When the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection & Accountable Care Act (ACA) last year, the implementation of sweeping changes that will result from health care reform kicked into high gear. With many ACA provisions taking effect in 2013 and 2014, businesses and individuals can now better understand the impact of the law.
Access to care
ACA includes several new avenues for individuals to access care, including expansion of state Medicaid plans, incentives for employers to offer health care coverage and access to insurance exchanges for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid and are not covered at work.
ACA removes the ability for insurers to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions but also requires all individuals to have coverage or face a penalty.
The most significant impact for businesses is the requirement to provide employer-sponsored health coverage or pay a penalty. In general, starting in 2014, any business with more than 50 full-time employees is required to offer affordable health coverage that meets minimum coverage criteria. If a business does not offer coverage, or offers coverage that is not affordable, the penalties would be as follows:
- If a business does not offer coverage, the annual penalty is $2,000 per employee in excess of 30. (That is, if a business has 100 employees, the penalty would be 70 x $2,000, or $140,000.)
- If a business offers coverage that is deemed unaffordable, the penalty is $3,000 for each employee who receives a premium credit to access care through an insurance exchange.
As businesses prepare for these changes, they should determine which full-time employees must be offered coverage, ensure that premiums charged to employees are low enough to be affordable and be sure benefits offered under the plan meet ACA minimum requirements.
While small employers are exempted from many of these provisions, they are encouraged to offer coverage in exchange for a health insurance premium credit. In general, employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees whose average pay is less than $50,000 can receive a credit of up to 50 percent of health insurance premium paid, as long as they pay at least 50 percent of the cost of the single premium for their employees.
Impact on patient care
While most ACA provisions do not directly impact an individual’s health care choices, many patients will notice changes in the way doctors and hospitals deliver care. For many years, most payments to providers have been based on the volume of services provided. ACA creates a significant focus on quality of patient care and outcomes, rewarding or penalizing providers based on these factors. These changes are driving hospitals, physicians and insurers to align so they can better manage the care of a patient population, via organizations called Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).
The goal of an ACO is to reduce the cost of patient care by managing the way care is provided, mainly by ensuring it is provided in the right setting. ACOs often include patient navigators or gatekeepers that help patients access the right type of care, ensure that chronic conditions are treated appropriately and coordinate care from different providers to limit duplication of services.
Patients participating in an ACO can expect more direct contact from caregivers and will be asked to take ownership of their health care outcomes. Employers may be asked to offer more wellness benefits and encourage healthy habits to aid in the success of an ACO.
Paying for ACA
ACA’s $940 billion cost is paid for through several means, including payment reductions to providers and increased taxes.
Tax provisions include numerous business taxes, such as excise taxes on high-cost health plans and medical device manufacturers, annual fees paid by insurance and pharmaceutical companies and limitations on certain corporate income tax deductions.
For individuals, taxes include a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on earned income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns ($200,000 for other filers) as well as a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on net investment income. Other individual provisions include:
- If an individual does not purchase the minimum level of coverage required by ACA, then a penalty equal to the greater of 1 percent of income or $95 applies in 2014. This increases to 2 percent or $325 in 2015 and then 2.5 percent or $695 in 2016 and after. The ACA includes premium assistance credits that can be used to offset this cost for qualifying taxpayers.
- Pre-tax contributions to a health flexible spending account will be limited to $2,500 per year.
- The threshold for deducting medical expenses as an itemized deduction was increased from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of adjusted gross income.
Although most of these provisions will be effective in just nine months, there are many details yet to be finalized. For example, most state and federal insurance exchanges are not functional yet, so the manner in which individuals will enroll is not clear.
Also, while Medicaid expansion was a key component of ACA, it is voluntary on a state-by-state basis. Certain states may elect not to expand Medicaid, which could impact patient access to care as well as the financial health of hospitals. (Certain payments to hospitals are being reduced in anticipation of increased Medicaid volume. If a state does not expand Medicaid, the payment cuts still occur.)
Businesses and individuals should closely monitor the final rollout of ACA and contact advisors to be sure they are making the right choices to limit the financial impact of these changes.
This information was written by Brad Monahan, partner of BKD’s Houston practice. He can be reached at email@example.com or (713) 499-4600. Applying specific information to your situation requires careful consideration of facts and circumstances. Consult your BKD advisor before acting on any matter covered here.
Article reprinted with permission from BKD, LLP, bkd.com. All rights reserved.
Niloufar Molavi is now facing a challenge that she hadn’t seen in her years with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP — acquiring and retaining talent for the accounting firm in the light of fierce competition. The complicating factor is that thanks to a heavy presence of energy companies, young talent in the Houston area is in high demand and supplies are low.
Molavi, Houston market managing partner for PwC, is realizing that you have to pull out all the stops to have an edge over the competition.
It’s no secret that PricewaterhouseCoopers over the years has developed comprehensive internship and management development programs that attract desirable young talent. Molavi is betting on those programs to make a difference.
