The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is full of employer mandates, but the most prominent and pressing for employers is the Shared Responsibility provision where large employers need to offer affordable coverage.
“The Employer Shared Responsibility part of PPACA is one of the most onerous and complex parts of the legislation, with employers needing as much guidance as possible,” says Tobias Kennedy, vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Kennedy for an overview of the provision, as there are several intricacies that can confuse one from gaining a broad, basic knowledge on the topic.
How do you know if you’re a large employer?
Generally speaking, a large employer has 50 full-time equivalent employees. It’s important to note the word equivalent, because when the legislation defines 50 employees it is actually counting full-time workers plus full-time equivalent employees. As an example, if you have 45 full timers, and you also have a few people doing part-time work, the reform bill would have you add up all of those hours worked by the part-time people and figure out how many full-time equivalents that equates to.
The penalty for not offering coverage at all is basically $2,000 per year, per person, minus the first 30, applying only to full timers.
What does affordable coverage mean?
Talking high-level affordable coverage would ask an employer to evaluate two things. For any person where you are in violation of either of these two things, the employer is fined $3,000 annually.
- Does the plan have an actuarial value of at least 60 percent? To figure this you have several options, but the easiest is to use the calculator provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Are the employee’s premiums affordable? This is asking for the employee-only portion of your cheapest — above 60 percent, of course — plan not to exceed 9.5 percent of an employee’s income. Income can be calculated a few ways, but the easiest is probably using the wages inserted in the most recent W-2.
Who are employers supposed to cover?
Any employee who works an average of 30 hours or more per week is considered full time, and therefore needs to be offered affordable coverage to avoid fines. If you do not know whether certain employees average more than 30 hours because of varying hours, busy seasons, etc., employers can use a measurement safe harbor.
It can be complicated, but generally speaking, if an employer choses to, the legislation allows for a measurement period. During the measurement period, you look at the employee’s hours and average it out over time. How long the measurement period lasts is up to the employer, but needs to be between three to 12 months.
Once the measurement period ends, an employer must enter a stability period. During the stability period, an employer treats all ongoing employees according to the results of the measurement period. In other words, regardless of hours worked during the stability period, if an employee was full time during the measurement period, you have to offer coverage for the stability period. And, regardless of hours worked during the stability period if an employee averaged below 30 hours per week during the measurement period, the employer does not have to offer insurance.
The measurement/stability period is quite complicated with very particular time frames; the option to implement an administration period; different treatment for new hires versus ongoing employees; rules to transition employees from new hires to ongoing; and a host of other technicalities that truly require the assistance of a trained PPACA professional.
As with all parts of the health care reform bill, consult your professionals for help in the details of this and other provisions.
Tobias Kennedy is vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at (818) 676-0044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions
One of the biggest differences between running a business on the side and quitting your job to run it full time is that you lose the security of a steady paycheck. That loss of income and the uncertainty as to whether it will ever come back is enough to make anyone pause and reconsider quitting their day job.
But what if your part-time venture is beginning to pick up steam, and you earnestly believe that it needs your full, undivided attention? While it can be scary, there are steps you can take to make such a leap less daunting.
When you begin your business in earnest, take time to reduce your clutter. Working out of a messy office will eat much more time than it takes to get everything organized.
Speaking of time, making the transition to full-time business owner means also becoming much more self-motivated and coordinated. There is no one to remind you to clock in or to hound you about being late.
It’s great to go about the day without being micromanaged, but be careful. It’s just as easy to slip into a state of complacency. Organize your space, set a schedule and stay disciplined.
There is always going to be some element of risk involved in whatever you decide to do next. But there are also actions that a new full-time business owner can take to reduce some of that risk.
As a part-time owner, chances are high that your business is a sole proprietorship — sort of the default business structure. Unfortunately, that means that you are responsible for your business’s debts, and if things go south, debt collectors may start trying to take your personal assets to pay for those business debts.
When you jump to full-time, consider forming an LLC or S corporation. There are different advantages and disadvantages to these structures, but they will help protect your personal property by separating you and your business’s debts.
Make saving a priority
Take full advantage of that steady paycheck for as long as you have it and save. Anyone looking to branch out and start a business has to use every cost-cutting measure out there so they have breathing room when trying to get their new business to turn a profit. Advisers typically recommend having enough saved up to pay for four to six months of living expenses. Luckily, if a business is being run part-time, it may be pulling in money already.
There is no magic number for saving — it just needs to be enough so that you don’t have to dig for change to pay your electric bill. Meet with an accountant, crunch the numbers and make sure you’re comfortable with the recommendations they give on budgeting and working with your financial situation.
Part-time owners know their company can draw customers, sell a product or service and bring in money since it has already been doing just that. This insight makes it very tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump into full-time ownership without making the necessary preparations.
But don’t take a huge leap without ensuring your fall is cushioned. Take your time, get everything in order, protect your assets and meet with an accountant to solidify a plan. Next, take a deep breath and put in your two weeks’ notice — you’re now a full-time business owner.
It's not just about growing lemons anymore at Limoneira Co. - Harold Edwards has bigger plans in mindWritten by
It’s a fairly common approach when taking on a new job to talk to those people who have been there for a while to learn what the company is all about. Harold Edwards tried this approach at Limoneira Co., and he didn’t like what he was learning.
“To be pretty direct, a lot of complacency and apathy had crept their way into the organization,” says Edwards, president and CEO at the Santa Paula, Calif.-based grower and provider of lemons. “We literally had situations where the people who had worked for the company for the longest period of time were probably doing the least amount of work.”
As Edwards looked at the financial numbers, he could see that the company wasn’t really on the upswing. But it was the attitude of senior leaders at Limoneira that concerned him even more.
“Most evident when I showed up was just a lot of senior-level managers and people who had been with the organization for a long time were not only not aligned with the objectives of the organization but also were very clearly and very evidently complacent about their day-to-day duties and responsibilities,” Edwards says.
The work culture and environment had become a big problem. Edwards needed to act swiftly to get things turned around at the company, which employs 226 people and has been producing lemons since 1893.
“The area where a lot of companies go wrong is they don’t stay current with their dynamic environment and they don’t consistently go through and define those objectives and focus on the alignment or realignment of those objectives every year as the environment continues to change,” Edwards says. “That’s where many companies fall down.”
Edwards hoped his plan would keep that from happening at Limoneira.
Laying out a new course
The changes on the leadership team were first up for Edwards. They were not easy moves to make.
“There were some pretty strong and big power struggles that had bred themselves within the organization,” Edwards says.
“One of my first orders of business as I was building my senior management team was to attempt to eliminate those power struggles. I wanted to get everybody’s full commitment to the vision of the organization and the new, very decentralized structure that we were putting in place to foster better teamwork.”
Edwards made it clear that he wanted to identify new growth opportunities and assess what was working and what wasn’t working to help Limoneira function to its full potential.
“We never had the vision that maybe the way to manage the company in a better way would be to really focus in on the growth of the business,” Edwards says. “And by growth, I mean really make it our business to transition from our focus from just being a producer into becoming a supplier of lemons.
“Surround ourselves and our assets not only with our own fruit but eventually with the fruit of other growers that would allow us to take advantage of our strong brand reputation in the marketplace.”
Those who weren’t committed to pursuing this new path didn’t stick around long, which turned out to be a good thing.
“In a way, it was very emancipating and helpful for the overall organization because as some of those people who were hanging onto their turf exited, you could almost hear the overall organization breathe a big sigh of relief,” Edwards says. “It was viewed as very empowering for many of the other people who were in essence held down or oppressed by some of these former managers.”
To those who feared they might be ousted by this new leader, Edwards worked hard to get them to see that he wasn’t there to conquer Limoneira. He was there to give people the freedom to help the company grow.
“My style is not to micromanage anybody on my team,” Edwards says. “It’s really just to position myself as an enabler and a supporter and to try to see that each one of these individuals is able to have success with the objectives that they’ve laid down for themselves and their teams.”
Building communication channels
The next step for Edwards at Limoneira was not a painful one, but it was a big challenge. His goal was to have his managerial team identify the top five objectives for the entire organization.
“They weren’t financial goals,” Edwards says. “They were more specific strategic objectives. Once they were created, we methodically went through each person in the senior management team, down through the management team, down through every salaried employee and then down through the rank-and-file employees.
“When the exercise was complete, the goal was everybody in the company had their own top five objectives that if they were successful accomplishing, the organization would have the best chance of achieving its top five objectives.”
