How an Advisory Board Can Be Life Changing

small business advisory board

We aren’t exaggerating when we say that having a small business advisory board can work magic for you. Our client Jack is proof. His business was plateauing, and his advisory board helped him turn things around. It is a form odelegation at the highest level, but with completely different results.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

No One Person Has All the Skills for Running a Business

Small business owners like Jack started their business to follow a dream. Jack’s dream was to be his own boss. Jack had been a successful attorney at a mid-sized law firm, but he was tired of the hours, rainmaking, and defending big businesses. He wanted something more meaningful out of life. So, he took the plunge and started out on his own. 

Look, there was no doubt that Jack is a great lawyer, but Jack had no real training in business operationBut that’s okay, because he had skills of his own. Many successful businesses were started by people whose experience as an owner was limited. It’s tough to run a small business when you’re suddenly expected to wear all these different hats. Lots of people may have advice for you, but yomight not necessarily know where to turn or who to trust. Jack was no different. 

When we first met with him, he was frustrated and overwhelmed. Our first question to him was whether he thought we could practice law. He looked at us quizzically and said, “no, you haven’t passed the bar.” We had to smile at that, because he was right. Just like how we weren’t trained or experienced to be lawyers, he wasn’t prepared to run a business. This was Jack’s “light bulb” moment, as it were. Jack wasn’t just a business owner, he was a CEO. And he had to learn how to act like one.

Why an Advisory Board Was Right for Jack

Running a law firm is quite different than running other small businesses. There are restrictions and requirements that must be metand that’s where specialists can be of use. The question is, hocan yomanage these experts cost-effectively? In this instance, we recommended an advisory board.

What is an advisory board?

An advisory board is a group of professionals with backgrounds in both necessary business disciplines and a specific industry. This group advises business owners on key strategic decisions regarding how to manage their business and help it grow. This differs from a board of directors because there is no obligatioon the owner to folloor to act on this advice. Advisory boards are a great way to learn without ceding control. A smart business owner won’t ignore the advice, but he or she still retains full controof the decisions being made. Unlike simple delegatioof tasks, this is delegatioof ideas.  

A woman trying to cope with her small business's struggles

Benefits of an advisory board

The most obvious are: 

      1. Perspective: challenges the owner to think differently or see the issue from various sides so he or she can make more informed decisions 
      2. Creativity: the more people involved, the less likely the group will suffer from tunnel vision 
      3. Connections: to be successful long-term, you need to have the right skills in place to get the job done. 
      4. Accountability: when running your own shop, there’s no one there to help keep you focused and on-track 
      5. Sounding Board: Having others around can help you find better solutions by sharing them with the group. 

The Dos and Do Nots of Advisory Boards

There are some clear dos and don’ts when it comes to setting up a board. Much like finding the right talent for your small business, it is important to find the right mentors and peers that can help you. So, here is our advice

Do...

      1. …focus on expertise in the field but also vision for the future 
      2. …seek diverse opinions – you don’t have to like everyone, but you do need to respect their knowledge 
      3. … prove your decisionmaking authority and ensure everyone agrees the process. 

Do not...

      1. …use family or friends. Unless you can have a frank and honest debate with the people in your lifeavoid them even if they have expertise in the areas needed. If they think the relationship is at risk, they will likely hold back. 
      2. pick myopic experts. You want people who know their field, but also those who can see a bigger picture.

What We Did with Jack

We knew enough about Jack’s business so we could identify the knowledge gaps. We had some of the experience required, but he needed some additional experts. To help, we sourced experts froour network. We provided the names to Jack and helped him interview potential board members. Each board member was compensated for their timon an hourly basis, just like any employee. We set up monthly advisory boards at the start, and switched to quarterly once the business was in a better position and once Jack didn’t need to turn to his board for every decision he didn’t want to make himself

The board consisted of 6 members, including a ProStrategix consultant and Jack himself. It is important to keep the board size to a manageable number. Enough to have the right expertise, but not too much to get bogged down in endless debate. Jack was struggling when we met him, and after 6 months, he was on a solid pathway to growth and expansion 

What if You Can’t Afford Jack’s Board

There are free ways to set up an advisory board. SCORE can help you. If you go this route, know that you are dependent on their volunteer base, which may not be exactly what you need. If you can’t afford the approach we took for Jack, it’s not a bad fall back option.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

How to Use In-Bound Marketing for Your Small Business

Content on a laptop, a form of in-bound marketing

We have already spoken about inbound marketing, but we wanted to show you today an example of how in-bound marketing works. Our client, Dorian, is the owner of an holistic healthcare practice. To most people, holistic healthcare is still somewhat unknown and untrusted. Dorian faced the same challenges many in the Professional Services fields. Why should I trust him? Do I really understand what his practice is all about?  

