Amazon’s Legal Woes Continue

What is that old saying about knocking a king off his mountain? I don’t quite remember it, but I think it might apply to Amazon. I mean, let’s face it, Amazon is having somewhat of a bad year when it comes to lawsuits. While you might think that things are going swimmingly well for Amazon since they recently announced plans to hire 450 workers in Hebron, Kentucky. They meanwhile, still continue to have legal woes across the country; this time, in the state of Nevada. That’s where two former employees are seeking compensation for the time they spent passing through Amazon’s security checkpoints at one of their warehouses.

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The case, which was filed by Jesse Burk and Laurie Castro all the way back in 2010, alleges that workers should have continued to receive hourly wages until they passed through Amazon’s security. Their argument is that since the checkpoints in their warehouses are actually benefiting Amazon, the workers should be compensated for their time.

 

Although the Nevada district court ruled in 2011 that the case should be dismissed, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision earlier this month. What this means to Amazon is that the case in is now once again moving forward.

 

The lawsuit stems from incidents at Amazon’s Breinigsville warehouse where employees were required to clock out at the end amazon-warehouse-2of their shifts prior to passing through the warehouse’s security check points. The amount of time spent waiting in line could then be anywhere from only a few minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the time of year (around Christmas Amazon employees extra workers) or if an employee set off a metal detector.

 

While you might think it’s no big deal if Amazon is forced to pay for these 10 or 20 minutes of extra time, keep in mind that Mark Thierman, the attorney representing the workers, is actively looking for more plaintiffs who faced similar working conditions across the country. If he gets his wish, there could be an estimated 100,000 additional plaintiffs since thousands of people have worked at Amazon’s warehouses and the period of time the case covers goes back for several years.

 

As you can imagine, this could turn into a pricey settlement for Amazon who has, so far, refused to comment on the proceedings and also could affect another company called Integrity Staffing Solutions. They are the company responsible for supplying Amazon with its temporary workers. I’m not sure how this will all play out, but all the lawsuits Amazon is facing this year should certainly be giving their attorneys a good workout!

 

Need Money to Buy Inventory?

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In case you haven’t heard of them yet, there is a company called Kabbage, which offers low interest cash advances for sellers to buy inventory or pay bills for their businesses. I love this service! Sellers have long been searching for a way to get the finances they need in order to purchase inventory. There is nothing more frustrating than stumbling upon a great deal, only to not have the revenue to make the purchase! Now there is a way for sellers to get instant cash advances to purchase this much-needed inventory, or even to pay bills that they need to keep their business running efficiently. Kabbage has been offering loans for quite some time now, and has grown exponentially. They have given more than 60,000 advances to sellers across the US. Considering that it is competing with regular banks and payment services, the figures in and of themselves are astonishing. Have you tried this service yet? 
I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to grow their business. This advance will help you to go out and buy a large amount of inventory to turn over, then after selling; you will have the cash to continue to purchase even more inventory. It was a great idea and I have to give props to the people behind Kabbage.

 

 

 

 

There has been another announcement on this front, though. Our beloved PayPal has decided to start offering the same service! On Wednesday, Reuters announced that PayPal will begin doing merchant financing. They are currently in the process of testing the service in the UK, but are supposed to begin offering these services to sellers in the US soon. Kabbage uses PayPal to help finance their advances, so it will be very interesting to see how they plan to compete with someone using their own financial services. I know that it will be an interesting process to watch. Would you rather go to Kabbage or to PayPal? 

 

Becoming a “Bathrobe Lawyer”

cliff

Last week I had the privilege of giving the keynote address at the New York State Bar Association’s “Starting a Solo Practice” series, on the topic of “Becoming a ‘Bathrobe Lawyer’: Building a Successful Solo Law Practice Out of a Home Office”.

When we think of lawyers, accountants, architects, and other professionals, we think of them first and foremost as professionals.

Yet, when a professional is working solo out of a home office, he or she is an entrepreneur or small business owner just like any other.  And the challenges they face are exactly the same as all home-based entrepreneurs.

Here are seven key points I mentioned in my talk:

Tip # 1:  Involve Your Spouse or Significant Other.  Your life is about to change in a big way.  Instead of wearing suits and taking a train or driving to work, you will be hanging around the house in your pajamas, forgetting to shave, and generally getting in your spouse’s way.  He or she will need to learn to be quiet when you are on a conference call, and keep background noise to a minimum.

If your spouse or significant other cherishes their privacy, or doesn’t want your clients tracking up the house and possibly filching an antique or two, you probably shouldn’t work out of your home.

Tip # 2:  Don’t See Clients In Your Home.  These days most clients are happy to work with you via phone, e-mail, Skype and other Internet media.  If they insist on meeting with you “live,” you can meet them in their offices, or at a local diner (I prefer diners generally because you usually can get any kind of food you want, and if you schedule your meeting between major mealtimes they usually will leave you alone without rushing you).

Meeting clients in your home increases the odds of an angry spouse or housemate (see above), and also makes it more likely you will have issues with your local zoning authority (see below).

Tip # 3:  Use a UPS Store Private Mailbox Address.  Don’t use your home address as an office or mailing address.  Open a “private mailbox” at your local UPS Store (the cost is about $200 to $300 a year), and have all your mail go there.  That way, you will have an excuse to get out of the house at least once each day.

Tip # 4:  Keep a Low Profile.  If your home-based practice is too visible (for example, there are clients sitting on your lawn waiting for a meeting, or the local kids can’t play basketball in the street because they’re too busy dodging FedEx trucks going to your house), your neighbors will turn you in to your local zoning authority.

Keep in mind that all home-based businesses (roughly 18 million of them, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) are technically illegal, because you are operating a business in a part of your community that is zoned “residential.”  As long as you don’t upset or anger your neighbors, however, you usually won’t have any problem with them.  After all, they’re probably working from home too.

Tip “# 5:  Reconsider Your “Practice Mix”.  Don’t assume that you should continue practicing in the same areas of law you always have.  Certain types of practice (for example, litigation and high-end estate planning) don’t lend themselves to home offices.  A litigation practice requires staff and a strict calendaring system that will be hard for a “solo” lawyer to maintain.  And wealthy clients will not visit someone’s home to have their wills and complex trusts updated.

Like any entrepreneur considering a change in their merchandise mix, focus on areas of the law that have strong market demand, generate solid profit margins, and for which there isn’t a lot of local competition.

Tip # 6:  Market the Heck Out of Your Practice.  If you are not spending at east 20% of your total time on marketing related activities, you are not “getting the word out there” and letting people know you exist.  You should plan on giving at least one talk to a local business group or civic organization every week, writing an article for a local newspaper or business journal every month, and joining the boards of at least three local charities.

Oh, and remember to send your clients an e-mail newsletter every couple of weeks about some new legal issue or problem they should be aware of.  They probably won’t read them, but at least you are getting your name in front of them on a regular basis so they don’t forget about you.

Tip # 7:  Take Care of Yourself.  Practicing out of a home office can be a lonely life, and it’s easy to let yourself go.  Find time to visit the gym frequently, and (men) don’t forget to shave.  Keep the refrigerator as empty as possible, because nobody wants a 400-pound lawyer.

To view my talk online, go to www.nysba.org/2013StartingaPracticeGuestpassLink.

Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

 

Free Webinar – “Search at eBay” presented by Hugh Williams, eBay VP, Experience, Search, and Platforms

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REDWOOD CITY, CA Outright along with Page Mage Inc., eBay Radio, Stamps.com, Terapeak and Kabbage will be hosting a free webinar for eBay® sellers. Hugh Williams will discuss how search engines work and what makes the eBay search problem interesting and challenging. He’ll also give an overview of search improvements at eBay over the past few years, his views on where we are today in search, and what’s new in search this year. Hugh will also briefly introduce eBay’s new search engine, Cassini, and explain what sellers can expect from it in 2013 and beyond. Presented by Hugh Williams, Vice President of Experience, Search, and Platforms at eBay, where his responsibilities include eBay’s search engine, data team, most of eBay’s global user experiences, and some of eBay’s platforms.

 

A few of the things you’ll learn:

  • How search engines work
  • eBay’s search challenges
  • An overview of eBay’s search improvements past, present and looking into the future
  • A brief introduction to Cassini, eBay’s new search engine

 

SIGN UP: http://pagemage.com/education/webinars

 

You do NOT have to be a Top Rated Seller to participate. The webinar is for eBay sellers of all sizes and levels. Sign up even if you can’t participate live. The webinar will be recorded and a link sent to all registrants when it’s complete.

 

Space is limited! Please sign up today to ensure you get a spot.