“The average age of our workforce is 27 — so that will give you a sense of how much we rely on and focus on young talent such as college interns,” Molavi says.
“The students like to have an experience while they are in college, and they really don’t know what to expect ultimately when they come out of school, so we just give them that glimpse,” she says.
But more importantly, the interns will get to know PwC, which hopefully will lead to their choice of PwC for employment.
“It has been a great tool for us to not only recruit but they will see what it is like before they have to make a decision that will have an impact on their long-term careers,” Molavi says.
Here is how Molavi uses internship and management programs at the Houston location of PricewaterhouseCoopers to help fill the 1,069 seats at the table and keep those seats occupied.
Look and listen
The practice of finding and hiring qualified job candidates has grown more sophisticated for most companies in recent years. Such was the case of PwC some years ago when it started its internship program, now a well-entrenched fixture.
With the competition to secure talented individuals, it is essential to look for the skills that clients are demanding.
“It’s important to sit back and make sure that you have identified not only the technical skills in people you hire but, more importantly, the soft skills or the intangible skills that you are looking for in people,” Molavi says. “Identify what those are, and recognize over time those change — just because we know today what we are looking for may change over time. We live in an ever-changing environment, and you need to revisit that as often as you can to ensure that those intangibles haven’t changed.”
Once you sound out your clients, you’ll have a better opportunity to know what will best match their needs.
“The most important thing is listening,” Molavi says. “Spend a lot of time with your clients to make sure that you are listening to their issues, issues that are important to them, issues that they are dealing with, challenges and opportunities that are at the forefront of their minds.”
There are several key qualities that should be “must haves” on the intangible resume of an internship seeker.
“Adaptability — someone who’s willing to come in and adapt to new opportunities and a new environment,” Molavi says. “It’s someone who comes with flexibility of different ways of doing things.”
Equally as important is the attitude that learning is a dynamic procedure that lasts an entire career.
“Another important element is the ability and the desire to continue to relearn; when you are in an environment that’s changing all the time, you need to be comfortable that you are always learning, and it doesn’t really matter what level in the organization you’re at,” Molavi says.
If the desire to learn is kept burning, it can help establish a long-term interest in a particular field. The possibilities of advancement are many.
“Even as a leader, you can continue to have opportunities to learn new things every day,” she says. “For me, that’s exciting. That’s really what’s kept me in the industry and at PwC.”
Find the right fit
It’s been said that in the military as well as other sectors, the age group of 18 to the mid-20s make the best soldiers or workers if properly trained. And those who are even more well-trained do even better.
While the business world can’t really compare its stresses to those of the military, the advantages of young recruits are unmistakable — and similar in both fields.
“Our clients are always interested in our talent because we bring in the young; we help develop them,” Molavi says. “Our talent gets to see a lot of different opportunities and things and they learn pretty quickly on the job because of the exposure they get to our clients. So they are in high demand in the market. And we know that; that has been something we’ve been dealing with for years.”
With a focus on young talent, new entry-level candidates coming right off the college campus, it’s critical to look at their abilities and what they’ve learned on campus and their technical skills.
“First of all, try to find the right fit for the organization,” Molavi says. “At that entry level, spend quite a bit of time not only in the interview process on campus but spend time with those individuals over a two- or three-week period to get to know them and build that relationship — and then offer the best ones an internship.”
A typical internship lasts 10 to 12 weeks. It’s an opportunity to get to know the interns and see how they can work in the environment — and is a great opportunity for them as well to see what opportunities they may have.
“Look at a lot of those intangible qualities in individuals,” Molavi says. “Teamwork is huge for us. We work in teams. We do not do anything alone. So watching the interns work in teams and how they perform is important. Relationships are very important, both within our organization as well as with our clients, and watching how they develop those relationships and their abilities to learn in that area is essential.”
An internship is also a type of probationary period. It’s time to spot any red flags.
“I have had at least one person who interned with us, and at the end of the internship, she and I sat down together — she realized that accounting wasn’t for her and had never really been her passion,” Molavi says. “She had made certain decisions to go into the accounting field, and although she did a great job, she decided that her passion was somewhere else.”
Remember that interns are still students. Most will still have another year of college to finish.
“Internships happen generally right after their junior year for most individuals, so we don’t expect them to come in and know everything,” Molavi says. “We are not testing them on the technical knowledge that they are bringing to the table on day one, but you want to really look for those qualities for a good fit. Then put them on jobs that you would as brand-new associates so they get to experience what it’s like when they join as a full-time hire.”
One of the more important steps any organization needs to consider when you bring in interns is if you will have the opportunities for them to learn and develop in that short period of time.
“If they come in and they are not getting those opportunities, then it is going to be difficult,” Molavi says. “I think any business needs to look at how it is structured and what opportunities it can offer to an intern.
“I know that many of my clients even use internships to give students a sneak peek of an industry by bringing them in over a summer period and rotating them through various parts of their organization.”
Focus on the basics
It’s a serious undertaking for an organization to operate an effective internship program. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ program, while a significant commitment for the company, looks at it more as on-the-job training.
“On-the-job learning and development is really important,” Molavi says. “We do that quite a bit, and it’s easy too. I mean it doesn’t cost you a lot of money; you’ve just got to make sure that you are paying attention to it.
“You take the opportunity as you would a project — you stop and make sure that your team understands what you’re doing, why you are doing it, why it is important to your client, what they are going to learn from it so that it doesn’t just become a task; rather, it becomes a learning opportunity.”
As you develop your training programs over the months and years, design as much on-the-job training into it as possible, and it will help pay dividends.
“When we look at our training programs, about 70 percent of it is actually on-the-job training — every day on projects, at clients, real-time feedback and learning,” Molavi says.
PwC’s program has evolved over time to its current configuration: Each intern is mentored by three colleagues.
“One, they will have a buddy,” Molavi says. “They will have an associate who is closer to age and in experience to them, someone they can go to from day one with any questions they may have. They could be administrative, technical or industry questions. The buddy is someone with whom they can engage on a day-to-day basis.”
In addition to a buddy, each intern has a mentor who is a manager/coach.
“The manager ensures that they are getting the experiences, the exposure, the developmental opportunities,” she says. “The managers are responsible for their assignments during that period and help the interns through that.”
The last is a mentor who will nurture what are often called soft skills.
“The interns also get a relationship partner so they will actually have a mentor who will be engaging with them and spending the time to talk about opportunities in the profession, and more importantly for our interns, the opportunities at PwC that they will have in the long term,” Molavi says.
“The program involves quite a bit of investment but again it has become a very important source for our full-time hiring, and we believe the investment ultimately pays off both for us and the recruits.”
Another aspect of an internship program is shadowing. Interns are given the opportunity to shadow a partner for one day to get a glimpse into a day of a partner’s life.
“Because they see us in bits and pieces, the interns probably don’t really realize everything in which a partner may be involved,” she says.
“One of my interns a couple of years ago had the opportunity to shadow me,” Molavi says. “She had a fantastic experience. It just happened to be one of those days where I was doing a lot of different things. We started off the day when I was actually in a coaching session with one of my ‘coachees,’ and moved on to an interview that I was doing that day with a publication. She got to sit in on that.
“We went to lunch with a client. We had a client meeting that she attended with me. Then we came back and dealt with some of my internal roles.
“She was just amazed at what I touch in one day and saw things that she would be very interested in down the road. So hopefully those kinds of looks give the interns a little bit more in terms of what a day could be as they go through a shadowing process.”
Develop new leaders
If your organization has made it a practice to have an internship program, it needs an employee advancement plan to get the most advantage of the intern program.
Tapping outside talent for management posts is not an easy process today, and it is beneficial to promote from within, not only to recognize that individual but to prepare in case a manager should leave. Talent that started as interns is an excellent source for management positions because of the familiarity with the company and work records that show advancement through the ranks.
For example, PwC uses a global leadership development program called Genesis Park for employees who are approaching some nine years of experience — a senior manager or director. This is a 10-week residential program for about 50 people, three times a year, which moves around the globe.
“You bring in individuals from around the world so every one of these 10-week residential programs is very global and very diverse,” Molavi says. “You are bringing people together who have never worked with each other — to work with each other.
“It takes individuals through what I call real-life experiences. This is not a situation where they’re going to role-play. It gives them the opportunities to work on real projects for either a particular territory, PwC territory or a global issue that our global leadership is dealing with.
“They’ll have the opportunity to work on that project and come back with solutions and thoughts. So they are really learning and having that experience of working with individuals they didn’t know before, bringing different talents together, putting their minds together and driving innovation to come up with solutions.”
Programs such as Genesis Park allow employees to not only continue to develop professionally but personally, as well, with leadership skills.
“My coachee who went through came back out in some ways a different person,” Molavi says. “The most important change that I noticed was the self-confidence that she gained from being part of that team and part of that opportunity, and knowing that, she exhibited an attitude, ‘Wow, I did this, and I was able to have a very different experience, and it felt good, and I learned a lot.’”
How to reach: PricewaterhouseCoopers, www.pwc.com or (713) 356-4000
The Molavi File
Houston market managing partner
Born: Tehran, Iran
Education: University of Texas at Austin, with both my bachelor’s in business administration and master’s in accounting
What was your first job?
My very first job that I got paid for was working during summer school at Houston Memorial High School, and I helped the staff in the office, running a lot of different errands.
What has been the best business advice you ever received?
To be willing to take risks. In terms of my career development, this has been the best advice that anyone could give me — the fact that someone took the time to sit me down and talk about the fact that unless you take risks, you’re not going to learn, you’re not going to develop, you’re not going to see new opportunities. You need to step out of your comfort zone and do it often.
