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Business Articles

Timely and relevant business advice and news curated by the Chamber. Offering essential information, we will help you succeed and stay current.

April 15, 2019

Article of the Week

6 Ways To Improve Your Memory In A Few Minutes a Day

By Anna Meyer, FastCompany.com

Exercising our bodies to grow stronger might be something we intentionally practice, but how many of us devote a daily practice to make our brains and memory grow stronger?

It takes intention, physical adjustments and lifestyle changes. And thankfully you don’t have to devote hours in pursuit of better remembering birthdays, names and tasks on your mental to-do list. Here, six ways you can improve your memory in just a few minutes a day:

1. CORRECT YOUR POSTURE

Slouching at your desk does more than strain your neck or shoulders, it also affects how you recall that task your boss mentioned to you in the meeting yesterday. As noted in a previous Fast Company article, researchers at San Francisco State University discovered that standing or sitting up straight and tilting your chin upwards makes it easier to recall memories, because it boosts blood and oxygen flow to the brain by up to 40%.

To fix your posture, take a note from ballet teachers everywhere and imagine a string pulling from your core and out through the top of your head. Pull your ears away from the top of your shoulders and bring your gaze forward. This helps align your spine and reset how you hold your weight.

2. MAKE TIME FOR LAUGHTER

Here’s your excuse for prioritizing an episode of your favorite comedy after work– as noted in this same Fast Company article , laughing for 20 minutes can boost memory. Researchers at Loma Linda University tested two groups of adults, showing one group a 20-minute funny video while the other group waited quietly. Afterwards, participants were given memory tests and those who had laughed scored better.

The cortisol  (the stress hormone) levels in the laughing group were significantly lower, which affected how they performed on the tests. That extra endorphin-rush from laughing lowers your blood pressure and boosts your mood, which all together results in better memory.

3. PRACTICE MEDITATION

In an interview with Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Michael Grothaus inquired about how long one has to meditate before it impacts memory performance.

“You can take 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes—whatever you do it has a big impact,” said Dr. Small. Rather than devoting hours to serene meditation, he noted that what really matters is to focus on yourself and tune out the noise around you.

New to meditation? Dr. Small has a suggested practice. Begin by sitting quietly in a chair and closing your eyes. Take a deep breath, let it out, and continue to breathe deeply and slowly. While breathing, focus on groups of your muscles. Start with your forehead, then move to your shoulders, the chest, and so on, and then relax those muscles as you travel through your body.

“Our minds are constantly chattering,” said Dr. Small. “What this exercise is doing is training your neurocircuits to focus attention, to relax, to let go; you’re teaching your mind to let go of the mental chatter. That way you have better mental focus and attention.”

4. GET A BETTER MORNING ROUTINE

There’s a reason why forgetting to do one step in your morning routine can throw off the rest of your day. In the same interview with Grothaus, Dr. Small explained that routines and habits also boost memory. So if you need to get better at remembering to take your vitamins, pair them with your daily coffee. If you need to remember taking the trash out, put the dog leash near the garbage and then bring the trash outside each time you take your dog for your evening stroll. The more entwined habits are with your routines, the harder they are to forget.

5. EAT BETTER FOODS, PARTICULARLY BERRIES.

Small told Grothaus that one reason our memory fails is because free radicals wear down our DNA and cellular structure, resulting in oxidation of the brain. Like a rusted bicycle in the rain, he said that “similar kinds of chemical processes go on in the brain.” Eating antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can help.

Particularly, eat antioxidant-rich berries. A study from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School found that adding blueberries for twelve weeks to one’s normal diet improved performance on spatial working memory tasks. It’s an easy– and delicious– way to keep your brain functioning its best.

6. DRAW YOUR TO-DO LIST

As explored by Fast Company‘s Mark Wilson, new research from the University of Waterloo found that drawing rather than writing notes makes our memory perform just as well as someone decades younger. You don’t have to be good at drawing for it work either, as artistic ability had no effect on how well it worked for the study participants.

So if you need to remember your grocery list– which is filled with lots of berries, right?– try drawing it and perhaps you won’t need the list to remind you at all.


April 8, 2019

Article of the Week

How to Speak Up In a Meeting, and When to Hold Back

By Allison Shapira, HarvardBusinessReview.com

In many organizations, our leadership readiness is measured in part by our willingness to speak up in meetings. How we speak off the cuff can have a bigger impact on our career trajectory than our presentations or speeches, because every single day we have an opportunity to make an impact.

