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?
This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.
Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.
Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”
So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.
Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.
When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”
As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.
Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).
Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.
In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.
Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”
The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.
Not just for kids: 3 Rs to help your team cope with stress
(ENTREPRENEUR) The three Rs of child psychology, Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation, may also help your team and you cope with the added stress 2020 has wrought.
Yes, we all know 2020 was a massive dumpster fire. We are all still working to cope with processing the losses and fear this putrid year has brought with it. The three Rs can help you and your team better cope with stress, and our reactions to the hitherto unfathomable woes of 2020.
If you are a parent or work with kids, you may have heard of the new three Rs: Reassurance, Routine, and Regulation. If you don’t have or work with kids, why would you care? These three Rs can also help adults cope with the stress, grief, anger, and anxiety most of us are facing in 2020.
It makes sense that something that can work to alleviate children’s negative feelings during the pandemic may also work for adults. We may experience and process problems differently than children, as we run everything through the filter of life experience and what we know of the world and the way it works.
However, much of what we are seeing with the global pandemic is new to us, and we are stuck in the same boat as our children, restless, afraid, and wondering how we’ll pull through. Here are three Rs to help all of us cope with stress. If we take what Laura Santhanam of PBS NewsHour and Jessica Bartlett of Child Trends advised for children, and apply them to our own overwhelming concerns, we may begin to feel better. I’m all for anything that helps us feel better.
Here’s a rundown of the three Rs and how they can help you and your team cope:
- Reassurance: We need to reassure ourselves—of our own safety, of all that we are doing to stay safe, and that others are out there diligently working to ensure and improve our safety. Reassure your team of what the company is doing to help keep workers safe, whatever those preventive measures may be.Reassure yourself and your team that you’re doing what you need to in order to stay safe. Reassure yourself that epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are working day and night to learn more about this virus and how to control it. Reassure yourself that two promising vaccines are already FDA approved and being administered around the world, and that this will help us, slowly but surely, return to a life we are familiar and comfortable with.
Reassure and remind yourself and your team that people are still out there in the world being kind, helpful, and awesome. Maybe share something from the Good News Network or other chronicle.
- Routine: If you are like me, routine went out the window in March, replaced by endless chores and cooking during the day and staying up late worrying about the state of the world. Routine matters. Just as it can help ease troubled young minds, it can also guide us to a better way to cope.Routines give us a needed sense of stability. It’s one area of our lives that we can take control of, even amidst the flaming chaos of 2020. I’m not suggesting you drink your morning coffee at the kitchen table surrounded by flames and proclaim “This is fine,” like KC Green’s famous memefied cartoon dog. We all have to draw the line in the sand as to what and how much we will accept and what we need to work to change. However, there is something to be said for regularity, a place for quotidian activities, a routine.
Try to set up or return to a regular bedtime and meal times. Set boundaries for work life and home life—always a challenge when you work from home. Ask your team members how they are setting boundaries or share tips on how you are. Help your team incorporate or return to a routine at work. Perhaps in 2020, work calendars went haywire along with everything else, as nearly every company has had to change the way they do business this year.
Find a way to bring back some routine where you can fit it in. It could help your team stay on track while dealing with the rest of what 2020 throws at them. Build pleasurable activities into your own routine. Make time to read, play, or otherwise unwind. Lean into the routine. Here’s hoping you and your team can find comfort in being able to control at least this much!
- Regulate: This refers to self-regulating, coping mechanisms we can incorporate to check ourselves when we start to panic or spiral. Parents, teachers, and others in child care can teach children these techniques to help them manage “big feelings.” We grownups can also use these tools to deal with our big feelings.Regulating tools for adults include breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, talking to a therapist, NAMI hotline, or friend about your emotions. Other means of self-regulating include making a plan to socialize with friends (virtually works), exercising to clear a busy mind, and getting enough sleep. Try to use some or all of these tools the next time you feel overcome with negative emotions.
Of course, feelings aren’t something we discuss much at work, as a rule. However, sending out information on resources available within your company can help your team regulate what they are going through. If your company pays for therapy as part of a benefits package, let them know. If you have set up a hotline or other helpful resource, let them know. Put together a list of helpful websites or organizations that can help with them access these regulating tools, or ask your Human Resources department to do so. You could even share this article, if you found it helpful. You may reach a team member at precisely the perfect time to help them through some heavy stuff.
