Working Remotely: Tips for Working Productively and Securely

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to greatly impact our community, working from home is no longer an occasional benefit, but is now a requirement for many businesses to continue operating safely and effectively. While working from home does come with its perks, there are many new risks created when staff makes the transition to a remote work environment.

If you are new to work from home, you have the same challenges you have in the office, plus the new challenges of your home environment.

First, comes cyber-safety: Here are some tips for safely working remotely. All of these are equally important. 

  1. Make sure you understand your organization’s policies and procedures. If you’re working remotely, your organization should have a Remote Work Policy. Make sure you have read and understood that policy and what is expected of you. You should also continue following ALL company policies and procedures as if you were in the office.
  2. Make sure you understand best practices. Now more than ever it’s important for you to stay up to date on cybersecurity. If your organization has an ongoing training program, make sure you’re actively participating. Scams like phishing only INCREASE when staff is working remotely – you must stay in the know on current threats and best practices.
  3. Keep all software up to date. Updates/patches are often released to address security flaws and other loopholes or risk factors. Keeping all devices updated is critical in preventing unauthorized access.
  4. If possible, use only company-issued devices for work. Do not let friends or family members use your company-issued device.
  5. Do not use your company-issued device for personal use. It is advised to stay off social media, shopping sites, or any other websites you may visit in your free time when using a company-issued device. Only do secure, company work on company devices and time.
  6. Be mindful of where you save files and data. Do not save files on your local or personal hard drives that may be more likely to be breached.
  7. Back up your files. If you’re unsure of your company’s backup procedure, contact your supervisor or IT. It is very important to back up your work that way if a local loss occurs, data can be more easily recovered.
  8. It is also highly recommended that you connect to your company’s network with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). If you are unsure of how to do that, contact your supervisor or IT for more information.

While these are some common tips and best practices for working remotely, make sure you talk with your supervisor to ensure you’re following your company’s protocol.

Second: Think about how you can communicate most effectively both internally and externally.

  1. Are there virtual meeting tools you may already have?
    • GSuite & O365 offer built-in collaboration tools like Teams and Hangouts.
    • If you have a modern VoIP phone service like Nextiva, 8×8 and RingCentral, they come with built-in conferencing tools that range from simple voice to full video. Check with your provider for details on what they offer.
    • Check for special offers for free or discounted subscriptions from platforms like Cisco Webex, Zoom, Zoho
  2. Do you need to sign or have documents signed?  Continue to do business by signing agreements with an eSignature solution. depending on the level of accountability & traceability that you need you may be able to simply use pdf signature utility like the feature built into Preview.  If you have more rigorous requirements, look to dedicated solutions like DocuSign, HelloSign, Adobe Sign.  Be sure to check with your legal advisor before selecting a method.
  3. With a small amount of effort, you can add a social media feed to your website’s home page.  This will let you easily keep the site 100% up to date by displaying your posts to your chosen social media platform.  Websites built with WordPress can leverage one of the many free plugins to display posts from most of the popular social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Remember, smart cybersecurity does not take a break when the office is empty.  Let’s all work together to ensure we’re doing everything we can to safely work remotely, and thus, protect patients and their data during this stressful time.


Pete Salerno

Stratus Concept LLC



Local Businesses Commit to Reinvesting in the Community by Keeping Dollars Local

Lake Zurich, IL – November 22, 2019 – The LZ Area Chamber of Commerce announces the new Biz Bucks MasterCard program to make it easy and fun to keep local spending right here with our local businesses. Anyone can purchase the Biz Bucks digital MasterCard at, write a personal message, and send it to family, friends and colleagues digitally via email, text or Twitter. Recipients can choose to spend it at one of our participating merchants or mix it up and spend it at multiple participating locations, some of which include: Zin Gastro Pub, International Hair Designs, Long Grove Coffee, Lindberg Automotive, Mary Kay/Deb Kinne, Never Measure, Byte Outfitters and Stratus Concept LLC (and the list is continually growing).  All digital and always available on your phone, the Biz Bucks MasterCard is great for birthdays, holidays, teacher appreciation gifts, coach gifts, employee incentives or just to surprise a friend.

