Business Insurance Quotes: Compare Providers for Free Find the Best Business Insurance Coverage for Your Needs. Compare Quotes for Liability, Workers' Compensation, Commercial Auto, and More! Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:56:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 steps to making your small business stand out Thu, 04 Oct 2012 20:28:26 +0000

  1. Ask yourself what makes your business different ( If you want your business to stand out, you need to ask yourself what truly makes you different from your competition. That means doing some competitive research from the perspective of your customers. What makes you different?  Why should they buy from you instead? If you have a tough time answering any of these questions, you have some work to do…but it’s a start.
  2. Develop an X-factor ( After some good introspection on your business, it’s time to develop an “x-factor” that separates you from your competitors. And not just some minor detail that makes you (somewhat) unique, either. It needs to be something you do or have that nobody else does, it must add value to your business, and (ideally) be something that your competitors can’t do. Focus on your strengths and do something better than everyone else. That’s the secret to truly standing out.
  3. Develop a unique value proposition ( Standing out for the sake of standing out isn’t enough. Your customers need to feel like they’re getting value fromwhat makes you different from the rest of your industry. That means either making your products and/or services better, having better prices, or simply offering more bang for the buck. Here’s something you probably already know: people love freebies. Value is everything.
  4. Make your marketing stand out ( See the above three pieces of advice? Now apply that to your marketing. Make it different, do it better than your competitors, and add a value proposition (have sales, events, etc.) This is a chance to get really creative, so don’t waste it. Spare no expense.
  5. Make your brand stand out ( Having a great logo is one thing, but your brand is so much more than a simple graphic. Your brand should act as a constant reminder to current and potential customers of why you are different and better than your competitors. Branding is perhaps the most integral piece of your marketing strategy and it should do more than just communicate what makes you unique… it should magnify it.
  6. Make your business cards stand out ( There are so many unique and creative ways to do business cards. But once again, being different or creative just for the sake of being noticed isn’t good enough. Make your business cards an extension of your business: different from everyone else, but because you’ve added value.  Otherwise you might as well have plain old paper business cards.
  7. Make your blog stand out ( If you’ve done the hard work of your way to make your business stand out, it’s time to make the most of it. Starting a blog and marketing your business online is a perfect opportunity to do just that. It’s relatively inexpensive and the viral potential (in the age of social media) is remarkably high. But even if your blog doesn’t go “viral” it’s still a great way to connect with your customers, remind them of what makes you better, and turn them into brand enthusiasts.
  8. Don’t be mediocre ( Just because you do one thing really well, isn’t an excuse to keep the status quo on everything else. Step up your game on your entire offer and your customers will notice. The last thing you want is your customers saying, “yeah, they have great [product] but their [other purchasing factor] is so-so.”
  9. Position yourself as an expert ( You could have the best offer in the world but still find that customers just don’t come back if they can’t find you credible as an expert in your field. Know your industry inside and out and be more than willing to share that knowledge. This kind of credibility is what builds consumer trust and it’s that kind of trust that will get customers to refer others to your business.
  10. Break the rules ( Want your business to be truly unique? Do the opposite of what everyone else does. Conventional wisdom is often wrong, so challenge and rewrite the rules of doing business in your industry. Just be sure you aren’t detracting from the value of your products and services, otherwise it will come off as “gimmicky”.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity – especially for the NFL Wed, 26 Sep 2012 13:05:25 +0000

The failure of the replacement refs has gone viral. Not only does the NFL not seem to care, they may actually be benefiting from it…

After the botched call at the end of the game on Monday Night Football that gave the Seattle Seahawks a tainted victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers, both players and fans alike took to twitter and Facebook to voice their opinion. Opinions that hold no punches for the likes of Commissioner Goodell and company. And the shots just keep on coming

But it isn’t a single call that’s completely to blame. It’s a storm that’s been building for some time, beginning with the referee lockout before the preseason had even started. The NFL’s differences with the referee union (NFL wants them to take a pay cut) has extended into the regular season compelling the NFL to put inexperienced replacements into the job until the differences are resolved.

After a relatively uneventful week 1, eventually the inexperience of these replacements started to show through in week 2. Games slowed down, clear fouls were missed, bad calls were made, rules were ignored or forgotten and there was this general feeling that the replacement refs were losing control of games. The integrity of the league came under fire and more than a few made direct assertions that player safety was being compromised.

Both players and coaches were losing their patience.. and it showed. The NFL later issued a statement warning that some of the conduct towards the refs would not be tolerated.

Then week three started…

As if right on cue, the debacle continued to escalate right along with the impact replacement refs were having on games. Seemingly simple football rules took even longer to sort out (that is, if they got it right at all), more calls were blown or missed, and when Darrius Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious with a nasty head injury (on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit that was not penalized) and later brought to the hospital, the injury concerns went from hypothetical to very real.

The following (rather freak) occurrence during the Bucs/Cowboys game sums up the ref’s week 3 performance in a single animated gif:

The Sunday evening game had it all. A nationally televised rematch of last year’s AFC championship game. A chance for Baltimore’s redemption with some added emotional charge for the home team.

But instead of an epic match-up with all the pre-game hype a week 3 game can have, it was dominated by missed calls, wrong calls, dead-ball skirmishes, confusion over rules, and 24 penalties for 218 combined yards. To top it off, the final game-winning kick was so close, it almost demanded a second look. -Or at least an explanation, which is what Bill Belichick wanted when he grabbed an official who was running off the field as fast as he could.

As a big football and NFL fan, the game left a bad taste in my mouth. Neither team had a fair chance to prove they were the better of the two. The officials took it over, and ruined it. And as a fan of neither team I still felt cheated for having watched it.

Unfortunately, the worst had yet to come. Only, on Monday night,  it was 24 penalties for 245 yards this time, and the worst call so far this year was saved for the final play, which decided the game.

Seconds later, Twitter and Facebook exploded.

