types of organizations they support.  It will be your job in your application to convince them that supporting your organization is a worthy cause.

Most foundations only support businesses with a track record as opposed to start-ups, but don’t let that discourage you.  Post pictures on your website or a blog of your organizations’ activities.  Gain additional sources of funding, such as membership dues, fundraisers and sales revenue, to show foundations that your organization will not be completely dependent on support from them.

Grant Application Tips

List whatever track record you can, whether it is activity of your nonprofit organization in the past year, or similar activities that other officers within your organization have engaged in previously. A list of your organizational partners, other similar organizations with which you work, also adds credibility to your grant application.

The more you know about a specific grant’s objectives and requirements, and the more you know about the needs of your own organization, the better the grant application you will prepare.

Grant applications should cater to the specific charitable organization you are targeting.  Focus on how supporting your organization’s activities will be in line with the charitable foundation’s goals.

References:

Public Broadcasting System Donors

http://www.pbs.org/aboutpbs/pbsfoundation/donors/

The Foundation Directory

http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/

Nonprofit Organization Resources

http://www.usa.gov/Business/Nonprofit.shtml

Resources:

Grant Information Resources

http://www.grantinforesource.com/Workshops.html

Federal Grants

http://www07.grants.gov/search/basic.do

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Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), are designed to help individuals pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified health expenses on a tax free basis.  In 2004, the Department of Labor determined that HSAs were not subject to regulations in the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) so long as certain conditions are met.

HSAs

Individuals are eligible to open an HSA fund if they are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).  Such a fund can be set up with an employer to have a portion of an individual’s paychecks electronically transferred to the account, and some employers will contribute to HSAs as part of a benefit package.  Since HSAs are not subject to income tax, individuals can save money on health related expenses by setting aside funds they will use for that purpose.

HSAs were established by the Medical Modernization Act of 2003.  They work as interest-yielding savings accounts that can only be used for medical expenses.  Although HSAs can be used to pay for routine medical expenses such as dentist cleanings, filling prescriptions, or eye exams, they cannot be used to pay health insurance premiums.

Safe Harbor Rules

The Department of Labor has determined that HSAs which meet the conditions of the safe harbor regulations in ERISA are not subject to the reporting, disclosure, fiduciary responsibility and other requirements that ERISA imposes.  When an employer contributes to an HSA, it is not considered an employee welfare benefit plan within the meaning of ERISA if the establishment of the HSA is completely voluntary on the part of the employee and the employer does not:

  1. Limit the ability of eligible individuals to move their funds to another HSA
  2. Impose conditions on utilization of HSA funds
  3. Make or influence the investment decisions with respect to funds contributed to an HSA
  4. Represent that the HSAs are an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by the employer, or
  5. Receive any payment or compensation in connection with an HSA

ERISA Requirements

It is important that employees and employers know these rules because if the safe harbor conditions are not met, ERISA requirements will apply.  An employer, particularly a small business employer, may not be set up to provide for such conditions outside of a regular healthcare plan, which is often outsourced to a company such as Blue Cross.

In addition to the extensive reporting and bookkeeping required by ERISA, there are minimum standards for participation, fiduciary responsibilities, claims processing and appeals procedures, and group health care continuation coverage requirements.  The fund would no longer be portable if an employee leaves a company, and a company may be subject to provide COBRA coverage.

HSAs can be an affordable method to supplement to health care costs, but only if they can be set up to not be subject to ERISA requirements.

References:

Safe harbor excludes HSAs from ERISA, by David O’Driscoll, The Tax Adviser, 2004.

http://www.allbusiness.com/government/employment-regulations/158642-1.html

Most HSAs Will Not Be Covered by ERISA, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2004.

http://www.watsonwyatt.com/us/pubs/Insider/showarticle.asp?ArticleID=13114

Application of ERISA to Health Savings Accounts, Bailey and Ehrenberg Newsletter

http://www.becounsel.com/pdf/BE_Newsletter_4.pdf

DOL Guidance Tells How to Keep HSAs from ERISA Rules, Benefit Insights, Volume 3, Number 1, Lambert and Carney Benefits Group

http://www.lcbenefits.com/news/20070518%20newsletter.pdf

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There are four perspectives in the Balanced Scorecard that work together to provide a strategic plan for an organization. They include the financial perspective, the customer perspective, the business process perspective, and the learning and growth perspective.  By identifying each of these perspectives, an organization can develop a Strategy Map, or visual snapshot of the strategic plan, which communicates what the goals are and how the goals will be achieved in an organization.