The LZ Area Chamber of Commerce is introducing the Biz Bucks MasterCard with a bang! The first 100 people who send the word “notify LZACC SHOPLOCAL” in a text message to 313131 will be entered to win a $50 Biz Bucks MasterCard that they can spend at any of the participating merchants including Studio One Eleven Salon & Day Spa, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Battle House Laser Combat, and more! “We are thrilled to participate in this innovative program. It was simple to set-up and we’re ready to welcome new customers. Thanks LZACC!” said Dan Migacz, co-owner of AM Woodland Outdoor Design.

Local companies are planning to use the Biz Bucks MasterCard for company-funded programs such as employee rewards, customer appreciation and marketing, which will jump start card sales right off the bat. “It’s a great way to “give back” to our community,” said Chad Dershaw, Volle’s Bridal & Boutique/Mr Tux’s Formal Wear.  “We value the opportunity to reinvest in the community where our employees live, work and play, rather than awarding gift cards where the dollars leave the area.

By supporting local businesses, more money circulates in the community through a combination of profits paid to local owners, wages paid to local workers, goods and services procured locally for internal use or resale, and charitable giving within the community. One study found that local independent retailers recirculate 47% of their revenue back into the community, versus 14% for national chains. More dramatically, locally owned restaurants recirculate 73% of their revenue back into the community, versus 30% for national chains[1].

For those reasons, the LZ Area Chamber of Commerce is always seeking ways to promote local shopping, dining and gifting in our community. We have partnered with Yiftee, Inc., an eGift Card and promotions company that serves 5,000 businesses across the U.S., including other highly successful Community Cards. If a merchant accepts MasterCard, they require no additional equipment to process the Biz Bucks MasterCard,” says Claire Slattery, Executive Director of the LZ Area Chamber of Commerce. To purchase a Biz Bucks MasterCard, visit To participate as a merchant in the program, please visit

[1] Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, 2012, by Civic Economics.

Online Sales Tax Update

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair redefined a state’s ability to collect sales tax from online retailers selling goods or services within the state. The case addresses a South Dakota law which requires out-of-state companies that sell goods or services to South Dakota purchasers which exceed minimum thresholds to collect state sales tax at the time of purchase. Under established Supreme Court precedent, a seller had to have property, people or another physical connection within a state to be required to collect and remit sales tax.  The Court found that the physical presence rule in precedent is an “incorrect” and “outdated” interpretation of the Commerce Clause.

In the era of e-commerce, states have lost significant sales tax revenues because they have been unable to tax internet sales under the physical presence nexus standards. In overturning its prior precedents, the Supreme Court determined that the correct standard for determining the constitutionality of a state tax law is whether the tax applies to an activity that has “substantial economic nexus” with the taxing state.

Under Wayfair, states can now require online retailers, such as Amazon and Wayfair, to collect sales tax on purchases made by the state’s residents, even if the retailer lacks a physical presence in the taxing state. This has prompted several states, including Illinois, to adopt similar laws. Effective Oct. 1, 2018, retailers that deliver either (a) more than $100,000 of goods or services to Illinois purchasers or (b) engage in 200 or more separate transactions within the state of Illinois  will be required to collect and remit Illinois sales tax, regardless of whether such retailer has a physical presence in Illinois.

In light of the Wayfair holding, online retailers and small businesses alike need to be cognizant of the tax laws in the states in which they are selling goods and services. In particular, companies selling goods or services in Illinois should review their current sales records to confirm whether they will be required to collect and remit Illinois sales tax in order to implement appropriate procedures prior to Oct. 1, 2018.

The article was written by the LZACC Director of Government Affairs, Mark DaValle, Partner at Bryant & DaValle.  


The Sale of Gift Cards is not Taxed

PLEASE NOTE:  If your business sells Gift Cards, they are exempt from sales tax in the state of Illinois, as they are simply the exchange of one form of currency into another form.  Eligible sales taxes of any type should only be charged when the gift card is used in the actual purchase of an eligible product.

8 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Chamber Of Commerce Membership

There are many reasons to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Some of the obvious ones are networking opportunities, community involvement, and the trust that Chamber affiliation builds with your customers. Of course, there are many more benefits you receive from becoming a Chamber member, but many people don’t fully enjoy them. They wrongly assume that by simply paying their annual membership dues lots of new business and friends will automatically show up. Without understanding how to make their Chamber experience work for them they give up on the Chamber in frustration.