In the aftermath:

The events of Monday Night Football are so popular right now, a number of people that (until last night) hardly knew what a touchdown was, can break it down for you.  The social media world still hasn’t calmed down from the incident, and after hearing reports claiming up to $1 Billion in gambling money shifted as a result of the call, it gives the impression that’s not about to go away any time soon.

Even last night’s TV announcers (including the in studio “rules specialist”) might have been surprised to learn that (according to the NFL’s statement about the play) simultaneous catch is reviewable if it occurs in the end-zone. That begs the question: which is worse?  The not knowing the rules of replay, or knowing the rules and still getting the call wrong after multiple angles and looks?

On a personal note, even though I’m not a fan of either team, it really bothers me. It bothers me because I enjoy watching NFL games otherwise. It bothers me because it could happen to my team.

But most of all, it bothers me because, despite how bad the officiating has been, or how much criticism this one play causes the NFL, it probably won’t change a thing.

Why none of this matters to the NFL

The NFL makes most of its revenue through its television audience. Attendance makes up another (smaller) portion and is protected via blackouts (in markets where games don’t sell out). Not that it matters, because game attendance certainly hasn’t been (and won’t be) affected by these events.

Television ratings so far this year have been just fine for the NFL. Even though the opening game was beat out by Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, week 1’s Sunday games broke a number of NFL ratings records. Week 2, ratings held strong, despite minor grumblings about the length of games (particularly the 1st Sunday Night game), and it was more of the same for week 3.

It will be interesting to see how the ratings play out for next week’s games, but the truth is, even this doesn’t really matter. While ratings are the key to NFL’s cash cow (TV contracts), if a temporary drop in ratings happens due to the inexperienced officiating, they can chalk it up as just that…temporary. Networks will still see the reach potential of the NFL when the contracts are renewed especially if a deal is reached by then.

Still, ratings aren’t likely to drop… Steve Young said it best:

“The demand for the NFL is inelastic. There’s nothing [the NFL] can do to hurt its demand, so they don’t care….people keep watching.”

In fact, the NFL might (actually) benefit from this…

Even if Steve Young is wrong, and NFL fans begin to tune out due the poor officiating, it’s likely they’ll be in the minority. I know a number of people that have already stated their intentions to do just that…just not when their own team is on. But I don’t buy it.

Not only will most current NFL fans not watch less, it’s reasonable to believe that they’ll in fact watch more. And others, who otherwise wouldn’t watch as much football, will be tuning in more often, too. Why? Because the American viewing public loves a good train wreck -especially on television.

Some Analysts are already calling the final play on Monday Night’s game “The most famous catch in the history of the NFL”. Even above some of the more noteworthy Superbowl catches, like “the catch” or even the “immaculate reception”. Though, I wouldn’t go that far just yet.

Still, you can’t ignore fact that the ratings for ESPN’s Sportscenter after the game hit a record for viewers in it’s second highest rating in the history of the show. The buzz surrounding this issue isn’t to be understated. And it has generated interest…lots of it.  We’re not the only ones to notice.

Perhaps it’s just human nature that people will be salivating for more drama. Though when it happens, NFL fans will be furious yet hard pressed to change the channel. It all plays right into the hands of the league, who seems insistent on getting what it wants despite what critics will say.

Small business beginners guide to hiring employees Fri, 21 Sep 2012 15:52:59 +0000

For small businesses, hiring your first employee isn’t a simple process. There’s a number of preparations that need to be completed before the recruitment process can even begin. And even then, it’s a complicated (and usually new) process that requires a great deal of thought and care.

This guide serves as a step-by-step how-to resource for required preparations, forms, and other regulations as well as advice for making the hiring process both smart and efficient so employers can focus on hiring the best possible candidate.

Before you even start the hiring process

Forms, Taxes, Regulations, and Insurance

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Before your business can hire a single employee it will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This number acts like a “social security number” of sorts for the business for tax purposes. For more information on Employer Identification Numbers or to apply for one, go to the IRS:

Employee regulations – Before you hire an employee, be sure you know and understand the expectations and regulations associated with being an employer. A list of Federal Regulations can be found here (, but don’t stop there:

Depending on your industry, state, and local laws, there may be a number of additional regulations regarding employee’s and/or the workplace. Safety protocols/regulations, employee posters, and other workplace regulations. You don’t necessarily need to be an attorney to understand them, but for some industries, you may need to hire a consultant to ensure full compliance.

Insurance – There are a number of insurance requirements for employers that can vary widely depending on the industry or state of employment. There are 3 major types of insurance that are typically required of employers. Be sure to research and comply with each before you hire your first employee.

  • Workers Compensation requirements (by state) – Depending on the state, employers are usually required to carry workers compensation insurance either through a commercial carrier, self insurance, or state program.
  • Unemployment Insurance – Under certain conditions, businesses with employees must register with state agencies and pay unemployment insurance. The link provides resources by state for both requirements and compliance.
  • Disability Insurance– Six states require employers to have coverage for disabilities (injuries, illnesses) that are not related to the workplace as income security. Here are the states along with a link for more information:

Employee/Employer taxes and forms – There are a number of forms and taxes involved in hiring employees both on the federal level and for your specific state. For the most part, however there are 3 major requirements for employers:

  1. W-4 (Federal income tax withholding) – Every employee must fill out a W-4 form (see link) and the employer must then submit the form to the IRS and for their state as well (or complete comparable state form)
  2. W-2 (Federal wage and statement) – Once a year, every employer must file a W-2 reporting all employee wages to the IRS.
  3. I-9 (Employee eligibility form) – Every employee must prove they are eligible to work in the U.S. Employers do not need to submit the forms unless required by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. However the forms must kept on file for up to 3 years after the official hire date or 1 year after termination, whichever is longer.

Human Resources

Payroll & accounting – Before hiring, employers should develop a protocol and ready their accounting practices for having employees on the payroll. There are a number of 3rd party options for payroll which can aide in the process, theses specialized companies are perfect for small businesses just getting started in the hiring process.

