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6 myths about web-based health benefits for startups

When weighing options for benefits, many startups and small businesses have wild misunderstandings about administering web-based health benefits, so let us dispel these myths.

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Startups considering offering benefits

When a small business or startup grows to the point that benefits are under consideration for team members, the daunting task of making choices forces many to procrastinate about next steps, which got us to wondering – hasn’t the web made this process better?

Bernard Health is a company that provides non-commissioned, expert advice on health insurance, and their web-based software BerniePortal has helped more than 250 employers and 10,000 employees manage benefits. Let’s just say that they know a lot about this topic. We asked founder Alex Tolbert to help us make sense of web-based benefits for startups.

In his own words, Tolbert advises that there are six common myths surrounding web-based health benefits, and we would assert that the Obamacare debacle hasn’t helped diminish any fears, so Tolbert makes this easy for all to understand:

The top 6 myths:

1. You’re not ready to take your benefits administration process online.
When starting a business, managing benefits administration and filing paperwork is the last thing a business owner wants to worry about. For startups, going online with benefits solves a lot of the normal headaches. Why? Because everything you and your employees need will all be in one place, it eliminates the need for paperwork—saving time and money, and can help you stay compliant with health care reform rules.
The answer to “are you ready to take your benefits administration online?” depends on your group.

  • If you’re changing medical carriers this year, then the answer is almost invariably “yes.”
  • If you’re renewing everything “as is” and have a largely blue-collar workforce, then the answer is likely “no.”
  • If they are somewhere in between, then the answer is probably “it depends.”

You should talk with your broker or benefits advisor to be confident in your decision to go online and help you select a benefits administration tool you like.

2. You won’t save time by administering benefits online.
Often, startups avoid offering benefits altogether because of the cost and time required to manage the administration. However, online benefits administration can save you time and money if you choose the right platform. Make sure that the system you choose allows you to streamline and manage everything from one spot. Don’t get stuck with a system that lets you upload your benefits online but still requires your employees to print off and turn in election sheets.

3. You won’t be able to manage the entire enrollment process in one place.
Get it right from the beginning by selecting a system that allows you to manage the entire process in one place. Again, keeping everything in one place saves time and money, giving you the power to focus on growing your business.

When evaluating online systems ask:

  • Are you able to process enrollments?
  • Are your employees able to make their elections easily?
  • Are you able to manage any qualifying event changes as needed?

4. You should expect additional expenses to add extra features to your platform.
To avoid this dilemma, make sure any platform you select is cost effective and won’t charge you for every added benefit. For example: you offer health, dental, vision and life benefits to your employees but your online system will only allow you to upload three benefits without having to pay an additional fee. Before you select a benefits administration platform, be sure that you are able to upload all of your company’s benefits without being penalized.

5. You can’t afford to administer benefits online.
There are many affordable options for startups to consider. However, be aware that some web-based benefits administration companies charge lots of fees on top of their base price. Make sure you discuss every fee with your broker or benefits advisor before you decide on a solution. You will want to find out if there are set-up fees, carrier integration fees, and fees for every new carrier.

6. Your data won’t be secure.
To ensure that your data, as well as your employees’ data, is secure throughout the entire benefits administration process, thoroughly evaluate the vendors’ data security features by asking:

  • How does the program and vendor store data?
  • Does the vendor have a cyber liability policy in place?
  • How does the vendor ensure security?

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business Entrepreneur

If you’re easily distracted, you’re more likely to thrive as an entrepreneur

(ENTREPRENEUR) If monotony and boredom at work- well bores you, it’s possible you may fit with the other entrepreneurs with a quick and constantly changing career.

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When Bill Gates was a kid, he knew he liked messing around with code. He couldn’t have known how it might evolve, but he was willing to live in the distraction, focusing on details when needed, but always learning, moving on, taking risks and growing in the process.

Some of the most successful folks among us are not content to sit and make widgets every day. They cannot thrive in a detail and focused work environment. So, it may come as no surprise to know that people who are more easily distracted are also more likely to thrive as entrepreneurs.

According to this study, if you are intelligent and get distracted more easily, those two qualities combined will likely enhance your creativity. And, that creativity and ability to use distraction as an advantage can be channeled to create new things, jobs, companies, etc.

For those of us who are more easily distracted, who enjoy doing different things every day, and who like learning, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a good option is to find a career path that provides the right amount of distraction and which is a great fit for your personality. If you do that your talent is more likely to be apparent because you are playing to your strengths. Also, if you are working in your sweet spot you will be more productive and motivated.

Maybe not surprisingly, the top job for those who live in distraction is entrepreneur. The term “easily distracted” often comes with a negative connotation, but considering an entrepreneur is taking risks, making things happen and creating companies, ideas, products that may have never existed, this spins that idea on its head. Entrepreneurs are the chief cooks and bottle washers of the world. They ideate, create, hire and inspire. None of that is possible in a monotonous work environment.

“Unsurprisingly, meta-analyses indicate that entrepreneurs tend to have higher levels of ‘openness to experience,’ so they differ from managers and leaders in that they are more curious, interested in variety and novelty, and are more prone to boredom — as well as less likely to tolerate routine and predictability,” according to the HBR story.

Other careers that are great fits for those of us (me included) who enjoy distraction are PR/Media Production, Journalism and Consultant. What these fields all have in common is, there is never a dull moment, switching from task to task is pretty commonplace, and you will do well if you can be a generalist – synthesizing information and weeding out the unnecessary.

Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s a quick quiz to give you some feedback on how curious you really are.

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Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

How a newly funded coffee delivery startup is thriving during COVID

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Seattle’s Joe Coffee finds successful funding in hyper specific clientele and operations even mid-pandemic. But how did they do it?

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Amidst a pandemic, you might not expect a small company with limited clientele to thrive. Yet, Joe Coffee, a Seattle-based delivery service, is doing just that.

Joe Coffee, an aptly named coffee runner, has received millions in funding, a large chunk of which was raised mid-pandemic. Their mission is simple: to bring coffee from smaller shops to local consumers, especially without endangering either party.

There’s a lot to be said about Joe Coffee’s valuation and mission, but what’s more intriguing is their unlikely success.

A food delivery service that focuses on coffee may not seem that niche, but when you look at Joe Coffee’s determination to stick to the Seattle area, coupled with its staunch resolve for frequenting smaller shops (e.g., not Starbucks), the service begins to look pretty specific–and, in an economy that honors sweeping solutions, this is a welcome change of pace.

The way their service works is fairly simple: Joe Coffee provides shops with signs and information on how to order through the Joe network, then consumers are able to download and order through a mobile app on all of the usual platforms. Joe Coffee takes a nine percent cut of the order total, credit card fees included.

In return, customers are able to order from their favorite, local, non-chain coffee shops, both supporting them and sustaining their caffeine addiction at a time where alertness is paramount and grouchiness is all too common.

What’s truly interesting about Joe Coffee’s example is that it demonstrates an availability for small services with extreme specificity in terms of operating capacity. By sticking to unique businesses in a relatively small metropolitan area (as opposed to, say, multiple cities), the service is more likely to be successful in execution and delivery, thereby solidifying its relevance to both consumers and businesses alike.

And, by playing into the need for curbside pickup or home delivery these days, Joe Coffee only furthers the perception that its service is necessary.

If the country begins to reopen–whenever that happens–it will be no surprise to see Joe Coffee maintain a relationship between consumers and smaller businesses in the Seattle area. For anyone offering a similarly niche service, this is a perfect example of a company to which you should pay attention.

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