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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Neighbor from Hell


Many small businesses are located in shared buildings. Here is a story of a neighbor you hopefully never have to experience.

This neighbor is a tenant with a lease for use of the property.  You may be either another tenant or an owner if the property is a condominium-type. The property has a number of shared utility facilities (water, drain pipes, power, cable, phone, etc. ) that pass through the units. On the infrequent occasion when a utility provider or the property management may need access to the utility facilities in this neighbor’s unit, the neighbor refuses to provide access accept at his convenience and only for a limited time. Now put this in the context of a water leak that needs repair, or a utility company that is hard to schedule it’s technicians. The only remedy here is to have the owner of the leased unit intervene and provide the needed access. Most likely there is a prior agreement with the property manager to have this access.

Now what should be done when this neighbor arrives to find the service personnel in the rented unit and screams and yells at them to: “Get out of here, I did not give you permission to enter my unit and I want you out of here now!”? The most likely result is that the service people leave, with the work not completed. Also the owner may ask the tenant to check the lease which provides for such access. The irate tenant ignores this advice. The police are engaged and they advise the tenant about the landlord-tenant laws that also provides this access. While all this is going on the service personnel leave for another assignment. And the water continues to do damage in the building or the service is not provided to the adjacent units, possibly shutting one or more businesses down.

Eventually the problem gets repaired. What about the potential or actual losses?

 
How would you handle this?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Entrepreneur Age


A recent article in USA Today identified the fact that in 2013 almost 25% of new businesses were started by entrepreneurs age 55 to 64.  Interesting?

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FIRE Disaster


I have just had the opportunity to live through a significant fire situation with many lessons for small businesses. Let me start at the beginning. I smelled the odor of burning somewhere in the building. First, I checked all the locations in my place that could have been sources. Then I went to my neighbors to find the source…nothing there. Then I contacted the property manager who was in my place within minutes along with a security person and a hand full of keys. As we continued to search areas in the building, the security person used various keys to open locked doors. On a few occasions he had to return to a central location to get more keys. This was time consuming and a lesson for where the keys were kept.

On opening one door we found the place filled with black smoke. We closed the door, asked the security person to call 911 who did not answer immediately. The property manager manually pulled the fire alarm that went directly to the fire department and alerted building occupants to leave the building immediately. The fire department responded within 10 minutes and we were able to direct them to the fire source, which they confirmed using the fire security system in the building. They opened the door with oxygen masks on and a large fire hose. The black smoke drove me away from the immediate scene, joining other observers. We could see water was pouring out of the source location. At its height there were more than eight fire trucks and over 40 fire professionals present. . All occupants were escorted by firemen out of the building. There were some that did not leave when the alarm was sounded. Here is another lesson.

The fire was located in the walls of a unit, where a plumber had been working with solder earlier in the day. Power to the building had to be turned off, as four units were impacted by the fire and multiple others by smoke and/or water damage. Another lesson here.

When under control fire personnel escorted occupants back to their units to retrieve necessary items as the building was closed and anticipated occupancy was 30-90 days later. The property manager did a superb job driving the processes necessary to allow partial occupancy within about one week. Yet another lesson here for everyone.

As I write this article my insurance carrier is engaged and has provided assurances, advice the help. I just received a message that power has been restored to my unit and I can now have the restoration organization begin their work. More lessons here.

I should be back in the unit within a few days.

How would your business survive a situation like this?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Letters of Credit, Frequent Questions


Frequently asked question about Letters of Credit (L/C)

DEFINITION: An L/C  (Letter of Credit) is issued by a bank at the request of the buyer which sets forth specific conditions the seller must meet in order to receive payment.   Caveat:  Any misunderstanding in the terms of the can lead to non payment to you the exporter.

Q: What is IRREVOCABLE L/C?

A: It cannot be cancelled by the buyer and any change in conditions of sale (ex:  late shipment) must be   approved by both buyer & seller.

Q: How does a REVOLVING L/C operate?

