Category Archives: Business Savvy

Support the Gig Economy

We’re in a time warp on employment law.  The economy has shifted toward a gig economy model, but the Biden administration seems to be stuck in the 1930’s factory model. 

Start with the gig economy.  The shift began in the 1980’s when business schools preached the benefits of “shareholder” value to the exclusion of all other considerations.  The bean counters scrutinized each company’s expenses in slash and burn operations. First to go was in-house training of workers.

Second to go was entire swathes of workers.  The downsized workers were often hired back as independent contractors to do their old jobs.  The “savings” on not paying employee benefits to them created “shareholder” value.  Senior management promptly rewarded themselves with bigger pay packets and stock options while shoveling a few dollars more to their shareholders as dividends.

(Business leaders now moan about their inability to find workers with the appropriate skills but are still unwilling to invest in their workers.  In an article a few years ago in The Wall Street Journal business leaders admitted they would not invest in training their workers because they didn’t want to lose their investment when the employees left. The irony of demanding loyalty from workers while offering nothing in return is apparently lost of these overpaid masters of the universe.)

By the 2000’s, the internet had lowered the cost of starting a business.  The switch to a gig economy accelerated during last year’s covid.  Many workers pushed into unemployment during the past year have decided to bet on themselves by starting their own businesses.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems to be stuck in the past. Don’t get me wrong. Biden’s boffos are a distinct relief after Trump’s minions tried to resurrect the 1980’s by dismembering every law that might protect workers.

But the Biden administration’s approach will undermine the gig economy, the most dynamic part of our economy now that most big businesses are monopolies dominating their industries.  Recent Department of Labor guidance makes it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors.  The rationale is that too many companies deliberately misclassify workers as independent contractors in order to save on payroll taxes and employee benefits.  That is true.

However, that’s no reason to rip the heart out of the gig economy.   Instead of rolling back the economic clock, it’s time to change how employee benefits are offered.  Employee benefits like health care, fair wages and overtime pay were forced on employers in the 1930’s in a clever maneuver to bust the unions; and indirectly to fight communism since most Americans believed that all union organizers were commies.

That was then. Now we need to free up workers to use their skills and interests to the best of their abilities. Instead of looking backward, the Biden administration should imagine how the future of work could look.

It’s time to create individual health accounts, just as there are individual retirement accounts.  Allow gig workers to top up their IRA’s with amounts equivalent to an employer’s 401(k) match.  Give gig workers a tax credit to cover a set number of vacation and sick days each year.

Some people prefer traditional employment. Some people are suited to be gig workers.  The benefit of encouraging a hybrid economic model, part traditional and part gig, will unleash the creative abilities of our country. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. We also integrate HR compliance into the company-wide compliance program through internal controls and advising on how to mitigate risks with insurance. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com). For my musings on history, visit History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts here on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Vaccinated!

Today I received my covid-19 vaccination as part of the mass vaccination event at the Titans Stadium.   During an approximately 12-hour period on March 20th, Metro Nashville scheduled 10,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine.  I was thrilled to be one of the lucky 10,000 with an appointment.

I was more nervous about a potential traffic jam getting into the site than getting the vaccine. But when I arrived around 1:00 pm, there were no delays. Only one point of entry was open into the vaccination site.  Cars wended their way between traffic cones back and forth across the parking lot on their way to the tents where the vaccinations were administered. It was like playing bumper cars without the bumping.

National Guardsmen and volunteers directed cars around the corners and through the traffic cones. A live band entertained us as we crept along.  A short 10 – 15 minute slalom through the traffic cones brought me to a point where I was directed into a line to approach one of the tents. 

After completing a consent form, it was my turn.  I handed over the clipboard with the consent form, got a quick jab and a postcard-sized certificate saying I’d been vaccinated.  From there I drove to the recovery area.  After a 15-minute wait for adverse side effects, I was able to leave.

The exit point was the only poorly designed part of the entire process. Cars from all the recovery areas tried to simultaneously enter Interstate Drive heading for the Shelby Avenue traffic light.  Most of the cars tried to squeeze into the lane accessing the I-24 entrance ramp.  But even with these delays, the whole process took about 45 minutes from the time I arrived.  

