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Why and How to Implement a Health and Wellness Program for Your Employees

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: December 24, 2012 Updated: December 24, 2012

As you look forward to a new year and new business opportunities, is the health and wellness of your employees at the forefront of your 2013 business plans?

According to a new study of more than 1,000 small-business owners by Humana and the National Small Business Association (NSBA), 93 percent of small businesses consider their employees’ physical and mental health to be important to their bottom line, and 54 percent say it’s “extremely important.” But despite that, only a third of respondents are confident they can manage employee health care needs, citing gaps in information and employee interest.

(Note: This survey defined health and wellness programs as initiatives to encourage employees to make healthier choices, such as getting preventative care, eating right and exercising.)

So what health and wellness issues are small business owners concerned about?

  • High employee stress is the number one concern for small business decision-makers, especially at smaller companies, with stress levels rating more than triple other employee well-being concerns.
  • Employees working when they are sick is second – 57 percent reported that their employees show up for work when they should be taking a sick day.

As this study shows, health and wellness programs can be a win-win situation for small businesses, fostering healthier people and healthier profits. So what’s holding small business owners back from implementing programs?

Employee Interest

A key factor in whether or not to introduce a health and wellness program rests with employee interest. For example, start-ups (many with younger employees) lead the way in providing wellness programs and their employees prefer it this way. In fact, 85 percent of start-ups say wellness programs are worth the investment and 63 percent are already adopting such programs. Interestingly, these start-ups say these programs aid in recruiting and retaining employees.

So with employees actively seeking health and wellness benefits, these programs are likely to become an increasingly important part of any small business owner’s hiring and personnel management strategy.

Employers Need More Information

More than half the small business owners surveyed maintained that insufficient information is available about introducing health and wellness programs at a small business. This is something healthcare insurance providers are increasingly aware of and are seeking to correct by providing tools and resources to help small business owners develop health and wellness programs. The reward for both is healthier employees and a healthier bottom line.

Tips for Implementing Health and Wellness Programs in Your Small Business

So how can you go about planning and implementing a program that makes sense for your business, with the limited resources available to you? Health and wellness plans don’t have to break the bank. With a bit of creativity there are many things you can do to keep employees health and happy.

Here are a few tips:

  • Talk to your employees. Find out what aspects of an employer-sponsored health and wellness plan they would value most. It could be discounted gym memberships, quarterly sponsored walks/runs, or employee-led healthy cooking workshops. maybe it’s just more awareness of free or low-cost preventative care options covered by your healthcare insurance plan.
  • Get ideas for your wellness program. This blog from former SBA guest blogger, Dawn Rivers Baker, offers some creative and engaging ideas for a low-cost or no-cost employee wellness program.
  • Get help structuring specific programs. The Centers for Disease Control provides some great online tools to help you design and structure your wellness programs. For example, CDC LEAN Works is a free web-based resource that can help employers design effective worksite obesity prevention and control programs, including an obesity cost calculator to estimate how much obesity is costing your company and how much in savings your company could reap with different sorts of workplace interventions.
  • Consult your healthcare insurance provider. Many now offer tools and resources to help employers develop programs. Familiarize yourself with the types of programs that make sense for your business.
  • Get help from small business assistance groups. Check in with your local Small Business Development Center or Chamber of Commerce. They may have resources or seminars that can help you build the right program for your business.

Have you implemented a wellness program? Has it improved your bottom line? Have any tips for other small business owners? Leave a comment below.

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Hurricane Sandy: Tax and Financial Implications for Your Small Business

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: December 21, 2012

The storm that hit the East Coast of the U.S. on October 29 created devastation for individuals and businesses. Many companies were forced to remain closed for days or even longer because of damage to business facilities, employees being unable to get to work due to the failure of public transportation systems, closures of bridges and tunnels, power outages and long gas lines. Here is what companies should know about tax and financial opportunities to help recover from this storm and the lessons for everyone going forward.

