Small Business Trends Wins Small Business Standard of Excellence Award

Small Business Trends proudly announces we’ve won the Small Business Standard of Excellence Award in the 2019 WebAwards.

The Web Marketing Association, established in 1997, hosts the awards annually. The WebAward Competition is now in its 17th year. It has become the standard of excellence for website development and advertising agencies, recognizing the best websites in 96 industries worldwide.

A panel of three or more judges evaluates each site for design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use. The judges then score each site between 0 and 70 based on its mission statement and prospective audience. With a focus on which site most lives up to its goal, a winner is then announced for each industry.

A Little Bit About Small Business Trends

Small Business Trends, founded in 2003 by Anita Campbell, was originally created as a way to publish newsletter articles online. Fast forward sixteen years to 2019 where it has since grown into a a hyper-engaged community of small business owners with 2+ million monthly visitors.

Having more than 20,000 pages of content, Small Business Trends has covered every imaginable small business topic, interviewed industry movers and shakers, spotlighted other small businesses and startups, reviewed tech products and much more.

As a fully independent and privately-owned company, Small Business Trends looks forward to continuing to serve small businesses well into the future.

The team that makes everything possible is as follows:

  • CEO and Publisher: Anita Campbell
  • Chief Operations Officer: Staci Wood
  • Chief Technology Officer: Leland McFarland
  • Executive Editor: Shawn Hessinger
  • Assistant Editor: Joshua Sophy
  • Chief Strategy Officer: Tamar Weinberg
  • Marketing Manager: Amanda Stillwagon
  • Tech Editor and SEO Specialist: Matt Mansfield

How Awards Can Benefit Your Business

Being recognized for a  job well done by your peers and industry leaders has many benefits.

Winning an award provides recognition and lends to your business’s credibility. If you’re a new business, winning an award can put you on the map so-to-speak. If you’re a seasoned enterprise, winning an award shows your company remains a relevant, innovating leader in its industry.

Winning an award also has some real-world tangible benefits. According to research by Kevin B. Hendricks and Vinod R. Singhal, businesses that win awards and recognitions can expect to receive a sales boost of up to 37%. If they are a public company, the stock price can see a jump as high as 46%.

Winning an award can also elevate the status of your company by attracting new people, clients and customers. And when it comes to your customers, their loyalty to your business can be strengthened because of the recognition your product or service has received. Not to mention, winning an award or special recognition can also increase morale within the company itself.

The key is to find awards that are relevant in your industry. Because winning awards that are not relevant to your industry can, in the end, potentially damage your reputation.

Before entering your business for award consideration, make sure the awards are hosted by a reputable organization.

Lastly, a big shout out to all of the 2019 WebAward winners in their various different categories!

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Apple and Microsoft Join the Academy Software Foundation

The Academy Software Foundation, a collaborative effort to advance open source software development in the motion picture and media industries, today announced that Apple and Microsoft have joined the Foundation as Premier members.

David Morin Executive Director or ASWF

“Filmmakers everywhere use Apple products. We are delighted to welcome Apple as a new member, and we look forward to working with them to ensure that our open source projects run well on Apple software platforms,” said David Morin, Executive Director of the Academy Software Foundation. “We are also pleased to welcome Microsoft to the Academy Software Foundation. Their membership helps us hit a significant milestone as we surpass $1M in annual funding, a solid financial base that we will use to support our open source projects, the software engineers that develop them, and the open-source community in general.”

Studios and vendors across the industry have come together to support of the Academy Software Foundation, launched in August 2018 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Linux Foundation.  The Academy Software Foundation provides a neutral forum for open source software developers to share resources and collaborate on technologies for image creation, visual effects, animation, and sound.

Apple’s Tim Cook at the Mac Pro Launch

“To support the continued growth of open source software across our industry, we have the privilege of providing developers with tools that make it easier to contribute code and participate in the community,” said Rob Bredow, Executive Creative Director and Head of Industrial Light & Magic, and Governing Board Chair of Academy Software Foundation. “One of these tools is the Academy Software Foundation’s Continuous Integration (CI) build infrastructure, which streamlines development for build and runtime environments. With Apple as a new member, we hope to work with them to improve support for Apple platforms, which will continue to democratize open source software development.”

As a new Foundation member, Microsoft is committing to dedicating engineering resources to support Foundation-hosted projects and will assume roles on the Academy Software Foundation Governing Board and on its Technical Advisory Council (TAC).

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and it’s this mission that drives our commitment to open source,” said Tad Brockway, corporate vice president, Azure Storage, Media and Edge, Microsoft Corp. “We’re excited to become a member of the Academy Software Foundation and work together with the industry’s open source community to bring the latest cloud technologies to the Foundation and its projects.”

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15 Tips to Unify Company Culture Across Departments

As your company grows, you may find different departments start to silo themselves off from one other. However, a strong company culture is one that includes all departments and brings them together. That’s why we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following question:

What is a good way to connect team members in different departments to build company culture?

