Earth Class Mail

The Path To More Billable Hours

Professional services businesses represent a huge chunk of the U.S. economy. Legal services alone account for nearly $250 Billion in revenues and over one million employed.

Many of these firms rely heavily on billable hours for their primary revenue stream. The story is basically the same whether it's a law firm, CPA practice, management consultancy, or similar business. 

The problem is that so much of the day-to-day work that goes into these businesses isn't billable. This rings especially true if it's a solo-practice or small firm. 

It's not uncommon to spend up to two-thirds of your time in a solo-practice working on non-billable tasks such as billing, accounting, and marketing to new clients.

Obviously, all those things are valuable. However, it's important to understand where your time is best spent. 

For example, a typical attorney may bill in the $200-400/hr range. Is that half-hour they spend each day sorting through mail worth the hundreds lost in billable hours each week?

There is a path to reduce the non-billable work...

Download the white paper, Four Steps to Cut Back on Your Admin Costs & Increase Billable Hours. 

Five IRS Tax Tips for Expats with Small Businesses

This is a guest article by Hugo Lesser @ Bright!Tax

A lot of entrepreneurs choose to run their small business from abroad. For some it's a way to get around work visa requirements, for others it may be a tax savings decision, and many are simply drawn to the expat lifestyle. 

Unfortunately for you, the IRS still needs to get theirs. If you're a U.S. citizen, you need file a federal tax return each year.

There are a few critical steps you can take to minimize your tax liability, and several important considerations that are unique to expat tax returns.

 

Use your expat status to reduce tax liability

You're not going to escape the IRS, but to their credit they are accommodating toward expats. 

There are some key exclusions that allow you to partially reduce or entirely eliminate your U.S. tax liability.

The most common is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), form #2555.

The FEIE allows expats, who can prove that they’re living abroad, to exclude the first $100,000 (inflation adjusted) in earnings each year. 

The threshold for expat living abroad is as follows, per the IRS website:

"You are considered to live abroad if you are a U.S. citizen whose tax home is in a foreign country and you have been present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 days out of a consecutive 12-month period."

If you're in a foreign country with a higher income tax rate than the U.S., then consider the Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) form #1116.

With the FTC you can claim a dollar for dollar tax credit for any income taxes you've already paid abroad, and potentially eliminate your entire IRS tax bill.

Bonus: The FTC credits rollover for future use.

Deadlines still apply so you have until June 15th to file, with a further extension available until October 15th upon special request.

 

Single-member LLC's are your wallet's best friend

Limited liability corporations registered in the U.S. with a single owner are considered ‘disregarded entities’ by the IRS.

Huh? Well, that means they don’t require separate corporate reporting, and any revenue or expenses can be included on the owner’s personal tax return.

There's a catch though, you need to "elect" to be considered a disregarded entity by filing a special form, form #8832 (#8858 in subsequent years).

Doing that allows you to use the personal exclusions mentioned above against your corporate profits.

 

The IRS knows your bank account balance

You're required to report any foreign bank or investment accounts if the total value of their combined balances is over $10,000. 

Any bank account that you have control or signatory authority over qualifies, including small business accounts, even if the account isn’t in the your name.

For example: if you have a personal savings account and control over your small business account, and the two balances combined had a value of over $10,000 at any time during the tax year, you will need to file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR).

Foreign banks report their U.S. clients’ account details to the U.S. government, so the IRS knows who should be filing. Penalties for not filing are substantial. 

If you ignore this requirement, you will get penalized. From the IRS website,

"For willful violations, the inflation-adjusted penalty may be the greater of $124,588 or 50 percent of the balance in the account at the time of the violation, for each violation".

 

If business is good, the IRS wants to know

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires expats to report their foreign assets (not including tangible assets such as property) if they are worth a total of at least $200,000 at any time during the tax year.

Qualifying assets include savings and investments, and small businesses.

If your investments and the value of your small business pass this threshold, you should report them.

 

You're still going to pay for Social Security

Sole proprietorships and single owner LLCs registered in the U.S. are required to pay Social Security taxes.

If your business is registered abroad on the other hand, you aren’t.

