HR Basics for Small Businesses – September 29th 6:30-8:30 pm Stamford Innovation Center

This interactive program will be both a practical look at the transition from being a “solopreneur” to an entrepreneur with employees. There are both cultural and legal implications to hiring employees. We’ll look at the importance of having a “people” plan which is a business plan for bringing people on board. In addition thoughts on company culture, as well as the life cycle of the employee will be discussed. From a legal perspective we’ll look at the basic requirements of being an employer as well as multiple options to manage employees.


Thinking about attending? The ideal participant is an entrepreneur who is thinking about hiring employees or has recently started to hire employees and is now wondering what the next step is to making sure that this process adds value to the organization and that the entrepreneur is ready to manage a staff. You will gain insight into the challenges of management and an introduction to key human resources topics. If you aren’t ready to hire people this will be a good overview of ideas and concepts to keep in mind for when the time is right.


Laura Jacob, owner of Pro Way Development has over 18 years of progressive human resources and training and development expertise. As part of her business she successfully guides both small and larger businesses on how to handle human resources issues that arise when working with others, how to optimize corporate culture and performance and prevent legal mishaps from occurring. Laura also teaches human resources and management programs and her teaching and facilitation style is highly interactive and ensures engagement of participants and the transmission of learning. Participants describe her as “keeps things fun, interesting, stays on task and is very learned and knowledgeable about the subject matter,” and “able to engage even those hesitant to participate.”

Click here to register

“Making the Most of Meetings”

At work are you overwhelmed by the number of meeting to which you are invited? Do your meetings seem to go on for too long?  Do you sometimes wonder what the purpose of the meeting was and why often they don’t have the right people in attendance? Worst of all, are you bothered in meetings by people multitasking, looking at their phones seemingly bored or distracted or spending time daydreaming how to ‘finally get out of this meeting.’ So why bother? Would our work days be better off without meetings?

If properly planned and executed, meetings can be great tools for planning, getting agreement, doing work or getting a team on board. There are simple tips that will make meetings work. First and foremost know why you are having a meeting. Patrick Lencioni in his book “Death by Meeting” actually suggests that we have more meetings, but more of the right types of meetings. In a daily standing meeting we can check production levels, hand out assignment. These are literally standing meetings so they don’t go on for a long period of time. A weekly tactical meeting might benefit some work groups where more planning can take place. In addition strategy and higher level business planning should be more formal and given more time.

Great meetings have the right people in attendance at the right time. If someone only has to attend part of the meeting, invite him or her only for that portion so they don’t feel rude when they leave and so they aren’t bored by the parts of the meeting that don’t impact them.

Meetings without agendas shouldn’t take place. Ideally an agenda would be created and distributed ahead of time listing the items that need to be discussed with assigned time limits for each item. Worst case, at the beginning of your meeting create a number of desired outcomes, those things that you want to accomplish in the time allotted. Great meetings assign roles such as a timekeeper to ensure meetings don’t go on forever, a note taker and someone to facilitate the meeting’s flow.

Don’t book meetings back to back. Even kids in school get a short break to get to their next class. Outlook will default meetings to an hour. Consider limiting your meetings to 45 minutes or shorter.


Ground rules or operating norms will make meetings run more smoothly. If you are part of a team that meets regularly you will get more buy in to the rules of the meeting if you create them as a team. Many great meetings include rules such as no cellphones, one person speaks at a time, agree to stick to the agenda and its time limits. Posting these rules where people can see them makes it easy to bring people back in line when they’ve steered off-course.


Don’t forget to evaluate the effectiveness of your meetings from time to time. Not sure if you should have the meeting? Then don’t! Make the most of your meetings to get work done.  


Getting managers to give feedback

Well delivered feedback that focuses on an employee’s performance and described in behavioral terms is key to recognizing performance you’d like to see continued and stopping behavior that might get in an employee’s way. The problem is that managers don’t like to give feedback. Often they lack the skills to give useful feedback. Once you give managers the skills to give feedback, one way to ensure they give it is to ensure that you make sure that part of a manager’s performance review includes the quality and quantity of  feedback they have given to their staff in the last year.

Want to Sell More? Ask Good Questions First

Want to sell more? Ask good questions!

Want to sell more? Ask more questions, provide solutions later. Recently I walked in to the retail store of my cellphone provider in order to purchase a new car charger. After asking the purpose for my visit the salesperson offered to test my current car charger to ensure it was really broken. Upon seeing it her first words were to trash the brand since I hadn’t bought one “made” by my cellphone provider. The second salesperson when ringing up the new charger kept telling me how I could save more money if I had 4 cellphone lines. I’m a sole proprietor and not sure how 4 lines would help me. The salesperson kept pushing. I left feeling resentful about the whole process. Has this happened to you? You can prevent your customers from having a bad experience with your product or service by asking good open ended questions including:
“What brings you in today?”
“How can I help?”

Get to the root cause of the customer’s problem and if you want to sell, ask questions about their businesses, their current struggles and challenges. Ask first, sell later.

Poor communication causes low morale

A January 2014 article in the Society for HR Management found that the greatest source of low workplace morale is poor communication. Just over a third of the respondents felt this way. The next biggest cause of low workplace morale was micromanagement. The good news is that effective communication skills can be learned. More often than not managers don’t take time to listen to employees  either because they are busy or because they are afraid that listening might be that they have to agree with what their employees have said.

Great communication takes time and requires focus. Don’t have time to listen? Tell your employee or manager and find a better time to connect. When you are listening be sure you put all the focus on the other person to ensure they felt heard.

The importance of active listening

I was reading an HBR blog today and it reminded me of one of the most critical management skills, the art and science of active listening.  Christine  Riordan notes:  “Study after study has shown that listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. So, why are so few leaders good at it?

Too often, leaders seek to take command, direct conversations, talk too much, or worry about what they will say next in defense or rebuttal. Additionally, leaders can react quickly, get distracted during a conversation, or fail to make the time to listen to others. Finally, leaders can be ineffective at listening if they are competitive, if they multitask such as reading emails or text messages, or if they let their egos get in the way of listening to what others have to say.”

Another important point about active listening is that just because you hear what your employees or colleagues say, it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them.

Taking in what others say, sorting it out in your own mind and saying it back, focused on the other person, develops relationships, validates the other person and helps them sort out their own thoughts.


Who are you betting on for the Super Bowl and could it get you in trouble at work?

Who are you betting on for the Super Bowl and could it get you in trouble at work?

According the the employment law firm Jackson Lewis, gambling is generally illegal at work Before deciding whether to sponsor or permit office pools, employers should examine their state law. “Gambling generally is illegal, but some states make an exception for “social gambling.” While the definition of social gambling varies, it usually occurs in a strictly social context, where the persons involved know each other beforehand and no profit is made. (The NFL’s copyright of the Super Bowl game prohibits third parties from charging admission to view the contest.) In most states, betting among friends and colleagues would fall within the social-gambling exception. While office pools may be permitted under these circumstances under some state laws, there may be limits on how much prize money can be awarded. Gift certificates to restaurants and gym memberships may be safer prizes if the employer is condoning the exchange of money in the workplace. Further, if there is a pool in the workplace, employers should ensure everyone understands that participation is completely voluntary, and that no negative action will be taken if an employee chooses not to participate.”

Be careful of making employees feel that they have to participant in something that might not be of interest!

Email Overload

How many emails do you get in a day? A radical idea posted in January 20th’s New York Times, suggested hitting “delete all” when returning from vacation. I’m not sure that’s the right solution but today, picking up the phone, thinking before sending can reduce the number of emails you get.