How to Unify Company Culture Across Departments

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Use Common Work Language

“Different departments have different work-related words or phrases they use to describe what they do. And this can make other departments feel alienated. To bring teams from different sects together, develop a common language that everyone can understand. Wherever you see a disconnect between employees is where you should develop terms that everyone can understand.” ~ Jared Atchison, WPForms

2. Encourage People to Share Pieces of Their Personal Lives

“When our team was at its peak in terms of size, we were at 35 people. And it definitely felt like departments were getting alienated. We had weekly meetings with different departments. But they still wouldn’t connect. We mixed this up by having people start meetings with one good thing from their personal lives that happened this week. It helps people find common ground and build new relationships.” ~ Karl Kangur, Above House

3. Host Team-Building Activities

“Team-building activities like scavenger hunts, escape rooms and bowling outings can be highly effective in building connections across departments. Consider planning quarterly events where people from various departments are put on the same team. They’ll learn about one another in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. Which will translate to improved communication in the workplace.” ~ Stephen Beach, Craft Impact Marketing

4. Have a ‘Family Outing’

“Marketers always talk about showing consumers that they are joining your family when they invest in your product or service. The truth is, you can benefit from using this tactic with your employees. It’s hard to get to know people when you are constantly focusing on work. However, taking your employees out for a family outing can be an effective way to bridge the gap and bring people together.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. Designate Team Volunteer Days

“Giving to charity makes people feel good and can boost morale. Some offices designate days for volunteering at homeless shelters, delivering clothes to families in need or tutoring students before exam season. Within a workplace, you can donate books and toys to children in need. Or even chip in to buy a goat for a family abroad. Choose a charity plan that accommodates everyone’s values and time.” ~ Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.

6. Organize an In-Office Happy Hour

“Not everybody has an opportunity or is willing to attend team-building activities outside of the office. Especially if they know there will be a lot of people from other departments whom they don’t really talk to. Bring together time into your workplace. Organize casual happy hours every week, but preferably not on Fridays when everybody wants out of the office as soon as possible.” ~ Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

7. Cater a Monthly Company Lunch

“One great way to connect team members in different departments is by hosting a monthly company lunch. Choose one day each month (or every other month) and provide a full lunch for your entire office and then eat the meal together. You can even assign seats, putting members of different departments at the same table, to make sure team members get to chat with people they typically wouldn’t.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

8. Have Your Teams Teach Each Other

“Company workshops are a great regular activity where every team member can reveal their day-to-day work and the business challenges they deal with. Individuals often can’t grasp the bigger picture across the entire organization. Employees discussing their accomplishments or projects they work on can demonstrate the business value they bring to the rest of the company.” ~ Mario Peshev, DevriX

9. Encourage Fun

“Just because your employees have different roles in the company doesn’t mean that rings true outside the office. A great way to bring team members together is by encouraging play during the week where they can play games and catch up on their personal lives. This builds a community of belonging and gets everyone comfortable with each other. Encourage fun where and when it’s appropriate.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

10. Set Up a Designated Lunch Area for Everyone to Eat Together

“It’s good to have a general lunch area that team members can sit and eat. Food is something that typically unites people, so it will give them something to talk about and a way for them to grow intra-company relationships.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

11. Cross-Train Your Team

“If possible, cross-train your team so they can get to know one another and the work that goes into each position. Over time, you’ll notice that bonds are formed between employees, regardless of their primary position in your company. We like to make cross-training a fun and interactive learning experience to encourage a positive company culture.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

12. Hold Offsite Meetings

“The day-to-day drudgery of the office can bring down morale. Try hosting offsite meetings for a change of scenery. I find that many local coffee shops will let you reserve a room for free. Buy them coffee and make sure at least a portion of the meeting is strictly social so team members can connect. Your employees will love it and they will be more productive once they return to the office.” ~ Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing, LLC

13. Make Up and Then Celebrate a Company Holiday

“Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. But, if you create your own company holiday they will! Consider making up your own company holiday, like “Board Game Day,” for instance. For this company holiday you can decorate, bring in games, provide a meal and give your team members a half-day to celebrate it. This will bring different departments together and build company culture.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC

14. Create Common Goals

“Common goals create incentives to work together. The reason you have a company and not a ton of individuals is because working together provides more value than everyone could individually provide value themselves. One tool I like to use from an empathy standpoint is to try to find three things you have in common with someone else. If you dig hard enough, everyone has three things in common.” ~ James Guldan, Vision Tech Team

15. Bring Remote Employees Together for a Company Retreat

“At our remote company, we hold a retreat once a year so employees can meet each other in person and get to know one another. When you work from home, it’s even more difficult to connect employees from different departments, which is why the retreat is essential for building a positive company culture. Even if you’ve never spoken to someone before, seeing them in person helps to form a connection.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster


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This week in media news, Instagram tests shoppable ads, Facebook explores new tools for public figures, YouTube creates a Fashion hub, and much more.