When you become complacent and you’re getting comfortable with something, it’s time to do something different. So that is something that has certainly stuck with me. My sponsors early on pushed me and gave me those opportunities, opened those doors for me to step out of my comfort zone and do different things. It certainly has been very important to me, and I have seen it help me in my career and in the advice that I give others.
Who do you admire in the business world?
There are a lot of individuals who have accomplished great things, so maybe the way I would put it is not so much the individuals but those people who going back to what I was taught who had been authentic. They are not trying to be someone who they’re not. They are authentic leaders. They have at times put their necks out there and done something different that was not conventional, taking the risk, and then been successful at it.
Those are the people that I look to, those individuals who aren’t always going to be sitting at the top of organizations. They’re not necessarily going to be the CEOs but individuals who have had significant impact on success with an organization, for-profit or nonprofit as well.
What is your definition of business success?
For me, I think it is really simple: if you think about the success and the legacy that is behind, to be able to have clients who would say, ‘Well, she was our business partner and she was able to help us achieve our business goals.’ Being a tax practitioner, it is important to make sure that we are helping our clients achieve their goals. I think that would be to me a great legacy to leave behind if I could look back at the number of partners I have personally made so that they could be successful.
It’s an age-old debate: Is character determined by DNA or upbringing? Nature versus nurture?
Most would argue that character evolves from both. What about companies and their cultures? Is a company’s culture merely a composite of the executives and employees who work there or can a culture be nurtured?
If left to chance, a corporate culture will evolve naturally, but stronger, healthier cultures are nurtured along the way. That doesn’t mean you can manufacture one. At its core, a culture is how a company gets things done. Executives can’t invent an ideal culture that doesn’t align with the way the company actually operates. However, you can help refine your company’s culture and character. Start with the following three steps.
Identify your company’s core values.
A strong company culture, good or bad, reflects the values of the company, its leaders and its employees. What values define your company? What matters most — profits, philanthropy, innovation, safety? If you don’t know, poll your employees. They will have a pragmatic perspective of how things get done.
Once you identify your company’s core values, prioritize the three to five values that are most important. What do you want to be known for — quality, integrity, or just plain fun? Keep in mind, this is not what you do; it’s how you do it. An orthopedic surgeon may be skilled at fixing broken bones, but he gets referrals because of his genuine concern for patients.
Align your actions to your values.
It’s not enough to identify your company’s core values. You also have to walk the talk. Tiger Woods enjoyed a reputation for being a remarkable athlete with extraordinary discipline and sound ethics. However, when revelations of his extramarital affairs surfaced, his reputation was forever tarnished. He’s still considered a great golfer, but no one believes he’s the man he portrayed himself to be.
In the same way, you can’t promote your company as being fair and then challenge your partners at every turn. You’d be better off acknowledging that your company is aggressive. If you try to pass your company off as something it isn’t, you’ll ultimately damage trust with customers.
How can you help ensure that team members model your company’s values day after day? Institute practices that promote your values and the behaviors you want your employees to emulate.
Google, for example, is known for creativity, and its leaders practice what they preach. Google encourages developers to dedicate the equivalent of one day a week to innovative projects outside their job descriptions.
Engage your employees.
The most important, and perhaps the trickiest, piece to this puzzle is engaging employees. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” The touchy-feely, people side of business is often the most difficult for leaders to manage well, but it is critical to a company’s success. Employees who are satisfied and truly engaged in their work will perform at a higher level and contribute to greater success and higher profits.
Engaging employees is easier said than done (in fact, it’s never “done” — it requires continuous dedication and focus). There are, however, some practical tactics that can help.
For starters, communicate openly, include employees in the decision-making process whenever possible, and seek and provide continuous performance feedback. Show your employees that you care what they think and that you want them to succeed.
Can you nurture your company’s culture? Absolutely, but it has to emanate from your core values and employees have to model those values. The result will be engaged employees who reflect your culture because it’s simply how your company gets things done.
John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.
Though overall hiring is still sluggish, highly skilled candidates are still in demand and the counteroffer can be a factor in retaining them.
“Recently, because of the economic uncertainly, it’s a little bit harder for us to get candidates to change jobs,” says Michael Stanley, a recruiter at The Daniel Group. “They’re a little less willing to make a move if they are fairly comfortable in their current position.”
Conversely, many companies are willing to make a counteroffer to retain existing employees, often because it’s cheaper and easier than replacing them, he says.
Smart Business spoke with Stanley about using counteroffer strategies to acquire and retain employees.
What steps can you take to avoid losing a job candidate to a counteroffer?
You can’t prevent a counteroffer, but you can prepare candidates to expect one. Throughout the interview, when speaking with candidates currently employed elsewhere, gauge their likelihood of making a change by asking, ‘What would your current employer have to do to keep you?’ This shows where they stand and gives insight into what an acceptable counteroffer looks like.
