The HBS Blog offers insight on Delaware corporations and LLCs as well as information about entrepreneurship, start-ups and general business topics.
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog entitled, “How Much You Are Paying For Registered Agent Service?”It spoke about how some companies overcharge their clients for Registered Agent service. It explained how other companies bait you with one price and raise the fees on you annually. It explained how Harvard Business Services, Inc's' $50 Registered Agent Fee is guaranteed for the life of the company, and how you can change your Registered Agent to Harvard Business Services, Inc. This is a follow-up to that blog.
We called 6 of the larger agent companies and asked for quotes for their Registered Agent service. Here are the results:
1. The Company Corporation: $235 per year, and they cannot guarantee this price will not increase. They start low and increase every year. When you form your company, they only give you six month’s Registered Agent service and then bill you again.
2. Incorp: $99 per year. This is one of the cheaper ones, but still almost 2 times more than Harvard Business Services, Inc. at $50 per year. Their $99 per year is guaranteed to not increase.
3. Bizfilings: $149 per year the first year. The first 6 months is included in order to steer you away from worrying about this price. Then, 6 months later, you are hit with a bill for $149. It gets worse. The next year, you are charged $167 per year, and this price is not guaranteed; it could very well increase.
4. Legal Zoom: $159 per year, with the first month free. So you form your company through them and then one month later you get a bill for $159. Very cleverly, this was to hide the real cost of forming your company with them. They, too, could not guarantee that the $159 per year would not increase every year.
5. Corporation Trust Company (CT Corporation): $342 per year. Wow! They, too, could not guarantee this fee would not increase.
6. NRAI (National Registered Agents Inc.): $189 per year. No guarantee it would not increase.
If your company is registered with any of these Registered Agents, I have to ask: why? If you own 5 or 10 companies, you can save a lot of money by making Harvard Business Services, Inc. your Registered Agent. Why pay so much money if you don’t have to?
A professional Registered Agent is a company that is responsible for receiving and forwarding government and legal documents to its clients in an accurate and timely fashion. Some examples of documents received and forwarded by Registered Agents are Franchise Tax reports from the Secretary of State and notices of legal actions (service of process) involving your company.
We offer this bit of research in hopes that all owners of Delaware companies will become educated about Registered Agent services and the fact that you can save money, instantly, by changing your Registered Agent to Harvard Business Services, Inc; we charge only $50 per year and we guarantee that your $50 Registered Agent Fee will never be increased as long as you keep your company in good standing and pay in a timely fashion. We have had this policy in effect since we were founded in 1981.
We even put this guarantee in writing! You can print out your Certificate of Guarantee for the $50 per year Registered Agent service.
Ready to change your Registered Agent to Harvard Business Services, Inc? Simply fill out our easy-to-use change of agent form. The change costs just $50, and your first year of Registered Agent service from us is free! After that, it's just $50 per year, guaranteed.
If you are like most small business owners, then at some point in time you have had to borrow money from a bank or financial institution in order to support your operations. And, like many loan-seekers when they reach the end of the time-consuming and often-laborious process of obtaining financing, you may have thought to yourself, “What exactly determined the interest rate on my loan?”
For a lot of small business owners, this question remains largely unanswered as their focus returns to more pressing matters such as, “Now that I have this loan, how am I going to use the money to grow and make my company more successful?”
Given the mystery surrounding how interest rates are determined, and recognizing the profound impact that rates have on borrowers, it makes sense for all business owners to understand the forces that determine market interest rates.
There are two main factors that govern the rate of interest on a specific small-business loan. The first, the creditworthiness of the borrower, is fairly obvious and easy to understand. If you always pay your bills on time, haven’t wracked up a lot of other debts, and have a proven business model, you are a more attractive (i.e. lower-risk) borrower and will thus be charged a lower interest rate than a higher-risk one.
The second factor, the general level of market interest rates, is a bit less obvious and certainly harder to understand, so let’s take a closer look at the process by which those rates are set.
In the U.S., that means understanding what happens at the Federal Reserve, our nation’s central bank. The Fed influences the level of interest rates for all types of loans by setting and periodically adjusting the federal funds rate. Without getting too technical, the fed funds rate essentially becomes the rate at which large banks can borrow money from one another for a short period of time. The rate at which banks can borrow affects the rates at which they are willing to lend, which of course affects the rates you can expect to pay when taking out a loan for your business.
Now that you understand how rates are set and who sets them, you may be wondering why they are set at a certain level and why they change, sometimes rapidly and dramatically, over time.