Trust, credibility, awareness are all areas where inbound marketing can be very powerful. Dorian opted for inbound marketing because it was the best tool for his challenges and to help him expand his business potential. 

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Using In-Bound Marketing Smartly – Dorian’s Story

Dorian was unknown, and the practice of holistic medicine is considered by some to be pseudo-science instead of healthcare. Therefore, he needed to showcase himself as an authority, as well as, build the case for where a holistic approach is right and, importantly, when it wasn’t. To do this, he utilized a mix of social media, promoted content with infographics, and blogs. SEO was important and woven into his blogs and content calendar.

Inbound Marketing, written on a binder
Inbound Marketing is a means of getting audiences into your site

Measure twice, cut once

Metrics were key to understand what was performing and what needed to be optimized to perform better. Dorian had a whole set of KPIs. First, we built several content funnels to track users on the website. We could see what content drove the most people to specific conversion points. It was important to track several so we could see where any bottlenecks were created and to build some hypotheses as to why people stayed or left.  

We tested a number of different infographics to see which were the most impactful and drove the most interaction and traffic. We also kept a list of our posts to look for patterns that might predict with which content people would interact the most. The tactics we used were very similar to what most other businesses use. However, since we were in the start up phase, we relied less on e-mail since we didn’t have a large list and less on revenue. We focused more on them once we built our list and had a better understand of which content was the most effective.

Dorian's results

The use of in-bound marketing
Image: Visual Objects

Inbound marketing takes time. It’s the first thing you need to accept. It’s hard when that’s typically when revenues are the lowest, and you need the sales. However, it can be an investment worth making. After daily blogging, social posting, and several tries at infographic tests, it took Dorian about 3 months to start to hit his stride. After 3 months, we finally had enough data to start to make some clear choices on optimization of our message, website, and tactical mix and on growing his business. 

When we started, Dorian had bounce rates around 40%, CTRs of 1.5%, and a dribble of leads. At six months and after more testing and optimization, Dorian cut his bounce rate significantly to < 15%, increased our CTR to 2.5%, and had enough leads to build a predictable funnel for demand.

What Can You Do?

Start a blog

First and foremost, start a blog. It’s the foundation of any inbound marketing campaign. To prove yourself and showcase your capabilities, you need to provide proof and show your expertise. Importantly, people are not going to spend money with you if they don’t firmly believe you can help them solve their problems. A blog is a great way to showcase what you know. It also serves as the engine for SEO. The higher you show up in an organic search the more credibility you will have. 

Get in the press

Another way to help bolster your reputation is earned media. If the press is siting you as an expert or a source, it adds credibility to your message. It can help new customers take notice of you in the a non-sponsor piece, which will then make it easier for them to believe you later if they see similar things on your blog, social media, etc.

HARO (in-bound marketing platform) Logo
HARO is a service we use for in-bound marketing

In-bound marketing only works with a great website

Your website is the where the magic happens. With all due respect to the DIY website builders out there, a poorly constructed site can kill you. Image that you are doing all this work to drive people to your site, but when they get there, they leave, get lost, or give up because it takes to long to load. There are a thousand ways things could go wrong. Even a professionally built site won’t get it right on the first try. We don’t subscribe to the believe that every effective site needs to be professionally built, but we do believe that they should be managed professionally. That means have the right tags, funnels, testing, tracking, and the like. Without it, you lose the ability to optimize, which greatly diminishes your effectiveness. No amount of press or reviews can help if people don’t know how to find you.

A picture says 1000 words

We can stress enough the power of a great infographic. People are visual creatures, and a great image can convey more information more quickly that paragraphs of words. You don’t need to be a professional designer to be effective, but you need to design your images professionally, meaning the image must have the same meaning as the words. It must be simple, aesthetically pleasing, and easily read.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Delegation: Letting Go is the Key to Grow

delegation

Delegation is key to the successful growth of any organization. However, delegating in the right way can be tough. Delegation is not abdication, and it requires clear metrics and the ability to hold people accountable – including yourself. While you may be an expert in your own field, it’s fine not be an expert on running the business end of the things. Too many small business owners spend time muddling through financial problems to get the necessary things done without mastering them. If it’s not strategic, it takes us away from growing our business. And this is where delegation becomes important, and where we introduce the story of our client, Adela. 

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Adela's Story

Adela is an amazing veterinarian. She had worked as a junior member of a practice until she decided to start her own. The senior partners were getting older and thinking of selling and Adela had already established a base of pet owners who loved her. So together, they worked at setting up a practice for Adela to run. 

Adela got a lot of help and advice in setting up her clinic from her partners. She had the space, the systems, the equipment, and everything else that she needed. After she secured a loan from her former partners’ bank by leveraging their connections, she was all set. What Adela wasn’t ready for was the backend of the company. As a junior partner, Adela wasn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the practice, and she quickly realized it was more work that she had thought. As a result, Adela was limited in taking on new patients because she could barely serve those she already had.

Adela's Delegation Dilemma

We met Adela through her past partners. We had been working with them on how to sell the practice. They were concerned about her. They introduced us to her, and after our first call, it was clear as to what needed to be done. We started to talk about how Adela could begin thinking about delegation with our four painless steps: 

Delegation to employees means finding the right people to share tasks wtih
      1. Choose the right tasks.
      2. Choose the right employees.
      3. Make it automatic.
      4. Document company knowledge.

Chosing the right tasks

We started by making a list of all Adela’s daily activities and then sorting them as critical or not critical. Sometimes, small business owners are task hoarders. So, the analogy of ‘keep’ vs. ‘toss’ when cleaning out a full closet of clothes can help be a helpful visual. You’ll often find you have clothes that you haven’t worn in years stuffed in the back of your closet. The same is true for your daily tasks. 

On that same list, after we marked critical vs. not critical, we asked Adela to mark those, which she was good at doing vs. those she was not. The list of critical tasks that she was ‘not good at doing’ helped us with the next step in determining what to delegate and when. 

Other Things to Keep in Mind

What’s critical for an owner to keep, here are some thoughts from the Forbes Business Council: 

      •  Remember, only you have the vision for your company. While you can give people a glimpse of it, no one can see the company vision like you can, and no one has the drive to see it succeed as much as you do. This is one area of control that small business owners should never relinquish. 
      • Read, learn and grow. Every day, read and learn something new. This is so important to growing your business and yourself. Read about your trade and know how it’s changing. Read about people who have succeeded. They have much to teach us — not only about business, but about character strength. If you’re lucky, you will have a mentor. If not, these people can be that to you. 

Here’s some things to consider letting go: 

      • What you don’t know well: No man or woman is an island. We all need to accept that we need help. The exercise about will help sort this out. 
Finding the right talent means delegating to the proper employees
      • Work on your business, not in your business. In the beginning, you will need to wear a lot of hats to get your business off the ground. But remember, the objective is to have the time to work on your business—not in your business. To work on your business is to keep the vision front and center and direct the outcomes. To have that view and that perspective, you should build a team of competent, trustworthy people. This will take a little time but be sure it’s a priority. 

Choosing the right employees

We have a technique we like to use when it comes to finding new employees. Adela found that she did have some of the right talent currently, but she also had tasks where no one was the right person. That’s fine. It just meant we may need to look outside of our current set of employees and hire a few positions. There is an argument to be made to running lean when it comes to hiring, but there needs to be a balance between managing expenses and burnout. Both can keep your business from growing.  

Delegating means hiring and firing as is needed for new employees
Delegating means hiring and firing as is needed for new employees

If you do decide to hire, it important to consider that you are hiring someone for both their current role and their ability to learn and grow into greater roles. It benefits both the business owner and client to know that there can be a future for everyone. With Adela, we found that she needed help in booking, record keeping, bookkeeping, accounting, and – eventually – marketing. We built an interviewing process that Adela used, which helped evaluate their fit for the existing job and their potential for growing and learning new roles.

Making it automatic

In Pain-Free Delegation – How-To Guide, we offer a process to help do this. In addition, there are few good points from the Forbes Business Council on this area as well: 

      • Let go of responsibility without letting go of control. As trust built between us, I gave them the responsibility of overseeing others. I followed the model large companies use, which freed up my time because I had just a few direct reports. I trusted my key people, so I still felt in control when they gave me status updates. 
      • Use checks and balances. No matter the stage your business is in and no matter how much you trust your people, always have checks and balances in place. I do this for every area of my business. I trust my staff, but that trust is based on hard evidence that gives me details of exactly what’s transpiring each day. Remember, this is your business and your responsibility, so stay informed and on top of things.

For Adela, we built an internal organizational structure, which lessened her daily tasks and her number of direct reports. We also put into place a reporting structure, where weekly status reports were due from each employee. It was a simple, one-page template that was updated each week and uploaded to their shared system. This way, Adela could do a quick and weekly review to ensure everyone was staying on track.

Document company knowledge

How do you document company knowledge? Well, we already had. We had job descriptions, an organization structure, an interviewing process, and a reporting process. What seemed to Adela originally to be an overwhelming task, was found to be not that hard if she followed our process. We also created a worker’s manual and an onboarding process.