Also, ask about their true motivation for leaving, which can be easier to find when working with a recruiter. Candidates are usually more guarded with future employers, whereas conversations with a recruiter are much more open. It’s also important to get a full picture of their current benefits and total compensation so you know how that aligns with your company’s offering.
Additionally, it’s absolutely imperative to stay in contact with candidates because they typically provide their employer with a two-week notice before leaving. Keep them engaged during this time to lower the chances of a successful counteroffer by their current employer. Have an itinerary of the onboarding process, such as when you’re sending an offer letter and paperwork and doing background checks. It’s also a good idea to have the job candidate’s future manager take him or her to lunch.
Once a job candidate tells you about a counteroffer, what should you do?
Ask a lot of questions, such as the nature of the offer and how likely they are to accept it. Open up the lines of communication. This is when you can leverage your initial conversation that uncovered their motivation for making a move. If the candidate said there was no room for advancement and the counteroffer gives a 10 percent raise, you can start putting holes in the offer by pointing out the disconnect.
What if you can’t give more compensation to counter the counteroffer?
Use your knowledge of the candidate’s motivations, current benefits and compensation to tailor a nonmonetary incentive. Some examples are a flexible schedule, more vacation days or a guaranteed pay review after six months. An employee’s decision to leave is rarely based solely on compensation.
It’s important to know what the market is currently dictating for the open position and to not go outside of that range. If you overpay on the front end when hiring, you may not be able to provide expected raises down the road. A staffing firm, which is dialed in to compensation and benefits, can help with this.
If a current employee is leaving, should you make a counteroffer?
If the reason the employee is leaving is easily addressed, it may make sense to make an offer. But ask yourself, ‘Is this something for which I could justifiably make a concession?’ You also might learn something, as the employee leaving is likely not the only one who feels that way. In such cases an organization-wide change could improve employee morale, such as using flexible scheduling to improve work-life balance.
However, counteroffers should be used sparingly as they can create a toxic workplace environment. If other employees find out someone was given more money to stay, they may resent management and could threaten to quit. Additionally, if underlying issues aren’t resolved, you have just postponed the inevitable and the employee may end up leaving anyway.
Michael Stanley is a recruiter at The Daniel Group. Reach him at (713) 932-9313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group
Too many business owners know they should save for retirement but put planning for it on the back burner. Forty percent of small business owners have no retirement savings or pension plan, according to a recent American College study, and some 75 percent have no written plan as to how to fund their retirement.
“Business owners shoulder the most responsibility for their businesses, yet often forget to pay themselves first,” says Jeff Manley, executive vice president, wealth services regional executive – Texas, at Cadence Bank. “But if they’re not taking care of themselves along the way, this can position them poorly for the future.”
Smart Business spoke with Manley about how business owners can plan for retirement.
What 401(k) plans suit business owners?
Small, medium and large businesses can use 401(k)s. These basic retirement plans work well for companies looking for a retirement plan that includes both the owner and employees. Making this more compelling is that the IRS raised contribution limits by $500 for 2013, making them $17,500 and $23,000 if age 50 or older, for the first time since 2008, boosting potential savings.
Individual 401(k)s and Uni-k plans are for sole proprietors, or one employee plus a spouse working for the business. These plans, which are similar yet with important differences, are the highest saving vehicles for individual business owners as they allow them to put money away on a pre-tax or after-tax basis, or a combination thereof. Business owners wear two hats — contributing $17,500 or $23,000 as an employee, and an additional 25 percent of income, up to a $51,000 maximum, as the employer. A trusted financial adviser can help determine which plan is best for you.
What IRA plans are available?
A traditional IRA is a tax-deferred retirement account, while a Roth IRA takes contributions after taxes. There are different theories on which is better for whom, with many business owners doing both. For 2013, both IRA types have maximum contributions of $5,500, $6,500 for those over age 50, so they can’t support a retiree.
A self-directed IRA is a tax-deferred account that allows creative, nontraditional investing such as private equity and real estate. Normally, IRAs only invest in securities registered with state or federal authorities. However, self-directed IRAs have a lot of regulations and not all investment advisers provide them.
A Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA, working like a traditional IRA, has relatively small contribution limits — $12,000 for 2013, with catch-up contributions of $2,500 for those over 50. Employees can get up to 3 percent company match. Although this doesn’t allow for much annual savings, it’s less expensive to administer than others.
A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA is a type of traditional IRA. The employer is the sole contributor, and the contribution must be an equivalent percentage for every employee. The 2013 contribution limit is 25 percent of a person’s salary, up to a maximum of $51,000 per employee. This plan works well with family-run businesses.
How much should be saved for retirement?
With the different contribution limits, the amount that can be saved annually varies dramatically — from $5,500 to $51,000 in 2013. Those early in their career should start saving now and try to max out the percentage they put away each year. Getting compounding earnings working early means more money in the future.
The general rule is to save 10 to 15 percent of annual income in retirement-type savings vehicles. But those earning a good living now who want to continue their lifestyle through retirement may have to save millions. Ask a financial adviser about available options to understand what will work best for you. Retirement planning isn’t something that can be put off. Business owners need to weigh their options. ?
Guidance provided in this article is educational in nature, is not individualized, is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, and is not intended to serve as the primary or sole basis for your investment or tax-planning decisions. You should consult with an attorney, tax or other qualified professional for specific advice regarding your unique circumstances.
Jeff Manley is executive vice president and wealth services regional executive – Texas at Cadence Bank. Reach him at (713) 871-3931 or email@example.com.
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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act imposes two new Medicare taxes — one on wages and self-employment income and one on net investment income.
“As a result, executives subject to these new Medicare taxes will now incur a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on most of their taxable income,” says Mark Watson, partner, Houston Tax and Strategic Business Services, at Weaver.
Smart Business spoke with Watson about what this new tax means for executives.
How will the Medicare tax impact wages and self-employment income?
Beginning this year, an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax is imposed on wages and self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers. So, the total Medicare tax on wages and self-employment income is now 3.8 percent, up from 2.9 percent.
If a couple files a joint return, the added tax is imposed on their combined wages and self-employment income. Employers must withhold this additional tax on wages paid to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. This withholding applies even though the employee may not actually be liable for the additional tax because, for example, the employee’s wages with that of his or her spouse doesn’t exceed $250,000. Any excess withheld Medicare tax will be credited against the total tax liability shown on the employee’s income tax return.
The $250,000 and $200,000 threshold amounts aren’t indexed for inflation. So, over time, more executives will likely be subject to the additional Medicare tax.
How is net investment income affected?
Many executives also will be subject to a new Medicare tax on their unearned income in 2013. This new tax, commonly called the ‘net investment income tax,’ applies to individuals, estates and trusts when income exceeds $250,000 for joint filers, $200,000 for single filers and $11,950 for estates and trusts, and equals 3.8 percent of net investment income.
Net investment income equals investment income less properly allocable deductions. Investment income includes:
• Gross income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents.
• Gross income from a passive activity.
• Gross income from a trade or business of trading in financial instruments or commodities.
• Net gain from the sale of property.
• Gross income and net gain from the investment of working capital.
However, gain excluded from taxable income, such as gain on the sale of a personal residence and gain deferred through a like-kind exchange, isn’t included in investment income. Similarly, gain from the sale of certain property used in a non-passive trade or business isn’t included.
Properly allocable deductions include:
• Deductions allocable to rent and royalty income.
• Deductions allocable to income from a passive activity and to a trade or business of trading in financial instruments or commodities.
• Penalties imposed on early withdrawal of funds from a certificate of deposit.
• Investment interest expense.
• Investment adviser fees.
• State/local taxes on investment income.
In the case of an estate or trust, deductions also are available for distributions of net investment income to beneficiaries.
How can these taxes be minimized?
Executives subject to the net investment income tax and the maximum federal income tax rate — applying to joint filers with annual income in excess of $450,000 and to single filers with annual income in excess of $400,000 — will face a 43.4 percent federal tax rate on ordinary income and 23.8 percent federal tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends. Minimize taxable net investment income by:
• Documenting and claiming all allocable deductions.
• Making distributions from an estate or trust to beneficiaries with income below $250,000 or $200,000 who are not subject to the tax on net investment income.
• Investing through tax-sheltered investment vehicles such as 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Accounts, annuities and life insurance policies.
When I meet with business-to-business and professional service clients to discuss their marketing strategies, one comment that consistently arises is “No one buys professional services through the Web.”
While that may be true — you don’t typically buy an accountant online as you would a product through e-commerce — how your brand is perceived most definitely will impact a prospect’s buying decision.
Decisions to work with professional service firms don’t happen overnight. They take time. And because of this, any B2B organization must ensure it is “seen” in the strongest possible light before the sale actually occurs.
In fact, it’s just as important to not lose prospective customers because your organization is perceived as weak or subpar as it is to convert a prospect into a client.
The simple truth is that you never know at any given time who is researching your brand and through what channel. Having a consistent brand message, whether they’re looking to engage you now or somewhere down the road, helps you to not lose them before they need your solutions.
To accomplish this, you must get your brand messaging across in a consistent manner across multiple channels.
So how do you that?
First, a solid marketing strategy must include a website that clearly articulates the brand message and value proposition of your services — and it has to be on the home page.
It also should include supporting content that allows a prospective customer to quickly understand who you are, what you do and why you’re different.
For example, let’s say you’re an accounting firm. Being able to articulate why you are the best at providing risk management solutions for clients can help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Providing and highlighting content that explains your service, along with case studies and client examples that include measurable results, is a smart move. It allows prospects and site visitors to get a feel of what it would be like to work with you.
Additionally, your website should offer prospective clients an easy way to contact you — either through a phone number or a simple contact form that includes a name, email address, phone number and short explanation of the prospect’s business problem.
Beyond your website, other channels to consider include social media, which includes LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In these social media channels, you need more than just simple company pages. Instead, you should offer visitors relevant and current content that consistently supports the brand message and your organization’s value proposition, along with company information and executive profiles. And it’s extremely important to continually be “active.”
Using the same accounting firm as an example, it could utilize consistent content around recent changes to government policies, updates on recent business wins or sharing a solution that helped one of its clients overcome a business challenge across all social media channels.
And when that information isn’t timely, something as simple as new hire announcements or employee promotions will show visitors and followers that there is activity within your brand — and your organization. It makes you “active,” which makes you more attractive to prospects.
Other channels to think about include mobile or tablet experiences, print marketing and event sponsorship. Every channel you can imagine should be used to express your organization’s brand message because there are always people watching.
So while your clients may not choose or buy their professional services online, they will evaluate your brand even prior to consideration. And while it’s impossible to measure what clients you may lose by not having this strategy in place, it is clear that a solid marketing strategy of this type can save you from losing consideration — even when you don’t know you’re being considered.
David Fazekas is vice president of digital marketing for Smart Business Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.
According to The Business Dictionary, attitude is: “A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual's choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).”
The words that jump out as important in this definition are:
- Positively or negatively
In light of this, we can say that when we respond to things with a positive attitude, that response influences positive action in us and others. We can also say that the opposite is true.
We could end this article right now by simply saying – As a leader, manager or executive in business; do the former and not the latter. But if you are like me, I bet that you could use some “how to” examples and tips.
Here they are, six tips for having a positive attitude in business:
1. Keep an open mind. Always be open to the possibility that a life change you have refused to consider might be the key to transforming your life for the better.
This type of attitude impresses your colleagues. Why? Because most of them have been faced with the same challenge and chose to not change. Their attitude towards the change has been clouded with self-doubt and lack of courage.
When you are willing to keep an open mind, you are responding positively to the challenge of a life change that has the possibility of a great reward.
Be different than those around you. Be open.
2. Be proactive, not reactive. A reactive individual is at the mercy of change. A proactive individual sees change as a part of the process and takes action to make the best of it.
Having a proactive attitude requires work. You must be able to think ahead and anticipate. It involves being involved.
In business (and life) you cannot simply sit back and let things just happen as they will. In truth, you could, but that attitude is a negative response that influences negative action, namely, reaction.
Do a little mental work beforehand. Get in the game and be proactive.
3. Go with the flow. Present an easy, casual and friendly attitude that shows your flexibility, yet at the same time portrays your persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity.
This is not the negative “sit back and let things happen” attitude described above. Persistence in the face of obstacles and adversity is what sets it apart.
Having an attitude that is easy and casual, without stepping outside the bounds of proper etiquette and being friendly, is some of the best advice I can give to leaders in business.
Be persistent while going with the flow.
4. Think big. If you think small, you will achieve something small. If you think big, then you are more likely to achieve a goal that is beyond your wildest dreams.
When we allow ourselves to have an attitude that pushes boundaries and explores possibilities, we draw in people who have the same attitude. In other words, by thinking big we find big thinkers.
Want to have a team full of big thinkers? Want to have meetings where ideas are shared and positive plans are made? Want to grow leaders out of your team and promote them to new heights in their career? It all starts with your big-thinking, boundary-pushing, dream-inspiring attitude.
Go ahead – think big.
5. Be persuasive, not manipulative. Use your persuasive talents to persuade others of your worth. Don’t use it to convince someone that others are worth less than you.
Have you ever had a manipulative boss? Have you ever had a persuasive boss?
6. Enter action with boldness. When you do something, do it boldly and with confidence so that you make your mark. Wimping out is more likely to leave you stuck in the same old pattern and immune to positive change.
In the end it’s all about getting things done – with a positive attitude. As leaders, we need to be able to move and work with a certain sense of boldness. A boldness that inspires us and those around us to reach for new horizons in all we do.
It’s obvious, action is better than no action – but bold action that leaves a mark is what we should be doing in our life and business.
Do something and do it with a bold attitude.
Attitude really is everything in business. It is the force that empowers us to respond positively to the challenges we face on a daily basis. It allows us to enjoy what we do as we do it. It builds us and our teams.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Should hard-nosed, thick-skinned, ice-water-running-through-their-veins executives who live and die by facts and profit and loss statements believe in things they can’t totally understand and certainly can’t explain?
We have all been there. At various times, for virtually inexplicable reasons, an undertaking that has been struggling suddenly takes a 180-degree turn and begins an upward trajectory. There was no indication from the numbers, substantively nothing extraordinary was changed, but all of a sudden, it’s as if the sun, moon and stars all aligned and you are heading toward Fat City.