Will you be implementing any of these into your digital marketing strategy? Anything we missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts, post in the comments below:


YouTube launches Fashion hub

  • The new Fashion section will feature content from creators, brand collaborations, and trending videos in the beauty and fashion sector.
  • YouTube says the move was inspired by the growing fashion and beauty community on YouTube, many of whom are up and coming artists and creators.

Source: YouTube.

Instagram tests shoppable ads

  • Instagram is now testing the option to allow brands to advertise shoppable posts, that were previously only available as organic posts.
  • Instagram Shopping has allowed brands to upload organic posts, tag pictured products, which can then be purchased by users.

Source: Instagram.

New Facebook desktop layout

  • Facebook is slowly rolling out a new desktop layout, which is designed to make it easier for users to navigate their favourite elements.
  • The update features tabs along the top of the screen where users can switch between sections like News Feed, notifications, and groups.
  • Users will also notice the Discover section has been removed.

Source: Social Media Today.

Facebook explores new tools for public figures

  • New tools such as multi-contributor stories, and swipe up links in stories are currently being tested for potential roll-out.
  • Multi-contributor stories were first tested at music festival Tomorrowland, where the official festival account uploaded a story, and the artists were able to contribute from their devices with links back to their page.
  • Swipe-up links in stories and the ability to tag products in photos are also being considered for high-profile accounts. Facebook says the move is designed to help monetize accounts with large online presences.

Source:Social Media Today and Facebook

Instagram Clips editor mimics TikTok

  • Some Instagram users have spotted a new story feature that allows them to record multiple clips as part of one single video story.
  • Similar to TikTok, users can adjust the speed and timer of the video stories.

Source: Business Insider.

Facebook launches Facebook Dating

  • Facebook Dating was announced earlier this year, and has been tested in small markets worldwide. It was launched in the US earlier this week.
  • Facebook users over the age of 18 can opt-in to the service and swipe to match with other Facebook users, and will be able to see any mutual friends or liked pages they share.
  • Users can sync up their Instagram profile to add Instagram posts and stories to their dating profile.
  • The “Secret Crush” feature also lets users anonymously select nine Instagram or Facebook users and add them to their “Secret Crush” list.
  • Those users are then anonymously notified someone has a crush on them. They can then select their nine “Secret Crushes”, and if they are on each others list, they can match their Facebook Dating profiles.

Source: Facebook.

Kerwin Rae

Kerwin Rae is a businessman, investor, strategic advisor, author and international speaker. He has studied and observed the psychology of influence for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on influencing human behaviour and how it relates to sales, marketing, fast growth business principles, leadership and personal transformation.
Snapchat: @KerwinRae

Latest posts by Kerwin Rae (see all)

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Olivier Orand’s music video: Thursday Night.

Director Kays Al-Atrakchi created the VFX for French EMD artist Olivier Orand’s new music video, Thursday Night. Orand is best known for his 2018 Electronica album Human.

The Thursday Night music video requiring more than 260 VFX shots. Orand appears only briefly in the video at the very end, the film centres around the performance of actor Augie Duke. The clip is extremely visual and fast-paced, but shot in a very moderate studio. Al-Atrakchi and the team used Houdini,  Fusion Studio and DaVinci Resolve Studio for the majority of the video’s VFX, editing and grading.

[embedded content]

The entire spot was pre-vized and planned out with early simple renders. This included early Blackmagic Pocket 4K cameras tests and test composites.

Lead Actress Augie Duke

The green screen shoot, live action for Thursday Night was filmed on the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, by DOP Steven Strobel. The piece was fully written, directed and produced by Kays Al-Atrakchi.

[embedded content]

The set was based on Sci-Fi Kit bash panels by Oleg Ushenok. The texturing was done in Substance Painter, in sync with Affinity Photo. These kit bash pieces were incorporated with assets from Black Chilla Studios and also used Assets and textures from The French Monkey. The use of these asset bash kits and online textures allowed for fast assembling of the futuristic environments. The main goal was to allow the team to easily build scenes without spending hours and hours on the basic environment, so they could polish the piece and focus on details and finishes. The Production Design and Costumes were by Krystyna Łoboda.

Derek Drouin edited the piece.  The final Edit, final color grade and mastering done in Blackmagic Resolve Studio 16. The music video highlights how far the Blackmagic tools have come, especially in the area of editing and integration of visual effects.

The team used the Video CoPilot Motion Design tools for the film clip’s visual UI. The team extensive researched and built a library of reference material to inform the design and the graphical language of the film and its overlays. CGI Modeling, Simulation was done in SideFX Houdini. The 3D scenes and environments were rendered using the Redshift Renderer. The compositing was all done in Blackmagic Fusion 16.

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Good Jobs, Good Business Gives Small Business Owners New Tools and Advice

Small businesses are the economic engine of communities, cities, and countries around the world. As a result, the economy as a whole does well when they do.

Helping Your Small Business Create Jobs

Good Jobs, Good Business is a free digital toolkit created to provide small businesses owners with tools, resources, and advice. The goal of the toolkit is for owners to be able to create jobs which improve retention, employee performance and productivity. At the same time owners can also achieve real short- and long-term cost savings while creating these jobs.