You will need:

Balanced Scorecard strategic planning consultant

Company financial statements

Information about your business’s target market

List of business processes in your company

Knowledge of training programs relevant to your company’s activities

Step 1:

Identify the financial perspective, or goals, of your organization. Identify both long-term and short-term goals for your organization as well as individual departments and projects within your organization.

Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, the founders of the Balanced Scorecard, are accountants, but they discovered that although timely and accurate recording of financial figures is important in any organization, it often takes priority over other factors that also play a critical role in the success of a business.  In addition to accounting, Kaplan and Norton recommend that risk assessment and cost-benefit data be quantified, which will help to better estimate the return on investment of the projects you plan to pursue.

Step 2:

Identify the customer perspective.  Do some market research to determine your target market for products and services you offer.  Are they college students, young mothers, or retired men?  Find out what behaviors or characteristics your target market has in common such as stores they shop at, pastimes they may share such as going clubbing on the weekends or attending church on Sundays.  Identify trends that may affect the success of your product in the future, such as competing products that have emerged, and identify what other products your company could pursue that would also appeal to your target market.

Step 3:

Identify the business process perspective.  Develop goals to improve internal efficiency (in succinctness, timeliness and accuracy) and quality in the areas of your business that will most impact your customers.

Step 4:

Identify the learning and growth perspective.  This involves establishing priorities concerning the training of staff in skills that are needed to improve business processes.  It also takes into consideration the value of the talents, skills and experience that your staff members bring to your organization.

Step 5:

Develop a Strategy Map.  A Strategy Map is a visual diagram that you can use as a communication device to show your organization what its goals are and how the goals interrelate.  A Strategy Map will also identify priorities.  By seeing the needs of four important aspects of your organization, you will be able to see areas where there are strengths and areas that need improvement.

Step 6:

Develop a Balanced Scorecard.  Once you have identified the four perspectives for your company and your goals for each perspective, prepare a list of quantifiable ways to measure performance and progress towards your company goals.  For example, you can measure online advertising efforts based on the number of hits your website receives, as well as your website’s conversion rate from hits and sales.

Build Your Strategy Map and Balanced Scorecard, Growth Strategy Partners, 2004.

http://www.growthstrategypartners.com/about/balancedscorecard-july04.htm

The 4 Perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard, 12 Manage, 2010

http://www.12manage.com/methods_balancedscorecard.html

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The effect that living in low-income housing has on students depends greatly on the urbanization of the area in which they live, suburban communities reportedly providing the best education to them. In the Gautreaux Program, a low-income housing dispersal program in Chicago and Milwaukee, children who attended public schools in the suburbs were 25% less likely to drop out than students who lived in the city. Additionally, subsidized home ownership has been found to play a role in improved education among children of low-income families in developing countries.

Dispersal of Concentration

Most low-income housing programs today use Section 8 federal housing vouchers, which disperse highly concentrated low-income housing units throughout a larger community. This also results in fewer numbers of students from low-income families being assigned to a given school district.

In 2000, there were 50 mobility programs of different kinds in cities across the country which were modeled after the Gautreaux Program. The dispersal programs only affected 12,000 people, compared to 5.9 million black people alone in concentrated housing programs throughout the United States, but the programs have continued to grow in the last decade.

Impact of Home Ownership

Owning a home is part of the American Dream, and doing so has been found to provide stability. Assisting low-income families in purchasing homes was an effort of the Community Reinvestment Act in 2005. However, the housing crunch in 2007 and 2008, largely attributed to this legislation, has caused economists and legislators to reevaluate these programs.

Despite these challenges, the effort has merit, particularly in the education of the children from these families. In a recent study of government subsidized home ownership in a developing country, the level of education obtained by students under age 25 increased by more than 4 months over a period of 3 to 6 years. The increase was attributed to a reduction in residential mobility.

Increased Mobility Effects Education

Students from low-income families tend to move frequently, which can cause their education to be disjointed. Because curricula vary from school to school, even students who have attended school consistently may be behind in one subject more than others when they enter in a new school district.

Dispersal of low-income families over more school districts in the United States has allowed schools to provide more attention to the special needs of students from these families. In the Gautreaux study, low-income students who moved to the suburbs got better grades. Teachers were also perceived by parents as more helpful and children were reported to have more positive attitudes. Similar findings were reported in other housing dispersal programs.

