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Women’s group donates to NKCS 

Pictured (L to R): Sharon Stiansen, Linda Southwick, Kathy Florentine, Claire Guisfredi, Taryn Chatel.

Pictured (L to R): Sharon Stiansen, Linda Southwick, Kathy Florentine, Claire Guisfredi, Taryn Chatel.

Women Who Care Kent County, a local philanthropy group, donated $11,900 to North Kent Community Services on June 25. Kathy Florentine and Sharon Stiansen, founders of the group, toured NKCS and presented the generous gift.

NKCS was selected as this quarter’s recipient of funding from Women Who Care Kent County, a group of 100-plus women who collectively pool their money to make one large donation to a nonprofit group in our community. Three charities were given the opportunity to make a pitch at the June 4 event at Blythefield Country Club; afterword each woman in attendance votes and writes a $100 check to the charity that garnered the most votes.

“This gift is significant for North Kent Community Services,” said Executive Director Claire Guisfredi. “The donated money will be a huge help as we gear up for our next round of educational programming this fall. We are trying to move people out of poverty and Women Who Care Kent County is helping us do that.”

North Kent Community Services is the largest food pantry in northern Kent County, serving families and individuals from 5 Mile to 22 Mile Roads and east and west to the county lines. They provide food, clothing, Senior Meals on Wheels, tax preparation and more to those in need. The Thrive Empowerment Program, launched in September, equips women in the area to empower themselves by advancing their education, starting a business or finding livable wage employment.

Since its founding in 2013, Women Who Care Kent County has raised more than $95,000 for local nonprofit organizations. “It’s amazing to see the impact 100 women can make in just one hour,” said Florentine. “All women in Kent County are invited to join and be a part of this incredible group.”

The next gathering is Thursday, September 3 at Blythefield Country Club. For more information, visit their Facebook page by searching Women Who Care Kent County.

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Online moped parts dealer generating complaints to BBB

Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan (BBB) is issuing an alert about 1977 Mopeds, LLC, a Kalamazoo-based online moped parts business. 1977 Mopeds LLC has an “F” grade with BBB, the lowest possible.

1977 Mopeds, LLC, which also operates as Dellorto Direct, has generated 10 complaints and 80 inquiries in the past 6 months. Complaints have been received from 18 states in the past 3 years.

Complaints primarily concern delays in shipment and delivery of goods. Consumers also report difficulty in reaching the company to check on the status of an order or refund.

While the company has responded to some complaints, they have failed to resolve the underlying cause and pattern of complaints. At this time, BBB files contain seven unanswered complaints.

“BBB is a non-profit organization that works with businesses and consumers to build a trustworthy marketplace,” said Phil Catlett, BBB President and CEO. “Two keys to building trust are delivering what you promise, and being responsive to customer concerns. “

BBB offers the following tips when buying merchandise online:

*Research the business and owners carefully before paying any fees. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at BBB.org or by calling 616-774-8236.

*Ask for references and contact them.

*Read all terms and conditions carefully before completing a purchase. Make sure to read and understand all warranty information. Know your options in the event you receive an item that was not as advertised.

*Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to dispute the purchase.

If consumers have a complaint against this company, they are advised to file a complaint with BBB serving Western Michigan and file a dispute with their credit card company.

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Brewing Company buys Liquor Hut building

Post photo by J. Reed

Post photo by J. Reed

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Brewing Company is taking shape at the southwest corner of Main and Maple Streets, and they now also own the building next door, formerly the home of Liquor Hut.

According to David Ringler, construction is on schedule—the structural masonry is complete and the steel framing is in place this week. “It’s been fun over the past couple of weeks to watch all the activity,” he said. “We should be seeing the walls and complete enclosure shortly and the flooring is scheduled for early July, followed by the start of equipment installation.”

Ringler said their brewhouse is custom designed and currently in fabrication locally in Belding, by Digital Fabrication, in partnership with Psycho Brew. “This is their first large system, but we wanted to work locally if possible, rather than commissioning a system from elsewhere,” he explained.