The kit comes from Pacific Community Ventures (PCV), an organization dedicated to empowering small business owners. As a 501c3 nonprofit social enterprise and community development financial institution (CDFI), PCV wants to make markets work. As a result, the mission of PCV is to offer fair lending. But also free mentorship, skilled volunteerism, impact investing consulting services and field-building research.

Since 1998, PCV has invested around $100 million in capital and pro bono advising hours. And this has created quality-job-creating companies. The company also influences a growing pool of tens of billions in impact investment capital.

In an emailed press release Mary Jo Cook, President and CEO of Pacific Community Ventures, explains why small businesses need support.

Cook says, “We cannot simply ask small business owners to create ‘good jobs’ without giving them the tools, coaching, and roadmap to do so in ways that support their overall business needs. We are committed to helping small business owners create jobs that are good for their workers and good for their businesses.”

Good Jobs, Good Business looks to extend this effort further by helping owners be more productive and create better jobs.

The Good Jobs, Good Business Toolkit

With the Good Jobs, Good Business toolkit, business owners will be equipped with practical tools and resources to offer good jobs. For example, the toolkit helps balance the needs of the business along with those of the employees.

According to PCV, it removes the guesswork from the “how-to” of creating good jobs and strengthening a business at the same time.

The toolkit focuses on the retail industry. And it was developed as part of a partnership with the Aspen Institute and Walmart Foundation’s Reimagine Retail Initiative.

As a result, this toolkit can help the one in ten Americans who work in retail. Everyone from salespersons to cashiers, stock clerks, and first-line supervisors and managers can reap the benefits of this initiative.

The people in this industry have median annual wages from $20,160 for cashiers to $38,870 for supervisors/managers.

Key Areas

The Good Jobs, Good Business toolkit has seven key areas.

They are:

1. The Business Case for Quality Jobs – Quality jobs provide your employees with greater financial security, enhance productivity, and support professional and personal success. As a retail business owner, you can shape the quality of jobs you offer in a way that works for your business and your employees.

2. Employee Compensation – Your employees are one of your most valuable assets. As a result, higher compensation and other improvements in job quality can lead to greater productivity and improved customer service. This includes attracting qualified candidates—helping not only your employees but also your bottom line.

3. Health Benefits – Providing healthcare benefits offers competitive advantages to your business. In addition to attracting talented workers, it improves their wellbeing and productivity while increasing retention rates in the long-term.
4. Retirement Benefits and Other Wealth-Building Strategies – Offering a retirement plan reduces income taxes for participants and also lowers your business taxes.

5. Stable Scheduling, Vacation and Paid Leave – Stable schedules improve retention, drive down absenteeism, raise productivity, and foster employee morale. And paid leaves and vacations also provide benefits in recruitment and retention.

6. Hiring, Training, and Professional Development – These components are crucial for a productive workforce and healthy company culture. According to PCV, they are three steps in a single process.

7. Employee Engagement – With an engaged workforce you can expect lower absenteeism and turnover and increased productivity, sales, profitability, and a much safer working environment.

You can download the kit (PDF) here.


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Forget ROAS, It's All About ROMI Now

Your ad spend is only a fraction of your investment. To figure out the true ROI of your marketing efforts, you need more than a vanity metric.

Measuring campaign performance is an integral part of your marketing optimization. Choosing your campaign KPIs can have a huge impact on how you measure and conceive your failure or success. Though visibility and engagement metrics (impressions, CTR, click rate) will help you gauge your reach, return on investment metrics (CPC, cost per conversion, ROAS, ROMI) will help you objectively determine your campaign’s revenue contribution.

But how objectively?

ROAS—return on ad spend—is ad networks’ preferred metric. It emphasizes the revenue created by the campaigns you run on their networks, while ignoring much of the spend associated with these campaigns. In that respect ROAS is a vanity metric, which may bode well for the ad networks’ goal of enticing you to spend more of your marketing budget with them, but has little to do with the actual success—or lack thereof—of your campaigns.

That’s why return on marketing investment (ROMI) is rapidly gaining popularity as a more informative metric that gives you actual insights to fuel your marketing optimization.

What Is Return on Ad Spend?

ROAS is the most basic way to calculate how much you’ve earned from your marketing campaign.

Here’s how you work it out: You take your sales revenue from the campaign period, and you divide it by how much you spent on ads.

For example, if you spent $1,000 on Facebook Ads this month, and your revenue was $10,000, your ROAS would be 10, A tenfold return on investment. Whoop!

Simple, huh? The trouble is, it’s vastly oversimplified. As we’ll see in a moment, ROAS can become very misleading for that very reason.

Because of its limited scope, it can hardly be thought of as a true ROI metric.

What Is Return on Marketing Investment?

ROMI, on the other hand, is a subset of the ROI metric: It doesn’t look at all the spend associated with your business, but at the spend associated with your marketing efforts.

