XTrade and Online Trading – What You Should Know

XTrade is just one of the many trading brokers out there, but unlike most other brokers, it offers you to trade in CFDs instead of trading directly with the underlying asset. What is CFD? It stands for Contracts For Differences.

CFD - Contract For Difference

Like binary options, it is a derivative instrument, however, unlike binary options, you do not win all or lose all. Instead, a losing scenario could see you either losing all of your money or losing only a part of it. This is because CFDs gives you the opportunity to earn money from the difference in the asking and closing price.

Leverage And Ratio

So, if the price of a certain asset like USD/EUR opens at 1.6 and closes at 1.8, you earn 0.2.…



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Petro Dodge City #397's Great Idea: Historic Outhouse

One of the ways Petro Dodge City #397 in Hanceville, Alabama, sets itself apart from its competition is by having an historic outhouse in its truckstop.

The idea to add the outhouse was sparked by Operations Manager Keith Wade when reminiscing with an old friend at Petro about a truckstop that had a large grizzly bear in the lobby. The friend shared that one of his cus­tomers was trying to track down that truckstop with the bear that she re­membered from trips to the beach in her youth. “It got me thinking that people remember destination sites and I need to do something,” he shared.

His idea? Add an historic outhouse that was inexpensive and worked with their Dodge City Theme. They were lucky enough to have a 75-year-old artisan in the area who built it out of old barn wood.

The idea is generating the buzz he desired. “The great thing that has happened is we have had hundreds of people take photos of themselves in it. We have had to reinforce the poop deck as 250-pound drivers get inside it on occasion,” he shared. It is also generating some good old-fashioned fun. “We have seen no negatives, only laughter,” he said. “We just hope that no one ever re­ally uses it!”

HAVE A GREAT IDEA YOU WANT TO SUBMIT? Send a high-resolution picture of your location’s great idea and the story behind it to Amy Toner at atoner@natso.com. 



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Food From the Best at Columbus West

In the 11 years since it opened, Columbus West Travel Center in Columbus, Wisconsin, has grown from a convenience store to a full-service truckstop. “It started out as a convenience store and then as truck traffic increased, it was converted over to a truckstop by adding seven die­sel fueling positions, three showers, laundry, game room, lounge, Arby’s restaurant and hot food, prepared on site,” said owner Richard Sheard.

Stop Watch sat down with Sheard to learn more about the location’s operations and gain his insight into the industry’s latest trends.

Emphasis on Food Service
Food service is becoming a more important component of the over­all sales at truckstops and travel plazas and Columbus West Travel Center is poised to take advantage of this trend.

“As fuel sales do not allow for any significant growth, going forward our emphasis has to be on promot­ing inside sales, especially freshly prepared, good quality foods. “We are offering more and more fresh food options,” Sheard said.

Sheard has found several ways to grow his food service, including increasing healthy offerings and emphasizing speed (see more below). Columbus West Travel Center also has plans to offer new food items. “We have brought in a Perfect Fryer and will begin providing fried and baked chicken, fried cheese curds and other assorted fried food items as well as some signature sandwiches,” Sheard said.

A Dependable Crew
Staff is key at Columbus West Travel Center. In addition to Sheard, a store manager, assistant store manager, 10 cashiers, one maintenance person and two employees in accounting support everything on the location’s 17,000 square feet and 70 parking spots. The location has two-way ra­dios for cashiers to communicate with each other.

They keep everything looking great at the location by having one person each shift that works the floor, keeping shelves filled and keep­ing the restrooms and showers clean. “This allows our cashiers to always be available to serve our customers in a timely manner. When there is a slow period, one of the cashiers will take care of the coffee island, which is in plain site of the checkout coun­ter,” Sheard said.

Prepare for the Worst
After discovering an embezzlement problem in 2014, the location add­ed some additional security proce­dures to protect their cash.

“We now run all cash and credit transactions through our cash reg­isters so we have one complete re­cord for all transactions in our end of day report,” Sheard said, adding that the location uses locked bank bags for bank deposit runs and has two accounting people verify each other’s work. “We also looked at the automatic safes but have found that they just currently do not work for us,” he said.

Take Advantage of the Bigger Network
“We offer smaller trucking firms in our area a fleet card option through our BP network,” Sheard shared. BP offers monthly detailed reports on paper and online for fleet purchases on its fleet card. “This takes away the credit risk for us and allows us to of­fer an additional fuel discount. This allows us to be able to better com­pete with the big chains,” he said.

Plan for the Future
In addition to expanding their food of­ferings, the location’s plans for the fu­ture also include opening a truck wash and a maintenance facility on the six-acre site adjacent to their truckstop later this year.

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Tips to Grow Your Food Service

Richard Sheard, owner of Columbus West Travel Center, offered these three tips on how to grow food service offerings:

  1. When choosing what food to offer, pay attention to what your customers want. Sheard said, “Talk to your customers about what they would want in food at your location. Give them healthy options. With many older truck drives having health issues, a need for healthier options is important.” Offering baked chicken to go along with fried chicken as well as gluten-free foods, fresh fruit and salads gives customers more choices.

  2. Offer good quality that is available fast. Today’s customers are demanding greater quality and convenience in the food they purchase. “When offering an expanded food menu, do not go cheap. Prepare good quality food offerings made fresh every day,” Sheard said. He added that it is worth it to pay a little extra for good equipment that will provide a consistent quality product. Columbus West Travel Center has had great success with its take-n-bake pizza program.

  3. Offer samples. Another good piece of advice is to offer food product sampling. “It works for Costco and Sam’s Club and it will work for you,” Sheard said. He recommends operators always have something free to sample and offer a discount on the items being sampled to encourage an impulse sale on that day. “For example, we offer a variety of cheeses, but a customer may be hesitant to purchase a type they have not tried before,” he said. Columbus West Travel Center also exposes customers to new food at its open house. “We hold an annual open house for our trucking customers with free food and gift drawings,” Sheard said.

 



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Truckstops Becoming a Hub for Healthcare

Truckstop and travel plaza opera­tors have always tried to meet the needs of those on the road, and now they’re taking service to a new level and offering a range of healthcare services for drivers as well as their local communities.

Pharmacy And Medical Clinic At White’s Travel Center
White’s Travel Center in Raphine, Virginia, offers drivers a medical clinic as well as a pharmacy on site, and both businesses are doing ex­tremely well, said Bobby Berkstress­er, owner of the location.

“For so many of the drivers, this is their designated route and they may spend more time here than at home,” Berkstresser said. “Walk-in traffic from the interstate is increas­ing every month, but the local traf­fic is increasing as well.”

“The medical clinic is in a 5,200-square-foot building and we’re getting ready to expand it,” Berkstresser said, adding that he originally bought the property the clinic sits on for the parking area. “There was a Yellow Freight relay station here when I bought the trav­el center. It had parking for about 100 trucks and I bought it to ex­pand my parking,” he said.

