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6 Things to Consider When it Comes to Employee Healthcare

Health InsuranceAs we approach the first anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s implementation, more and more small business owners are looking at their options for themselves and their employees. Here in New Hampshire, consumers will have more choices and with more choices often comes indecision. If you are looking at healthcare options for your employees and feel confused or indecisive, read on.

  • Healthcare costs can be a significant budget line item especially if you haven’t covered healthcare costs in the past. You wouldn’t be the first small business owner to exclaim, “HOW much is it going to cost me?” While cost is certainly important, start with a broader view and look at it from a philosophical standpoint: do you believe that you have a responsibility to your employees to provide health insurance? What part do you think you should play in your employees’ health?
  • If you’re not sure what your role should be in providing health insurance, consider these statistics: A 2012 monster.com survey revealed that prospective employees consider healthcare as the most important benefit a potential employer could offer. More recently, MetLife’s 2014 annual benefits summary reports that benefits are an important reason that 50% of employees stay at a job.
  • If you’ve decided that you want to pay for some part of your employees’ healthcare costs, start by contacting an experienced benefits agent. The ACA healthcare environment is confusing; rather than trying to navigate alone and potentially making a costly mistake find someone who has been in the market for years and stays current in the market. These agents are paid through fees from the insurance companies, not by you. They are knowledgeable about options as well as what your competitors are offering.
  • Healthcare coverage can vary by employee class, allowing you to provide a higher level benefit to owners or based upon position. For example, one client is offering three levels; owner, professional staff, and hourly staff.
  • Healthcare is costly and if you haven’t been offering any coverage, adding the cost can be overwhelming. Look at the cost as a percentage of revenue, in addition to actual dollars. Costs relative to your revenue can be enlightening (both good and bad!).
  • If you choose to offer healthcare, education is key for everyone involved. Your employees are probably confused about the new healthcare market and will soak up any information available to them. Rely on your agent to provide this (discuss their employee education plan up front).

More and more small business owners are looking at healthcare options not only for their own family but also for their employees. If you are one of those entrepreneurs, start the decision making process by considering your values – they will never steer you wrong. If you decide to look into your options, save yourself from confusion and overwhelm and get help from an expert.

Small Business Owners: Take a Lesson from Our Military Vets

What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.

What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.

A former US Marine turned entrepreneur and I have been working on growing his small business. He is smart, driven, and has built a successful business in a relatively short period of time. And he wants more (sound familiar?). As we chatted about growth strategies and prospecting in particular, it struck me: fighting in the Armed Services and successfully growing a small business have two things in common:

  1. A clearly defined purpose
  2. Repetitive training

What they don’t share is the same driver for success: a gun pointed at you.

Many of my clients have heard me remind them that “this is your livelihood.”  This is what sustains you and your family. This is often when a business owner is going soft about letting an employee get away with sloppy work, bailing out on prospecting efforts, or something that requires a little more push.  That push is needed when we’re faced with a fear so strong that it feels like we have a gun pointed at us, but of course we don’t…and we let it slide. We tell ourselves that we can clean up when an employee doesn’t quite meet our standards or that we have “enough” business. Those things are true, but we don’t end up with a business that brings us joy. Instead, we end up frustrated, tired, and a little defeated. And that’s where the US Marines come in.

I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be in combat, but I can imagine the overwhelming desire for success that our Armed Services personnel feel. That desire, coupled with a clearly defined purpose and repetitive training, becomes success again and again. So how does this translate into success for small business owners?

  1. Know your purpose for each mission. Speaking engagement? Define exactly what the purpose and your desired results are – market exposure, perhaps, and follow-up meetings with complimentary professionals, on-site newsletter sign-ups, requests for more speaking. Prospecting? Be specific and define your success path: in some industries, if you want 5 new clients, you’ll need 8 meetings, and you’ll need to speak with 40 prospects.
  2. Practice. If it’s important, and most things are, practice again and again. Whether it’s an employee meeting, customer open house, or prospect phone call or meeting your confidence will grow with practice. Clearly define your purpose (see #1) so that the words you choose will help you reach your goal. My former US Marine and I ran through several practice prospecting calls until he reached that “I’ve got this” point.
  3. Reflect for a few moments on the bigger picture of your business – your “Big Why”, your dreams, your definition of success. All of that rolled up together is why you do what you do – it’s not a job, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t even call it a career. It’s your livelihood. When you connect with all of that, you will be driven to succeed in a way a gun to your head never would.