Business Issues 2019

Adela's Results

Within 3 months, Adela had all her job opening filled. Since we had the onboarding process in place before hiring, the new employees were successfully onboarded quickly. After about 4 months, Adela was able to start taking on new patients. She has continued to grow her business because she was more able to focus on right tasks, where she excelled.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Regaining Control of Your Business Revenue

revenue

When you’re in a growth phase, there are so many areas where you could focus, the key is knowing which ones are the most important. Often times it can be financial, and about figuring out the flow of revenue in and out of a company. It can feel overwhelming. Some businesses shut down. Others spread themselves so thin that nothing goes properly. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. One of our favorite clients, Dr. Morgan struggled with this, and we’d like to share her story with you.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Dr. Morgan's Story

Doctor Morgan own and operates a successful dermatologist practice. She has more patient demand than she can see. She and her partner, a cosmetic surgeon, own a thriving anti-aging center in Manhattan. It’s one of the few remaining fields in Medicine where fee-for-service is still the main model of payment. Fee-for-service doctors are like painters in that you pay them directly for the service performed. There is no middleman. This takes insurance out the equation but adds some complexity due to the need to provide patient financing. Few patients can afford complex procedure with cash, so they work with a financing partner to help reduce the burden. 

A growth in revenue and understanding financial situations can really help your business
A growth in revenue and understanding financial situations can really help your business

Dr. Morgan and her partner were so busy performing procedures that the basic day-to-day operations of the office were seeing some strain. Patient wait times had increased. Patients were having a harder time booking appointments. Bills were getting pay on-time, but just barely. The list goes on. She and her partner needed help, but neither could afford time away to get it done. 

Where to Start When Understanding Revenue

Revenue Forecasting Model 

Knowing what your revenue is and could be over the next 6 to 12 months helps you determine your resource needs: people, equipment, etc. Keeping accurate records of your sales figures can help you build a forecast model. Thankfully, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. All that Dr. Morgan’s practice required were a few simple tools on Excel, although it does take time to set it up at first.  

Importantly, it does require keeping current. However, the benefit is knowing what you can reasonably expect from the future of your business. This will help you tremendously when trying to regain control of your business. Dr. Morgan didn’t have a revenue forecast, so she couldn’t say for certain the staff she might need, or whether her growth was becoming constrained, or if she and her partner did have enough doctors, and so on.

Getting Paid  Accounts Receivable 

As simple as this sounds, getting paid isn’t as easy as it seems. If you don’t have resources dedicated to following up with getting money owed to you, you give your customers an interest free loan. Dr. Morgan had an office manager, but the manager was so busy running the day-to-day of the office that bill collecting often fell on the wayside. Some of Dr. Morgan’s accounts without receiving funds reached up to 60 days. She had enough revenue that this wasn’t noticed right away, but it was costing her money that could have been helping her grow.

Understanding Revenue helps to keep your business working properly
Understanding Revenue helps to keep your business working properly

Paying your Bills  Accounts Payable 

Your business credit score is almost as important as your personal credit score. It’s how you develop and maintain a trustworthy reputation. Too many strikes, and your banks or suppliers might no longer want to do business with you. Dr. Morgan’s office manager was responsible for both. If getting paid is problem, then paying bills is almost assuredly an issue as well. And for Dr. Morgan, this was all too true.

Having Enough Cash on Hand 

As a saying goes, “Profit is like food. Cash is like air”. You can live a few days without food, but you’ll die instantly without air. Cash wasn’t a problem for Dr. Morgan, but it could have been managed better. She didn’t have the right financial revenue flow in place, or she would have seen the problems. Dr. Morgan’s accounts receivable and accounts payable were out of whack, which meant that cash was tied up. What could have been used for other things like expansion instead were lost. 

Having Enough of the Right People 

Human resources are the raw material of today’s economy, and that means you need the best resources to survive. Just like how low quality iron creates low quality steel, low quality people provide low quality service. Even if you have high quality people, your capacity is limited, or service suffer if you don’t have enough people. Dr. Morgan had a great team, just not enough of them.

Hiring the right people and having the right employees can have a huge imact on revenue
Hiring the right people and having the right employees can have a huge impact on revenue

Getting a Grip on the Fixed Assets You Hold 

A business can have a lot of capital tied up in fixed assets – equipment, furniture, etc. This may seem super boring, but smart depreciation can help when it comes to tax time. Keeping good records of major ticket items is important. Dr. Morgan was very good about this, so it wasn’t an issue for her. However, my small business owners can misclassify their assets, so talk to your account to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

How We Helped Dr. Morgan

First, we started with revenue forecasting. Neither Dr. Morgan, her partner, or her office manager had the time to build one. So, we built one for them. We used their past 2 years of appointments and built a 12-month rolling forecast. All her business manager, a new hire, would need to do was upload the latest appointments for the month and the total revenue at the end of each month, and the model did the rest. 

Next, as we implied, the forecast enabled us to justify the need for a new hire to separate the office manager role from a business manager role. The office manager role was changed to focus solely on the office operations, e.g. appointments, wait time, release, etc. The business manager was now responsible for A/R, A/P, monthly reconciliations, assets, and revenue. This addressed and partially solved all the points above. Now there were people responsible for the day-to-day operations and for the financial survival of the office.  

Besides systems and the business manager role, we also recommended including other staff in terms of Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant to cover the simpler procedures and free up Dr. Morgan and her partner for those that require their higher level of skills.

Results for Dr. Morgan

These additions greatly helped Dr. Morgan gain control of her business. She and her partner and continued to grow. She was able to take a long vacation for the first time in years. In the past 12 months, she expanded to an additional location in Manhattan.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Succeed During Downturns with These 4 Proven Tips

Managing a Downturn

Just this summer, we were discussing how growth was challenging small business. A few bad policy decisions, and bam, now, we are looking at the real possibility of a downtown. But there are ways to succeed, even during a downturn.

Unsure of how to take your business from good to great? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

1. Keep Cash on Hand

Make sure that you have enough cash on hand to cover two months of expenses. You should plan to have enough access to cash to manage a slump in sales. In truth, it is unlikely that you will have two months without revenue. If you avoid wasting your reserves, you are buffering yourself against a revenue shortfall of up to 16.67% of a year. This gives you enough to remain successful during an economic downturn, plus a bit more to pursue opportunities as soon as the storm breaks. 

2. Choose Your Customers Wisely

The last Recession still has effects that are hitting America over a decade later, and a new economic downturn could be just as bad

It may seem counter-intuitive to become more selective in a downturn. But, if you issue any credit, e.g. get paid after the service is provided, you need to make sure that the business you take on isn’t going to stiff you with the bill. It may be tempting to take all the business that you can during a downturn, but if your prospects aren’t serious, well-funded, and/or managed, it is a risk you need to be willing to take in order for success.

3. If Possible, Shift Your Mix into More Countercyclical Areas


While we don’t recommend waiting until you’re in trouble to hire a consultant, the reality is, most people don’t seek help if they don’t believe they have a problem. Therefore, our type of work tends to be somewhat countercyclical. Are there areas in your business where you can focus that are more recession-proof?

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Grow During Downturns

In every downturn, there are still industries that are successful. As long as you have a buffer, as discussed previously, it’s smart to invest if a strategic opportunity or hire comes along. There are plenty of bargains to be had if you are in a position to acquire them.

An economic downturn hitting the country might really change how our country is looking in 2019

Why Planning for a Downturn Will Help you Be Successful

We don’t know what will be happening throughout the rest of the year, or if a recession is likely. In the long-term, it is hard to say what will happen. But if you can keep a hold on your money and be aware of how to prevent issues before they happen, you make be able to get away safely.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Small Business Lending – Traditional Loans

Traditional Loans

The Small Business Lending Ecosystem is getting crowded and more confusing by the day. If you’re scratching your head wondering which is right for you? You’re not alone. To help you out, all this week we will be talking about the small business lending world, and the ways in which you can learn more about the system for your own success. To conclude our series on the SBL system, we’d like to share a story about Dr. Acosta and his attempts to go about getting loans the traditional way.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Dr. Acosta’s Story

Dr. Acosta ran a successful physical therapy practice. He serviced New York City, mainly in Manhattan. Dr. Acosta had been growing well. His rapid growth was causing some strain. He didn’t have enough PTs, equipment, and office space to take on any new clients. His growth was at risk of stalling if something wasn’t done.

A person seeking to get a traditional loan can still achieve that easily in 2019

What Did We Do for Dr. Acosta?

It was obvious for the start that Dr. Acosta needed to expand. Dr. Acosta’s business model was relatively simple. Dr. Acosta was in Orthopedics. His office and hospital clients provided a steady supply of post-visit/post-operative patients, who needed PT in order to regain or to improve their mobility and function. He knew and could forecast how much a PT an average client would need. Based on his current growth trends, it was easy to estimate how much additional capacity he would need. All we had to do was get it all down on paper in a formal that the loan underwriters and officers would understand and he would qualify. Dr. Acosta was a physician, not a banker so he wasn’t sure how best to proceed.