Berkstresser reached out to a doc­tor, who thought he’d rent half of it for a small office. “The business has just grown and grown and grown. The doctor has had to keep hiring staff. He has about 20 employees now,” Berkstresser said.

Even better, the local hospital, which is 20 miles away, wants to expand the location. “It will have x-ray machines and they are talking about putting in a sleep apnea clin­ic. For a medical complex, it would be the biggest in any travel center in America,” Berkstresser said.

White’s opened a pharmacy in 2015, and Berkstresser said it com­plements the doctor’s office and of­fers a resource for locals as well as drivers. “It will take about a year to build the clientele to where it is profitable, but it is growing. Sales this month were almost $15,000 more than last month,” he said.

The front of the store on the phar­macy is almost 5,000 square feet, and customers can get everything from distilled water for breathing machines and toothpaste to blood pressure monitors and diabetes supplies.

“These are things you never thought about selling in a travel center. The driver is coming in and getting his toothpaste and de­odorant and razor blades. Instead of buying what he needed for an emergency, now he is shopping here,” Berkstresser said. “The other Sunday a driver came and had his blood pressure machine that had quit working and we had one on the shelf. How many truckstops in America can he go to and get a blood pressure machine? We want to be the complete stop.”

Chiropractor And More At Racine Petro Clinic
The Racine Petro Clinic, located in­side the Highlands Petro Truckstop in Racine, Wisconsin, has seen de­mand increase as well. “The key to giving drivers healthcare is for them to get the healthcare, counseling and blood tests right there where they are,” said Dr. Lynn Biese-Carroll, a chiropractor who leases about 200 feet of space from the truckstop and runs the practice. “We’ll see 10 to 20 guys in a day. They come in and have their lunch, waiting to take a shower. We can accommodate 175 trucks. There is always a parking place and something else they have to do there.”

The Racine Petro Clinic provides DOT physicals as well as chiro­practic care and diabetes testing. “We are chiropractors that are cer­tified medical examiners. We try to do nutritional counseling and diet programs to help drivers manage weight, which will help them man­age their blood pressure. We deal with the stresses, the back issues and the other issues drivers face,” Biese- Carroll said.

The Racine Petro Clinic used to provide mobile sleep studies, which allowed drivers to check out test­ing units they could use in their trucks, but the location suspended the studies until the Department of Transportation makes a defini­tive decision on sleep apnea test­ing. “The water got really muddied, but we’ll make the service available again when the DOT issues a final decision,” Biese-Carroll said.

The location also sells comfort­able sleep equipment, sitting and sleeping pillows and small exercise equipment that drivers can use in the passenger seat or the sleeper cab. “These are little pedal bikes, arm peddlers or rowers—things that will facilitate cardiovascular equip­ment in the confines of their truck,” Biese-Carroll said. “Your body doesn’t care what is moving—if it is your feet or your arms—if you have a small pedaler, you have a good piece of cardiovascular equipment.”

Biese-Carroll said more and more drivers are genuinely interested in getting healthy.

Sapp Bros. Offers Employees Program To Talk To A Doctor Anytime
Truckstop and travel plaza opera­tors are also finding that their em­ployees value staying healthy. Sapp Bros. has invested in a new health service for its staff called TeleDoc, which allows staff to talk to a doc­tor anytime from anywhere.

Don Quinn, president of Sapp Bros., said the service improves costs and access to health care for employ­ees. “I used it once when I was travel­ing back from Idaho and came down with strep throat. I got home at 10 o’clock at night and at 4 a.m. I called and I described my symptoms from my couch,” Quinn said, adding that it only ended up costing him $18, which covered his prescription.

The service requires a monthly fee per employee, which Sapp Bros. cov­ers, and employees like the service. “We have had some terrific growth with it. We’re on our third year now,” Quinn said.



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Politics and Pie at NATSO Day on The Hill

NATSO members made their annual pilgrimage to Capitol Hill May 16–18, meeting with Senators and Members of Congress to voice how vitally important the truck­stop and travel plaza industry is to the national economy and how Congres­sional votes affect its ability to thrive.

The event included a kickoff lun­cheon where esteemed political consul­tants Brad Todd and J.B. Poersch, two of the country’s top political strategists, teamed up to discuss the Presidential election, its potential impact on the ballot races as well as to explain the arcane rules of the upcoming Republi­can and Democratic conventions.

Tuesday evening NATSO hosted its annual Capitol Hill pie recep­tion, serving nearly 250 pies to leg­islators and their staff. This annual event carries NATSO’s name to all 535 Members of Congress.

Wednesday, NATSO members attended a Congressional breakfast with Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.). Rep. Cole, who was elected in 2002, discussed national politics, including his outlook on the Presi­dential election and the current po­litical landscape.

After breakfast, the more than 50 NATSO members gathered in Washington, D.C., met with their elected officials.



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Focusing on Safety at Your Truckstop Boosts Employee Morale and Cuts Costs

At Sapp Bros. safety starts with its safety mission that is hanging up in every lo­cation: Sustain zero accidents by pro­viding a safe environment worked in by safety minded employees.

Mary Eriksen, human resources and safety manager at Sapp Bros., said the mission statement sets the expectations for a safe envi­ronment. The company supports the mission with ongoing training throughout the year and manda­tory monthly programs for all em­ployees. Sapp has also developed safety manuals for each depart­ment and has a safety director in each of its locations.

“There is someone in charge who coordinates safety at the location,” Eriksen said. “We also review all accidents in our general manager meetings each month and safety performance is part of our bonuses.”

Jerry Leemkuil, field manager, as­sociation risk management services with Federated Insurance, said, “Building a safety culture within the business is critical. It starts with management buy-in. When em­ployees see that safety is important to management, they make it a pri­ority as well.”

Improving safety helps Sapp save money on claims costs. “We have a large deductible so it hits us directly,” Eriksen said, adding that reducing claims also reduces insurance premi­ums, increases productivity and im­proves employee satisfaction. “There are a multitude of costs that turn up when you’re unsafe. There are a lot of costs due to accidents—manager time tied up with it and overtime for people covering for the employee.”

Improving safety was a conscious choice Sapp Bros. made, and the company got serious about it when it saw how high its MOD rates— the amount it paid each month in workers’ compensation premi­ums—had gotten. By taking a stra­tegic approach, the company was able to reduce its rates. “That is a measurable figure, but I can also tell you it helps with your employees and your managers,” Eriksen said.

Training is a key component of Sapp’s approach to safety. “It starts with OSHA training, and there are about 10 different OSHA programs for the average employee, but then it gets more specific. In the store we talk about how to stock a cooler, but in the restaurant we talk about food safety,” Eriksen said.

The location has also crafted trainings and best practices that ad­dress the top causes of injuries at the location. For example, the top cause of accidents at the location is over­exertion, second is slips and falls and third is struck by.

“Addressing overexertion starts with trying to eliminate as much manual exertion as you can. We have equipment—wheels, pallet jacks, forklifts—so we have people carry­ing as little as possible,” Eriksen said, adding that the location also requires certain personal protective equip­ment, including non-slip shoes ad steel-toe boots for certain areas.

Leemkuil said slips and falls are always a challenge for truckstop and c-store operators as a signifi­cant number of slip, trips and falls happen inside c-stores each year. “These incidents can involve both employees and customers,” he said, adding that hazardous areas are near entrances, beverage stations, coolers and in aisles. “We have rec­ommended best practices designed to cut down on these types of in­cidents.” [See Leemkuil’s tips for increasing safety on page 15].

Driving is also directly related to safety, particularly for businesses such as Sapp Bros. that operate tank­er trucks. “They understand that a tanker rollover can happen in an in­stant and have chosen to periodically train their drivers using Federated’s Tanker Rollover prevention program materials,” Leemkuil said.

Earlier this year, Federated In­surance delivered 50 copies of its distracted driving prevention pro­gram that educates drivers about the dangers of texting behind the wheel to the Sapp Bros. “Their safety team sent these copies to ev­ery location and it was presented to every employee who drives a com­pany vehicle,” Leemkuil said.

Although a safety-related culture may take time to build, making safety a regular part of business operations and consistently re­warding desired behavior can yield long-term results. “It can help im­prove employee morale and public perception of the business. It can also positively impact an opera­tor’s bottom line by helping reduce employee and customer injuries, downtime, and costly lawsuits,” Leemkuil said.

Quick Tips for Improving Safety
Sometimes it is the small, everyday behaviors and activities that can have a huge effect on safety. Jerry Leemkuil, field manager, association risk management services with Federated Insurance, has years of first-hand experience on concrete actions operators can take to improve safety for employees and customers alike. He sat down with Stop Watch to share his insight.

3 Ways To Prevent Accidents Inside The Store

  • Have employees wear proper personal protective equipment, including stable shoes and cut-resistant gloves when using box cutters
  • Equip ladders with a grab bar that allows employees to steady themselves
  • Train employees on the importance of safety

2 Ways To Minimize Accidents Outside The Store

  • Have employees wear bright, high-visibility clothing when working in areas with traffic
  • Wear proper footwear to prevent slips, trips and falls

10 Tips For Preventing Slips, Trips And Falls Inside The Location

  • Place mats in areas where spills might occur and near entrances
  • Monitor floors at all times
  • Promptly mop up spills or wet areas
  • Display wet floor signs
  • Regularly inspect and document the state of the store’s interior
  • Keep aisles clear
  • Stack inventory high enough to be clearly seen and not tripped over
  • Have general good housekeeping practices
  • Keep the store well lit
  • Have video surveillance on the inside of the store

10 Tips For Preventing Slips, Trips And Falls Outside The Location

  • Keep all stairs, ladders, walkways, sidewalks and driveways in good repair
  • Properly mark elevation changes on the ground
  • Properly maintain public and employee walkways during the winter
  • Keep snow or ice to accumulate around the store
  • Direct downspouts away from foot traffic
  • Keep the area well lit
  • Keep the area free of trash and debris
  • Have video surveillance on the outside of the store

5 Ways To Prevent Fires

  • Embrace good housekeeping practices, such as removing trash and debris
  • Make sure fire extinguishers are serviced and easily accessible
  • Perform recommended maintenance on cooking equipment and extinguishing systems
  • Regularly clean hoods and duct systems to remove grease
  • Regularly clean exhaust filters

 4 Common Safety Issues Operators Overlook

  • Wet and slippery surfaces inside walk-in coolers that present a hazard to employees
  • Fire extinguishers that may be moved or blocked, preventing easy access
  • Floor mats that are missing or have upturned corners or become saturated, which could lead to a slip, trip or fall
  • Cleaning supplies that make a surface slicker than it was before 


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Increase Sales at Your Truckstop With A Strong Retail Program

All truckstop and travel plaza operators are working to get customers in the door and to the cash register, and a well-planned retail strategy can do just that. Yet all too often, business owners are trying to be everything to everybody, which can do more harm than good.

“There is usually a very big discon­nect from the reality of an operator’s actual store and the type of custom­ers shopping there versus their actual merchandising strategy and tactics,” said Darren Schulte, vice president of membership at NATSO.

To increase their success, top op­erators should have plans and pro­cesses in place to help them manage the fundamentals on a daily basis and craft a retail strategy based on the key customer group locations are trying to attract.

“You can have the best price on cigarettes in town or the coldest beer or the best smoothies, but whatever you decide as your strategy should be based on who you’re trying to at­tract and then you have to support the strategy,” Schulte said.

Know Your Customers
Crafting the right merchandising strategy always starts with knowing your customers, Schulte said. “I’m always stating that you first have to know who your customer is or who you’re trying to get,” Schulte said. “If your merchandising strategy is to of­fer the latest and greatest electronic gadgets but you have a customer base of female customers that aren’t into CBs, your strategy and your tac­tics to support that strategy are prob­ably going to fail because that isn’t your customer.”

Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail sales at Cash Magic, which operates 10 locations in Louisiana, visits stores and solicits feedback from the managers and as­sociates by region to find out what customers are looking for in each of the stores and the needs for an area.

“We are spread out across Loui­siana and we try to target the cer­tain demographic by region as each can be vastly different,” Hargraves said. “I have found that what sells in North Louisiana will not always sell in South Louisiana.”

Cash Magic sells a premium quality sportsman cooler in South Louisiana that sells well, but in East Louisiana in the Baton Rouge market, it doesn’t. “Another example is with sporting teams, such as the Saints versus the Cowboys. We sell a lot of Cowboys products in North Louisiana and barely any Saints, which is just the opposite in South Louisiana.”

Ed Leddy, a retail expert and a fea­tured speaker at The NATSO Show 2016, said that customers today are after speed. “Speed is very, very im­portant,” he said, adding that any­thing operators can do to meet that need will help spur sales.

Examine Trends Within Categories
Looking at the overall industry trends, particularly as they relate to certain categories, can also help operators determine the areas they want to emphasize in their stores, Leddy said.

“Tobacco is a dramatically drop­ping category,” Leddy said. “Cell phones have become a multi-mil­lion dollar business. There is a big­ger and bigger offering of the food service portion.”

Healthier offerings are trending as well. “Every single year the num­ber on the healthy side is creeping up. People really are putting their money where their mouth is. Those things we tried 15 years ago that wouldn’t sell, they are selling now,” Leddy said.

