Why Human Resources Management is Essential for Small Business

By Lisa Minnihan, MBA-HRM

What is Human Resources Management (HRM), and why is it important to your business? Human resources are the people that make up your workforce—from the largest corporation to the smallest business or nonprofit organization. They are the engine that power your ability to invent things, produce things, fix things, sell things, or deliver services. Humans bring much of the value to your enterprise.

When your team is strong, healthy, and efficient, you can stretch to reach your goals. When you must spend a lot of time putting out fires, untangling messes, or managing high employee turnover, you don’t have the time or resources to fulfill your core mission. Chronic personnel issues can serve as a slow bleed for your bottom line; the loss of a key employee or two can be like a hemorrhage as you scramble to recruit, interview, hire, and train replacements.

This is why Human Resources Management can make a difference to your profitability. Human Resources programs help create organizational structure, develop job descriptions, maintain employee manuals, manage employee benefits packages, conduct performance reviews, manage training and professional development opportunities, ensure employee satisfaction and motivation, address discrimination and harassment issues, and ensure businesses are following employment law. They help everyone understand roles, responsibilities, performance expectations, and what to do if there’s a problem.

It’s a lot. Many small organizations don’t have the time, energy, or expertise to create and maintain a dedicated human resources program, and they may not have the resources to hire a dedicated staff person. But that doesn’t mean they should turn a blind eye. Besides protecting you from legal exposure, I believe HRM is a key ingredient to small business success.

Over the next several months we will share a series of short articles that can help you think about Human Resources Management issues in your small business or nonprofit. They will focus on a topic, introduce a few ideas, and provide resources for digging deeper. 2018 is a good year to build a Human Resources Management program that will help you survive and thrive for years to come!

Need some help right now? Call 385-9963, or email me at lisa(at)clarityei.com to set up a conversation.

New Sick Leave Law Begins January 1, 2018

Washington State’s paid sick leave initiative, I-1433, will go into effect on January 1, 2018.  While this initiative covers new minimum wage rates for future years and important language regarding tips and service charges, most of the initiative revolves around the new requirement of Washington State employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. Wondering if this applies to your business? Chances are good that it does!
As a part of the State’s Minimum Wage Act, as of January 1st, employers must provide most employees with 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.  Employees entitled to paid sick leave are those covered by the Minimum Wage Act.  The initiative covers when and how employees may use their paid sick leave, exact increments of sick leave accrual vs. usage, for whom paid sick leave can be used, notification and reporting requirements, regulations on record-keeping, and employer parameters around reasonable notification and lawful use. 
If you are interested in learning more about how implementation of this initiative will impact your business, two local workshops will be held in January: 1/11 and 1/25, at the Chamber / EDC Team Jefferson classroom. Each will include a core presentation from Washington State L&I, followed by question and answer with Clarity's HR expert Lisa Minnihan, and attorney Eileen Baratuci of AIM Services.

Co-presenting partners include Clarity, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, EDC Team Jefferson, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, and AIM Services. 

There are a limited number of spaces in each workshop, so don't delay! For details, and to register, send your name, the name of your business, and your contact information to Lisa Minnihan at lisa@clarityei.com.  

Clarity Welcomes Lisa Minnihan

Lisa is a business development and human resources professional with deep roots in the community. Over the course of her career, Lisa has worked in many small businesses, been an entrepreneur, worked in healthcare, served as a paralegal for a local law firm, worked as a behavior intervention specialist in the Port Townsend School District, and successfully launched a nonprofit. Most recently she served as the Human Resources Director, and Director of Finance and Business Administration, at Discovery Behavioral Healthcare. We are fortunate to have someone who can bring experience from so many economic sectors! Her background gives her insight into the joys and challenges of running small- and medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations. She holds an MBA with a specialization in Human Resource Management from Walden University. We are excited to have Lisa join the team at Clarity!

Interested in having Lisa help you with a Human Resources Health Check? Contact her to start the conversation.


