Small businesses owners face tough decisions every day; balancing employee benefits and financial prosperity is often one of those tough decisions. Employers wanting to offer their employees benefits have often been discouraged by too few choices, high premiums, and unpredictable rate changes. However, with the Affordable Care Act, (like it or not), things are changing and you have responsibilities as a business owner. Are you educated and prepared for the upcoming changes?
62% of small employers acknowledge not understanding exchanges at all (eHealth, Inc., March 2013)
In an effort to become more educated and prepared, I recently attended an Affordable Care Act forum at Southern NH University. If you haven’t had a chance to attend a seminar, I hope that some of the information and resources provided in the post will help get you started in the right direction. First, let’s review some basic information:
- Enrollment begins October 1st
- Coverage doesn’t begin until January 1st
- The rules are different if you have 50 or fewer employees
- There is a tax credit for business with fewer than 25 full time employees
- Noncompliance puts you at risk for a penalty
Starting in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will have to play by a new set of rules. Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge higher rates for women or individuals with pre-existing conditions. They will also no longer be allowed to deny coverage to individuals with chronic and pre-existing condition or place annual dollar limits on coverage.
These are only a few of the health care changes that will be starting in 2014. If you are ready to learn more, I encourage you to get more information straight from the source such as the IRS, and state department of insurance, rather than a third party. With that said, here are some links to more information:
Intelligent business owners understand the value of taking time off, of getting away from the business. At the same time, they are concerned that their business success will falter if they aren’t there; who will answer customer questions? What if business operations have a hiccup?
It’s tough to keep your pulse on your business’s health if you are a thousand miles away but with five simple steps you can ensure your business will continue to thrive.
- Plan your time away at least six months in advance. This gives you enough time to prepare and get used to the idea of being away from your business. Consider testing your plan by taking a couple of days off sooner!
- Communicate. Let staff and key business partners know as soon as possible about your plan. If you are nervous about being away, let your team know that and how you are relying on them to help.
- Delegate and train. Perhaps there really is no one who can do what you do as well as you, but if you’ve hired well, they do their job better than you and can fill in for you. Define who will take on additional tasks during your time away and train them so you are both comfortable.
- Create back-up plans. Define mission critical business operations and create a back-up plan that staff can follow in case of an operations failure. If you have ever hired a babysitter, this is like the list you leave for the sitter! Consider in-house procedures as well as outside resources. As a last resort, define when it is okay to contact you.
- Get over yourself. Sure, it’s your business, your livelihood, and you probably are the pulse of the organization. But…the business will survive without you if you’ve led your business and not just managed it. It might be an ego buster to come back from being away and have no emergencies waiting for you; trust me, you can get over that quickly by scrolling through your vacation pictures and by planning your next vacation immediately.
If you absolutely, without a doubt, have to stay connected, define how often and for what you will connect. Consider having an employee send two to three key business indications daily (see checklist for examples).
Taking time off is invaluable to you and your business. You may be nervous about it, but by following these five simple steps you will have the confidence and a plan to recharge your batteries and return with more energy.
Below is a sample checklist to give you ideas. To receive your own checklist to get started planning your next vacation, sign up for our newsletter!
Ask any business owner why they chose to own their own business and chances are that one of the top reasons is flexibility. Working when we want, where we want, and deciding how we spend our time is a dream for most entrepreneurs. When reality hits, though, it can feel like we’re still working for “the man” and in this case, “the man” is our own business.
The first time I worked for myself from home I was elated with my new found “freedom”. I learned the hard way, though, that just because I could run an errand, do a household chore, or do something fun, it didn’t mean that I should. The same was true for work: if I had a great idea at 10 PM, it wasn’t necessary for me to work on it for the next two hours. I could have safely stored the idea so I wouldn’t forget it, and develop the idea during “regular” work hours. I had the flexibility I had dreamed of, but I needed to put some boundaries around that new found “freedom” because it was killing my dream.
The lesson I learned is apparent still on my desk today. Posted where I can easily see it is a weekday schedule showing how I spend my days. Here are the steps I followed and how you can create a time management system that works for you:
- Consider your personal work patterns. What time of the day are you the most focused? Concentrate project and key business work here. Do you have a hard time staying on task in the late afternoons? Schedule administrative work that requires short periods of focus here.
