Off the Cuff

Considering 150 years of business

By: Connie Laughlin

In the late 19th century, “fake bosoms” were quite popular. In fact, men wore them! The working class had found it absolutely impossible to keep up with the expense involved in cleaning their soiled and stained shirts.


A fashion trend was born when technological advancements in machinery began manufacturing paper shirtfronts, known as “fake bosoms,” as well as paper shirt collars and cuffs. Made of stiff white paper, they worked well to present an affordable, and fit-to-be-seen, appearance. Depending on the conditions where one worked, such as around coal dust, a man might have made three changes in one day.

Paper cuffs quickly caught on as a convenient place to scribe a quick note, especially if you were in business. Men were now logging data such as inventory numbers, or things typically found in a journal, on their cuffs.

In the pub, barkeeps were soon keeping tab of gins consumed in a new manner. Henceforth, the phrase “off the cuff’ became quite popular, meaning a manner of operating that’s spontaneous and without proper planning. Running a business was much simpler in those days. Yes, simpler – but not better! Without appropriate workplace regulations in the “off the cuff” era came numerous unfair wage disputes and countless discriminatory issues.

Employment laws have developed over the last hundred years with many convoluted regulations. One pretty much needs specialized and ongoing HR training to ensure legal compliance is met in a business, and that it continues to maintain efficiently of operation and productivity.
The Department of Labor, founded in 1913, enforces more than 180 federal laws. Listed below are only a few. How many apply to your business? Are you in compliance?

• Fair Labor Standards Act, or Wages and Hours Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1938
• Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
• Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985
• Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977
• Davis-Bacon Act, passed by Congress in 1931

Today, in the 21st century, you still see a lot of “off the cuff” decisions being made without regard to worksite laws. Yes, indeed, it takes HR professionals trained in employment law to manage ongoing compliance. We must have the proper direction to navigate the ever-growing legal regulations, and we definitely need plans in place to mitigate risk and avoid any litigious activity. HR procedures that many leaders consider “insignificant” are often the most necessary.

Additionally, any company that’s operating without the strategic HR initiatives that only well-seasoned HR executives can concoct is running at a disadvantage. Business owners simply can’t keep up with all the training required to implement HR strategies that grow revenue, increase employee morale, mitigate risk and best protect company assets.

Two important Ps in business are “problems” and “profitability.” It’s very possible to have a problem you may not know about, and if that’s the case, you’ll not know how deep your hole, or problem, is because you’re not adequately trained in that area.

You know the old saying, “If you find yourself in a hole, quit digging”? How do you know what you don’t know? Obviously it makes good sense to hire professionals to handle the things that aren’t in your wheelhouse – the things that don’t drive revenue production. Ensure your focus remains 100 percent on profitability, and that you’re operating in accordance with all the state and federal regulations prohibiting potential problems.

Even though technology continues to provide us with new accounting platforms and manufacturing trends that speed up our business processes accurately, it can’t manage our business or our handle our largest asset: our employees.

Don’t let your business be lost in the washtub with off-the-cuff dealings! Take the time now to protect your employees as well as all assets. Creating a streamlined efficient operation will allow you to, at times, run “off the cuff” without risking it all.

Connie Laughlin is a business consultant for UniqueHR. For more information on outsourcing your human resources to a PEO, you may contact Laughlin at 361-852-6392 or


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