Lisa Minnihan

Creating a Simple Budget

This month we wrap up our three-month series on planning for 2018 with a process for creating a simple budget. Below you'll also find a link to last year’s article on preparing for year-end financial tasks.
Many entrepreneurs—whether you work in the world of small business or nonprofits—are overwhelmed and intimidated when faced with the prospect of taking a deep dive into business financials. You spend all of your time and energy creating products and experiences, marketing, managing employees, serving clients and customers, tracking your daily income and expenses...the list goes on and on. But there’s nothing quite like creating a budget to help you reach your business goals. 

Create a Business Budget in Five Simple Steps: (from the Fresh Books Blog)

1. Tally Income Sources: start with figures from your profit & loss reports
2. Determine Fixed Costs: these are expenses that are the same each month, like rent or mortgage, phone and internet, web hosting, etc.
3. Include Variable Expenses: these typically can be scaled up or down, depending need and cash flow. An example might be advertising.
4. Predict One-Time Expenses: these might include capital improvements, investments in technology or equipment, or trainings and certifications
5. Put It All Together. Click here for a free template with example from QuickBooks.

Remember, a budget is not set in stone, it's simply a tool to help you make thoughtful decisions. Undoubtedly things will change and evolve over the course of the year. But it is a very helpful exercise, and taken together with the goal setting you've done, your marketing plan, your annual plan, and some good bookkeeping reports, you'll be empowered to grow and thrive in 2018 and beyond!

Do you see the value but feel overwhelmed by the thought of creating a budget for next year? Contact Clarity for help. We're your partner in designing financial health.

Build An Annual Plan for 2018

Annual Plans help you focus your energy; they help you say yes to the right things and no to the things that won’t serve your business. (No doesn’t have to be forever! It can just mean ‘not right now.’) They also help you measure your progress.

Here's a summary of steps you can take to create a rock solid annual plan. 

Start with a quick SWOT analysis. (Assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.)

Mission & Vision Statements.

  • Mission: Where are you going? Why are you in business?
  • Vision: Paint a picture of the business you would like in the long run. This is not time-specific. Don’t be afraid to dream big!

Annual Focus or Theme: You can pick a couple. Break them down into outward facing themes, (like adding a new product, program or service, or increasing customer satisfaction,) and inward facing themes, (improving systems, building your HR program, addressing strategic weaknesses.)

Goals: Bring in goals from your goal planning exercise —if needed, rewrite them so they are SMART. (Specific/Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Focused.)

  • Sales goals. They should be easy to understand and measure. For example: add three more desert sales each night. Add 5 more customers in your store per day.
  • Operations goals. For example, improve your database. Shift to QuickBooks Online. Revamp your website. Create an employee handbook.

Prioritize & Sequence: Review your goals to prioritize or consider necessary sequencing. Do some naturally come first? Are there goals (sales, for instance) that are specific to a season?

Breakdown: Break your large goals into component pieces. What are all the steps needed to accomplish each goal? Now assign a best-guess budget to each goal—you will feed this info into your 2018 Budget. (We’ll talk about this process next month.)

Anticipate obstacles and challenges: How will you overcome them? Imagine a worst-case scenario. How will it impact your business? Are there steps you can take now to ensure your business will survive, should the worst come to pass?

Timeline: Look at your 12-month calendar, and consider the natural ebb and flow of activities. Split your goals appropriately throughout the year, based on prioritization, natural synchronicity, or the most reasonable windows to devote time and energy to them. Working backward, break the steps needed to achieve your goals into quarterly or monthly goals.

Schedule regular times for reflection. Each week, each month, each quarter, review the timeline you’ve created. Celebrate your accomplishments, measure your progress, and adjust your deadlines.

*Remember, your plan doesn’t need to be perfect! Assume it is a starting point that will require revision and finessing as the year goes by.

Want help setting sales goals? Ready to shift to QuickBooks Online, but would feel more confident with a coach? Interested in building a database or a website? Need professional HR help in creating an employee handbook? Contact us. We’re your partner in creating financial health. We empower you to reach your goals.