While much of my work focuses on women in leadership, everyone can use meetings as an opportunity to move up in their careers — and bring others with them.

Here are three strategies for speaking up effectively, followed by three warnings for when you should hold back.

Strategies for Speaking Up Effectively

  • Prepare a few bullets in advance. One senior executive I worked with was deathly afraid of public speaking early in her career. In order to overcome that fear, she challenged herself to speak up at every single meeting and prepared comments or questions in advance. That executive is now a role model within her organization and is considered one of the most confident and authentic speakers in her industry. Don’t wait for inspiration to hit in the meeting; prepare in advance.
  • Ask, “why you?” This is a question I recommend people ask before they craft a presentation, walk into a meeting, or even prepare for a networking event. It means, why do you care about what you do, about your organization, or about your role? Answering this question helps you connect with a sense of purpose and builds your confidence. It reminds you that you’re speaking up not to show off but because you truly care about the subject. It reminds you that your credibility doesn’t come solely from your title or years of experience but can also comes from your commitment and passion.
  • Pause and breathe to build your confidence. Speaking up in a meeting takes courage. You have the ability to affect the trajectory of the conversation, potentially guiding your client towards saying yes to a deal when your colleagues have taken the meeting off track. Pausing and breathing helps center you and strengthens your voice so that when you do speak up, you speak with the full weight of your conviction. While you pause, ask yourself, “If one other person in this room has the same question, am I willing to ask on behalf of that person?” The answer should build your confidence. A client recently shared that she had used this technique to ask a question — in public — at a large conference, and her question changed the direction of the entire panel discussion, shedding light on a critical issue that the panel had been avoiding.

With that being said, sometimes it’s the person who says the least in a meeting who has the most power. Your executive presence comes from being strategic about when you speak up in addition to what you say. Here are three warnings for when you should hold back.

Warnings for When to Hold Back

  • If you’re only trying to show off. We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a meeting or on a conference call that runs late, where everyone is trying to wrap up, and someone is rambling about a topic the group had already moved on from 30 minutes ago. Right before you speak up, ask yourself why you are speaking. If you are speaking up just to show how much you know, it’s better to let someone else talk or let the meeting run its natural course.
  • If you are trying to empower others on your team. I had a pivotal moment in graduate school where I received feedback that I spoke up too much in class. Why was that a problem? A classmate said, “You become a crutch for others. We can’t wrestle with the question being asked because you jump in with the answer. Sometimes leadership is about letting others find their own solution.” Ten years later, that comment has stayed with me and has deeply influenced my leadership style. In the meeting, let members of your team speak up in order to build their own relationships of trust with your clients. Giving others an opportunity to speak in a meeting is one of the most powerful ways we can build their leadership skills, raise their visibility — both internally and externally — and give the client a more comprehensive sense of support from your whole team.
  • If your comment would be better left for a one-on-one conversation. Senior executives consistently offer feedback on their direct reports in my training programs by saying, “They need to learn when to leave something to a one-on-one conversation.” So many difficult conversations within an organization can be mitigated by talking privately to someone — in person whenever possible — rather than addressing the issue in a group where the person will feel defensive. This applies to email as well as spoken conversation. Before speaking up or hitting “reply all,” ask yourself, “Would this be better said privately?”

Speaking up in a meeting is one of the single-most effective ways to raise your visibility and build a relationship of trust with your clients and colleagues. Practice it strategically every single day and you will have a powerful impact on your career and in your business.


April 1, 2019

Article of the Week

10 Steps to Unlocking Innovation at Your Organization

By Kathryn Tyler, SHRM.org

Innovation can be a nebulous goal, yet it is crucial for business success. 

“If you’re not innovating, you’re stagnating,” says Ria Glenn DeMay, J.D., labor relations manager for the University of Maine System in Hallowell, Maine. 

Unlocking innovation represents a powerful opportunity for HR to contribute to and even drive an organization’s competitiveness, says Bill Thomas, SHRM-SCP, managing principal of Centric Performance LLC, an organizational strategy consultancy in Pittsburgh.