Certain countries have Totalization agreements with the U.S. A totalization agreement means that you won't be penalized with a requirement to contribute to two separate social security programs.

There are dozens of countries that qualify including, but not limited to: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Poland, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. 

You can view a complete list of Totalization Agreements here.

In countries with Totalization, you can opt to have your foreign social security taxes credited toward your U.S. future social security benefits.

 

Wrapping up...

Filing U.S. taxes as an expat small business owner can be complex, and this article is not comprehensive.

The IRS offers an overview of the rules and required forms, just remember that mistakes can be costly.

As with anything tax related, consult a licensed professional for your specific needs.

A More Typical Startup Story...

It's easy to become infatuated with Startup Culture. Attention grabbing headlines, founders dating Victoria's Secret models, fast cars, and giant houses.

If it all sounds a bit cliche, well...it is. It's a story as old as the idea of free enterprise itself except that today entrepreneurs can do it without building a skyscraper, laying down a transcontinental railway, or putting a million cars on the road.

Heck, Slack went from $0 to $1,000,000,000 in 8 months - with a messaging app! Anyone remember AIM?

The reality of a small business journey for 99.999% of the entrepreneur population is very, very different. It's a lot more like our story, 10 years in the making and still going - still growing.

Read the complete article here, from our friends at Chargify.

SQL for Slack - A New Tool From Our Lab

We're a Slack company, actually that might be an understatement. Slack is very much a part of our corporate culture, and we use it for...everything.

One of the biggest benefits we've experienced as a company is in our ability to improve data transparency, eliminating many of the information silos that form over time.

Anyone in our Slack organization can summon near real-time data on everything from lead volume, to operations performance, to active users on each of our addresses, and much more.

A lot of the data we pipe in directly via Slack apps and Zapier integrations, much of it even streams live.

Still, we had a ton of data locked away in SQL databases. Accessible, but obviously not as democratic or immediately actionable as live streaming data into Slack.

Like so many new products are born, we built something to help solve our own business problem and now we want to share it with you.

SQLBOT.co - SQL reports in Slack, no coding required. 

If you have awesome data tucked away in virtually any popular SQL database, this is the tool that will let you unlock it and make it actionable for everyone in your organization.

All you need to do is...

Write some SQL

Write SQL so you can send to Slack

 

Connect to Slack

Connect SQLBOT to Slack

 

Get SQL Reports in Slack

SQL reports in Slack from SQLBOT

SQLBOT has been designed to work with any popular SQL database (PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server), and requires no coding experience to get started.

Take it for a spin and let us know what you think, first 30 days are free.

P.S. Developers interested in contributing to the project? Email Us

Small Business Credit Building - Part 2

In Part 1, we reviewed the table stakes for getting past that first underwriting stage in the SMB loan qualification process. You'll need to go through those steps at a bare minimum just to comply with automated qualification requirements.

This edition is all about establishing a business credit history in preparation for a loan.

It's a lot like building personal credit history - there are credit reporting bureaus, payment history, credit utilization, and account age factors to consider.

A few key differences:

  • Unlike personal credit scores, which range from 300-850, business credit scores usually range from 0-100 (Equifax is different). 80+ is considered "very strong".
  • Experian, the largest business reporting bureau, will open a report for your business based on public records data. As soon as you complete your corporate formation and get any vendors reporting, they will open a file on you.
  • Certain ratings agencies, like Creditsafe, will provide credit limit recommendations - that is, advising on how much credit your business should have outstanding at any time.

Let's jump right in...

Establish A Business Credit Profile

There are actually several credit reporting bureaus that you will need to actively manage, and it's all part of building up the right business credit profile.

It's not unlike personal credit building, except that business credit is much more precise in its tracking. For example, personal credit reporting is based on 30 day increments.

So if you pay your personal credit card bill 29 days after it's due, you're on time. If you pay 10 days before it's due, you don't win anything.

With business credit, reporting is done to the day. Paying early actually has a marked advantage, and paying late by even a day will hurt you.

Experian Smart Business credit file

Experian is the biggest and easiest to get started with. Their reporting guidelines for vendors are the most open, so you can build up a history quickly.