Employee handbook/company policy – Another area that employers must put some thought into is developing a company policy regarding employees and the workplace and use that to develop an employee handbook. The handbook should outline the employee’s rights and responsibilities, must be read by all new hires, and (ideally) signed that it was read and fully understood. Visit this guide by the for developing a proper employee handbook.


The hiring process


One of the more difficult parts of hiring an employee is finding the right candidate(s). With the advent of online recruitment sites, it may seem simpler than ever, but there can be a number of drawbacks with these sites. It’s wise to include offline, local recruitment resources in addition to online services.

Online resources

Offline resources

  • local job boards
  • local colleges
  • job fairs
  • local publications


  • Outsourcing recruitment – hiring a recruiting company can be expensive, but also simple way to find the right candidates without sacrificing time away from your day-to-day business.
  • Temps – Temp agencies are becoming a popular way to recruit new employees. Temp-to-hire relationships can be a good way to recruit, train, and assess potential permanent employees and reduce turnaround costs.

The selection process

Going through resumesOne of the more time consuming part of hiring employees is sifting through the pile of resumes, cover letters, and applications. The following link provides 10 tips for effectively and efficiently screening resumes to find your ideal candidates to bring in for an interview.

Interviews – There are a number of fantastic resources, publications, blogs as well as a vast variety of trains of thought on how to conduct interviews. Which approach you intend to take should really depend on what qualities you are looking for in an employee. However, there are certain questions you are not allowed to ask (by law), and asking them can put you and your business in danger of discrimination lawsuits. These prohibited questions include asking anything about:

  • Religion
  • Race or ethnicity
  • national origin or citizenship
  • age
  • marital or family status (e.g., whether they have children)
  • disability
  • sexual orientation or gender
  • weight


Things you must do AFTER you hire an employee

Report hire to proper agencies

According to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 all employers must report new employees to the proper state agency within 20 days of the hire date. A list of the reporting agencies can be found here.

File taxes

Filing W-4 for each employee, W-2 yearly to report all wages, as well as distribute appropriate tax records to employees for the calendar year (for declaration of personal taxes).

Organization, record keeping, and continued compliance

Not only should employees keep comprehensive records for all employees, including all financial records (even after an employee is terminated) but employers have a responsibility to keep up to date with the latest laws and regulations that can affect compliance on a federal, state, or industry level.

More Resources:

10 Websites with Information on Employee Management Fri, 14 Sep 2012 15:31:53 +0000

If you are a manager at the company you work for, either a longtime manager or one who just got a new promotion you need to know how to deal with the people you manage in a proper way. Managing people with different personalities and work ethics can be very difficult and it is important to always be respectful to everyone equally, this is a great way to show your appreciation for hard work, and also to be respected as well. Here are 10 websites that have some great advice on managing people and they can help you become a better boss, which also keeps employees happy.

  1. 11 Tips for Building and Managing a Team – here are some excellent tips for putting together and then managing a team that can apply to almost any work scenario.
  2. 5 Employee Performance Management Tips – Treating your employees right will naturally make them want to work hard for you, this post has some great tips to help you achieve this.
  3. 10 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Your Employees – Communication is the most important thing when it comes to managing employees, and you need to be able to communicate with many different types of people so mastering your communication skills can help you become a great manager.
  4. 7 ways to manage employees who are represented by a union – If the company you work for has employees that are represented by a Union there are different things you need to know when communicating with them, here are some ideas on how to deal with union represented employees.
  5. How to Manage Employees as a New Manager – If you are a brand new manager it can be a tough adjustment at first, these tips can help you get a better grasp on how to be a good manager right out of the gate.
  6. 8 Tips for Managing Staff Through Hard Times – There are many companies that go through hard times now and again, it is just the way business goes sometimes. Certain industries may see ups and downs more often because of their business model, and managing employees is more important than ever when your company is facing hard times. Here are some tips to help you deal with them situations if they ever arise.
  7. Top tips for Better Management – No matter how good of a manager you may be there are always areas that you can improve upon, here is some more great advice on how you can continually improve upon your managerial skills.
  8. Tips to Manage Under Performing Employees – Another thing you will encounter as a manger are employees not working to their full potential, and dealing with this can sometimes be difficult since you don’t want to anger them. Here are tips for managing employees that are under performing in their duties.
  9. Employee Time Management Tips For The Workplace – Time management can be important for any job, and it is something employees need to grasp themselves. A good manager should have a good understanding of the best way for every one of his employees and their time management. Being able to help them manage their time and get it down on their own is important, and it will help the workflow so everyone is getting their jobs done.
  10. 10 Management Tips for Dealing with Problem Employees – All companies have their share of problem employees, and dealing with them can be one of the hardest and most stressful parts of a manager’s job. Finding the best ways to deal with them is essential; here are ten tips that can help you start to get a handle on dealing with employees that are problematic.

Image Credits

Who employs America? Scale model by company size Thu, 30 Aug 2012 20:12:19 +0000

With the amount of rhetoric about unemployment rates and the role of small businesses in employment nationwide, we wanted to offer a unique perspective on some facts about the make-up of employers by firm size. We created this graphic to give a scale representation of how many employees companies of a certain size represent in the workforce. Small businesses (those under 500 employees) employ just over 50% of all workers and closer to 60% if you include the 21+ million non-employer firms (self-employed).

*Feel free to use this graphic, but please link back to this page as credit.

Developing a comprehensive fire safety plan for businesses Fri, 17 Aug 2012 04:42:07 +0000

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics fires and explosions accounted for 109 fatalities in the workplace in 2010, the most since 2003. And even though that’s only 4% of workplace fatalities, many of them are avoidable.

In the year 2000, fires and burns caused $6.2 Billion in productivity losses or about $9 Billion (adjusted for inflation).

Not a small sum of money.

And whether your workplace is mostly office work, kitchen work, or factory work, fire safety is something every business must face head on. That’s why we put together this complete fire safety resource for businesses. A general guideline to help organizations of all kind develop proper safety protocols, policies, employee training, and more.


OSHA Fire safety standards –

Perhaps the first step to achieving a comprehensive fire safety plan for your business is to make sure you’re at the very least following OSHA or OSHA approved state requirements (depending on your state).

While reading through the entire set of OSHA requirements isn’t necessary for all business owners (most of the first few sections deal with building code) the three things that almost all businesses need to have are proper:

Though if your workplace can be categorized in any of the other special industries, there are likely more detailed regulations your business must adhere to. This is the bare minimum.


Fire Safety Checklist for Businesses – [PDF]

This extremely helpful checklist is another great tool to use in order to discover potential problem areas for fire safety in your workplace. Use it to develop a more comprehensive plan for your business, or simply as an occasional checklist to monitor safety devices and requirements.

Some of these things on this checklist may not apply to your workplace, and there may be other items you need to add.  Regardless, this checklist can still act as a great starting point for creating or customizing your own.


Fire Prevention – [PDF]

By far the best way to prevent injury or fatalities from fires is to prevent fires from happening in the first place. Having a fire prevention plan is actually a requirement for all businesses, and for those over 10 employees large, it must be in writing and posted in the workplace for all employees to have access. But the requirements for such plans are minimal, at best, and aren’t anything close to a comprehensive fire prevention plan.

Businesses should go out of their way to identify all potential risks for fires within the workplace, and develop clear policies regarding such risks as well as training for employees so they can help be proactive in fire prevention. This short (linked) pamphlet is a good start for most small to medium sized businesses to develop a comprehensive fire prevention plan.


Smoke Alarms – [PDF]

Every workplace should have an appropriate (or OSHA required – in some cases) placement and number of smoke and automatic fire alarms. For many larger offices, a central system may even be required. But for smaller offices, regular smoke alarms may work just fine.

Even though the document from is designed for homes, the same advice still applies for businesses:

  • Place an alarm inside every office, and every hallway
  • Larger rooms may need multiple alarms
  • Interconnect alarms
  • Test batteries regularly
  • Replace alarms every 10 years


Fire Extinguishers – [PDF]

Having a fire extinguisher (or a few) in your office can often be the difference between a small fire with minimal damage and a dangerous inferno raging out of control. Most fires start small enough that a simple fire extinguisher can put it out (if caught early enough). Without one, it could be out of control before help arrives, and by then, it’s too late.

Understanding how to use fire extinguishers properly is also a must. Using the wrong type can even sometimes make the fire worse. That’s why it’s important to post information near or on fire extinguisher for how to use them properly. You may even want to have specific training for using a fire extinguisher properly as well. It might just save a life.   At the very least print and post this sheet near all fire extinguishers.


Evacuation Plan & Fire Drills – [PDF]

Having an emergency evacuation plan is another requirement of OSHA, and it must be posted publicly for any business over 10 employees. And that’s still probably a very good idea for the smaller organizations as well. Having a plan means considering, clearing, and labeling escape routes, picking a meeting place, as well as developing protocols for headcounts, calling 911, and communicating with rescue teams.

It also means doing regular fire drills to identify slow evacuation times and the need for improved escape routes or even the additional practice for employees.


Training & Policy – [PDF]

One of the best ways to combat the dangers of fires in the workplace is to have a well trained staff capable of dealing with such unexpected events. But before you can begin to train employees, the company needs to develop a strict policy designed to determine protocols for emergencies and responsibilities within the company. Not simply an evacuation plan, or list of dangerous chemicals, and who handles them. A full comprehensive document addressing all potential dangers of fires and how to deal with them when they happen. The example document (linked) is a very good start.

Include fire safety training for all new employees as well as refresher training every 6 months to a year for the rest. Fire drills make the best training exersizes.


Designate office “fire wardens” –

Something just about all organizations should have is designated “fire wardens” within the company. They should ideally be a manager, office manager, or someone in the “front desk” and/or is in the office most regularly (bonus points if they’re also in charge of time-sheets). They’re mainly responsible for making sure everyone gets out of the office safely during drills and real emergencies as well as head-counts at the emergency meeting place.

OSHA actually recommends having at least 1 for every 20 employees. The above (linked) document has a very comprehensive look at fire wardens, their responsibilities as well as a potential hierarchy for much larger organizations/buildings.

The true costs of regulations Wed, 08 Aug 2012 05:06:13 +0000

In 2010, the Federal Register, a publication of all new U.S. federal rules, proposed rules, presidential documents and notices became the largest ever published at 81,405 pages with more than 30,000 individual documents. The 2009 edition was of the Code of Federal Regulations, which contains all U.S. Federal regulations, was 163,333 pages covering 226 individual books.

The costs of doing business includes compliance with the law; But government regulations and mandates often come with very real and often burdensome costs. Moreover, these costs are generally more burdensome for small businesses as large corporations tend to have more government lobbying power as well as the advantageous economy of scale.

Today, with the economy stalling in its recovery and even threatening further recession, such regulations have been brought to the political table as a means for sparking positive economic activity and to create jobs. The problem, however, is that much of the political rhetoric for such arguments are often based on ideology rather than empirical evidence of its effectiveness.

So, in order to cut through political rhetoric on the topic, we will first take a pragmatic look at costs as well as the benefits of regulation. Then, lest this analysis be incomplete, we must face the many (often compelling) arguments from their philosophical opposition.

Costs and Benefits of regulation

According to a 2008 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration regulations on businesses come with an annual cost of $1.75 Trillion which is roughly 13% of the U.S. GDP that year. For employers, this translates to an average of $8k per employee with the smallest businesses hit hardest as those under 20 employees averaged over $10k. And since a majority of these costs are passed on to the customer, it amounts to about $15,586 per household. (if evenly distributed amongst U.S. households)

The above numbers are certainly staggering.  They are often repeated as political talking points, but they tell nothing of the benefits of regulations.  But I’m not just talking about moral or ethical preferences: regulations have quantifiable monetary benefits as well.

In fact, a 2011 report done by the White House Office of Management and Budget and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on the costs and benefits of major regulations in the past 10 years that such monetary benefits far outweighed the costs more than 2 to 1 in their [estimated] worst case scenario. Cost estimates ranged from $44 billion to $62 Billion for the 105 major rules, while benefits ranged from $132 Billion to $655 Billion.

The report freely admits that there is a limitation to such estimates as many benefits and costs are difficult to quantify, particularly in dollar amounts, and estimates can be wrong or highly speculative. Regardless, the point is, regulations don’t cost nearly $2 Trillion without any actual social or (indeed) economic benefit.

The relative effect of regulations on economic growth (or the stunting thereof) is also, it seems, greatly exaggerated by opponents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: In the first half of 2011, employers listed regulations as the cause of 0.2 to 0.3 percent of jobs lost as part of mass layoffs.

“There are many instances of regulation causing a specific industry to lose jobs,” said Roger Noll, co-director of the Program on Regulatory Policy at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Noll cited outright bans of products—such as choloroflorocarbons or leaded gasoline—as the clearest examples.

“The key point is that regulation affects the distribution of jobs among industries, but not the total number,” said Noll.

“The effect of regulation on jobs has nothing to do with the mess we’re in. The current rhetoric about regulation killing jobs is nothing more than not letting a good crisis go to waste.”


Philosophical “costs” of regulations

The libertarian movement is a growing force in American politics, particularly for a large section right of the political spectrum. The basic philosophy is that regulations inevitably cause more problems than they solve and that they consequently disrupt free markets cause inefficiency and therefore limit productivity. Moreover, and significantly for libertarians, regulations represent a threat to individual freedom and liberty.

The rule of unintended consequences

Part of the problem with estimating costs and benefits is that they tend to be quite speculative in nature. More than that, they often don’t take into account all variables, which, in practice, can greatly effect the outcome in significant ways. Although such unintended consequences can also go both ways: good or bad.

Regulatory capture

Another common argument from libertarians (and the like) is that regulations tend to attract influence and lobbying from the more powerful corporations capable of influencing regulatory legislation to work in their favor. It’s an argument that might appeal to those from the left who feel corporate influence in politics is far reaching. Keep government out of the way and corporations won’t need to influence policy.

The power of market forces

One of the favorite arguments of the anti-regulation crowd, which seems to be their guiding principal, is that in with a true free market, market forces – not mandatory statutes – are more efficient in working out issues (especially when it comes to consumer protections). And instead of taking a governing role, the U.S. Government should assume a more informational capacity for consumers.

Other benefits of regulation

Regulations aren’t just about creating laws that restrict or compel our actions to prevent otherwise undesirable outcomes.  It’s about creating a society with a well established rule of law for the benefit of all of society.  A guide for conducting business with one another in a healthy and ethical manner – a requirement for any healthy society.  It’s these under-appreciated benefits of regulation that can be lost in the political rhetoric.


John Stossel published an article in 2001 with some compelling arguments (including many of the above) for how he came to be generally anti-regulation. In it, however, he highlights how civil action rarely led to any kind of Justice for wrongdoing:

“In theory they should deter bad behavior. But because of how our laws have evolved, this process has gone horribly wrong. It takes years for victims to get their money, and most of the money goes to lawyers. Additionally, the wrong people get sued. A Harvard study of medical malpractice suits found that most of those getting money don’t deserve it, and that most people injured by negligence don’t sue. The system is a mess. “


But this seems more compelling of an argument for increased regulation than against it. In a world where the threat of civil suits is the best incentive for businesses to behave ethically, such lack of justice would do little to deter businesses from acting in their own interest. Regulations don’t just make businesses accountable, they can prevent irresponsible actions from the get-go.

Level playing field

Although, economically, regulations tend to hit smaller companies harder due to the economy of scale, that’s an advantage larger corporations have in every aspect of business…hardly the fault of regulation. Otherwise universal rules and regulations create a level playing field amongst businesses. Having to follow the same rules means the end to moral ambiguity on things that can become a problem for the general welfare of the public.

Regulatory Policy Pragmatism and Specificity

Focusing on the $1.75 Trillion costs or the 163,000+ pages of regulations we have might be insightful for getting an idea of the overall landscape of regulatory policy in the U.S. Government, but it’s hardly a comprehensive or pragmatic approach to regulation. Being pragmatic means approaching individual regulations, and the evils they intend to reduce, as individual issues worthy of their own debate.

“Some rules are estimated to produce far higher net benefits than others. Moreover, there is substantial variation across agencies in the total net benefits produced by rules. For example, the air pollution rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produced 62 to 84 percent of the benefits and 46 to 53 percent of the costs. Most rules have net benefits, but several rules have net costs, typically as a result of statutory requirements.”

Debating whether or not to implement or reduce certain rules requires that each be given their own individual consideration rather than an ideological one-size-fits-all approach.  That’s the true definition of pragmatism.

Why regulatory debate is healthy

Political ideology often clouds the debate over regulations with empty rhetoric and can sometimes even lead to anti-pragmatic decision processes.   But the simple act of having a debate, weighing the costs vs. the benefits of solutions to established problems is a healthy exercise for the improvement policy and of society as a whole.  Admitting the costs to industry, business, and jobs is a big part of that debate.

It’s not only current legislation that should be debated, either. Retrospective analysis of past regulations to ensure they are performing their intended effects is also a huge part of it.

“The increasing interest in retrospective analysis, inside and outside of government, should produce improvements…above all by ensuring careful evaluation of the actual effects of rules. This process should improve understanding not only of those effects, but also of the accuracy of prospective analyses, in a way that can be brought to bear on such analyses when they are written.”

Comprehensive pragmatism requires such a retrospective look at regulations.  Without it, creating regulations for the good of society is a hypocritical endeavor.