​Generating and executing fresh ideas is also a factor affecting an organization’s long-term survival, says Jack Phillips, co-author of The Value of Innovation (Wiley-Scrivener, 2018). He notes that in 1935, the expected life span of a company was 95 years; by 2005, that average had fallen to 15 years. So how do companies that have lasted for more than a century, such as 3M and Johnson & Johnson, continue to thrive? They innovate.

It should come as no surprise, then, that innovation is one of the top issues on senior executives’ minds. “If HR is to align with senior leadership, innovation needs to be one of HR’s concerns,” says Michael Mitchell, senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. According to the center’s 2016 study of 500 executives, 95 percent said innovation is important but only 14 percent said their organizations are doing it effectively.

An environment that supports creativity can also raise employee engagement. “If you work for an organization that squashes new ideas and thinking, it isn’t engaging,” Mitchell says.

HR professionals play a critical role in creating a culture of innovation. Here are steps you can take to help your organization ignite ingenuity. 

Understand the Process

“There’s a misunderstanding that innovation is all about coming up with ideas,” says Michael Stanleigh, CEO of Business Improvement Architects, a global management consulting firm headquartered in Toronto. “Innovation is a process, and brainstorming is just the first step.”

Ensure that executives have realistic expectations about what innovation might deliver. Above all, leaders must be patient. “New ideas don’t always reveal their value at the very beginning,” Mitchell says. “They have to grow and prove themselves.”

Before employees can be expected to contribute to the innovation process, they must understand what innovation means in the context of the company and why it matters. In explaining expectations to employees, be clear about parameters. Are leaders looking for radical new products or to fine-tune efficiencies? HR can set quantitative goals and devote appropriate resources toward achieving them. 

​Walk the Talk 

HR can’t expect to foster an innovative company culture if it does not have an innovative culture within its own function. “Lead by example,” advises Parker C. McKenna, SHRM-SCP, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Disciplines Special Expertise Panel. “For example, HR should welcome feedback from customers and involve stakeholders in developing new HR strategies to meet business needs.”

HR staff at the University of Maine System meet quarterly to brainstorm and discuss ideas, DeMay says. “Create your own think tank. Have regular times, monthly or quarterly, where you brainstorm. Get out the whiteboard and think about what issues are affecting employees,” she recommends. 

At BetterUp, a mobile-platform coaching company in San Francisco, the leader of one fast-growing team needed to figure out how to help new team members contribute more quickly after onboarding. He partnered with HR to develop a custom coaching program, says Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, the company’s chief innovation office

Hire Differently

While specific job skills can always be taught, soft skills that are associated with creativity can be harder to find, says Danna Hewick, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources at USSI, a janitorial company in Bethesda, Md. “Instead of focusing solely on experience and hard skills, focus on the soft skills—innovation, collaboration and change management—needed to bring innovation to life.”

To discover candidates with the requisite skills, rethink interview questions. “Ask candidates whether they’ve ever come up with a great idea and what happened with it,” Stanleigh recommends.

“Making the ‘safe hire’ kills a lot of innovation,” says Braden Kelley, author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire (Wiley, 2010). “If a person matches 100 percent of the job description and has done this job a thousand times, what will he bring that is new? Obviously, hiring someone who doesn’t fit your culture is a waste of time and money, but which culture are you trying to fit? The culture you have or the culture you’re trying to become?”

Make Space

A dedicated area that moves people out of their day-to-day work environment, disrupts their thinking and encourages face-to-face interaction can be vital to sparking innovation. 

What should be available in the room? “Comfortable workspaces with couches, tables and lots of pods where people can gather in small groups, as well as resources that will help people capture ideas, like smartboards, whiteboards and tools to help people depict their ideas,” McKenna says.

Kellerman’s company created a library stocked with books that have been critical in shaping the organization’s intellectual roots. “We track what employees have read on a companywide chart and reward people for reading,” she says.

Top Drivers of a Culture of Innovation 

  • Positive interpersonal exchange. There is a strong sense of cohesion across the organization, and employees feel like they are all playing for the same team.
  • Intellectual stimulation. Debate and discussion are encouraged and supported. 
  • Challenge. Workers feel that their jobs are challenging, complex and interesting but, at the same time, not overly stressful.
  • Flexibility and risk taking. The organization is willing to take risks and deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity that tend to go hand in hand with innovation.
  • Top-level support. Employees view top management as supportive of new ideas.

Carve Out Time

Intentionally block time on the calendar to learn something new and then use that knowledge to tackle a problem, McKenna advises. 

At BetterUp, the HR team instituted “no-meeting Fridays” to build in periods of time that are conducive to creative flow. “Flow is a cognitive state of immersion that enables deep thinking and creativity that’s not possible in five-minute increments between meetings,” Kellerman explains. “We also designate ‘inner work’ days, during which the office closes and employees are asked to refrain from ‘outer work’ like e-mails and calls and instead focus on reflective practices like reading, walking and mindfulness.” 

Train Leaders

Provide training to managers and executives around topics such as creativity, how to be a better listener and the overall process of being innovative, says Robert Farmer, SHRM-SCP, senior vice president of people solutions at the Missoula Federal Credit Union in Missoula, Mont.

While leaders at most companies are traditionally taught to minimize risk, “to be an innovative leader, you have to be open to risk and ambiguity,” Mitchell says. 

Stanleigh recommends walking managers through hands-on exercises. “Ask thought-provoking questions so they start to come up with ideas so that by the time they finish the training, they have some innovations they can explore,” he says.

BetterUp offers “experimentation office hours” to help staff members at various skill levels try on new roles. For example, the company’s data analytics team makes itself available to teach others how to design business experiments. Also, the research team offers anyone in the company the opportunity to help design research studies and to learn about research in the process. “We also offer all employees ongoing one-on-one coaching to build innovation-fostering skills like focus, trust and risk tolerance,” Kellerman says.

Measuring Innovation

The difference between a failed idea and a successful innovation is often reflected in data. “Providing data in up-to-date and easy-to-understand dashboards allows for continuous innovation adoption and just-in-time workforce support,” says Danna Hewick, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources at janitorial company USSI.

Here are some innovation metrics to apply now and in the future:

  • Employee engagement. Yes, employee engagement encompasses much more than innovation, but how open-minded supervisors are to suggestions from entry-level employees is a good benchmark of the company’s overall innovativeness. 
  • “Survey employees and ask the extent to which the company is open to new ideas and whether or not their ideas are well-received,” says Parker C. McKenna, SHRM-SCP, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Disciplines Special Expertise Panel. 
  • Number of new ideas. How many new ideas did HR receive last quarter? Five? Ten? None? Why? “Look at the process you have for ensuring that input of those closest to the work is considered. You can’t be innovative if you’re not set up to receive ideas,” McKenna says. Is there a routine by which HR reviews change management cycles, or do leaders wait for the wheel to start squeaking before new ideas are considered? Measure ideas in the innovation process pipeline and monitor their status.
  • Also, compare the number of killed innovations with the total number of ideas submitted, suggests Michael Stanleigh, CEO of global management consulting firm Business Improvement Architects. “If the percentage is too high, maybe your organization is being too strict in its selection criteria. Be aware of what you are killing and why.”
  • Solicited feedback. It is commonplace to request customer reviews to help evaluate past employee performance, but it is less common to request customer feedback about new ideas. “That can be as simple as adding a survey link to the signature line in your e-mail: ‘I welcome your feedback. Click here to give it,’ ” McKenna says. 
  • Time spent on innovation. While this metric may be hard to quantify, it is still crucial. Ask employees how much time they spend working on innovation versus how much time they spend on their day-to-day responsibilities. If employees are not spending enough time—or any time—on innovation, how can the company expect to bring new products and services to market?
  • “Innovation needs structure and stimulation,” says Bill Thomas, SHRM-SCP, managing principal of organizational strategy consultancy Centric Performance LLC.
  • Revenue growth. Return on innovation investment provides a tangible measurement for the overall process. “Look at your organization’s total profits from new products, new services and key business processes generated through the innovation process,” Stanleigh says.

Empower the Front Line

“Many of the brightest and most useful ideas come from the lowest levels of the organization—people who deal daily with customers, suppliers, products and services,” Thomas says. An example of this concept can be found in Whirlpool’s mantra: “Innovation comes from everyone, everywhere.”

For an organization to take advantage of this, senior employees need to be open-minded toward their junior counterparts. “Sometimes senior leaders tend to silence the ideas of less experienced employees,” DeMay says. She maintains it’s better to avoid dismissing anyone’s ideas and to allow open dialogue. “Ideas that may not look feasible at first might become feasible with a little creativity,” she says.

Thomas warns about exerting too much control. “If there are too many levels of approval or too much time between an idea and implementation, it discourages idea creation,” he says. 

