Five Reasons NOT to Enroll in an HSA

Marty Trussell, a benefits professional wrote this article for BenefitsPro for their July 30 on line edition. The more I read it the more I felt compelled to address his reasons.

  1. HSAs are not instantly financed. Unlike a Flexible Spending Account, more often the Health Savings Account is ‘financed’ per pay period or monthly. This makes it difficult to ‘spend’ it immediately says Trussell. However, remember you can make payments on provider and facility charges. Also, let’s say it’s a non medical expense like glasses. You can purchase the glasses out of your pocket, once the money is in your health savings account at a later date, you can reimburse YOURSELF with no time limit for reimbursement.
  2. No prescription drug copays. It is true, payment for prescription drugs is the contracted retail pricing. As Trussell indicated, consumers are used to paying $20 for a prescription with NO understanding of the true cost. But being prudent also has its advantages. Ask the doctor when in his office if he has samples, or having them write the prescription from the Generic Consumer Lists available at the likes of Wal Mart, Target, etc.
  3. High deductibles are high. This one bothered me the most. Deductibles for health savings accounts usually are most cost effective at $2,500 for a single person and $5,000 for a family. What Trussell doesn’t express is that the family deductible is ‘community’. This means all medical and prescription drug charges for ALL family members apply to the family deductible. One person could meet the whole deductible (step off the corner and break an ankle) or a combination of all the family members add up together to meet the deductible. On ‘traditional’ style plans, it usually takes three family members each meeting a deductible for the family to be met. An average deductible and out of pocket are $1,500 for deductible with 20% coinsurance to $3,000, multiply that by 3 family members and you have $9,000 maximum expense in a calendar year. Under the Health Savings Account community deductible the maximum exposure is $5,000, so $4,000 of RISK has been averted. If you are someone who is a middle or low user, this is not paying for something you don’t use.
  4. 213(d) confusion. This is the part of the IRS Code detailing the allowable expenditures. Again, Trussell is right in that no one carries a ‘list’ of what’s allowable or not in their pocket. On average, I am confident that consumers know the basics. Those services provided that are covered by the health plan and prescription drugs. In 2011 the current president removed Over the Counter medications from the allowable expenses. There are many ways to find what expenses qualify. www.hsaed.com is written by Roy Ramthum, “Mr. HSA”, the professional HSA consultant who wrote the language for health savings accounts for President Bush.
  5. Education Gap. Finally, a point that I completely agree with Mr. Trussell. Education regarding the health savings account is critical. If employees and individuals do not understand how to use the format they will not like the benefit design. When the agent does their job proficiently, a consumer has an understanding of usage, collection of receipts etc… and will find the style of coverage to be worthwhile.


In the last year alone, health savings account usage has increased 18% to almost 15 million individuals and families. The state of Indiana offered the health savings account next to the traditional ‘cadillac’ health plan beginning in 2006. In 2012, over 90% of the 28,000 state employees have accepted the consumer driven healthcare plan. Mitch Daniels, the governor, is no slouch with the money. Each employee is given a yearly contribution to the health savings account and as of November 2011 the average health savings account balance was $10k.

Finally, the health savings account utilizes and promotes the 100% paid preventive benefit provision enacted in 2010. This benefit is crucial for consumers in that they utilize preventive benefits to find medical issues early so treatment is less expensive.
As a health savings account consumer with a family of eight on the plan, consumer driven healthcare has truly been beneficial for us. We’ve even had that ‘bad year’ when we maxed out the deductible, and yes, I am still making payments on that. The good news is the premium I have not wasted over the three years of having this plan has well been spent over and over.

Janis Van Ahn, Owner

10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com


Why you need a Human Resources Audit?

The best way to avoid potential employee lawsuits is to conduct regular HR audits. Employment law is constantly changing and your policies and practices should also change to stay current and to be compliant with those legal changes. HR On-Call, LLC can help with a complete Audit, however, be aware that many of the lawsuits can be traced to the following employment areas.

Hiring:  

  • Does your organization have compliant job descriptions?
  • Do you ensure all applicants fill out an application?  
  • When was the last time you had your job application legally reviewed?


Employee Discipline:

  • What does it say in your employee handbook about discipline?
  • How do you ensure violations have been properly investigated?  
  • How do you know how far to take the correction?
  • Are you consistent with employee discipline amongst all your employees?


Employee Evaluations:

  • Does your organization have & follow a written schedule for performance evaluations?
  • Do performance evaluators receive proper training?


Terminations:

  • Has the termination decision been compared to other terminations?
  • Can you be assured that the termination is not based on retaliation?
  • Are you comfortable that you have proper termination documentation?
              


If you are concerned that you might need an internal audit to review these items above or simply review your files and organization, please contact Susan at HR On-Call, LLC at  515-401-2233.

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

What is the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act?

Last Thursday the Supreme Court decided that the Affordable Care Act mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance was constitutional.  What does it mean for individuals and small business owners?
 
The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010 with primary goals to:




  • Expand coverage for Americans without health insurance
  • Reform the delivery system to improve quality and drive efficiently
  • Lower the overall costs of providing healthcare

Pretty lofty goals, so how are these to be attained?  Within the bill is amandate that all Americans are required to purchase healthcare.  This provision is why 26 state governors took the bill to the Supreme Court contesting that a requirement to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional as the federal government cannot require a citizen to do something.

 
So what will we see next?  Provisions of the bill began being implemented in 2010 to the likes of Preventive Care paid by the carrier at 100%, adult children can remain on parents plan until age 26, no pre-existing for children under age 19 and no lifetime limitations.
Additional provisions will continue being implemented in 2012 with a majority to be implemented in 2013/14.
 
In 2012 provisions to be implemented surround hospital and physician requirements. 
Consumer provisions begin in 2013 with the following (not all inclusive):

 
Increased Medicare payroll tax by .9% on high-income earners


3.6% tax on net investment income of high-income individuals



FSA (flexible spending accounts) limitations


Medical expense deduction floor increases from 7.5 to 10%


2014 is when the employer and individual mandate will go into effect. 

At this point, realize the presidential election in November could cause change or a repeal of the act.  For us as consumers and small business owners, it is our job to participate.  We cannot afford to be uniformed or misinformed by only listening to sound bites on commercials.  This presidential election is very important in many ways, including our healthcare system and payment for care.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about the Affordable Care Act and how it affects you or about Medicare and individual health insurance.  At Health Insurance Advisor I do my best to ‘Educate Individuals to make Informed Choices’.


Janis Van Ahn, Owner



10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
http://health-insadvisor.com/
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com


Five Tips for Healthy Business Growth

Believe it or not – how you grow your business can sometimes be just as important as whether your business grows.

Business growth carries with it a certain amount of risk.  To avoid potential pitfalls, consider the following tips for successful growth.

  1. Find your key focus.  It is important to select and stick to a key focus, particularly in times of an uncertain or slow economy.  Do what your company is good at.  Produce the products that can be delivered consistently and successfully.  It’s harder to add new services or venture too far outside your scope during a recession.
  2. Don’t become overconfident.  Like a favored team that lets down its guard and loses to an underdog, an attitude of overconfidence can bring about business loss.  Owners who have had success in the past must guard against gaining a sense of omnipotence.  Overconfidence is unrealistic and can spell disaster.
  3. Don’t define your business by your products or services.  Virtually any product or service can become obsolete over time.  Don’t define your business  by your product, but rather from your customer’s needs that you are able to satisfy.
  4. Make your marketing message consistent.  If you want to grow your company, marketing is essential.  How you market is important.  A key way to grow your business is to have a consistent marketing message.  In today’s complex world, marketing messages have to be very simple, direct and constant.
  5. Practice what you promise.  Customers will be the most intolerant of mistakes when money and time are tight.  For example, if your marketing campaign promises a certain turnaround time, you need to live up to that promise.  Otherwise, you risk reducing your customers’ satisfaction or possibly losing customers altogether.   

Practicing these few steps and being proactive can help you achieve a healthy business growth.


Kathi Koenig, CPA
Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com

So You Want to Buy a Business; Do You Know What Steps to Take?

As the story goes…A very nice couple was sitting at the table one morning enjoying coffee. While reading a sale ad in the newspaper one spouse says to the other, “I would love to own that business.” The other spouse, upon finishing a sip of coffee, politely says, “Ok, let’s go to the bank and get some money and buy it.” And so they did.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee! (Pardon the pun) But, if only it were that easy. In the REAL world, there is a lot more to buying a business, even beyond the decision of how much to pay, how to pay and knowing what you’re buying because you have had the financials reviewed by your CPA.

This needs to describe the business you are buying;

  • Well established
  • Has efficient and effective procedures in place
  • Has employees that understand their tasks, are efficient, & enjoy working for the Company
  • Has a well-established and maintained customer list.  

These assets together produce the company you are interested. So the question of the year, ‘why would you sell that part short or put less emphasis on the value of those assets’? They are probably the most important part of the success of the soon-to-be-your company. Without these people, procedures and processes in place, the business may not be as enticing to you.

In order to make the transition as seamless as possible and as less disruptive to the customers and the employees as possible, you need to respect the ‘system’. You need to the appreciate all that has gone into making this business so attractive to buy; to the extent of investing time to learn what tasks you will be taking on.

Here are some tips to do that:

  1. Come in with an open mind.
  2. Talk to the people that understand that Company and industry – THE EMPLOYEES.
    1. Value their opinion and respect their knowledge. They are most likely a vital part to the current and ongoing success to the business.
    2. Understand and trust that they know what it takes to make the company ‘tick’ each day.
    3. Even if you are never going to be in charge of a task or procedure, you need to take the time to understand the task and value the employee that has the skill-sets to manage that task.
    4. Know that there are things that you don’t know.
      • Realize that it could be even more than you even imagined.
    5. Be a help, not a hindrance.
      • Be prepared to handle the things that are vital to this business transaction being successful.
    6. Respect the process in place.
      • If at all possible, be available and involved prior to the final transferring of funds. The employees that will remain thru the transition want be confident that you understand, this is their livelihood that you will be responsible for. They don’t want anything to fall between the cracks.
    7. Don’t go in with ideas or asking questions about what needs changed.
      • Again, this business in being bought because it is successful. Consider that just maybe most processes have been perfected and streamlined and don’t need any immediate changes.
      • Let the dust settle. There will be a time and place for changes. But until you have been involved for more than a few days or weeks, do you really believe you have more effective ways of handling things than the people who have been doing it a lot longer……

Some of this may seem like common sense. Do a checklist with yourself. Be sure you are ‘personally prepared,’ beyond financially prepared, to buy that business.

All that being said, be excited about your new venture. Be proud to tell people about your new business and be proud of the people that make it what it is, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

If you need assistance in managing the transition of a business purchase, find a resoureces, like OrganizerForU, that has assisted in business ownership transaction. The more experienced guidance you recruit, the smoother and most likely happier everyone will be after the final line is signed.

For more organization and bookkeeping tips, log onto OrganizerForU and click on Tips.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

tammy@organizerforu.com
OrganizerForU


12.5 Tips for Using Social Media – Part 1

You’ve asked for it…now you get it. Here are my 12.5 tips for proper use of the Social Media space! (So…you will have to tune in to the next blog for the rest of the tips, but here are six tips to wet your whistle!)

Tip #1 – Just get started

Many businesses are afraid of jumping into the social media space, and trying something new with their marketing. Take it from me, it is a little scary to take that leap of faith, but trust me, it’s worth it. All you have to do is just get started. It does not take a big budget to get started in social media marketing. In fact, much of social media marketing is human capital, or simply hiring an employee who is responsible for your social media maintenance. Start by listening. Look for conversations your customers are having online. Sign up for Google alerts that mention your product or brand. Then, join in the conversation! Just remember to be honest, authentic and transparent and you will be fine. If you take the first steps to engage your customers in a conversation you will learn more about how your brand fits into the social media space and your learnings will help guide your future programs. Have fun and just get started!

Tip #2 – Do you need to hire an expert?

