Judge overturns overtime ruling

Legal news, overtime pay

A Department of Labor rule due to go into effect Dec. 1 was overturned by a federal court judge in Texas. The judge issued an injunction against the ruling which would have doubled the salaries allowed to be eligible for overtime pay.

A federal court judge in Texas overturned a new overtime rule set to go into effect Dec. 1. The rule, which was set by the Department of Labor, was declared illegal. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman issued an injunction to block implementation nationwide. Mazzant is an Obama appointee.

According to the ruling, the Department of Labor cannot establish overtime rules based solely on payscales. That position was backed by 21 states, a coalition of business groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the case Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, No. 16-cv-731.

The DOL doubled the salary threshold for paying overtime to salaried employees with the new rule last May. The DOL’s rule stated that an employee who makes $47,476 annually must be paid overtime. The ceiling is currently set at $23,660. Additionally, the new rule proposed automatic annual increases to this threshold. It would have been the first significant change in 40 years.

Called white-collar exemptions, overtime rules affect only those employees classified as bona fide executive, administrative, professional or outside sales employees along with some computer employees.

According to estimates, more than 5 million employees would have been eligible for overtime pay — a change that would have had a significant impact on an employer’s bottom line. Because of the potential to significantly raise the costs of a company’s labor and wages, most small businesses are opposed to the proposed rules.

Those opposed argued that most businesses would not be able to afford the increases. They also argue it will harm the very people it sought to protect because employers would be compelled to reduce work hours or limit salaried positions.

Proponents of the change argue that the law is needed to protect workers and bring salary thresholds up to current economic realities.

Employers could have avoided increase overtime pay in two ways: Pay salaried employees more or change the status of salaried employees earning less than that into hourly, on-the-clock employees. Either way, it would have meant changes in employment practices and increased expenses.

Mazzano ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act does not allow the DOL to decide which workers are eligible for overtime based solely on salary levels.

The labor department can appeal the ruling and is currently considering its options, a spokesperson said. If the injunction stands, the next step will be a full court trial to weigh the merits of the lawsuit.




Pinterest & Snapchat: 12 tips to dial in your visual ads

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, contributor Brad O’Brien offers tips to make the most of your advertising on Pinterest and Snapchat.

on November 10, 2016 at 10:41 am

By this point, we’ve all traded enough Facebook advertising Q4 tips (raising hand) to write a few books on the subject.

If you’re not using all the tools in Facebook’s ROI kit in the next few weeks through the busy holiday shopping season, you don’t have many excuses.

But what about for the newer social platforms that don’t have as many best practices in circulation? For retail clients especially, there’s still time to make hay in Q4 on Pinterest and Snapchat.


Pinterest is a cool combination of social engagement/proof and search intent. Since I last wrote about the platform in April, lots of new best practices have emerged.

Because keywords are such a big part of the platform, some unique optimization tactics open up, including:

  • Bucket your top-performing keywords into their own campaign to isolate them. This helps you try things like bidding higher on keywords that you know will perform.
  • Test keyword audiences against lookalike audiences to see which perform better. (For the record, one of our recent tests showed that CPC and CTR were better for keyword audiences, while conversion rate was better for lookalikes. But results vary by client.)

There are plenty of other more social-natured tips, too. Some of our favorites:

  • Exclude Custom Audiences from promoted pin targeting (this functions much like Facebook’s Custom Audience exclusions).
  • Let certain pins run organically for a while to build engagement before spending on them. When you start spending on new pins right away, it can take weeks before the pins spend money because there’s little traction with engagement.
  • You can create dark pins in the bulk editor; this lets you get specific more efficiently.
  • Leverage the new Pinterest pixels! They’re now in version 3, and they’re pretty darn handy for Creating Website Custom Audiences and retargeting audiences.
  • Pinterest description copy should be detailed, and it can be longer than what is generally used for social posts. We’ve found a sweet spot right around 240 characters, though of course we recommend testing.
  • Creative should have distinct text overlays with highlights, whether on the image or in a text box (e.g., “How to budget your money…” or “Create great dishes with these 100 recipes…”). Vertical aspect ratios (pins taller than they are wide) are still the best performers in my experience.



Snapchat ads, of course, are the newest and arguably least known of the three. A few tips if you are considering Snapchat ads in Q4:

  • Try geo-fenced filters, a fun branding play that will only cost local businesses a few bucks to create a cheap, engaging experience for any store visitor. Create one that is fun and holiday-themed, and consider offering a discount at checkout for anyone who shows that they’ve used the filter. Use your other social platforms (like Facebook, Twitter) to cross-promote the Snapchat filter locally.
  • Snapchat is no longer just for teenagers. Popularity is growing most, especially in the 25–34 age group, which grew from 11.3 million to 15.8 million users in just the last year. With a broader demographic flocking to the platform, this makes it more compelling to many advertisers.
  • Snap ads have grown from only being seen in the Discover section of the platform to Stories, showing among the content of the users you are following. Further, some newer features of Snap ads allow the user to “swipe up” on the ad to see more; you can even direct them to articles, videos, app stores and mobile website experiences.
  • Having the sound on is a self-selected feature that most Snapchat users will opt into. This is because the bulk of the platform is actively creating and viewing video, and this naturally will lead to having your sound turned on to hear and be heard. Facebook video, conversely, has sound off on video by default, resulting in up to 85 percent of Facebook video being watched with the sound off.

By the time Q4 2017 rolls around, my (educated) guess is that Snapchat will have dozens of new features to share, and Pinterest will be a well-oiled holiday machine.

For now, our advice is the same as usual: Test any new features aggressively before diving in, but don’t be afraid to grab an opportunity before your competition.

Businesses are getting worried the election will hurt the economy

August 15, 2016

11-01-16Shoppers carry bags while crossing Post Street in San Francisco on Aug. 10. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The American economy is starting to get the election jitters.
Slow sales of Red Robin’s gourmet burgers prompted the chain’s top executive to wonder whether this year’s vitriolic presidential campaign season has driven consumers to pull a blanket over their heads. A top executive at the Home Shopping Network said the tone of the election is generating negativity — and even fear. And mattress giant Tempur Sealy is worried that the focus on politics will distract consumers from the importance of a good night’s sleep.

“We are nervous, I guess is the word, about what we think is going to be a noisy election cycle in North America,” chief executive Scott Thompson told investors recently.

That uncertainty could explain why several key readings of the economy’s health have been surprisingly weak lately, analysts say. Consumer spending was restrained last month, when many experts had expected a pickup. Companies have been reluctant to invest, dragging down broader economic growth. Even the strong job market has become suspect: Perhaps businesses would rather hire workers than spend big money on equipment and factories amid a fragile recovery.

A recent poll by the National Association for Business Economics found that 11 percent of its members have postponed hiring or investment decisions until after November. More than half of its members rated this year’s election a negative for the economy. The rest were unsure or neutral.

“Nobody said it was positive,” said Kevin Swift, who headed the survey committee for the National Association for Business Economics.

Every presidential election creates fresh uncertainty about the direction of the economy, an issue that consistently ranks among voters’ top concerns. Both Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton have made frustration over the slow progress of the nation’s recovery from the Great Recession cornerstones of their campaigns.

But the stark differences in their approaches raise the potential for sweeping changes that could fundamentally alter the way the United States does business. Trump, in particular, has rejected economic orthodoxy by threatening to pull out of the country’s free trade deals, slap hefty tariffs on foreign goods and impose a ban on new regulations. Clinton has come out against a new trade deal in Asia but also proposed raising income taxes on the wealthy and new taxes on business.

For now, many companies are simply sitting tight. Business investment in factories, equipment and technology has fallen for three consecutive quarters, the longest streak of declines since 1979. Many analysts do not expect it to pick up until after the dust settles in November. In a survey of small businesses, the political climate ranked second to the economy as a reason to delay spending.

“Uncertainty is high, expectations for better business conditions are low, and future business investments look weak,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business, which conducted the poll. “Our data indicates that there is little hope for a surge in the small business sector anytime soon.”

The lack of investment has restrained broader economic growth, which has averaged a meager 1 percent over the first half of the year. American consumers have been picking up much of the slack, powering the recovery by shopping online and buying cars. But there are signs that they, too, are growing weary of opening their wallets.

Analysts had expected retailers to post sales gains in July compared with the previous month, but government data released Friday showed they were flat instead. Among the sectors dragging down the results were grocers, clothing stores and bars and restaurants.

At Red Robin, profits have fallen by 32 percent and the stock price is down double-digits this year. Chief Executive Denny Marie Post cast about for answers on a recent conference call with investors: stagnant wages, more debt, or perhaps even politics.

“It does seem to us that the consumer has gone home and has pulled the blanket over their heads,” she said. “It’s really clear that the economic recovery has been far from even across the population.”

Isolating the election’s impact on the economy is difficult. It’s just one in a series of speed bumps that have threatened to throw the recovery off course since the start of the year. Rock-bottom oil prices, fears of a slowdown in China and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have undercut the global economy and dampened momentum at home.

But economists say there is an underlying thread of uncertainty that ties those events together. Around the globe, populist movements are questioning the benefits of free trade and the costs of a go-it-alone attitude that might provide some shelter from the turmoil in the world economy.

“We are a world in transition with many who are justifiably looking for a change in course. Whether that move will take us to higher, safer ground or instead thrust us further into the path of the political storm is unknown,” said Diane Swonk, founder of DS Economics. “What we do know is that isolationism, protectionism and the politics of hate that tend to accompany these trends have historically diminished growth, triggering recessions or worse.”

Complicating the picture is the possibility that Congress will remain divided after the November elections, limiting the power of either candidate in the White House. Bold proposals for tax reform, Social Security and immigration could fall by the wayside once confronted with the realities of the political process. In a call with investors, casino magnate Steve Wynn expressed concern that the country’s $19 trillion debt would go unaddressed and skepticism that much would change.

“Everybody is making all kinds of promises and declarations that they can do things or they will do things that, of course, they cannot without exacerbating the problems that are currently plaguing the country,” he said. “We’re the chicken in the pot for every season where everybody is promising the moon.”

There are some businesses that stand to benefit from this year’s political drama, however. The E.W. Scripps Co., which owns 33 television stations, expects to make about 80 percent of its political ad revenue over the next three months. This campaign season has boosted sales to $8.4 million last quarter, four times the amount of political spending a year ago.

“As the electoral map has shifted and even constricted, one thing is clear,” chief executive Rich Boehne said recently. “If you want to be president of the United States, you will need to spend a lot of money in key Scripps states of Ohio, Florida and Nevada.”

Don’t pull the blanket over your small business, take the FRB poll and let your voice be heard!


One of the most successful programs we’ve put in place as franchisees is a Marketing Action plan. Simply put, this plan plays to the strengths of the franchisee. I was never one for going door-to-door to find new customers, so I found a few specific actions I could do well to get new people in the door. If we got a business card, we’d turn it into a luggage tag and send it back to the client. We found that 73 percent of these people actually used the luggage tag, and many became customers. I also recommend joining a networking group or a BNI group. Becoming a business leader in your community is an easy way to make lasting connections with influential people. You never know when that can turn into a mutually beneficial relationship. Consider too, looking into something like pay-per-click advertising. This is a great way to reach people you don’t already know who can become new customers. What you do isn’t as important as the fact that you do something consistently and well. To reach existing customers for repeat business, we’ve always strongly believed in sending thank-you notes. If you spend more than $100 in our store, you get a personalized thank-you card. Nearly 85 percent of our business comes from repeat or referred customers. We send out weekly emails to more than 1,400 customers. The messages are product-based, include news from the shop and feature a customer to tell their story and ask for ideas to grow. Most importantly, remember to tell (and show) customers what you can do, not what you can’t.  Marketing is not a verb. With a few specific actions you can do well and measure, you can be successful. Big corporations market based on money, but small businesses market with the time, energy and passion of the owner. Every business has something that makes it unique — the thing that it does better, faster or cheaper than the competition. This uniqueness and your guarantee need to be the core of the message that you deliver to your customers. Put yourself in the mindset of your customer. This will allow you to speak to their fears, wants, needs, expectations and delights. Describe your business in the terms that are most familiar to the people who buy from you. This will lead to more business for you.

Source: 15http://www.franchise.org/four-ways-to-improve-your-business-development-efforts

Only Margin Pays

Break it down however you want, but the truth remains: there are only four ways to grow a business:

  • More customers,
  • More often,
  • More money,
  • More margin.

As a business owner, you know that only one of the “Four Mores” pays: more margin. Very little of the formula for business success is complicated. It may not be easy, but it is simple. Consider how to grow your margin: you can raise your prices or lower your costs. The key to success is to work with both sides of this equation. Be aware of your costs and watch for the same or better product at a lower cost. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be loyal to your vendors, but one of the best ways to lower your costs is to consolidate purchasing with fewer vendors. As the volume of business that you do with them grows, they are likely to reward you with better pricing. Take the time to calculate your margins on a regular basis — monthly, for example. You should break out your costs into the same categories that you use to categorize your sales. Total gross margin makes a great indicator for the overall profit health of your business. But when troubleshooting, changes and improvements are necessary, you have to address those at the department level. This means you’ll need to calculate gross margins for each department in your business. On the other hand, the prices that you charge your customer need to be competitive. When gauging the effectiveness of your pricing structure, listen to your customers and shop your competition. While price is commonly one of the first questions your customers will ask, it’s not necessarily the key to customer satisfaction. Your job is to create value for your customers and finding a winning balance between cost and price helps build a strong business foundation.

Source: http://www.franchise.org/four-ways-to-improve-your-business-development-efforts

You Have to Measure to Win

You have to measure if you want to grow. The results you have now will tell you what’s working, and the results you don’t have will make obvious what is absent. But you’re a small-business owner, and you’re already overwhelmed; measuring can’t be your full-time job. It doesn’t have to be. A system I recommend is called the “Thumbprint.” It’s just three groups of numbers:

  • Sales — We usually talk about monthly sales and compare them to last year
  • ACT – The amount of an average customer transaction
  • TGM – Total Gross Margin

ACT and TGM should both be measured historically over 12 months or as many months as you’ve been in business. There are only two ways to grow sales: either get more customers or convince your existing customers to spend more. To calculate ACT, divide sales by transactions. Both ways to grow sales are accounted for in that one simple number. There are also only two ways to grow margin: raise prices or lower costs. TGM is the money you have after you subtract any costs that are directly related to making a sale, so both sides of that equation are represented in that number as well. This is an accurate way for franchisees across the system to compare how they’re the same, how they’re different, who is having success and who needs a hand. This quick Thumbprint allows two small-business owners from completely different businesses and regions to relate to and learn from each other. In turn, this multiplies opportunities to learn from each other.

Source: http://www.franchise.org/four-ways-to-improve-your-business-development-efforts