To solicit input from front-line employees, McKenna recommends resurrecting the old-school suggestion box and bringing it up-to-date using technology. “Digital suggestion boxes encourage those closest to the work to submit ideas for improving it,” he says.

Design Expansive Work Assignments

Innovation requires collaboration across many different areas in the company, but, unfortunately, a lot of companies have a siloed approach to talent. To encourage people to work across boundaries, Kelley recommends offering job rotations and internal internships, as well as “innovation vacations,” when employees can schedule time away from their usual jobs to pursue new ideas. 

Share Creative Stories

Stories are an important part of an organization’s institutional memory. The narratives that employees tell and retell are ones that convey core elements of the company’s identity. Be intentional about which stories HR chooses to tell in case studies, training sessions and newsletters. “Organizations where the most-talked-about stories revolve around creativity inspire others to follow suit, building a culture of innovation,” Stanleigh says.

And don’t be afraid to tell stories about failures, either—but reframe those tales as learning opportunities. “Innovative cultures and leaders understand the role failure plays in the innovation process,” Thomas says. 

Tie Innovation Efforts to Performance Reviews

It is natural for employees to focus their time on the activities on which they are evaluated. So if organizations want workers to spend time on innovation, they should measure employees’ effectiveness toward that goal. Evaluate the extent to which an employee thinks creatively, accepts new ways of doing things and adapts to change, McKenna advises. 

“Change can come from anywhere,” Mitchell says, “and organizations need to be ready to respond.”    


March 25, 2019

Article of the Week

How To "Marie Kondo" Your LinkedIn Network In 4 Steps

By Lizabeth Li, FastCompany.com

The phenomenon caused by organizer extraordinaire Marie Kondo has swept the country with millions of people emptying out their closets, delicately folding their favorite outfits, and tossing (while mindfully thanking) the items that don’t “spark joy.” I’m one of those people, having bought both of her books, binge-watched her Netflix series, and raised eyebrows from my husband at the bags of stuff I’ve emptied out of our home. And while homes around the world including mine are benefiting from Kondo’s Shinto-inspired decluttering strategy, the same methods can be taken to somewhere a bit more unexpected: your professional network.

Like a home, your professional network needs attention and a bit of cleaning up every now and then. Just like your home accumulates objects and trinkets over the years, your professional network expands as you move from role to role (or in some cases even change industries). While many professionals might think having a larger network always opens more doors, “downsizing” your LinkedIn network can actually have tremendous benefits if you’re ever looking for a new role, exploring different companies, or looking for a career shift entirely, and want to tap into your network for help. That said, let’s get started on rethinking your LinkedIn network, the Marie Kondo way!

STEP 1: ENVISION WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE

The first thing is to visualize the professional life you want in the coming year, so you have a clear idea and a vision. If you have a clear goal, you have an idea of where you want to be and what you want to attain at the end of the process. Whether you’re looking to join a larger company, making the transition from one industry to another, or simply looking to meet people who are interested in having a thoughtful discussion with, knowing what you want out of your professional network is critical.

From there, the motivation that comes with starting the KonMari method helps to build out your all new, perfectly curated professional network. You’ll find out that, in the end, a more defined LinkedIn network will give you a better overall experience–from a more relevant LinkedIn feed to a much more concise roster of contacts to potentially tap into.

STEP 2: DOES THIS “SPARK JOY”

Think of “joy” as opportunity, at least for this practice. When going through connections in your network, ask yourself if the person you are connected to is someone you know and whose connection can be mutually beneficial–can you both help each other along in your combined professional journeys? Are you bringing value and diversity to each other’s networks? Whether they know someone you want to meet or you see yourself as someone who can act as their professional mentor, make sure that the people you are connected to on LinkedIn are people you know who spark “joy.”

You’ll undoubtedly run into people who don’t fit this criteria and when that happens, you have a couple of options. If you don’t remember someone, I suggest to disconnect, meaning you take them out of your network entirely. This may seem harsh, but if you’re unlikely to tap each other for help on your professional journey anyway, then it’s better for both of you to declutter your network, feed, and LinkedIn experience. Plus, they won’t be notified that you disconnected. The second is to unfollow, which leaves you both connected but their updates are kept out of your feed. For more passive connections that you still feel might be valuable, I recommend the latter.