As the entity in charge of monetary policy and the setting of interest rates, the Fed has what is commonly referred to as a dual mandate: to maximize employment and to keep prices stable. If economic activity is sluggish and unemployment is high, then the Fed will typically lower the fed funds rate in order to encourage borrowing, spending, and investment, thereby stimulating the economy and reducing unemployment. If, on the other hand, prices are increasing too rapidly, the Fed tends to raise the fed funds rate in an attempt to reign in borrowing and spending, thus driving prices down, or at least slowing their ascent.
If you think you may need to borrow money for your business in the not-too-distant future, or if you have outstanding debt that you are considering refinancing, it pays to keep an eye on the level of the fed funds rate and the direction that it has been heading. In a period of rising rates, it may make sense to secure your financing needs sooner rather than later, while in a time of declining rates it may make sense to remain patient if you don’t need immediate funding.
Once you have decided that the time is right to seek a loan for your business, familiarize yourself with the current fed funds rate and make sure to ask different lenders how they plan to calculate the rate for your specific loan. Being aware of the benchmark interest rate, and understanding how lenders plan to use it to arrive at the rate for your loan, will help you to get the financing your business needs on the best possible terms.
I’d like to talk about employee engagement. Wait! This isn’t a touchy-feely, buzzword subject. This is a real, bottom-line business item and here’s why:
#1) Engaged employees are more productive. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, in their book Power of Engagement, say “engaged employees produce more, make more money for the company, and create emotional engagement and loyal customers.” A Hay Group report found offices with engaged employees are up to 43% more productive. Gallup found, beyond productivity and profitability, engaged employees are safer, and their retention levels are higher. They are your employees with the creative and innovative contributions.
#2) Disengagement comes with a frightening cost. The same Gallup poll cited above claims the lower productivity of actively disengaged workers cost the US north of $328 billion! However, the contagious effect of disengaged employees in your workforce is more directly visible and discouraging.
Will Felps and Terence Mitchell, a professor of management and organization in the Business School and UW psychology professor, did an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. They divided people into small groups and gave them a task. ‘One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. Within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple.
You have disengaged employees. Gallup results note almost three quarters of employees today don't consider themselves 'actively engaged' in their work. This large lot of folks are not likely the disengaged bad apple types, but they do impact productivity and progress.
So how can you effect engagement? How can you get employees involved, enthusiastic and connected? First, you must be willing to admit engagement is a key issue that you impact and then you must invest your time and resources regularly. Here is my Top Ten areas contributing to engagement;
Respect - Engaged workers feel respected. They are consulted on work assignments, their input is valued, and they feel listened to. Respect their lives outside of work as well.
Communication - You should have regular team and individual meetings. Relay what is going on in the business, successes and failures, and plans for the future. Brainstorm together and answer questions. They are often much closer to the core issues of your business and have good ideas for process and product improvements. Weave in the values of the company and share how their work is creating meaning to customers and their world around them.
Collaborative Decision Making - Good employees want to see how their work fits into the bigger picture. More importantly, they want to know their expertise and work has influence. They want to be consulted on areas that effect their jobs.
Challenging - Smart and invested employees don’t want to be doing routine tasks all the time. They are willing to do the work that needs to get done, but they look for challenges. Stretch your expectations of employees.
Focused Goals and Framework - These days I’m leaning away from ‘official’ performance reviews, but you should clearly lay out expectations. Give structure to tasks, assignments and discuss desired outcomes. Give feedback, good and bad, on progress.
Accountability - Have you ever worked hard on a project only to find it was never really a company priority? Have you ever seen a co-worker's success, or failure, go completely unrecognized? There is nothing more demotivating. Ultimately, we need to be held accountable, and we need those around us to be held accountable.
Sense of Team/Relationships - Your employees want to contribute and belong to something bigger than themselves. They also work alongside people, communicate constantly, and take and give orders. You need to recognize and foster this by acknowledging team efforts, exploring new tools for collaboration and creating opportunities for team building.
Chances for Reward/Opportunity - Employees strive on learning new things and developing. Some employees want the chance to interface with clients, some want to travel, some want to be part of product development and others want to move from accounting to sales. Talk to employees regularly and find out what motivates them. Look to provide training where it is needed and wanted.
Networking and Community - Don’t let your company and employees exist in a bubble. Attend industry events and organize a professional mixer or workshop. It’s a great way to meet others (potential new employees, resources, customer referrals) and give a chance for employees to brag about what they do. Volunteering allows you to give back to the community and is enriching for employees.