A: Specified amounts paid out at pre agreed intervals where shipping is accomplished over a period of time, not all at once.

Q: What is the difference between cumulative and non-cumulative under a revolving L/C?

A: Non-cumulative specifies payment is made for whatever is shipped and back order valuation is not used.

Cumulative is when back order amounts are rolled over into succeeding shipments to use the full value of the entire L/C.

Q: What is tenor?

A: The date when L/C’s expire.   Bills of Lading must be dated prior to expiration (the tenor date)

Q: Who is the advising bank and which is the confirming bank?

A: The buyers bank overseas advises the U.S. bank of the establishment of the L/C and your (the exporter) bank confirming bank here in the U.S.

Q: What does “confirmation” mean on an L/C?

A: The funds for the L/C provided to the advising bank are transferred into Dollars and deposit into your bank. The money is here in the U.S. available for payment when shipment is made.  NOTE:   This type of L/C is the most secure -  no international currency transfers can delay the receipt of the funds by the exporter.

Q; What is contingent.

A: In the rare case where foreign funds are simply not available due to political or war issued, the contingency is provided by the confirming bank here. It is not needed if the exporter demands an L/C be confirmed. (see   above)

 
Hank Samuel, SCORE Counselor


 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Let The Good Times Roll


Here is the good news for Small Business: Income in 2015 is forecast to increase 3 to 4 % in SE Florida…Yes, Yes…

 
Is your business prepared?


Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Caught a Virus


I had the experience of picking up a virus somewhere and perhaps there is some learning for small businesses. I run Windows 8.1 on two laptops, an operating system I do not care for, but in its infinite wisdom Microsoft forced me to upgrade from 8.0 that came on the laptops I purchased. Frankly, in my humble opinion 8.1 is trying to do much more that I need, and all this other “stuff” just gets in the way of the simple things I need to do. For some businesses the “stuff” may offer opportunities. I have other laptops that run older MS Operating systems that were much easier for me. MS no longer supports these however, and using an unsupported OS is not a good idea.

Anyway, I digress. I first noticed an issue when the shortcut icons on my laptop just disappeared. I tried to recover them without success. A search of the web produced a great article outlining the use of the System File Checker (SFC) tool to repair missing or corrupted system files, which I used.  By the way you have to be the system administrator to use this tool. I am the administrator for my laptops. There are four possible outcomes from this tool some of them actually repair the problem. Mine turned out to be the one that could not be repaired by the tool itself. With the result that the details of the analysis said some files needed to be manually replaced with a file from a known good copy of the file. That was my signal to contact Microsoft for help.

After over three hours of work the MS support people could not “repair” the corrupted files. Their diagnostics indicated a worm deep inside the system software. They created an entirely new user account on my laptop, restoring my data files as well. This was one of the recommendations of the SFC tool as well. So they fixed the issue of no shortcuts. In doing so the new user now had different settings and exposure to more of the “stuff” I did not need. These things, like the MS Cloud, and synchronization of multiple laptops with the same user names, continue to leave me with issues to work.

Can you learn something for your business from this?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Boca Airport Customs Impact Your Business?

 

The Boca Raton Airport Authority is planning on adding US Customs capability. They do not expect to increase international air traffic, currently about 700 flights per year. They do expect to make it easier for international flights as well as about 350 boaters annually.

How can this impact your business?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Distruptive Technologies


Disruptive technologies displace established technologies and may create new industries. Some examples are:

  • Personal computers changed the way we work.
  • Email changed the way we communicate.
  • Mobile and Cloud Computing enabled a mobile workforce and customer base.

Distruptive technologies do not happen overnight. They take vision, planning, implementation and exhaustive testing. There are innovators and early adopters, who take on the pain, suffering and confusion that go along with being among the first. They are also the group that reaps the benefits early on. Then there are the laggards, who wait until the technology has matured and has peaked, who try to catch up with the others. The majority are in the middle of the technology adoption spectrum.

Where is your business on the technology adoption spectrum? Are you maximizing the opportunities?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor