5 Attributes to Look For in High Performing Employees

Posted on February 26, 2014 by in Blog

Since you can’t clone yourself, what should you look for when hiring high performing employees? Is a great article written by Ryan Caldbeck on Entrepreneur.com .

With so much attention paid to innovations and disruptive business models in the venture capital and startup world, it can be easy to overlook the vital importance of great people.

I keep a quote from legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock in mind when hiring: “What I’m interested in is investing in people.”

Of course, every company wants stellar employees who are impactful, high performers. Identifying those high performers, however, takes hard work in recruiting, screening resumes and interviewing.

Here are five key attributes that CircleUp looks for in candidates, in no order:

Horsepower: I’ll take intelligence over experience any day of the week. Job descriptions alone can intimidate a lot of people — particularly younger people, who often feel that they lack the experience that the job description suggests they will need. That’s unfortunate, because I’ve found that most of the time intelligence trumps experience. An intelligent candidate can quickly learn a job and frequently ends up doing it better than someone (less intelligent) who has been doing a similar job elsewhere. Experience is certainly valuable, but brains are the horsepower that drives the business.

Ownership and pride: “Run the mile you are in.” This is a distance-running mantra from Runner’s World Editor-in-Chief David Willey that I think applies to many aspects of our personal and professional lives. No matter your current job or where you are in your career, are you focused and engaged and do you take ownership? Do you have pride in what you are doing? Do you have pride in your colleagues and your company? “Run the mile you are in” applies not only to distance running; it applies to life, and it applies to how you will succeed — or not — as a teammate in business.

Work ethic: What we are doing — redefining the private equity investing model and bringing fresh capital to consumer goods startups — requires both smart and hard work. We achieved strong growth in 2013, our first full year in business, because our team works very hard. It’s more than that, really. It’s teamwork that is self initiated. The valued employee is not only the one willing to work hard; she is the employee who searches out ways to contribute most. She should have a work history of having demonstrated not only a willingness to contribute, but a desire to lead, come up with ideas on her own and to grasp fully the feeling of pride in his or her accomplishments.

Integrity: This is an attribute that is not always easy to flesh out. But it is too important to gloss over in the interview process. I try to gauge integrity by asking interviewees for examples of difficult decisions they have had to make or ethical dilemmas they’ve faced. I’m looking for candid responses as to how they handled these situations. What was their decision-making process?

Teamwork: This is my version of the ‘no jerks’ rule. So much of what we do involves collaboration that we must have team players across our business. It is good for business results and our corporate culture. I’ve met nice people who just weren’t effective teammates, but I haven’t met a lot of great team players who were jerks. This is what Reed Hastings, in his manifesto Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility, calls selflessness. I want people who are ego-less and put the interests of the company above their own and are eager to share information and help their co-workers.

This year, we will hire a substantial number of new employees. We’ve had great success in our first two years recruiting fantastic talent. I see it in our productivity and growth, and in the endorsements we receive both from investors and startups. It is also evident in the engagement and enthusiasm I see among our team members — smart, hard-working people thrive alongside other smart, hard-working people.

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231383#ixzz2uTAQvHDr

Legal Risks at The Trade Show

Posted on February 24, 2014 by in Blog

Spring is the time of year for trade shows to start up again. Houston will host one of the largest in the country in May (the Offshore Technology Conference). I have to admit that until recently I had not considered the possibility of theft at trade shows as a huge risk for companies. Not theft of physical assets, but the stealing of intellectual property assets. Intellectual property theft is the most common theft occurrence at trade shows.

As the Houston law firm, The Buskop Law Group (www.buskoplaw.com), stated in a recent white paper:

“The theft of Intellectual Property costs American corporations in excess of $250 billion every year. Small and medium sized companies are hit particularly hard because they often lack the resources or the knowledge to combat the theft. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 85 percent of exporting small and medium sized businesses failed to recognize that their U.S. patents and trademarks did not protect them overseas, thereby jeopardizing ownership of their own products and services in global markets. In addition, many business owners are unaware of the recent changes made to patent law regarding the disclosure of unprotected property. Disclosure without protection can now jeopardize your ability to receive patent protection.”

According to the FBI, “Domestic and foreign companies may try to illegally acquire your company’s information. Foreign nations that seek to improve their economies and militaries target U.S. technology companies.”

I consistently recommend to the companies I represent that they need to 1) identify their intellectual property and 2) protect their intellectual property. I’m adding a special note to all my clients this spring to make sure they take steps to protect their intellectual property at trade shows.