It’s obviously a lot more challenging in practice than it is on paper. You have to accept that while there may be some hiccups along the way in developing all these objectives, they will lead you to a better outcome if you stay disciplined with the process.
“It really takes a commitment,” Edwards says. “Not all organizations are able to embrace that. There is a downside to innovation. There’s a downside to being really entrepreneurial and, in this case, intrepreneurial. It can be very disruptive. But if you’re willing to embrace some choppiness and disruption to do things better, it will work.”
With everyone committed to pursuing new growth opportunities, Edwards says the past five years have provided a consistent flow of new ideas from employees who previously weren’t involved in such talks.
“We have laid down very specific and very measurable growth targets that have really helped us smooth out the cyclicality and volatility of our business,” Edwards says.
“It’s also gotten all the employees who are involved in this part of our business very specifically focused on what their role and responsibility is. We can determine if we were successful or not. That is a specific objective that really has helped us transition the company and helped us grow.”
Edwards says it’s a message he repeats over and over again that great ideas at Limoneira do not have to begin in his office.
“Encourage people to think outside the box and come up with ideas about how to streamline efficiencies and how to get things done in a more efficient way,” he says. “Don’t just assume or accept that there is only one way to do things.”
Stick to it
When you think you’ve finally driven home the idea that you want employees to feel empowered to share their ideas, you need to resist the urge to stop talking about it.
“Part of the performance management program has a quarterly evaluation process that makes each employee better connected with a greater sense of consistent purpose with his or her manager,” Edwards says. “That allows them to do a better job of determining when an employee is getting it done and when they aren’t.”
Most employees want to make their supervisors and managers proud and want to do their part to help the business. But you have to maintain the dialogue and keep talking about it to make it work.
“The skill of the manager is to make sure that the things that aren’t going to be good objectives and goals, that those aren’t implemented,” Edwards says. “The ones that will really drive the organization forward are used.”
The discipline is not just a means to keep employees on task. It’s to help keep you and your management team on task as well.
“It’s very easy to see if we didn’t stay vigilant and diligent on quarterly evaluation and the communication of those evaluations, that it could very easily become just another thing that the organization was doing and the whole purpose would really be lost,” Edwards says.
One of the final pieces of the transformation at Limoneira has been to make sure the board of directors and company leaders understand the difference between management and governance.
“Part of the board’s responsibility in good governance is to help define and lay out good strategy for the organization as it moves forward,” Edwards says. “What had happened was the board had begun to get involved in personnel decisions. It had actually started micromanaging certain managerial posts sort of at the expense of the authority of the CEO of the company.”
Edwards shared his thoughts that the board needed to focus on strategy and let leaders like himself deal with day-to-day operations.
“By getting the board back to being a part of the governance structure and the management team really focusing in on the management of the company and keeping those roles and responsibilities separate and distinct and very disciplined, we’ve allowed both to operate at excellent levels that have really pushed the company forward,” Edwards says.
The result is a business that has grown consistently, with revenue leaping from $52.5 million in 2011 to $65.8 million in 2012.
“It’s much clearer the level of collaboration and teamwork that is necessary in order for all the employees to be successful,” Edwards says. “It’s forced people to play their roles and responsibilities more in concert as a team rather than as individuals. It’s that new alignment and fostering of teamwork that really set the company in motion.”
How to reach: Limoneira Co., (805) 525-5541 or www.limoneira.com
The Edwards File
Name: Harold Edwards
Title: President and CEO
Company: Limoneira Co.
Born: San Francisco
Education: Undergraduate degree in international affairs, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore.; MBA in global management, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Glendale, Ariz.
What was your very first job?
Working on a ranch in Santa Paula. It was physical labor. I was hewing weeds, chopping suckers off trees or laying down mulch and fertilizer. I’m five generations deep in one of six families that represent the largest shareholders of this company. I grew up on one of the ranches that is one of different 15 ranches that the company manages.
What do you enjoy about the work?
I’ve sort of committed myself to making the world my canvas and taking opportunities to be living in a global world that produces and distributes product all over the world. The part of my job that gives me the greatest level of satisfaction is to, in a very small way, play a part in feeding the hungry world.
Why do Europeans consume so many more lemons than the United States?
You correlate it with obesity and the quality of our diets here versus the diets in other parts of the world. Then you look at life expectancy and health and you start to see some trends that are very compelling. If we were just to reach parity with Europe in terms of their lemon consumption, we don’t grow enough lemons here in the United States to accomplish that today. So we spend a lot of time trying to convince people to use lemons in their everyday lives here in the United States. So far we’re starting to see the results of a lot of these efforts take place.
Be clear about your intentions.
Build channels to communicate.
Stay disciplined with your plan.
If your business isn’t completely dependent on technology, then you are in the minority these days. Given this dependence, protecting your business from an IT failure should top your priority list.
“Having been in the IT business now for 16 years, I’ve seen my fair share of close calls and, unfortunately, my fair share of outright disasters when it comes to IT,” says Zack Schuler, founder and CEO of Cal Net Technology Group. “There are three particular disasters that stick out in my mind. In each of these three cases the companies were taking nightly backups of their data, and they thought this was enough.”
Smart Business spoke to Schuler about how businesses can avoid these kinds of mistakes.
What are some of the worst disasters you’ve encountered?
The first case was a company that had a sprinkler break right above its servers. While it was taking a daily backup, the company left the tapes on top of its servers. The tapes were drenched and basically unusable after the downpour. The server hard drives were sent to data recovery, and after several days the company was up and running again. Had the tapes been taken off site, the downtime would have been significantly less.
The second case was a company that had its building burn down. Its current tapes were stored on site; however, the company had an older set that was taken off site. After a painful data reconstruction process, and several months later, the company was able to get back on its feet.
The last case was a company that experienced an Internet outage for a week when a major telephone company had its T1 down. This was the company’s only connection to the Internet, and its business was highly dependent on email, so this outage had a significant impact on its business. The company lost a percentage of its revenue as a result of the outage.
Needless to say, none of the above companies were prepared for the type of disaster that they suffered, yet all of them were backing up their data.
How can businesses avoid costly downtime?
Here are three important questions that you can pose to whoever manages your IT, and some tips that will get you one step closer to being truly prepared in case of emergency.
1. What is your plan in case of a lengthy Internet failure? The smart thing to do is to make sure that you have multiple connections to the Internet, over different mediums. Having a connection via a T1 and a DSL line is not a smart move, as they both traverse over the strands of wire. An Internet connection through a telephone company and another through a cable provider is the way to go.
2. What is your plan in case of a physical site failure, such as a fire, earthquake, etc.? Something as simple as a long-term power outage in your building can be a lot more common than one would think. On more than one occasion we’ve seen a building lose power for several days, and companies basically send their employees home. We had a client that was prepared in this scenario. It sent its employees to work from home, as it had a hot-site set up that employees were able to connect to from home.
3. What is your plan in the event of a major hardware failure? Even if your equipment is under warranty, if a particular part fails on a server, and the vendor is out of stock on that part, you could see some downtime. In this scenario, you should have a transition plan documented whereby you can easily move the data from one server’s backup over to another server, perhaps in a virtualized environment, to keep running.
What is the most common issue you’ve encountered with companies’ backup plans?
Perhaps the biggest overall error that I’ve seen companies make is that they don’t have any documented plan in place to recover from any of the above scenarios. Most companies simply don’t test their backups by going through a simulated failure. They assume that the backup is running as they’ve been told. The smartest action that you can take is to go through a simulated failure. Pretend that any of the above scenarios has happened, and try to recover from them. We assist IT departments with this type of work frequently, and we’ve never walked into a disaster recovery test whereby we didn’t make a tweak of some sort to make the plan better, thus more recoverable.
Zack Schuler is founder and CEO of Cal Net Technology Group. Reach him at email@example.com.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Cal Net Technology Group
Knowing the right questions to ask is the key to developing strategies to improve a business.
“Simple questions can have a big impact. They help you see the wood for the trees. One is, ‘What is the main constraint, i.e., the bottleneck, I face in my business?’ Sometimes the answer is obvious, and it’s money or time. Once you identify it, then you can put energy into devising a strategy to alleviate it,” says Guillaume Roels, assistant professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Smart Business spoke with Roels, who teaches a core course on operations and technology management for the Executive MBA program, about the class and takeaways students have incorporated in the workplace.
What subject material does the course cover?
It’s mostly process management. The key is learning to view organizations as processes and streamlining those processes. You start by defining a strategy, and operations management delivers that strategy. If your goal is to be price competitive, operations will enable reduced costs. If the strategy is to achieve high quality, that will be the focus.
The analogy I use is the engine of a car; operations are the engine of the company and deliver value to customers.
Are students already familiar with operations management?
Students come from a broad variety of backgrounds — some are entrepreneurs, some work at big corporations like Cisco, Walt Disney and Amgen. To a certain extent, all have been in a process. But they may not have thought about this notion of process. Typically, people see the work they do, but they don’t see the bigger picture. An attorney in the legal department in the gaming industry may not realize he or she is part of a process of product development and what he or she does impacts product design or a release date. Looking at an organization from a global perspective can have a large impact on efficiency and quality.
Starting from strategy, the class looks at operations and tries to eliminate waste and identify improvement opportunities. It’s a very practical course; students can apply tools they learn right away. It also helps them think more strategically on how to turn operations into a competitive advantage.
Can you provide examples of students applying these concepts?
One tool is a process flowchart, which helps visualize how work is done in an organization. A student from a Saturday afternoon class said he went back to his organization on Monday and started drawing a process flowchart.
For many students, time is their main constraint. They all have families, school and high-level positions, so they have limited time. For them, operations management is time management. So they can self-apply the operations lessons to make the most efficient use of their time.
Entrepreneurs, in particular, are known for under-delegating — the classic example is the owner who signs off on every bill the company pays. When you realize the value of your time, it can be better spent meeting with prospective clients and trying to raise funds.
What’s different about taking this course at UCLA compared to another Executive MBA program?
The East Coast is much more corporate. There’s a different way of doing business on the West Coast, particularly in Southern California. It’s part of the culture and the high-tech industries here — aeronautics, biotechnology — very specific types typically not found on the East Coast. That’s reflected in the classroom; it’s very diverse, much more than a traditional school. They’re from a broad set of small and large companies, and it makes the discussion very rich.
Students develop lifelong relationships, and there’s a great feeling of community. Often, former students call and want to talk about a problem they’re experiencing at work. That problem usually doesn’t require any in-depth consultation; it’s a matter of making sure they’re asking the right questions and adopting a holistic perspective on the problem they’re trying to solve. ?
Guillaume Roels is an assistant professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at (310) 825-6749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Event: “How Do I Pay for My MBA?” Hosted by Associate Dean Gonzalo Freixes. Saturday, April 13, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. at UCLA Anderson.
Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management
Business credit cards can be highly useful, efficient and versatile tools for many small business owners, as long as they are used in a prudent way. What are the benefits of using business credit cards? How should you select one? What best practices should be employed?
Smart Business spoke with California Bank & Trust Senior Vice President and Corporate Marketing Director Steven Borg to discuss how entrepreneurs can best use business credit cards to improve financial management processes and streamline cash flow.
Why should small business owners use a business credit card instead of a personal card for company expenses?
Using a business credit card instead of a personal card lets you more easily track your spending, keeping business and personal expenses separate. Most card issuers provide highly detailed reports categorizing your expenses, which can be very useful for accounting and tax purposes. Like personal cards, business credit cards may come with various rewards programs, such as cash back or additional savings on business expenses. Using a business credit card also may provide public relations value to your business by making a good impression when you’re purchasing goods and services, or entertaining clients.
What are the advantages of using a dedicated business credit card?
Using a dedicated business credit card allows you to control spending, streamline your operations, view your transactions efficiently and provide your business with fraud protection.
Business credit cards typically permit multiple users to have individual spending limits, giving you the ability to control your company’s spending while still allowing your entire team to move forward with their business needs. Additionally, having your employees use their respective business credit cards eliminates the need for your company to reimburse them for expenses. This saves on paperwork, streamlines processes and gives you more precise control over your team’s spending.
Most business credit cards come with enhanced reporting features, allowing your management team to watch expenses closely, categorize the transactions and make strategic decisions based on the complete spending patterns of your company — an excellent cash flow management tool.
Putting all of your expenses on a business credit card also offers you a certain level of protection against fraud. Like personal credit cards, the card issuer may be able to resolve problems with any products or services you’ve purchased with the card.
What are some of the pitfalls of using business credit cards?
Like any other credit card, interest builds if you let balances grow too high. In some cases, a ‘penalty rate’ is imposed for late payments, which can seriously impact your credit rating and be costly for your company, so pay off your balances regularly.
Although business credit cards allow for improved efficiencies, it is important that managers and owners continue to monitor their team’s transactions, control their expenses and pay off their balances monthly. Additionally, if your company decides to allow for multiple users, there is potential for misuse. Setting strong boundaries, creating specific spending limits and monitoring transactions monthly will reduce the risk in this area.
What should a small business owner do before applying for a business credit card?
Sit down with a business banker who understands your business and industry to help you chose the right product for your specific business needs. Review terms such as rate, grace period, any rewards programs, and perhaps most importantly, the type of information and functionality available in the monthly reporting. It’s also important to find out how credit limits are set and how you can control your employees’ use to minimize risk.
Above all, remember that while the use of a business credit card may very well be a smart business practice, it certainly does not replace astute management.
Steven Borg is senior vice president and corporate marketing director at California Bank & Trust.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act regulations are changing every day as the legislation continues to roll out. Each of these new provisions has an impact on many aspects of a company — from employee retention to the bottom line. In this constantly changing environment, business owners need health insurance brokers who are health care reform experts to guide them through each new complex step. However, this means brokers need to prepare themselves for a new role.
“Change is hard for many brokers to implement,” says Sherrie Zenter, senior vice president at Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc. “Brokers need to get past this fear of change to avoid failing in the current marketplace. Revenue will continue to diminish with health care reform changes, but those who distinguish themselves as experts will rise to the top and succeed.”
Zenter says business owners are concerned with how new regulations will affect them, their employees, what the costs could be and their responsibilities as employers. By choosing a health insurance broker who is knowledgeable, available and a good communicator, business owners can stay well informed.
“Brokers exist to help their clients. Therefore, the ones that help their clients understand the bigger picture and adapt to the reform changes quickly will help everyone succeed,” she says.
Smart Business spoke with Zenter about what to look for in a health insurance broker.
How should business owners gauge the effectiveness of their health insurance broker?
Business owners must work with health insurance brokers who are well informed to give them the most up-to-date information on health care reform. There are several indicators that your broker can be an asset to your company:
• He or she tells a good story by using education tools, such as webinars and/or seminars, that help you understand the issues well enough to make intelligent decisions for your business.
• He or she is available to react quickly when you ask for information. Your broker should have current literature at hand and deliver it to you in a timely manner.
• He or she maintains a viable network of experts in the health care community to stay current with new regulations and how each could impact your business.
• He or she serves as your go-to leader on health care reform.
It can also be beneficial if your broker’s associates in his or her firm are educated as well. That means there is a greater pool of knowledge that you and your broker can tap into.
What else do brokers need to demonstrate in this area?
Brokers need to demonstrate that they are well versed on this topic, and it should be clear that they take the time daily to learn about changes put in place as this legislation unravels in the marketplace.
Your broker’s skills should position him or her as a trusted adviser and expert on health care reform — someone you’re willing to rely on when making decisions that will impact many levels of your business.
What’s the current health insurance marketplace like?
There is a lot of competition among brokers. As they adapt to this new landscape, they are developing new servicing models. This can be a benefit to business owners who can leverage the competition and take advantage of the new skills brokers are developing. Some brokers are leaning toward ancillary sales, while others are focusing on large group sales versus small group. Bottom line, brokers have taken a cut in commissions but are still striving to maintain the quality of service promised to all clients. Business owners can benefit from brokers who are eager to stand out among the competition and prove they are an asset to their clients and their businesses.
Sherrie Zenter is senior vice president at Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc. Reach her at (818) 933-2739 or email@example.com.
Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Momentous Insurance Brokerage, Inc.
In the past 20 years, companies have been generating an increasing amount of data. The growth of social media has also created a massive pool of information that any company can access, mine and use.
“Utilizing big data can help a company uncover the relationships it has with consumers and businesses that perhaps it didn’t previously realize it had,” says Pervez Delawalla, president and CEO of Net2EZ. “In many ways, that data can help a company gain a better understanding of its clients’ needs and formulate its products to win more business.”
Smart Business spoke with Delawalla about big data and how to effectively store and utilize it to the benefit of your business.
Where can companies find big data, and how can they use it?