The amount of cooler space in a store has grown as well. “In 1975 there was one beverage we offered. We sold cans of Coca-Cola. Today, when it comes to dispensed bever­ages—coffee, hot drinks or fountain drinks—the customer loves to cus­tomize their offering. The more the customer likes it, the more they will tell their friends,” Leddy said.

Decide on Strategy
Once operators understand who their key customers are or who they want them to be, they can decide on the categories they want to be known for. “From there, develop promo­tional and pricing strategies based on what you’re trying to accomplish,” Schulte said. “If you’re going to have a wide selection of craft sodas, your signage should say that and you should be communicating it in the store and in your social media.”

Create the Right Flow
Placing products in the right loca­tion will drive profitability. Mike Lawshe, president of Paragon Solu­tions, suggests operators look at the layout of their store and ask them­selves what customers can do next once they complete their primary objective. “Destination is first. Im­pulse is second,” Lawshe said. “If all you are doing is getting them in and out of there and you position your products that way, you have short-cycled their trip. You haven’t sold more product.”

Placing restrooms at the back of the store can draw customers in. “What you put in as they go to the restroom is going to be critical for driving sales,” Schulte said, adding that operators should place items that attract a range of customers in those areas. “If you’re only putting stuff in the front or key walk areas that only makes sense to one type of your customer, you’re running the risk of never fully developing your sales.”

Lawshe said end caps are an op­erator’s single greatest opportunity to sell. In addition, the sales coun­ter is the last chance operators have to make an impulse sell. “As you’re exiting, you’ve already done your planned shopping,” he said.

Because the checkout counter is prime real estate, Lawshe suggests operators put a lot of thought into the merchandise they place in the space. “Consider putting seasonal things on the counter and having custom-built or cascading racks,” he said.

Schulte recommends operators place items people routinely for­get, such as cellphone chargers and sunglasses, by the cash register, and said they should be careful not to fill the counter “with a lot of junk.” He said, “Don’t make it difficult to buy something, Give your custom­ers room to move around and space to shop.”

The space customers desire ex­tends to different areas within the store, Leddy said. “If you notice when you go to Starbucks, they hand you the cup of coffee right up at the counter and if you want cream and sugar you go far away. They do that on purpose,” he said, adding that giving customers the appearance of more space where they order can spur sales.

Fifteen years ago, Leddy worked within an operation that moved condiments away from the coffee and he increased sales by 500 cups a week. “It had nothing to do with better brewing or training of the people. It was about freeing up the space,” he said.

To help give the appearance of space, Leddy suggests operators stick with shelving that is 54 inch­es or less. “Today’s customer likes friendly, open and fast,” he said. “They want to be able to see across the store. Once you go above line of sight, the person sees this item but you’re blocking visibility through the store.”

Create Promotions to Support Your Key Categories
Part of a merchandising strategy is to think about pricing, promotional structure and timing. Schulte said, “Whatever your strategy is, are you following standard operating pro­cedures with the rest of the world? If you’re in apparel, are you bring­ing in shorts with the rest of the retail world in February or March? Are you trying to sell Christmas merchandise in February when it should have been cleared the first week in February?”

Schulte said vendors can help op­erators create their retail strategy. “You should be looking at a calen­dar with your vendor. A single store operator doesn’t have the benefit of having a category management team. They have to employ the sys­tems out there with their vendor,” he said.

The relationship should be col­laborative and truly focus on a strategy. “It doesn’t mean the ven­dor just drops off a pallet of 12 packs and puts a sign on it. That isn’t a merchandising strategy,” Schulte said.

Tropiceel Products Inc. frequent­ly works with customers and sets up meetings at the beginning or end of the year to review the year ahead. “We know there are cer­tain times of year our products sell more—holidays, gift giving sea­sons. We set it up on a calendar so we can be prepared,” said Becky Jean Horace, a spokeswoman for the company.

Tropiceel also works with opera­tors on a free-sample program so locations can give drivers a sample with each shower. The program has spurred sales for locations that have followed the plan and can help lo­cations connect with customers. “It makes them feel special at that shop. It is a nice addition to the whole experience,” Horrace said.

When it comes to connecting with customers, Schulte said op­erators can use discounts, but it is important they identify the best sellers and promote them heavily rather than placing everything on promotion. “We can identify things that make a difference. Snickers is the number one candy bar. If you promote that, you’ll change the value perception without having to change the price on every can­dy bar. In the cooler—Mt. Dew is the best seller, so highlighting Mt. Dew periodically will drive the val­ue perception,” Schulte said.

Remove Redundant Products
Schulte said some operators end up carrying the same type of prod­ucts from different vendors, which takes up space and, in some cases, gives customers too many options. Schulte said that sometimes addi­tions evolve over time, and eventu­ally an operator can end up with 12 different types of locks, for exam­ple, from 12 different companies.

“I visited one location that had the exact same light bulb but in different packages and at differ­ent price points because one came from a grocery vendor and one came from Lynco,” Schulte said.

That type of redundancy can crate confusion and frustration for customers as well as the manage­ment of the store. Schulte said, “A lot of the times these products are the same UPCs, so how are you managing that?”

Differentiate Yourself
Creating a theme within the loca­tion can help make it memorable and increase return customers, said Keith Wade, manager of Dodge City Petro. Wade recommends operators try to take 20 percent of their store and make it their own.

Dodge City Petro has gone with a western theme drawing on the local surroundings. “If you theme your site, then I will remember it. You’re creating yourself as a destination site,” Wade said. “We have a west­ern looking outhouse inside of the location. We have had to fix it eight times because it got damaged from people taking photos in there.”

To find unique products that he can use to differentiate the location, Wade attends gift shows. “My fa­vorite is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There are 3,000 vendors. I am look­ing for margin and to theme this thing,” he said.

Bill Decker, manager of Davis Travel Centers in Stony Creek, Virginia, spends a lot of time looking for the next big item and keeps his eyes open when shopping at Walmart and Best Buy. “A lot of time, Walmart will be the first out with new product in the snack area. I will buy enough to spread throughout the store and monitor it. Then we will ask our grocery company to bring it in after we had success with it,” he said.

Hargraves uses a combination of trade social media, publications and suggestions from vendors to make decisions on what to carry. “Some­times I try new things by just going by what I am seeing as a consumer in the market,” he said. “I have im­plemented a few items that just did not work in our environment and other outside-of-the-box items that have been very successful.”

When it comes to adding new products, Hargraves typically tests the items in larger stores and evalu­ates the success after three to four months. “If the product has suc­cessfully sold, I will launch in the remainder of the stores,” he said.

After another three to four months, he evaluates sales again and visits stores that aren’t performing as well to solicit feedback and may eventually pull the product.