Tax relief

The IRS has made a number of pronouncements in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to provide relief to affected businesses as well as to those who want to help hurricane victims. Here is a brief roundup of some key items:

Extensions for filing returns and paying taxes. The deadline for filing tax returns and paying income taxes otherwise due from the time of the storm through the end of January 2013 is extended until February 1, 2013. This means that the fourth installment of 2012 estimated taxes for corporations (otherwise due on December 17, 2012) and for self-employed individuals (otherwise due on January 15, 2013) can be made up to February 1, 2013.

Relief applies automatically to businesses within declared disaster areas. Businesses outside these areas that have been impacted by the storm (e.g., records are stored within a disaster area) can call the IRS and request relief at 866-562-5227.

Technically, the IRS has no authority to extend the deadline for depositing payroll taxes and excise taxes. However, it has provided relief nonetheless by waiving any late deposit penalties as long as the deposits are made by November 26, 2012.

Disaster losses. Businesses in an area eligible for FEMA assistance (an area declared to be a disaster area by the president) that have uninsured property losses can opt to deduct them on their 2012 tax return or claim them on a 2011 return. Taking the loss on a 2011 return requires filing an amended return, which can produce a tax refund more quickly than waiting to file for 2012. Before opting to do so, consider:

  • Which year will result in the larger tax savings (based on overall income and deductions for each year)? You may not know this until your 2012 return is being prepared in 2013.
  • Taking the loss on the 2011 return does not reduce self-employment tax for that year. The 2012 disaster loss only impacts income taxes in 2011 if the loss is carried back to that year.

If you’re eligible for a disaster loss deduction, work with your tax advisor to determine the better year in which to take the loss.

Property losses

Victims of the storm may recoup some of their property losses and get back to business by insurance recoveries, assistance from FEMA or other agencies and organizations, and through SBA disaster loans (explained later).

Property damage. If your business property was damaged or destroyed, your business owner’s policy (BOP) can provide relief to the extent of the coverage you carry (minus your deductible). Watch for limits on the policy, such as payments for flood or hurricane damage; talk to your agent about this.

Lost profits. If you have business interruption coverage, you may be reimbursed for expenses you have during your recovery period, such as rent, payroll, and utilities. The coverage also pays for lost profits (defined in your policy). It may also pay for replacement space, such as another office that you use until your own can be repaired.

If you don’t have such coverage, discuss this with your insurance agent to determine whether to buy it now for protection in case of future disasters.

Disaster relief grants. If your business receives any disaster relief grants, they are fully taxable. Unlike such help for individuals, disaster relief payments to businesses are always taxable.

Other relief items

Even though you are outside of the affected areas, your business may help with disaster relief efforts. If your business has a leave-donation program where employees can donate unused vacation, sick, or personal days to charity, there is a special rule for donations to storm victims. Usually, the donated leave is taxable to employees, but for donations for Hurricane Sandy relief, the unused leave is tax-free. Employees cannot take a charitable contribution deduction; employers can. Alternatively, employers can opt to treat the donated leave as compensation. The funds must be forwarded to an IRS-approved charity no later than December 31, 2013.

If your business obtains a disaster loan from the SBA  for physical damages or economic injury, the loan proceeds are not taxable. Interest payments are tax deductible.

Conclusion

Natural disasters are devastating for those impacted by them. They also serve as warnings to businesses outside affected areas to become better prepared for future events. Work with your tax and insurance advisors to review your disaster preparedness and recovery plans.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

You Have to Know Your Numbers

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: December 19, 2012

The other day I had coffee with a former student, now in her late 20s, whose first taste of startups and entrepreneurship was in a class I used to teach at the University of Oregon. The class included—of course—a hard look at cash flow and business numbers. But she told me she had no idea how important the numbers were until she actually started her own business.

“Back then, in class, it seemed like theory to me,” she said. “Like the business numbers were something that the bankers and accountants worried about, while the rest of us were out selling.”

“You can bet that changed,” she added. (And for the record, quotes are paraphrased from memory.)