The company closed on the deal to purchase the neighboring building at 81 N. Main a few weeks ago. Ringler said they had offered to buy the building from Walker Liqours six months ago, but could not come to an agreement. About six weeks ago, those discussions started again.

Walker Liquors maintained their retail package liquor license, but the store is permanently closed. “They are still in the process of removing some of their equipment this week and we will begin further clean up of the building in the coming weeks,” said Ringler. “We don’t have any firm plans in place for the building, as our priority is getting the brewery and restaurant open, but we are seeking a retail tenant for the front space that will complement our project.”

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SCORE: A Quick self-assessment of your business

 

The beginning of the year is always a great time to pause and ask yourself, “How is my company doing?”  Very often we as business owners are so busy solving day-to-day issues and running the business that we don’t take time to reflect on “Is my business performing the way I want it to?”

The following Self-Assessment can be completed in less than 5 minutes.  If you answer “No” or “I’m not sure” to any of these 11 issues, it may be time to sit down with a SCORE Counselor for a free and confidential session.

SCORE can ask the additional questions that can help identify the improvement opportunities for your firm.  We can then guide you in developing an action plan.

Most of our initial sessions last less than an hour so what do you have to lose besides some problem spots in your business?

Financial:

Is your firm as profitable as you think it should be?

What are the trends of your profitability over the past 3 years?

In your opinion, why are you not meeting your profit expectations?

Is your firm in a solid position with your cash flow?

Marketing:

What makes your product/service better than your competition?

What is really important to your customers when they consider your product or service?

Are you satisfied with your market share compared to your competition?

Do you have a good handle on your sales trends over the last three years?

Customer Service:

What do your customers say and think about your overall customer service?

How many customers do you lose annually due to service issues?

What portion of your customer’s purchases come from your company?

Your Chamber of Commerce can connect you with a SCORE representative for a free and confidential session to help you improve and grow your business or contact Score at 616 771-0305.

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Complaints Over Bad Auto Parts

 

Quality Used Transmissions

From the Better Business Bureau

Quality Used Transmissions, a company that claims to operate in a Grand Rapids, MI office building, appears to be part of a multistate auto parts business that has generated hundreds of Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaints nationwide.

BBB advises caution to consumers considering doing business with Quality Used Transmissions, which lists an address at 2525 East Paris Avenue, SE, Suite 100. The building management office told BBB that Quality Used Transmissions never had offices there.

Consumers report similar complaints against all of the businesses, alleging they shipped wrong or broken engines or transmissions, delayed or refused to give refunds, failed to honor warranties and seemed intentionally to frustrate and confuse customers who called with problems. Two weeks ago, BBB serving Western Michigan contacted the business asking it to respond to several questions about its operations and complaint activity. The BBB has not received a response.

The business, under Engine Shopper and its various names, has an «F» grade with BBB, the lowest possible. Customers have filed about 400 complaints against the companies.

Phil Catlett, BBB President and CEO, said Quality Used Transmissions and related businesses don’t deserve the trust of consumers. “People are telling us they are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for what turns out, in many cases, to be junk,” Catlett said. “These consumers depend on their cars to get them to work, school, the supermarket or doctor’s office. They deserve better.”

BBB has been unable to determine the owners or top managers of the company, but several consumers report dealing with a John Thompson. BBB believes that name is likely a pseudonym.

The company was registered with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs as Quality Used Transmissions LLC, on June 4, 2012. The only organizer listed for the company was Robert J. deJong, an attorney in Milwaukee. The name of deJong is also on registration paperwork for several related companies. DeJong is listed as an organizer with Quality Used Engines in Kansas, Southwest Engines in Wisconsin and SW Transmissions in Missouri.

Quality Used Transmissions appears to be tied to a company in Cudahy, WI, called Engine Shopper or Engine and Transmission World. The Wisconsin location appears to be the hub of a group of companies claiming to operate in Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. In addition to the Wisconsin and Michigan businesses, related companies include SW Transmissions or Southwest Transmissions of Creve Coeur, MO; Quality Used Engines of Leawood, KS; and Southwest Engines or SW Engines of Tulsa, OK

In addition to the similarities in state registration information, much of the information on the companies’ websites is strikingly similar. All of the websites list virtually identical warranty information and very similar information on the sites’ Frequently Asked Questions page. Most of the sites include an identical contact email and phone number.

Wisconsin BBB issued an alert on Engine and Transmission World in 2011. At that time, BBB had received complaints from 40 states.

Wisconsin BBB’s business review on the company said the company “has failed to correct the underlying reason for complaints.”

Consumers say their dealings with the companies have left them angry and frustrated.

A woman from Delta, Pennsylvania states in her complaint against Quality Used Transmission, “I was sent a 4 cylinder transmission instead of a 6 cylinder transmission. They picked up wrong one and now won’t respond or refund me.”

“They sent me a bad engine and no one will answer the phone,” a Carrollton, Tex., consumer said in a complaint against Southwest Engines.

“They have taken $1,840 from me stating this was a complete and running engine which it is definitely not,” a consumer from Pembroke, N.C., said of Engine Shopper.

A man from Annandale, Va., said he paid Quality Used Engines more than $3,400 for a 2006 Dodge Magnum engine, but instead received a damaged engine for a Dodge 1500 Ram truck.

A couple from St. Clair, Missouri., paid $2,000 to Engine and Transmission World for what was advertised as a working engine. They said the company instead shipped an engine that was inoperable. The wife said company representatives ridiculed them when they phoned the business for help. “Everything was a big joke,” she said. They ultimately were able to recover most of their money, but only after contacting BBB, the Wisconsin attorney general’s office, the local police department in Cudahy and filing a lawsuit in federal court.

Despite numerous recent attempts to obtain answers to questions from the business, BBB has been unable to obtain a response.

BBB offers the following tips when buying merchandise online:

Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract or paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 616-774-8236.

Ask for references and contact them.

Read all terms and conditions carefully before completing a purchase. Make sure to read and understand all warranty information. Know your options in the event you receive an item that was not as advertised.

Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment.

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Rockford Ambulance paramedic wins award 

Kevin Nawrot, a paramedic/FTO with Rockford Ambulance, was named the 2015 Michigan EMS Practitioner of the Year.

Kevin Nawrot, a paramedic/FTO with Rockford Ambulance, was named the 2015 Michigan EMS Practitioner of the Year.

The Michigan EMS Practitioners Association has named Kevin Nawrot, a paramedic/FTO with Rockford Ambulance, the 2015 Michigan EMS Practitioner of the Year.

“Kevin has quickly climbed the ranks to become Lead FTO and has proven to be a great role model to everyone that comes into contact with him,” said Matt McConnon, Operations Manager at Rockford Ambulance.

While Nawrot has a record of achievements during his tenure at Rockford, he is most notably known from a call that came in May 2014, when Nawrot was the lead provider and witnessed a cardiac arrest. He and his team worked on the pulseless patient for over 55 minutes.  Once at the hospital, the patient regained pulses and was treated by the hospital staff.  The patient was able to make a great recovery and was discharged home with minimal deficits.

“To walk out of the hospital after 55 minutes is very unusual,” reported Dr. Todd Chassee during a media interview in May 2014. Chasse had cared for the patient at the hospital.  “Without their efforts, I don’t think the patient would be here today.”

Rockford Ambulance has a cardiac arrest survival rate of 50 percent, higher than the national average of 33 percent.

The EMS Practitioner of the Year award recognizes an individual for his/her excellence and outstanding achievement that they have accomplished in the emergency medical services. Qualifications for the award include:

Hold a current license either as a Medical First Responder, EMT, Specialist, Paramedic, or Instructor-Coordinator

Licensed for a minimum of two years in the State of Michigan

Continually promote the profession of EMS through innovation and leadership

High personal integrity and character on and off the job.

The Michigan EMS Practitioners Association is the state’s largest professional association for licensed EMTs.

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Beware of scam artists offering home or yard services

 

BUS-BBB-logo-blueFrom the Better Business Bureau

BBB is beginning to receive calls regarding individuals going door-to-door offering a variety of home or yard improvement services at a supposed discounted rate. The Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan wants to remind homeowners to beware of scam artists and untrustworthy contractors.

Your BBB heard from a West Michigan consumer today who informed our office that he received unsolicited visitors this morning. Two men pulled up to his home in a small, old model unmarked white pick-up. One man knocked on the door and provided his name, but no company name. He said he was working on a neighbor’s house and noticed that bricks had fallen off the chimney. He said he would be able to fix it, plus add a cap to the chimney. The resident stated he would first want to check out his business with the BBB. The man stated he would be able to do it right then. The consumer asked for a business card; however, the man did not provide one and left.

This is a typical scenario; itinerant workers often show up unannounced and offer to re-surface parking lots or driveways, perform roof repair, painting services, brick work, tree trimming or cutting, or other home improvement jobs. Typically, these fly by night companies offer to do the job with leftover materials from a previous job, use high pressure tactics and trick you into thinking they offer a discount price. They have no physical location in the area and use poor quality materials. They do not pay local taxes and take discretionary income that could be better spent on local businesses.

Often these companies claim their prices are lower than any local bid, but a little checking around may prove otherwise. If they do offer you the lowest price, don’t assume it to be the best deal. Keep in mind that there is a lot more to a purchase than the price. No matter how good the price, should you do business with a company that will not be here tomorrow to hear your concerns or honor a warranty?

The BBB’s best advice is to check out all solicitations at the Better Business Bureau before you do business with anyone. Never pay upfront and never sign a contract without reading and understanding it.

Before you deal with a company you don’t know, or are unsure of:

1. Call the BBB for a report on the company, BEFORE opening your wallet. Phones are open 24 hours at 616-774-8236 or 1-800-684-3222 and reports are available online at www.westernmichigan.bbb.org. Get some answers before you do something as personal as opening your wallet to a stranger!

2. Verify that any contractor you are considering doing business with is properly licensed, bonded and insured and registered at the BBB.

3. Obtain bids from several companies. Compare apples to apples. Review the bids and remember the lowest bid is not always the best price.

4. Call the BBB and comparison shop with local, well known, reputable companies. The BBB can provide a list of industry specific businesses that are accredited by the BBB.

5. Don’t fall prey to high pressure tactics such as “this is the only chance you’ll have” or “by tomorrow the extra materials will be gone,” or “I’m only in this area today.” A legitimate company will be here when you’re ready to buy and they will be more than willing to allow you time to check them out. If they don’t, let that be a warning sign.

Before you do business with a company you don’t know, or are unsure of, pay for anything, or sign a contract, call the Better Business Bureau; that’s what we’re here for.

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Ask SCORE

 

Keep accurate records to avoid tax stress

One thing many people give up when they become small business owners is the “luxury” of paying taxes only on April 15. Depending on your location and type of business, you may have to pay one or more commercial and revenue taxes several times a year. If you keep good records, you can eliminate the worry and complications of these filings. The key is to create a recordkeeping system that is consistent, organized and comprehensive.

Today, accounting software makes sense for even the smallest businesses to record and reconcile transactions. Whether you use a manual or computerized system, though, your goal is to be able to document your business activity for tax purposes as well as develop a picture of how your business is doing at any given time: what is owed to you and how much you owe.

All funds passing through the business should be documented in your checkbook and logged into the general ledger, which serves as the master record of your business’s financial transactions.

Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, you should maintain a dedicated bank account for all business transactions, keeping them separate from your personal or household expenses. This account is a master record of the financial history of your business. Deposit and enter all cash and check receipts into this business account and post all expenditures through it. This ensures that all incoming and outgoing funds associated with the business are properly documented. If you do not have a business name, open the bank account in your name as a business account.