Small Business Ecosystem

So, which lenders were right for Dr. Acosta? How did we choose? Well, Dr. Acosta had an established business, which was profitable and growing. He had collateral in terms of his current and future equipment. He had a good credit score, enough to ensure his eligibility. 

Given these criteria, we decide to shop around the traditional bank and SBA route for the loan. Luckily, Dr. Acosta was aware of the expand before things became critical. This meant we had time to complete the SBA process. To ensure he obtained the best rates, we needed to do some comparison shopping. We chose to take to some local banks, his hospital credit union, and the lending platforms to see where we could find the best rates. His capital needs were high more $250K. Although they had the best rates, his hospital credit union couldn’t fund the full amount. A few of the lenders on the platform could fund the full amount, but the extra fees of using the platform negated the advance of their lower rates. Therefore, we decide to use a traditional large bank to secure the funding we needed, because alternative lenders could be too risky.

The Results of Traditional Lending

Dr. Acosta qualified and received the funding needed to expand. It took us a little over 3 months to close the deal, including our shopping time. We got the funding in time so that he was able to accept new patients before he hit capacity. Dr. Acosta was smart in not waiting until things became critical, which gave him the time needed to negotiate the best deal. He was able to get the lowest rate, which was roughly 4% over prime.

Health Benefits: What to Consider and How to Provide Them

Health insurance is one of the main deciding factors when attracting talent. Historically, small business has been at a severe disadvantage. Is it changing? Yes, but as our story about Gerri will show, the devil is in the details.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Gerri's Story

Nurse EntrepreneursGerri owns a successful cleaning service. She has been growing her business over the last couple of years. As she has grown, her headcount has risen, and now, she was rapidly approaching the magic number of 50. Once an employer hits 50 employees, that employer must comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. She knew she needed to do something, but what? 

The Alphabet Soup of Health Insurance

In order to talk about what Gerri decided to do, we need to take a detour through alphabet soup that is the U.S. Employer-based healthcare system. If you think Universal Healthcare is a new idea, think again. Its origins date back to the 1930s, almost 100 years ago. 

If you want to skip over the history and options, you may. They are there for reference.

Brief History of Employer-Based Healthcare

Employer-based healthcare arose due to the worker shortage caused by World War II. It was a means to attract workers and remains this way until today. In the 1960s, Medicare and Medicaid were instituted. This created the four-tiered system we have today: the poor, the aged, the employed, and the uninsured. With the demise of manufacturing, the share of the uninsured rose and coverage of the employed worsened. This accelerated until the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

ACA (Affordable Care Act)

This federal law instituted the employer mandate. It requires companies with at least 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees (ALEs) to provide affordable health coverage or pay a penalty. Much of the other elements were never enacted, and the remainder has been significantly weakened. Leaving us the morass of suboptimal options we have today

A Brief Summary of Options

Non-ALEs

If you have less than 20 employees, your options are limited. Group coverage is usually too expensive. You are likely better off with reimbursing employees, who carry their own coverage. There are two programs available to you. QSEHRA (Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Accounts) and the new ICHRAs (Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Accounts). Both allow you to reimburse employees for their personal health insurance premiums up to set limits. QSEHRA has maximum limits set by the government while ICHRA is set by the employer.

ALEs

With more employees, more options are available. There are the classic group plans. As much in healthcare these past 4 years, uncertain reigns. Aside from the group plan, the remaining options are uncertain and in legal limbo. 

HRA ChangesDepending on the route you take, there are several options for reimbursement. First, there is EBHRA (Excepted Benefit Health Reimbursement Accounts). These are employer-funded plans used to supplement coverage. EBHRAs can be used by employees to pay for co-pays, deductibles, and other non-covered items. Second, there are HSAs (Health Savings Accounts), which allow tax-free contributions that can be used for qualified medical expenses. Lastly, there is ICHRAs, as discussed above. All have limits, and each varies. They can be used in combination although ICHRAs and EBHRAs are somewhat redundant. 

Back to Gerri and Her Healthcare Benefits

Sorry for the detour, but it was necessary to understand what she chose to do and why. Gerri did want to deal with the uncertainty around the non-ACA compliant plans although the price was steep. The only viable plan was a high-deductible plan. She wasn’t thrilled with it. Therefore, she decided to institute both HSAs for employees to help offset the costs and EBHRA to supplement the policy. Even so, the cost high, and it created a drag on her profitability. Gerri needed to rethink her business model to see how she could drive more profit to offset these costs, which ranged in the hundreds of thousands

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

Will 401ks Become Easier for Small Business to Offer?