Much in the same way that decluttering your house can make it easier to access your clothes and kitchen utensils, having a thoughtful professional network makes it easier to stay up to date with your connections and manage your networking efforts. The more thoughtful your network, the more relevant the content on your feed will be, the more likely your conversations will be productive and fruitful, and the easier it will be to focus on the people who are part of your career journey.

STEP 3: TACKLE CATEGORIES, NOT ROOMS

While your LinkedIn network won’t have “rooms” to work on, you likely have categories that you can focus your attention to. Instead of going down your entire list of connections (which can seem daunting for some folks), sort your connections using the filters on LinkedIn and work that way. For example, if you’re in the market for a new job, lumping together people you’ve worked with in the past or people in industries you’re interested in getting into could be a great way to start. Here are a few other categories to consider:
• Colleagues (past and present): Look at past companies you’ve either worked at or organizations you’ve been involved in and make sure folks you previously connected with are still relevant. Note, this might also be a good opportunity to triple check that you are connected to current colleagues.
• Alumni: You can search by both universities and high schools.
• Location: Have you moved around a lot? It might be helpful to look at people you connected with in your last hometown.

STEP 4: SENTIMENT AND NOSTALGIA ARE NO REASON TO KEEP THINGS

Just like the sweater your grandma knitted you for the holidays 10 years ago, connections that you’ve had for years yet don’t (or won’t) ever interact with aren’t those you should keep in your LinkedIn network just because. There’s no need to hang onto past connections simply because of nostalgia or politeness; if you don’t interact with them, you’re not doing each other any good. It’s not about getting rid of connections, it’s about making your network actionable!

Pro tip: Marie Kondo says it’s always a good idea to keep small change in your pocket so that you actually spend it. Within the context of your network, “small change” could be anyone who’s direct influence you’ve yet to feel but could in the future. Think carefully about this group of people before releasing them from your LinkedIn network.

NOW THAT YOU’VE KONMARI’D YOUR NETWORK, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

When adding new connections, make sure you know them, they spark joy, open mutual opportunity, bring diversity to your network, or are relevant to your professional career. Do this moving forward for all your “new items” (aka connections.)

Embrace your refreshed LinkedIn network! In reviewing your connections there were probably a few folks you realized spark joy, but that you haven’t touched base with in some time. Take this opportunity to reach out to your now tidy network and start a conversation, ask for help, or offer to give someone career advice. Your LinkedIn network is meant to be an active one so go ahead and get a jump start on the next phase in your career! You’ve earned it.


March 18, 2019

Article of the Week

Tax Time Guide: IRS Publication Helps Small Businesses, Self-employed Understand What's New for Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service wants business owners and the self-employed to know that a publication on IRS.gov has information they can use to learn which recent tax-law changes impact their bottom line.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the tax reform information page.

Publication 5318, Tax Reform: What’s New for Your Business, is a 12-page electronic document. Pub. 5318 provides a general overview of many of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes enacted in December 2017 that impact business taxes.

Publication 5318 includes sections on:

  • Qualified Business Income Deduction 
  • Depreciation
  • Business related losses
  • Business related exclusions and deductions 
  • Business credits 
  • S corporations 
  • Farm provisions 
  • Miscellaneous provisions

 A few key provisions include:

Qualified Business Income Deduction

Many individuals, including owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations and beneficiaries of trusts and estates, may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20 percent of qualified business income (QBI), plus up to 20 percent of their qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership (PTP) income. Generally, this deduction is the lesser of the combined QBI, REIT dividend, and PTP income amounts, or 20 percent of taxable income minus the taxpayer’s net capital gain. Claimed on Form 1040, Line 9, the new deduction is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose 2018 taxable incomes fall below $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for other taxpayers. The deduction may also be available for those whose incomes are above these levels but additional limitations may apply.

Temporary 100-percent expensing (bonus depreciation)

Businesses can write off most depreciable business assets in the year they placed them in service. The 100-percent depreciation deduction (bonus depreciation) generally applies to depreciable business assets and certain other property. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify. The deduction is generally allowable for qualifying property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. For more information, see Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.

Expensing depreciable business assets

A taxpayer may elect to expense the cost of any section 179 property and deduct it in the year the property is placed into service. The new law increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million. It also increased the phase-out threshold from $2 million to $2.5 million. After 2018, the $1 million and $2.5 million thresholds will be adjusted for inflation.

