Business Development on the Green

Driving a dimpled ball down the fairway can be good for business — as long as you know what you’re doing. Here’s a guide to business golf that can help you build relationships and open the door for more sales. Just remember: The course probably isn’t the place where the deal is clinched.

Golf has its detractors but one thing is clear: The game is a valuable way for companies to bring in revenue. Many executives believe golf is an essential business tool. “Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk.” — Sportswriter Grantland Rice

Strategic golf isn’t the same as recreational golf. Courting business on the course means keeping your business purpose in mind and focusing on your customers. You need to shift effortlessly between business and the sport.

Golf can be expensive but it’s widely viewed as a profitable investment. According to some estimates, businesses bring in more than $1,500 in business revenue for every dollar spent on strategic golfing. That may explain why the golf course outscores the hockey arena as a venue for business. (It comes in second place just below restaurants.)

But, like any other business investment, you want to maximize the return in terms of the amount of money and time spent.

business_golfTo help with that goal, here are seven rules to help keep the game above par when playing with business associates:

1. Assess your corporate goals. Prepare for the day as you would for any business or board meeting. Think about what you want to accomplish, whether it’s to network, lay the foundation for new business, or strengthen a customer relationship.

2. Know the game. New golfers should have played at least five rounds of golf and have a few lessons before attempting to play business golf. If you score higher than average, let the rest of the group know in advance to save yourself some embarrassment.

3. Stay professional and polite. As a representative of your company, show professionalism in the way you play and adhere to dress codes. If in doubt, call the club to get the policy. Never wear jeans or tee shirts.
Obviously, don’t criticize how others are playing, don’t give advice unless asked, and don’t brag about your performance. In addition, don’t lose your temper, swear, or show rudeness. People who cheat at golf are often seen as likely to cheat in business.

And forget the cell phone. Many courses ban them and even if they don’t, turn yours off. A sure way to lose a sale is to have your cell phone ring or play a song just as your prospective customer is taking aim at a putt that’s going to win the round. Checking your e-mail messages on your phone? That’s probably considered rude on the course.

4. Find the right mix. Put together a foursome with similar golfing abilities and temperaments. Ask if they prefer mornings or late-afternoon tee times. Introduce everyone so they feel at ease and consider providing a short advance bio of the players.

5. Let the client bring up business. Tolerance levels for business chat on the course varies widely, so follow the lead of fellow players. Don’t put business ahead of relationship building. Formal business discussions will follow on another day. If the conversation turns to business, keep it light and brief.

6. Don’t forget the 19th hole. After the round is over, make sure to allow time for some food, drinks and socializing. This is the time to talk business. Mix the discussions with talk about how the game went. Focus on the highlights, not the bad shots. If the game went badly, this is also a good time to smooth things over.

Remember to follow through after the round. Make a phone call or arrange a visit and, with any luck, secure a signed contract. Otherwise, you haven’t finished the game or maximized your investment.

If you really hate golf, don’t bother with it. Pretending you’re having a great time when you’re miserable probably won’t work. The time and mental investment involved in golf is too great and the return will likely be too small. There are other ways to entertain prospects that everyone will enjoy.

 

Does Your Business Have the Right Insurance?

business-insuranceBusiness owners need to be prepared for unexpected events that could potentially threaten their ability to operate. Fire, floods, lawsuits, or the sudden death of a key employee are just some of the potential hazards they may face. Having the right insurance coverage can help minimize the impact of such events. The following is a brief overview of various types of insurance that every business owner should consider.

Property Insurance

This basic insurance financially protects the physical assets of your business, such as land, buildings, inventory, furniture, documents, machinery, and similar items. Coverage can vary widely, so be sure you know what is — and what is not — covered by your policy. Also, make certain that your coverage is for replacement cost rather than original cost.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is a must in today’s lawsuit-happy society. It protects your business assets in case of a lawsuit for something your business did (or didn’t do) that caused injury or property damage. Liability insurance covers such claims as bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and damage from slander or false advertising.

Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella insurance is intended to protect a business from a major catastrophe or lawsuit. Typically, umbrella insurance steps in and provides the difference between your underlying general liability coverage and the actual cost of damages resulting from a lawsuit or disaster.

Business Interruption Insurance

This type of insurance reimburses you for the loss of income resulting from an insured catastrophic event, such as a fire. The policy covers the profits you would have earned if no interruption had occurred. And it pays for expenses that you continue to incur even though your business is not operating normally, such as debt payments, taxes, and salaries.