There are two common ways to calculate ROMI—with and without cost of goods sold (COGS), and they can lead to vastly different numbers. In this article, I’m referring to COGS-inclusive ROMI, but your decision should be based on the specifics of your business. The important thing is to stick to one calculation method to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

With or without COGS, ROMI takes into account all of the costs of running your marketing campaign—not just your ad spend. That includes what you pay out for content creation, agency fees, discounts, etc.

When considering COGS, ROMI takes into account only the money you have in your pocket from sales—i.e., your profits, not your revenue. You start with the profit margin you make on each item and subtract costs like packing and shipping.

Then, bearing all of that in mind, to calculate ROMI, you divide the profits from your marketing campaign by the total cost of running that campaign.

OK, So How Does That Make a Difference?

It’s worth mentioning that no matter how you calculate your marketing spend, profitability may not always be your main driver. One such case is awareness campaigns, for which the investment is long-term; there’s no expectation of immediate returns. That said, ROMI still gives you a far more complete and accurate picture of how your marketing campaign performed.

To take the earlier example, let’s say that as well as the $1,000 you spent on Facebook ads, you also paid an agency $1,000 to make the ads.

And let’s say that the item you are selling is lip liner, and your $10,000 in revenue was made up of 1,000 units sold at $10 each.

Those units cost you $5 each, though, so you only make a profit of $5 on each one. Plus, it costs you $2 to package and post (P&P) each unit.

What’s more, these sales were all made with the $1 discount code that you gave out in your ads. That means you effectively spent $1,000 on making those sales happen.

  1. So the cost of running your campaign was actually $1,000 (ad spend) + $1,000 (content creation) + $1,000 = $3,000
  2. And your profit for the period was actually $10,000 (sales income) – $5,000 (cost of the goods) – $2,000 (P&P) = $3,000
  3. And so, your ROMI for the campaigns was $3,000/$3,000 = $1

As in: for every $1 you spent on your marketing campaign, you earned… $1.

Why Is ROMI Better?

The big problem with ROAS is that it lets the ad network take credit for all your sales revenue while ignoring any inconvenient costs and calculations that tell a different story.

ROMI acts as a much-needed reality check. It tells you what the real returns are on your marketing investment—and it lets you put your ad spend in context: Sure, your Facebook ads might be getting a lot of traction, but if the campaign is flawed in some way, you need to know that before you consider scaling up your ad spend.

How Does All That Work in Practice?

Such attention to detail turned out to be hugely important in two campaigns for the snack brand Mattessons Fridge Raiders in 2013 and 2014-2015.

For its first campaign, the brand came up with a cool idea. Using Facebook ads that linked through to a longer YouTube video, it crowdsourced ideas for a “snacking device” that would allow people to snack without using their hands—to avoid touching keyboards, phones and so on with greasy fingers.

Mattessons’ Facebook campaign generated 120 million ad impressions on Facebook and, during the three months of the campaign, there was a healthy spike in sales. However, they dwindled again once the campaign was over. That was bad news, considering the primary marketing objectives were about long-term growth.

Rather than just running more Facebook ads, the company took a good hard look at its ROMI over the period. It figured out that the campaign was too focused on short-term goals rather than deepening people’s connection with the brand. To tackle that issue, it created an AI robot that target consumers could interact with online, and it expanded the campaign to TV ads, all over a seven-month period.

Four months after the second campaign was over, net sales were still up 70% and the overall long-term ROMI was 1.87—i.e., a return of $1.87 for every $1 spent.

If the company had simply fixated on ROAS, it would still be pouring in money to Facebook ads each month, with diminishing returns!

Final Thoughts

Even if your marketing campaigns look like they’re meeting your short-term marketing objectives, it’s crucial to dive in to view every cog in the machine with a critical eye.

Perhaps your ad spend really does drive your profits. Maybe your overall marketing campaign is solid but the Facebook ads element of it isn’t really contributing to your success in any meaningful way. Perhaps it’s even creating a huge expense that doesn’t directly translate into sales.

Whatever the truth of the matter, you need to be able to analyze it carefully for yourself if you’re going to optimize your spend and boost your marketing ROI over time.

ROAS doesn’t let you do that… but ROMI can.

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How Do I Handle Embezzlement and Employee Theft?

A reader from Georgia asks:

“I suspect one of my employees is stealing from my company. This is someone I’ve known and trusted for over 10 years. She has a family and I’ve been to her home many times for barbeques and birthday parties. I am sick over this situation. What should I do about this employee theft? Do I call the police? Confront her? Give her a chance to resign?”  

  –  Aaron W. from Atlanta, Georgia

Aaron, you didn’t say what the person was stealing or the amount involved. We’ve had some experience dealing with embezzlement and employee theft issues. So we’ll offer some guidance based on various circumstances and explain how to handle it.

Every theft by an employee requires a response of some kind.  Left unchecked, even a small instance of employee theft may get worse. It becomes a habit. And it may become contagious, meaning other employees become emboldened figuring they can get away with theft, too. They may assume you don’t pay attention — or that you simply don’t care.

That said, how you respond depends on the seriousness of the theft and how much proof you have.

How to Handle Embezzlement and Employee Theft

Gather the Facts

The first step is always to get the facts in order.  What you need is proof. Good proof might consist of catching an employee on a security camera stealing money.

However, most of the time the evidence won’t be that clear. You may have to gather documents, get cancelled checks from your bank, or examine accounting records. An important part of investigating is to question employees.

In the investigation stage, ask — don’t accuse.

Because what if you’re wrong? If you falsely accuse an employee of theft, you will irreparably harm the employer-employee relationship. And you could do real damage to someone’s career with a false accusation.

Call employees into your office one by one for confidential interviews.

Here are two examples of how to handle a theft interview. Ask the employee questions about the situation. Start out like the following:

  • “I’ve discovered the cash register was short by $200 this month. Do you have any idea what may be going on, Susie?”
  • “A lot of our supplies have gone missing. In the last two months we’ve gone through 20 times the amount of coffee K-pods we normally use. Do you know anything about that, Susie?”

What you do next depends on the employee’s response. Watch facial expressions and body language. And see what they say.

The employee may just have a legitimate explanation for whatever you’re investigating. For instance, perhaps she moved something from one place to another, or created different data entries that explain where funds are, without telling you.  This is why you should ask before accusing. And be open minded to the response.

She might also offer some kind of excuse, which you will have to weigh.

If the Employee Admits it or You Have Solid Proof

In my experience, guilty employees often admit to theft when questioned — without much pressure. It’s as if they feel tremendous stress and are relieved it’s over.

So let’s say the employee admits to the embezzlement or theft.

Or you have reached the point in the investigation where you have solid proof.

Now it’s time to switch to confronting the employee and taking action.

Confront the Employee With Disciplinary Action

Depending on the seriousness and nature of the offense, you could take one or more of the following actions in a confidential meeting.

If it’s a relatively minor situation, you might:

  • Express your disappointment and that your trust has been violated.
  • Give a stern warning and ask the employee to repay or replace what they took.
  • When it comes to office and cafeteria supplies, employees sometimes think they have the right to take items home. So you may have to educate the employee about company policies and values.
  • If you are so inclined, suggest that in the future the employee ask up front if they need something. Perhaps you’d be willing to offer a salary advance if they need funds. Or give them supplies if they truly are in need. But only if they ask first.
  • Document the action such as in a confidential email or memo to the employee.

If it’s a serious matter (complex embezzlement fraud scheme, high dollar amount), your  response is more likely to be:

  • Terminate the employee on the spot.
  • Or ask the employee to leave the building immediately on unpaid leave. The employee should leave all company property behind including keys, laptop or company issued phone or car. Putting the employee on leave will give you time to consult with your attorney or think clearly about next steps such as termination and calling the police.
  • If you put the employee on unpaid leave, you will have to terminate the person officially through some kind of followup communication, either through a letter or another meeting.

If the employee belongs to a union, follow the union’s contract process.

Cut Off Access

Be sure to immediately cut off access to all company systems, data, premises and financial accounts for anyone you place on leave.  And of course do the same if you terminate an employee.

Contact Your Attorney

Involve your attorney early for advice, especially in serious cases. Your attorney can guide you as to how to conduct an investigation, how to preserve evidence, when to call in the police, how to handle the employee, and how to notify third parties.

If you suspect embezzlement of large sums of money or a significant pattern of fraud, calling your attorney is essential!  White collar crimes like check forgery or fraud schemes can be complex. Dishonest employees get good at covering their tracks – sometimes for years. It can take a trained forensic investigator to trace the full scope of a fraud.

Not only that, but serious embezzlements and thefts often kick off a chain of legal ramifications. Your small business may need to navigate a legal minefield including:

  • Insurance claims:

    A crime insurance policy may cover your losses, and you will need to file a claim. Your attorney can help protect your claim rights.

  • Third parties that may be liable:

    Third parties such as banks may be liable for your losses, and you should put them on notice. But be careful what you say. Third parties will seize on any reason not to pay, including casual comments that could be interpreted as admissions against your interests.

  • Government authorities:

    You may be in jeopardy from unpaid tax money that a dishonest employee embezzled unbeknownst to you. You may need to protect against IRS seizures, liens and other actions that could wreck your credit score and sink your business.

  • Employee lawsuits:

    Employees may sue you for defamation or wrongful termination if evidence is weak or if you bungle the investigation.

The more serious the matter, the more crucial it is to get legal advice early.

Report Embezzlement to the Police

Many employers, especially small businesses, don’t report embezzlement fraud and theft. But that is a mistake.

If you’re talking about a few missing supplies worth $20, it doesn’t warrant calling in law enforcement.