Setting up your Experian Smart Business Report is free. They are used by a wide variety of lenders to make decisions.

The majority of commercial banks, leasing companies, business credit cards, and many trade vendors report activity and trade lines to Experian. 

If you can't find a file for your business yet, one will be available within 30 days of the first payment reported.

There's a very detailed FAQ on the Experian Smart Business Report here.

Creditsafe business credit file 

Creditsafe is the largest global business credit agency, but new to the U.S. scene.

Regardless, over 10,000 creditors and lenders already rely on them for evaluating business loan qualification. There's a very strong chance your lender will look at this report as well.

Unlike other bureaus, Creditsafe also provides credit limit recommendations to lenders. That is they recommend the total amount of outstanding credit that your business should have at anytime. 

Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number and open file

D&B tends to be considered the go-to source for Net-Terms credit reporting data. Which is great if you have access to trade lines with vendors.

D&B won't issue a DUNS# or D&B rating until you interact with them directly. You'll need to first request a DUNS#, the free path takes 15-30 days for them to setup.

You can also sign up for their credit builder product to expedite everything, and get access to your PAYDEX score as an added bonus.

You'll have another score to monitor here. Unlike the other credit bureaus, D&B uses a PAYDEX score to provide instant creditworthiness feedback to lenders.

A PAYDEX score of 75 is considered, by many, the minimum to be qualified for the best business financing opportunities.

If you just pay all of your business trade and credit lines on-time, that is within the terms established for each line, you will get a score of 80.

PAYDEX rewards you for paying early, averaging payments 30 days earlier than required is the only way to reach a perfect 100. It's also worth noting that each credit line is weighted, so frequent big payments will carry more weight than infrequent small payments. 

Equifax Small Business credit file 

Most U.S. banks and business credit cards underwritten by banks report to Equifax. Equifax is typically slower to open a file on your business than other bureaus.

Like the other bureaus, your Equifax Small Business Credit Risk Score is determined heavily by timely payments. Equifax is not very open about all of the factors that go into the score though, so it is a bit of a black box.

The score itself is on a scale of 101-816, with higher equal to less credit risk.

The Equifax report also provides lenders with a Business Failure Risk Score. On a scale of 1000-1880, with higher scores equal to lower risk. This score is paired with a "class", 1-5 with 5 being most risky, and a percentile.


Money in the bank

Your business banking history is tracked, scored, and relevant to your creditworthiness. It's commonly called a "bank rating" and you're graded on a graduated scale.

The bank rating scale is based on the average balance in your account for the last three months, and it takes into consideration any adverse history such as bounced checks.

Lenders want to see that you have enough cash on hand to service debt, that you're using it responsibly, and that you're keeping a cushion.

A "low 5" rating is usually what lenders want to see when you're applying for a loan. To be in that range, you need at least $10,000 in the bank on average for three months and no adverse activity on the account.

This tends to be a non-negotiable condition for lenders.


A line of credit from a vendor

Well, you actually should aim for at least 5. That seems to be the magic number to establish your business and ease lenders' concerns.

A line of credit from a vendor is basically the ability to pay a vendor on Net terms, usually 15, 30, 60, or 90 days. That means, you get something from the vendor and the net balance is due X many days after you receive the vendors service or product.

It's actually pretty easy to set these up for common business purposes. Frankly, you might have some already and not even know it. Many business supply companies, like Grainger, will extend small trade lines of up to $1000 to any real business with an EIN and a DUNS#.

The key factor to remember here is that these are only impactful if use the trade line consistently, monthly, and pay it down in full each month...on-time.

Business credit cards

Revolving credit accounts are a powerful tool to build your business credit rating, just like they are with personal credit. 

Once you have your credit files open and vendor trade lines reporting, you can begin applying for business credit cards.

The business credit cards you want are just those that report to your business credit profile, and are in no way linked to your personal credit file. 

Not all business credit cards will report to just your business credit profile, so be selective. Some may require a personal guarantee, which is OK to provide in the beginning. 

A business loan from a bank

You might be asking yourself, "do I need a loan to get a loan?". The answer is no, you don't.

BUT, if you want to expedite building your business credit history AND increase the odds of securing a more substantial loan amount with better terms, then this is important.

It's not a catch-22, you can get a low-value business loan pretty easily when it's secured. That means you place a deposit with the bank in an interest bearing account like a Certificate of Deposit, in turn the bank will give you a loan for the exact value of the deposit.

You pay it off, then you close the CD and recover your payments. The net cost to you is just the difference in interest rates between what you earn on the CD and what you pay on the loan. Secured loans tend to carry low interest rates as well.

To take full advantage the loan has to be in your business name and using your business EIN, with payments coming from your business bank account. Early payments help expedite your credit building as well.

If you think this feels like cheating, it's not. Secured business loans are common, here's an offer page at Bank of America.

There are lots of legitimate reasons for a secured loan, and building your business credit is one of them.

Wrapping It All Up

Taking the above steps will get you on track to secure a more substantial business loan within as little as 1 year. In the next article, we'll discuss a Small Business Administration specific requirement, the SBA business plan.

Avoid The Top Small Business Financing Mistake

We've written a bit before on the best options for small business financing sources. This time we're going to focus on clearing that first hurdle for a small business loan.

At some point your business financing needs will outgrow the most common sources, namely cash. Whether that's coming from personal savings, friends, or family - that well will run dry.

Let's Review A Bit, Equity vs. Debt

Equity financing is a great option for a growth focused company, especially those with valuable intellectual property or favorable market dynamics. You can get the capital you need and avoid the overhead that comes with servicing debt.

Globally, venture capital activity for the Americas exceeded $72 billion in 2016, according to KPMG. The average deal was in excess of $8 million...one more time, the average deal was in excess of $8 million.

Obviously there's a lot of money floating around on the equity side of things, but the average deal size is also a really good indicator of the types of businesses that win these deals. That is, growth companies.

For the most part, your small business is not going to be competitive when it comes to equity financing.

On the other hand, debt financiers absolutely love working with cash flow (aka "lifestyle") businesses.

Your local credit union, or a specialized business lender, is going to care much less about your ability to generate a 100x return when you sell the company and much more about the reliability of your cash flow.

All of that makes debt financing a very common source of small business capital for entrepreneurs. In 2016 alone, the Small Business Administration funded more than $17 billion in small business loans.

The average deal was worth a bit over $370,000, a figure likely to gel with the needs of most SMB owners looking for capital.

Interestingly, over $6 billion of those 2016 SBA loans went to new businesses, which is especially impressive. The average deal there was just under $330,000. Again, a much more likely scenario for the typical small business entrepreneur. 

The true beauty of debt financing is that it's a mature and liquid market. Honestly, how many VC's do you know? What about angel investors? 

Now think about how many banks are in your neighborhood.

The First Test Is The Most Important

With that maturity comes a lot of volume, the SBA alone did nearly 6x more deals than all VC activity in the Americas. As you'll learn, there's a very defined process for securing a business loan.

Nearly all business lenders will follow a similar process, and the first step of that is commonly referred to as "Lender Compliance".

This tends to be automated by the lender's pre-qualification system. It's basically an algorithm programmed to score your business' risk using a pre-determined set of parameters.

If it sounds a lot like a test, it is. It's just not one that you would study for, but rather one that you have to complete before applying for a loan.

The vast majority of rejections happen at this very early stage, during the compliance process. 

There are twenty common lender compliance items to prepare for, we'll focus on eight in this post that are all about legitimizing your business identity - the others will be covered in an upcoming post.

Most lenders will check some of them, but there's no way to know in advance which items they'll look at, so you need to cover all of them before you start.

Legitimize Your Business

1. A real, registered business entity with the state

That means you don't operate as a Sole Proprietorship, but are registered with the Secretary of State as some sort of Corporation, LLC, or the like.

This is a super easy thing to do. You can get it done online in under an hour for most cases, and the cost is generally a few hundred dollars.

There are plenty of providers out there happy to help you, including LegalZoom, USLegal, IncFile, and Incorporate.com just to name a few.

If you don't have this done, you will be automatically rejected.


2. An EIN, or Employer Identification Number

This is basically the tax ID for your business. When a business is registered as some sort of corporation, you assign tax obligations to the business rather then a personal social security number.