While adults often consider themselves experts at dealing with our own feelings, again, way too many catastrophic events have gone down in 2020. As they say on the interwebs, this wasn’t on my 2020 Bingo card. We likely can all benefit from the three Rs. Give it a shot, because we all need to cope with our stress somehow.
Why receiving big funding doesn’t guarantee startup success
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You finally got that big funding check that allows you to make your dreams come true, but most startups fail because they shoot for the moon.
The first thing every startup needs to get off the ground is funding. It’s crucial to have enough capital to cover equipment, inventory, and employee salaries, along with other basic expenses unique to the industry. Most startups cover these initial costs through business loans and capital from private investors.
Some business owners perceive getting funded as the first milestone toward success. While receiving capital is critical for success, being well-funded doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of well-funded startups have failed, gone bankrupt, and all but disappeared.
How could so many well-funded startups possibly go under? The 90% failure rate for startups is due to a variety of factors including bad timing, no market, and most of all – mishandling of finances.
Here’s why receiving big capital doesn’t guarantee success.
Getting investment capital provides false hope
Getting funded can make you feel invincible and cause you to be too relaxed about spending money. It’s a powerful feeling to have plenty of money and know an investor believes in your business. Investors are smart; they wouldn’t throw money at a startup unless they had every reason to believe it will succeed, right? Not exactly.
Startups in big tech areas like Silicon Valley and San Francisco often have an easy time generating large amounts of capital from investors who can’t wait to throw money at the latest startup. Many investors ignore risk and throw their money at long-shot bets hoping to invest in the next Facebook or Instagram. The size of the pot is too mesmerizing not to take the risk.
These long-shot bets carry similar odds to winning a “Pick 6” bet in horse racing. The Pick 6 is one of the hardest bets to win because you have to pick the winning horses for six consecutive races. What if the top horse becomes injured before the sixth race? Investors who toss money at random startups have to pick a startup that will continue to meet all the right circumstances to become profitable long-term. Some of those circumstances are unpredictable.
No business owner wants to view their startup as a long-shot bet. However, the reality is that many startups are. You can’t gauge your potential for success based on how much funding you receive.
Having plenty of cash encourages premature scaling
When you’ve got the cash to scale your startup it seems like a waste not to dive in. Just one look around the internet reveals plenty of videos and articles encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business. Advice online gives the impression that if you’re not scaling your business, you’re falling behind. However, scaling too soon can tank your startup.
Research conducted by Startup Genome found premature scaling to be the number one cause of startup failure. Nathan Furr from Forbes.com explains this finding and what it means for businesses. Premature scaling is defined as “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business (e.g., hiring sales personnel, expensive marketing, perfecting the product, leasing offices, etc.) before nailing the product/market fit.” Furr says any business is susceptible to premature scaling – not just startups.
The problem is that premature scaling depletes your cash reserves more quickly. This leaves you with less cash to fix mistakes and readjust as you go along. Failure is what happens when you don’t have the necessary cash to fix mistakes and move toward success.
How to make the most of your funding and increase your odds of success
To increase the odds of developing a long-term successful startup, here’s what you can do:
• Save as much money as possible. For instance, you don’t need a giant office with expensive furniture right away. Work from home and hire a remote team until an office is absolutely necessary.
• Make sure the cost of acquiring each customer makes sense. Know how much money you’re spending to acquire each customer. Track all marketing efforts and eliminate the avenues that don’t generate paying, loyal customers. If the cost to acquire a customer is more than what they spend with your company, revisit your marketing strategy.
• Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement with your innovation. Skip Prichard advises startups to strive for a 10x increase in the value of whatever innovation is being provided to the world. For example, if your company is offering a lower price for a greater value, aim to increase the value 10x. Attract the early adopters who want big improvements and they will validate you.
Money is a tool – use it wisely
Celebrate when you get your funding, but keep that money in the bank for necessary expenses. Money is a tool that doesn’t guarantee success, but if you budget wisely, you’ll have a better chance at beating the startup odds.
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