Buskop Law is offering a free seminar on how to better protect one’s company before a show on Thursday February 27, 2014 with an exclusive webinar designed especially for exhibitors entitled:

“DANGER at the Trade Show”

Discussed will be areas of exposure, types of protection,
and some simple guidelines to follow.

Check out www.buskoplaw.com for more information.

I encourage you to check it out. I will be.

If you or your company would like a free consultation on these or any issues, please contact me at mmurrah@outsourcegc.com

Tax Benefits of Homeownership

Posted on February 20, 2014 by in Blog

Congratulations, you’re a new homeowner.  Along with the joy of painting, plumbing and yard work, you now have new tax considerations.  More importantly, there are substantial tax savings associated with purchasing a new home including mortgage interest, energy efficiency upgrades, home improvement loan interest and property tax deductions.

Another tax benefit to consider is the home office deduction. Whether you are self-employed or an employee, if you use a portion of your home for business, you may be able to take a home office deduction. Generally, you may take a deduction for the proportionate share of the expenses associated with a home office if it is your primary place of business or it’s a place to meet with clients or customers.  The expenses include utilities, repairs and maintenance, insurance, interest expense and taxes. You can also deduct the furniture and equipment used in the office.

Through 2013, you could deduct sales taxes paid on improvements to your home and furniture and appliances.  Moreover, the IRS allowed for the deduction of sales tax during 2013. This includes a computation based on adjusted gross income and on substantial purchases last year.  Substantial purchases are defined as items exceeding $500.  This deduction can add up especially if you are filling your home with new furniture and appliances.

Moving is an ideal time to clean out closets of unwanted clothing, furniture, appliances and equipment.  Non-cash donations are an often overlooked and underrated deduction.  Donating unused household items may be deducted at thrift store value which can allow for a substantial tax deduction.

When it comes time to sell, you can you can keep, tax free, capital gains of up to $250,000 if you are single and $500,000 if you are married filing jointly.  To qualify, the home must have been your primary residence for at least two of the prior five years.

To take full advantage of these and other tax-deductable expenses as a homeowner, you’ll need to file a Form 1040 and claim these as itemized deductions on schedule A. There are additional forms that require preparation for office-in-house. For most taxpayers, itemized deductions are an alternative to the standard deduction.  In order to benefit from itemized deductions, keep in mind the total of all allowed expenses from your home, as with interest and property taxes and certain miscellaneous expenses, must exceed the standard deduction amount for your filing status.

Based in Houston, Texas and with more than 35 years of accounting experience, Gary N. Cooper, CPA, president/CEO of Cooper CPA Group, PC, established his full-service accounting and consulting firm in 2004 and serves individuals and mid-market companies in a broad range of industries including medical, retail, commercial, hospitality and manufacturing.  www.CooperCPAGroup.com


Music Artists Need CPAs, Not Just Lawyers

Posted on February 12, 2014 by in Blog

Music Artists Need CPAs, Not Just Lawyers 

By: David Acosta

For musical artists just entering the entertainment business or long time veterans, having savvy legal counsel is a no brainer.  Intellectual property damage, unpaid royalties, copyright violations and breach of contract cases are just a sampling of issues artists may face along the way.

But when the question of financial damages comes into play – lost profits, reputation or something else – that’s when having a certified public accountant (CPA) on the team can really pay off.

Whether a major label artist or an independent, consider these four reasons to work with a CPA.


A hot topic for industry players is royalties and how they are split among artists, writers, labels, publishers, etc.  Attorneys can assist with contractual rights, but accountants quantify those rights.  CPAs with forensic accounting credentials use an analytical approach to develop findings for the calculation and forecasting of royalty revenues and costs associated.  These experts understand and translate royalty statements to determine correctness.  Many civil disputes arise from artists and their advisors not being able to do this.


Many independent artists live for their craft and don’t consider tax ramifications for ignoring the bookkeeping side of the business.  Don’t leave yourself exposed to the IRS for misreporting contract labor, management fees, merchandise sales, gigs paid in cash and compensation to band members. The IRS is a powerful agency that can garnish wages, levy bank accounts, and seize homes.  It can put a lock on business doors or force owners to sell assets. CPAs are prepared for the taxman by being knowledgeable in minimizing liability and exposure to more serious charges.


Sound financial planning can help preserve the financial security musicians are working so hard to achieve.  Experienced accountants can spot opportunities to maximize tax savings such as income deferral opportunities to having the right entity structure (limited liability company, corporation or partnership) in place.


As a music artist gains notoriety and success, the complexity of the business grows.  Are recording costs and meal expenses deductable?  Is withholding taxes for sidemen necessary?  Are crowd sourcing payments taxable?  Answers to these questions, not to mention the complex tax code, are better left to the experts.  Knowing their financial health is being taken care of by trusted advisors allows artists to focus on their craft.

The news is full of examples of artists who have battled financial crisis.  Even the greatest, most successful musicians aren’t immune.  Music is big business and artists should be proactive in protecting their interests from the start.  Select independent, trusted sources with the knowledge to identify financial opportunities and provide risk protection. After all, they don’t call it show business for nothing.

Based in Houston, Texas and an active member of several organizations, David Acosta serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Board of Governors of the Texas Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy Awards©). www.CooperCPAGroup.com

Our Two Most Onerous Taxes: College Tuition and Healthcare Insurance

Posted on February 6, 2014 by in Blog

Article written by Charles Hugh Smith on GlobalResearch.org http://www.globalresearch.ca/our-two-most-onerous-taxes-college-tuition-and-healthcare-insurance/5367336

It is not coincidence that these two unofficial taxes–healthcare and college tuition–are soaring in cost, outpacing all other household expenses.

I have long argued that to make an apples-to-apples comparison of real tax rates in the U.S. and other equivalently developed advanced democracies, we have to include two enormous expenses that are funded by the central state in countries such as Denmark and France: healthcare and college tuition/fees.

In The Real-World Middle Class Tax Rate: 75% (July 5, 2012), I estimated that healthcare insurance (if paid out of gross income, as we self-employed workers do) in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to a 15% tax.

Now that the Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act (ACA) is raising costs and deductibles, the true cost of healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare, because being chronically sick is so darned profitable for the cartels) is more like 20% in America.

Correspondent Tim L. (whose daughter is attending a prestigious STEM–science, technology, engineering, math–university) recently called $40-$50,000 per year college tuition what it really is: a tax:

College tuition is just another tax. If you can afford to pay it, you have to. If you cannot, you do not. Anytime you have to pay more for something because you can, you are paying a tax. Between traditional taxes, the college tuition tax, and the health insurance tax (also paid only by those who can afford to), I figure this year and the next three I’m in a 100+% tax bracket.

Middle-class Scandinavians famously pay around 65% to 75% of their gross incomes in taxes, but these taxes fund national healthcare for all and nearly free college tuition and fees. Add $200,000 (four years of tuition/fees at $50,000/year) in tax to the already-high U.S. real tax rate, and the real tax rate for middle-class households exceeds 100% of gross income.

Since only those with significant savings can possibly afford to pay a $200,000 tuition tax, the average-income household is left with one choice: the debt-serfdom of student loans. This is the acme of a morally bankrupt system of higher education: you need a college degree to have any hope of succeeding in America, but the only way to get that degree is to enter debt servitude, with no guarantees of future income needed to pay off the debt.

It is not coincidence that these two unofficial taxes–healthcare and college tuition–are soaring in cost, outpacing all other household expenses. The only other household item that is skyrocketing is debt:

The two unofficial taxes–paid by debt, either student loans, or Federal deficits– have no restraints: if you can’t pay, then the upper-middle class taxpayers who are paying most of the Federal tax will, one way or another:

Meanwhile, guess what’s been flat to down for the past 40 years–yup, the earned income of the bottom 90%:

With an unofficial tax rate for healthcare and college tuition that makes Scandinavian countries look like low-tax havens, no wonder the middle class in America is vanishing like mist in Death Valley. The political class is now bleating about the erosion of the middle class and rising wealth inequality. There are two primary sources of rising inequality in America: the Federal Reserve and the higher-education and healthcare cartels that so generously fund the campaigns of the bleating politicos.

Copyright Charles Hugh Smith, Max Keiser Report, 2014

Financial Troubles? 5 Ways to Improve Your Situation

Posted on February 1, 2014 by in Blog, Government, Media, Planning, Taxes

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Financial Troubles? 5 Ways to Improve Your Situation

Identity Theft and Tax Returns: Tips for Taxpayers

Posted on by in Blog, Government, Media, Planning, Taxes

Continued – 

Identity Theft and Tax Returns: Tips for Taxpayers

Six Tax Changes Benefitting Taxpayers in 2013

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Six Tax Changes Benefitting Taxpayers in 2013