A petty cash box can take care of advances for small day-to-day expenses such as parking or postage. However, you want to limit the number of employees who can disperse these funds and require signed receipts for any use of petty cash.

Make sure you maintain a calendar of all deadlines for filing returns and making payments on state, local and federal taxes. The IRS can provide additional pointers to help make your tax preparations less complicated. Forms, publications and other information are available at www.irs.gov.

If you would like to discuss business taxes and recordkeeping, contact SCORE Grand Rapids. SCORE counselors provide free, confidential counseling to help you develop, prepare and improve your business. For information on SCORE Grand Rapids, and the workshop schedule go to our web-site www.scoregr.org.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305 or email score@grandrapids.org.

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Can they ask me that? 

 

Six improper and illegal interview questions and how to answer them 

Picture this: A great job interview is drawing to a close. Hoping to find out more about the candidate on a personal level, the interviewer asks, “So, are you married?” The candidate blurts out, “I’m so excited! My fiancé and I are getting married this June.” The employer starts to think, Okay…but what if she wants to start a family soon after? Maternity leave could mean that we’d have to hire a temp. It might be better to look at other candidates.

Is this scenario politically correct? No. In fact, it is illegal for employers to ask about a candidate’s family plans (marriage, engagement, and child planning), among a host of other issues. But according to Peter K. Studner, many interviewers and candidates don’t know that.

“Most interviewers haven’t had formal training on what questions border on improper or are illegal, and as a result, interviewees often volunteer wrong answers and too much information,” says Studner, author of Super Job Search IV: The Complete Manual for Job Seekers & Career Changers (Jamenair Ltd., 2015, ISBN: 978-0-938667-06-3, $26.95, www.SuperJobSearch.com). “That’s why it’s important for all job seekers to know which questions are illegal and how to politely deflect them without harming their candidacy.

“Oh, and if you’re curious, a good answer to ‘Are you married?’ would be, ‘I have a good social life and am focused 100 percent on moving my career forward,’” he adds.

In Super Job Search IV, Studner, whose outplacement firm has helped over 27,000 people receive offers, guides readers through the complicated process of conducting a targeted and ultimately successful job search campaign. Best of all, Super Job Search IV isn’t “just” a book—it’s a systematic approach to finding a job that includes online resources and an app.

Here, Studner shares six questions employers shouldn’t ask (but often do), along with possible replies:

How old are you? It’s illegal for employers to ask a candidate’s age unless they’re trying to determine whether or not a candidate is a minor. That said, your odds of hearing this question go up if you’re a more mature candidate.

“While an employer may not know your exact age, they’ll still be aware of the general ballpark—so refusing to state that you’re 57 might be of limited usefulness,” Studner comments. “In a situation like this, I recommend getting the interviewer to focus on your experience, not your age. A good response might be, ‘I’m in my 50s. Does age make a difference for this job?’ Then remind the interviewer that you bring 20 to 25 years’ experience to the table and describe several of your most applicable accomplishments.”

When did you graduate college or high school? This is a more sneaky way for employers to fish for your age—and it’s still illegal. Studner says your first tactic should be to sidestep the question: “I did not put that down on my résumé as I was told that it is not pertinent for any job application.” This response should do nicely to get you off the hook.

“If the interviewer presses for a reply, you might give him the date and then ask how that applies to your candidacy,” he advises. “And in the final analysis, would you really want to work for a company where the management discriminates against age? It might be better to move on.”

How’s your health? Employers have the right to determine if you are physically able to perform the functions of the job for which you’re applying. But beyond that, you are not obligated to—nor should you—reveal any health issues you may have. Rather than volunteer that you are a cancer survivor in your third year, for example, a better reply might be, “I had a physical after I left my last job and passed it with flying colors!” And if it is true, add, “…in my last year, I used only four days of sick leave.”

“People have a tendency to volunteer too much information about themselves,” Studner comments. “While you can be proud and certainly grateful that you’re a cancer survivor, it does not belong in your interview discussion. It’s really none of the employer’s business.”