However, you should report all serious embezzlement situations and any theft involving high value to the police, for several reasons:

  • It may be the only way to get restitution.
  • Your other employees need to know you take this seriously. You don’t want anyone else to assume they can get away with it.
  • If you have insurance to make a claim against, or plan to try to hold another party such as a bank responsible, you will need to press charges.
  • You don’t want the embezzler to move on to some unsuspecting future employer because there’s no public record.
  • A thorough investigation may help reveal how a fraud scheme occurred. This may help you take steps to avoid similar situations in the future.

Don’t Wait!

The faster you act, the better you can protect your business and the faster you cut your losses.  Besides, workplace theft can throw a business into incredible turmoil and put crushing pressure on you as the owner.

Put Control Systems in Place

One of the most important things you can do is make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Change internal procedures to minimize access and avoid temptation. Put checks and balances in place. For instance, if equipment or inventory is missing, do a better job of using software to track items and security cameras to tighten up security.

Also, require separation of functions.  Never allow one employee to have complete control. Assign one person to process transactions, and another to reconcile the bank account and make accounting entries. Or do one of the functions yourself if your organization is small.

Also bring up the topic of being frugal and emphasize the trust you are placing in everyone, in team meetings.

When you put proper checks and balances in place, you limit the opportunity for temptation and access to do harm.

Find Someone to Talk With

Last but not least, take care of yourself. If the embezzlement involves large sums, you will be upset and perhaps in shock. You may have a mix of emotions roiling around.

Try to control your own emotions and reaction, not just toward the guilty employee but toward everyone else in the business. They are depending on you to be as calm and collected as possible, and not fall apart emotionally. This is another reason to discuss the situation with your attorney.  It buys you time to cool down. Talking with a skilled advisor will help you sort out your options with a level head.

Find a friend or talk with your spouse. You might also want to talk with a spiritual advisor or a mentor.  Or you might pray as a form of talking with a higher being.

Embezzlement and theft is never easy to confront and deal with.  But your business survival and your employees’ livelihoods may depend on the tough decisions you make.

Good luck!

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All answers to reader questions come from the Small Business Trends Editorial Board, with more than 50 years of combined business experience. If you would like to submit a question, please submit it here.


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Underrated But Effective Link-Building Tactics for SEO [Infographic]

Link-building is a highly effective SEO stratagem. Marketers know that, which is why they engage in tactics like guest-posting.

But there are other, lesser-known approaches that can work just as well. Done correctly, they can have an outsized impact on your SEO results.

And that’s where an infographic from Spiralytics comes in. The performance-driven digital marketing agency lays out a series of nine tactics that can generate links to your website or other content, explaining the process for each and offering pro tips.

For example, the infographic suggests creating a resource page—containing helpful links on a topic that’s important to your audience—on your website. Then, reach out to blogs and other publications that cover the same topic, suggesting that your resource page may be of interest to their audiences.

For more ideas and suggestions on how to build links to your site, check out the infographic:

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Hair Raising Halloween Events and Trends For Your Business

You have only to look at the stats to see how Halloween has exploded in recent years. Halloween spending on decorations and costumes is almost $6 billion annually, according to the National Retail Federation.

Businesses of almost every type — retail shops, food businesses, insurance agencies, garden centers, marketing companies, and professional offices — can benefit from decorating and marketing at Halloween.

Halloween Trends and Events

So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to Halloween for small businesses? Check out these trends that small businesses can leverage. You’ll be so far ahead of the game, it’s scary.

Sugar Skulls

Sugar skulls as a design feature are popular year-round. But there’s also a distinct Halloween overtone, too. And they are a long-held Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertes) Mexican tradition.

These colorful and fun designs are popular for temporary tattoos and Halloween makeup.

Here’s another way to leverage the trend. Have sugar skull coloring books available in a kids’ corner with colored pencils at your Halloween event. Or simply give the books out as free gifts around Halloween. They will provide hours of delight for kids and adults alike.

It’s an easy and inexpensive DIY project to create your own sugar skull coloring book with your brand on it. Instructions:  go over to and choose 10 free sugar skull designs in black-and-white. Print them on sheets of plain paper with your logo in the corner. Staple together. The paper and toner will cost about 35 cents per book. Throw in a box of Cra-Z-Art colored pencils (50 cents at Walmart). Total cost: 85 cents per coloring book and box of pencils.

See our Sugar Skulls Coloring Book for an example…

Halloween Makeup

Dramatic Halloween face makeup has become a big trend. Videos on YouTube showing how to apply Halloween makeup get millions of views.

Shop owners and/or staff who are into this trend could wear Halloween makeup for the day.  However, really dramatic makeup may be a bit much for many business settings. Keep a light touch.

If you are talented you can apply the makeup yourself. The cost to have Halloween makeup professionally applied could run upwards of $100 to $200. Or simply go to a Halloween store or shop on Amazon and buy a temporary tattoo kit for your face.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Lawn Display

image: Etsy

The Nightmare Before Christmas

This year, why not create a Nightmare Before Christmas display to decorate your business or use the theme to host an event?