Key Person Insurance

You’ll need key person life insurance to protect your business in case you, a partner, or other key employee dies. If you operate your business with multiple partners, you should consider using life insurance to fund a buy-sell agreement. Disability insurance is also a must for you and your key people.

Errors and Omissions (Professional Liability) Insurance

If you are in the business of giving advice, making educated recommendations, designing solutions, or representing the needs of others, you may want to consider errors and omissions insurance. This type of coverage protects you against claims that something you did on a client’s behalf was incomplete or inadequate, cost your client money, or caused harm in some way.

Errors and omission insurance may be appropriate if you run a consulting business, design software or websites, sell real estate or insurance, operate a career placement business, etc.

The bottom line is that no business can afford to operate without adequate insurance coverage in this day and age. For assistance in reviewing your present coverage, please contact us.

How Does Your Investment Garden Grow?

Image 1Getting ready to plant your garden now that the weather is warmer? Before you start, you’ll have to choose the kinds of plants you want and where they will go in your yard. You can’t just throw all the seeds on the ground and hope for the best.

Choosing what portion of your total portfolio to invest in different asset classes — a process called asset allocation1 — is a lot like planning a garden. Each major asset class — stocks, bonds, and cash — has different risk characteristics. Selecting the right mix of investments to fit your objectives, time frame, and risk tolerance can have a big impact on whether or not you reach your financial goals.

Plant for Growth

If you’re investing for the long term and have several years until you’ll need your money, you may want to devote a large percentage of your portfolio to equity investments. In fact, you should consider putting some money in stocks even if you’ll need your money sooner. Although stocks are volatile, they offer the greatest potential for inflation-beating returns and, historically, have generally outperformed other investment types over the long term. Selecting a variety of stock types, such as foreign and large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks, from several different sectors of the economy will help diversify1 your portfolio.

Add Some Contrast

To help manage risk, consider diversifying beyond stocks. Fixed income2 investment values often move in the opposite direction of stock values and may help cushion your portfolio against major losses when stocks are not performing well.

Cash for Color

Cash investments,3 such as Treasury bills, help you invest for short-term goals and can easily be converted to cash in an emergency. But keep in mind that rates of return on cash investments are typically low and may not keep pace with inflation.

1 Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against losses.

2 Prices of fixed income securities may fluctuate due to interest-rate changes. Investors may lose money if bonds are sold before maturity.

3 Cash alternative investments may not be federally guaranteed or insured and it is possible to lose money by investing in cash alternatives.

Employee or Independent Contractor?

employee_typesThe question is an important one. Failure to properly classify your workers may subject your business to large financial penalties. Under the “common law” rules developed by the courts, a worker generally is an employee for federal tax purposes if the employer has the right to control and direct the worker regarding the job he is to do and how he is to do it.

Tax Implications

Employees and independent contractors are treated differently for income-tax withholding and employment-tax purposes. With an employee, the business generally must withhold income taxes from the employee’s pay and remit those taxes to the federal (and state, if applicable) government. The business and the employee share the responsibility for Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes on the employee’s earnings. The business also must pay unemployment taxes for the worker. With an independent contractor, income-tax withholding is not required and the contractor is fully liable for his or her own self-employment taxes. FICA taxes and unemployment taxes do not apply.

Stiff Penalties

The IRS penalty for the unintentional failure to withhold federal income tax is 1.5% of the wages paid. Also, if IRS Form 1099-MISC (an “information return”) is not filed, the penalty is doubled to 3% of wages paid. As for Social Security and Medicare taxes, an employer’s unintentional failure to withhold the employee’s share of the tax results in a 20% IRS penalty. That assessment is doubled to 40% for an employer’s failure to also file an information return for the worker.

An intentional misclassification of the worker by the employer results in an income-tax liability equal to the amount that should have been withheld and 100% of the employee’s and employer’s share of the Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Making the Call

If there is a question about whether a particular worker is an employee or an independent contractor, a company should analyze its entire relationship with the worker. The primary focus should be the degree of direction and control the company exercises over the worker. The IRS has a number of specific factors that come into play, but, in general, the more direction and control, the more likely it is that a worker is an employee.

Important Birthdays Related to Your Taxes

happy-birthdayFrom a tax standpoint, some birthdays are more important than others. Here are some notable tax milestones.

BIRTH: You generally can start claiming a dependency exemption for your child in the year he or she is born. In 2014, the exemption is $3,950, subject to phaseout for higher income taxpayers. For married taxpayers filing jointly, the phaseout begins with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $305,050, and the credit is completely phased out with an AGI of $427,550.*

13: The child care credit is available to eligible working parents until the year their child turns 13. The credit is 20% to 35% of employment-related child care expenses, depending on income. The maximum amount of expenses eligible for the credit is $3,000 for one qualifying child and $6,000 for two or more. As a general rule, qualifying expenses are limited to the earned income of the spouse who earns the lesser amount (no earned income, no child care credit).

17: A child tax credit is available until the year a child turns age 17. The maximum credit is $1,000 per qualified child, and it is phased out above certain income amounts.

19: Your child may continue to qualify as your dependent until the year he or she reaches age 19. If your child is enrolled as a full-time student for some part of five calendar months during the year, then he or she can qualify as your dependent until age 24.

59½:You won’t have to worry about the 10% penalty tax on early withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts and traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) once you reach age 59½.

65: If you claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing your deductions, you can celebrate your 65th birthday with an additional standard deduction. For 2014, the additional standard deduction is $1,200 for a married individual (filing jointly or separately) or a surviving spouse and $1,550 for a single or head-of-household taxpayer.

70½: After you reach age 70½, annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer retirement plans generally must start — and they represent taxable income. (Your plan may allow you to delay RMDs if you are still working for the company sponsoring the plan and you are not a 5% owner.)

* The 2014 AGI phaseout range for single taxpayers is $254,200 to $376,700. It’s $279,650 to $402,150 for heads of household.

 

Tax Return Identity Theft – What Should You Do?

tax_identity_theftRecent reports of identity theft related to tax filings have been reported by local dentists. We would like to take a moment to remind you that the IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN. However, the IRS does NOT contact taxpayers by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS might think you already filed and got your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.

If you think someone has used your SSN for a tax refund or the IRS sends you a notice or letter indicating a problem —contact the IRS Identity protection unit immediately, 1-800-908-4490. Specialists will work with you to get your tax return filed, get you any refund you are due, and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future. Make sure you take the following steps to minimize the effectss

1. Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and attach it to a paper-filed tax return to the IRS with a letter of explanation.  You will also need to include with the Form 14039 the following:

  • A clear and legible photocopy of your identification – a passport, driver’s license, social security card, or other US Federal/State government issued identification.
  • Telephone # to best reach you (home, work, cell) and a best time to call

2. Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the identity theft atwww.consumer.gov/idtheft, or call the hotline at 877-438-4338.

3. Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.

4. Contact each of the three major credit bureaus:

5. Notify your personal financial institutions/banks.

6. Consider filing a police report, but without a lot of information, the local police often won’t file a report.

Once the IRS receives the Identity Theft Affidavit they will begin their investigation.  Please be aware there are significant processing delays with this unit.  You must allow 204 days (6-8 months) for their investigation.  There are over 1 million cases, so it is a long process!  If no information has been provided after 204 days, then we suggest calling the specialized unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Agency Revamps Safety Intervention Grant Program

If you are an employer in Ohio and have not had an opportunity to review the BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant program, time is of the essence to do so.

safetyThe items available for the Safety Grant have changed – they now include items that would assist medical offices of all kinds in patient moving and patient care, as well as automatic transplanters for agriculture environments, and industrial applications like powered dolly equipment for stairs, wheeled carts, walk-behind loaders, and power equipment designed to turn valves.

The grant is a 3-to-1 matching grant, up to a maximum of $40,000 per eligibility cycle. To be eligible, you must be current on your BWC premiums, demonstrate a need for a safety intervention, and have active BWC coverage with four past payroll reports for private employers.

To get started, review the link on BWC’s website. Gather your information and schedule a visit by a BWC safety consultant before you complete the application – then you won’t be spinning your wheels. You will have to submit quarterly reports back to the BWC, but that is not unusual in the grant process.

Best practices, case studies and success stories are available at the BWC site as well.

For more information contact Sharon Trabbic, COO, at William Vaughan Company at 419-891-1040, and stay tuned on significant changes coming to the Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation program in 2015. William Vaughan Company will be hosting a free, informational seminar in the fall of 2014 to review the changes. As soon as a date is confirmed, we will send all our clients registration information.

By: Sharon Trabbic, COO