Sylvan Sport, Brevard NC!

Some of the coolest things are made in Western North Carolina!

Click on the image to see the full article!

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Sample Publicity Kit for TopSeed

Check out the link below to view my publicity kit inserts for TopSeed, my plant nursery and gardening learning center.

Sample Publicity Kit Components

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Elevator Pitch for TopSeed

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Ideal Client Presentation

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645 Summer Professional Presentation

Customer Service and Hospitality Presentation

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Top Seed Logo Screencast

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The Economic Downturn’s Effect on Fraud

Our largest economic downturn since the Great Depression has permeated all of our lives and continues to do so in many different ways. Small businesses have seen this evidence in many different ways, a rise in workplace fraud being one of them. A Wall Street Journal online article by Simona Covel from 2009 documented this trend.

Personal financial pressures felt by employees may lead them to capitalize on opportunities within your company for fraud. Because of the recession, job loss, or stock loss,  and other examples of personal financial pressures, are more prominent.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, billing was most frequently used for fraudulent activities. In Covel’s article, it is considered best when you come across these types of activities to not tip-off the suspect until you have gathered significant evidence.  It is also important to consult your attorney. Build your case before confronting the suspect. The WSJ article interviews small business owners that never saw the confronted individual again and never had a chance to recoup losses or prosecute the individual.

Consider the environment your employees are living in, whether it be economy related or personal financial pressures, and consider how it might change their activities. Being aware of these environmental pressures will not only help you relate better to your employees, but may also save your company financial heartache or ruin.

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Creating an office culture preventing fraud and theft

Continuing on our fraud theme, I read an article today on that reported according to a survey by the US Chamber of Commerce, one in three bankruptcies occur because of employee theft. As noted in my last post, there is a lot a small business can do to prevent fraud. The article focuses on some of the less tangible precautions a small business owner can take.

The first of eight tips offered to prevent fraud and employee theft is to create a positive workplace. Those procedures put in place to create a checks and balances system, first discussed in other fraud articles, are only followed by  happy and accepting employees. The allbusiness article also suggests happy employees act in the best interest of the company. “Fair employment practices, written job descriptions, clear organizational structure, comprehensive policies and procedures, open lines of communication between management and employees, and positive employee recognition will all help reduce the likelihood of internal fraud and theft”

It is also important for management to lead by example. “A cavalier attitude toward rules and regulations by management will soon be reflected in the attitude of employees (” In other words, enforcement of procedures and rules should be the same across the board, no matter the employee’s station.

These tips, along with adding internal controls, conducting audits,thoroughly checking backgrounds when  hiring, and training employees can save many a small business owner from heartbreak. And as the US Chamber’s survey suggests, it may save you from bankruptcy.

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Symptoms of Fraud

Recognizing symptoms of fraud before they develop and infect a company can save businesses and organizations considerable amounts of money. In a previous post, it was noted that fraud is extremely costly. Annually, it is more than a $2.9 trillion cost to organizations worldwide. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a 106 nation survey, between January 2008 and December 2009, organizations worldwide lost approximately 5 percent of their annual revenues. Squashing this very costly issue is possible.

 The University of Florida Office of Audit and Compliance Review published several tips for internal controls on their website to help small businesses prevent fraud. If you have not put these systems in place or feel that they are not well enforced you may need to be looking for symptoms of fraud.  UFL published the following symptoms to be wary of:

Fraud is a product of opportunity, pressures, and rationalization. A system of good internal controls will keep opportunities for fraud to a minimum and will, through appropriate documentation and procedures, assist in the identification of a person who commits fraud. The system protects the university’s assets and employees. Fraud symptoms include:

    •  Missing or altered documents to support transactions
    •  Excessive voided documents or transactions without supervisory approval
    •  Transactions with inappropriate authorizations 
    •  Excessive complaints from customers or other employees
    •  Unusual billing addresses or arrangements
    •  Payments based on photocopied invoices or fabricated invoices 
    •  Vendor payments sent to an employees address
    •  An employee who:
      • is living beyond his or her means
      • can’t manage money
      • doesn’t take a vacation
      • is dissatisfied with work
      • is a take charge person
      • has expensive habits
      • has close relationships with customers or vendor

It is important to note that OACR recognizes that these symptoms can exist without the prevalence of fraud; however, it is important to keep them under check. Also, utilizing a system to allow employees to report fraud is essential. It is considered best to allow employees to do this anonymously.