Kudos to the engineer who designed the traffic cone system for moving so many cars through the site. Kudos also to the volunteers, Guardsmen, and police officers who made the whole process work.  This mass vaccination event moves us closer to the tipping point of immunization when Nashville can return to normal (whatever the new normal looks like).

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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I See Miracles

That was the title of a presentation I shared several years ago with the incredible women of the Breakfast Club of Nashville.  I am not a prolific writer and am often stymied to find inspiration as to what to write for my HerSavvy post.  I certainly wanted to stay away from politics…  That’s why I am often late posting my submission and I’m late again.  Yesterday, however, I was blessed with great inspiration.

My presentation to the club was about my practice of CranioSacral Therapy.  As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I have been practicing this very special form of healing bodywork for almost 20 years.  A very light touch form of work, CST, addressing the cerebrospinal fluid, reaches into the body and can help release deep seated discomfort (aka “pain”) resulting from physical injury, emotional injury or a combination of the two.

We don’t always realize that an accident causing physical injury can, and I believe, usually does result in an emotional component as well.  CST can restore balance to the body and two of my clients yesterday experienced radical changes in their bodies as the result of this kind of release.  Each described what was, in their words, a life changing breakthrough.  What a wonder!!!  This didn’t happen over night, of course.  But in a remarkably short period of time, we, I say WE, made an amazing difference in each of their lives.

Over the years, I have witnessed so many of these miracles, more than I can count.  I am just the messenger and I am blessed.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Hero Fatigue

A few years ago, everyone wearing a U.S. military uniform was called a hero.  Now every firefighter, police officer, EMT, nurse and doctor on the frontlines of the covid-19 pandemic is called a hero.  It’s inexpressibly fatiguing.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as “one that shows great courage”.  Doing your job should not be equivalent to showing great courage.  Undoubtedly, there are times when individuals in all these professions (or any other) go beyond what is expected of them and perform on a heroic level. But calling everyone a hero diminishes truly heroic action.

It’s like elementary school sports where every child gets a medal or an award to “build self-esteem”.  But it doesn’t.  Children know when they haven’t put in the extra effort that would justify receiving an award.  Knowing they haven’t earned their award can lead to shame and insecurity that undermines their confidence the rest of their lives.

If a child can recognize hollow praise, so can an adult. Being called a hero heaps tremendous pressure on the recipient. Must the individual take outrageous risks every work shift in order to perform deeds worthy of being called a hero?

What of the emotional toll?  Heroes are generally portrayed as individuals without fear or self-doubt or exhaustion.  But everyone has fears and self-doubts. Everyone suffers exhaustion.  Trying to live up to being heroes may deter emergency response and medical people from seeking help to cope with their fears and depression lest they be thought unheroic.

Some might see our hero worship as acceptable based on another of Webster’s definitions for a hero as “an object of extreme admiration and devotion”.  Certainly we can admire the emergency response and medical staff for continuing to do their jobs despite the danger of infection and possible death due to infection.  But those risks existed, even if they are now enhanced, the day they signed up for the job.

I’ve read many interviews given by World War II medal winners who are now labeled as heroes.  Each of them denied being a hero. They said “I just did my job” or “I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just knew I had to do it”.

Let’s show our appreciation for the emergency responders and the medical teams working the front lines of the covid-19 pandemic by reducing the pressure we put on them.   Let’s drop all the hyperbolic hollow talk about “heroes” and just let them do their jobs.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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How Not to Handle an Equal Pay Claim

 

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is in a tailspin at the moment due to self-inflicted wounds. These self-inflicted wounds are just the latest PR disaster in their handling of the lawsuit filed by players on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) demanding equal pay.

The Equal Pay Act dates to 1963 so the USSF can’t claim they were blind-sided by a new federal law.  The law prohibits disparity in pay between men and women doing the same job.  It was bolstered in 1972 with Title IX of the Education Amendments which prohibited sex discrimination in education and forced schools at all levels to create women’s sports programs.

Since then the USWNT has won the World Cup four times and Olympic gold medals 4 or 5 times.  They are the global standard for women’s professional soccer that all other nations strive to match.  Meanwhile, our men’s team has had trouble recently qualifying for the Olympics and has never made it past the Elimination Round of the World Cup.

That brings us back to the USSF’s bumbling response to the equal pay lawsuit.  Instead of admitting the women might have a point, the USSF has argued that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s game.

On March 9th, the USSF filed its latest pleading which argues that the US Men’s National Team players are paid more than the world-topping women’s players because the men’s game requires more skill, is more physically demanding, and involves more responsibility.   That’s a PR own goal coming from the organization responsible for promoting both national teams.

The USSF has also tried to argue that the men’s game generates more revenue which justifies the pay disparity.  In depositions, the women have pointed out that the USSF spends a lot more money and resources promoting the men’s team than the women’s.  Besides, recently the women have generated higher revenue per game than the men’s team.

The immediate outrage sparked by the USSF’s blatantly sexist pleading was so overwhelming that Carlos Cordeiro resigned as its president before the week ended. But Mr. Cordeiro didn’t operate in a vacuum. The board set the strategy and approved his handling of the lawsuit. They should also resign.

Meanwhile, the USSF has appointed Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, as the president while they search for a permanent replacement.  Ms. Cone has been given the thankless task of cleaning up the mess left by the men and trying to salvage USSF’s brand.  Wish her luck.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Look For the Signs

Image result for signs

There was a song in the early 1970s by the Five Man Electrical Band called, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs.”  It’s meaning is meant, I believe, as a sarcastic protest against the “establishment,” culture of the times.  Certain groups of people were labeled, kept out and otherwise rejected by the mainstream, even in church.  But over the years what has resonated for me is the concept of “signs,” both literal and figurative.  I think when we are open to the world around us, there are, indeed, signs everywhere.

A few months ago, I was shown a sign and thank goodness, I was able to read it.  I was offered a tremendous opportunity to return to my professional roots as editor of a local newspaper.  While my background is in broadcasting, nevertheless someone saw fit to offer me the position.  It was at the very same time I was contemplating my future in the small business I owned for the last several years.  My partner and I had come to a crossroads and I had the choice to become the sole owner or to join her in the sale of the business.  I considered doing both jobs at once and decided that while probably doable, I really wanted to pour myself into just one thing.  Although I really enjoy being an entrepreneur, the thing that feeds my soul and my mind is writing.  At this stage of my life, I feel entitled to follow my passion.  To quote another song, “It’s Now or Never.”  And while it sounds corny, I really did feel the universe was sending me a sign with flashing lights and bells.

So here I am, a month into my new position and there are challenges.  I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people and processes.  I have felt insecure and anxious.  I have been exhausted by the mental and emotional effort required to learn new things and to restart a part of my brain that had been on hiatus.  At times I’ve felt like a rusty engine that needs grease to get it going again.  But the overwhelming feeling has been relief.  Relief that I’ve found a place that feels like a good fit.  Relief that despite the challenges, I’ve been able to refocus pretty quickly on the demands of this type of work.  And perhaps most important, I feel both relief and gratitude that I was able to read the sign!  And I know this is the right thing for me because despite the exhaustion and jitters, I wake up looking forward to the day and at the end of it, I feel satisfied.  I no longer dread Sunday evenings knowing the new week will feel like a slog.  As tough as this new job might be, I feel at peace inside knowing I’m honoring the passion that has lain dormant for far too long.  And I also feel joy when I sit down to write an article or edit a submission.  The looming deadlines and unpredictable schedule are exhilarating.

I truly believe there are signs all around us.  Most of the time we aren’t looking, and they pass us by.  But if we really tune into our inner voices and give ourselves permission to stop and think, we may just find something we didn’t even know we were seeking.  In my case I was seeking joy, fulfillment and peace by returning to something.  What are you looking for and will you be ready to spot the signs pointing you in the right direction?  “Signs, signs, everywhere signs.”

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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A Ray of Sunlight Through the Smoke

The images from Australia are truly shocking. Much of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria states have been reduced to cinders.  Volunteer firemen and others have succumbed to smoke and flames.  Many people have lost their homes; entire towns have burned to the ground.

