Help For Small Businesses Struggling With Obamacare

Professional employer organizations (PEOs) are a possible solution to help small  companies maneuver through the Affordable Care Act, also known as  Obamacare. With enrollment for health care reform beginning Oct. 1, (shutdown or not) many entrepreneurs are still be wondering how to deal with some of the hard to understand new requirements the law will bring.

Anish Rajparia,  president of ADP ’s Small Business Services division, ADP TotalSource and ADP Retirement Services in Roseland, New Jersey, estimates that now only about 5% to 10% of U.S. small businesses use a PEO. But he believes that at least 30% to 40% of small businesses should consider the tool as an alternative option to help them deal with the many complexities of Obamacare.

PEOs are firms providing services that allow companies to outsource their management of human resource duties, including  employee benefits, payroll, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance claims and other administrative  tasks. The goal: Relieve the PEO client of those functions so the entrepreneur can focus on running the business and increasing the bottom line.

While many entrepreneurs often handle their own HR issues, some appear to be shifting to PEOs because candidly they don’t want to risk if they are fully complying with the law. “When Obamacare came along, I think they realized I’m overhead on this one and now it’s time to  call in the professionals to make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” says  Kerry Carruthers, director of marketing and communications at the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO)  in Alexandria, Virginia.

Infinity Technology LLC, a McLean, Virginia-based service disabled veteran and black-owned firm that provides  information technology, acquisition management and consulting services to federal government agencies, has provided insurance to workers since it started in 2005.  It now has 75 employees.

President and CEO Erdley Bent Jr. “Bentley” says it is too soon to tell whether or how (insurance) costs  will change as a result of health care reform. However, he says, the Affordable Care Act is just one example of how much human resource management rules are continuously changing and getting more complex.

“TotalSource helps my company stabilize the costs of changing compliance and how we administer benefits, process payroll, manage HR, and track employee hours,” Bent says. He projects company revenue of $13 million for 2013.

Infinity Technology teamed with ADP TotalSource as a PEO partner a few years ago. “Since then, I have had the peace of mind knowing that whatever laws that were passed that could affect our business, we did not have to worry, because ADP TotalSource took care of compliance for us,.” Bent says.

The latest figures show a growing business. Revenue for the PEO industry totaled $92 billion in 2012, up 14% from  2010, the year health care reform was signed into law, Carruthers says. She attributes some of that increase to Obamacare from what NAPEO is hearing from small businesses.

Prepared or not, the Obamacare healthcare exchanges open  Oct. 1, providing an online marketplace by state for people to shop for health insurance. Americans on average will pay a premium of $328 monthly for a mid-tier health insurance plan, the Obamacare administration reports. (See a list of web sites that provide people more details on what insurance coverage options to consider and check if they are eligible to get a subsidy or tax credit to  help offset or pay for the cost).

One of  the nation’s largest PEO providers, ADP TotalSource makes available health benefits to employees of about 6,900 small and mid-size businesses. “We can offer them guidance on what mandated benefits to offer, and help them remain competitive and compliant by integrating payroll, workforce optimization, and time and labor management with benefits,” Rajparia says.

Alan Reid, president and CEO of  EMPO Partners, a black-owned Minneapolis-based PEO and human resource outsourcing firm, says PEOs are able to aggregate their small business clients’ purchasing power to access affordable health care and employee benefit programs that typically are only afforded  to much larger companies.

“This in turn provides the clients of PEOs a competitive advantage to attract and retain top talent to grow their businesses,” says Reid, also a board member of NAPEO.

Dave Imbrogno,  senior vice president of service and operations at ADP Totalsource, says the cost of a PEO for a business could depend on many factors. Some of those factors include the size of the business, what state it operates in and its employees’ job duties and functions.

Here are tips from ADP TotalSource and Black Enterprise research to help individuals and businesses embrace Obamacare:

1. Evaluate the law’s potential impact on your business, including its legal, tax, compliance and financial requirements.

2. Communicate to employees the evolving benefits landscape, including enrollment options and new requirements they will need to comply with (e.g., individual mandate) under the law.

3. Implement single sourced, integrated solutions that manage employee eligibility, enrollment, and education and help employers optimize compliance and decisions on benefits strategies.