401ks: not as easy to access as you might hope

401ks are some of the most important retirement plans that are available to employees in 2019. And there is an important question to ask: are 401ks going to be able to be offered by small business owners easily in the near future? 

The answer is… maybe. It’s not simple, and as far as we can tell, it’s not cheap ⁠— especially if you have fewer than 20 employees. 

Thinking about making changes to your business? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

The New U.S. Department of Labor 401k Rule

What is it?

Well, it broadened the definition of employer associations. On paper, the rule makes it easier for small businesses to group together to offer 401(k) retirement plans. This is done through what is called an Association Retirement Plan, ARP for short. Wow, that sounds great, you may say. But, how are we going to group together? Who’s going to foot the bill or do the work? Ah, and there’s the rub. Like most of the proposals from this Administration, it’s big on words but benefits only a few.

What does it mean to us?

Let me share our story. Like most small businesses, we want to offer healthcare and retirement benefits to our employees, but we can’t afford it. When we heard about this rule, we were encouraged. We thought, awesome, great, let’s check this out. We researched the NYC area for business groups and open plans, thinking surely someone is going to jump on this. What did we find?  

Zilch!  

Yep, nothing. We found myriad Professional Employer Organizations. But they’ve been around for years, as has the Chamber of Commerce. So, we were left with the same choices that we had before.

Professional Employer Organizations (PEO)

What are they?

“Professional Employment Organizations generally contract with employers to handle administrative employment responsibilities, such as payroll and tax withholdings, workers' compensation insurance, and other benefits.”

Jackson Lewis

PEOs have had a somewhat rocky history. While there are plenty of reputable ones. There were laws passed in several states in the early 2000s due to charges of impropriety. At least in New York State, you need to be registered with the State and comply with state regulations, such as requiring yearly financial audits, etc. While under this new rule, small businesses can technically create these groups, the overhead and the expense of running and maintaining one is significant. So, no real win there.

What does it mean to you?

If you want to offer healthcare, retirement, and other benefits, you can contract with a PEO. They do offer premiums that are better than you can get on the open market, but they generally charge about $1,000 – $2,000 per employee for their services. It does take the headache of complying with payroll taxes, withholding, etc., so for some, it may be worth it. One might expect premium costs to go down if more people enroll, but as of yet, we’ve not seen it.

Here’s  brief video on what PEOs are and how they can help you

So, Will the Changes Help Us?

The sad truth is nearly 40 million employees, or roughly, 25% of the total workforce lack workplace retirement benefits. One would think that this executive order and subsequent rule would help. However, in the harsh spotlight of reality, that seems unlikely. While the option exists, the cost remains prohibitive. Going to a PEO was an option before as it will be after the rule takes place. It would seem that they, not us, are the real winners in this case. Again, this is no different from the myriad of actions by this political administration(like Tax Cuts), that sounded great but only benefited a few.

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.

How Small Businesses Can Struggle in This Economy

struggling business economy

Small business struggle in a strong economy for two simple reasons: talent and time. Not time in the sense of hours in the day, but burnout. Low employment numbers mean small businesses have to think about recruiting talent differently than in the past. And added to that, burnout is real and can make you far less productive than you want to be. Regardless of economic conditions, the rate of which small businesses close is remarkably consistent, and you can read on to see the signs to be aware of.

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

To appreciate what’s going on today, we have to start at the beginning of this 10-year business cycle. In 2009, we were just beginning to emerge from the most disastrous economic crisis to hit the country since the Great Depression. As a result, small businesses were struggling, and there was a significant drop-off in small business creation. Some major stumbling blocks included access to capital, decreased profits, and a reduced ability to hire. In fact, it was the first time in a long time when small businesses were employing less than ½ of the total U.S. workforce.

That’s a nice history lesson, but it misses some important facts. Fewer businesses were started during the period between 2009-12. Given that the rate of businesses closing is typically constant, fast-forward 3-7 years after the recession and we’re left with a gap. So, there was a lag in the tightening of the labor market. Now, the gap has closed and the competition over workers has increased.

Health Care and the Affordable Care Act

So much has been written about the ACA or ObamaCare. But, the truth is we will never know its true impact because it never was fully implemented. From its inception, significant roadblocks and intentional sabotage makes any clear read impossible. What is true is that the cost of employer-sponsored health care has dramatically increased, peaking in 2017. Because of all the smokescreens and gaslighting from all the vested interests, we still don’t have a clear picture as to why. We only know that the cost of offering benefits has increased the cost of hiring new employees. Hopefully, HRA changes will help alleviate

Hopefully, HRA changes will help alleviate some pressure, but providing health care to our workers is still a major issue. On the campaign trail, several proposals are on the table. Whether or not they have a chance of seeing the light of day will depend heavily on the 2020 election.