Create a Markdown Strategy
Sometimes operators are faced with moving out product that just isn’t selling, and Schulte suggests opera­tors identify their markdown strat­egy. Schulte said operators can often opt for guaranteed merchandise, which means the vendor would take it back if it doesn’t sell, but in some cases, guaranteed merchandise isn’t the best option.

“In my past we were more inter­ested in maximizing the profitably. We would rather do markdown ca­dences rather than be able to return,” Schulte said, adding that with guar­anteed product, an operator may be paying 20 to 30 percent more on an item to cover the guarantee. “Look at what you might be loosing if you sell through it.”

Take Time to Upsell
Some locations embrace sugges­tive selling, also called upselling, as a part of their retail strategy. Cash Magic has increased its sales through suggestive selling, and Hargraves attributes the company’s ability to continue to growing c-store sales year over year to its sug­gestive selling program.

“Upselling is a lost art that not very many retailers take advan­tage of,” Hargraves said. “We have found that by offering a specific program with easily sold items—those that retail below $2.00—and, most importantly, rewarding the front line associates actually suggestive selling to be a great way to grow incremental sales.”

Schulte said locations that em­brace suggestive selling as a strat­egy have to support the program. He asked, “Are you helping to sup­port the cashiers at the counter? Do you hold your cashiers accountable if they aren’t suggesting selling? If your goal is to have a strong ap­parel program, are you supporting it? If someone forgets to place an order, how are you holding them accountable?”

To encourage employees, Har­graves offers rewards and prizes to employees, including the front-line employees and managers. “We have a competition and we have teams based on monthly volumes. We break them into buckets based on store volume and you can also look at store traffic,” he said, adding that he sends out a weekly email updat­ing teams about where they stand in the competition.



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Make Your Voice Heard

For centuries, people have used storytelling as a deeply human way of understanding abstract facts, figures and events. Taking the messages we want to convey and weaving them into narratives
makes them more meaningful and gives the listener a greater understanding of what we are trying to say.

During NATSO’s Day on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., in May, truckstop and travel plaza owners, operators and employees met with lawmakers to tell them the stories that will help bring our industry to life and increase their understanding of what we do.

Convening on Capitol Hill is a powerful way to spread our message, but it is something that we don’t have to limit to one day. We should always be willing to pick up the phone, drop a line or invite a Member of Congress to our locations so we can both show and tell them who we are and what we do.

As leaders within our businesses and those who are on the front lines of our industry, we are well positioned to speak about our employees, the taxes we pay and the services we provide. We give a
real-world view of how the decisions Members of Congress make affect our communities and our ability to maintain and grow our operations.

Our voice, collectively, resonates. NATSO staff makes it a simple process to come to Washington, and they can also help facilitate Congressional visits to your location, putting Members of Congress in direct contact with you, your staff and your community. We can also take our stories public, and NATSO
can work with you to draft opinion pieces for your local publications.

I encourage you to be an advocate for things not only in your state but across the country. When you as a constituent go into an office, make a phone call or write an email, you can make a difference. Sharing your first-hand experience will help lawmakers gain a greater appreciation for our industry and give them a true picture of what truckstops and travel plazas are and the invaluable services we provide. Please make time to share your story, get to know your elected officials and, most importantly, help them get to know you.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Chairman. Please contact me or any NATSO staff member should you have a question or concern.



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My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable

Sponsored Post

AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Susan Solovic, Bill Rancic, Adam Toren

Earlier this month I wrote that I was collaborating with AT&T Small Business at its first 2016 AT&T Small Business Roundtable.

AT&T flew me to Chicago for the event. And what a night that was.

There was swapping of business cards, snapping of photos, and tweeting and Facebooking. And it was also an exchange of important ideas. The event was part of AT&T’s “Power of &” campaign which is about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses engage in continuous learning to solve business challenges through the power of agility.

Bill Rancic, the first Apprentice winner and now a restaurateur, hosted the evening at one of his terrific restaurants, RPM Steak.

In the networking portion, I was delighted to re-connect with people I know such as experts like Susan Solovic and Adam Toren (pictured with Bill Rancic). Long-time friend, author and entrepreneur Barry Moltz, local to Chicago, also was there. I also met other business owners — and ran into some awesome fans of this website, too. The team back home said “no way!” when I texted and said I’d met site fans at the Roundtable. Here’s a video recap of the event capturing the excitement and energy in the event.

I’d love to share my Chicago experience with you. Here are some key takeaways and things I got out of attending the AT&T Small Business Roundtable:

  • The Roundtable was a central piece of the AT&T “Power of &” campaign. If we entrepreneurs and business owners are going to compete successfully today, we have to be agile. We have to sense trends and changes, and adapt to new environments. If we move fast and leverage technology and services provided by great partners, we can pull ahead of competitors and succeed. That’s what the “Power of &” suggests: thinking of what we do as an “and” working together with business partners like AT&T to be more agile.
  • Roundtable small business participants talked about the many ways the world is changing and how those changes affect our businesses. The range of businesses represented at the event was wide — everything from a distribution business, to a web designer, to an air transportation business, to the operator of startup incubators, to an affiliate marketer, to a small nonprofit — and more.
  • Business owners at the event also raised a wide range of issues as their top concerns. Issues spanned from the upcoming new overtime regulations, to social media overwhelm, to rising health care costs, to changing consumer habits, to affiliate marketing regulations. But no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what the challenges, the successful responses tended to be similar: leverage technology wherever possible, learn, adapt, lean on stronger partners, pivot on a dime when necessary, and persevere. It was a reminder to me in my business to stay nimble and don’t get complacent — and don’t try to go it alone, either.
  • I was impressed with the senior support from AT&T. Attending were the heads of several AT&T departments that serve and support small businesses, as well as Cathy Martine, AT&T Senior Vice President of Corporate Business Solutions. Cathy holds a key role within AT&T when it comes to small businesses. And she couldn’t have been more gracious. She sat down at every table, listening and engaging. The fact that so many AT&T execs were willing to go to Chicago for this event said a lot to me about their commitment and the entire “Power of &” campaign.
  • I also learned a lot about AT&T’s solutions and what AT&T is doing to support small businesses to be more agile. One example: I learned about the AT&T Fiber Ready Building program, where AT&T is proactively connecting buildings to its fiber network. In this way, they are helping small business tenants in those buildings respond with agility to new opportunities, without the need to bear all the cost of installing a fiber infrastructure.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable participants

Be sure to check out Business Circle, the online hub for information about the Power of & campaign, with loads of advice, pointers and insights.  And go here to learn more about the power of agility.

Oh, and I’d like to also announce the winner of our Windows Lumia 950 phone giveaway (courtesy of AT&T – thank you!).  The winner is … Jenny Ham from Kansas!  Congratulations, Jenny — your phone will be on its way to you shortly.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Barry Moltz in middle

NOTE: This is a sponsored article and I am being compensated by AT&T to participate in the “Power of &” campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own, however.