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” you’ve missed a real cult classic. Tim Burton’s 1993 visual masterpiece has an enormous millennial following. The movie was shot at Disney using stop-motion animation (aka claymation).

The movie has spawned a trendy Halloween style, sometimes in neon or blacklight effects. What’s great about the theme — should you be brave enough to incorporate it – is that it can extend beyond Halloween right into Christmas.

You can find officially licensed items online. Or shop for “inspired” decorations at big box stores. Target, for example, offers a stylized Moonlight Bash line which includes trendy party items as well as Halloween decorations.

If you are a fan of handmade crafts, you can find inspired items over at Etsy (see image above) and at local craft shows, too.

Flameless Candles

image: Lumabase

Flameless Candles

Spooky candles create a Halloween mood. Flameless candles offer a safer high tech alternative. They create a realistic illusion of candlelight with a battery unit, timer and an LED light.

Flameless candles are good to include in lighted store display windows or on shelves. Very large ones can make an extra impact at your front door. You can also use them to light Halloween luminaria outdoors, avoiding the challenge of keeping candles lit on a windy evening. Pictured are flameless luminarias from Lumabase.

Outdoor Light Strings and Decorations

Every year sees more outdoor decorations for Halloween.  LED light strings in orange or purple for trees, doorways and eves are popular. Lighted jack-o-lanterns and skulls are also popular.

Gauzy ghosts and ghouls that can be hung in trees or on the side of a building are a trendy decoration. Sometimes they come with sound to “speak” to passers-by for a chilling thrill.

Pet Costumes

Dress Up Pets in Costumes

Pet costumes are one of the hottest trends!  If you have a working cat or dog in your business, or if you allow employees to bring pets to work, dress up those pets! is a good place to find pet costumes. According to the NRF, last year the most popular pet costumes were (in order of popularity):

  • Pumpkin
  • Hot dog
  • Bumble bee
  • Devil
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Lion
  • Star Wars character
  • Super hero
  • Ghost

Another option is to hold a “pets welcome” open house or organize a pet parade together with other nearby businesses. Promote the activity in advance on social media, via an email blast to your customer list, and by putting a sign in your window.  People love to show off their pets and it will bring in tons of foot traffic.

Halloween Inflatables

Giant orange pumpkins, tall green witches or scary glowing ghosts — these characters and others are available in inflatable form of 8 to 20 feet or even taller. Or how about a giant inflated spider climbing on your roof? Inflatables are real attention grabbers and a decent-sized one can  cost $75 to $150 at any big box store.

Most inflatable Halloween decorations incorporate lights for a spooky show at night. Just remember: if you get inflatables that are too huge, or keep them up too long, you might run up against local zoning regulations like one car dealership did. Business owners, always check your zoning regs.

Vintage Halloween

image: Wikimedia

Vintage Halloween Decorations

Vintage decorations are experiencing a resurgence of interest. Think plastic light up pumpkin lamps and melted plastic popcorn decorations.

Incorporate these decorations in your shelf or window displays to connect with customers who remember that era. Even millennials and Gen X-ers who never knew the decorations the first time around enjoy vintage stuff for its quirkiness.

The example pictured is from the mid-20th century. You can find vintage Halloween decorations at flea markets and antique or resale shops. Don’t forget eBay, which at any given time may have over 20,000 vintage Halloween decorations listed.

Face Painting for Kids

Face painting events have become popular because kids enjoy the creativity and crave attention. To hire a face painter to make your event an experience shoppers won’t soon forget, expect to pay around $100 per hour. Rates may vary in your area. Search in Google or go to a gig site like The Bash to find one.

If your face painter can do light sugar skull designs, you combine two trends into one.

The visual nature of face painting has another advantage. You can share photos on social media. Just make sure you have permission of participants and parents. You’ll generate plenty of content to continue enjoying the experience online — all the way through to next year!

Employee Costumes for Halloween

Staff Dressing up in Halloween Costumes

Have you noticed how many workplaces these days have employees who wear costumes around  Halloween? It can make the day festive and bring a smile to customers’ faces. It’s not suitable for every business. Check out: Should I allow employees to dress up for Halloween?.

Oversize Plush Masks

Another Halloween trend these days is the oversized plush mask. Think “stuffed animal head” similar to a sports mascot. These masks completely cover the head.

Plush masks can now be purchased at party stores and online. Some adults wear them without a costume because the big head alone makes an impact. Average cost: $25 to $50.

While not a great costume idea for employees who are working, it’s a fun idea to don one of these for short periods. Use it during a Halloween party to entertain customers and their kids.

No Longer Hot Trends

Clowns:  Skip the clowns. Too creepy. Need we say more?

Wax Teeth: Believe it or not, wax teeth used to be hot for kids and adults at one time. Not any more!

Homemade Treats for Trick or Treat:  Commercial-packaged treats for trick or treat are the way to go.  Everyone these days is careful about what they eat, due to safety concerns.

Think outside the box, have fun, get creative – and take advantage of 2019 Halloween trends to generate the most interest for your small business!


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