With the advent and proliferation of social media, there is information that companies can collect called ‘big data,’ which can be used to analyze, in a cost-effective and time-efficient way, the social habits of consumers. This information allows them to devise targeted marketing campaigns and develop products.
Data about consumers is being collected from social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, data about businesses can be collected from sources such as LinkedIn and Foursquare, and there is data contained in emails coming into a company.
Do all companies have access to big data?
In today’s world, any company that uses computers has a big data resource or is collecting it without realizing it. For example, most salespeople have a contact database that includes people they’ve met through work, in their personal lives and through networking. If you are going to meet with the CFO of a potential client company and you learn that someone on your sales team knows that CFO, that is an invaluable personal connection. Knowing about that relationship allows you to bring the person to the meeting and quickly establish a connection.
What challenges come with big data?
Storing big data was traditionally cost prohibitive, which is why only large companies could do it. However, solutions such as new, lower-cost hardware have recently hit the market, which has given smaller companies the ability to have large sets of storage devices to store big data. At the same time, cloud computing allows a company to rent storage on a monthly or short-term basis, meaning more companies can collect, store and mine big data.
Indexing this data so that it can be used to benefit the company is a challenge, but there are plenty of tools available from major software manufacturers that can be used to mine it.
What methods are available to companies to help store this data?
Big data can be stored privately or on servers that host multiple clients. Which option a company chooses depends on how important it is to keep information secure.
Private cloud services give companies a certain amount of secure storage on a server that only belongs to them. The type of data being stored determines which tools are applied to extract it, such as a dashboard through which a company can query or search its data. There are also data feeds that provide ticker updates as data comes in, giving fast access to information.
Public cloud services are available, but are less secure than private services.
How can companies efficiently navigate such large data sets to get the most use out of the information being retained?
It takes some time to understand which data is going to be useful and to learn which tools are available to store and sort it. For example, you could buy and deploy big data-mining tools to start collecting various sets of data from multiple sources, then create a dashboard that puts that information at your fingertips. However, you can’t simply keep storing information and expect results. You need to better understand your company’s demographics and understand what is going to help your company grow. You have to know your end result and employ the tools necessary to achieve it.
Many companies don’t realize what they have beyond their traditional database and that is sometimes where the treasure trove of data exists. Accessing that data will open a world of opportunities.
Pervez Delawalla is president and CEO of Net2EZ. Reach him at (310) 426-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Net2EZ
The widespread use and ease of access to digital content has resulted in some of the biggest changes in copyright law — both in terms of new statutes and case law. This can be attributed to the ease with which digital copies can be made and the fact that those copies do not result in any degradation of quality, leading to their widespread distribution — both legally and illegally.
“The nature of digital content makes the license agreement much more important than before,” says Stephen T. Kong, shareholder, Corporate and Intellectual Property Groups at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. “We as lawyers are always worried about what rights are granted to a client who wants to do something with the digital content because it often is only the specifics of the legal agreement that means the difference between a lawful and an infringing use.”
Smart Business spoke with Kong about licensing digital content to ensure proper legal protections are in place.
What is it about digital content that creates such unique legal issues?
The proliferation of high-speed Internet has made it easy for individuals to create and transmit digital content. Previously, the physical nature of the non-digital good acted as a practical deterrent to infringement. Booksellers couldn’t make illegal copies of books in an efficient and profitable manner for the purpose of reselling them. By contrast, Amazon has many licensing agreements in place to distribute digital versions of books formerly available exclusively on tangible media.
The reality of video streaming paved the way for services such as Hulu and Netflix, which are thriving because people care less and less about owning a copy of a movie as long as they can get a streamed version relatively on demand. All of this adds up to the need for copyright law to adapt.
What does it mean to ‘license’ digital content?
There’s a fundamental difference between licensed and owned content. Many companies are dealing primarily with licensed content, which is owned by someone who has given permission to another to display or distribute their content. Whoever owns the copyright rights can control aspects of the distribution, reproduction, modification and display of the copyrighted content. In the digital world, you generally can’t do anything with digital content that doesn’t involve exercising one of those protected rights.
What drives licensing lawyers crazy is when copyright owners of digital content grant to their licensee the right to ‘use’ digital content. Since ‘use’ is not one of the enumerated rights under copyright law, arguments can arise as to what rights are actually granted.
How is ownership determined?
