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TheStreet Open House

3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: Feb. 1

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. New website details small-business regulations. The House Small Business Committee, led by Republican Chairman Sam Graves, launched a new website Thursday aimed at highlighting rule-making initiatives across the federal government that could affect small businesses. Small Biz Reg Watch will also provide links so that business owners can comment on the proposals, according to The New York Times.

"Most small businesses don't have lawyers or lobbyists who focus on regulatory compliance," Graves said. "Not all regulations are bad, but many can be unnecessarily burdensome, and it is important that small companies express their concerns before a rule is finalized."

The website launched with six rules listed: two as a result of the Affordable Care Act, two from the Environmental Protection Agency and others.

2. Private company credit improves. Privately held U.S. companies have a slightly improved credit position, on average, than a year ago, according to data from Sageworks, a financial-information company.

The average probability that a private company would default in the next year was 4.4% compared with 4.51% for the year-earlier period, Sageworks data says.

Looking at five major industries within the U.S. economy, Sageworks found that the probabilities of default for construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade and professional/scientific/technical services have each improved compared with a year earlier. The construction industry had greatest improvement, with the probability of default falling to 3.79% at Dec. 31 from 5.73% in 2011.

"The average probability of default ... is consistent with the sales performance and profitability we've reported for those companies," says Sageworks analyst Libby Bierman. "Their revenues and profit margins continue to increase, though maybe not at the high rates we saw after the recession and in 2011. It makes sense that more profitable companies with less debt on their balance sheets will be a lower credit risk. A tenth of a percent change may not seem significant, but it is a move in the right direction."

3. What to do if a former employee sues you. The difficult decision of laying off workers could make small-business owners more susceptible to employment-related legal claims, according to the Hiscox blog. With the overall depressed jobs picture -- despite Friday's BLS data that said 157,000 jobs were added in January -- it's not surprising that employees are filing wrongful-termination suits in hopes of getting additional money.

Hiscox suggests that small-business owners, who know they may need to do layoffs, add policies to their existing small-business insurance coverage to prevent disgruntled former employees from "wreaking havoc" on your small business.

"They can steal equipment from you or one of your clients or even introduce a virus into your IT systems, which could result in the loss of vital information. It's possible to upgrade your business-owner insurance to protect your business from fall-out because of any of these threats," the blog says.

If you get an attorney's letter, don't panic and don't ignore it. Contact your insurance agency and "let them or an attorney call your former employee or their lawyer to argue or try to settle the claim. Leave it to the experts," the blog says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

>To submit a news tip, email: tips@thestreet.com.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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