Today, thank a veteran or an active service member for their service. And, take a page from their book and remember that your business is your livelihood, and it deserves to succeed.

Instilling a Culture of Quality

 

checklist_imgHave you built a culture of quality in your business? While “striving for excellence” is part of nearly every business mission statement, what does that look like? A recent study by the Forbes Insights showed that companies that regularly instill quality measures and test them are more likely to meet their goals than companies that do not.

Instilling quality is more than just developing a mission statement and setting goals – it’s leadership in action, and it has to come from the top down, and should be reflective in every aspect of your business. Key questions, like the one in the study, can determine whether your team is on track or whether they should change course. Read on here.

Reference: Forbes’ Insights, November 5, 2014

A Refresher on Workplace Safety

safetyaroundtheclockRecent events have focused the business community on safety in the workplace like never before. While it’s nice to think that “it will never happen to us”, you and everyone involved will feel more at ease with a plan. I’ve admittedly had situations where I thought, “I did NOT go to school for this!” A confrontation with a former employee left me feeling cornered and attacked, and I was not prepared. Whether you’re a non-profit or small business, outline and practice the procedures prior to an incident so that you and your staff know what to do in the event that they occur. It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive.

1. Be prepared to end a working relationship with a client if you or a staff member feels uncomfortable or threatened. Let tempers calm down and, later, contact the client and let them know that you are sending them their records or files so that they can find another service provider that better suits their needs. Keep the conversation and correspondence on what is best for them. Tip: Make sure that these procedures are outlined in a “client manual” so that you, your staff and the client have these procedures, even before an event occurs. This can protect you legally.

2. Neither you nor your staff should ever be alone with a new client. If you are a freelancer, meet your client at a public location, like a coffee shop. If you operate a physical location, make sure that someone else is there with you. Tip: use “stranger danger” procedures in your business. The safety of your staff, as well as your own safety, should always be paramount.

3. Listen to your staff. Your staff meets with the general public for many hours a day and has learned a thing or two about human behavior. Listen to your staff when they say “something isn’t quite right” about a client interaction. Tip: keep notes. Make a habit of documenting the temperament of your clients, current concerns, and behaviors. Do not record financial information, as this can be a liability of another sort. This is an invaluable tool for other staff members.

4. Your staff needs to know that they come first before revenue from a hot-tempered client. Support your team without referencing lost income. Remember that your business is worth more than ONE client, as is your staff.

5. Staff training and role-playing through difficult situations will make staff more comfortable and more able to de-escalate a tense situation. Take the fear out of the unknown and show your staff what is expected, even in a dangerous situation. Tip: have law enforcement come in to do a brief workplace safety workshop. They’ll be able to give you and your staff a few tips on behaviors and body language to look for, and how to stay safe.

6. If you have more than one location, alert other locations of threatening behaviors. Make sure that safety procedures and protocol are the same across all locations. Larger business should have a trained staff member that is responsible for all safety trainings, procedures, and documents.

7. Contact the police. Too many people think “it’s not that bad” or “we don’t need to get them involved.” The risk is too high; always let the police know and they can decide what to do with the information. (See #5)

8. Make sure that you have similar procedures for workplace conduct. Employees should know that they will not be threatened or endangered by a fellow employee. As unpleasant as it may be, disagreements do happen, and they should be handled in a way that respects the dignity and safety of all persons involved. These procedures also need to be known and understood by all staff members. Be willing to resolve conflicts, but also recognize the signs that a work relationship has to end.

Remember, as a business owner you are liable for the well-being and safety of not just your clients, but also your staff. The safety of the people that visit, work, and serve your business is always your concern. Set the expectations and best practices before an incident occurs so that your staff can safely do their jobs and look after the best interest of your clients.

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.