- Integrate your personal life. Personal training is so important to me that I schedule my work to allow for it when it works best for me.
- Give yourself two weeks to try it out. Tweak where needed.
- Look for pockets of time to use more effectively. As soon as I drop my daughter off at practice, I go directly to the library where I have two hours of uninterrupted writing time. Sure, I could sit and chat with other parents, but I have plenty of time for that, as well. Look for these time windows and you will find them everywhere; between appointments, waiting for the school bus, even standing in lines.
- Post your schedule and stick to it, as if you were given this schedule from a boss. Your livelihood is more important than any boss! If you’re supposed to be at your desk on Thursdays by 8:15, make sure that happens. No excuses.
- Flexibility should be an element of owning your own business, so make sure you allow for that. If you are a service based business, consider giving yourself either Monday or Friday with no appointments. For product or more intensive service businesses, set a budget to give you coverage while you get the freedom (and much needed time off) you desire.
Flexibility can be a double edged sword if you’re a business owner. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. With some well-thought out boundaries, that flexibility translates into freedom and ease for you and for your business. As for me, my schedule tells me it’s time to work on new client development.
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1. Your idea flow has slowed significantly, or may even be non-existent.You feel apathy towards your business.
2. You may be thinking “So what if I don’t get things done?”
3. You have a “heaviness” physical sensation around your business – you may feel it in your shoulders, gut, even your feet may feel heavy.
4. You are not getting as much done as you usually do; at the end of a day, you sometimes wonder how you filled your time and can’t remember what you accomplished.
5. You don’t look forward to going to your place of business; you may even find excuses to not go in.
The answer? To take a vacation, of course! I may not know you personally, but I know your type, and I know you’re saying “I don’t have time to take vacation” or “Who will run the business while I’m away?”. Hopefully, you have systems in place to quell those thoughts, but if not, book a vacation within the next 3 months and create the infrastructure that allows you to be out of the office. If you’re still hanging on to the thought that you’re indispensable, imagine that an emergency forces you to be out of the office and then build a system. If you’re still resisting, well…suck it up and book a vacation. You’ll make it happen.
In the meantime, take a day off… with absolutely nothing planned. Don’t plan on finishing up a house project, picking up the dry cleaning or even going for a bike ride. If one of those things happen, great, but I don’t want you to plan any activities. Planning keeps your mind in the “to-do” mode and you’ll find yourself checking things off your list, it just happens to be a different list than the one on your work desk.
The long-term solution is to understand the frequency with which you need time off and to regularly schedule vacations. Imagine your energy as a reservoir; your goal is to never let your business ownership energy drain completely. Instead, schedule periodic “refills” so that you, and your business, stay at peak performance.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
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Summer is quickly approaching and the kids will be out of school soon. I adore my work, but as the days get nicer I want to spend more time outside playing than inside working. As a business grows, there seems to be more to do leaving business owners less time to enjoy the “freedom” they envisioned when starting their business. I often hear business owners say they could sit at their desk all day and never get “it” all done. And they’re right. A business owner’s to do list is never ending.
Before you throw up your hands in discouragement, walk through this exercise with me. Imagine completing that last item on your to-do list and feel the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. Revel in how good it feels to have an empty list. What would you do next? When I ask my clients this question, I hear “take a nap”, “read a book”, and the most frequent – “take a vacation”. Now imagine what you would do after your vacation, after you cleaned out the garage, and after you’ve worn out your golf partners. Then what? Sooner or later, you’d start a project. And that project would require a to-do list, even if it’s just in your head. That’s the nature of entrepreneurs: we don’t sit still. There is always something new and interesting to try, a subject that piques our interest. The truth is that when an entrepreneur is finally done all of their projects, well… they’re done, too. Lights out. Life is over.
The real solution is not to try and get it all done; the solution is a mind-shift. Accept that you will always have open projects – it means you are active and engaged. Be thankful that your business is engaging and provides you with mental stimulation. Focus on those tasks that matter most, on what will most move your business forward, on what will make your business (and life) run more smoothly and more successfully. Understand that the rest will be there tomorrow for you to tackle, or even the next. And that’s okay.
Writing this has reminded me of a book idea I need to add to my to do list. I may never get to it with everything else that’s on my list, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach