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Related News

Ancient philosophers had surprisingly helpful advice for modern small business owners

(By Paul Hense, CPA, past chairman of SBAM. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)

We often believe the problems we have as a small business owner are unique. The reality is that people have struggled with the same problems for centuries. Marcus Aurelius (121 to 180 AD) was a Roman Emperor and author of “Meditations,” a book he wrote during a military campaign in Gaul. He was the elderly Roman Emperor in the movie “Gladiator.” Epictetus (50 to 130 AD) was a Greek slave owned by a Roman master. Jiddu Krishnamurti ( 1895 to 1986) was a Hindu and Buddhist philosopher from India. He was the author of many books including my favorite, “The Awakening of Intelligence.”

These men from distant times in distant places wrote about the most fundamental of human problems. They pursued fulfillment through the search for reality.

Of the thousands of philosophers who have written books, I have chosen these three because these are the three that have made the greatest impression on me. Here are a few of their quotes that push me to see the connection between philosophical wisdom and every day business.

From Jiddu Krishnamurti, “If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come of it, because the solution is not separate from the problem.” One of the worst things a business owner can do is to misunderstand the problem sometimes correct a problem that doesn’t exist while leaving the true problem unaddressed.

From Jiddu Krishnamurti, “What is needed rather than a running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistances is understanding fear: that means one should learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape it.” During these economically unstable times, fear often causes business owners to make bad decisions. It would be almost inhuman to expect someone to face financial difficulty calmly and coolly. Knowing that you’re afraid and that your fear is affecting your decision making gives you an opportunity to alleviate that fear by understanding.

From Marcus Aurelius, “Began to begin is half the work, but half still remained; again begin this and I will have finished.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but once I start something I find it difficult to stop. If I never start a project, that pretty much guarantees that it will never be finished. Starting the project is 50% of the problem. Once you have started a project you have been avoiding you most likely will finish it.

From Marcus Aurelius, “Look back over the past with its changing empires that rose and fell you can see the future too. “ That’s what financial statements are for. Your financial statement tells you your history. Looking at years of the company’s financial statements tells you their history. If you want to avoid failure, look at General Motors, Enron and other failed ventures. If you are seeking success, look at the financial statements and histories of companies like Microsoft. Textbooks teach you histories of countries. Financial statements are the histories of failed and successful companies.

From Marcus Aurelius, “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” Much is made of the glamour of being a business owner. What is often not recognized is that a successful company is the result of simply hard work. Dancing is elegant. Success in wrestling is often simply a function of which contestant is the most determined. It’s not pretty. Operating businesses is much the same.

From Epictetus, “Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by their opinions about things that happen.” One business owner faces a crisis and turns it into an opportunity. Another business owner faces crisis and collapses. It’s all in how you view it.

Epictetus, “If a man has

How Michigan is tilling the ground to foster the growth of "economic gardening." Wednesday at 10 a.m. on Business Next.

Learn about the terrific new economic gardening programs being offered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Interview with the MEDC's Tom Rico. Also, David Lingholm of Answer Santiago has words of wisdom to help guide you through the world of small business social media. And, an overview of the new University of Michigan’s Master of Entrepreneurship program. Interview with Aileen Huang-Saad & Bill Lovejoy, program co-directors.

Listen Wednesday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Michigan Business Network. Listen to archived programs anytime at your convenience on your PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page

Get Business Next audio seminars delivered three times a week automatically to your iPhone or other mobile device. Subscribe in iTunes using this URL

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnbalcombe/

You can be the SBAM Facebook member of the week!

On March 31, Facebook is rolling out a new look for the Facebook “brand” pages (like SBAM’s). The new design will feature a large, prominent image at the top of the page. We’re excited about sharing this new promotional imaging opportunity with you, our SBAM member firms! 

Beginning April 2, each week we are going to feature on the SBAM Facebook page a picture from an SBAM member. We invite you to start sending your photos today! What are we looking for? Pictures that illustrate the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit of our members. Be creative – don’t just send us your logo or a photo of your building. Email your photo (or questions) to michael.rogers@sbam.org.

IRS clarifies W-2 reporting of group health plan coverage costs to employees

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, many employers will soon be required to report to employees the cost of their group health plan coverage. As the deadline gets closer, many employers are having trouble figuring out how they are supposed to calculate the reportable cost.

The IRS has recently provided some guidance, but first, here is some background information.

As part of the sweeping healthcare law, reporting of the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored healthcare benefits is to be made on annual Form W-2s. It was originally supposed to start with the 2011 calendar year but reporting for last year was made optional after the IRS provided relief (IRS Notice 2010).

The IRS recently issued guidance (IRS Notice 2012-9) to help employers with the mandatory reporting that is scheduled to begin with 2012 W-2 forms. Employers are generally required to give 2012 W-2 forms to employees by January 31, 2013, and then file them with the Social Security Administration.

Important: The reporting requirement is informational only. It does not affect whether coverage is excludable from gross income under the tax code and does not affect the amount includable in income or the amount reported in any other box on Form W-2. It also does not cause otherwise excludable employer-provided healthcare coverage to become taxable.  

"The purpose of the reporting is to provide useful and comparable consumer information to employees" on the cost of their coverage, according to the IRS. 
Fortunately, there is relief from the reporting requirements for some employers. Here are some highlights of the latest IRS guidance:

If an employer issues W-2 forms for less than 250 employees in the preceding year, it is exempt from the W-2 reporting requirement.

Tribally chartered corporations, which are wholly owned by federally recognized Indian tribal governments, are also exempt.

The aggregate reportable cost generally includes the portion of the cost paid by the employer and the portion of the cost paid by the employee, regardless of whether the employee paid for it through pre-tax or after-tax contributions.

Employers who are subject to the reporting requirements include federal, state and local government entities, churches and other religious organizations, as well as employers that are not subject to the COBRA continuation coverage requirements under the tax code, to the extent such employers provide applicable employer-sponsored coverage under a group health plan.

The aggregate reportable cost will be reported on Form W-2 in box 12, using code DD.

What are the requirements if a staff member terminates employment during the year? An employer may "apply any reasonable method of reporting the cost of coverage provided under a group health plan" for the employee, provided that the method is used consistently for all employees receiving coverage under that plan who leave their jobs during the plan year and continue or otherwise receive coverage after the termination of employment. However, an employer is not required to report any amount in box 12 using Code DD for a departing employee who has requested to receive a Form W-2 before the end of the calendar year.

An employer also does not have  to issue a W-2 reporting the healthcare cost to retirees, who are not otherwise required to receive a W-2.

An employer is not required to include the cost of coverage under a dental or vision plan if it satisfies the requirements for being excepted benefits under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). (Generally, to be excepted benefits for this purpose, the dental or vision benefits must either:

1. Be offered under a separate policy, certificate, or contract of insurance (that is, not offered under the same policy, certificate, or contract of insu

Tips on cutting your energy costs, and customer service insights. Today at 10 a.m. on Business Next!

Tips on cutting your energy costs, and insights into the customer service values of a unique "green" small business. Interview with Denny Duchene, founder of Inspired Green of Grand Ledge. Also, this week's small business legislative update with David Jessup, SBAM's director of government relations.

Listen today at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Michigan Business Network. Listen to archived programs anytime at your convenience on your PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page

Get Business Next audio seminars delivered three times a week automatically to your iPhone or other mobile device. Subscribe in iTunes using this URL

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/40739700@N08/