What’s your religion? Do you observe any religious holidays? Any question that asks you to reveal your religion is illegal. If this topic comes up—and assuming that the person who is interviewing you will not be your boss—you might tell him or her politely that is an improper question. Know that this is a risky strategy, though. You may have won the conversation but lost the interview.

“Alternatively, you might simply say, ‘I prefer not to discuss my religion, but I can assure you that it will not interfere with my doing this job,’” Studner says. “You might also try to deliver the same message with some humor: ‘What religion do you have in mind? I would consider practicing it as I really would like to work here!’ There is no sense in getting upset when an interviewer does not pay attention to the rules. And humor can sometimes bring the conversation back within proper bounds.”

Do you have a criminal record? It’s legal for employers to ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime on job applications and in interviews. Many employers ask this as a matter of course and certainly will if a particular type of conviction might relate to the job’s duties. That said, employers can’t ask about your arrest record—but that doesn’t mean they can’t do independent research, either.

“I once had a candidate who had a DUI arrest,” Studner recounts. “She wasn’t obligated to disclose this, but in her state, certain websites could legally post her picture and arrest information. These websites essentially blackmailed individuals with a ‘fee’ to have their arrest posting either removed or placed at the end of the line. With the help of an attorney, it cost her a few thousand dollars to get her notices off the Internet.

“In a manner of speaking, this client was fortunate because she could afford to have the evidence removed, but not all candidates are in the same position,” he continues. “In these kinds of cases where a future employer might uncover prior arrests, it is important to discuss the incident up front and point out that it was a thing of the past, never to be repeated. The more serious the offense, the more convincing you have to be.”

Before you sat down, I noticed that you have a limp. How did that happen? This question represents any query about disability. Here’s what you need to know: An employer cannot legally ask about a person’s disability, but can indicate certain characteristics about a job that might require a more direct reply about the candidate’s abilities. For example, “This job requires lifting packages up to 30 pounds, or standing on your feet for six hours a day, or talking on the phone at least 80 percent of the time. Is this something you can do on a continuous basis?”

“Here you need to be frank,” Studner says. “If you have a disability, there are agencies nationally and locally that can help you find a company with jobs suitable for your limitations. However, if you have a disability that does not interfere with the job’s requirements, you are not obligated to disclose or discuss it.”

“While this is not an exhaustive list of every improper or illegal question, it should prepare you to reply to them and, when possible, sidestep innocent but damaging answers,” Studner concludes. “My advice to all candidates is to never lie in an interview, but also to never volunteer negative information.”

For more on answering tricky interview questions, consult Super Job Search IV.

Peter K. Studner is the author of Super Job Search IV. He is a master career counselor and former chief executive and board member of companies in the United States, France, and Great Britain. He has helped thousands of people with their career transitions and trains other career professionals to deliver this easy-to-follow program.

To learn more, please visit www.SuperJobSearch.com.

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Cedar Springs McDonald’s manager receives award

BUS-McDonalds-Brian-Miller

Left to right: Joe Kowal, McCopCo, director in Michigan; Brian Miller, manager at Cedar Springs McDonald’s; Joan Rachelson, McDonald’s QSC vice president; and Terry Alexander, director of field services for McDonald’s in Michigan.

 

Brian Miller, general manager at the McDonald’s restaurant at 4141 17 Mile Rd, in Cedar Springs, recently received a McDonald’s Outstanding Manager Award by McDonald’s Corp.

In order to earn the award, managers must meet certain criteria, including:

*Operations at an outstanding level of quality, service and cleanliness on an ongoing basis

*Exemplifies leadership in the implementation and execution of initiatives or procedures to improve McDonald’s

*Recognized as a leader in delivering operational excellence

*Consistently displays hospitality through their actions and attitudes and creates a hospitality environment with their crew and management team

*Positively supports their community by being involved in activities that build sales and good will.

Miller was one of 18 managers in Michigan to receive the award.

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