Rose (not her real name) explained how getting her own business seemed to be swallowing her life. She was always worried, always wondering, playing over in her mind the next month what would she have to pay, where would the money come from. There were always questions about if and when she should add people as employees, offer more services and so forth.

Instead of drifting slowly off to sleep, she’d play over the worries in her mind. And instead of dealing peacefully with the rest of her life, she’d fill her spare moments with work—and work worries.

And for her, at least, she was much better with all this after really learning to know her numbers. In her case (I’m proud to say), she had some residual idea of business numbers still lingering from the classroom experience. So she knew where to start looking. She dug up some old explanations of cash flow, and dug into her online bookkeeping, and began to pull apart her last year or so of sales, costs of sales, running costs, fixed costs and cash flow.

She spent some time digging into the details of her business-to-business sales that required delivering an invoice and waiting to get paid. She took the extra effort to figure out the gross margin (sales less direct costs) for each of her three lines of service sales. And she looked at the difference between the clients who paid on time, or in some cases early (prepayments), compared to clients who paid late. And she looked at some supplies she was buying at a lower rate in bulk, but the real costs of storing the bulk.

“It’s been a real positive change,” she announced, proudly. “Now I have a pretty good idea, day by day, of where I stand with cash, receivables and payables.”

Not that she no longer worries. “At least I know now when I have something to worry about -- and here’s the good news -- when I don’t. So it’s way easier now to turn the worry off when things are okay. And when they aren’t okay, I know that early now, so I know when and why to worry and what’s the problem when I have one.”

And that’s a lesson I’d like to share in this space. I learned that myself, just like Rose did. My first degree was literature, my second Journalism, and although I did get the MBA later, I’m by nature a words and concepts person. But if you’re going to run a business, and you also want a life, then you should know your core business numbers: sales, costs, expenses, burn rate, balance sheet and, by far the most important, cash flow. 

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

“Made in the USA” Can Make Good Business Sense, But Watch Your Advertising Claims

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: December 19, 2012 Updated: September 20, 2016

Does your business source or manufacture all its goods in the USA? The “Made in the USA” tagline can be a powerful marketing tool, but it can also make good business sense.

According to the Washington Post, manufacturing in the USA can be a smart investment, even in the face of cheaper offshore alternatives. The article, written by Los Angeles-based small business owner Nicholas Ventura, cites “Five ways ‘Made in the USA’ can cut your company’s manufacturing costs.” Ventura is co-founder of Youth Monument Clothing, Inc.

Made in the USA” is what built my business to what it is today. When starting your new business, ask yourself how you can harness the benefits of domestic production, too. You may be pleasantly surprised…” Why? Ventura cites the following advantages of US-based manufacturing:

  • Inventory can be cut tremendously – Importing inventory often requires larger production runs to meet minimum orders that can tie up capital and cash flow in stock. But it’s a fine balance, as Ventura explains: “…missed sales due to lack of inventory is worse than having too much inventory in the first place. By being made in the USA, we can fulfill these orders and maintain a skinny inventory because turnaround times are quick.”
  • Domestic supply chains are quicker – Turnaround time from overseas factories can be substantially slower than domestic suppliers. Sourcing domestic goods can help you meet demand more quickly.
  • Forecasting becomes much easier – “The larger minimums and longer turnaround time forced us to buy production runs in large numbers and forecast trends with little confidence in our predictions,” explains Ventura. Domestic production increases agility and allows you to “react on the fly to the market” without “sitting on a ton of dead inventory.
  • You may save money – “Looking back, we would have made a better investment in developing our supply chains here in America rather than trying to cut costs from the onset,” says Ventura.
  • “Think of your national pride!” – “Made in the USA” is a hot trend for a reason. “Production equals jobs – it’s a simple equation that many Americans ignore.

Be Careful About “Made in the USA” Claims

If you are a U.S. manufacturer or are looking to promote your goods as “Made in the USA,” be sure you have a clear understanding of what this means. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charged with preventing deception and unfairness in the marketplace and has the power to take law enforcement actions against false or misleading claims that a product is of U.S. origin.

If half your product is made in the U.S while the other half is manufactured in China, you cannot claim it is "American-made." To comply with “Made in the USA” standard, the FTC requires that all products advertised as American-made must be "all or virtually all" made in the U.S. Even if you don’t expressly state that your products are made in the USA (for example, in advertising or product labeling), giving the impression that your product is of U.S. origin (such as use of a flag or geographic reference) can get you into trouble if it is not accurate. Both of these types of expressed or implied statements are subject to FTC enforcement.

To learn more about potential red flags and how to ensure your “Made in the USA” product labeling, advertising or other claims are compliant with the law, check out this SBA blog: Made in the USA Labels: Information for Manufacturers, Retailers, and Consumers and be sure to refer to the FTC’s guide for business owners: “Made in USA.”

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Use a Business Mentor to Plan for 2013

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: December 17, 2012 Updated: December 17, 2012

Now that 2012 is wrapping up, we have the opportunity to take a breath, evaluate where the year has taken us in relation to our business goals and create a game plan for how we will move forward towards success in the new year. A business mentor may just be the perfect means to helping you create that plan. A study by the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA ED Resources 10-11 Impact Study Final Report, found that small business clients who had received 3 or more hours of mentoring reported higher revenues and increased business growths. Whether you are already in business or looking to start one during the next calendar year, a mentor can help guide your business by providing an outside, unbiased perspective that will keep you on track towards your goals or, perhaps, offer new ideas you had not yet considered.

Planning for Your New Business Idea

If you have a great business concept—or even just a general idea of the kind of work you would like to be doing for yourself—a mentor can assist in hammering out the details of how to bring your ideas to fruition. If you have not yet created a business plan, a mentor can walk you through the process of doing so, bringing to the table years of real world business experience and having helped numerous other entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground as well.

If you are not sure exactly what shape your business will take, the process of creating financial projections like pro forma income statements and profit and loss statements will give you insight into the results of several different scenarios before taking the financial and personal plunge. These financial statements can seem daunting to the uninitiated, but with a mentor with financial expertise at your side, you will be able to navigate them with ease. Having a clear picture of the financial potential of your business concept will let you know if it truly is feasible or needs to be further refined in 2013.

Planning for Your Current Enterprise

For current business operators, a mentor can help evaluate the current state of your business and make sure it is on track towards your goals. If you have not yet created a business plan for your enterprise, a mentor can guide you through doing so. If you have drafted a complete business plan, they can help you evaluate how you have met your objectives and revise the plan according to changes in the business, the business landscape or your goals.

No matter what the business topic, a mentor has likely encountered the same scenario or is able to refer you to someone else who has. Mentors are unique in that they have specific expertise from their own experiences in the business world, but also a wealth of general business knowledge from helping others start and grow their ventures. Some topics and questions a mentor can help you think through in planning for 2013 are:

Marketing: How effective is my current marketing plan? Are these efforts on track with my goals

New Offerings & Directions: Where does my business stand in relationship to my competitors? What opportunities exist for me to expand or take the business in new and profitable directions?

Technology: Are my employees equipped with the right technology for the activities and goals I want to accomplish?

Budget & Cash Flow: Does my budget match with the initiatives I have set out for next year? Will I have sufficient cash flow to carry me throughout 2013?

A Sounding Board

One of the greatest benefits a mentor can offer your business is simply a wise ear. We hear time and again from SCORE clients that the greatest function their mentor serves is as a sounding board: someone to bounce ideas off of, rehearse their elevator pitches with and be reassured that they are on the right path. A mentor also makes a fantastic addition to your business team because they offer an outside, unbiased perspective that can spot obvious fixes or opportunities you may be too entrenched to see and supply fresh ideas to solve nagging problems. Cassie Green, owner of Green Grocer Chicago, spoke of her mentor saying, “It’s great to get a perspective from someone who doesn’t have a personal interest in the business. They are totally objective and just want you to succeed.”

Entrepreneurship can certainly seem like a lonely road at times. But working with a mentor to plan out a map that will help guide you along that road can make it a little easier.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

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