 Get Out Of The Chamber What You Put In

I’ve been a member of many Chambers of Commerce over the years and even served on several of their committees. That experience has given me the advantage of having talking to hundreds of Chamber members about their experience. Some people have felt the Chamber didn’t benefit them at all, while others claim it allowed their business to grow exponentially. How can two members of the same organization have two very different experiences? The answer is that you get out of the Chamber what you put into it.

If all you do is pay your membership fee you will get a welcome letter and a nice sticker to put on your front door. However, if you invest in building trusting, professional relationships with others through the Chamber the rewards in leads, sales, and friendships are potentially game changing for your business. Here are several ways to get more out of the Chamber by investing in other members.

  1. Sign up for their newsletters or updates.
    A great way to learn more about your peers at the Chamber and how you can support their business is to sign up for their company newsletter, ezine, or weekly email.
  1. Support them online.
    Support other Chamber members through any of the social media outlets they use and tell your network about them as well. Have you experienced their service or product first hand? Show your support by writing positive product reviews online. 
  1. Submit their news to other groups you are part of.
    Be sure to share your Chamber peers’ news with other groups you may be part of. Think about professional, LinkedIn, or civic groups for example. 
  1. Invite them to be part of your seminars.
    Invite fellow Chamber members to come speak at your company functions or the business seminars you are hosting. They will appreciate the opportunity to showcase their area of expertise and you will enhance your event with guest speakers. 
  1. Share or trade skills and expertise.
    We are all experts at something. What is your “something”? Share that something with someone else at the Chamber. If you are good at writing ad copy and someone else is good at printing sales flyers then offer to share skills. You will probably help each attract more business this way. 
  1. Introduce them to your friends.
    Be the first person to approach new Chamber members when they arrive. Be friendly and introduce them to others in the group. Your gesture will be remembered and appreciated forever. 
  1. Bring them to other functions.
    Perhaps you are member of other organizations in addition to the Chamber. Invite one or two of your Chamber peers to attend other functions with you as your guest. Introduce them to your other associates. This will increase their circle of connections and you will look like a master networker. 
  1. Use their business first.
    Support your fellow Chamber members by giving them preference when you shop. For example, if you need replacement windows for your home and one of the window companies is a Chamber member, give that company your business. Even if they cost a little more, the goodwill your business generates can be invaluable.

Mike Bowman

Mike is the publisher of The Quarter Roll Financial Entertainment Magazine and the author of “How To Scare The Hell Out Of Unemployment”. Take the confusion and fear out of managing money and then make it fun and even entertaining through the stories printed in the magazine.

Mom-and-Pop Shops Are Threatening the Mall This Holiday Season

Mom-and-Pop Shops Are Threatening the Mall This Holiday Season

By Lauren Coleman-Lochner, Alexandra Stratton, and Janet Freund

November 22, 2017, 7:00 AM CST

Bloomberg News

More bad news for America’s shopping malls: Consumers are shopping closer to home. And increasingly, home is not where the malls are.

Spending growth at mom-and-pop businesses has outpaced that of the big chains in the past two years, according to Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at credit-card giant Mastercard Inc., which tracks purchasing patterns. When they’re not shopping online, Americans are seeking more personal connections and advice — something they can find lacking at national retailers.

“The consumer is shopping small,” she said.

Big chain stores still account for the majority of shoppers’ purchases, according to Mastercard. But many of the most affluent consumers are now clustered in walkable neighborhoods, letting them skip the mall in favor of neighborhood hardware stores, bookshops and grocers. And they’re willing to pay the higher prices, Quinlan said.

That doesn’t mean malls are going away. The A-rated shopping centers — the industry’s cream of the crop — are still doing fine. But the other roughly two-thirds of malls are struggling to cope with shifting spending patterns, an aging population and the rise of Inc. The uncertainty has even led tenants to push for significantly shorter leases, sometimes of only a year or two.

Independent retailers and small chains have been able to step into the void. Many of them are thriving in categories like hardware, furniture and crafts.

‘More Conscious’

Holiday markets have capitalized on the trend, letting small businesses offer their wares in bustling pop-up shopping districts. Keoni DeFranco, who was shopping at a holiday market in Manhattan’s Union Square on Thursday, said he tries to support local stores when possible.