You can complete this directly with the IRS, there's no charge.

If you don't have this done, you will be automatically rejected.


3. A bank account

You can't use a personal one, and you'll need to take care of 1. and 2. in order to set this up. The lender wants to see that you're treating this as a real business, keeping the finances separate, and that the bank has cleared you for an account.

The longer your bank account is open, the better. Balance and transactions aside, account age is an important factor. The day you open the account is the day lenders will consider your business started.

For the most part this step is free, although you might need a minimum balance to avoid fees.


4. Business licenses

Everything that is required by the Federal government, state, county, and city will be required for your loan approval. The lender will ask you to detail what you have, along with the address your business is registered to.

Common Federal compliance requirements are liquor and firearms licenses, if you deal with either of those.

For state and local compliance you may have occupational licenses (e.g. financial services), agricultural licenses, pollution permits, weights and measures certifications, and the list goes on.

The SBA website is a great resource for additional information by state. Some of these will cost money, or require approval from an oversight body.

Lenders will confirm with each records-keeping body that all of the licenses and permits are active, and in good standing. If you're missing any, you will be automatically rejected.


5. A real business physical address

The lender will check with the USPS on the type of address your business is registered to. It must come back as a "commercial" delivery point.

80% of business lenders will outright reject an application that is tied to a residential address.

Home based businesses are statistically more likely to fail, and they're much less likely to have the right cash flow for debt servicing.

That also means no PO boxes, and no mailbox store addresses. Earth Class Mail street addresses will work for these purposes.


6. A unique phone number

A phone number that is not registered to your home address, personal SSN, or personal bank account will be required here. 

There are plenty of inexpensive solutions for this, you can cheaply lease a toll-free or local number from services like Grasshopper. Register it under your business name, use your EIN, and setup billing to your business bank account.

It's not guaranteed that this will be a factor, but it's any easy item to check off the list. 


7. Directory listing with 411

Yes, it's still a thing. Lenders move slowly when it comes to changing their requirements for qualification, even though the world long ago moved on from calling into directories.

It's a lot easier than it used to be though, VOIP numbers and cell phones will work for directory listing. So in this case, take care of 6. and then get your number listed for your business - make sure the listing matches your entity name or DBA.

There's a free service for this, but you can also go directly through Whitepages or some carriers like Verizon.


8. A real website and business email domain

That's right, businesses without websites and those that can't be found easily via search engines are more likely to fail. Lenders will look at whether you have a website, and if your business email address is custom or branded.

Unfortunately, hell0k1tty1980@yahoo is not going to fly. You need something business appropriate, like <first name>@<your website> to pass this check.

There are plenty of inexpensive solutions here. You can easily buy a domain for $10 per year, GoDaddy is a good place to start and there's Google Domains as well, among thousands of other options. Setting up an email on your new domain just takes a few minutes.

On To The Next One

Consider 1-8 table stakes for getting consideration from a business lender. There's really no way around them, you need to throw in some chips just to play.

Fortunately, it's not all that expensive to fill in any gaps you may have. 

In the next post we'll dive into the remaining items, all focused on establishing and building your business credit. Stay tuned!

 

Employee Spotlight: Meet Damarcus, Operations Team Member & Scan Champ

Earth Class Mail is built on the passion and dedication of our employees. In this series we're offering a glimpse at the wizards behind the curtain.

Meet Damarcus Clark, Operations Team Member. Damarcus holds all of our scanning records and has scanned literally millions of pages for our customers in the last 8 years.

Tell us a bit about your history here and the responsibilities you manage each day:

Since I started in 2008 I’ve scanned over 2.3 million pages. I come in every morning to open up the facility, and am usually here alone for the first hour or so.

I get some coffee going, create the work orders for the day, and then get to work. Most of my day is spent at my scanning station, just scanning documents for our customer.

I currently hold the record for most scans in a day, at 853.

But, I’ve also done the most in a week, a month, and a year. The average scanning performance is about 82 pages per hour, but I’ve been timed doing nearly 142 per hour. Last year was my biggest year yet, I did around 130,000 scans.