Either you are just starting your social media campaigns (congratulations, by the way) or you are an old“pro” by now, but regardless of your tenure, I am sure you have asked yourself if a social media agency should be doing all this work for you? Keep in mind that there are hundreds of social media professionals out there who claim they are the experts in this ever-changing field. Many are great, but consider this. Is your agency walking the walk and talking the talk? Are the consultants you are looking to hire interacting with their consumers on Facebook? Do they have a blog or a twitter feed? Judge the agency not solely on their pitch but on their actions. And most importantly, remember that the consumers want to connect with you and not your agency. So don’t just sit back and let the agency do all the talking! Engage with your customers and respond to their posts personally. That is what the “social” part is all about.

Tip #3 – Don’t fret about your follower numbers

How many “likes” do you have on Facebook? Do you have 500+ connections on linked in? Don’t fret about the number of followers you have on your social media sites because it is not about the quantity, it is about the quality of your network. Sure, there are ways you can attract thousands of followers in a matter of days, actually, it is not that hard, but the types of followers you want are not computerized bots but rather those who will engage with your conversation and share your postings with their network of followers too! If your network is genuine fans of you and your business, 10 of them are worth more than a thousand bots. Yes, it takes a while to organically build up a great social profile, so focus on building great content while being helpful and educational. Like we say in Iowa… “if you build it, they will come.”

Tip #4 – How to really listen to your customers

We spend a lot of time talking about customer outreach – using social media to send out your message and create a network. That’s the ‘talking’ part of social media. But it’s also very important to “listen,”here’s why:

  • If someone says something nice about you or your product, you want to thank them
  • If someone says something NOT nice about you or your product, you want to address or fix the problem
  • If someone mentions you or your company or your industry in a blog, you want to respond and chime in

But how do you know if someone’s talking about you? Google alerts is one easy-to-use and free way to be notified when someone talks about you. To sign up for Google alerts, you’ll need an account on Google. Once you’re on the inside, go to ‘my account’ and scroll down until you see your products – you can add and delete these at will and there are many useful applications on the Google platform. Click on alerts and it will walk you through the simple process. Pay attention to what notifications you receive because you may need to alter your alert parameters. This is a great place to start learning what your customers are truly saying about you and your company! It’s okay! Go be the fly on the wall! This is the one time it is socially acceptable to eavesdrop on the conversation.

Tip #5 – How to interact with your customers

Everyone knows that in order to make your social media work better you need to interact or engage with your customer. How do you do that? There are several methods to start conversations with your network. One simple way is to ask your followers to share your tweets, posts and status updates with their network so your message becomes viral. If people make comments on your links and updates, respond back to them in a relaxed, positive manner. This is a great way to react to feedback from your customers and create raving fans within your customers. Another tried and true method to making social media interactive is by adding photos and videos to your posts. Due to the size of the thumbnail image, your followers almost always will click through to view the link. Encourage them to make comments and share with their friends. Social media should be just that…social, so have fun chatting with your customers and you will sure to have a great following.

Tip #6 – 5 tips for better postings

Are you getting confused about what to post on your Facebook, linked in or twitter pages? Here are five tips to making your posts better, in turn, making them more visible in the social media space.

  1. Post a variety of content to attract interactions with your network of followers
  2. Post regularly. Depending on your industry and your content you can post a couple times per day, but in general once per day is plenty. Too much will turn off your consumer. But remember, too many posts about YOU will cause people to UNLIKE you. That’s bad. So, rule of thumb, 1 out of 10-15 posts should be about YOU. Stick with added-value, educational or funny content that relates to your brand.
  3. Post your content after working hours, like around 8pm. Studies show that more people are on Facebook around 8pm, so the chances that your post will be seen are greater.
  4. Post videos directly instead of links to the videos so people can view th
    e video on Facebook. And be sure to include links in video descriptions to encourage traffic back to your site.
  5. Ask questions and solicit feedback from your fans to encourage interaction. Make your social networking a social event.


About TRIO Marketing|Branding|Advertising

TRIO
is a full-service marketing communications company providing a wide
array of integrated marketing services to meet all of your business and
marketing needs. At TRIO, we understand that each client is unique;
therefore we provide customized solutions based on your goals and growth
objectives. All of our recommendations are made specifically for you
and your business.

TRIO
Marketing|Branding|Advertising delivers an effective blend of creative
talent and strategic thinking, delivering results that increase the
bottom line of our client partners. We utilize our network of local
experts in the community to execute the campaigns on the basis of
design, printing and mailing.

Our Services include:
  • Marketing, Branding, Public Relations and Advertising Consulting
  • Strategic Annual Marketing Plan Development
  • Integrated and Interactive Marketing Services including E-mail and SMS Marketing
  • Promotional Products
  • Media Negotiation, Placement & Spot Traffic Management
  • Print Design & Production
  • Web Development & Search Engine Optimization
  • Direct Mail Services
  • One-on-One Business Development/Sales Team Coaching

At
TRIO, we work hard to combine marketing talent and technology with
outstanding customer service to build long-term partnerships with you
and your business. Our strategies are delivered on time and in a
cost-effective manner to achieve maximum response and grow your
business.

Renee Schneider, Owner
TRIO Marketing | Branding | Advertising

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com

Some Relatives Are Easier To Deal With Than Others

If you are like most people, one of the last things that is probably on your mind during the month of June is taxes. After all, tax season ended two months ago, and well, we don’t have to deal with that “less than favorite” relative, Uncle Sam until next year – right?  Well not so fast.  With the Bush-Era Tax Rates scheduled to expire December 31, 2012, a little tax planning for you and your business now, could save you money and be well worth the effort later.  Following are changes that will occur should the current tax rates expire, along with a few tips to help you minimize your tax liability.

Changes as the Bush-Era Tax Cuts Expire:

  • Tax Rates: Tax rates for individuals will remain at 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% for the duration of 2012, but will revert back to 15%, 28%, 31%, 36% and 39.6% in 2013.
  • Capital Gains Maximum Tax Rate: This tax rate is currently at 15%.  However, similar to marginal tax rates, the capital gains rate will increase to 20% in 2013.
  • Qualified Dividend Income: Dividend Income is taxed at the same rates as capital gains (maximum rate of 15%). However after December 31, 2012, dividends could be taxed at a rate as high as 39.6%.
  • Itemized Deductions: Throughout 2012, itemized deductions will remain the same.  However in 2013, a phase-out of total itemized deductions is scheduled to be implemented.  If this had been in effect for 2012, it would have been applicable to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income greater than $173,650.  (This amount adjusts for inflation.)


Tax Planning Tips

  • Get Organized: You need to keep close track of your deductible expenses through the year.  If a pile is starting to accumulate, take the time to sort through your receipts and file accordingly.  A little organization now, will save you hours at tax time, and allow you to accurately estimate your expenses for a tax projection and planning.
  • Manage Your Adjusted Gross Income: Many tax breaks are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI). Several breaks are available to you dependent on your AGI, such as the child tax credit, rental real estate loss allowance, education credits and deductions, and other tax breaks.
  • Set Up and Contribute to a Retirement Plan: If you own a business, you can save for retirement through a tax-advantaged plan.  For instance, you may establish a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) with relative ease.  This will allow you to plan for your future and reduce your tax liability.
  • Hire Your Child: If you are self-employed, you can hire your child which shifts income from your tax bracket to their tax bracket.  You will also have payroll tax savings if your child is under the age of 18 and the child will be eligible to contribute to an IRA.
  • S-corporation Losses: An S-corporation’s losses are deductible by the corporation’s shareholders up to the amount of the shareholder’s basis in his or her corporate stock.  If it looks like your S-corporation will show a loss for the year, make sure that you have sufficient basis in your S-corporation stock to take advantage of the loss deduction.
  • Capital Gains: As stated above, the anticipated capital gains tax rate is set to be at least 20% in 2013, so if you are considering selling highly appreciated stock it might be wise to do it before year-end at a lower tax rate of 15%.

These are just a few items to assess during a mid-year business review.  There are more.  But taking the time to meet with your CPA and discuss the items listed above will ensure you have a good understanding of your company’s financial situation and the information needed to minimize your tax liability….and make your interactions with Uncle Sam go “relatively” well.


Kathi Koenig, CPA
Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

kkoenig@mhcscpa.com
www.mhcscpa.com

Continuation of Healthcare Coverage, Part Two: State Continuation

Last month I reviewed the continuation process for a company that has more than 20 employees.  This type of continuation of health coverage is known as COBRA.  What about companies that have fewer than 20 employees?  This would be approximately 80% of the population of companies in Iowa.

The State of Iowa has what’s called State Continuation for those employers who do not have more than 20 employees.  There are distinct differences between the two and it can vary by state as well with some states STILL not having any continuation at all.

In Iowa, state continuation has the following steps:



  • Employer has 10 days to contact former employee or employee with HIPPA event of continuation option
  • Recipient has 10 days from the latter of the following to express interest in continuation, then 31 days to pay.

    • Last day worked
    • End of month of last day worked
    • Post mark on letter from employer indicating right to State Continuation

  • If recipient accepts to continue coverage, the coverage ONLY continues for 9 (NINE) months, NOT 18 as with COBRA.
  • Employer CANNOT charge 2% over and above premium for administration fee.
  • There is NO grace period for recipient for payment.  It is due on the day requested or coverage is terminated immediately with no required recourse for benefits to be reinstated.
Should the recipient of State Continuation become eligible for Medicare/Medicaid OR become ELIGIBLE for benefits through another group plan, they must terminate the State Continuation upon eligibility of other coverage.

As always, contact Health Insurance Advisor, LLC with questions. 


Janis Van Ahn, Owner



10546 Justin Drive
Urbandale, IA 50233
jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com


The Three R’s

You’re out of school, but there are still three R’s to focus on in your business:
Referrals, References and Recommendations
 
If you’re not already asking for REFERRALS from your top clients and those  who have benefited from your service, then ASK! You are then leaving it up to the client to remember you when they have the opportunity to share….so what will make you top of mind at that moment? That’s where a promotional gift comes in! That Desk Set of Post-its & Flags with your logo that you gave to market your company was there at just the right moment!  They even had your name & website on them for instant referral.  

Don’t forget to ask any new customers how they found your company.  You need to be sure to THANK those who refer you with a special gift. Hey, that will make then remember you (& refer you) even more!

As you’re networking, you will typically find out “who knows who” and that can be very valuable if you ask if you can use them as a reference. This should be someone who is familiar with your company and your quality of work so they won’t hesitate to say, “Yes, you can use my name to get an appointment with her!”  They should also be someone who will know you immediately if called to verify the reference – which is why they’d better be looking every day at the funny Stress Reliever Guy that you gave or using the Acrylic Tumbler with your logo for their iced coffee.

Just think of the impact when they respond, “Of course I know her, I’m looking at her company logo right now!”

Lastly, don’t forget recommendations within a company or even a department.  Don’t think that your one contact at a company is the only person who is a potential customer.  In the business-to-consumer world, the whole network of friends, relatives & neighbors are potential customers!  Here’s where you should get your name spread around…in a good way!  By leaving extra logo Seed Packets, Pens or Magnets for everyone in a department or for a customer’s friends, you will expand your reach greatly. When the question comes up…Does anyone know where I can get (fill in the blank)? You want to be the first person who is recommended.

For more ideas on staying top of mind with your potential customer by using promotional products, contact: 

Mary Anne Kennedy    
Maryanne@PrimarySourcePromotion.com

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322
515.727.8774

Five Ways to Make an Effective Employee Handbook and Why the Internet Versions Don’t Work!

Most employers know that a handbook can protect their organization when clear employee guidelines and expectations are set forth.  How you choose to do that can spell success or failure for your handbook.  Below are 5 ways to make an effective Employee Handbook.


  1. Customize your handbook: Your handbook should identify your business needs and outline general guidelines for your employees and your organization.   Your customized handbook should reflect your uniqueness.  The internet version will have 100 items that aren’t applicable, thus making it difficult to customize yourself.  
  2. Include appropriate disclaimers: If you do business in an at-will state, make sure you spell that out.  Don’t use terms such as “probationary period” and “permanent” employee.  
  3. Get Signed acknowledgements: Have each employee sign an acknowledgement page stating that they received the handbook and expect to abide by the policies therein.  The internet version of the handbook will not be written to protect you in all other areas such as turning in all company property prior to receiving your last paycheck, payback of overused vacation, etc.
  4. Be consistent: The handbook should be internally consistent with your expectations and other benefits, etc. One recent client handbook stated that part-time employees had no benefits, but in another section part-time employees were granted holiday pay, based on the number of hours they worked.  This is inconsistent.
  5. Review your handbook every year: You don’t have to do a full-blown rewrite, but every year brings change and you’re already on top of it if you have a well written handbook.

If you are considering implementing an Employee Handbook or would like me to review your handbook,  contact Susan Arnold at HR On-Call, LLC (515-401-2233).  I would be glad to help!

If I can provide Human Resources support to you and/or your company, please give me a call.

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233

I Need a Vacation!

What if you need or want someone else to handle your responsibilities? Could you leave tomorrow? Bigger question, would your customers notice a difference in service? If you quickly answer YES, here are some tips to help you better prepare to leave and help your customer to notice your absence less.

We all think we handle our job better than anyone else can. Well, we can, right. But what if you want to take a long weekend or a short (or long-lucky you!) vacation?  Who will take care of EVERYTHING I do in a day, much less two or more days? Never mind right, it isn’t worth it, I will just keep working.

Well guess what, you deserve to take time away from your career, and your employees. Your customers would probably enjoy seeing you take a vacation. And truth be known, your friends and family NEED YOU to take time away…hint hint.  
        
But let’s talk reality of how will your daily tasks be handled while you are gone.
Here are a few quick tips that you can start working on now, to make your time away, relaxing for everyone involved.

  • Emails
    • Make sure you have one person that will check and respond to your emails or
    • Have an auto reply set up, letting people know you are out, when you will return and whom they should contact in the meantime including that email and/or direct contact number
  • Phone Calls
    • Record an away message on your voicemail-on both your CELL phone and your extension at your office. Give them the date they expect you back and the direct contact information for the person that is handling your calls
  • Paperwork (If you haven’t gone paperless yet, you might work on that for next years vacation)
    • Assign someone in your office to check your inbox throughout the day. Anything that you are expecting that needs immediate attention, discuss what needs to be done to handle that information. Any other document that can be handled by someone should be. Only non-urgent or irrelevant client documents should be remaining for you to process when you return.
  • Tasks that You Own
    • Again, if this is your situation, you should work to have all employees crossed trained on other employee’s tasks. You will be glad you were proactive on that if a situation arises that someone needs to be suddenly gone for an extended period of time.
    • Go over the basics of each task with an employee that is most familiar with the handling of the task. Keep in mind those that
      might handle some of the task prior or after you. That would be
      the easiest process to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Finish up anything that you can’t bear to allow someone else to handle.
  • Consider hiring some temp help. There are many companies that can help put that in play to ease the load while you are out.


Don’t worry, you aren’t replaceable. No one does your job like you do, you will be missed and you won’t be replaced. However, overall, rest assure, most clients or customers will respect that you took some time off. And they will realize their fire is really just a small spark and your co-workers will extinguish and gain that customers trust in your business, in a new perspective.  You most likely have a very capable and dependable team in your work place. They will value the relationship and you will earn their trust and respect, if you allow them to help you to enjoy your time away. And we all want to know we are needed and trusted, in everything we do. So taking time to yourself is not only good for you, but others too.

Now get out your calendar and make some plans. Summer is calling you!

For more assistance or guidance on getting organized for that overdue summer vacation, contact me. We can review all of your options together, on how to make this a memorable, stress free vacation.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

OrganizerForU

Ten Tips to Improve Your Documentation

Document, Document, Document!  I know this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this!

Documentation is one of the easiest things to do and yet so many of us don’t take the time to do it correctly!  Having proper documentation will help
you stay focused to become a better manager.  Did you know that when we
write — before we write,  — we are putting some degree of thought into
evaluating and ordering the information that we are receiving?  Research
shows that documentation will double your retention. 

Here is how to make your documents more reliable and credible:
 

  1. Date each document;                            
  2. Require the person who prepares the document to sign it and clearly print his or her name and job title on the document;
  3. If the document refers or relates to a particular meeting, list names of the attendees;
  4. Require
    the employee to sign it and allow him/her to include his or her written
    comments if the document is a disciplinary memo or performance
    evaluation;
  5. Refer specifically or quote the particular policy or procedure that is the subject of the document;
  6. Complete the document on or very near the date that the referenced events occurred;
  7. Avoid expressing your personal opinions or beliefs, keep it factual;
  8. Avoid accusations and derogatory comments unless you can support  them with some type of proof;
  9. Avoid promises or guarantees; and
  10. Use
    concise, language, proper grammar, and correct spelling, along with
    fonts, headings and subheadings that create a readable and professional
    appearance.


The
Bottom line is that if you take the time to document and do it
correctly you will increase your retention and become more credible when
persuading a neutral third party (judge, or arbitrator or jury) that
you made a sound and reasonable business decision based on the
information you had available.

If I can provide Human Resources support to you and/or your company, please give me a call.

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC.
515.401.2233.

I Need A Budget: Part 2

Last month I talked about getting information gathered to create a budget.  If you did that process, now you have gathered some history, and determined what type of expenses you have and the amounts you have spent on those categories.
So let’s do something with that information;

  • Sort expenses by
    • Necessary and consistent
    • Utilities:
      • Phones/internet/TV/Water/Gas/Electricity
    • Mortgage or Rent
    • Car payment
    • Insurance
    • Office Expenses
    • Loans
  • Necessary but inconsistent
    • Such as yearly taxes,
    • Car License,
    • Annual Fees, etc
    • Charitable donations
    • Gifts
    • Incidentals: Household needs
    • Savings Funds
    • Education


  • Discretionary: Spend as you want/need but could be scaled back if needed
    • Credit Cards
    • Entertainment
    • Excessive Vacations (remember, excessive is all in perception)
    • Hobbies
    • Other misc

 
Once you have your expenses categorized, this will help you to determine what you NEED to live each month and what areas you will want to revised to stay within your monthly income.

You can also click here to download a Budget Template to help you get started. It can be revised for Business Owners or Personal needs.

Creating a budget and following it can be one of the most freeing things you can do for your business, personal life and state of mind. Don’t avoid it for the unknown. You should be doing for one for that exact reason, the UNKNOWN of where you money goes each month. Many times people discover they truly have money that can be put against debt, home improvements or moving to a bigger office, or the big get-a-way that you never thought you could have.

For more assistance or guidance on your budget, contact me and we can review it together. Making a plan today is good for you tomorrow.

Tammy Stifel
515.988.7532
Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

OrganizerForU

Can the Clutter – Less is BEST

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” – Albert Einstein.

Have you ever noticed that businesses try to cram everything (including the kitchen sink) into their advertisements? Their radio ad is a laundry list of services, their newspaper ads are so full of words you can’t even read them and their webites are so jam-packed with information and links it makes your head spin! Can the clutter. Our brains are so overwhelmed daily with the messages of the world, that there is NO WAY we can remember all of your products, services, awards and partnerships from one ad.

 

Imagine a white wall. If you put something on every inch of the wall, would you be able to look at it (all of it) in 10 seconds? 10 seconds (and most of the time, less) is all the time we have to capture the attention of our readers. Leave white (blank) space in your ad to give your readers’ brains time to breathe and comprehend what you want them to learn!

 

If you must tell your entire business’ story all on the same day or same media flight, put a series of ads in the newspaper, or run sequels to your TV spots. Break up the message into tiny pieces so it is easy to remember.

It is a good idea, at some point, to tell your current and future customers everything that you do, but you don’t have to do it all at once. That is where a marketing plan can help. A marketing plan will help you determine what, when and where you will advertise your products and services to your customers. Strategize, based on your business trends and seasonality when to advertise certain services you offer.

Can the clutter, and remember…less is best!

Need help with what to say in your ad, or when to say it? Contact me for a free consultation!

Renee Schneider
TRIO Marketing | Branding | Advertising

515-259-0577 – office
316-644-7029 – cell
renee@trioagency.com
www.facebook.com/trioagency
www.trioagency.blogspot.com
www.trioagency.com