Q. I just relocated to the area and am starting a new retail business. How can I find out generally what salaries other similar local businesses pay their employees?

Local human resources manager Ursula Nixon offers this advice:

Doing your homework by finding out what others are paying for similar work is essential to your business's overall success. Although a number of salary related resources are available today, in order to get information in your hands quickly, you can check out the classified ads, network with other business owners or gain access to public information as well as Internet salary information sites.

The classified ads are an excellent way to find out what the going rate of pay is for local retail positions. Make sure you check the classified ads in your immediate geographical area to provide a good foundation for comparison purposes.

Networking with other business owners can help you assess what the going rate of pay is in your area. Your local chamber of commerce as well as local employment agencies or temporary help agencies are also valuable resources.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes salary information that can help you determine local competitive rates. Likewise, several Internet salary information sites, such as salary.com, offer geographical pay information. When using published salary survey information, make sure it is updated and most importantly done by a reputable organization that provides information relevant to your business. Ursula Nixon can be reached at (941) 906-5414.

Q. As a small business owner, I'm looking for ways to minimize my taxes on my highly appreciated investments. Any tips?

Gina L. Mascio, CPA, of CPA Associates, answers: Depending on the amount of gain, the least costly choice may be just to pay the capital gains tax and call it a day. The tax on capital gains, currently 5 to 15 percent, is at an all-time low.

Because cost basis can sometimes be tricky to calculate, however, you may want to seek advice from a tax professional. If you overestimate the gain, you will pay more tax than necessary. If the asset was a gift, for example, the gain is based on the original purchase price. So if the investment was originally purchased for $1, given to you at a value of $50 and you sell it for $100, you will pay tax on a "gain" of $99.

There are strategies available to defer the gain or pass it along to a family member who would be eligible for the lower tax rate of 5 percent. Other strategies such as the use of charitable remainder trusts may also be beneficial. Capital gains tax has never been lower, but before you dispose of an appreciated asset, consult a professional advisor to help you make the most of a wise investment. Gina L. Mascio can be reached at (941) 955-1095 or gmascio@cpa-associates.com.

Q. I'm called upon occasionally to make presentations. How can I keep them interesting?

Business trainer Cheryl Stock answers:

It is probably fair to say that no one intentionally sets out to be boring when giving a presentation. But it can easily happen if some key things are overlooked.

First, it is important to have a clearly defined message that is part of an organized and well-planned presentation. Many presenters aren't interesting because their message gets lost in a swirl of disorganized thoughts and words. Another way is to use stories, anecdotes and examples to enhance the picture painted with information or straight facts. Stories and examples help you appeal to a wider variety of listeners by enhancing and illustrating your message in a different way.

Finally, poor delivery skills can make it difficult for your audience to be interested in what you have to say. Incorrect body stance and position, lack of eye contact, extreme nervousness, and poor diction, all distract and make it impossible to hold the audience's attention. There are many ways to improve your presentation ability-you can take a class, join a speakers group or hire a performance coach.

Being able to make interesting presentations can help your job performance and career immensely. Every businessperson should have it in his or her communication toolbox. Cheryl Stock can be reached at (941) 346-3624 or Cheryl @Cherylstock.com

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