Burnout

Burnout is a very real and very constant reality that most small businesses struggle with at some point. But, is exiting the right solution? Perhaps for some, it is. But, we would challenge that perspective for all. Selling your business is an option. However, to do that, the business needs to be structured so it can function without the owner. If the owner is the business, then our options are limited. It requires us to stop thinking like we’re a mom-and-pop shop. Instead, we need to think as if we were a small corporation with systems, process, and structure. These entities can exist long after the owner decides to exit.

Possible Solutions to Help

Let’s look at three possible solutions that may help small businesses struggle in a strong economy.

Talent

If we can break out of our conventional thinking, there are several ways small businesses can be creative when offering packages to new hires. Yes, people are motived by money. But, they are motivated more by feeling valued.

Healthcare

When it comes to health care, there is no simple solution. Since conditions vary widely from state to state, the right solution for your business will require some research. The options to consider SHOP, group policies from a private provider, or adopt the HRA approach.

Burnout

We are less likely to burn out if we have a clear exit strategy. We know what we want the business to be. In addition, we structure it so it can eventually run without us as owners. It’s easier to value a business like this. It’s easier to sell it. Most importantly, it easier to leave when you’re ready.

struggling paycheck to paycheck

How to Handle the Small Business Economy

Small businesses are subject to the whims of the economy. The relationship, however, isn’t always clear. The economy being on the rise doesn’t necessarily mean that small businesses feel the benefit. However, knowing what to do to prepare for an economic boom can keep your business afloat and above the competition.

Unretirement: The Secret of a New Workforce

unretirement

I have a term for you that you will start hearing more and more over the next few years: unretirement. The title explains itself really, with the idea being that retirement is no longer a necessity. Now, you can keep your small business expanding beyond what you may have thought possible in the past, staying in charge past when people may see you as “expired.” Because why stop doing what you love because of something as arbitrary as age?

Your business is doing well. But what’s next? ProStrategix knows how to help. Read some of our other articles below, or feel free to connect with us and get a complimentary thirty-minute consulting session.

What Is “Unretirement?” Exactly?

As I’ve gotten older, that evil ‘R’ word kept creeping closer. I spent a lifetime of gaining knowledge. Am I to toss that away and sit in a home and wait to kick it? No, I don’t accept that. So, instead of thinking about retirement, I started to think about unretirement. My little 5-foot tall Italian grandmother worked with her sisters until she was 90. It gave her purpose. So, I used her as a model and started ProStrategix. 

The amazing thing was I’m not alone. Listening to an interview with Chris Farrell from NPR’s Marketplace was really eye-opening to me. 

It is time to shift the conversation about aging away from Social Security, retirement, physical decline, and an economic crisis, [and] focus on boosting the odds of healthy, active, and purposeful aging through working longer- including launching an entrepreneurial venture. Older minds who are involved in a community are happier.

Chris Farrell, interviewed on the Small Business Radio Show

So. What to do with this information?

Bam, Unretirement – A Whole New Workforce 

If a small business was willing to look past the stereotypes, this could be a real opportunity to access experienced workers. Age discrimination is a real issue, and people who want to work are often not hired at large companies. Think about it. Since when have you had someone with 20 or 30 years of experience in your market want to work at a small business, knowing it comes with a smaller salary? I bet the answer is never.  

It is a talent pool that is underutilized and underserved. So let’s think about ways to change that and to expand both your employee base and audience.

Unretirement – A Whole New Set of Entrepreneurs 

I was amazed by the statistic Mr. Farrell shared. 

For the first time, 25% of all business are started by people who are 55 to 64 years old. These older entrepreneurs are turning their passion into a business. What is different for these people is that many of these new entrepreneurs start to focus on a business with a purpose rather than just earning more money. 

Farrell, SBRS

Speaking as a Gen X’er, I know that I can be a little cynical when it comes to baby-boomers. However, it seems that they and I are sharing the same goal: work because you like it, not just because you need to. So let’s embrace these new employees for your market.

Working Longer May Keep Us Happier 

As we live longer, the traditional model for retirement really doesn’t make sense. We should embrace the idea of unretirement. Age has value if the aged are willing to learn and adapt. When I think back to my grandmother, who was born in 1914 and died in 2014, I am amazed at how much change she experienced. But in the end, she managed to evolve and adapt. If she could do it, why can’t we? 

At ProStrategix, we know you have concerns.  We’re designed to help give you the business support you need so you can focus on doing what you love.  If you would like to learn about how we might be able to help you, please contact us.