Works Cited

“Fraud Costs Trillions Worldwide.” Industrial Engineer: IE 42.8 (2010): 15. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 2 May 2011.

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Nice Girls….Just Don’t Get It

Guys, you may not be able to sympathize with me on this. Ladies, this may sound familiar. I often find myself apologizing in the workplace when my male colleagues wouldn’t, a product of “nice girl” training from yesteryear. Don’t worry Mom, I’m not blaming you. In some ways my “sweetness” has benefitted me despite my objections of “being a bother” and in other cases I have found myself walked all over because I opened the door for scrutiny. I found a great article today on MSN: Business on Main about how nice girls can make it in the world of entrepreneurship( and still be “nice”). Check out the full article here

By Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., and Carol Frohlinger, J.D:

We’ve identified five traps that can keep women entrepreneurs from achieving their full growth potential — and antidotes for overcoming them.

1. Unclear vision, strategies and tactics. Nice girls often start their businesses with energy and passion but no concrete vision for where they ultimately want to be, how much they want to earn, and the size to which they aspire to grow. They hesitate to reach broadly for fear others will think they’re too cocky, and are so busy “doing” that they fail to put time into planning.

Antidote: Define your future. It may sound simple, but it goes beyond a vague statement of being successful or rich. Your vision for the future must have teeth. Until you envision what you want and articulate the people and processes needed to achieve it, you’ll likely march in place.

2. Unwillingness to leverage connections. In an episode of “The Apprentice,” the challenge was to sell cupcakes, with the team earning the most money winning the task. The women created a plan to sell the most cupcakes. The men picked up the phone and called friends willing to pay $100 to $1,000 per cupcake. Who do you think won? The women actually worked harder, but lost. Nice girls are great at building relationships, but not so great at using them to their advantage.

Antidote: Understand and honor quid pro quos. Inherent to every relationship is a quid pro quo — something in exchange for something else. When you do favors or go out of your way for others, you earn capital that can be cashed in when you need it. Ask for what you need from the people in your network you have served well. Don’t be naive. It’s the way to win your game.

3. Difficulty creating boundaries. One of the primary reasons women leave corporate jobs is so that they have more control over their time. What many soon learn is that others perceive them as “unemployed” rather than “self-employed” and encroach on their time, space or both. How does this play out in the life of a woman business owner? Friends expect her to be available for lunch in the middle of the day now that she’s “free.” Spouses want her to take over more of the home chores. If you’re a nice girl, you may have difficulty setting boundaries around your need to spend time on your endeavor.

Antidote: Define your workday, week and space. Don’t be apologetic about telling friends you can’t join them for lunch because you’re working, or asking your spouse to pick up his own dry cleaning on the way home from the office. The more clearly you define the parameters of your work, the easier it will be to let others know where the boundaries are.

4. Diluted messaging. In an effort not to sound overly aggressive, nice girls water down their messages to the point that others have difficulty understanding what they are saying. They are unable to clearly state their company’s mission or concisely explain why others should do business with them. Using more words when fewer would do, apologizing before offering an idea, and inappropriate smiling are but a few of the ways in which women fail to come across as authoritative and self-confident.

Antidote: Get to the point. Short sounds confident. Cut your communications by 25 percent.

5. Work/life imbalance. The No. 1 question women ask us is, “How do I create more balance between my work and my personal life?” When you are creating a startup, there is no balance. The most you can do is integrate the things that are most important to you.

Antidote: Avoid perfectionism, ask for help and be realistic about what you can and can’t do in any given time period. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay cosmetics, had her children pack makeup in the garage — but they did it as a family. And look where it got her!

Recognizing the nice-girl behaviors that hold you back, and acting to counter them, will help you realize your entrepreneurial dream. We know because we’ve been there and done it.

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