Should businesses worry about the Cybersecurity Act of 2012? Sat, 28 Jul 2012 21:38:18 +0000

The federal government led by President Barack Obama, is concerned that cybersecurity has become a real threat to our national security. As a result, a piece of legislation called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA) has been drafted and is going through its political rounds in Congress to address those concerns.

Though it has much more widespread support than earlier attempts at cybersecurity enforcement, like CISPA, with such legislation, there is still -what has become- a predictable abundance of misinformation and sensationalism regarding the scope of the bill and the authority it gives the federal government. More specifically, harsh criticism that the bill is inherently “anti-business” and a threat to free-enterprise.

After reading the 205 page updated version of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, I wanted to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding this bill, which consequently seems to be getting ever closer to becoming law.

What CSA attempts to do:

Risk Assessment – The first step to addressing cybersecurity concerns is an assessment of risks. For all intents and purposes, the meat and potatoes of CSA is just this: a risk assessment. What the federal government is really concerned about is protecting what is referred to in the bill as “covered critical infrastructure”. A designation authorized by the secretary of homeland security according to a set of criteria within the bill (see below). The entire goal of this first part of the bill is to identify infrastructure from both public and private enterprises that are vulnerable to cyber attacks that could become a threat to national security. The first few sections of the bill outline the guideline for finding, labeling, and prioritizing such risks.

Performance Standards – Once a risk assessment has been done, only then can the appropriate security performance standards be developed for the various levels and categories of risk. The current bill actually does very little to attempt to set any tangible requirements, and leaves the responsibility of coming up with the specific standards to the secretary of homeland security. Also, security standards are based on performance of security measures, (not a standard of methodology) so as to encourage security innovation. The only part of the bill that outlines the actual application of the requirements is the yearly performance evaluations (to be done by a 3rd party) for compliance as an entity designated as covered critical infrastructure.

Compliance, too, is not mandatory. Early versions of the bill included such language, but as it stands, it will be voluntary. Instead incentives have been set up for compliance, like access to cybersecurity intelligence as well as liability protections for punitive damages for security breaches.

Improved Cybersecurity Intelligence – Another major section of CSA was developed in order to improve the intelligence gathering and sharing of “cybersecurity threat indicators”. A voluntary program established to create a network for sharing such information amongst the participating federal agencies as well as private corporations. It is this part of the bill, however, that has been under fire for privacy protection issues as the definition of “threat indicators” was too vague, and earlier versions didn’t do enough to protect people’s privacy and 1st amendment rights.

Internal Restructuring & Prioritizing – The rest of the law contains a number of additional internal measures intended to improve government cybersecurity, establish it as a priority, and clarify the roles of a number of federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

 Who will be affected by CSA?

Because this bill is specifically designed to regulate corporate as well as government run infrastructure, the bill has been criticized for being “anti-business”. And while the libertarian argument that regulation can detract from free markets is certainly valid, to suggest that businesses of all kinds will be affected negatively by this bill is a bit of an exaggeration.

The truth is, small businesses (and the majority of large ones) don’t really carry a security risk that could be considered a threat to national security. The designation as “covered critical infrastructure” is actually quite specific in the bill:

Part (b) of section (103) Designation of Covered Infrastructure:

(C) only designate a system or asset as covered critical infrastructure if damage or unauthorized access to that system or asset could reasonably result in:
….(i) the interruption of life-sustaining services, including energy, water, transportation, emergency services, or food, sufficient to cause:
……..(I) a mass casualty event that includes an extraordinary number of fatalities; or
……..(II) mass evacuations with a prolonged absence;
….(ii) catastrophic economic damage to the United States including:
……..(I) failure or substantial disruption of a United States financial market;
……..(II) incapacitation or sustained disruption of a transportation system; or,
……..(III) other systemic, long-term damage to the United States economy;
….(iii)  severe degradation of national security or national security capabilities, including intelligence and defense functions;

The bill continues with additional limitations including any:

commercial information technology product, including hardware and software

CSA is intended to create minimum performance standards for infrastructure and industries that pose the greatest risk of being targets of cyber-terrorism (cyber attacks that are likely to cause widespread damage). This means utilities industries like gas, electric, and water supply as well as transportation and emergency services sectors, could be among the most scrutinized. Likely, it could also mean the banking & financial services and communications industries too. Any industry and any company could be game, technically, and that might scare some people; But it’s those that pose a real risk to national security (if breached) that this bill intends to regulate.

Criticisms and revisions of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012

Mandatory statute – The initial bill that was proposed included language that made compliance with set standards mandatory. Such measures did not receive bipartisan support and were amended. The revised version instead gives incentives for compliance including liability protections as well as access to cybersecurity information sharing. Still, even with optional compliance, the bill has strong opposition from the business sector.

Moral hazardsSome argue that incentives for minimum security standards, particularly the liability protections, creates a moral hazard. Companies might only seek to meet the absolute minimum standards in order to mitigate cybersecurity risks, essentially eliminating natural incentives to manage risks beyond that. In effect, this could both weaken security (instead of strengthen it) and limit the ability of individual victims to seek damages in the case of a breach.

Too broad – Whenever a bill is vague or too broad, the worry isn’t what the bill is intended for, but what it could be used for. In this case, a bill that doesn’t come with a clear scope of impact and some rather vague definitions (especially in its earlier versions) could be interpreted much more broadly than it was originally intended.  Although later revisions of the bill have met some of these concerns head on.

Privacy – Part of the bill includes a section (701) dedicated to improved information sharing for what’s called “cybersecurity threat indicators” among the various agencies as well as private companies (a voluntary program). Many argued that the broad definition for “threat indicators” as well as lack of privacy and other 1st amendment protections made the bill unconstitutional. Since then, there have been improvements to the language and privacy protections that drew praise from the ACLU. Still, some aren’t satisfied, like Senator Al Franken who is pushing for further amendments to the language of this section of the bill.

Stifle innovation – As with most regulations, a concern about security standards is that it could serve to stifle innovation in advancing security in the future. Although the standards aren’t meant to regulate specific methodology, that’s still up to the administrator of the system in question, there’s little incentive to go beyond those standards, thus potentially slowing innovation.

10 tips for effective resume screening Fri, 20 Jul 2012 19:07:07 +0000

Not a whole lot of companies are hiring right now. With high unemployment and limited job openings, however, those who are hiring are finding an influx of resumes and applicants for advertised (and unadvertised, for that matter) positions. As a result, the job of HR reps tasked with screening applications and resumes got a little bit more time consuming.

Having a process is important not only for efficiency, but for consistency as well. That’s why we put this list of tips for screening resumes taken from our favorite online articles on the subject. We hope you find this list helpful:

  1. 10 things I look for when I screen resumes and cover letters
    This article’s a bit old, but it’s still probably one of the best on the subject. One of my favorite tips from Ronnie is #10: dates that are clear and easy to understand. It’s important to understand gaps in employment as well as how long a candidate holds a job. A candidate that is vague or deliberately hides dates usually ends up in my NO pile.
  2. How recruiters screen your resume
    This article was written as advice to job seekers, but in the meantime outlines the exact process employers should take when screening a resume. It’s not like it’s some exclusive information…the advice goes both ways.
  3. Screening Resumes
    What’s great about this article is the stress on the importance of consistency within an organization. Especially for larger companies or those where multiple managers screen resumes and candidates. If two people are looking at two completely different processes or objective qualifications, you’ll be hiring two different kinds of employees.
  4. How to effectively screen resumes
    For many positions I need to hire for, I don’t just want someone who is qualified and can do the job, I want someone who takes pride in their work and has some kind of passion for it. Two tips from this article will help you find these qualities: look for accomplishments and detect a career path. If you see these on the resume, it belongs in the YES pile.
  5. 3 step resume screen
    Finding a simplified process for screening resumes is a great way to more efficiently get through a large response, but it will also help with organizational consistency (see above) as well. This article has a simple 3 step process that can effectively rule out a number of applicants without spending too much time analyzing them. Did they follow instructions? (more than half usually don’t) Is it well organized? (take a quick look and rule out those who’s applications are a mess) Does education and work experience fit the job description? (No deep analysis required, just a quick skim: yes or no) What you’ll be left with is a much shorter pile of qualified, organized, and thoughtful candidates.
  6. Tips for screening resumes
    All the above articles have great advice, but as you’ve come down the list it’s gotten more and more general. While there’s nothing wrong with that, many of you are looking for some more specific tips for improving your applicant screening process. This is it. Full of technical (and non-technical) advice for taking full advantage of the tools available to HR people of all kinds. Good stuff…
  7. Resume screening selection 101
    I like the secondary title better: I screen, you screen, we all screen! More tremendous advice for screening resumes and applications. My favorite piece of advice: look for “consultants”/Business owners. These people are usually either really good at what they do, or it’s an excuse for a gap in unemployment. If they have a career path, it’s usually the former, and usually worth an interview if the experience is relevant to the position.
  8. resume writing help resume screen out factors
    Another great article written as advice to job seekers, but this time it actually serves as much better advice for employers. Particularly the first two points that a candidate can do little about while writing a resume: numerous short-term positions and multiple unrelated positions. Either (or both) of these qualities on a resume should send a big red flag for someone who probably won’t work out. History tends to repeat itself.
    This article has made its rounds on the internet a bunch of times since it was first published in 2005. (I think this is the original…) Regardless, the advice still rings true. It’s a great easy read that outlines a natural process for screening resumes to narrow it down to your top candidates.
  10. Resume evaluation checklist
    Finally, here’s a very helpful tool for you to use when screening resumes: a checklist. Included are some general requirements as well as specific ones as well. You could even take this a step further and edit it to suit your own hiring guidelines based on your company’s specific hiring needs.
PPACA Supreme Court Decision: Just the facts Fri, 29 Jun 2012 20:21:07 +0000

Major Points of interest:

  • PPACA insurance mandate is upheld 5-4
  • Mandate survives as a tax, but not via commerce clause
  • Justice Roberts, a conservative judge, represented the deciding vote
  • Medicaid regulation requirement enforcement deemed not constitutional

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States submitted it’s decision on the challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Heath Care Act. Two major parts of the “Obamacare” bill were under scrutiny: an individual mandate (requiring those who can afford it to buy insurance) and a part of the expansion on Medicare that required the States to comply or risk losing their current funding (the loss of funding as a punishment was under review). The mandate was upheld while the medicaid expansion penalty was struck down, both in a 5-4 decision.

Yesterday morning, when the decision was initially released, conflicting reports were being published. In the confusion, CNN reported early that the individual mandate was also defeated. They later retracted their gaffe, but the damage was done. After reading the entire 193 page decision, it’s easy to see how CNN made the early mistake. A majority of the first section of the decision focuses on how the mandate cannot be applied to the commerce clause and is therefore unconstitutional under these powers.

Now, as the dust settles, there seems to still be some confusion about the decision, some of its language, and the consequences of the precedent. And short of reading the entire decision (it’s not light reading), there are few places to get truly unbiased information on it. For that reason, we’ve highlighted some of the key points including some of the more powerful language directly from the decision as well as brief descriptions of the potential implications for the future of the PPACA, political sphere, and the limits of government as a whole.

Conservative Judge Roberts represents affirming vote

The big story of the final decision was a conservative judge, in Justice Roberts, representing the deciding vote for approving the mandate as a tax.  As a result, throughout his decision, there are regular reminders that it is not the job of SCOTUS to pass personal, political, or even practical judgement of the law at hand.

“The peculiar circumstances of the moment may render a measure more or less wise, but cannot render it more or less constitutional.” Chief Justice John Marshall, A Friend of the Constitution No. V, Alexandria Gazette, July5, 1819, in John Marshall’s Defense of McCulloch v. Maryland 190–191 (G. Gunther ed. 1969).

All the way through to the last paragraph of Justice Roberts’ opinion, we’re reminded that regardless of the justices personal or political opinions of the PPACA, their job was only to judge it against the Constitution and the powers enumerated to the federal government.

The Framers created a Federal Government of limited powers, and assigned to this Court the duty of enforcing those limits. The Court does so today. But the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.

It’s an important distinction to make. The decision to affirm the mandate by Justice Roberts, while it may have political implications, itself was not political in nature.

Mandate Defeated under commerce clause

CNN wasn’t completely wrong.  The mandate was not upheld under the commerce clause. It was voted down 5-4 (ROBERTS, joint opinion of SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., dissenting). In Roberts’ written decision, he admits the commerce clause is a broad power given to congress, though it must have limits:

While Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause has of course expanded with the growth of the national economy, our cases have “always recognized that the power to regulate commerce, though broad indeed, has limits.” Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U. S. 183, 196 (1968).

The crux of the problem with the mandate under the commerce clause is that it did not regulate commercial activity, rather inactivity. Allowing this would set a precedent that, according to Roberts, would expand the already broad interpretation of the clause far beyond that of which it was intended.

The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product,on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.

The resulting opinion strikes down the law as unconstitutional voted out by the 5 conservative judges.

Just as the individual mandate cannot be sustained as a law regulating the substantial effects of the failure to purchase health insurance, neither can it be upheld as a “necessary and proper” component of the insurance reforms. The commerce power thus does not authorize the mandate. Accord, post, at 4–16 (joint opinion of SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., dissenting).

In Justice Ginsberg’s written opinion, however, she argued that the mandate, in fact, is appropriate for the commerce clause. She argues, that it is not possible to safely limit the power to regulate commerce in the way suggested by the majority decision:

“Nothing . . . can be more fallacious,” Alexander Hamilton emphasized, “than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be lodged in the national government, from . . . its immediate necessities. There ought to be a CAPACITY to provide for future contingencies[,] as they may happen;and as these are illimitable in their nature, it is impossible safely to limit that capacity.” The Federalist No. 34, pp. 205, 206 (John Harvard Library ed. 2009). See also McCulloch, 4 Wheat., at 415 (The Necessary and Proper Clause is lodged “in a constitution[,] intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.”).


Practically, this does nothing in terms of affecting the PPACA and its implementation as the mandate was ultimately allowed. (See below) The greater ramifications of this decision, however, sets to limit the powers of congress to regulate commerce. That is: According to SCOTUS, the commerce clause does not give Congress the power to compel or force citizens into economic activity.

Mandate allowed as a tax

Where Justice Roberts differed in opinion from the other 4 conservative judges, was in the application of the mandate as a tax. Because the mandate portion of the PPACA is implemented through taxation in the hands of the IRS, SCOTUS considered this as a potential application of this portion of the bill’s constitutionality.

That is not the end of the matter. Because the Commerce Clause does not support the individual mandate, it is necessary to turn to the Government’s second argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s enumerated power to “lay and collect Taxes.”

Justice Roberts, again, reaffirms the goal of SCOTUS when scrutinizing a bill or a specific portion of a bill that is being challenged.

Justice Holmes made this point 80 years ago: “[T]he rule is settled that as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the Act.” Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U. S. 142, 148 (1927) (concurring opinion).

And, because the bill describes the mandate enforcement as a penalty and not a tax, such challenges are not subject to the Anti-Injunction Act, which says taxes may not be challenged until they have been paid and or charged. However, that labeling, on the other hand, does not preclude it from being considered as such to determine the bill’s constitutional validity.

It is of course true that the Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” But while that label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act, supra, at 12–13, it does not determine whether the payment may be viewed as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power.

Meanwhile, the dissenters disagree to that end:

The joint dissenters argue that we cannot uphold§5000A as a tax because Congress did not “frame” it as such. …[The] conclusion should not change simply because Congress used the word “penalty” to describe the payment.

Defined as a tax, despite the very clear intent of the mandate enforcement (to induce the purchase of health insurance), the only legal consequence of defying that intent is a charge from the IRS.

While the individual mandate clearly aims to induce the purchase of health insurance, it need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS.

Ultimately, Justice Roberts was compelled to allow the mandate in PPACA:

The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.


This decision is what keeps PPACA’s insurance mandate alive. It’s a remarkable decision given the majority by a traditionally conservative judge.

From a political standpoint, it’s a decision that keeps Obama’s signature piece of legislation alive. However, that may not be the end of the story. It may also serve to be an integral talking point leading up to the upcoming presidential elections. Obama has repeatedly stated that the mandate is not a tax, as the stigma of such is politically charging for his opposition. Now that SCOTUS has “officially” classified the mandate as a tax, the decision may help frame the debate for Romney who has pledged to overturn the bill, on his first day, if elected President.

Medicaid Expansion, Regulations & Spending Clause

As a part of the Medicaid Expansion of PPACA, States are compelled to follow new regulations or risk losing their current Medicaid funding. This part of the bill was also under the constitutional microscope. The result was a 5-4 overturning of this part of the bill. Here is the crux of the issue:

Congress may use its spending power to create incentives for States to act in accordance with federal policies. But when “pressure turns into compulsion,” ibid., the legislation runs contrary to our system of federalism.

More specifically, the decision came down to the accountability of our democratic system:

…when the State has no choice, the Federal Government can achieve its objectives without accountability…

“[W]here the Federal Government directs the States to regulate, it may be state officials who will bear the brunt of public disapproval, while the federal officials who devised the regulatory program may remain insulated from the electoral ramifications of their decision.” Id., at 169.

Had non-compliance only risked loss of the medicaid expansion funding, it may have survived constitutionality in this regard:

…Spending Clause programs do not pose this danger when a State has a legitimate choice whether to accept the federal conditions in exchange for federal funds.


For practical purposes, the threat of losing current medicaid funding will not be permitted to induce compliance to the new regulations. The decision, also, sets a strict precedent limiting the power of the federal to govern the states.