This article, "My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable" was first published on Small Business Trends



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My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable

Sponsored Post

AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Susan Solovic, Bill Rancic, Adam Toren

Earlier this month I wrote that I was collaborating with AT&T Small Business at its first 2016 AT&T Small Business Roundtable.

AT&T flew me to Chicago for the event. And what a night that was.

There was swapping of business cards, snapping of photos, and tweeting and Facebooking. And it was also an exchange of important ideas. The event was part of AT&T’s “Power of &” campaign which is about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses engage in continuous learning to solve business challenges through the power of agility.

Bill Rancic, the first Apprentice winner and now a restaurateur, hosted the evening at one of his terrific restaurants, RPM Steak.

In the networking portion, I was delighted to re-connect with people I know such as experts like Susan Solovic and Adam Toren (pictured with Bill Rancic). Long-time friend, author and entrepreneur Barry Moltz, local to Chicago, also was there. I also met other business owners — and ran into some awesome fans of this website, too. The team back home said “no way!” when I texted and said I’d met site fans at the Roundtable. Here’s a video recap of the event capturing the excitement and energy in the event.

I’d love to share my Chicago experience with you. Here are some key takeaways and things I got out of attending the AT&T Small Business Roundtable:

  • The Roundtable was a central piece of the AT&T “Power of &” campaign. If we entrepreneurs and business owners are going to compete successfully today, we have to be agile. We have to sense trends and changes, and adapt to new environments. If we move fast and leverage technology and services provided by great partners, we can pull ahead of competitors and succeed. That’s what the “Power of &” suggests: thinking of what we do as an “and” working together with business partners like AT&T to be more agile.
  • Roundtable small business participants talked about the many ways the world is changing and how those changes affect our businesses. The range of businesses represented at the event was wide — everything from a distribution business, to a web designer, to an air transportation business, to the operator of startup incubators, to an affiliate marketer, to a small nonprofit — and more.
  • Business owners at the event also raised a wide range of issues as their top concerns. Issues spanned from the upcoming new overtime regulations, to social media overwhelm, to rising health care costs, to changing consumer habits, to affiliate marketing regulations. But no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what the challenges, the successful responses tended to be similar: leverage technology wherever possible, learn, adapt, lean on stronger partners, pivot on a dime when necessary, and persevere. It was a reminder to me in my business to stay nimble and don’t get complacent — and don’t try to go it alone, either.
  • I was impressed with the senior support from AT&T. Attending were the heads of several AT&T departments that serve and support small businesses, as well as Cathy Martine, AT&T Senior Vice President of Corporate Business Solutions. Cathy holds a key role within AT&T when it comes to small businesses. And she couldn’t have been more gracious. She sat down at every table, listening and engaging. The fact that so many AT&T execs were willing to go to Chicago for this event said a lot to me about their commitment and the entire “Power of &” campaign.
  • I also learned a lot about AT&T’s solutions and what AT&T is doing to support small businesses to be more agile. One example: I learned about the AT&T Fiber Ready Building program, where AT&T is proactively connecting buildings to its fiber network. In this way, they are helping small business tenants in those buildings respond with agility to new opportunities, without the need to bear all the cost of installing a fiber infrastructure.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable participants

Be sure to check out Business Circle, the online hub for information about the Power of & campaign, with loads of advice, pointers and insights.  And go here to learn more about the power of agility.

Oh, and I’d like to also announce the winner of our Windows Lumia 950 phone giveaway (courtesy of AT&T – thank you!).  The winner is … Jenny Ham from Kansas!  Congratulations, Jenny — your phone will be on its way to you shortly.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Barry Moltz in middle

NOTE: This is a sponsored article and I am being compensated by AT&T to participate in the “Power of &” campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own, however.

This article, "My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Social Media Email Marketing - How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Despite occasionally being mocked as a relatively archaic marketing method, email marketing remains a fantastic tool for almost any business. Because it doesn’t require any monetary investment (beyond a management platform, which tends to be an inexpensive item), and because it tends to grow in effectiveness over time as you attract more subscribers, it has enormous ROI potential all on its own.

However, the real power of email marketing is its ability to integrate with other marketing strategies. It can be used as a funnel for leads generated by other means, a showcase for your most popular content, and perhaps most importantly, a facilitator of greater social media engagement. How can email marketing best brandish this power?

Social Media Email Marketing Engagement Tips

Basic Prerequisites

First, let’s take a look at some of the prerequisites for this approach. These are a handful of features and tactics that your email strategy needs to have in place before you can even start attracting more social engagement:

  • Include social share icons. This is a basic necessity. The body of your email template needs to include links to your social media profiles in the header or the footer, at a minimum. You should also have “share” icons throughout your work that enable your users to share snippets of content they find interesting with one click. The easier you make it for your users to share, the more they’re going to share.
  • Embed featured posts. Interesting content is highly shareable, so no matter what the core purpose of your email blast is, you should include at least one piece of top-performing content from your content strategy (such as a particularly popular blog post). Embed this into your email, and of course, include share icons.
  • Call users to action. Sometimes your readers will need a helpful nudge in the right direction before they take an action. Don’t be afraid to ask your users to get involved in a social context directly. For example, you can ask users to share your latest post, or include some incentive for sharing something, such as an entry in a giveaway.

Include Shareable Content

In addition to embedding posts from your blog, you may want to offer exclusive forms of content to your email subscribers. If earning more social shares and social visibility is one of your primary goals, you should make that content as shareable as possible. Make it fast, concise, easy-to-read, and make sure you choose a topic that’s valuable for your audience. Even better, establish some kind of emotional connection by evoking humor, sympathy, or surprise. The basic tenets of viral content can help you here, but remember your limitations with email engagement — keep this content above the fold, and make it easy for your viewers to skim and share this content.

Make Exclusive Offers (That Users Can Share Anyway)

Exclusive offers reward your email subscribers, but if you want to make the most of these offers, you should allow your email recipients to share them with their social followings anyway. The degree of exclusivity will still be present enough for your subscribers to appreciate the gesture, but you’ll gain visibility across multiple new audiences. Your readers will be incentivized to share these offers because they’ll feel a sense of pride in doing so — not only are they doing a favor to all their followers, they’re showing off their own status, to a certain degree. The exact nature and significance of the offer is up to you — discounts, giveaways, and specialty items work well here, and consider escalating the objective value of your offer based on how desperate you are for more shares.

Announce Contests (and Winners)

Contests are a powerful form of social media engagement, and email blasts are a great way to increase awareness of them. A good contest, announced over email, could encourage a subscriber who isn’t currently following you to finally make the jump. And if a subscriber is already following you, they’ll be likely to share the contest opportunity with their own friends and followers. Once the contest is over, you can also announce your contest winners via email to further showcase the benefits of being an active member of your brand community.