As bad as the situation is for humans, it’s worse for plants and animals. Animals who survive their burns and loss of habitat face death by starvation as their food sources are temporarily wiped out.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a climate change denier.  He appears to argue that climate change doesn’t exist because it’s not the sole cause of the fires.   I’m not sneering at Mr. Morrison.  The U.S. has politicians just as breathtakingly stubborn about denying climate change.

The American west faces a fire threat of Australian proportions thanks to climate deniers. Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s administration, our government has persistently underfunded the controlled burn program in the American west, meaning that our “fire season” is now longer and more devastating.

The underfunding meant much of Yellowstone National Park burned to the ground in 1988.  It’s only gotten worse as weather patterns have changed in recent years.  Yet like their Australian mates, U.S. climate change deniers insist that since it’s not the sole cause of western wildfires, climate change must be a myth.

But amid all the willfully ignorant blather from politicians, there is a ray of sunshine. Ordinary people understand what is at stake and are taking action. Volunteer firemen across southern Australia have put their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy to fight the fires and save lives.

Craft guilds around the world support local Australian guilds that are knitting, crocheting and sewing pouches for injured animals. Orphaned baby bats, koalas, and kangaroos (and many other species) have a chance at life thanks to the surrogate pouches and the volunteers nursing them back to health.

Ordinary people also understand that there are few sole causes to any natural or human-made disaster. They understand that it’s about admitting that our activities affect our world and its natural resources including the climate.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Transitions 2020

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The new year is only a week old and already I’ve had two significant professional transitions.  The first is that after several years as a small business owner, I have sold my business.  The second is that I’ve returned to my journalism career as editor of a local newspaper.  It’s been a whirlwind of change and learning, and it’s been exhausting, but it’s also been exhilarating.

Life as a business owner was not new to me.  Thirty years ago, in the pre-internet era, I owned a franchise business.  It was fun and challenging and I loved being my own boss.  Most of all, I loved interacting with my clientele.  As an extrovert, I draw energy from interacting with others.  I also was a sole owner and, while the risk was solely mine, so was the reward.  I was also very young and had a growing family, so there were personal challenges as well.  Overall, I’d say it was a wonderful experience.

This time around, I had a partner and we built our business from the ground up.  No consultants to guide us, no corporation to hand us marketing materials and promotions.  Although the risk was greater without a corporate safety net, it’s been fun to see our business grow from an idea into something real and valuable.  A big challenge for me was spending most of my time in my home office.  I missed the client interactions and being alone was depressing at times.  The experience did teach me to be more mindful of self-care and to plan outings and lunches with friends and colleagues.  The partnership also taught me some valuable lessons about myself.  As someone who is a pleaser, I often yield too soon to others’ desires and opinions.  My drive to get along and be liked can be stronger than my need to stand up for what I think and what I know to be a good solution.  I look for compromise or, if there doesn’t appear to be a good one, I’m inclined to give in rather than push my agenda.  And while it’s good to choose one’s battles carefully, I too often choose to just walk away.

I’ve also learned that partnerships can be difficult and challenging, but the best ones are those where both parties feel heard and valued.  Differences of opinion can be a good growth opportunity and as long as there is trust and respect, those differences needn’t become make-or-break.  It is in the struggle that people can draw closer together.  And in the end, the reward was building something of value that we could successfully, and profitably, pass on to someone else.

So where am I now?  For most of my life I have been passionate about writing.  Words fascinate me with their power to move minds and hearts and to effect change.  These days, journalism gets a bad rap.  As with anything, there are bad apples that spoil the bunch.  But for most journalists, the responsibility and privilege to enlighten, engage, provoke, educate and entertain weighs heavy.  It may seem cliché but being a voice for those who have none and providing a check on the powerful in society and government is a calling.  I am excited to spend more time telling the stories of real people and events in my community.  I’m also thrilled to spend more time out in the world, observing and reflecting back what I see and hear.

I’ve been lucky to have several careers in my life.  Each one has led me to the other and each is a reflection of a part of myself.  Writing is the thread that has run through it all and the thing that feeds my soul.  It is the best expression of myself and the way I can best share myself with the world.  So, onward to the future.  I look forward to sharing more of this new chapter with all of you.  Happy New Year 2020!

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  A former small business owner, she is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Kitchen Kitsch

This is a reposting of a blog from about a year ago.

 

 

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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