Who: Hugh is the Vice President of Experience, Search, and Platforms at eBay, where his responsibilities include eBay’s search engine, data team, most of eBay’s global user experiences, and some of eBay’s platforms. He previously managed a large R&D team at Microsoft’s Bing, where he was best-known for inventing and building their image search engine. He has published over 100 works, mostly in the field of Information Retrieval, and including two best-selling books for O’Reilly Media Inc. He holds more than ten US patents and has a PhD from RMIT University in Australia.

When: Wednesday, June 5th, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PT / 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. ET

 

Where:  Register at http://pagemage.com/education/webinars

 

About Outright

Outright has one goal: to make bookkeeping as simple as possible so the self-employed can spend as little time as possible on the least enjoyable part of running a business. Outright’s easy-to-use online accounting solution automatically brings together all of your sales & expenses in one place so you always know what’s going on with your business and are ready come tax time. No math, no manual entry, no paper work. Outright integrates with eBay & PayPal, e-commerce accounts, and, of course, your Bank and Credit Card Accounts so you can stay up to date effortlessly and instead focus on doing what you love.

 

About Page Mage

Page Mage is transforming the way sellers market their products on eBay. Page Mage provides easy to use applications for creating better listings and bigger profits. Our Billboards and Smart Gallery applications in the eBay App Center are both “Top 10 Most Popular” and let you create breakthrough listing designs to stand out from your competition, look more credible and professional, improve selling performance, and increase confidence among buyers.

 

About eBay Radio

The host of eBay Radio is Jim “Griff” Griffith, .eBay’s Dean of Education and author of the Official eBay Bible. eBay Radio broadcasts (eBay Radio; eBay Radio’s Ask Griff & Lee; and eBay Town Hall) feature helpful guidance, advice, and information from eBay team leaders and guest experts along with hot eBay topics, news direct from eBay, and your calls!

 

About Stamps.com
Stamps.com (Nasdaq:STMP) is a leading provider of Internet-based postage services. Stamps.com’s service enables small businesses, high-volume shippers, enterprise shippers, and consumers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a PC, printer and Internet connection, right from their home or office. The Company targets its services to small businesses and home offices, and currently has PC Postage partnerships with Avery Dennison, Microsoft, HP, USPS and others.

 

About Terapeak

Terapeak is a leader in ecommerce market research and payment analytics, and is the sole authorized re-licensor of eBay data globally. The company provides custom insights and SaaS technology-enabled solutions to e-commerce merchants around the world.

Currently aggregating over 20% of all online commerce sales data, Terapeak helps merchants make faster, more-profitable business decisions based on real-time market trends, pricing, and transaction data.

 

About Kabbage, Inc.

Kabbage, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide funding to small businesses in less than 7 minutes.  Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as selling online, shipping data, and  dozens of other data sources to understand business performance and craft financing options for  small businesses.

2013 eBay Radio Party & Conference Sells Out, Starts Standby List

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The eBay Radio Party & Conference, scheduled for June 18-20, 2013, at Bally’s in Las Vegas, is sold out. Organizers have opened up a standby list.

 

June 18 offers a full day of product-sourcing information, sponsored by Kabbage, while June 19-20 feature eBay and ecommerce education, networking, and assorted festivities celebrating the 10th anniversary of eBay Radio. Live radio broadcasts will be included each day as well.

 

The eBay Radio Party is produced by Voicemarketing, Inc., producers of eBay Radio. Sponsors include Platinum Sponsor Kabbage along with Stamps.com, Outright, Terapeak, Page Mage, Genco Marketplace, Endicia, Stitch Labs, Bubblefast, and eBay Inc.

 

A complete agenda for the 2013 eBay Radio Party & Conference is posted at erVegas.com and erVegasStandby.com as well as on the eBay Radio Party & Conference Group’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, those interested in attending the sold-out event should register for a spot on the standby list at erVegasStandby.com.

How to Impress the Judges at a Business Plan Competition (Part 2 – Ventures)

cliffI was pleased to be one of the judges at the 16th annual Connecticut Business Plan Competition sponsored by The Entrepreneurship Foundation.

 

Each year dozens of teams from the entrepreneurship classes at Connecticut’s private colleges, state universities and community colleges compete for cash awards, trophies and the chance to meet some of the state’s most prominent venture capitalists and angel investors.

 

The event, like many such competitions, is divided into two halves:  the first half deals with “personal businesses” (mostly retail and service companies serving a local or regional market), and the second half with “ventures” (mostly technology and product/manufacturing companies serving a national or worldwide market).

 

Here are some of the “ventures” concepts that were presented at the event, and my notes on each plan (written in “real time” so not grammatically perfect).

 

CONCEPT #1:  A smartphone application (or “app”) designed to help sellers of large, heavy merchandise – such as refrigerators, office machinery and exercise equipment – find local buyers and arrange to meet with them in public places to close their transactions.

 

THE PROS:  People do not buy heavy items from distant online merchants because of the huge shipping costs.

 

THE CONS:  Craigslist® offers similar services.  I was also not convinced that buyers and sellers would actually want to meet in public places to close their transactions as it would require both parties to hire a truck.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Consider rebranding the business as a “classified ad” site where buyers and sellers can contact each other directly and work out the details of their transactions.

 

CONCEPT #2:  A smartphone app offering short questionnaires to consumers which they fill out at the point of sale in order to obtain coupons and discounts that merchants will make available only for the app.

 

THE PROS:  Studies indicate consumers are more likely to fill out short questionnaires than longer, time-consuming ones, especially if a reward of some kind is offered.

 

THE CONS:  There is no guarantee consumers will take the time to fill out even a short questionnaire, especially if they’re standing at a cash register with screaming kids and a long line of other customers behind them.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Test market the concept at boutiques and smaller stores with less consumer traffic that might welcome free market research and feedback.

 

CONCEPT #3:  An online social media community for construction contractors.

 

THE PROS:  Construction contractors don’t network on Facebook® or LinkedIn®, feeling that these services “aren’t for them”.  Smaller contractors often have difficulty finding specialized local subcontractors when bidding on projects.

 

THE CONS:  I wasn’t convinced that construction contractors would take the time to become social media savvy.  I was also concerned that labor unions and contractor associations would want to develop their own social media solutions limited to their members.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Focus the service on contractors in specialized fields – for example, systems integrators – that aren’t highly unionized or organized.

 

CONCEPT #4:  A crowdfunding website that enables environmentally conscious consumers to invest in wind, solar and other alternative energy projects in exchange for a percentage of the project’s revenue.

 

THE PROS:  Crowdfunding – raising money online from strangers – is in its infancy and there are plenty of opportunities.  “Project financing” is an ideal candidate for a crowdfunding solution.

 

THE CONS:  Offering investors a piece of the project’s revenue is offering a “security” subject to federal and state laws.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is preparing regulations for crowdfunded investments such as this one but they are not expected to be released until later this year.  So the business model is illegal, at least right now.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Work hard on perfecting the technology and hire an attorney to follow the SEC’s progress so that the service can be launched promptly upon the regulations being issued.

 

CONCEPT #5:  A social media community offering real-time access to high school sporting events.

 

THE PROS:  Many high school athletic departments, especially at public high schools, lack the funding to set up alumni/ae sites, so there is little competition.

 

THE CONS:  I wasn’t sure alumni/ae would want to view live sporting events from their old high schools, especially after all of their friends on the team have graduated and moved on.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Consider offering the service as a video enhancement to Classmates.com or a similar website.

 

CONCEPT #6:  An organic, seaweed-based liquid lawn fertilizer product.

 

THE PROS:  Demand for organic lawn care products is skyrocketing.  Easy to process.

 

THE CONS:  As with any organic product, I expressed concern about the product’s “shelf life”, especially given that aging seaweed gives off a strong and unpleasant odor.  I questioned whether they could obtain fresh seaweed in sufficient quantities to meet consumer demand, especially since the plan called for a mass-market rollout in WalMart and other “big box” retail outlets.

 

SUGGESTIONS:  Start out small, advertise mainly online, and build a “cult” following for the product locally or regionally.  Consider adding a scent to deal with the odor problem.

 

Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

 

That Kat Radio Episode 23 With ShipStation And Jordan Malik

May  Monthly Focus – Success !!

 

 

[audio:http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-112441/TS-742167.mp3]

 1 – Guests This Week

 Curtis and Erin – Ship Station http://www.shipstation.com Ship Station is a web based shipping solution that helps you stream-line your multi channel orders. Today we will hear the ins and outs of the company and how they can help you and your business grows.

 Jordan Malik   – My Local Inventory –  http://www.mylocalinventory.com Jordan sells on eBay and Amazon, he is the author of three ebooks on subjects including how to buy low and sell high. He has multiple sites that are all designed to help buyers new and old sell and make profits.

 

2 – Chat Room Chatter:

  • There was the normal pre-show chat – talks of moves, decorating, Jeeps, and best news Charlene has cancelled her account at the libary for the blind 🙂 Fantastic.
  • Well done on April selling her first 15 items this weeks as soon as they arrived at Amazon
  • Shipstation talked about how they can help in building your online business  while Jordan Malik talked about how and where to source your inventory.
  • We learnt about some of the up and coming events happening in the nexy few months to help us take our businesses to the next level.

 

3 – Chat Room Links

 

News Round-Up

 

  • eBay – 20,000 free listings are you in ???
  • Meetings, –
  • Events – SCOE is coming up soon in Seattle WA May 29 – Jun 1  http://SCOE.Biz
  • Next up is IRCE – largest ever eCommerce event – pushing toward 10K attendees! June 4 – 7 in Chicagohttp://www.internetretailer.com/conferences/
  • eBay Radio party is SOLD OUT!
  • ICE Event in Atlanta still has some seats!  http://ICERetailer.com. Atlanta GA Sept 20 – 21 – use THATKAT coupon code!

  • Next up is The Kansas Jubilee in Kansas Oct 25 – 26 http://KansasJubilee.net

 

Other Links & Resources:

  • That Kat Facebook Group: http://Facebook.com/groups/ThatKat – click on the “Join” button and I’ll add you to the group right away
  • That Kat Blog http://ThatKat.com Sign up for my newsletter here!
  • Do you have a question about selling on Amazon, FBA or any of the topics discussed in this podcast?  Best place to ask is on the Facebook group – see the link above. Over 400 folks willing to help!

Next Show, May 27th, A surprise show with surprise guests, talking about success.

Amazon’s Numbers Worry Some Folks

kat2bIn recent news, it has been determined that the site’s growth has slowed down.  At first, shareholders were worried because the sites shares have fallen and growth has been shown to have slowed. A market Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter, said “Unit growth is slowing which disappointed some…The law of large numbers is affecting Amazon too. You can’t grow 100 percent forever, otherwise you become the universe,” which goes to show how confident people are about the site. Regardless of how slow growth is, the site continues to be an internet giant and the main go-to source for shoppers everywhere.

There is a bright spot on the news radar though. Profit margins at the site have increased exponentially. At the very least, it’s a positive thing for Amazon. But, it would stand to reason that if Amazon’s profit margins expand, then ours would as well, right? After all, seller’s items account for 40% of the items stored in their warehouses. I hope that is exactly what it means. Amazon has opened up a ton of new warehouses, which have decreased shipping costs, leading to increased profit margins for the site.

What do you think about them opening up these new warehouses? Do you feel like it has made a difference in your revenue? I thought it would make a significant difference, causing the prices on my items to have to be dropped to maintain my competitive edge, but I believe the site is opening up more item categories that can be sold in order to keep from being flooded with the same inventory at each warehouse. Have you noticed that their food category is becoming easier to source for? What are your thoughts on the site’s growth of profit margins and supposed slow down in growth? Does it affect your business one way or another?

Is eBay Trying to Become the Next Big Social Site?

It’s no secret that folks love a social site. With Facebook profits reaching into the trillions soon, and new social sites opening daily, is it any surprise that everyone would try to tap into this social market? EBay has recently announced that they will be launching new social features, along with a next generation profile page. They said in their announcement that it was supposed to “drive deeper involvement and inspire people to shop more.” The first phase of this new development came in October, when the site released the new homepages that included a personalized feed, where users can follow their interests, and eBay gives them a display on their homepage that matches those interests. EBay will be taking this up another notch this year, by allowing users to not only follow their interest, but also their favorite themes, people and collections. Eventually, users will also be able to follow places on the site as well. EBay will also put recommended people and themes for users to follow, and if you click on those links, they will take you to the users profile or the page of the theme.

ebay next generation page

 

Now, granted, this is no Facebook. But it is a start for eBay, who has in the past shied away from social media-type features. A great feature of this new software, though, is that you can now link your YouTube and your facebook page directly to your eBay page, which may drive your sales based on the fact that you Facebook and YouTube followers can reach you directly through your eBay site and view your products for sale. I believe that this will help with sales in a big way. What do you think? Have you tried out the most recent page updates from eBay? What do you think of them? Do you believe that this will help your business at all or is it just another social media site to keep up with? It’s anyone’s guess how big this will grow to be, but at the very least, at least eBay is trying to keep up to date in this social media-driven world of ours. So props to you, eBay!