4. Some web sites to visit with more details on health care reform are: www.sba.gov, www.prevention.com/aca-centerwww.healthcare.gov, www.adp.com/health-care-reform and www.business.usa.gov/healthcare

Barilla Responds To Call For Company Boycott After Traditional Family Remarks

U.S. and international civil and gay rights supporters called for a boycott of Italian pasta maker Barilla, following remarks made by its chairman that he would never feature gay families and couples in company ads. Guido Barilla, 55, sparked heated twitter frenzy and protest with comments he made to an Italian radio station last week. Barilla has since issued an apology on the company’s website. But his comments have done little to ease calls for boycotts and petitions by thousands.

The controversy began when Barilla was asked why the company had no same-sex couples in its advertising. He responded, according to the Huffingtonpost, “We have a slightly different culture. For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family.” Barilla also said he was unconcerned with whether gay consumers would stop buying pasta from the privately held company that is the world’s biggest pasta maker.

“If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta. You can’t always please everyone not to displease anyone. I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don’t agree with them, and I think we want to talk to traditional families. The women are crucial in this.”

Barilla runs the 140-year-old pasta company with brothers Luca and Paolo. According to its website, the company employs 8,000 people and its 30 production sites manufacture 1.7 million tons of products each year.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has offices in Los Angeles and New York, rallied behind the petition of an Italian-American mother in Connecticut who has a gay son. A MoveOn.org petition started by Beth Allen, a Takoma Park, Maryland, mother of two and a lesbian, garnered over 85,000 signatures within 48 hours. The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equal rights group, posted a list on its website of five Barilla competitors that are gay and lesbian-friendly.

Two of Barilla’s pasta competitors, Buitoni and Bertolli, took to Facebook to respond and capitalize on Barilla’s negative publicity. Butitoni’s Faceboook page posted an image featuring pasta with the basic message: “Pasta For All.”

Barilla has issued apologies it said for generating misunderstandings or hurting anyone’s feelings. The company chairman posted a video in English on Facebook, stating that in the interview, “I just wanted to underline the centrality of the woman’s role in the family.”  But he has “the utmost respect” for gay people and “for all loving marriages and families.” He also added, “It is clear that I have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family.”

Barilla reportedly supports same-sex marriage because that concerns people who want a marital contract, but that he doesn’t support adoption in gay families.  ”As a father of multiple children, I believe it’s very hard to raise kids in a same-sex couple,” Barilla said, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.

Last year, fast food chain Chick-fil-A angered LGBT rights groups after President Dan Cathy made remarks opposing same-sex marriage. Thousands of people pledged to boycott its 1,700 stores, while Cathy supporters staged a Chick-fil-A “Appreciation Day.”

Cathy never apologized for his comments and just three months ago used Twitter to voice his opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies,” Cathy wrote in a tweet that was later deleted.

USA Today however reported last month that that Chick-fil-A appeared to be offering a moderated view. “Our intent is not to support political or social agendas,” stated Steve Robinson, the firm’s executive vice president for marketing. He added that the company’s culture “is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect, regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

Annual Report: Does Your Business Need To File One?

annual report

Once you’ve formed an LLC or a corporation for your business, your operational and administrative obligations are going to be higher than a sole proprietor’s. While an LLC involves significantly less paperwork and formal administration than a corporation, both business entities generally need to file an annual report with the state.

Here’s what you need to know about this important filing to keep your small business in corporate compliance.

What is an Annual Report?

Also known as a Statement of Information, the annual report is typically required by the state so they can keep up to date with your company’s vital information. For example, you may be asked to submit information about directors and officers, and the registered agent and office address of the company.

In most states, there’s also a small filing fee associated with the report.

All states except Ohio and Alabama require some kind of annual report.

When is the Annual Report due?

Specific due dates vary from state to state. In some cases, the deadline falls on the anniversary of your business’ incorporation/formation date. In other cases, it’s when your annual tax statements are due and in some cases, it’s at the end of the calendar year.

Be sure to know your specific filing deadline by checking with your state’s secretary of state office.

What Kind of Information Do I Need to Include in the Annual Report?

The annual report will generally ask you for basic contact and operational information. The type of details you provided when you first filed to form your corporation or LLC. The specific details will vary by state and business type.

For example, an LLC in California will need to provide the following details in its annual report:

  • Business address.
  • Member names and addresses.
  • Business officers: President, secretary and treasurer.

What is an Initial Report?

