The laws your biz could be breaking and not know

July 13, 2022

Which Prime Day deals are you scooping up? Amazon is featuring a bunch of small businesses this year. And those ergonomic office chairs…

In this week’s edition:

  • It’s time to talk about the “s” word. (Hint: it rhymes with “stagflation.” Oops.)
  • Is your SMB unknowingly breaking the law? Let’s find out.
  • Winter is coming. Start prepping your business… now.
  • When it comes to performance reviews, the limit does exist.


The ‘70s are back in the form of… stagflation

A giant green balloon with a $ sign rising over city buildings.

Great. Another “flation” to worry about.
Give your stress ball a couple of squeezes and then breathe. Cool? Good, because another relic of the ‘70s is looking to make a comeback and it’s not as sexy as roller disco. We’re talking “stagflation,” a delightful combination of “stagnant” and “inflation,” where the economy falls into recession while prices increase. The last time the economy saw stagflation was the late 1970s and early ‘80s, when the Bee Gees topped the charts, inflation reached over 14%, and the U.S. GDP declined.

I’m going to need more than a stress ball.
Well, we’re not quite there yet, but some experts have serious concerns. A recent report showed an increase in the Consumer Price Index of 8.6% year-over-year — rates we haven’t seen since MTV played actual music videos.

“Most of our adult lives, we’ve been at 2% or less,” says Ana Corrales, an economics professor at Miami-Dade College. “We’re not used to these kinds of inflationary pressures, it’s been a lifetime since we’ve experienced that.” As of right now, production hasn’t fallen enough to say the economy is in a recession, though many are predicting it.

So, how can I pull my business through this?
On a micro level, Corrales says small businesses can look at a period of stagflation much like they did the pandemic — as a chance to innovate. “You can shift from buying new things to fixing things before buying a replacement. Look to expand buying in the secondhand market, too — buy used computers [and] printers instead of buying a new one.” She also suggests looking into longer-term contracts with suppliers to lock in prices and ease concern over fluctuations.

Stagflation isn’t here — at least not yet. Still, understanding its causes and having a plan in place are wise strategies for helping your SMB ride out the storm.

👉 Find out other ways your SMB can weather stagflation.


Don’t let your SMB stumble on overlooked business laws

A door sign that says, "Yes, we're open... & awesome."

What? What laws?!
It’s okay, there’s no need to panic. You’ve probably already done plenty of research into what applicable laws and regulations could affect your small business.

It’s just that sometimes, SMB owners can overlook laws that are generally (and erroneously) attributed to larger businesses. Ones that can catch you off guard if you’re not careful.

Thankfully, Claire Fountain, business analyst and Trainual partner, compiled a list of some of the most commonly overlooked business laws that small business leaders should be aware of:

1. ADA compliance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities. And while most people automatically associate ADA regulations with accommodations like wheelchair accessibility, some don’t realize that ADA compliance also extends to online spaces — AKA, your website.

You’ll want to invest in online accessibility options. Additions like high-contrast text and backgrounds, magnifying features, options for keyboard-only access, and screen reading features are all great ways to make your small online business accessible to all.

2. Email marketing.
No matter how small your business is, if you're using email marketing, you're required by law to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act. Among several guidelines, it prohibits businesses from using deceptive subject lines and requires them to give recipients the choice of opting-out of future communications.

Small businesses need to pay close attention to how they conduct email marketing campaigns, as every single email found in violation of this code is subject to a fine (up to $46,517 per email).

👉 Find more overlooked business laws.


Three ways to start preparing for the holidays now

Wait, now?

An exasperated man saying, "No. Tomorrow, egghead. NOW!"

Last year, over half of consumers planned to start their holiday season shopping prior to Thanksgiving. Meaning, you’ll need to implement your holiday marketing strategies well before pumpkin-everything arrives. And start planning… like, today.

Your business is unique and your holiday strategy will be too. But you’ll definitely want to factor in these three considerations:

1. Leverage AI-guided tech for improved decision-making.
You don’t have time for those mundane tasks that you have to do, and take little thought. These areas are perfect opportunities to use AI learning to your advantage.