Resources for this article:


Build A Marketing Plan for 2018

First things first: marketing is not the same thing advertising, though advertising can be an important part of a marketing plan. Marketing is promoting or selling products, services, or programs. It includes activities like market research, building your brand, identifying customers or constituents, building relationships with them, developing creative partnerships, among other things. 

The marketing plan that's right for you is as unique as your business. Here are a few tools and resources to consider.

To go beyond advertising in the yellow pages or on the web, start with this ten-point guide from Alyssa Gregory at The Balance. We have included a summary below, but click through to her post for more details: 10 Questions You Need to Answer to Create a Powerful Marketing Plan. 

"A marketing plan is an essential marketing tool for every small business. Start by answering these 10 questions:

  1. Marketing Strategy: How will your marketing plan support your business goals?
  2. Mission Statement: What are you trying to accomplish, and why?
  3. Target Market: Who are you trying to reach with your marketing activities?
  4. Competitive Analysis: Who are you up against, and where do you rank?
  5. Unique Selling Proposition: What makes your business unique?
  6. Pricing Strategy: What will you charge, and why?
  7. Promotional Plan: How will you reach your target market?
  8. Marketing Budget: How much money will you spend, and on what?
  9. Action List: What tasks do you need to complete to reach your marketing goals?
  10. Metrics: How are you implementing, and where can you improve?

Once you have completed each step, you will have a marketing plan that you are ready to use as a blueprint for your marketing activities in your small business."

If you don't have the juice to create and implement a full-on marketing plan, don't worry! Start small. There are many free or low-cost ways to boost your marketing program. Choose a few actions you can take to build connections and find clients or customers: examples include attending a mixer, writing an elevator pitch, or starting a client appreciation program. Here are more ideas:

6 Ways to Market Your Small Business for $100
10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget
101 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Either way, challenge yourself to write down the marketing tools you will use next year, and attach a time cost and a dollar cost to each activity. These numbers will help you create your budget for 2018.


Building Blocks for Success in 2018: Goal Setting

It's undeniably autumn, and therefore budget season--a time to reflect, refresh, and refocus, as we look ahead to 2018. Over the next few months, we'll share a few simple tools to help guide you through this process.

When planning, it's helpful to spend some time thinking about the big picture. Once you have a few high level goals for 2018, you can develop a marketing plan and annual work plan that will help you reach them, and a budget that will support your work. 

Goal Setting
Use the month of October to set goals using these four simple steps from Alyssa Gregory at The Balance:

1. Schedule a Few Minutes of Focused Time--away from work and other distractions. Take yourself out for coffee or a walk on the beach.
2. Pick a Theme for Your Goal--choose a dream, a niggling idea, or an area of work that needs attention. If time is short, stick with one. Write it down.
3. Make an Action List--brainstorm all the actions, large and small, that will be required to reach your goal. Break each action down into component actions. This list will probably change as you begin the work; it is enough for now to create an outline.
4. Make a Commitment--and write it down on paper! Make yourself accountable by sharing it with a partner, a colleague, a friend. 

You don't have to do all of your goal setting at once; try building three or four short sessions into your next couple of weeks.

Go forth and dream big!

Independence & Interdependence: Best Apps for Integration & Efficiency

With the celebration of Independence Day, the team at Clarity has been thinking about the paradox and tension between independence and interdependence, as it relates to our families, communities, nonprofits, and businesses. 

There are so many great apps out there to help you track your time, money, projects, inventory, and customer/donor relationships. What are people using and loving these days? We decided to pull together a sampling that can serve as a good place to start your inquiry.


Write checks, create and send invoices, file your bills, all in an easy to use interface configured for your business, and accessible from any computer, tablet, or mobile device that has an internet connection. Interested, but overwhelmed by the prospect of switching from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online? Meet Liz!

FreshBooks: An accounting software alternative to QuickBooks if you have a simple, service-oriented business. It's not as robust or customizable, but may feel less intimidating to those who prefer a simple, intuitive tool for managing business or organizational books. Track finances, send invoices, track time, and capture expenses.

Digital Timesheets

TSheets: Eliminate paper time sheets and schedules! TSheets is a flexible, easy-to-use time tracker and scheduler filled with innovative tools to help you maximize your most valuable resource: time. It integrates seamlessly with Intuit's QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage, Gusto & Square.

Project Management

Asana: Track projects, goals, workflows, and team collaboration; integrates with communications Apps like Slack, and document storage Apps like Dropbox and Box. The interface is flexible with customizable fields, and gives you a good visual dashboard.  

Basecamp: Well known and easy to use, Basecamp is streamlined and intuitive. It organizes your projects, internal communications, and client work in one place so you have a central source of truth. Pay per project, rather than per user. 

Other Apps for Productivity

Slack: Team Communications for the 21st Century. Organize team conversations in channels, chat one-one-one with team members, share documents, spreadsheets, photos, and more, and filter and find information quickly with powerful search of the indexed archive.

Wunderlist: Organize and share your to-do, work, grocery, movies and household lists. No matter what you’re planning, how big or small the task may be, Wunderlist makes it super easy to get stuff done.

With the right combination of integration tools, you can improve your business processes, streamline communications, boost efficiency, and save both time and money...giving you more independence through smart interdependence! 

Welcome, Liz! QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor

Liz Arp

Meet Liz, our newest Clarity team member, and QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor. Liz has worked in the finance field for the last ten years, handling bookkeeping for a wide variety of clients large and small.  She enjoys dealing with the nitty gritty details of financial transactions in order to provide business owners with tangible data to use in their decision making. 

Liz says, "I feel that the greatest advantage to QuickBooks Online is being able to collaborate with clients in real time. I am committed to supporting my clients with training and advice, because just having the technology is not enough--being able to implement and use it appropriately and effectively is imperative to making the most of the program. 

"QuickBooks Online can be set up to sync with other apps as well, reducing data entry and providing greater transaction detail in QBO.  In addition to being able to assist with setting up syncs to 3rd party apps, I can also help users set up processes to ensure accurate entry of financial information, which may include tasks such as invoicing, receiving deposits, and bill paying.  I can also assist in setting up and generating customized financial reports as well as providing basic navigation tips and advice."

Liz is excited about the opportunity to work with the businesses and nonprofits who engage Clarity’s services and is happy to embrace the holistic team approach that the staff at Clarity provide. We are thrilled to have her join our team!

10 Tips to Help You Stay on Top of Your Books

Whether you are outsourcing your bookkeeping or doing your own books in-house, as the leader in your organization you need to know your financial information is reliable.  Understanding "best practices" and incorporating them into your own business processes will help you get data you can trust, so you can make the decisions that are best for your business. 

Here are some tips to help you stay on top of the books:

1.     Get or stay involved!  Knowing what the system is and how it works helps keep you, the director of this show, in the know. A broad understanding of the way the books work will help you to make informed decisions regarding processes, and to understand the capabilities and limitations of the data. If you need education ask questions, do some research, or take a class.  Finances are not everyone’s favorite topic – but it is vital to the success of your organization!  And in particular, if you are a board member for a non-profit, it is part of your fiduciary responsibility to each donor.

2.     Make the most of the data.  The information that is being entered into your bookkeeping system is used fulfill state and federal requirements (taxes,) but what else are you using the data for?  Make the data work for you. Set up reports to help you zero in on areas that help you manage your organization.

3.     Have your processes documented.  Focus on the how as well as the what. We know that processes are often undergoing change as the way we do business changes, but it is important to document this as a protection for your organization. Updating this periodically is an opportunity to review and make adjustments as circumstances change.

4.     Never have your bookkeeper as a signer on your account.  Naturally, access to accounts is helpful, but there must be checks and balances and this is a big one. Have your bookkeeper manage the entry and classification of transactions, but allow for having another person to authorize the bill payments or payroll deposits. 

