Accounting & Finance

Business Owner's Guide to Profit Planning

Owner's Guide to Profit Planning

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Benefits Law Update

Michigan Enacts Health Care Claims Tax
Article provided by Clark Hill PLC

On September 20, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the Health Insurance Claims Assessment (HICA) Act, which establishes a 1% tax on certain paid health care claims beginning January 1, 2012.  The HICA Act replaces the current 6% Use Tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.  The Michigan Legislature enacted the HICA Act based on anticipated action by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid offices prohibiting the Use Tax as a means of generating State revenue to be used as a match for federal Medicaid funds.

Who Pays the Tax?

Insurers and third-party claims administrators for self-funded plans will be directly responsible for payment of the tax.  Employers/plan sponsors, however, should be aware that the HICA Act will likely cause an increase in the cost of coverage as it is anticipated that insurers and third party administrators will pass the cost onto the plan sponsor.

What "Paid Claims" Does the Tax Cover?

The HICA Act defines "paid claims" as actual payments made to a health and medical services provider or reimbursed to an individual by a carrier (including an insurer, HMO or group health plan sponsor), third party administrator, or excess loss or stop loss carrier.  Paid claims include the following:

  • Payments under a service contract for administrative services;
  • Cost-plus or noninsured benefit plan arrangements;
  • Payments for health and medical services provided under a group health plan;
  • Claims for services in Michigan by a pharmacy benefits manager;
  • Individual, nongroup, and group insurance coverage for Michigan residents in Michigan that affect the rights of an insured in Michigan and bear a reasonable relation to Michigan, regardless of whether the coverage is delivered, renewed, or issued for delivery in Michigan.

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Are You a Small Business C-Corp? Be Cautious About Reorganizing Just to Take Advantage of the New Six Percent Corporate Tax Rate

From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine

Business tax reform, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, eliminates the job-killing Michigan Business Tax (MBT) and the MBT Surcharge, replacing it with a 6 percent corporate income tax on C-corps only.

If you are a C-Corp and a small business, you really need to talk to your CPA about the several strategies available to you, advises Angela McGarry, a Lansing-based CPA who testified in favor of business tax reform this spring before the State Senate.

“If your profit is going to be consistently over $50,000 a year then, you might want to consider an S-election or some other entity, but that also has its complications,” says McGarry. “You’re going to want to consult with a CPA to do the conversion from a C-Corp to an S-election. It’s important to get an appraisal, because if in the future your business becomes very successful and you want to sell you have to be careful of the built in federal gains tax. You’ll wish you had an appraisal if that ever happens. Again, it’s a complicated issue and you need to talk to your CPA.”

McGarry says she believes that overall, the new tax law changes are going to be very beneficial to small businesses. It will give them extra dollars to spend on labor or that extra piece of equipment they need in their business,” she says.

Friend Raising -- Getting the People Right Before Raising the Money

Money is the focus of many business meetings and strategic planning sessions. How do we get more sales? How do we fund our growth plans? How do we cover our cash flow? These are just a few of the multitude of money issues that small business owners deal with on a daily basis. As important as the answers to these questions are; there is something more important than FUND raising and that is FRIEND RAISING.

Friend raising can take many forms. For a start-up it is getting those closest to us to buy into our crazy ideas. And for established businesses, networking is a popular and effective technique to open new sales opportunities. But there is so much more to be gained by making new business friends inside and outside your business. The best part is many of these ideas can be done for free.

 Build your board. Every company should have a board. It doesn’t have to be a board of directors that have authority over your organization, but an advisory board can be a very invaluable tool, especially when facing tough decisions. An advisory board will provide an outside perspective to your business and can both encourage and challenge you. When selecting board members, look for people who believe in you and your business. Be selective, not every personal friend should be on your board. Choose people who will bring a different perspective to your business. Often retired professionals in your industry can impart a wealth of information from their years of experience.

 Make friends in your industry. Even competitors can be friends and you never know when you may need to partner with someone on a project or vice versa. Attending trade shows and industry events is a great place to meet new friends and become aware of even more opportunities. Keith Ferrazzi talks about the many techniques for making friends in his book, “Never Eat Alone.” This includes, as the title says, building friends over coffee, lunch and dinner. Spending time together and sharing reality with each other builds friendships. Be honest and expect honesty from others and true friends will emerge.

There are many other friends you can make including mentors and political allies that you will find to be valuable contacts when the need arises.

"If you go out looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
— Zig Ziglar

Nothing is ever free. Making friends is hard work. If you look for friends that can help you but are not willing to reciprocate your friendship may be short lived. You must be the friend that you seek in others. See everyone not as a sales target but a potential friend and you will find many friends and sales opportunities will follow.

Todd A. Luhtanen is a serial entrepreneur, business consultant and founder of Talan SBS a Michigan-based provider of Small Business Services, www.talansbs.com.