Workplace Environment/Culture - You don’t need a Foosball table or catered lunches. Those might be nice, but creating a desirable workplace environment can be cheap and easy. Get bagels delivered once a week, get a local artist or employee to paint a mural, have a wall of employee photos. Make your workplace unique - a place where your employees want to be and want to tell others about.
Is your team engaged? What works well for you and what will you do immediately to increase engagement?
Part I: Training Vs. Education
Have you ever invested in your sales people by sending them to expensive seminars where they are immersed in high-energy exercises and emotional atmospherics designed to convince them they can sell at a higher level -- only to find out after about three weeks that they‘ve retained almost nothing from the experience? Or, have you concentrated on books and AV messages that fill the mind with facts and knowledge about selling with no commensurate increase in sales? So why bother with sales training? It’s no wonder that CEOs are reluctant to invest in sales training as their experience tells them that there is little measurable ROI.
“You Can’t Teach People To Sell By Teaching Them To Sell” says Ron Willingham, my mentor and the author of Integrity Solutions programs. Sales success can only be achieved by behavior change, and behaviors change only by changing our beliefs. So how we expand belief boundaries about our abilities and ourselves becomes the question.
If education is the acquisition of knowledge, then by definition it is primarily cerebral or intellectual. Yet we believe selling is 15% logical and 85% emotional. Knowledge is necessary and critical as far as it goes, but what about the other 85%? Those emotion driven seminars we alluded to earlier surely don’t prepare us for the daily emotional grind of professional selling.
At this point, you may conclude that excellent sales people are born and not made. While I cannot argue that natural talent and ability are prerequisites, we still have to mould the “clay”. Despite our best efforts and even with a rigorous selection process to seek out sales talent, we fail as often as we succeed in this effort. Even with experience, it’s still difficult to predict with accuracy and consistency those likely to succeed in selling for our organization. Occasionally we get lucky and hire that superstar, but those “finds” are often rare and not generally representative of our sales force whether it be five or five hundred in number.
Most frontline sales managers spend far too much time trying to save the bottom 25% of their sales people instead of spending time with the top group and those that make up the greatest percentage of the Bell Curve. This is where the greatest sales productivity can be realized. This is where real professional development can blossom.
Good sales managers are great coaches. They coach to where people are at, challenge them and hold them accountable. They have the tools to develop their people through solid principle-based selling skills. Real training takes place when changing behaviors lead to greater sales productivity. To get there you need an agreed upon and consistent sales process, commitment from senior management, self-discovery learning, repetition, reward and time-lapse.
In future installments to this series, we will examine these principles and forge them into a consistent methodology. We will explore where our beliefs reside and how to change and expand them. Also, we will look at the hidden determinants that effect sales behavior for good and for naught. Stay tuned.
We started The HBS Blog to bring you valuable and interesting content that empowers you on your entrepreneurial journey. Today, we are pleased to announce that we have three new contributors that will be writing fantastic articles full of informative topics. Check out their bios below and keep an eye out for their upcoming posts.
Gregg Schoenberg is a San Francisco-based finance professional who is just as passionate about well-crafted prose as he is about global economic affairs. He has 18 years of experience trading equity and derivatives for some of the world's largest asset managers, but away from the office he prefers to support local businesses and entrepreneurs. Through his writing for The HBS Blog, Gregg hopes to give small-business owners a better understanding of fundamentals and current affairs in economics and finance and how they affect our daily lives. Gregg has a BA in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, is happily married to a dancer/filmmaker and is eagerly awaiting the birth of their daughter.
Matt Cholerton is a Human Resources professional based in New York City. Matt currently oversees all things HR (among other things) at a VC backed, hi-tech startup in NYC and occasionally details his thoughts about how we can use HR to propel the organization forward on his own blog EveryOneHatesHR.com. Previously, he spent several years at a small consulting firm managing HR projects across a wide range of industries. His work there included implementing effective performance management systems, creating job specs and organizational structure, clarifying expectations, increasing productivity, implementing compensation strategies, and increasing workplace satisfaction. Matt holds a Master’s Degree in Communication, Culture & Technology from Georgetown University, with a concentration in Japanese and Business Communications. Matt is a music enthusiast, enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, and spending time with his three kids (who have significantly reduced any time cooking, traveling and reading).
Tom Caso is a veteran of sales, sales management and sales training, with over 30 years experience in the professional publishing industry. After retiring from a large legal and business publisher in 2005, he started KASH Associates, an affiliate of Integrity Solutions Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ. KASH derives its name from an acronym for Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits. The Company specializes in sales and service productivity development. Caso is a graduate of Providence College and has completed course work in Industrial Psychology at the University of New Hampshire. He is a registered certified facilitator for programs published by Integrity Solutions, Inc.