Category "Business"

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It was pounding rain outside my bedroom when my co-founder bursted through the door in a panic. He didn’t wait for my reaction to explain his ever pressing fear. 

“One of our investor leads is on the phone and he’s about to walk away. He said we were too aggressive! How do we save this?

I responded immediately: “What did we do? We asked way too much on the valuation, right?”

“I bid him up on price too much and he is just threatening to walk away. He is not even picking up the phone. He just periodically texts me now. It’s very scary.”

“Give it some time,” I responded. “Then, let him get in touch with you on his schedule. Make him want to come to you.” 

Although my co-founder and I quickly closed this particular deal in a matter of days, it shows how entrepreneurs can take a too far with investors and easily screw up a potential investment. 

The pandemic has historically upended the market. According to Techcrunch, anecdotal evidence indicates the venture market has either frozen in place or is barely limping along. Data from CB Insights bears this out, with seed venture deals down cumulatively 22 percent year over year from 2019-2020. And that’s just for the second quarter. Since venture data historically lags macro trends, we may be in for even more shocks to the system.

In this environment, entrepreneurs will find it incredibly challenging, Herculean even, to raise capital. Aside from focusing on profitability and the fundamentals of their , entrepreneurs may be chastised when entering what has rapidly shifted to a buyer’s market. Unfortunately, and if they need to, this means entrepreneurs must accept venture terms that may have been unfathomable just months prior. And it means they must negotiate and fight for what matters to them. 

Still, how can an entrepreneur know if their negotiation is going too far? If “too much is just too much”? Luckily, there are some ways to maneuver around this trap. Namely, entrepreneurs must seek guidance from their advisors and other investors constantly in the negotiation process. And secondly, entrepreneurs must research comparative deals, published reports and other sources to truly understand whether their set of asks may push a negotiation too far. 

Related: Closing a Startup Financing Deal

Lean on Advisors for Guidance

One of the few times I truly enjoyed the negotiation process was when I was stuck in traffic in . While on the phone with the prospective investor, I was also furiously texting one of my advisors on specific arrangements in a potential term sheet. Rather than going back and forth for hours, the advisor texted me three key terms to ask for, and the investor and I were at a deal in less than 15 minutes. 

Advisors are the lifeblood of any business. Recruiting them is critical to hiring, growth, customer development and eventual success. But it’s also critical to raising capital, as many of your advisors may also be your first investors. Oftentimes former entrepreneurs themselves, they have been through the ups and downs of raising capital. They can tell you when your valuation, negotiating skills and focus on specific terms is not warranted or even throwing a deal in jeopardy. They can spot the signals — both in communication cadence and body language — that indicate you are asking “too much” in your deal and a potential investor is pulling away. Collectively, when taking into account the experiences of all your advisors, you may have thousands of hours of capital raising advice.

Use their advice. Listen to them. You won’t regret it. Advisors can be critical in pushing you to not focus on the terms that matter and get your negotiation back on track. 

One important lesson: you can even go to other investors for advice. Investors are always eager to talk business ideas and proffer advice. Their experience listening to, on average, more than 3,000 pitches a year, will be invaluable in negotiation. And there is a saying with investors, “Ask for advice, get investment.”

Research. Research. Research. 

If, after many rounds of negotiation, you still feel you are not getting the best terms for your company and you need capital, you should engage in extensive third-party research to understand the true scope of the market. 

Venture terms are incredibly dynamic and subject to constantly changing market forces. They are also private and not widely reported, so you need to do some intensive homework and investigation to understand if you are getting a good deal or asking “too much.” 

First, you can ask other founders for comparative data to see what they are getting in terms of valuation, stock options and other terms that are relevant for the initial team. This will give you a good read on the status of the market. Often, other founders over-report and share their struggles on platforms like and even Quora, but you should back this up with first-hand accounts. 

Second, you can turn to third-party verified reporting databases like CB Insights, AngelList and Crunchbase to get a historical breakdown of round size, pricing and valuation metrics to benchmark your requests against what is being reported at large. 

Related: The Importance of Getting Advisors to Invest in Your Business

The Right Deal is Waiting for You.

Even in these extraordinary times, if you have a fundamentally strong business idea, you will find investors that jump at the chance to partner with you. When they do, you need to know how much is “too much” when negotiating the investment term sheet. You can make this process easier by relying on your trusted advisors for guidance and counsel, as well as focusing on third-party research to obtain comparable data.


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When the economy is undergoing a slowdown, and inflation is not high, any central banker will try to reduce the level of interest rates, increase the quantum of money in the system, incentivize banks to lend to the real economy by lowering the alternative rates of deployment

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Mutual funds, as a credible form of investment option, have gained currency over the last few years. Awareness about the performance, composition, benefits among other aspects about various equity and hybrid schemes has increased significantly over time. The Securities and Exchange Board of India, as a regulator, has taken multiple steps to simplify the investment categorization and the industry body Association of Mutual Funds in India has helped spread the concept of mutual funds through easy to understand promotional campaign.

Mutual funds as a legal vehicle also provides a tax arbitrage to investors in debt since investments held through mutual funds for three years qualify as long-term capital gains. However, debt investing is still less understood than equities and a spate of recent credit events have compelled the investors to take a closer look at their fixed-income allocations.

Debt investments or fixed-income investments are inherently less risky than equity investments though the behaviour of the fixed income asset class in the past eighteen months is contrary to the popular belief. Most investors are accustomed to investing in bank fixed deposits, wherein they know upfront what rate of interest or return they are likely to receive on their investment. It is easy to comprehend. In case of investments in debt mutual funds, investors tend to rely on portfolio yield, which is an indication of likely return, ceteris paribus, and past returns, which may not be the right indicator of future returns. While debt funds invest in securities or bonds, which offer mostly fixed coupons or interest payments, the prices of the securities fluctuate, altering the investment return over the holding period of the investor. The price of the bond may fluctuate due to changes in interest rate levels in the economy, or the credit profile of the issuer. Bond markets can become illiquid at times as well, which leads to lower prices for bonds in general. Investors should be aware that if things do not change much during their investment horizon, the bond fund will give them returns close to their portfolio yield adjusted for expenses. But as things seldom remain the same, the realized return is higher or lower than the portfolio yield.

The world of fixed-income investing has been rocked in the recent past due to a number of credit events, which have led to significant write-downs in the fund values. While there have been cases of credit defaults in mutual fund over the years, the size of defaults were relatively small and it did not materially impact many schemes or investors. The recent bouts of mark downs have exposed the underlying lack of liquidity in lower-rated bond markets and have forced investors to relook at their fixed income investments. Investors have learnt much to their chagrin that while the portfolio yield may have captured the credit risk in the fund, the yield did not give any sense on the liquidity of the underlying portfolio. Hence, when a fund faced large redemptions, the fund stopped accepting fresh subscriptions or redemptions leading to client investments becoming illiquid. Based on this experience, it is likely that investors will shun credit risk or high-yield funds which are unfortunate since any developed market requires a liquid high-yield market where investors can assess and then participate in high-yield trades. The regulator must look at this aspect closely since any failure to address the ground level issues may lead to a polarised market with few issuers hogging all the liquidity.

Fixed-income investments can generate hefty returns, at least periodically, if one can play the duration right. When the economy is undergoing a slowdown, and inflation is not high, any central banker will try to reduce the level of interest rates, increase the quantum of money in the system, incentivize banks to lend to the real economy by lowering the alternative rates of deployment. Under these circumstances, bonds tend to appreciate, and the capital gains add to the portfolio yield, resulting in handsome returns. And that too, when equity funds are not performing well, making fixed-income duration funds a natural hedge for any portfolio. The flip side is that if because of a rating downgrade or an unbridled fiscal expansion, rates rise instead of falling, fixed-income portfolios could deliver returns lower than the portfolio yield. However, one’s money is not at the risk of getting indefinitely locked out as there no risk of illiquidity.

A good investment advisor with a good head on their shoulders, some common sense and track record, should be able to identify the different risks associated with debt schemes; assess the risk profile of the client correctly; identify the better managed fund managers and schemes; and avoid the obvious mistakes.

While there are many moving parts to a fixed-income portfolio, a competent advisor is usually able to separate the grain from the chaff. The fixed income portion of the portfolio should add stability to the overall returns, and not end up as a source of anxiety and concern.

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6 min read

This story originally ran April 5, 2016.

Growing up on a farm in Greensburg, Ky., had a big problem with authority. During his senior year of high school, a visiting Marine recruiter asked what he planned to do after graduating. Dakota replied, “probably play football.” The recruiter replied, “That’s good, because there’s no way you could be a Marine.”

Not one to back down from a challenge, Dakota shot back: “Get the papers ready. I’ll sign them today.” He was just 17 and his parents needed to co-sign his contract. After training as a Marine Corps sniper, he completed one tour in Iraq and signed up to head to Afghanistan because he “wanted to fight.”

While serving in Afghanistan, Meyer’s combat team was caught in a deadly ambush. Disobeying direct orders to stay out of harm’s way, Meyer raced into the fight. During the ensuing six-hour battle, Meyer saved the lives of several Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of four of his fallen brothers. For those selfless actions, President presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2011.

Related: Use This Green Beret Method to Find Out if Someone Is Trustworthy

Upon his discharge, Meyer’s life took a turn he wasn’t expecting. Previous to these events, if you asked him what he’d be doing for a living, he told Entrepreneur, “I grew up on a farm, and I think I would have come back and done something like that. It’s an honest way of life, a conservative way of life, simple way of life. Definitely the exact opposite of what I am doing now.”

What he is doing now is by no means simple: he has toured as a motivational speaker, advocates for veteran employment, formed partnerships with businesses such as Toyota, became a regular guest on Fox News Channel and has taken a full dive into the world of . He currently runs two companies: Dakota Meyer Enterprises (construction and general contractor) and DM Tactical LLC (training for the federal government.) Both are , and both have grown substantially over the past 18 months.

Entrepreneur spoke with Meyer, and gleaned valuable life lessons from the self-described regular guy who leads anything but a regular life.

How did the months and years following your Medal of Honor ceremony change your mindset?

This medal is something I wish I never received. It represents the worst day of my life, but the attention that it got me made me want to do great things to honor the lives of my fallen brothers. After the ceremony, I experienced different parts of the world, experienced different types of people — it lit a fire in me to give me more confidence in myself and it showed me to make the most of every moment.

Related: This Navy SEAL’s Travel Checklist Could Save Your Life On Your Next Trip

You’ve met U.S. presidents, , appeared on major network shows including David Letterman, what did experiences like that teach you?

You look at these names and you think, I could never be that. But the more that I met these people, the more that I realized with the right frame of mind and the right amount of passion, I could be them.

Is there any crossover between what you experienced in the and what you’ve since experienced in business?

Being in the Marine Corps and doing the job I did, there is a lot of risk involved. It made me comfortable with risk. Being an entrepreneur is all about risk. Being an entrepreneur is like going to Vegas every day and shoving all of your chips into the middle of the table every single day.

It doesn’t matter how big of a company you have, I always tell people that you are one job away from being broke. And if you don’t live that way, you’ll be broke. I think that what got me to where I am as an entrepreneur is that I got comfortable with the unknown and I got comfortable with risk. If you are not comfortable with either one of those, then you’re not going to be a successful entrepreneur.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in business up to this point?

Business is just like sports: if you’re the best in the group that you run in, you’re never going to get any better. It’s the same thing in business. I surround myself with people who are smarter than me and have more experience than me, and I have gotten a lot of great advice. Mark Gross, CEO and founder of Oak Grove Technologies, which specializes in tactical training and intelligence services, has been an amazing help. He gives me straight scoop, and that’s what you need. He tells me this will work, this won’t, and that advice is amazing.

Related: The Secret Business of Training Navy Seals

You’ve advocated for veteran employment. What should business owners know about these men and women looking to join the civilian workforce?

Over the next year, there’s going to be 250,000 veterans getting out of the military. I think it’s crazy that people look at it like, “Oh, we need to give these men and women jobs.” That’s crazy! As a business owner, I look at it like, “There’s only 250,000, if I don’t hurry up and hire as many of these people as I can get, I lose out.”

What qualities do they bring to the table?

There’s not one company out there that is not looking for a quality person, a selfless person, a person with a whatever-it-takes attitude. You take someone who has spent four years in college and left with a degree vs. someone who has spent four years in the military and left with an honorable discharge…I’ll take the veteran all day long. A veteran is a person who has proven themselves in an uncontrolled, unstable environment. That’s the kind of person I want on my team.

And the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

At the end of the day, no one is going to care about your company as much as you do. That is a motto that you will live or die by. And if you don’t believe that, just take your eye off the ball for a day and watch what happens. The only business owners that fail are the ones who gave up. You are going to be tested every day, every hour, every minute. You need to be up for that and you need to welcome that. And if you do, you will succeed.

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As an , you’re constantly in need of inspiration and motivation to keep building your dream. We all know that books are a great way to fuel that fire, but when you’re in a need of a brain break, a good movie may be the next best thing.

When you’re feeling burnt out, movies can stimulate your mind and give you a boost of motivation and creativity. Pick the right movies to watch and you’ll broaden your horizons as you relax on your couch.

Related: 18 Movies Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

Here’s a list of the 10 best films available on that will offer some interesting ideas to chew on as you relax.

Parasite is a tale of two families in a symbiotic relationship. The Kims are a poverty-stricken family who cunningly place themselves in the service of the Parks, an obscenely wealthy household who have been unknowingly harboring strangers in their basement for years.

Key points: Parasite can be seen as a fable about economic equality, but if there is one lesson to take away, it’s that money doesn’t make you immune to misery.

This action-packed war-crime film chronicles the life of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), an immigrant from Ukraine who decides his route to success is through the illegal gun trade. Although incredibly violent, the movie does offer valuable moral lessons about a conflicted man who ultimately faces the consequences of his actions.

Key points: Yuri’s ambition, tenacity and ability to tolerate risk demonstrate the qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed. The movie also covers growth hacking, building customer loyalty and negotiation techniques — all great lessons for anyone launching their own business venture.

This is the story of Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney), who travels around the country for his job, which involves laying off people at other companies. However, the company is trying to reduce expenditures and downsize its travel budget. Enter Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick), a young, fresh employee who comes in with plans to revolutionize the business model by relying solely on technology.

Key points: Before you can improve something, you need to understand the entire process and the existing systems that are in place. This movie offers lessons in listening to your employees working in the field before making big decisions.

Public Figure is a documentary that investigates the lives of influencers (public figures on platforms) from around the world, as well as the psychological and addictive effects of social media in our society. The film features many of the internet’s most recognizable faces. It examines the everyday lives of influencers and how they deal with fame, money, hate and obsession. Chronicling the evolution of social media influencers, the film looks at how they’ve converted their everyday lives into bona fide riches by sharing their experiences with hordes of online followers.

Key points: As this documentary points out, an estimated 210 million people suffer from internet and social media addictions. The influencer lifestyle can be lucrative, but it also comes at a deep psychological cost.

Based on a true story, Fighting with My Family is centered on Paige Bevis, the teenage daughter of a working-class family that runs its own hardscrabble wrestling league in a rundown area of England. The family dreams of sending Paige and her brother, Zak, to the U.S. to wrestle with WWE. Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the movie is not only comical and entertaining but also offers a strong lesson about the importance of hard work, forgiveness and teamwork.

Key points: Even if you aren’t a fan of professional wrestling, you’ll appreciate the movie’s theme of following one’s dreams while retaining one’s identity and balancing the needs of family.

Hitch is a romantic comedy starring Will Smith. He plays dating coach Alex Hitchens, who aids his clients in sweeping the women of their dreams off their feet. As Hitch reminds his clients, you have to listen and respond to someone if you hope to build a relationship with them.

Key points: Because marketing is a bit like dating, it stands to reason that Hitch might teach entrepreneurs a thing or two about sales. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to listen to your customers and translate their pain points into a product that fits — and exceeds — their needs. Also, as Hitch points out in the movie, nonverbal communication is key. Potential clients will hear your words but will also listen to your tone and observe your body language.

Hulu’s documentary on the infamous takes you inside the 2017 influencer scam and features an exclusive interview with Billy McFarland, the festival’s founder and CEO, who defrauded investors out of $24.7 million and got sentenced to six years in prison.

Key points: From the get-go, Fyre Festival was marketed on false promises. Instead of first working out the logistics of the festival, its organizers focused on hiring mega influencers to promote an event that was little more than a pipe dream. Having the most popular influencers promoting your brand, it turns out, isn’t what will make your company a success.

The Greatest Showman brings to the big screen the spectacle of P.T. Barnum’s life. The famous 19th-century entrepreneur dabbled in everything from publishing a newspaper to running a museum. P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) is a man with a vision, determined to do whatever it takes to see his dream come true. In the end, he found success with the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Key points: Barnum was a controversial figure, but he’s remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen. Above all, he believed in hard work and was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. But he was also open to input from others, and he learned from his mistakes and adapted when his first ventures failed.

This movie tells the story of three African American women in the 1960s who worked as mathematicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. It’s an inspiring and moving story of their fight against prejudice and discrimination in an America that was still segregated.

Key points: This is a story about empowerment, about women who overcome steep barriers and not only succeed but become heroes. The deeper lesson is the importance of striving to be more inclusive, as this will ultimately give us access to a greater talent pool.

This documentary follows the story of , founder of , a blood-testing startup business. She led the public to believe that her device, the Edison, could perform dozens of blood tests with a single finger prick. She was later criminally charged because it was all a lie.

Key points: Entrepreneurs can learn from the way Holmes used her storytelling to masterfully draw investors to back her. But she also refused to listen to anyone who questioned her practices. Successful entrepreneurs listen to feedback and encourage open and thoughtful dialogue.

Related: 7 Movies on Netflix All Entrepreneurs Should Watch

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and hospitality brands nationwide have had to adapt their service models, operating procedures and more, virtually overnight. 

‘s Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, with its roots dating back to 1906, turned into a national chain with more than 40 stores known for its traditional coal brick-oven cooking methods, the utilization of New York water at every location, and Grimaldi’s famous dough recipe.  

Like many others in the foodservice at this time, industry veteran CEO Joseph Ciolli has pivoted Grimaldi’s Pizzeria from a full-service restaurant to a solely carry-out and delivery service model.

“We have always been focused on providing the highest quality experience for our customers,” Ciolli says. “Under the current circumstances, we’ve refocused our efforts on continuing to provide the safest and healthiest experience for customers, which has resulted in a shift in our operational model. Above all, great will go a long way to continue building trust and rapport with the .”

Related: Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza Franchise Information

During this time of change in the face of this pandemic, Ciolli suggests asking yourself these questions:

What can you do to adapt your business models to meet the needs of your clientele in a safe and effective manner?

How are you making yourself available to the community while abiding by social distancing and sanitization needs? 

How are you staying connected through digital media? 

What goals do you have for you and your business during this time?

How will you do things differently after the pandemic is over?

The Grimaldi’s team quickly built out the brand’s online infrastructure to accommodate increased telephone and website orders for its 40+ locations, enabling online payment for website orders to provide contactless payment. Grimaldi’s expanded its delivery partnerships to include availability via DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub. In addition, individual Grimaldi’s locations have created separate carry-out and delivery pick-up areas to implement socially distanced service, with many stores establishing curbside pick-up service as space allows. 

While Grimaldi’s menu hasn’t changed as a result of the shift in the service model, the company has implemented a number of special packages and promotions to provide ease of ordering for its customers. These include two different family meal bundles, offered at $25 and $40 based on providing either two or four-person family meals. In addition, Grimaldi’s has leveraged its inventory to offer 50% off bottles of wine, single beers for $6, and six-packs of beer for $15 for carry-out with food purchase only to round out its beverage offerings during this time. 

On Easter Sunday, Grimaldi’s offered a sweet treat to its customers with a free slice of cheesecake with carry-out orders of $40 or more. In the coming weeks, the company will also offer a “Date Night In” bundle for two, inclusive of a traditional cheese pizza, a house salad, a bottle of prosecco, and a slice of strawberry cheesecake to help create a special night at home.

From a communications and consumer marketing perspective, Grimaldi’s has maintained open and frequent lines of communication with its current and future customers via email and social media. Messaging has shifted from focusing on new and promotional items to letting customers know that Grimaldi’s is open for business and ready to support the local community.

Related: Papa John’s Pizza Franchise Opportunities

To date, several locations have donated meals and supported programs offering meals to first responders and front-line workers.  In addition, Grimaldi’s has utilized social media to virtually connect with its customers to maintain strong relationships and provide a deeper brand connection to the carryout dining experience. 

Part of the Grimaldi’s brand ethos has always prioritized giving back to the community. As such, Grimaldi’s has continued to build on its partnership with No Kid Hungry – a non-profit for which Grimaldi’s has raised more than $1 million through various initiatives since first partnering with the organization in 2013 – to assist in supporting children in need of meals who have been affected by the school closures nationwide. 

In addition, Grimaldi’s will move forward with its much-anticipated, annual Teacher and Nurse Appreciation Week from May 4 to 8. Grimaldi’s stores across the country will offer 15% off all orders to teachers and nurses that week as a way to say thank you for their commitment and service, especially during these uncertain times. 

Related: Russo’s New York Pizzeria Inc. Franchise Information

While the Grimaldi’s team looks forward to welcoming guests back into its full-service dining rooms across the country at the appropriate time in accordance with federal, state, and municipal requirements and guidelines, the company has made dedicated and thoughtful moves to adapt effectively within the current hospitality environment, ensuring the long-term success of the brand. 

Grimaldi’s is setting a good example of how we can all adapt and reach out to help keep our communities and businesses connected and active during these times of difficulty and hardship. Like them, we can find that this time is a defining time, and we can be all the stronger from it. Dig deep, work hard, and even enjoy a slice of pizza or two.

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Think your are pretty generous? Your state may think overwise. Depending on your location, you might be required to offer employees things like paid or PTO payouts. And if your state doesn’t currently mandate certain benefits, they may in the future. 

Why not start offering them now? 

7 things to consider offering before your state tells you to

Determining employee compensation is arguably one of the trickiest things you do as an employer. You have to strike a balance between what workers want and what your business can afford. But as more states expand employee protections, you may not have much of a choice on what you offer your staff. Read on to get a jumpstart on state-mandated types of employee benefits.    

Related: The Basics of Employee Benefits

1. A higher wage

You know about the federal . But how much do you know about your state’s minimum wage requirements? Only half of the states follow the federal minimum wage. The other half set a higher state minimum wage that employers must provide. So if your business is located in a state that follows the federal minimum wage, you might consider offering a higher wage to your employees. Plus, a higher wage looks pretty good when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, right? 

When setting a higher-than-minimum wage, you can’t just pull an arbitrary number out of a hat. More than likely, you’ll need to do a bit of research to make sure that you’re offering a competitive wage. That way, you can avoid both underpaying and overpaying your employees.

2. Paid sick leave

Everyone gets sick. But, there’s no federal law that requires employers to give paid sick leave to employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 44 percent of workers at businesses with fewer than 100 workers can’t take a paid sick day when they’re under the weather. 

Related: The Myriad Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

However, a number of states have implemented state-mandated paid sick leave laws. And, that number seems to be growing. Currently, 11 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have laws requiring eligible employers to give employees time off for qualifying situations.  

If your business is in a state with a paid sick leave law, you may have no choice but to offer paid sick leave.

But if you aren’t subject to paid sick leave laws, you can still choose to offer employees this great benefit … before your state potentially forces you to. By doing so, you can discourage employees from coming into when they’re sick, protect other co-workers from catching a bug, and help boost productivity. 

3. Paid family leave

Do you give your employees paid family leave? Not many employers do. In fact, only 18 percent of all private industry workers have access to paid family leave (PFL). 

The states that require paid family leave treat it like unemployment insurance — employees, employers or both pay into a state fund that pays out benefits to employees when they take leave.  

If your state doesn’t have a PFL program, offering it to your employees could give you an edge as an employer of choice. You might consider enrolling in a paid family leave program on your own — before your state (or the ) passes a new law. 

4. PTO payouts 

If you willingly give your employees paid vacation days, your state may require you to give (PTO) payouts. PTO payouts require employers to pay employees for earned but unused time off either at the end of the year or when an employee leaves. 

A number of states require employers to provide PTO payouts. And if yours doesn’t, you might consider doing so of your own free will. 

5. Paid jury duty leave 

So, your employee has been served … with time on a jury. Do you give them paid time off while they’re fulfilling their civic duty? 

Related: 5 Reasons Enhanced Benefits Programs Are Good for Business

If your business is located in one of the 10 states that have jury duty compensation laws, the answer is an emphatic yes. If not, you might consider broadening your employee benefits by offering paid jury duty leave. When giving employees paid time off to attend jury duty, think about what time you’ll actually pay for. 

You might give partial wages, especially if your state compensates people serving on jury duty. Or, you may give paid jury duty leave for a set period of time. 

6. Voting leave 

Some states require employers to provide paid voting leave while others mandate unpaid leave. All in all, 30 states require time off to vote. Most states designate how long employees get off to vote, too (e.g., two hours). 

Don’t live in a state with voting leave laws? Consider making the executive decision and offering time to your employees anyway. Or, if your business is in a state with unpaid voting leave laws, you might offer paid time to your employees instead. 

Whether you voluntarily decide to offer paid or unpaid voting leave, your employees will thank you for it. It can help them fulfill their civic responsibilities … without having to wait in line for an hour after work. 

7. Time off for any reason 

Only one state requires employers to give time off for any reason, and that state is Maine. Plus, Maine’s bill, An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave, won’t take effect until January 2021. 

If Maine’s paid time off for any reason law is anything like paid sick leave and family leave laws, other states may start implementing similar requirements. 

Again, this is all just something to mull over. But you absolutely need to know your state’s laws and whether they affect you. Only then can you consider voluntarily offering non-mandated benefits … before your state forces you to.

While making important decision of your business, Don’t take a chance. Trust only expert.

Choose from our variety of services, Connect with the right expert.

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4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Major upheavals, such as an unexpected pandemic, cause shakeouts in markets. While virtually all businesses suffer, startups and are typically the ones to go under first. Because entrepreneurs have tight margins and small or no buffers, they suffer immediately and immensely when their cash flow is disrupted.

Entrepreneurship saves business

It’s true, yet what makes businesses survive dramatic is their entrepreneurial acumen. Big corporations may have the means to hold out longer but will be hopelessly out of sync with the market unless they adapt to the new situation. We have seen many examples of such entrepreneurialism lately, both in big business and opportunity-seeking entrepreneurial startups, from well-established alcohol producers shifting to producing hand sanitizers to offering drive-through coronavirus testing.

Related: 4 Ideas for Actually Pivoting Your Business Right Now

The for entrepreneurs is to focus on what they do best — entrepreneurship — or figure out how to best create value for consumers. Simply put, entrepreneurs are bearers of uncertainty because they are creators of tomorrow. When consumers change their behavior, good entrepreneurs quickly adapt, adjust, and try to meet them where they will be.

Entrepreneurs can shoulder this fantastic responsibility because of reliable and supportive institutions, or what Nobel laureate Douglass North referred to as the “rules of the game.” With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, things are different. It is an upheaval in the , which is a bad situation in itself, but what is worse is the regime uncertainty added on top.

Regime uncertainty

When policymakers responded to the pandemic, they issued emergency declarations that changed the rules practically overnight. From ordering “non-essential” businesses to close to regulating the operations of “essential,” these decrees fundamentally changed the playing field. The legal interpretation is far from obvious for many businesses, thereby leaving entrepreneurs in the dark — and with huge costs trying to figure out what this means.

While the $2 trillion stimulus package is intended to offer relief, including support for businesses, it also increases uncertainty. For example, loans come with strings attached and generous unemployment benefits make staffing unpredictable.

Related: Entrepreneurs Are Prepared for Crisis Whether They Know It or Not

This uncertainty is of a different kind than what entrepreneurs typically bear. Economist Robert Higgs calls this regime uncertainty since it arises from changing and unpredictable rules. When entrepreneurs cannot trust fundamental rules such as the enforcement of contracts and protection of property rights, they cannot run a business. Higgs argues that regime uncertainty was the main reason the Great Depression lasted so long — entrepreneurs were unwilling to take the plunge because of the general anti-business sentiment expressed by New Dealers.

Dealing with the current situation

Entrepreneurs are experts in uncertainty-bearing. After all, they face uncertainty on a daily basis and even cause it by innovating new products, services, and business models — and thereby disrupt markets. Entrepreneurs go with their gut feeling about what the future should look like, and they set out to create it. But they assume the rules will be relatively stable.

What makes regime uncertainty different is that it is an institutional (rules) rather than economic (action) unpredictability. This makes it harder to be an entrepreneur, and the risk of failure increases dramatically. But what they face is ultimately the same problem — to figure out what the future will be like, if not create it.

With changing rules of the game, it is a mistake to focus only on solving problems within the business. It is prudent to act to safeguard one’s business, but entrepreneurs should consider what might come of this whole situation — and what their role in it might be.

Related: How One Franchise Company President Makes Better, Faster Decisions During Uncertain Times

Seeking advice from legal counsel is a good way of interpreting the new rules already in place. But it will not help with figuring out what effects they will have on the economy or how the rules themselves might change. When things are up in the air, there are no formulas, models, or blueprints that can help.

This is no news for entrepreneurs. They are used to trusting their gut and placing a bet on the future. This is still the case, but with more variables than is usually the case. The question is how best to deal with it. What does your gut say?

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The coronavirus crisis changed the world overnight. Remote work is the new normal, and organizational priorities have shifted. Alongside the highly contagious virus that’s out there, people are experiencing negative emotions. Some are anxious due to the risks of the pandemic. Others are overwhelmed as daily life has been turned on its head. For many people, feelings of frustration are building into anger because they are worried about losing their livelihood. People the impact on their immediate families and are struggling to find ways to deal with the new reality.

For company leaders, the way you live and breathe has changed, including the way you de-stress. Going to the gym and meeting for drinks during Happy Hour have come to a halt. So, what is there to do to take some of the pressure away?

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Learn to Embrace Stress

Here are six strategies leaders can draw upon to build their inner-net, preserve their emotional strength, and safeguard their employee’s emotional well-being during this and other times of crisis. 

1. Healthy emotional hygiene

We know misery loves company, and emotional contagion is very real. When leaders mimic an emotion, it typically evokes that same emotion within them. The reverse can also occur. One Harvard Business Review article, The Contagion We Can Controlhighlights how embracing a positive emotional contagion through showing kindness, adopting mindfulness techniques, and connecting with high-quality people, even in the , can positively increase your mood.

Leaders can invest their energy into purposefully expressing gratitude, focusing on positive and uplifting moments, or accessing online resources to help them and their employees to learn new skills. By investing in techniques that help leaders stay calm, people around you will begin to mimic that same emotion as well.

2. Safety in the organization

Employees need you to understand their anxieties, frustrations, and pain points to be able to support them before expecting them to perform at their fullest potential. Leaders must prioritize connections and meet their people where they are rather than where you want them to be. This is how you build trust and prepare employees to handle a pandemic or similar crisis. Use virtual team building to explore new ways to remain connected, to share what presses people buttons, and to delve into what inspires them to support each other to move towards the team goals. 

Related: The Battle Between Coronavirus and Humanity

3. Say what you mean and mean what you say

Leaders must project calm and aim for honest, transparent, and flexible communication. Daily changes, and at times, hourly decisions are made that likely will change the next day. People will criticize, and no one will be immune to the experience. When dealing with vulnerability, honesty will assist you to stay in your lane of truth and transparency and to let people know that you don’t have the answers. When you do have the answers, you will feed the information through the appropriate communication channels.

4. Shaping your virtual interactions

The reality of remote work will be new for many. Setting up basic standards and rules will be crucial for establishing shared expectations for performance. Understanding how each team member operates, recognizing their interpersonal needs, and investing energy into recognizing individual and team accomplishments place you and your team in the best possible position in achieving outcomes. 

Checking-in individually and as a team creates perspective, highlights fears and frustrations, and creates opportunities for growth in a world were instability, ambiguity and uncertainty are driving forces. Address what you can and can’t control to position everyone for the future.

Impressive, a digital marketing agency, made the switch from work to home, placing the well-being of their people first. Despite adjustments, the agency embraced virtual team huddles. Now it’s a weekly wrap-up on Fridays and after-hour virtual drinks on Hangouts to reflect and celebrate the wins of the week.

Related: Reflections While #StayingHome: Adjusting to the New Normal

5. Negative distancing

As important as social distancing is within the current climate, negative distancing is just as critical. Viruses thrive on connection, and there is no difference when it comes to people who immerse themselves in sharing negativity. Your appetite for paying attention to negativity is an evolutionary hand-me-down from cavemen ancestors. The way we override our default setting is to: 

  • Recognize what is happening when negative patterns get activated and practice doing something different every time.
  • When you experience harmful self-dialogue activities, approach your inner voice with kindness. Adopt “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to treat yourself with the same compassion.
  • Limit your contact with the number of negative people on virtual platforms.
  • Implement boundaries through identifying your limits, what is negotiable and non-negotiable, notice your feelings, observe your environment, and above all, permit yourself to increase your sense of self-control.
  • Celebrate small victories and adopt a belief that mistakes are just feedback and an opportunity to grow.

6. Focus on the human within the leader

When you genuinely care for people and authentically build relationships to give, rather than gain, you expand your ability to influence others. When you come from a place of integrity and focus on the human being, you build real professional relationships where vulnerability is respected, fears are acknowledged, and anxieties of what the future holds are shared.

Today is the day to pull together — to talk about the meaning of leadership with your people, to explore their leadership stories, and to discover how they want people to recognize the qualities within themselves. By sharing experiences, leaders illuminate the path for others to stand with confidence, share their leadership journey, and celebrate their messages of gratitude.

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7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The global health crisis has rocked the sharing economy. Uber and Lyft drivers have seen their incomes plunge as people shelter in place. Airbnb bookings have tumbled, and its services have been banned in some cities and states. Gig workers at a number of companies are protesting a lack of basic protections like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and sick pay.

This crisis has brought to a head problems that have been lurking in the wings for years. As a professor who researches the sharing economy, I’ve found that the features that make it so successful — especially its flexible, decentralized, independent workforce — create both unique opportunities and vulnerabilities. The stresses of our current situation have made these contradictions clearer than ever.

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Rebound After a Crisis

Will this public health emergency push the sharing economy to evolve? Or will it throw the entire business model into question? The answer hinges on whether companies can adapt quickly and find ways to create a virtuous cycle of benefits for both workers and customers, as well as their bottom lines. Sharing economy giants like Uber and Airbnb have become so ubiquitous that their ability to survive will have serious implications for the economy as a whole.

The most innovative aspect of the sharing economy is a unique relationship between companies and their workers. Rather than hiring and managing a traditional workforce, these businesses create platforms for individuals to sell goods and services, from use of their cars and homes to their time and skills. An estimated one-third of U.S. workers are now engaged in “gig work,” much of it through sharing economy marketplaces.

The sharing economy’s flexibility and low barriers to entry have long appealed to workers who can decide when and how much to work, or who want to pick up side hustles to earn extra income. Now, we may see people who have been laid off flock to gig work in an attempt to make ends meet, such as the 250,000 new users who signed up to work for Instacart during the first week of April.

At the same time, the tenuous relationship between sharing economy companies and their workers is showing signs of strain. Some frustrated Instacart workers have simply quit or switched to competing services like Postmates, while others are striking for safer working conditions. Though companies like Uber and Lyft are offering sick pay, many workers report trouble collecting benefits or meeting eligibility requirements.

Related: 10 Ways Startups Can Pivot From Growth to Operational Efficiency During a Crisis

These challenges reveal how precarious sharing economy jobs can be for workers, most of whom are classified as independent contractors. This means they are not guaranteed a steady income and often lack basic benefits like paid sick leave, health insurance and access to unemployment assistance. In recent years, gig workers at Uber and other companies have fought to be recognized as employees to obtain greater protections.

These ongoing concerns about the lack of security afforded by sharing economy jobs have boiled over during these trying times, resulting in highly publicized strikes and demands that companies better protect their workers. Policymakers are also getting involved, as states like Michigan and Colorado explore ways to help gig workers access unemployment benefits.

A workforce of independent contractors poses challenges for companies too. Because these businesses are so decentralized, it is harder for them to control the behavior of workers and sellers across their platforms to ensure customers have a good experience. Airbnb, for example, has struggled in recent years to protect the safety of guests and hosts and faced backlash after a series of sexual assaults at its properties.

Related: 10 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Learn About Their Business

The current crisis has made the underlying problems of decentralization clearer than ever. Although Grubhub, Postmates, and other food delivery services have announced precautions such as contactless delivery, restaurants and consumers have little guarantee that drivers are following proper protocols. In an attempt to discourage risky public health behavior, Airbnb issued guidelines for how hosts represent their properties during the pandemic. Yet there are still listings encouraging people to “Quarantine in Paradise!” with friends or offering toilet paper as a perk.

This situation has laid bare some of the core contradictions of a sharing economy built on a decentralized, independent and often precarious workforce. Companies will have to adapt quickly to mount a cohesive response that satisfies customers and workers, both of whom are essential to their continued success. The flexibility built into the sharing economy model may be an asset for companies looking to innovate rapidly. Uber, for example, has encouraged struggling drivers to shift to its food delivery service Uber Eats. 

In many cases, workers’ demands for better protections might closely align with the interests of customers who are also concerned about their health. Previous research my colleagues and I conducted found a virtuous cycle on sharing economy platforms like Airbnb where good behavior from sellers induces better behavior from buyers, and vice versa. If companies can find a way to harness positive feedback loops around worker and customer safety, they may be able to secure the trust of both groups.

This logic also applies to protecting workers financially. Some sharing economy companies quickly realized that if they didn’t offer some form of paid sick leave, they could be forcing workers into an impossible choice — “starvation or sickness ” — potentially putting customers at risk as a result. Particularly in competitive sectors like food delivery, visible failures to protect workers could concern customers and lead to (further) losses of revenue.

The government might also need to step in to ensure gig workers are protected. This crisis could be the tipping point that finally leads companies and policymakers to address the precarity of gig work by offering a better safety net including access to health and unemployment benefits, greater income stability and paid leave.

The sharing economy’s ability to weather this storm will have broader impacts on the economy, given how thoroughly it has infiltrated our national and local markets and workforces. In a recent paper, my colleagues and I found that increased activity on home-sharing platforms like Airbnb boosted local restaurant revenue, often in areas outside traditional tourist districts. A downturn could have the opposite impact.

Local economies might also be affected as gig workers who’ve lost income shift gears. For example, some hosts are converting their now-empty Airbnb properties into long-term rentals, potentially reversing a trend we uncovered in our previous research on Airbnb’s impact on local rental housing markets.

To survive this pandemic, the sharing economy must address some of its underlying contradictions by ensuring the security of both workers and customers. Companies that are able to do so might even come out ahead if they can safely offer essential services like grocery delivery. However, if the sharing economy cannot deal with its fundamental vulnerabilities in a moment of crisis, it could spell the end of its meteoric rise as a business model.

Related: Uber to Riders and Drivers: Wear a Mask or Lose Access to App

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10 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The SBA released its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and clarified a few critical definitions and documentation requirements in their instructions. The forgiveness application is completed by the small-business borrower and is submitted to their bank or lender whom they received their PPP loan from. The application consists of 11 lines that when calculated results in the amount of forgiveness a small-business owner will be eligible for. The forgiveness component of PPP is what attracted small-business owners to take out PPP loans in droves, as the program promised forgiveness of amounts loaned so long as the small business used the funds for payroll, business mortgage interest, rent and utilities. For a summary on forgiveness rules please refer to my prior article here.

Three-Part Calculation Method

The application consists of a three-part calculation to determine the amount eligible for forgiveness. First, the application asks for the payroll and qualifying non-payroll costs that the business has spent over the eight-week period since it received its PPP funds (more on the updated definition of these costs later). The second step is a reduction in the forgiveness amount if you have reduced pay for employees greater than 25 percent or if you have not brought back the same number of full-time equivalent employees (more on that definition later). The full-time equivalent employee (FTE) rule requires a small business to reduce its forgiveness request if it does not bring back the same number of employees that it had pre-pandemic. The application does provide for a waiver of this reduction if the business failed to bring back its same employee count during its eight-week period but later brought back the same number of employees by June 30, 2020.

Related: Today Is Officially the Day for Companies to Return Their SBA PPP Loans

Step three is the 75 percent payroll cost test, which states that the forgiveness request must be comprised of at least 75 percent payroll costs. The other 25 percent can only be rent, mortgage interest debt and utilities. If the forgiveness request in step three exceeds 75 percent, then you will instead take the amount of your payroll costs and will divide that by .75, and this will give you your total forgiveness amount. For example, if you had payroll costs of $70,000 and non-payroll costs $30,000, you would only be at 70 percent and would not meet the 75 percent rule and the $30,000 in non-payroll costs would need to be reduced. The application calculation ($70,000 divided by .75) would bring the total forgiveness amount to $93,333. This calculation is effectively reducing the non-payroll costs from $30,000 to $23,333, and now the forgiveness request consists of 75 percent payroll costs ($70,000) and 25 percent non-payroll costs ($23,333).

Rent Includes Leases of Personal and Real Property

Many small-business owners and their accountants and lawyers were unclear whether the lease of personal property was an amount that could be included in rent, and thus forgiven. The forgiveness application specifically states that rent incudes the following: “Business rent or lease payments pursuant to lease agreements for real or personal property in force between February 15, 2020 (business rent or lease payments).”

It was clear that rental payments for office, storefront and other real property was going to be included, but the application now makes it clear that personal property items such as copiers, servers, autos and other common items of personal property that are leased by a business will be includable in the bucket of non-payroll costs that may be forgiven. Similarly, a business “mortgage interest payment” includes loans for real property and personal property, and as a result interest paid on loans for equipment, autos and other personal property items are includable and can be forgiven.   

Utilities Definition Includes Internet, Transportation and Telephone

The application also defines what utility expenses may be added to the application. These expenses include “…electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone or internet access, for which service began before February 15, 2020.”

Most of these utility expenses are straightforward. What falls under transportation is uncertain, but SBA guidance appears to define transportation costs as gas and other auto expenses that would usually be part of the auto deductions on the business-tax return.

Average FTE Calculation

In determining your full-time equivalent employees before the pandemic and during the eight-week period, the SBA has given two alternative methods of calculation. The first method takes some math and seems complex at first, but will give flexibility and will meet the intent of the rule — that those small business who retain or bring back all of their employees during the eight-week period or by June 30, 2020 will not have their forgiveness request reduced.  

The first option is to take the average number of hours paid each week for each employee, divide by 40 and round the total to the nearest 10th. The maximum number of hours per employee is 40 or 1 FTE. Let’s run a quick example for a small business with three employees.

                Employee 1 Average Weekly Hours = 40

                40 hours divided by 40 = 1

                1 FTE


                Employee 2 Average Weekly Hours = 37

                35 hours divided by 40 = .875

                Round to nearest tenth = .9

                .9 FTE


                Employee 3 Average Weekly Hours = 21

                20 hours divided by 40 = .525

                Round to nearest tenth = .5

                .5 FTE


                Total FTE = 2.4 FTE


Since the calculation method tracks each employee by the hours they worked, and since it is the same method to use pre-pandemic and during the eight-week period, it will fairly reflect the small businesses payroll costs and the hours worked without having to worry about whether an employee makes the cut as a full-time equivalent or if they are part-time.  

The SBA is also allowing for a simpler method that assigns 1.0 for employees who work 40 hours or more per week and .5 for employees who work fewer than 40 hours. While this may work for some small businesses, there can be some losers in this method, as you may have someone who worked working 35 hours who is now only being counted at .5 under the simple method but would be .9 under the traditional method.

Documentation of Payroll Costs

The application outlines what documentation will be required with the forgiveness request. For payroll costs, the business must outline these in a PPP Schedule A Worksheet and must identify each employee paid during the eight-week period. The business must also identify employees paid at an annualized rate below $100,000 in 2019 on one schedule and employees paid at an annualized rate over $100,000 on another schedule. The business owner’s compensation is included on a separate line on the forgiveness application, but still calculates into the application like any employee. Because of the per employee compensation restriction $100,000, no employee or owner can have cash/wage compensation that is forgiven greater than the annualized eight-week amount of $15,385. Consequently, the maximum cash compensation forgiveness request per employee on the Schedule A worksheet will be $15,385. Note that this $15,385 cap does not include health insurance and retirement contributions paid by the business.

The forgiveness application gives flexibility to small businesses who have a bi-weekly payroll, such that they will be able to ensure that they can get four pay periods of two weeks into their eight-week covered period regardless of when they receive their PPP loan funds and when their regular bi-weekly payroll schedule hits. This was an important provision and instruction in the application, as many businesses were realizing that their payroll schedules weren’t in synch with the eight-week period, and as a result of their loan funding date and their regular payroll dates, they were only going to have three pay periods representing six weeks covered.

To document the payroll costs, the SBA is requiring each of the following:

  1. Bank accounts or third-party payroll service reports documenting the cash compensation paid to employees.
  2. Tax forms (or equivalent third-party payroll service provider reports) for the periods that overlap with the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period. For tax forms, the SBA is requesting payroll tax forms (usually 941) and state quarterly wage and unemployment filings.
  3. Payment receipts, cancelled checks or account statements documenting the amount of employer contributions to employee health insurance and retirement plans.

For many small businesses, there will be a significant time lag from when their eight-week period will be up and when a small business will file its quarterly 941s. As a result, many small businesses may have to wait for a month or two after the eight-week period before filing their forgiveness loan application. For example, if your PPP loan was funded on May 15, your 8-week period will run into July and will be part of second quarter (April-June) and third quarter payroll reporting (July-Sept.). This means you won’t have complete 941s to submit to your bank with the forgiveness request until October even though your eight-week period was up in July. We will have to see what flexibility the SBA is going to allow in this instance or if small businesses will just have to wait until October to submit their forgiveness application.

It is unclear what documents a sole proprietor or partnership that does not have payroll and does not file 941s will use.

Related: News Organizations Sue SBA for Refusing to Reveal Which Companies Received PPP

Documentation of Rent, Mortgage Interest and Utilities

To document the approved non-payroll costs of rent, mortgage interest and utilities, the SBA is requiring existence of the obligation/service prior to February 15, 2020 and evidence of payments during the eight-week period. To document a business mortgage obligation, the business would provide a lender amortization schedule and receipt of payments as well as statements from February 2020 and during the eight-week covered period.

To document rent or lease payments, a copy of the lease agreement must be produced showing it was in force before February 15, 2020. To document the payments, the small-business owner will need to produce copies of account statements from its landlord/lessor showing the payments or cancelled checks evidencing the payments made during the eight-week period. Small businesses who are paying rent monthly will generally be able to request two months worth of expenses during the eight-week period.

The documentation required for utility payments includes an invoice or statements from February 2020 showing the utility service in place. To document payments made during the eight-week period, the business can use account statements showing the payments made, cancelled checks or bank-account statements showing the payment.

Small-businesses owners will submit their forgiveness application and their supporting documentation to their bank, and their bank will have 60 days to approve or reject the forgiveness request. Attention to detail and a correctly completed forgiveness application will be key to ensuring the maximum amount forgivable. Understanding what is in the application now will greatly increase a small business’s chances of receiving maximum PPP loan forgiveness. There are still many unanswered questions, but seeing the PPP forgiveness loan application is a big step ahead.


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Choose from our variety of services, Connect with the right expert.

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