AI is coming in clutch to help business owners accurately predict what products they need to stock up on, speed up chat support, and improve process flows before the holiday season hits.

2. Plan for an extended, e-commerce-driven season.
Last year, consumers spent over $33B in online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. And of course, they’ll start deciding what they want to buy as soon as they see a bunch of companies roll out their holiday promotions in mid-September.

So be sure to put your products and attention-grabbing deals in front of your audience ASAP to keep up with your proactive competitors. The better prepared you are for a stretched-out season, the better chance you have of meeting your yearly revenue goals.

And don’t forget to incorporate mobile marketing efforts. M-commerce (AKA, mobile e-commerce) accounted for almost half of online holiday sales last year and chances are good we’ll see the same trend in 2022.

👉 Discover the last way.


Why your SMB should do multiple performance reviews per year

Once isn’t enough?
According to HR experts, no. These reviews were designed to help employees determine their strengths and weaknesses with guidance on how they can develop their performance going forward.

But doing these reviews annually just doesn’t seem to do the job — according to one 2019 workplace study, 55% of workers felt that annual reviews didn’t improve their performance. In fact, doing these reviews so infrequently makes them incredibly stressful for employees — so much so that crying isn’t uncommon.

A woman crying on the floor, surrounded by boxes.

That’s not great. So, do we get rid of them completely?
Not so fast. Your employees still want an opportunity to reflect on their contributions to the team and how they can improve. Workplace feedback is important to maintaining a high standard of quality products and services. It just shouldn’t be confined to once a year.

So what’s the magic number?
Many companies have already given up the once-a-year system of performance reviews — as of 2019, only 54% of businesses were still using annual reviews.

Google increased their performance review count to twice a year, made up of manager and peer reviews. Deloitte gave up their annual review and now hosts team leader-employee check-ins every other week.

And while continuous check-ins can be beneficial, a lot of small businesses just don’t have the numbers to run day-to-day operations and sit down for frequent reviews.

Doing short, quarterly reviews is a great place to start — it should be comfortable for employees while still giving managers the opportunity to deliver feedback. And once you’ve gone through a few cycles, you can determine the number of reviews that works best for your business.

👉 Learn more about performance reviews.


This week’s highlight reel

  • Somebody call 911. Or instead, call 988 — the new mental health crisis hotline going live this week. Starting July 16, you can call, text, or online chat the new number to get in touch with a trained National Suicide Prevention Lifeline counselor. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is forking up about $400M for the 988 rollout in hopes that the new code will help make mental health more accessible for at-risk and diverse communities.
  • Bing it on, Google. Bing Maps is apparently alive and well, giving the leading search engine a run for their money. With new features like in-app distance calculations, gas price comparisons, and a parking spot finder, Bing is predicted to drive more out-of-town visitors to small businesses by dissolving their travel woes so they can make worry-free stops along their way. 
  • Smells fishy. Penguins at a Japanese aquarium are being stripped of the fancy, expensive fish they’re used to and they’re not having it. The picky eaters are squawking penguin profanities at the sight of cheaper fish and waddling away. If our feathered friends can’t run from inflation, who can? (But for real, give the penguins what they fishing want.)
  • What a (financial) relief. Right now, there are open applications for small business grants, nonprofit grants, tax credit programs, and rotating loan programs totaling millions. Better get cracking now — some like the #BlackVisionaries Grant Program are closing in just a few weeks.


Here’s what else is on The Manual’s mind

Take a break from surfing those Amazon Prime Day deals and catch up on all the hot SMB content you missed last week:

  • Know thyself. Not sure what your SMB’s organizational values are? Or perhaps you’re looking to create them as you build your organization? We’ve got a guide for that.
  • Change can suck. That’s why you need levers of change. Sound like more business jargon? (The optics on this are positively synergistic.) Perhaps. But they can help you successfully manage any bumpy road ahead. Here’s how
  • Keep on truckin’. Most small carriers in the trucking industry will likely fail within the first two years. But one expert says that having systems and processes in place can prevent that. Check it out.

Organize the chaos
of your small business