From the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

You may not think your business is a high-risk workplace, but OSHA may have other ideas. Last April, OSHA targeted 2,200 "high-hazard workplaces" for inspections. Nursing homes, automotive parts and supply companies, liquor distributors, and local trucking and storage operators were on the hit list and can expect more surprise visits from OSHA inspectors--and stiff fines if they don't pass muster.

The good news: A little-known program run by none other than OSHA itself can help you avoid penalties and keep your workers safe. OSHA's free safety and health-management consultation aims to identify safety hazards before they become accidents.

And don't worry: The consultants aren't stool pigeons. Findings are strictly confidential. If you agree to correct any hazards, OSHA's enforcement arm won't be tipped off.

To find an agency offering the program in your state, contact OSHA at (202) 693-2213 or http://www.osha.gov.


Ellen Paris is a Washington, DC, writer and former Forbes magazine staff writer.

Board Yet?

Get directorial advice without building a boardroom.

Making all your business decisions alone? Wish you had someone you could bounce ideas off of? What you may need is a board of directors. TEC Worldwide (http://www.teconline.com or 800-274-2367) is an inter-national organization of CEOs that offers company presidents and business owners just that.

"TEC forms think tanks with CEOs and presidents, and these think tanks become advisory boards for one another," explains Faith Maybury, vice president of entrepreneurial programs for the San Diego-based organization.

TEC's two CEO programs have more than 6,000 members in eight countries. The traditional program is for companies with revenues of $3 million to $5 million. The Emerging Entrepreneur program is for business owners with $1 mil-lion to $5 million in sales. Members meet monthly in closed-door confidential executive sessions to help CEOs and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Make no mistake: TEC is not a networking group. Every month, members bring their companies' problems, challenges and opportunities to the "brain trust" for feedback and brainstorming.

TEC's encounter sessions worked for Dave Cone, 49, founder of Camstar Systems Inc., a software developer based in Campbell, California. Cone joined TEC five years ago when Camstar had $4 mil-lion in revenues. Today, the company has $17 million in sales. "TEC provides a substitute board you can review major decisions with before you launch into them," says Cone.

Such talk is not cheap. Annual membership fees run from $7,800 to $9,900. Sounds pricey--but it's not bad compared to what some consultants charge.

On The Payroll

Just because they're your beans, that doesn't mean you have to count them.

If the thought of doing payroll gives you a headache, Staples may spell relief. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based office-supply giant recently teamed up with InterPay Inc. of Mansfield, Massachusetts, one of the country's largest payroll-processing companies, to offer low-cost payroll services to small businesses.

For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, Staples InterPay will take over all your payroll-processing tasks for a base charge of $13 per week plus $1 for every check cut. The service includes issuing paychecks, deducting employee benefits, calculating and paying your employees' taxes--the works. And should you get called on the carpet by the taxman, Staples will even go to bat for you. "As the payroll provider, we take on the liability for regulatory compliance," says Gregg Chalk, Staples' project director for new business development. That could come in handy: Chalk says the IRS fines one-third of all small businesses each year.

In researching the market, Staples found that entrepreneurs spend an average of eight hours per month wrestling with payroll. That's one entire business day away from doing what you do best--running your business.

For more information, contact Staples at http://www.staples.com or (888) 208-7996.

Contact Sources

Camstar Systems Inc., (408) 559-5700, http://www.camstar.com

Staples, (888) 208-7996, http://www.staples.com

TEC Worldwide, (800) 274-2367, http://www.teconline.com