December 22, 2014

Tips and trends: Advice for small businesses in Florida

From social media to hiring and cloud computing, some pointers for business owners.

Cynthia Barnett | 2/2/2012

Code of Ethics
Protect Your Business

Ethics

A code of business ethics and conduct can enhance your company's reputation and stature, help you avoid ethical and legal pitfalls and "protect you from disaster if an employee's transgression causes your company to face criminal charges, suspension and debarment from federal contracting," says John Horan, a Seminole County commissioner and Foley & Lardner partner who focuses on business and administrative litigation and public affairs counseling in Orlando.

Businesses with federal contracts worth more than $5 million and with a performance period longer than 120 days are usually required to have an ethics code. But Horan says it's good business regardless of a company's size and contracts. He recommends an ethics code address:

» The company's vision, mission and core values

» Its commitment to shareholders, customers, suppliers, lenders, investors, employees and the community

» Business conduct that is required, prohibited or permitted

» Discrimination, harassment, safety, alcohol, drugs and the like

» Use of company assets, intellectual property, procedures for keeping accurate records

» Bribery, kickbacks, Truth in Negotiations Act, political contributions, lobbying costs, hiring government employees, export and import compliance, etc.


John Horan
Each employee should sign a certificate indicating that he or she has received the ethics code and will comply, says John Horan.

Exports
Expand Overseas

Export
Enterprise Florida has a new grant program to help small and medium-sized businesses tap into export markets. The SBA-funded STEP grant — State Trade and Export Promotion — is awarding nearly $800,000 to help Florida companies begin or expand trade in three ways: Funding company executives to go along on trade missions; funding their participation in overseas tradeshows; and partnering with Florida Small Business Development Centers to offer customized global marketing plans. The three participating SBDCs, at the universities of North Florida, Central Florida and South Florida, will help companies perform an in-depth market analysis for the country they want to target. The company pays $500 toward the market plan, and Enterprise Florida covers the remaining $2,500.

The Cloud
Approach with Care

The Cloud
An estimated 70% of companies now store information on the internet — called cloud computing. But questions remain about whether it's wise to move small-business work to the cloud — through services such as Google for calendars and documents, Skype for video-conferencing, and various other products for file storage, virus protection, synchronization, backup, even sales organization via companies such as Salesforce.com.

The benefits of the cloud are many: It can be thousands of dollars a year cheaper than traditional applications. It also can help lower power bills and IT support costs. But companies working in the cloud lose control over the software application and become dependent on the provider to maintain it — or fix it if something goes wrong. Cloud computing also has implications for privacy and confidentiality. Where will your company's sensitive data be stored? What's the security like? The safest bet may be to start with a few of the non-risky applications, such as video-conferencing.

Tags: Florida Small Business

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