What do you think is the key to your success?

I really enjoy being the first one here in the morning, it gives me time to focus and get going. I’ve always worked like this at any job. I try to assign little challenges for myself so that I can keep moving, for example: I’ll look at the clock and say, “by this time I need to have done this many scans”.

I'm always trying to think a few steps ahead too, and keeping my station and equipment optimized for efficiency helps a lot with that.

Those half second movements really add up over time.

I’ve worked here so long that I know how to organize the workload to make it the most efficient.

What are you most passionate about here at ECM?

I love what I do. Being able to improve on a process and find little areas to optimize efficiency makes it fun. It’s great to be a valued part of a growing business.

Any good lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?

Trust the process you’ve created and keep working toward your goal. If you’re persistent, eventually you’ll get there.

Don’t just look at a current process and accept it as it is, but instead understand what works about it and how you can improve it. There’s almost always a way.

What keeps you driven and motivated each day?

My girlfriend, Elaina, and I have been together for ten years this month, and we have two young sons together. They are my main motivation in life.

My goal is to provide them with a better life and more opportunity than I had. I’ve had a good life, but as a father I want to be able to offer them even more.

What do you do in your free time?

Elaina and I recently started an organic beauty supply business and we’ve just started selling inventory. We started setting up at bazaars and now we have customers ordering online from all over the country.

We’re still in the beginning stages, just a couple of months actually, but it’s already starting to take off. It’s pretty exciting.

Elaina has a degree in business and I’m on track to complete my degree this year, so we really hope to put or knowledge to use and grow the company together.

That’s great! Where can we buy your products?

The easiest way is probably to follow us on Facebook or you can check out our online shop

Please do check it out! I use the products myself everyday and I wouldn’t if they didn’t work. I’m pretty picky about stuff like that.

Any parting words or advice for our readers?

Working here at Earth Class Mail has been a great opportunity and has surrounded me with people that have pushed me to move my life in a positive direction.

I’ve learned a ton about growing a business, the goal is to always improve.

More Addresses Than Ever Before & More Coming Soon

If you get our newsletters then you know we've been working on a lot of upgrades to our service. We understand what makes Earth Class Mail valuable to you, and we've heard you loud and clear when it comes to more address options.

In the last month we've added PO box coverage nationally and now have at least one option in all 50 U.S. states, plus D.C.

We also understand that sometimes a PO box just won't do, so we're aggressively adding street addresses this year. In 2017 alone, our street address network coverage has expanded to: Boston, Chicago, Phoenix, North Charleston, Denver, and Salt Lake City.

Bulk Address Pricing

Here's some more great news for those of you looking to scale your address footprint in a cost-effective way.

Bulk pricing tiers on addresses are now available and apply automatically when you add more addresses to your account.*

If you already have multiple addresses on your subscription, you might see your bill go down!

There's a lot more to come, more street addresses, more marquee locations, and more options for your business.

*Learn more about bulk address pricing here.

 

Employee Spotlight: Meet Daniel, Project Manager & Tea Aficionado

Earth Class Mail is built on the passion and dedication of our employees. In this series we're offering a glimpse at the wizards behind the curtain.

Meet Daniel Finkle, Project Manager for the Operations team. On a daily basis Daniel is responsible for our mission-critical vendor relationships with the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. He also oversees our digital mail delivery and check processing teams.

 

Tell us a bit about your history here and the responsibilities you manage each day:

Yeah, I’ve been here for over ten years. It’s pretty crazy to think about. I started in operations as an entry level operator. Then I worked as an Operations and Web-Operations Lead, later as a Training Specialist, then a Procurement Manager, a Quality Assurance Specialist, an Operations Analyst, and now currently as a Project Manager.


Most of my day is spent working with various post offices around the country to set up new services or solve a problem of some sort. I also manage our check deposit process and oversee our digital delivery team - that is the team that makes sure each item we receive goes into the right account.


What made you interested in working for Earth Class Mail?

I could really see the potential of Earth Class Mail. They did a good job of sharing their vision for the future, and I drank the Kool-Aide. The cloud was going to be the wave of the future, and the service offered a huge benefit to customers.

My job now is to do everything I can to make that service better.


What’s the most difficult problem you’ve had to solve?

Honestly, learning how to conform to the various USPS regulations for a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency. Figuring out how to manage PO Boxes in every state has been a challenge. Each post office does things differently.


What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

To communicate as much as possible, internally and externally. Things so easily get lost in translation, so you have to make sure everyone is on the same page at all times. It’s often easier said than done.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

I just finished my undergraduate work and received a Bachelor's in Business. I would like to use that somehow, maybe I could be the director of a think-tank, or get into R&D. Only time will tell.


How do you spend your personal time?

I’ve been married for almost 8 years to my wife Melanie and we have a baby boy, Elijah. In my free time, which isn’t often, I like to produce electronic music.

Other than that, I love to drink high quality tea. Lots of tea.

What's your favorite workplace story?

A boss of mine, who's no longer here, used to come in before the first Support Team member would show up around 6 AM. He would hide under their desk, wait patiently, and just as they were approaching he would crawl out and say “Found it!” really loud. Then he’d show them a dime in his hand.

That would always start the day off on the right foot.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, any parting words or advice for our readers?


Yes! Don’t cut corners. Do things right the first time. That way next time, you can just drink tea.

Return. To. Sender.

By John Horton, Contributor @ Earth Class Mail

A package at your door doesn’t raise many eyebrows these days. Heck, the UPS guy in my neighborhood already knows where I leave my returns and where to drop off my wife’s HauteLook box – a rather frequent occurrence, might I add.

Lest we forget, that wasn’t always the case. Travel back to the 19th century and that package at your door is much less likely to contain a Three Wolf Moon shirt, and much more likely to feature a…kidney?

At least that was the case for George Lusk one evening in October, 1888, when he recieved a package on his London doorstep. Expertly wrapped, I presume, it included half of a human kidney. 

Umm… return to sender please.

Much like your Amazon Prime order, the box included a packing slip. This one was different though, bloodier. It was a letter from Jack the Ripper.

Lusk, a local builder, was the chairman of a group of volunteers known as the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. 

They patrolled the streets equipped with a police whistle and a stick, leaving no bustle unruffled, searching for the person responsible for murdering London’s ladies of the night. 

The kidney, preserved in wine, was half eaten and apparently “very nise” (sic). The letter, sent “From Hell”, is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors like these.

Despite many pop culture representations, evidence suggests Mr. Ripper was neither highly educated nor a skilled surgeon. 

History and Hollywood don’t always align. Ahem, Alexander.

No, this is the writing of an uneducated lunatic! Or, wait...

Those misspellings seem a little too sophisticated. An uneducated writer probably wouldn’t have included the silent “k” in “knif” or the “h” in “whil,” an indication that perhaps the author was trying to misdirect authorities. 

Investigators had received many letters claiming to be from Mr. Ripper, though most were considered attempts at dark humor. 

What made this letter different, more convincing, was that Catherine Eddowes – London’s most recent victim – had been found down a kidney. Coincidence? 

Well, maybe. It could’ve been a journalist, trying to milk a sensational story – although the source of the Kidney is still disconcerting. 

It could have been medical students playing a prank. To them, yanking out a kidney is just in a day’s work.

Still, many believe this to be the only authentic letter sent by Mr. Ripper. And this isn’t a dead case, either. Amateur and professional sleuths worldwide have devoted countless hours studying and analyzing this case. 

As recently as 2014, DNA evidence had been studied by scientists tracking down historical leads. The world still wants to know.

Or do we? I don’t, really. 

I like the murkiness, the unfinished, trailing tendrils of if’s and therefore’s. It’s exciting to have a pantaloons clad, high tea’ing, kidney snatcher that evaded police and the best efforts of the public. 

I don’t want an actual face for Jack the Ripper. I prefer the face I’ve created myself, a tall, lanky dude with a long face. Kind of Lincolnesque, but with a dash of pig farmer, you know?

I couldn’t think of anything more disappointing than finding out Jack the Ripper was really a stout, pathetic little guy with orange hair and mommy issues.

Then again, truth can often be stranger than fiction. Scarier too, perhaps. 

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