DIVERSIFICATION – One Path to Increasing Revenue

By Nancy Boese, Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

Companies have different stages of development and the decision to diversify into new markets or new products can be daunting. There are several situations that indicate a company may be ready to diversify. Companies should consider diversifying for any of the following reasons:
  • One customer is over 50 percent of the total revenue
  • One industry is over 50 percent of the total revenue
  • Company has reached a plateau in sales and the market is saturated
  • Company has reached a plateau in sales and opportunities are available
  • Company has excess cash and can purchase a business to expand its markets

There are many options to solve these situations. One factor to consider is the risk the company is willing to take to expand. A renowned business tool is the Ansoff matrix. The Ansoff Matrix provides four options for diversification:

  • Market Penetration: The company increases revenue with existing products in existing markets. The intent is to increase its market share.
  • Market Development: The company sells existing products to new market segments.
  • Product Development: The company develops new products/services to sell to its current customers.
  • Diversification: The firm grows by developing new business opportunities with new products for new markets.

What are the Risks?

There is risk involved with each quadrant. The Market Penetration quadrant with existing products and existing customers is the least risky, takes the least amount of money, and provides the quickest results. The highest risk section would be Diversification. This area takes the longest to develop and requires extensive investment of time, people, resources, and money. The Product Development and Market Development both have a higher level of risk than using the Market Penetration strategy. The level of risk for these two areas is dependent on development time, financial commitment, and company resource requirements.

To determine which opportunity the company should pursue, several steps need to be completed.

1. The first is to conduct market research. This can include any or all of the following: Primary research, which could include surveying current or future customers, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and various other techniques. A wealth of information is also available through secondary sources. Research conducted by various government offices, trade associations, or private companies can help provide a base for discussion and analysis. For example: If the company decided to use the Market Development Strategy and wanted to diversify geographically, information could be gathered on the area’s economic situation, number of customers in the area that meet the target market definition, and other vital information.

2. Once the information has been gathered and analyzed, the company needs to establish what they want to accomplish with their strategy. Establishing realistic goals that will accomplish the outcomes desired by the company is vital to evaluating if the diversification strategy is working. The outcomes should be easily extracted from the accounting system or customer relationship management system.

3. Reaching an agreement on which diversification strategy to use can be the most challenging step. There are different decision making models which can be utilized. In general, the company wants to determine which opportunity will best help accomplish the goals already established. In addition, the company may need information on costs, staffing, new infrastructure requirements, etc to identify the best diversification strategy.

The University of Michigan is Open for Business

By Daryl Weinert (from the Small Business Association of Michigan’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

Recently, economists from the University of Michigan gave us all a rare piece of good news – Michigan will see positive job growth in 2011 for the first time in over a decade. At the same time, they asserted that challenges remain. One critical challenge is how to connect the state’s universities to the needs of the business community. At the University of Michigan, we’ve created The Business Engagement Center (BEC) – a new mechanism to help companies find solutions to real-world business challenges. 

Essentially, the BEC serves as a “matchmaker,” helping companies navigate the complex structure of the university to find resources for their business. One resource is student projects. When Adaptive Materials – an Ann Arbor-based fuel cell manufacturer – needed help with defining a new commercial market strategy for its fuel cell systems, the BEC matched the company to the Ross School of Business’s Multidisciplinary Action Program. This seven-week program pairs first year MBA students with companies seeking solutions to a variety of business challenges. The team was able to conduct research on the market, compile a list of customer contacts, and assemble a pitch for use in future sales campaigns. Additionally, the team delivered the tools to help company executives evaluate and prioritize new inquiries for other uses for their products.

Another critical resource is talent. Recently, the BEC helped North American Bancard – a Troy-based credit card payment solutions provider- sponsor a ‘Hackathon’ – a 48-hour mobile device application creation contest. Through their sponsorship, the company was able to increase their visibility specifically to a targeted group of students and establish a pipeline program for students to participate in internships and independent study courses. The university has also experimented with several small company programs building on its research strength. EcoMotors, an Allen Park-based developer of clean, efficient and lightweight propulsion systems, participated in the university’s Small Company Innovation Program. This cost-sharing research collaboration allows companies to leverage U-M research expertise by partnering to tackle relevant technical challenges (the university provides matching funds of up to $30,000). The BEC also helps to connect companies with university collaborators in pursuing federal or state research grants such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding.

The university has also launched a small company career fair to expose students to job opportunities at smaller, high growth companies within the state of Michigan. Known as the MPowered Career Fair, nearly 100 organizations attended in 2010. Companies that attend the career fair can also apply for the Small Company Internship Program, which offers university cost sharing to hire students for a 12 week summer internship.

The University of Michigan has never before been so ready for collaboration. With programs designed to unlock the entrepreneurial aspirations of our students, with our Technology Transfer office spinning out companies and commercializing ideas at an increasing pace, and with new interfaces like the Business Engagement Center, U-M is open for business as never before. The BEC is designed to help companies find talent, explore research partnerships, educate professional staff, identify technologies, engage with students, and consult with faculty. Make a date with the Business Engagement Center: www.bec.umich.edu.

Daryl Weinert is Executive Director of the University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center.
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