In some states, LLCs and Corporations are also required to file an initial report shortly after the LLC/Corporation is formed. Like the annual report, the initial report contains basic information about business activity (registered address, directors, etc.).

At present, the following states require an initial report filing:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Washington

What Happens if I Don’t Turn in My Annual Report/Initial Report?

These reports may seem like a trivial paperwork, but they’re actually quite important. Missing the deadline can result in late penalties and fees (and there’s no reason your business should pay a dime more than it ought to).

In the worst case scenario (i.e. if you’ve skipped your annual report for multiple years on end), your company can be suspended or dissolved.

In addition, you need to think about keeping an LLC/corporation in good standing in order to maintain its “corporate shield.”  One of the biggest advantages of these formal business structures is that they minimize your personal liability (shields you from the activities of the business). But if your business happens to be sued and the plaintiff can show that you haven’t maintained your LLC/corporation to the letter of the law (i.e. your annual reports aren’t up to date), your corporate shield might be pierced and you can be personally liable.

As a small business owner, I know just how hectic your schedule can be. But be sure to set aside some time to address your business’ administrative obligations. Know your deadlines and get your paperwork in on time.

It’s a relatively easy task and will make sure your business stays in compliance (and you won’t have to pay any hefty fines).

Report Photo via Shutterstock

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Tumblr’s CEO: ‘I’m Not Super-Passionate About How We Run the Company’

David Karp, founder of Tumblr, strikes a pose.

Bright screens, Palo Alto and managing Tumblr … these are not a few of David Karp’s favorite things.

As a founder, is it wise to admit that you’re just not that into how your company is run? If you’re Tumblr founder David Karp, that might just be another item on a long list of things you don’t care about.

In a New York magazine interview, Karp impressed his interviewer, Molly Young, with the number of topics he found dull. She wrote:

Among the topics that bore him are cars (“I don’t like cars anymore”); Internet comments (“Gross”); his company’s colossally expensive infrastructure (“I have a very rudimentary understanding of how Tumblr actually works these days”); and management (“I’m not super-passionate about how we run the company”).

But these aren’t the first things that Karp is admittedly cool on. In fact, the 27-year-old CEO, who in June sold Tumblr to Yahoo for $1.1 billion, has a long-standing pattern of interview honesty regarding what he doesn’t like.

“I’m very antischedule,” he told Inc. “Except for board meetings, I don’t really schedule things or keep a calendar. I think appointments are caustic to creativity.”

“I don’t know how you could live in Palo Alto. It’s just boring,” he said to the Wall Street Journal.

“I don’t like screens very much,” he told T Magazine in a story about the design of his Brooklyn loft. “‘Big bright monitors drive me nuts’; screens in the bedroom are ‘gross.’”

So what is Karp into? In addition to coding and simple design aesthetics, Karp is currently obsessed with drones. “I fly my drones all over Brooklyn,” he told Young. “These things are amazing. These things are not regulated. I keep destroying them. I’ve had five of them.”


    



No More Paycheck-to-Paycheck: Survey Links Uptick in Job Security to Decline

One thing about the link between career and wealth-building: Negotiating what youj’re worth, saving and consistently keeping a cash flow —whether it’s your business or your personal life— is key.

And one survey shows that with the current uptick in the economy, paycheck-to-paycheck living may be a thing of the past.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, the number of U.S. workers dependent on their next payday to make ends meet continues to decline. Thirty-six percent of workers report that they “always or usually live paycheck to paycheck,” a recession-era low from its peak of 46% at the start of the Great Recession.

“The financial situation for many households remains a struggle, but year-after-year fewer workers report living paycheck to paycheck—a sign that job security and spending power may be on the rise as the labor market continues to improve,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “More workers are saving their earnings on a monthly basis than last year, and 70% feel they are more fiscally responsible post-recession. As more workers join the ranks of the gainfully employed, we expect these positive trends to continue.”

The percentage of those living paycheck to paycheck varies by factors including gender and age:

WOMEN: More likely than men to report living paycheck to paycheck (41% compared with 31%)

SENIORS: Less likely to report living paycheck to paycheck (32% of those 55 and older said they do, compared with 37% of those 25 to 34)

HIGH EARNERS: Less likely to live paycheck to paycheck (11% for those who make $100,000 or mor, compared 53% of those making less than $50,000)

Payroll Cards Offer Alternative for Businesses and Employees

payroll card

Employee debit cards offer a convenient alternative to paper checks. A payroll card allows businesses to avoid higher payroll fees. It also gives employees who may not have a bank account an easy way to access their money.