Feedback Loops

Finally, remember that email marketing and social media marketing are mutually beneficial strategies. Throughout this article, I’ve mostly discussed ways that email marketing can bring you more social media followers, but don’t forget that social media marketing can bring you more email subscribers as well. Show off the benefits of being an email subscriber in your social media news feeds, such as by announcing exclusive content or exclusive discounts, and provide regular calls to action for users to sign up for your lists. Keep these strategies tightly interlinked, and you’ll greatly enhance your performance in both areas.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement" was first published on Small Business Trends



RSS Business Feeds

How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Social Media Email Marketing - How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Despite occasionally being mocked as a relatively archaic marketing method, email marketing remains a fantastic tool for almost any business. Because it doesn’t require any monetary investment (beyond a management platform, which tends to be an inexpensive item), and because it tends to grow in effectiveness over time as you attract more subscribers, it has enormous ROI potential all on its own.

However, the real power of email marketing is its ability to integrate with other marketing strategies. It can be used as a funnel for leads generated by other means, a showcase for your most popular content, and perhaps most importantly, a facilitator of greater social media engagement. How can email marketing best brandish this power?

Social Media Email Marketing Engagement Tips

Basic Prerequisites

First, let’s take a look at some of the prerequisites for this approach. These are a handful of features and tactics that your email strategy needs to have in place before you can even start attracting more social engagement:

  • Include social share icons. This is a basic necessity. The body of your email template needs to include links to your social media profiles in the header or the footer, at a minimum. You should also have “share” icons throughout your work that enable your users to share snippets of content they find interesting with one click. The easier you make it for your users to share, the more they’re going to share.
  • Embed featured posts. Interesting content is highly shareable, so no matter what the core purpose of your email blast is, you should include at least one piece of top-performing content from your content strategy (such as a particularly popular blog post). Embed this into your email, and of course, include share icons.
  • Call users to action. Sometimes your readers will need a helpful nudge in the right direction before they take an action. Don’t be afraid to ask your users to get involved in a social context directly. For example, you can ask users to share your latest post, or include some incentive for sharing something, such as an entry in a giveaway.

Include Shareable Content

In addition to embedding posts from your blog, you may want to offer exclusive forms of content to your email subscribers. If earning more social shares and social visibility is one of your primary goals, you should make that content as shareable as possible. Make it fast, concise, easy-to-read, and make sure you choose a topic that’s valuable for your audience. Even better, establish some kind of emotional connection by evoking humor, sympathy, or surprise. The basic tenets of viral content can help you here, but remember your limitations with email engagement — keep this content above the fold, and make it easy for your viewers to skim and share this content.

Make Exclusive Offers (That Users Can Share Anyway)

Exclusive offers reward your email subscribers, but if you want to make the most of these offers, you should allow your email recipients to share them with their social followings anyway. The degree of exclusivity will still be present enough for your subscribers to appreciate the gesture, but you’ll gain visibility across multiple new audiences. Your readers will be incentivized to share these offers because they’ll feel a sense of pride in doing so — not only are they doing a favor to all their followers, they’re showing off their own status, to a certain degree. The exact nature and significance of the offer is up to you — discounts, giveaways, and specialty items work well here, and consider escalating the objective value of your offer based on how desperate you are for more shares.

Announce Contests (and Winners)

Contests are a powerful form of social media engagement, and email blasts are a great way to increase awareness of them. A good contest, announced over email, could encourage a subscriber who isn’t currently following you to finally make the jump. And if a subscriber is already following you, they’ll be likely to share the contest opportunity with their own friends and followers. Once the contest is over, you can also announce your contest winners via email to further showcase the benefits of being an active member of your brand community.

Feedback Loops

Finally, remember that email marketing and social media marketing are mutually beneficial strategies. Throughout this article, I’ve mostly discussed ways that email marketing can bring you more social media followers, but don’t forget that social media marketing can bring you more email subscribers as well. Show off the benefits of being an email subscriber in your social media news feeds, such as by announcing exclusive content or exclusive discounts, and provide regular calls to action for users to sign up for your lists. Keep these strategies tightly interlinked, and you’ll greatly enhance your performance in both areas.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends for May 2016 shows (PDF) more businesses plan to increase employment as compared with the month before. Hiring new employees to meet your company’s growing needs may be a smart business move, but there are consequences to consider. It will cost you more in wages, payroll taxes and employee benefits. You also face an array of federal laws with which you must comply. And you may lose out on certain federal tax breaks.

Employer Obligations When Adding More Staff

Here’s how the number of employees affects you:

Complying with Federal Labor Laws

While most employers always try to act fairly, federal law imposes special obligations on those with staffs that exceed set limits:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA). This law requires you to provide minimum essential health coverage to full-time workers and their dependents or pay a penalty. It applies if you have at least 50 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This law prohibits discrimination against workers and job applicants age 40 or older. It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability and requires you to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. It applies if you have at least 15 employees.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). If you offer health coverage to employees, you must offer those who leave the opportunity to continue their coverage for 18 months (additional requirements apply for spouses and dependents). It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law requires you to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an immediate family member with a serious illness. It applies if you have at least 50 employees.
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This law prevents discrimination on the basis of DNA information (e.g., not hiring someone because she has a greater risk of getting breast cancer). It applies if you have at least 15 employees.

Employers are required to permit nursing mothers reasonable break time to nurse or express milk. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this break time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.

Losing Out on Tax Breaks

Some federal tax breaks can be used only if you are a small employer. You lose the opportunity to claim them when you become too big. Here are the numbers:

  • Credit for starting a retirement plan. This is a credit of 50 percent of expenses up to $1,000 ($500) for starting a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), for your staff; it can be claimed for three years. It applies only if you have no more than 100 employees.
  • Disabled access credit. This is a credit of 50 percent of costs over $250 but not over $10,250 to make your premises accessible. It applies only if you have no more than 30 employees.
  • Small employer health insurance credit. This is a credit of up to 50 percent of the premiums you pay for your employees. It applies only if you have no more than 25 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Wage differential credit for activated reservists. You can take a tax credit for continuing the wages of workers called to active duty. The credit is 20 percent of the differential up to $20,000 (top credit of $4,000). It applies only if you have fewer than 50 employees.

Thoughts About Compliance

Of course, even if you don’t meet the employee threshold for applicability, you probably strive to comply with federal laws. For example, even if you don’t have 20 employees, you don’t want to discriminate against older workers because it’s the right thing to do (and you don’t want to expose yourself to litigation).

Don’t assume that federal laws are your only obligations. States may have their own rules, imposing obligations even if you have too few employees to trigger federal law.