The general default rule is the creator of a work owns the work; but for companies, there is a key exception. Generally, anything created by employees for their employer in the course of their employment results in the employer owning the copyright rights in the work product. So large media companies employing writers have a large amount of copyrighted works available for distribution in many avenues.
What are some important aspects of licensing digital content?
A licensor can ‘slice and dice’ copyright rights in many ways, usually to preserve markets for other licensees. Certain geographic markets may be set aside for others. The copyright owner may wish to have different licensees exploit different channels of distribution. All of this makes the role of the licensing lawyer very important because the license agreement needs to be carefully reviewed in the context of determining the scope of a licensee’s rights.
Making the licensing lawyer’s task a bit more complicated sometimes is the existence of agreements written before the advent of digital technology. There was no law governing Internet radio royalties until Internet radio became a reality, and older agreements reflect the fact that a freelance writer would not necessarily have thought to grant or explicitly deny rights for republication of an article in different digital formats.
Stephen T. Kong is a shareholder, Corporate and Intellectual Property Groups, at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. Reach him at (424) 214-7013 or email@example.com.
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth
This year, nearly 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed. Thanks to significant medical advances, prevention and healthier lifestyles, survival rates continue to improve.
Smart Business turned to Philip DiSaia, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial and world leader and researcher in gynecologic oncology, and Amanda Termuhlen, M.D., medical director, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, the region’s renowned pediatric cancer facility.
Does prevention really work?
A substantial proportion of cancers can be prevented. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and plenty of exercise help reduce risks. Regular screening tests that allow detection and removal of precancerous growths can help prevent many cancers. Pap smears help detect cervical cancer, colonoscopies can identify colon cancer, PSAs may determine the likelihood and treatment of prostate cancer, and breast self-exams and mammograms reduce mortality for breast cancer.
What are some advances available locally?
Todd Cancer Institute and Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center are dedicated to early diagnosis, research, treatment and education of patients with cancer or serious blood disorders. At interdisciplinary treatment planning conferences, specialists review new and difficult cases, developing treatment plans suited to patient needs. Our world-renowned Leavey Radiation Oncology Center achieves break-through results with the most advanced technologies and therapies. Patients can access more than 100 cancer research protocols.
At the forefront of adult cancer management are our gynecologic, thoracic, breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, radiation oncology, genetic counseling and robotic surgery. We were one of the first centers to make individualized therapy and targeted treatment a clinical reality.
Is there progress for childhood cancers?
Prior to the 1970s, only half of children with cancer survived beyond five years following diagnosis. Today that number is 80 percent, thanks to better cancer drugs, treatment, research and access to clinical trials. Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center supports advanced diagnostic tools and treatments with comprehensive psychosocial services and a multi-disciplinary care team that follows every patient from admission through their hospital stay and follow-up in outpatient settings. New research efforts offers patients access to leading therapies.
What can be expected in the future?
Vaccines like those to prevent cervical cancer may be effective in other cancers. Emerging treatment technologies, techniques and drug discoveries more accurately treat cancer, and with fewer side effects. Myriad cancer therapies and treatment in varying stages of development continue to unveil more about cancer cell biology and new treatments.
New pharmaceuticals may better kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply. There is hope therapeutic vaccines will help activate a patient’s immune system. Gene sequencing seeking specific DNA mutations with different types of cancers may lead to new treatments. Physicians are researching family history and DNA to better predict cancer risk. Screenings for higher risk patients can help diagnose cancer at earlier stages. Doctors are customizing treatments and choosing the most effective outcomes.
How can businesses help?
Encourage employees to access cancer screenings. Offer wellness, nutrition and exercise programs. Partner with hospitals for on-site education. Memorialcare.org provides online risk assessments, tools and information on prevention, screenings, diagnosis and treatments.
MemorialCare Health System, a not-for profit, integrated delivery system, includes six top hospitals — Long Beach Memorial, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial, and Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills and San Clemente; medical groups — MemorialCare Medical Group and Memorial Prompt Care; the Independent Practice Association (IPA) Greater Newport Physicians; retail health; ambulatory surgery centers; and numerous outpatient facilities across the Southland.
Philip DiSaia, M.D., is medical director at MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial.
Amanda Termuhlen, M.D, is medical director at Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center, Miller Children’s Hospital.
Insights Health Care is brought to you by MemorialCare Health System