An estimate suggests $68.9 billion will be loaded onto payroll cards by 2017, reports MSN News. So you will be in good company, if you decide on this option.

But beware of state and federal wage rules when putting a debit card payment system into place. The American Payroll Association and the National Consumer Law Center share some cautions. Keeping these rules in mind can help you avoid legal hassles down the road.

Things to Watch with Payroll Card Programs

First, be sure employees can access their wages in cash without fees at least once a pay period.  Some debit cards have fees connected to withdrawing money.

But “free and clear access” to funds is required by many state wage and hour laws.

Any payroll card program you put into place should allow this access in any one of a number of ways. They could include things like ATM withdrawals, convenience checks, cash back at point of sale services or bank teller transactions.

Always Provide a Choice

Second, make sure employees have a choice other than a payroll card if they prefer it.

According to the American Payroll Association and the National Consumer Law Center, employees cannot be forced to take a payroll card as their only payment option. Direct deposit might be one option. However, some state wage and hour laws my also require a paper check option.

For example, a McDonald’s franchise in northeastern Pennsylvania was sued recently. The issue was a payroll card one former employee claimed had too many fees, the Huffington Post reported. The employee also claims the restaurant offered no other payment options.

Make sure you have all the information before starting a payroll card program in your business. Payroll cards can work effectively so long as you follow all the rules.

Card Photo via Shutterstock

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Week in Tech: Take the iPhone 5s for a Speed Test

Check out how the latest Apple device measures up. Plus–Facebook’s latest move to turn TV networks into advertisers.

Each Monday, I cover the tech trends, gadgets, business services, and apps of note. The goal is to highlight not just consumer flash-in-the-pan ideas, but real developments that could impact your business. Post in the comments if you spot other essential headlines!

1. Take the iPhone 5S for a speed test
Don’t miss this speed comparison test of every iPhone ever made. It’s quite fascinating to watch so many phones shutting down, booting, running apps at the same time. But there’s an even more important reason to watch. If you’re wondering about whether or not to deploy the iPhone 5s in your company, you might find it convincing (imagine the productivity increases!).

2. Google releases powerful Web designer
Google is serious about HTML5 being the standard for Web design and development (as opposed to tools like Java that may or may not work right on mobile devices). A brand new tool called Web Designer is like Photoshop for the Web in that it’s easy to use and yet powerful enough to create a real company website without a ton of training.

3. Ride (and learn from) the console wave
A new report about next-generation console interest is helpful to any small business trying to capture some of that intense momentum leading up to the November launches. Only 15 percent of respondents say they are interested in the Xbox One while 26 percent say they plan to buy the PS4. The report says the blame falls squarely on Microsoft’s mixed marketing message. The lesson: come out strong before launch with one clear message and stick with it. Also–if your company can attach to the console craze in any way, do so.

4. John McAfee announces D-Central security device
The famed security company founder, who has made headlines recently for various shenanigans, announced he wants to make a new device called the D-Central. It’s a gadget that will cost about $100 and form a private, secure network between other gadgets–in theory, blocking access from government agencies on the public Internet. The idea sounds interesting. For those concerned about business security, you could form a network to share files and messaging without touching the outside world. There are no details on the tech involved or a firm release date.

5. Facebook to hand over private data to TV networks
Facebook is planning to share users’ “likes” with the TV networks. While this will be done anonymously, it’s worth considering how this move is another step away from the closed, secure network much of the world has come to trust. According to reports, Facebook is offering the data to entice networks to place targeted ads.


    



Career Choice: 5 Steps to Monetizing Your Passion

(Image: Thinkstock)

There’s always talk about your career, fulfillment, happiness—and making a living from following your passion. The most successful people have said that only after doing what they truly love for a living did they see dynamic results that changed their lives.

With more workers looking for life fulfillment versus striving just for a paycheck, it’s important to know that purpose and passion can often equal profits, and that the myth that you have to remain at a job you hate just to pay the bills is a dangerous one.

But how do you monetize your passion? One writer offers five things to consider when trying work toward finding a way to do just that:

1. You can create a passion.

2. Stop thinking.
.
3. Following your passion might ruin it.

4. Passion is a lifestyle issue.

5. Your passions (can) change.