Additional reference:

Frank’s fingerprints are all over the financial fiasco, by Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, 2008

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/09/28/franks_fingerprints_are_all_over_the_financial_fiasco/

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A number of HR issues surface during a merger between two companies.  Staff members can be affected personally if lay-offs are issued or if staff members are relocated.  Mergers take time, both for the physical transfer of file cabinets and office equipment, as well as for all affected parties to adjust to the new working environment.

Personal Impact

If a merger involves even the possibility of lay-offs, staff members will be on edge before and after the lay-offs are announced.  Lay-offs not only affect those who lose their employment status, but the staff members who must take on additional tasks as a result of the lay-offs.  Business consultant Joan Lloyd, in advice to HR specialists, says, “[staff] are worried about their jobs—even though they may have been told nothing will change. They are concerned that the Big Fish is going to devour them, so they will be cautious about what they tell you.”

Those who must relocate to a different office will also be affected personally.  If family members relocate with them, children will attend new schools, and spouses will need to find new employment.  In the cold, hard world of modern business, maintaining productivity is the priority, and personal factors are often put on the backburner, however, these changes can add to the tense environment during a merger.

Two Corporate Cultures

A merger is a marriage between two companies not only in terms of liabilities and assets, but in terms of combining two corporate cultures.

“History has taught us that failing to do a due diligence assessment of cultural fit can bog down– and even derail– mergers when people issues are ignored,” says Lloyd. “For example, if the cultures are very different, you will need to allow more time to build trust and introduce any changes.”

Human resource officers often play the middleman in a merger.  They secure confidential information from upper management regarding the goals of the senior management team and expected personnel shifts related to the merger, but they are also the peacemaker and the point of contact in which staff members may ask questions or address concerns.

Human resources staff should establish a good rapport with the staff members from the other company.  Be careful in word choice so as not to be condescending or challenging, and be completely honest with them.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  In addition, let staff know what is now expected of them.

New Business Processes

New business processes will be a combination of both companys’ business practices.  Lloyd recommends establishing easy and straightforward business practices first.  Work with staff to take the changes step by step, and recognize that changes take time to implement on the ground.  The ultimate goal is to establish synergy between the companies within the given parameters.

References:

The Role of Human Resources During a Merger, HR Issues, by Joan Lloyd http://www.joanlloyd.com/HR-Issues/The-role-of-Human-Resources-during-a-merger.aspx

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In order to reduce the occurrence of fraud at the point of sale, credit card companies have strict point of sale requirements for vendors ranging from security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures.  The requirements were established by the PCI Security Standards Council comprised of American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. International.

List of Requirements

The PCI Security Standards describe both requirements for set-up of equipment at the point of sale, as well as routine follow-up security tests.  The goal is to protect credit card holders and vendors from having transmissions intercepted by a thief at the point of sale.  The standards also protect credit card companies legally by reducing their liability in the situation.  The standards are extensive, but in general, vendors are required to do the following:

  • Vendors must maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
  • Vendors must encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  • Vendors must use and regularly update anti-virus software, and develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  • Vendors must be able to track staff members in their business who access cardholder data as part of their jobs. Physical access to cardholder data must also be restricted.
  • Vendors must track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data and regularly test security systems and processes.
  • Vendors must also maintain a written policy that addresses information security.

    Online Transactions

    Similar point of sale requirements have been established for online transactions.  Vendors must have a secure socket layer (SSL) system on their website. Verisign and Comodo issue SSL certificates, including a logo that vendors can place on their websites.  In addition, both vendors and consumers should make sure they are using a secure internet connection.

    Card Reader Technology

    You may have noticed that the keypad and credit card readers at the points of sale in different stores are all different.  The variation in equipment design is actually a security measure.  Thieves that figure out ways to intercept transmissions at the point of sale have had to become more sophisticated.

    Recently, a string of identity thefts have surfaced using “skimming,” where a tiny device has been inserted onto the card reader in a shop such as a gas station or restaurant.  Because the transaction goes through on the vendor’s end, the thefts can go undetected for a long time and they are difficult to trace back to the source.

    Credit card users should make a habit to review purchases on their credit card statements each month to make sure they match up with their receipts.  However, proper precautions by vendors both in set-up and in frequent system checks of the point of sale can help to reduce a majority of credit card fraud.

    References:

    HSBC Merchant Services – Point of Sale security best practices

    http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/business/info/card-fraud/best-practices

    Mastercard Requirements and Recommendations

    http://www.mastercard.com/us/merchant/security/requirements.html

    The PCI Data Security Standard

    https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/pci_dss.shtml

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