An American’s mission: teach Syrian teens how to start-up a business

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The Syrian war, so far, has claimed the lives of 470,000 people and turned five million others into refugees. The country’s economy is in ruins, unemployment is skyrocketing and many are suffering. But one American believes that entrepreneurship can help turn things around there. And he’s just left for the region to prove it. Read More…

Congratulations! You Just Agreed to Clean Toilets For a Day

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

You and I have something in common. We’re at an airport, or some other public spot. We want to go online. So we connect to a public WiFi connection. But before we’re given internet access we’re asked to agree to the terms of a privacy statement, which is generally a million words written in two-point font. You don’t read it, right? Neither do I. You and I just blindly agree and happily surf.

Apparently 22,000 people did the same thing recently. All of them signed on to a public WiFi router maintained by a European provider called Purple. However, Purple decided to play a prank on them. By agreeing to their privacy statement, they also agreed to perform more than 1,000 hours of community services over a two-week period which included cleaning toilets, scraping gum off the sidewalk and picking up dog poop. Read More…

Employers’ cost to provide benefits have increased 24 percent since 2001

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The costs to provide benefits to your employees keeps going up. If you’re an employer you probably already know this. But do you realize how much?  They’ve risen 24 percent between 2001 and 2015.  That’s according to a new study from human resources consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. And guess what?  It’s mostly because of health care.

The study found the total cost of employer-provided benefits — health care, retirement and post-retirement medical — rose from 14.8 percent of pay in 2001 to 18.3 percent of pay in 2015, a jump of 24 percent. During this period, health care costs for active employees more than doubled, rising from 5.7 percent to 11.5 percent of pay.

More concerning to some is the swap between retirement and health care benefits. In 2001, the study found that retirement contributions comprised about three-fifths of the benefits received by workers from their employers with health care making up the remainder. By 2015 that relationship had flipped. Read More…

This restaurant is using a virtual reality app to train its employees

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Restaurants around the country are trying to cope with the increasing costs of employment as minimum wages, health care expenses and other employee benefits continue to put pressure on their profits. Many are investing in technologies, such as self-serve kiosks and automated kitchen equipment, to eliminate some hourly jobs and control their labor costs.

But it seems that there’s another technology that may also help restaurateurs keep their employees particularly new ones, better trained and more productive. It’s virtual reality. Read More…

Seattle Will Now Be Taxing Its Rich. Should Philly Be Doing the Same?

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(This post originally appeared on PhillyMag)

Looks like the city of Seattle’s at it again.

Despite a recent independent study conducted by the University of Washington that found that the city’s planned $15-per-hour minimum wage is already driving away small businesses and reducing employment, the town’s elders are still not satisfied. So last week, Seattle’s City Council approved a new measure that would impose a 2.25 percent income tax on the “wealthy” — those making $250,000 per year individually (or $500,000 jointly).

“Seattle is challenging this state’s antiquated and unsustainable tax structure by passing a progressive income tax,” the city’s mayor was reported as saying by Fox Business. “Our goal is to replace our regressive tax system with a new formula for fairness, while ensuring Seattle stands up to President Trump’s austere budget that cuts transportation, affordable housing, healthcare, and social services. This is a fight for economic stability, equity, and justice.” Read More…

Factories to baby boomers: Please keep working!

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Minnesota-based Ultra Machining Co. has been around for more than 45 years and performs precision manufacturing and engineering services for the medical, aerospace, and other industries. Business is doing well but with growth comes challenges. Like many manufacturers around the country, this family-owned firm is challenged with finding experienced people to perform the kind of specialized work so valued by their customers.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry will need 3.5 million more factory workers over and above what exists today.

Many of my clients worry about where they will all come from. For now, management at Ultra Machining’s strategy is simple, and growing in popularity: keep the older people working. Read More…

Did a bunch of singing servers steal $400K from this restaurant?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

If you go to the Stardust Diner in New York City you’re definitely in for a show.

The diner, which opened in 1987 and is now located on 51st Street, has become a popular spot for tourists who not only enjoy hamburgers and turkey clubs, but also the entertainment. That’s provided by the servers and wait staff who belt out show tunes and popular Broadway songs while, according to this report in the New York Post) they “strut on the backs of the red-vinyl booths and toss out straws to the diners, who are also showered in confetti.”

But some of the “Stardusters” – as they like to call themselves – may not have just been singing. The owners of the restaurant are accusing nearly 60 of them of stealing almost $400,000 and now prosecutors from the Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office have taken up the investigation. How did they allegedly do this? It’s the old “floating drink” trick. And if you own a restaurant you should pay close attention. Read More…