5.     Make sure you see the bank statement each month.  Are you familiar with all the activity you see?  All deposits, transfers and checks written?

6.     Check in with your tax professional mid-year or 3rd quarter in addition to tax time.  Your tax professional needs to know what is going on with your business so that if you need it, you have time to implement their recommendations to save tax dollars.

7.     Cross-train your staff. Plan for the unexpected! It is not unheard of to find yourself in a compromised position due to illness or sudden changes. Remember, this is a team – make sure you have some backup.

8.     Set a regular time to meet and review your financials.  Reviewing sales, projecting cash flow, estimating upcoming expenses and liability payments are some of the things you should be reviewing on a regular basis. This could be weekly, monthly, or something else, depending on your organization’s need. If it is a date with yourself, your in-house support or if you outsource the work, consistency creates a window of time where you know these items will be addressed and allows you to get on with your other tasks.

9.     Create systems to help your organization’s efficiency.  Something as simple as coding your transactions when they are approved relieves so much verbal communication – sometimes words can be misinterpreted, but a number is definitive.  Any effort made to streamline this work makes it more reliable and lets you get to other parts of business that need your attention.

10.  Provide your staff and yourself with support.  Invest in the time to explore how this part of your business can provide valuable information. Invest in documentation and processes to support and assist your mission. Invest in your staff to provide training to help them do the best job they can. 

Happy Spring!

Bring growth and vitality to your business with an infusion of energy, fresh ideas, and new knowledge--take a class, attend a workshop, and participate in a networking event. Perhaps you're ready to hire new staff, or even shift gears in your professional life. Piggyback on the natural energy boost that comes with lengthening days and warmer weather to spring into a new chapter of success with your business, nonprofit, or career. See a list of opportunities below!

Ready to Hire?

Already growing this spring? Clarity can help you recruit and hire new employees! We offer a full suite of Human Resources solutions; in addition to coordinating hiring activities, we can also help you develop new employee benefits programs, create employee handbooks, and protect you from liability. If you'd like to have a conversation about your human resource needs, contact us at (360) 385-9963, or hr@clarityei.com

Ready for a New Adventure?

Clarity is seeking a resourceful, experienced Finance Director/Consultant to work with a variety of non-profit and small business clients. Flexible schedule; we welcome applicants seeking part-time of full-time work. Accounting degree and senior financial management experience required; CPA qualifications and consulting experience a plus. Based in Port Townsend. Please send resume and cover letter including desired salary to hr@clarityei.com.

Upcoming Events

April 15thFree public screening and networking event featuring the film "Tomorrow," 1-5:30 pm at Chimacum HS Auditorium & Commons, 91 West Valley Rd, Chimacum. Conversation topics covered will include local food, energy, transportation, waste, education, health and wellness, affordable housing, emergency preparedness, environment/climate change and the local economy. For a taste of this inspiring movie, check out the trailer

Event sponsors include: Local 20/20, Chimacum School District, Port Townsend Film Festival, Rose Theatre and Students for Sustainability. 

April 17th: Jefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Lorna Mann, Director of the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center. 12- 1 pm, Fort Worden Commons. "Tales from the VIC: Find out how a presence in the Visitor Information Center can help your business and hear some of the weird and wacky questions that the VIC fields 7 days a week."

April 18th & 19thStarting a Business & Business Planning, with Tina Flores-McCleese. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

Earth Day! Saturday, April 22, 2017. Consider rounding up your employees and commit to a few volunteer hours to support and build community. Volunteers are invited to help on several downtown Port Townsend cleanup/weeding and painting projects from 9 am to 12 noon. Contact the Port Townsend Main Street office at 360 385-7911 or email admin@ptmainstreet.org if you would like to volunteer for the Earth Day Spring Clean-Up activities – or organize something of your own nearer to home! 

April 24th: Marketing & Social Media for Your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 1stJefferson County Chamber Lunch Meeting with Earll Murman & Jay Bakst. 12-1 pm, Port Townsend Elks Lodge. Learn about LEAN thinking, and the work that Earll and Jay have been doing to help grow a LEAN community in Jefferson County. 

May 8th: HR Basics: Managing the Human Side of Business, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 9th: Jefferson County Chamber After Hours Mixer at the Port Townsend Library. 5:30 - 7:00 pm, PT Public Library. Come for networking, food, drinks, and fun!

May 15th: Advanced: Marketing & Social Media for your Business, with Courtney Nestler of Bright Light Solutions. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

May 17th2017 Washington State Nonprofit Conference, Bellevue Meydenbauer Center. Gather with over 700 nonprofit leaders from our state, and learn about increasing equity, staying current, and going green. To learn more and register, follow the link above.

May 30th: Advanced HR Solutions: Flexible & Creative Strategies to Manage Your People, with Candace Monroe of Clarity Enterprises. 9:30 - 1:30, Elwha Heritage Center, 401 E 1st, Port Angeles. Part of the "Small Business Series" hosted by the Elwha Klallam Tribe. $25, or $75 for the whole series. Call 360-417-8545 x 2909 for more information or to reserve a seat.

Launch Into 2017 With A Burst of Fresh Inspiration

Happy New Year! January is a time to gather fresh energy for the year ahead, focus on goal setting, and make sure your existing systems are serving you well.

Here are a couple of articles from around the web to help you set your intentions and get inspired:

6 Key Resolutions For Your Small Business, Rhonda Abrams, Special for USA TODAY

5 News Years Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs in 2017, Jayson Demers for Entrepreneur

How To Use Brain Science To Be Your Best Self in 2017, Lydia Dishman for Fast Company

5 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Be A Better Entrepreneur, Thomas Smale for Entrepreneur

Plus a couple of great podcasts for entrepreneurs:

Entrepreneurs on Fire

The School of Greatness with Lewis Homes

As always, if you’d like a partner in brainstorming ideas and setting goals, Clarity is glad to be of service. Contact Us to schedule a meeting.

We wish you well in 2017!

Year End Housekeeping

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s helpful to look ahead to the year-end financial tasks that January brings. If Clarity supports you with financial services, it is likely your representative has been gathering and entering this information into your system throughout the year. If, however, you have been in charge of your data, then this list should be a helpful guide for you to check your current information:

  • W2’s – Employee Information
    • Current Employee Addresses
    • All Employee Social Security #’s
  • 1099’s – All vendors who are not incorporated and who you have paid out $600.00 or more total for the year.
    • Current Vendor Addresses
    • All Vendor Tax ID#s
  • Begin reviewing your financial statements for year-end
  • Create a draft budget for 2017. If you don’t have a budget process in place Clarity would be happy to help you get squared away! Contact us for more information.

Critical Update! Last Minute Block to FLSA Overtime Rules Changes

A federal district court Judge has granted a Nationwide preliminary injunctionagainst the much-discussed new FLSA overtime rules, just eight days before they were scheduled to come into effect.

Many employers have already raised salaries or informed exempt employees that they would receive a pay increase to more than $47,476, effective December 1. Other employers have informed exempt employees whose salaries are under the threshold that they will now be considered hourly employees and eligible for overtime.

For the time being, employers no longer have an obligation under the FLSA to make such changes to pay practices. However, from an employee morale perspective, it could be very difficult for employers that have announced a raise to renege on that promise. Employers who have informed employees of changes and now plan to rescind those changes as a result of the preliminary injunction should seek legal advice.

For 'Up to the Minute' HR news on this issue over the coming days and weeks, visit The Society for Human Resource Management.

Human Resources Health - New Overtime Rules

In May 2016, the Department of Labor released its final ruling on a monumental revision to the Overtime Exemption Regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA.) These rules come into effect on December 1, 2016. This article has been created to provide a quick reference to the rules and terms, a summary of the changes, and a resource for employers to ensure their ongoing compliance. 

Exempt employees, because of the type of work that they do and their rate of pay, are not eligible for overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one work week. Non-exempt employees must be paid at least time and a half for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week. This rule is not new. The changes that have been made are regarding the minimum rate of pay for an exempt employee. 

What ARE the rules? 

In simple terms, the conditions for exempt status, from December 1, is as follows: 

  1. The employee must work in an administrative, executive or professional capacity 
  2. The employee must be paid a salary of at least $47,476 per year (this has increased from $23,660 previously) 

Employees who do not earn at least $47,476 per year (or $913 per week) must be paid overtime, regardless of if they are classified as a manager or professional.  

The salary threshold will be updated every 3 years to keep in line with inflation. The first update will be on January 1, 2020. 

Some frequently asked questions: 

I have employees in this category, what do I do? 

You must either increase this employee’s or these employees’ salary or salaries to meet the new minimum, or pay this employee overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 in one work week. 

What is a “work week”?  

An employer may determine its own standard work week for payroll purposes. The week must be a consist of seven 24-hour days in a row. For example, an employer may select its work week to run Monday through Sunday, or Sunday through Saturday. The employer cannot change this work week once established, and must inform all new employees of the boundaries of the week. 

Can I use bonuses or commissions as a substitute for a base increase to make up the minimum? 

Nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments can be used to satisfy up to 10% of the salary test requirement. Should an employee not earn enough including nondiscretionary bonuses to meet the salary test requirements in any one quarter, a catch-up payment OR overtime pay for the preceding quarter will be required. 

Where do I go to get more information, or to get help? 

The Department of Labor website at dol.gov and the Washington State Department of Labor at dol.wa.gov provide in-depth information and fact sheets on this and other labor topics.  

Clarity can provide a review of your HR files and practices, as part of our HR Services offering. Please contact us to get a quote or discuss how we can help you. 

Candace Monroe, Clarity Enterprises

Clarity offers a full range of HR solutions to suit individual needs and budgets. From assistance with recruitment through a full-service HR department-on-demand, outsourcing your HR function allows you to concentrate internal resources on your core business, and look outward for expertise. 

Eleven Ways to Strengthen Your Year End Appeal

The end of the year is a critical time for most nonprofit organizations; on a national average, 50% of donations are received in the final three months of the year. What’s more, nearly one third of gifts are made in the month of December! Many nonprofits begin planning and executing their year-end campaigns in September, or earlier—but if this isn’t you, don’t despair! There’s still time to create a meaningful final push to help you close your year on budget and start the New Year strong.

Here is a curated compilation of best practices, hints, and reminders, shared by some of the best nonprofit resources around, (links at the end of the article). They will help you pull together a terrific year-end campaign, even if you’re starting late. And remember, Clarity can help you pull together a great fundraising plan for 2017! Contact us to learn more. 

·      Start with a great story

Humans create meaning through story. Donors will respond best to deep, powerful, personal stories that tell the impact of your work. Can you demonstrate a significant accomplishment or highlight a critical program by telling the story of one client or constituent?

·      Make the donor the focus of the letter

It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about all of the wonderful things your organization has accomplished during the past year, but donors will be more deeply inspired if you frame it in terms of the change they have made through their gifts.  Be sure to include “you” often in the course of your letter. Use merge fields where possible to include the donor’s name/s in the salutation and throughout.

·      Keep it short, simple & sweet

Most people will not take the time to read your letter carefully. Leave lots of white space, break up your paragraphs, highlight key messages with bold text or bullet points, and limit the length to 1-2 pages. In short, make the letter easy to skim.

·      Include a clear call to action

This may seem obvious, but if you want your donors to give, you must ask them! Use phrases like “send your year-end gift in the enclosed, self-addressed envelope,” or, in the case of an email appeal, “click this link to make your gift now.”