Business related losses

For most taxpayers, a net operating loss (NOL) arising in tax years ending after Dec. 31, 2017 can only be carried forward. Certain NOLs of farming businesses and insurance companies (other than life insurance) can still be carried back two years. The deduction of NOLs arising in tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, is limited to 80 percent of taxable income, determined without any NOL deduction. This 80-percent limitation does not apply to insurance companies (other than life insurance). Rules for existing or pre-2018 NOLs remain the same.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. No appointment required and no waiting on hold.

More information is available in Fact Sheet 2019-3, IRS highlights tax reform changes that affect businesses.


March 11, 2019

Article of the Week

Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Employee Development Doesn’t Work

By: Sydney Finkelstein, HarvardBusinessReview.com

As a manager, you know you need to think about your team members’ careers and help them develop professionally. But are you challenging yourself to go beyond the standard resources your company offers and provide customized coaching and support to each employee?

A 2016 Gallup poll of Millennials found that almost 90% of them valued “career growth and development opportunities,” but less than 40% felt strongly that they had “learned something new on the job in the past 30 days.” That same poll found that managers are critical to the experiences that younger employees have at work, accounting for “at least 70% of the variance in engagement scores.”

My research not only confirms that bosses matter a great deal, especially when it comes to learning and development, but that some have tremendous positive impact on the people who work for them. The exceptional leaders I studied don’t leave it to HR to create career progression programs for their team members. Rather, they personalize their coaching, support, and teaching efforts. They don’t just track the big learning opportunities granted to their employees. They also understand the nuances of how people are growing week by week and month by month and adjust their actions accordingly. As a result, they keep their teams engaged and excited.

Managing each report in this way might sound daunting, or downright impossible to many managers, given the demands on their time. But, as my clients have found, it’s easier than you think. Here are the key steps:

Organize developmental information about your employees into a spreadsheet. For each employee, keep track of a range of information, including:

  • Your own observations of the person, and your assessment of his or her potential
  • Feedback he or she has given you about your management style
  • The employee’s preferred ways of working
  • Key motivators for the person, including extrinsic rewards like financial compensation and intrinsic rewards like recognition
  • Opportunities you see to further his or her career, including networking connections you can make, stretch assignments, and promotion targets
  • The employee’s stated career and developmental goals
  • Feedback you want to give the person
  • Broader wisdom about the industry or life you wish to impart

Consult and update these grids on a weekly basis. Take 15 minutes at the end of each week to think about your team members. Note any new information you’ve uncovered, specific interactions you’ve had, and steps you’ve taken to coach, teach, provide support, and so on. If you find it hard to remember details, keep a notebook dedicated specially to your coaching efforts, jot down thoughts in real time, and consult them when making these updates.

Do a deeper dive every three months. For each employee, what patterns are you seeing?  Is the team member making strong progress? How has he or she reacted to your coaching and development efforts? Have you given the right kind of advice, recognition, and so on? Is there anything you would change? You might also note differences between team members. Are certain techniques working better with some people than with others? If some reports seem stagnant or struggling, why might this be? Are any external factors like illness or interpersonal conflicts coming into play?

Talk to team members. As you gain insight into individual progress, as well as the coaching or development methods that seem to work, pull team members aside one by one to discuss. Don’t necessarily wait for your quarterly analysis to have these conversations and be sure not to make them overly formal. Engage with people in the moment and on an ongoing basis, making these interactions a defining component of your work together. Show them that you know what success looks like for them, specifically, and exactly what they need to do to improve.

Consult the grid each year when writing performance evaluations. Many managers struggle to recall the nuances of their team members’ performance and development work over a year. With all of your observations and impressions laid out before you in a neatly organized package, you’ll find yourself writing much more insightful evaluations in much less time.

Some managers might still object that they don’t have room in their calendar to track each employee so closely. My response: If you want to build an exceptional, high-performing team, you’ll make the time. You are responsible for giving your people what they need to excel and helping them to fulfill or even surpass their potential. If you take this obligation seriously, they will be far more motivated to put out their best effort. With their hard work and your teaching, they’ll become more skilled, perform better, stick around longer, and help attract more talent. And, even if they move on, they’ll remain grateful to you for helping them achieve their career ambitions.

When you embrace customized employee development, you become a far more effective and admired boss. You might even turn out to be an exceptional one.

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