“I’ve become more conscious about what I’m purchasing and eating,” said the 29-year-old software executive. “I do a lot of browsing online, but I do enjoy going into stores and looking at what I’m buying before I purchase it.”

But local shoppers frequently have to overcome a big hurdle: price.

Since smaller businesses often can’t buy in bulk, customers typically have to pay more. Increasingly, that’s a sacrifice shoppers seem willing to make — at least when they’re shopping offline, Mastercard’s Quinlan said.

Sales growth at small businesses, defined as having less than $50 million in annual sales, was 7.3 percent last year, according to Mastercard. That compared with 4.6 percent for total retail sales. Small business purchases account for 37 percent of total spending.

Online Gains

But online growth still overshadows both the big chains and local stores.

E-commerce sales are expected to swell by 18 percent to 21 percent during the holiday season, the National Retail Federation estimates. That’s a faster clip than last year — and well above the roughly 4 percent expected for the retail industry overall.

It’s hard for brick-and-mortar chains to beat the convenience of a few mouse clicks. So they’ve promoted the idea of a retail “experience.” Smaller stores — with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies — may have an easier time offering a memorable time. They also can be more nimble in catering their selection to local tastes.

The ultimate goal for all stores is greater personalization, said R.J. Allan, head of retail corporate banking at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Getting that right means more loyalty and profit.

The bigger chains have the advantage of being able to invest in technology, including apps and loyalty programs that keep customers coming back. They also can connect an expansive e-commerce operation to their physical stores.

“Retailers that are able to bridge the consumer experience across brick and mortar and online will be best positioned for success,” he said.

The smaller stores, though, have another edge: The clerk might actually remember your name when you come in.

“I prefer to shop local when I can,” even if prices are higher, said Mary Bresette, a 66-year-old resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “For me, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Why you should consider buying locally

CTW Features

For some, the shop-local experience is worth paying a few dollars more, even if an online search can turn up a cheaper price on an item.

But while savings may be found if your’re only searching the price tag of a particular item, the bigger picture could sway even the most cost-conscious person of the benefits to the  “buy local” argument.  Here’s why:

Follow the money

Studies consistently show that money spent locally tends to remain in the area, says Matt Cunningham of nonprofit Civic Economics in Evanston.

His group’s most recent stats show that 52.3 percent of every dollar spent at an independent retailer remains in the local economy, and 15.8 percent of every dollar spent at a local branch of a chin retailer stays local.

Each dollar that stays close to home helps keep you and your neighbors employed and boosts the local tax base, which in turn helps fund schools and community services.  and all those factors helps support housing prices, benefiting area homeowners, says Olivia LaVecchia of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Washington, D.C.

In contrast, when you buy online, your purchase is pulled off the shelf of a warehouse (which might be hundreds of miles away), piled into a truck and shipped, eventually arriving at your front door.

It’s difficult to estimate the local impact of the massive increase in online shopping, Cunningham says, because it depends whether warehouses are located nearby.  But even if the delivery route wasn’t long, the impact of an online purchase is significantly less than any spending in-store, he add.

The farther removed people are from seeing their actual dollars change hands, the less aware they are of the fact they are even spending money, says New York University marketing professor Priya Raghubir.

While paying in cash is more painful than using a card, there are now options that remove shoppers even further.

For example, online retailers encourage customers to register at the site, and store their shipping and credit card information.  Then the pain of even inputting a card number is eliminated, because all the purchase takes is one click to place an order.

So, if you want to enjoy picking out the perfect home furnishings without incurring a jolt when your credit card bill arrives, consider drawing up a budget and stocking your wallet with cash, Raghubir advises.

Then, head to your local shops where you can see items up close and keep spending to a comfortable level.

Essential Facts about the new DOL Overtime Exemption Rules


Essential Facts about the new DOL Overtime Exemption Rules

by Samantha Yurman, JD,

As published in the Summer 2016 Issue of ACCE Chamber Executive Magazine

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the publication of a final rule amending the white collar overtime exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The final rule, increases the threshold salary for the exemption to $913 per week ($47,476 per year), the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region (currently the South). The new rule also increases the total annual compensation requirement needed to exempt highly-compensated employees (HCEs) to $134,004 per year and established a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.  READ MORE