You can find a complete list of federal labor laws by the number of employees from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). When you have any questions about these or other employer obligations, talk to an employment law attorney. The cost of legal advice usually is much lower than the cost of government penalties or employee litigation. When you have questions about tax laws, talk with your tax advisor.

Image: NFIB

This article, "Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends for May 2016 shows (PDF) more businesses plan to increase employment as compared with the month before. Hiring new employees to meet your company’s growing needs may be a smart business move, but there are consequences to consider. It will cost you more in wages, payroll taxes and employee benefits. You also face an array of federal laws with which you must comply. And you may lose out on certain federal tax breaks.

Employer Obligations When Adding More Staff

Here’s how the number of employees affects you:

Complying with Federal Labor Laws

While most employers always try to act fairly, federal law imposes special obligations on those with staffs that exceed set limits:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA). This law requires you to provide minimum essential health coverage to full-time workers and their dependents or pay a penalty. It applies if you have at least 50 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This law prohibits discrimination against workers and job applicants age 40 or older. It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability and requires you to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. It applies if you have at least 15 employees.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). If you offer health coverage to employees, you must offer those who leave the opportunity to continue their coverage for 18 months (additional requirements apply for spouses and dependents). It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law requires you to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an immediate family member with a serious illness. It applies if you have at least 50 employees.
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This law prevents discrimination on the basis of DNA information (e.g., not hiring someone because she has a greater risk of getting breast cancer). It applies if you have at least 15 employees.

Employers are required to permit nursing mothers reasonable break time to nurse or express milk. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this break time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.

Losing Out on Tax Breaks

Some federal tax breaks can be used only if you are a small employer. You lose the opportunity to claim them when you become too big. Here are the numbers:

  • Credit for starting a retirement plan. This is a credit of 50 percent of expenses up to $1,000 ($500) for starting a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), for your staff; it can be claimed for three years. It applies only if you have no more than 100 employees.
  • Disabled access credit. This is a credit of 50 percent of costs over $250 but not over $10,250 to make your premises accessible. It applies only if you have no more than 30 employees.
  • Small employer health insurance credit. This is a credit of up to 50 percent of the premiums you pay for your employees. It applies only if you have no more than 25 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Wage differential credit for activated reservists. You can take a tax credit for continuing the wages of workers called to active duty. The credit is 20 percent of the differential up to $20,000 (top credit of $4,000). It applies only if you have fewer than 50 employees.

Thoughts About Compliance

Of course, even if you don’t meet the employee threshold for applicability, you probably strive to comply with federal laws. For example, even if you don’t have 20 employees, you don’t want to discriminate against older workers because it’s the right thing to do (and you don’t want to expose yourself to litigation).

Don’t assume that federal laws are your only obligations. States may have their own rules, imposing obligations even if you have too few employees to trigger federal law.

You can find a complete list of federal labor laws by the number of employees from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). When you have any questions about these or other employer obligations, talk to an employment law attorney. The cost of legal advice usually is much lower than the cost of government penalties or employee litigation. When you have questions about tax laws, talk with your tax advisor.

Image: NFIB

This article, "Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Visa, Mastercard $7.25 Billion Settlement Void

Marking a major victory for retailers, a federal appeals court today threw out the $7.25 billion antitrust settlement that Visa and MasterCard had reached with millions of retailers over the high swipe fees that retailers pay each time a customer uses a credit card ruling that it was unfair to retailers who stood to receive no payments and little or no benefit.

The reversal by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York means that the swipe fee settlement is null and void and that there will be no distribution of payments to retailers. Merchants will not be eligible to participate regardless of whether they opted to remain or not to remain in the class action lawsuit.

In its ruling, the three judge panel also set aside the lower court’s certification of the action as a “class action,” stating that those who would not be eligible to receive a payment from the settlement fund were not adequately represented.

NATSO was one of the original plaintiffs in the case and opposed the settlement because it would not bring meaningful relief to retailers. The settlement stood to only bring monetary relief to merchants who accept credit cards and there was nothing to prevent Visa and MasterCard from hiking rates in the future to recoup the settlement costs.

NATSO will continue to review and analyze the ruling and will send further analysis in the coming days.

 



via Business Feeds

Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Transportation job postings are much more highly concentrated in small business compared to businesses of all sizes, with over a quarter of all small business job postings in the transportation sector. This represents strong demand for jobs like truck and delivery drivers.

The American Trucking Tonnage Index remains above its level from the same time last year, due in part to favorable fuel prices and the continued rise in online shopping, says Daniel Culbertson, economic research analyst at Indeed.

“Small businesses are once again competing with other size businesses for this type of role and there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown,” he says.

Small Business Jobs Related to Transportation on the Rise

According to Indeed’s data on job postings from small businesses, 27 percent of them were in the transportation sector. That is twice as many as the second most in demand jobs being advertised by small businesses nationwide.

Jobs in management rank No. 2 in Indeed’s jobs listings data. A total of 12 percent of job ads were for management.

Healthcare jobs (No. 3 on Indeed’s list) and computer/tech occupations are still in demand from some of the recession-proof industries that are also hiring at a high rate. Still, though, only 8 percent and 7 percent of all small business job listings are for people with these skill sets.

“Healthcare and tech are this economy’s industry stalwarts and will remain in demand for the foreseeable future,” Culbertson says.

The other most in-demand jobs for small businesses are sales, business and finance, personal care and service, food prep and service, healthcare support and productions operator.

Image: Indeed

This article, "Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Transportation job postings are much more highly concentrated in small business compared to businesses of all sizes, with over a quarter of all small business job postings in the transportation sector. This represents strong demand for jobs like truck and delivery drivers.

The American Trucking Tonnage Index remains above its level from the same time last year, due in part to favorable fuel prices and the continued rise in online shopping, says Daniel Culbertson, economic research analyst at Indeed.

“Small businesses are once again competing with other size businesses for this type of role and there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown,” he says.

Small Business Jobs Related to Transportation on the Rise

According to Indeed’s data on job postings from small businesses, 27 percent of them were in the transportation sector. That is twice as many as the second most in demand jobs being advertised by small businesses nationwide.

Jobs in management rank No. 2 in Indeed’s jobs listings data. A total of 12 percent of job ads were for management.

Healthcare jobs (No. 3 on Indeed’s list) and computer/tech occupations are still in demand from some of the recession-proof industries that are also hiring at a high rate. Still, though, only 8 percent and 7 percent of all small business job listings are for people with these skill sets.

“Healthcare and tech are this economy’s industry stalwarts and will remain in demand for the foreseeable future,” Culbertson says.

The other most in-demand jobs for small businesses are sales, business and finance, personal care and service, food prep and service, healthcare support and productions operator.

Image: Indeed

This article, "Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds