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Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Balkcom’

Nancy Balkcom_Holding AwardDo you know what it feels like to be a rock star? I DO!

I just returned from yet another amazing WBENC Summit & Salute. In fact, I feel this was most-definitely the best one ever, for a number of reasons. I was surrounded by amazing women, many who have already become dear friends, and many new connections who I am sure will also have a special place in my life. The camaraderie among these women lifts me up and makes me proud to be a woman-owned business. I have been in situations where that wasn’t always the case, and yet, I know that when I participate in a WBENC event, I can say it is a “sure thing” that I will be inspired and motivated to become a better person and share what I can with others.

The matchmaker meetings were one of the best things about the week.  I truly appreciated the time with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the other companies who took the time to meet with us.

I must admit, the best part of the conference this year was the fact that I won such a prestigious award. The WBE 2014 Star Award overwhelmed and excited me. It’s hard to believe that when I was 15 years old and learning the business through my father, and then taking over at the age of 29, that I would have the opportunity to be up on a stage accepting an award in front of peers and my family who I respect deeply.

In fact, if you were there, it wasn’t a secret how happy I was – I proved it when I felt comfortable enough to show my enthusiasm by dancing on the stage. Yes, I may have felt a little silly afterwards, but, that is the beauty of WBENC isn’t it? You can be yourself!

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tax20time20bluesTax time doesn’t have to bring on the blues. Think about all the green you could be saving, yes, saving. Follow these steps from to put more money back in your pocket.

Organize Your Records

Good organization may not cut your taxes but it can help you save money in the long-term. Keep all the information that comes in the mail in January, such as W-2s, 1099s, and mortgage interest statements.

Collect receipts and information that you have accumulated during the year.

Enter the amounts from all these documents into a computer program like Quicken or total them by hand and give the list to your tax preparer.

Make sure you know the price you paid for any stocks or funds you have sold. Know the details on income from rental properties.

You could save $300 to $400 with your tax preparer plus plenty of your time. In the event of an audit, you could save on assessments and penalties because you’ll have all your back-up on hand.

Find the Right Forms

The library won’t always have all the forms you need. Go online to view and download a large catalog of forms and publications at the Internal Revenue Service’s Web site, www.irs.gov, or call 1-800-829-3676 to have them sent to you by mail.

Need a state form or publications? Visit www.taxadmin.org/fta/link/forms.html.

Itemize

It’s easier to take the standard deduction, but you may save a bundle if you itemize, especially if you are self-employed, own a home or live in a high-tax area.

Contribute to Retirement Accounts

If you haven’t already funded your retirement account, do so by April 15. That’s the deadline for any kind of IRA, deductible or not. If you have a Keogh or SEP, though, and you get an extension, you can wait until your extension deadline to put money into those accounts.

Consider a Home-Office Deduction

In the past, many taxpayers have avoided the home-office deduction because it has been regarded as a red flag for an audit. If you legitimately qualify for the deduction, however, there should be no problem. Check with your tax advisor. You could save thousands of dollars.

Provide Dependent Taxpayer IDs on Your Return

Be sure to include the Taxpayer Identification Numbers (tax lingo for social security numbers) for your children and other dependents. Otherwise, the IRS can deny the personal exemption for each dependent and the child tax credit for each child under age 17

After you have a baby, be sure to file for a social security card right away so that you have the number at tax time.

You could save hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the number of dependents and your income.

Pay on Time

Pay on time and you can avoid interest and penalties. The IRS doesn’t really care when you file, as long as you request an extension using Form 4868.

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Desk Covered with Postit NotesWhen you hear the words desktop organizing do you have visions of small icons arranged tidily on your computer screen? Put aside the image of your virtual desktop and take a minute to asses your actual desktop. If you see heaps of papers and pens and binder clips strewn about willy-nilly you’re not alone. Ditto for those of you whose computer screens are partially blocked by coffee mugs and post-it notes. Time for some desktop tidying. And no, its not gong to be painful or time-consuming. So fill up that empty coffee mug with some java and let’s get to it.

We have eight easy steps to get that desk in tiptop shape.

Create a Blank Slate
Remove everything from your desk. We’re starting with a nice, blank slate. Place your phone on your left if you’re right handed and on the right if you’re left handed. Move personal items such as framed photos or children’s arts and crafts to your shelves.

Say No to Excessive Post-Its
Use post-its sparingly so they catch your eye, not obscure your monitor. Keep a notebook by the phone. Jot down phone messages or notes here. This should be your go to for to-do lists. Delete your answering machine messages after transcribing the important details.

Files, Not Piles
Many of you organize by piling; that’s fine, just try to move them off the desktop and onto a side table. Your workspace on your desk should have no more than an inbox, with three racks, one holding items not yet reviewed, one for items on hold that you have reviewed and need to act upon soon and a third for items that you need on a daily basis over the short term. Documents that don’t fall into one of thee three categories should be placed in permanent files or tossed.

Keep Blank File Folders and a Label Maker at Your Desk
People too often fail to file because they don’t have folders and labels handy. With a stack of blank folders and label maker within reach, you have no excuse.

Planner/PDA
Keep on your desk, next to the phone. Make it your right-hand man, using it to keep track of to-dos, follow-ups and ideas.

One Drawer/One Box Rule
Keep office supplies in one drawer only. Buy a dozen of your favorite, inexpensive pens and keep them in a cutlery tray in the drawer. Keep back-up supplies in a clear storage box. And say no to junk; free cups and pens and other do-dads are distracting clutter.

Eat Elsewhere
Salt and pepper packets and plastic utensils filling your drawers? Make a habit of eating away from your desk: this keeps trash from piling up and provides a needed break away from your work. Eat in the break room or better yet out of the office.

Ten Minute Cleanup
Take a quick overview of your desk at the end of each day, throwing away trash and fling papers. Place tomorrow’s top priority project in the center of your desk. You (and your desk) are ready for the new day!

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Gift Giving EtiquetteIf you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an inappropriate gift from a colleague, you know that workplace gift giving can be a minefield. Making the wrong move can create lasting problems with coworkers. Alternatively, presenting a proper coworker gift or hosting an inclusive office holiday party can improve relationships, boost morale and give everyone in your workplace a warm and fuzzy feeling.

So as you get ready to spread your own holiday cheer, heed these cautionary tales and words of etiquette advice when it comes to celebrating and giving gifts at work:

Make the Gift Exchange About More Than a Present

Done right, gift giving can be a positive workplace experience. Consider adding another dimension to your coworker gift exchange by extending your generosity to the local community. Anyone who wants to participate in any sort of gift swap must also contribute to a food, clothing or toy drive. Such a collective effort can transform a fun game into a meaningful tradition everyone in the company can feel good about.

Rethink the Office Holiday Party

With all the holiday hype that goes on this time of year, we seldom take the time to remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. This is your chance to work on your diversity sensitivity. Research other people’s religions and traditions, and try to make everyone in your workplace feel included in the festivities. Ask people to share their family or cultural traditions. Remember to include new employees in your office holiday party planning.

Coworker Gift-Giving Etiquette

To make the right choices, employees need a well-thought-out gift-giving strategy in the workplace. Consider these tips, adapted from Peggy and Peter Post:

  • Diversions such as Yankee Swap, Secret Santa and the like are fine, as long as nobody gets carried away. Underscore the lighthearted nature of the game.
  • If you are giving gifts to people who are special to you in the workplace, do it in private. There’s no need to upset people who aren’t on your gift list.
  • Don’t give your boss or supervisor a gift that is just from you (unless they are a close personal friend, in which case the above rule applies). Ask others in the office to contribute so you look like a team player.
  • Don’t give offensive, extravagant or joke gifts. Also steer clear of gifts involving alcohol, fragrance or clothing.
  • Always send thank-you notes for personal gifts.

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Taking meeting notes is not as easy as it sounds. We offer some advice on how to take meeting notes that we’ve garnered from talking to top administrative assistants.

The average administrative assistant finds minute-taking almost as appealing as a root canal.

But although the task of compiling accurate meeting notes is difficult and time-consuming, it is also a necessary one . . . And with the right approach, it might not be as painful as it seems.

Organization is the key to successful note-taking. Veteran note-takers have learned that an effective organization strategy involves breaking the job down into three distinct phases, each one requiring just as much attention as the others.

Before the Meeting
Since taking meeting notes usually involves more than simply writing down what happens in the meeting, you need to be on top of your game long before the meeting actually occurs. The first step of the note-taking process involves organizing the meeting agenda, minutes from the last meeting, and any other material that may arise in the course of the meeting. These materials should be distributed to meeting participants at a least a few days before the meeting itself.

Without overstepping your boundaries, part of your job is to ensure that the meeting agenda makes sense. For example, if the minutes from the last meeting indicate that an issue has been tabled and that issue doesn’t appear on the agenda, consider bringing the oversight to the attention of the person leading the meeting.

During the Meeting
It’s not unusual for the note-taker’s role during a meeting to travel far beyond simply recording outcomes and discussions. Plan to keep a record of the meeting’s attendees and make note of those who arrived late so they can be briefed later about any decisions that were made during their absence, especially if those decisions impact them individually.

While it is usually not necessary to maintain a verbatim transcript of the conversation, keep track of the order in which items were actually discussed (versus the order in which they appear on the agenda) and write down the highlights of the discussion for each issue.

If an item is brought to a vote, record the motions that were made as well as the names of the people who made them and (in some cases) seconded them. Then record the outcome of the vote, the method used (hand, voice, or ballot), and if appropriate, the individual names of those who approved, rejected or abstained. This may seem onerous, but in many situations the record of board votes provides a legal basis for decisions of the corporation.

After the Meeting
After the meeting is over, transcribe the minutes from handwritten notes to a more formal, typed format as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to remember important details you may have missed. Once you are pleased with a final version, distribute copies to all attendees, making note of any action items requiring follow-up. Depending on the meeting, it may also be necessary to archive a copy of the minutes in paper and/or electronic formats.

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As the days of summer peel away on the calendar, moving closer and closer to the first day of school, many parents reminisce about their own days of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Many recall the thrill of selecting a new lunch box adorned with a favorite cartoon character or the excitement of purchasing new clothes and supplies during back-to-school shopping excursions with their parents.

Parents today want to create the same fond back-to-school memories for their children. To that end, some families have developed special traditions for when their kids go back to school. Need to establish your own traditions? It’s never too late! Following are some ideas for making memorable traditions when your kids return to school.

Picture Them Coming…and Going
Capturing photographs of all the special moments from the first day of school is a tradition that many parent take time to do every year.

Some parents pose their children in the same spot every year on the first day of school and snap a photo to show the progression of the kids’ changes over time. Some have a traditional picture-taking spot in front of a tree, which also grows along with the child. Many parents make it a big event and have grandparents also come to the morning send-off and snap photos on the front steps or at the bus stop.

“Last Supper of Summer” or “Back-to-School Breakfast”
One simple way to welcome going back to school is to let each child pick the menu for a “last supper of summer” or a “back-to-school breakfast.” Be flexible and remember that anything goes on this menu, from a favorite home-cooked meal to an outing at a favorite pizza place to allowing everyone to have dessert first, if that’s what the kids request. It’s your tradition, so do what will make it memorable for your family!

Add to the celebratory atmosphere by decorating the dinner table with a back-to-school theme—use an array of colorful pencils in place of a floral centerpiece; use construction paper place mats accompanied by pieces of chalk; or even let the kids have their dinner using their new lunch boxes.

If breakfast would work better for your family, then use the same ideas as above but have a morning meal instead. One mom says she has an alphabet-theme back-to-school breakfast where the menu consists of alphabet-shaped cereal and pancakes made in the shape of each of her children’s initials.

Fun “Night Before School” Preparations
Making sure that everything is in place for the big morning is often a part of the back-to-school tradition in households across the country. Organize everything the night before! This yearly routine gives the kids a sense of stability and helps calm any anxieties they may have on the night before the first day. Plus, it means no rushing around the next morning to find things on that important first day back to school.

Read About a “Can-Do Attitude”
One grandmother began a back-to-school tradition of giving a copy of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go to each of her grandchildren when they entered kindergarten. The books were then read and reread at back-to-school time each year. She says her grandchildren were inspired by the book’s message about all the possibilities that any new beginning holds; the book begins this way: “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

To create a lasting memory, the book can then be signed by each teacher the child has, either at the beginning or end of each school year. When back-to-school times rolls around, an annual tradition is born when the book is pulled off the bookshelf and reread before the next school year. The book’s message reinforces to children that they survived the last big school challenge—and that they’ll do just as well in the next new grade.

Reflections From the First Day
Have a ‘first-day surprise’ for them on their bed. Something small but special like a video game, gift card, or stuffed animal.” A special dinner that night at a local restaurant is memorable where they can tell of the day’s events.

Bake Some Memories
Some back-to-school traditions create lasting memories by way of the senses, such as how something tasted, felt, sounded, or smelled. Have warm cookies waiting for them when they get home the first day. This will get them to stay put for a bit and share their day with you. For the kids, the aroma of freshly baked cookies waiting for them as they walk through the front door, the warm hug they get from and the comfort of having your full attention as they describe their first day are certain to create lasting memories and perhaps a tradition to continue someday with their own children.

Be Honest and Do a “Happy Dance”
Although most parents and kids mourn the end of summer and the return to a school schedule, others look forward to the structure and order that going back to school creates. On the first day of school, and after the kids are fed, dressed, packed up, and safely on the school bus, do a “happy dance” celebrating your kids’ return to school!

No matter what tradition you create or continue each year, be sure to make time for one. While even parents of very young children know that time passes quickly, parents whose children are grown really realize how life speeds to fast-forward once kids begin school. Traditions can help hold on to that sense of family and belonging, making even the everyday a little more special. Happily, since successful traditions are often passed down, you can also make plans to continue your back-to-school tradition with future grandchildren once they begin school.

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