As we rapidly approach the end of another year, we either find ourselves in a state of premature nostalgia for 2018 (ruminating over our accomplishments and wins with the losses and missteps already diminished by the glow of the holiday lights) or stressing over the mounting to-do list for 2019. January is a wild time in this industry of ours! The resolutioners will soon be upon us, bringing with them their cash and hopefully yielding a nice bottom line to launch into a prosperous new year in business. Now, I don’t want to add any more to your to-do list or take away from the impending rush of your best sales month, but there are a few critical items that are must-dos for 2019. Let’s take a look at what should be on your radar in the new year.
I9 FORM PERFECTION
We’ve touched on this a few times this year, but it bears repeating. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) warns that going forward the agency will increase Form I-9 audits, conduct more worksite raids and promote involvement in the government's voluntary compliance program (E-Verify). Under the current administration, audits are expected to go up 4000%. It’s also important to note that civil penalties associated with violations have increased. Current penalties are between $224 and $2236 per violation (employee). Now more than ever, it is vital that employers ensure that Form I-9’s are being completed accurately and on time for each new employee.
In some states, participation in E-Verify is required. Check with your state agency.
MINIMUM WAGE REVIEW
In 2019, 21 states are increasing their minimum wage. On top of the state changes, 23 cities and counties are mandating rates above the state minimums. Make sure you review your current workforce and adjust where needed. You may need to reconsider your compensation plans to account for accommodating this change. Some areas are seeing increases of more than $2/hr. For a small business with already razor-thin margins, this can have a significant impact.
MANDATED STATE PAID SICK LEAVE PROGRAM
The count for states requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees moves up to 11 in 2019. This is a trend that is here to stay, and it’s expected that we’ll see more states legislate similar laws in the coming years. Check your state laws and ensure you have a reliable leave management system in place.
THE MEMBER REVIEW IS KING
If you think we’ll ever go back to a time when online reviews don’t matter, think again. Member reviews influence more than 95 percent of online customers before they decide to buy. In the coming years, reviews will be the greatest influencer of any business, including the fitness industry. Consider the power your members hold behind their keyboards and establish policies as well as your focus on service accordingly.
HAPPY EMPLOYEES ARE GOOD FOR BUSINESS
Recruiting and maintaining good employees has always presented a unique challenge for our industry. With unemployment at historic lows, keeping employees engaged and happy is critical to retention. Consider what you offer your team beyond a steady paycheck. What’s your culture? How do you recognize top performers? Is your environment happy and uplifting? Employees come for money, but stay because they like their team members, managers, and where they work (and money).
As we’ve seen almost daily in the headline, cyber attacks are on the rise. Make sure sensitive information is safe by limiting all storage and processing to trusted software platforms which are focused on privacy and protection. If you’re already confident in your technology suppliers, ensure you’re doing your part on PCI compliance. Never store sensitive information in paper format and if you must use paper, ensure data isn’t accessible by keeping it in a locked file cabinet or safe. Educate your staff about the importance of information handling as well. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been in a club and seen passwords or credit card information on post-it notes!
Employee awareness of and an unwillingness to accept harassment or discriminatory behaviors will continue to strengthen. With the number of states requiring sexual harassment training and instituting specific anti-harassment laws, it’s imperative that your business has clear policies which promote a healthy and safe work environment for all. A costly sexual harassment lawsuit is filed almost daily somewhere in the US. Most of these lawsuits could have been avoided with proper groundwork on the front end, an impartial investigation, and the ability to address any concerns once a complaint has been reported. So, should you find yourself on the receiving end of a claim, you need to ensure that it’s handled promptly and professionally. You can’t afford to get it wrong.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU DO BEST, FARM OUT THE REST
As a small business owner, it’s likely you wear many hats. That’s great; it got you where you are today. But as you grow, there comes a point when that’s no longer sustainable, particularly if there’s significant work that needs to be done in an area that’s outside your wheelhouse. Stop burning the candle at both ends, and maximize the resources available to you. When you find yourself short on hours and long on needs, we’ve got your back. GYM HQ is here to help you tackle compliance issues, daily business tasks (bookkeeping, payroll), customer interactions, and other vital business functions. Get out from behind the computer and back out on the fitness floor!