·      Ask more than once

Don’t hesitate to ask more than once. In general, it’s best to ask within the first or second paragraph, and again somewhere toward the end of the letter. Be sure to reiterate the ‘ask’ and the action in the P.S.

·      Distill your key message to the P.S.

It sounds crazy, but much research confirms that almost everyone will read the P.S. first; sometimes that’s ALL they will read. Make it concise and compelling, and be sure to include your ‘call to action.’

·      Segment your donor list

Donors like to be treated as individuals. If you have a database that allows you to segment your mailing list, you can break it down into several pieces and speak to those constituencies more directly and personally. You might use different language for donors that have already made a gift this calendar year; you will likely want to address your major donors with a special message.

·      Personalize your top tier donor letters with handwritten messages from board or staff

All donors want to be known, seen for their vision and values, and appreciated for their generosity. A hand-personalized appeal letter is one way to reinforce this special relationship that your major donors have with your organization. It will pay off in stronger loyalty and deeper commitment to your organization.

·      Follow up

Be prepared to follow up your appeal letter in one or several ways. But have a plan in place to remove names of those who have already made their year-end gifts!

o   Email—you can even break this into a mini-campaign with several short emails planned to land in inboxes during the last week of the year.

o   Social Media—if you’re using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, be sure to include a couple of well-timed posts inviting your fans and followers to donate to your year-end campaign.

o   Personal phone calls from board & volunteers—you may choose to focus this extra attention on your major donors. Phone calls are a great way to deepen the conversation and the relationship with your core constituents, and they will often yield a higher rate of return. Your volunteers can open the conversation with something along these lines: “I’m calling on behalf of “Fantastic Nonprofit that you Love;” you probably received our year end appeal letter last week, and I wanted to follow up with a phone call to see if I can answer any further questions for you…” Remember to record all the interesting details learned during the course of the conversation!

·      Have a great thank-you letter, and deliver it in a timely way

People want to know that you are using the money they have given you in the way that you said you would. A well-crafted thank-you letter that relates to your year-end appeal will build trust and credibility with your donors. You should have a bomb-proof process in place to send every gift acknowledgement and thank-you letter within a few days of gift receipt, perhaps a week at the longest. No excuses!

·      Plan an impact postcard for six months out

Once you’ve had a chance to use the money raised during your year-end appeal to do good work in the world, take the time to reach out to all of the folks who donated with stories of progress. After all, they are the ones who’ve made it possible!

Here is a list of sources and resources; some have been used to inspire this article, and some are just great all-around nonprofit resources. 


Fired Up Fundraising with Gail Perry


Mobile Cause

Network for Good

Nonprofit Hub

Pamela Grow

Standford Social Innovation Revie


Clarity Celebrates 10 years!


Clarity is celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year! 

Some of you we had the privilege of seeing in person at our Birthday Celebration / Chamber Mixer on October 11--thank you so much for attending. It was a joy to have you. We hope you enjoyed visiting the new office location, and getting a chance to connect with our other fabulous clients and community members. If you weren't able to attend, please stop in and say 'hi' sometime soon!

As I pause to reflect on our ten years in business and look toward the future, I’d like to take a moment to reiterate a couple of thoughts.

I so appreciate our staff--they are stellar group of professionals who put our clients first.  It has been an honor to collaborate with this growing team of people who bring great skills, thoughtful analysis, creative ideas, and vibrant personalities to our work. I especially want to thank Pam Nebel, who’s been with me every step of the way.

I also want to thank our clients.  Of course, you are the reason we do this work, and the reason we get to do this work.  We have had the privilege of serving some of you for a decade now, and many more of you we've have been in partnership with for years. We've had the pleasure of watching you meet your goals, grow, and thrive.   Thank you for the work you do in our community – thank you for driving the local economy, providing great jobs, and delivering great products, programs, and services. Your success makes this community healthy, resilient, and vital.

Clarity is your partner in financial health; we very much look forward to helping you grow and flourish over the next ten years.



Clarity Staff at our 10 Year Anniversary Celebration