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Conduct market research; Understand requirements of the FMLA

Q] How can I start doing marketing research?

A] According to the American Marketing Association, every small business owner-manager should ask the following questions to devise effective marketing strategies:

  • Who are my customers and potential customers?
  • What kind of people are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Can and will they buy?
  • Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want at the best place, at the best time and in the right amounts?
  • Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product's value?
  • Are my promotional programs working?
  • What do customers think of my business?
  • How does my business compare with my competitors?

Marketing research is not a perfect science. It deals with people and their constantly changing feelings and behaviors, which are influenced by countless subjective factors.

To conduct marketing research, you must gather facts and opinions in an orderly, objective way to find out what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.

Q] How does the Family and Medical Leave Act work for my employees?

A] Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • Placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • The care of an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

An employer is covered by FMLA if that employer is engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, and employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees. Public as well as private elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers without regard to the number of employees.

For further guidance, go to the Small Business Administration Web site at http://www.sba.gov/.

For more information, please see The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 at http://www.dol.gov.

- Phyllis Davis is a Career Development Specialist based in Champaign for the Illinois Employment Training Center. Reach her at (217) 278-5700, ext. 237, or padavis_2001@yahoo.com.

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