Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • From ironworker to entrepreneur, and a quintupled income

    How teaming helped a small startup win big deals

    As a laborer with Ironworkers Local 40 in New York City, Marc Alleyne made a good living on major construction projects at World Trade Center, Battery Park City, and Madison Square Garden. But after a 250-pound steel beam crushed his leg in 2011, he got to thinking about getting into a new line of work.

    In May 2012, after a nine-month recovery from his injury, Alleyne started a demolition company in Rosedale, NY, and quickly won a $99,000 contract to contribute to the renovation of a City University of New York library. Progressively bigger contracts have followed for his six-person firm. He expects his take-home pay this year to be between five and six times his former union wages.

    Alleyne says he named his company Spartan Demolition for the Greek warriors with determination to surmount all obstacles. But he attributes his rapid rise to partnerships with larger companies.

    Marc Alleyne's company Spartan Demolition got off to a great start by teaming with bigger businesses

    “The key to success really has been teaming,” he says. “A lot

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  • Tax deductions you shouldn’t try

    Tax accountants advise against trying to take a deduction for your dog's wardrobe

    Nobody knows better how to raise flags for an IRS audit than tax accountants. And boy do they have stories to tell. The online accounting software provider Xero surveyed its network of accounting partners to find out about the most ill-advised deductions small business owners have tried to take. They also asked accountants to point to deductions you might be missing out on.

    Out-of-pocket expenses and auto expenses, including gas, parking, and tolls, are the number one and two most overlooked small business deductions, according to Xero's online survey of 400 US accountants, conducted last month by Zogby Analytics. Also on the list of deductions business owners are prone to miss out on: depreciation, office improvements, and new hires.

    Among the strangest deductions accountants say they've seen small businesses try to take: family vacations, pets and pet food, deadbeat relatives, traffic tickets, spaghettios, a daughter's wedding, alcohol, clothes for the dog, and gambling losses.

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  • Surprising business choices: Brain surgeon or famous chef?

    poached sablefish with spicy dakon

    Hooni Kim made up his mind to become a doctor during college when he worked in the neurosurgery department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He graduated from medical school and was on his way to a grueling 6-year neurosurgery residency when he decided to first spend a year relaxing with his new bride in New York City.

    A 9-month course at the French Culinary Institute seemed a good way to unwind, he thought. Long story short: Kim ditched the medical career, and 10 years later he is the celebrity chef-owner of two of Manhattan’s hottest new restaurants.

    His mother didn’t forgive him for leaving medicine until he won a Michelin star—the first ever for a Korean restaurant. “I thought I’d be doing brain surgery, and here I am cutting pigs and calves’ heads,” Kim says. But he has no regrets.

    “I think I work the same amount of hours as my doctor friends,” Kim says, “but I can’t imagine working this hard and not having the satisfaction of pleasing so many people at the end of the night.”

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  • How working in a cafe can caffeinate your business

    From document scanning to teleconferencing to generating legal contracts, just about any business function can now be conducted via mobile app. No longer do you need to be in an office to make photocopies, send a fax, or share files with colleagues.

    But just because you can run your business from a coffee shop, should you?

    “Absolutely!” say Mike Pugh and Kyle Flowers of j2 Global, a company that provides cloud services to small business, including eFax and eVoice apps. They are cheerleaders for working from “the coffice.”

    “If you’re looking to work in an out-of-the-box environment, the coffee shop is a perfect one,” says Flowers. While the confines of a traditional office can squelch creativity, Flowers says that the sights, smells, and sounds of a coffee shop can spark it. What’s more, he suggests, “The rhythm of a busy atmosphere really helps people to stay in tune and operate at that energetic pace.”

    To be sure, not every job or every task is suited to the coffee shop, and not every

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  • Simpler Small Business Tax Code Is Under Discussion

    Only one in ten small business owners file their taxes on their own, according to the IRS.

    If you’re among the 10 percent of small business owners who do your own taxes, take heart as you pull your hair out getting your forms in order this month: A simpler tax code is another step closer, and provisions aimed at small business are included.

    House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) this week released a third “discussion draft” of the Tax Reform Act of 2013. This version includes language aimed at creating a simpler and fairer tax code for small businesses.

    “Every dollar spent on complying with an overly complex, burdensome and broken tax code is a dollar that cannot be used for investment, hiring, and higher wages for American workers,” according to Camp’s statement. Camp also issued a Fact Sheet offering several reasons the tax code needs to be simplified, including that “Today’s tax code contains almost four million words,” and, “On average, more than one new tax provision has been added to the tax code each day, with nearly 4,500 changes in the last

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  • 5 Traits of the Worst Bosses

    Bad management can be like porn: hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

    Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of Benjamin Enterprises with offices in New York, North Carolina, and Washington, DC, has spent nearly 30 years in the business of helping companies improve their management culture. Her spinoff TalentReady specifically grooms middle managers for leadership positions as they climb the ranks. She has some specific insights into what makes someone a bad boss. Fundamentally, she says, a poor leader is someone who “does not prepare their business for today’s challenges or tomorrow’s opportunities.”

    The ways bad bosses do that are many, as are the damages to a business’s prospects. Some companies seem to be productive in spite of a bad boss’s shortcomings, but according to Benjamin’s experience, with truly great management the same businesses could really thrive.

    Here are five traits of a boss who can make employees miserable and hamper a business’s chances of success.


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  • How blogging can improve your online presence

    Marketing and social media consultant and author Mark Schaefer is a big believer in blogging. For one thing, as you'll learn shortly, it saved him from sitting through another cold chicken lunch at the chamber of commerce. Yesterday we posted part one of an interview with Schaefer explaining why blogging might be the best social media move your business could make. Here in part two he offers tips for blogging your way up the search engine ladder.

    Yahoo! SBA: Does blogging help businesses show up in search engines?

    Schaefer: Search engine optimization: that’s the number one benefit of blogging. It’s an evolving and complicated topic, but for many businesses today, customers are beginning their search for your business and your products on Google. It’s essential that you show up in the top three search terms.

    How do you do that?

    One way to begin to tip the Google search algorithms in your favor is to create very helpful, useful content that your customers will love. If your customers are

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  • The first social media move you should make

    When I met the marketing guru Mark Schaefer at a crowdsourcing conference in New York last week, I asked him what’s the most important thing small business owners should be doing on social media. I was surprised by his answer. It wasn’t Facebook or Twitter or Google+. He said, “Blogging.”

    Marketing and social media consultant and author Mark Schaefer

    It seemed to be such a retro bit of advice. To find out why he gave it, I followed up by phone with him this week at the Schaefer Marketing Solutions headquarters, his home in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.

    Schaefer says he makes the one-hour commute by plane from Knoxville to Newark a few times a month to teach marketing at Rutgers University. He also travels the globe giving lectures, teaching workshops, and consulting with clients large and small. He also offers $200 “instant consultations” by phone, and his work, including several social media marketing books (Born to Blog and The Tao of Twitter among them) got him onto Forbes' list of the Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.

    Here’s part

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  • House Dems predict sequester doom, gloom for small biz

    The sequester that went into effect on Friday will impose a nearly $60 million cut on the Small Business Administration, that, taken together with innovation-hindering cuts to education, science, and health budgets, will create an increasingly austere climate for small businesses, according to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, a New York representative and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Small Business.

    Velazquez and fellow Democrats on the committee issued a report today describing the “Impact of the Sequester on the SBA and Small Business.” SBA budget cuts will result in “reductions to small business services, loss of lending authority, reduced oversight of private-sector lending partners, and many other areas that help our nation’s small firms succeed,” according to their report.

    Among specific cuts they report:

    • $1.5 billion in SBA-guaranteed lending will be cut from the SBA’s $29.3 billion business lending program;
    • More than $17 million of a $335 million business lending
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  • Tax day advice, and 6 tips for next year

    Six weekends remain before Tax Day, and advice for business owners abounds.

    Your first stop for getting clear about what exactly your tax obligations are and how to meet them, whether you’re a sole proprietor or independent contractor or a business with employees, should probably be the IRS Small Business and Self Employed Tax Center. There you can download the forms you will need and get help determining what taxes you need to pay.

    Then you’ll want to move along to all the advice that will help you minimize your tax bill.

    At the SCORE website, you can find out which common small business tax mistakes to avoid, such as tossing your receipts for purchases under $75. Or spend an hour in an online workshop to learn tax secrets to keep more of what you earn, presented by the president of the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, which also offers a plethora of tax advice articles and resources for business owners and free agents.

    The National Association for the Self Employed has

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