Of course, we’ve all experienced the converse, when everything seems to be jelling and all of a sudden out of the blue your project takes a nosedive, plummeting to earth faster than the fastest falling star — or the stock market crash of 2008.
Even though you fancy yourself as tough as nails, you must hope against hope, experiment with unusual fixes, devise out-of-the-box solutions — do just about anything, including making promises to a higher power, along the lines of, “Let me get through this, and I’ll never ______ again.” (You fill in the blank as it is best kept between you and the great power in which you believe.)
Don’t get me wrong I don’t really believe in the good fairy or the ability to make everything better with the wave of wand, but I do very much believe what the famous New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
There is “magic” when some inexplicable ingredient kicks in that enables the best leaders to continuously generate “what if I try this” scenarios and then, out of nowhere, one of those ideas turns sure defeat into a salvageable success. Is this skill and intelligence at play? To a certain extent, yes, but there is more to it than that. The only thing I believe about unadulterated pure luck is the explanation from that overused phrase, “The harder one works, the luckier he or she gets.” The real answer more likely is a combination of knowing how to run a business: using your head, your heart and your gut to tackle a dilemma, recognizing that on any given day one of these faculties will get you through a difficult issue. On a great day when all three kick in, it’s almost as if it were magic, and you start hearing sounds that become music to your ears as the needed solution suddenly emerges.
In reality, the “magic” is having faith in the people with whom you work, maintaining a strong belief that for most of the seemingly insurmountable questions there are answers, trusting that good things do happen to good people, and knowing that every once in a while the good guys do win. This doesn’t mean becoming a naive Pollyanna. Instead, it all gets down to not throwing in the towel until you have exhausted all possibilities and logically and systematically explored all the alternatives, some of which may be very nontraditional.
This approach is also a direct reflection of positive thinking and mindfulness, which is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and ignoring all other distractions. In essence, some psychological studies have shown that when one is committed to success and has the discipline not to let the mind travel down a negative path, the brain can focus on producing unique solutions. Using positive psychology techniques can result in intense absorption that can lead to coming up with unlikely fixes. Some shrinks call this increasing mental flow. I call it a little bit of magic.
My simpler explanation for this phenomenon, which I’ve written about many times, is that success is achieved when you combine preparation, persistence with a bit of perspiration, along with a few ingredients that can’t always be explained, including having a little faith.
My advice is don’t always worry about your image of being a buttoned-up, corporate type. Instead, when the going gets particularly tough, it’s OK to become a Dorothy, as in the “Wizard of Oz,” click your heels twice and quickly repeat to yourself, “I believe, I believe.”
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Effective content strategies empower you to get the right message to the right people through the right channel at the right timeWritten by Dustin S. Klein
Everybody’s telling you that you need a content strategy, but what exactly is content strategy?
An effective content strategy coordinates all of your organization’s messaging — internally and externally — and gets the right message to the right people through the right channel at the right time.
When it works, people are motivated to interact more with your company. You attract new prospects. And you increase opportunities to secure new clients and expand existing business relationships.
Your content may consist of feature stories, press releases, videos, Web content, blog posts, books, whitepapers and even case studies. Essentially, it is everything and anything that discusses your business, professional expertise and ability to solve clients’ problems. It includes news about your organization and human-interest stories that feature your employees.
You can deliver your content through traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio or television), a corporate website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, e-book, TV show, movie or social media. It is quite literally every single way you digest information online, offline and on the go.
Any content strategy starts with understanding your audience. Learn who that audience is, what different groups are in it and what messaging resonates most with each group.
Every audience comprises two unique segments — those who support you, such as vendors, investors or employees, and those who use your services, including clients and engaged prospects.
It’s also important to take a hard look at this list and ask, “Who is missing from this picture?” By doing so, you may identify new prospect streams to target that you previously had overlooked.
Next, identify your key messages. What is it that you want people to know about your organization and why?
Start at the most macro level so that your brand message becomes part of the content — the part everyone receives. Then get into the specifics. As you do this, you create a series of customized messages for each specific group in your audience.
Third, recognize that not everyone digests information the same way. Learn the best channel or channels to use for each group. Some like to read it — in print or online. Others prefer to watch or listen to it — live in-person or through a mobile video. And still others prefer their information delivered in 140 characters or less.
What works for your website visitors doesn’t necessarily resonate face-to-face with people at a trade show or conference. And print ad messaging may not be aimed at the same people who devour industry whitepapers or read thought leadership articles in trade publications.
The actual format of the content won’t matter as long as it provides the “why” people should care about your organization, frequent your establishment, buy your products or services, or use your solutions. If you accurately match message with audience and channel, you’ll do just fine.
Effective content strategy can quickly become a powerful tool in moving your business forward. Treat it as you would any highly critical strategic business initiative.
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations of SBN Interactive, publishers of Smart Business magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or (440) 250-7026.