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Why Group Insurance May Be Best for Your Business, Even If It’s Just You

It’s easier to get than you think.

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RECENTLY, I HEARD a business owner tell a frustrating story about how she was forced to spend a surprisingly large sum of money for the treatment of a health condition. She was angry because her individual health insurance plan, bought through the Marketplace in 2014, had just increased in premium for the fourth time. She expected more from her insurance!

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There has been a growing rift between group and individual insurance since 2015 — most business owners have not been able to keep up on all of the details. I have heard, erroneously, from many business owners that they believe:

  • They couldn’t do group insurance.
  • They would have to pay for all of their employees.
  • Individual insurance would be cheaper.

Not true.

Individual insurance contracts (i.e., Obamacare plans) are no longer the same as group insurance plans. Differences include deductibles, max out-of-pocket financial exposures and pricing. In most cases, individual insurance is less advantageous for the consumer.

Many small business owners are not aware of the increased availability of group insurance.
In 2014, the Affordable Care Act changed many of the regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. States have also been tweaking rules applicable to groups employing between two and 50 people (small groups). In most states, businesses with two or more people are eligible to purchase group insurance. Why is this important? Because, in many states, group insurance may be less expensive per person, have lower financial exposures and have access to larger PPO networks.

How does it work? There is a little known aspect of the Affordable Care Act that makes group insurance very accessible for small businesses. If you have an inception/renewal date of Jan. 1, then the business is not required to contribute to the employees’ premiums. Further, there are no participation requirements (i.e. how many people must participate of the employed population), so the business owner could be the only one participating — a “group” of one. Some states do not allow groups of one. In these states you must have two participants. And note that husband-wife groups are treated differently and may not be eligible.

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If the group insurance plan renews on any other date of the year, then the group is subject to contribution and participation requirements. These requirements are set by the insurance companies and are typically less stringent than most business owners believe. In most cases, the employer is asked to contribute only 25 percent of the cost of individual coverage on the lowest cost plan.
Here is how this plays out in the real world: Most small businesses offer two or three plans for the employees to choose from, one of which will be the “lowest cost.” The employer then calculates 25 percent of what it costs for that single person and the employee is responsible for the remaining premium. How much money are we talking about? Typically an employer is asked to contribute between $75 and $225 per month per person depending on the age of the employee — only for the people who choose to contribute.

As for the participation requirement, it’s typically 70 percent of eligible full-time staff after qualified waivers. A qualified waiver is someone who has an insurance plan from a spouse, the government or an individual plan. Let’s say we have a group of 10 full time employees, four of whom have coverage through their spouse and one who is on Medicare. Here is how we determine the participation requirement:

  • 10 eligible-5 qualified waivers = 5 employees

In this case, to attain 70 percent participation, only four people must participate!

Marcus Newman is vice-president of small business sales with GCG, a full-service financial, employee benefits and risk management firm, as well as a public speaker and educator.

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How to Make Your Social Media SEO-Friendly

These three tips can help drive more traffic to your website.

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LET’S FACE IT, attracting customers today is not just about advertising. It’s a combination of many things, including social media and driving traffic to your website and your store. SEO is as important in attracting and driving traffic as is your ad copy and where you place your ads. Social SEO refers to the idea that social media links and interaction play an important part in your website’s search rankings. Basically, SEO is all about optimizing content, whether it’s on your website or on a social media platform—to appear higher in search rankings.

1. Optimize your social media profiles. The key to an SEO-friendly social media profile is to be as descriptive as possible.  Always fill out the “About” or “Information” sections of any social media platform. Use words or phrases that describe your business and are also terms individuals would use to search for your business. For example, to optimize your Facebook Page for local searches, it is important to include your address, city, state and zip. Always include links from your social channels back to your business’s website (and links from your website to your social channels). The “Category” field is often overlooked on Facebook Pages, but is important for Facebook mobile searches. Check to make sure your business is listed as the correct category while editing your basic information.

2. Optimize your social media content/updates. To optimize your social content, always include some of the relevant search keywords you determined for your business in your Facebook updates, tweets on Twitter, pin descriptions on Pinterest, etc. It’s important to remember to share content from your website or blog socially to give it an SEO boost. Use your business’s name in your social posts. This helps Google associate the keywords you use to describe your business with your business’s name.

3. Build links by making your content shareable. A key factor in SEO is link building. Simply put, this means having good website-to-website relationships through links. When you have more quality sites linking to your website (inbound) and you are linking to other quality websites (outbound), Google will determine your website to be more authoritative.

“Likes,” comments, repins, retweets, etc., all play into the weight given to your links. If you create content people want to share, you can create more inbound links. Content doesn’t always have to be a new blog post; content can refer to tweets or Facebook posts as well. By posting engaging social content, you’re improving your SEO value.  Another way to increase shares is to add social share buttons to individual pieces of content on your website or blog.

Keep in mind that improving your SEO takes time, and changes don’t happen overnight. Always be as descriptive as you can and keep your information up to date.

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Shane Decker

The Most Important Part of Your Sales Presentation Happens After the Sale

Go the extra mile for your client if you want to see them again.

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HOW DO YOU FEEL about a movie that ends poorly? No matter how good it was before then, a weak finish leaves you feeling dissatisfied.

Jewelry presentations are the same way. Clients tend to remember the first 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds more than the middle of your presentation. And yet, all too often after the purchase is made (or repair taken in), the salesperson turns and walks to the back, allowing the client to leave the store on their own.

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The way out is as important as the way in. We have to treat the client as a guest who is coming into our home for one of the most important events of their lives. Not only that, but the client should feel even more important walking out than they did when they came into the store.

When everything is done, always walk the client to the door. Open the door for them, give them two of your business cards, and ask them to give one to a friend.

Even when you have other clients waiting for you, always walk each one out. Others will see this service and expect the same. Many times as you’re walking the client out, they will stop and look into a case they didn’t look into on the way in. This allows you to start another presentation, put something on a wish list, plant a seed for a later purchase or even put something on layaway.

Selling on the way out is easy. The client is now in a spending mood, and obviously they love you or they wouldn’t have given you their money already. It also allows you to give suggestions about service and other events you have coming up.

Sometimes, the client may have other important things they want to talk about on the way to the door. They’ll start by saying, “By the way…” This allows you to build rapport, get information that allows you to do more effective clienteling, and become even more of a friend.

So make the client feel that your store is the most awesome place to shop. Not just because of the merchandise, but because there is not any other place to shop in their area that compares to the professionalism, politeness and experience that your team delivers.

People get ho-hum service everywhere — but don’t let it happen in your store. It’s up to us to break the cycle. Make the exit even more awesome than the entrance. And remember: Always thank them for coming in!

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That Weird ‘Diamond in a Diamond’ Isn’t for Sale. It Will Go Here Instead …

Alrosa revealed the find in September.

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RUSSIA’S ALROSA DIAMOND mining company announced Thursday that the curious “diamond in a diamond” revealed on social media in early September has been added to its collection of rare finds — and is not for sale.

In early September, Alrosa surprised its Instagram followers with a video that seemed to show a tiny rough diamond moving freely in the cavity of a larger one (pictured above). The caption read, “A diamond in a diamond? We couldn’t help but share this very special find with you.”

At the time, Alrosa wasn’t quite sure what to make of the phenomenon. Nobody at the mining company had ever seen anything like it. Five weeks later, Alrosa scientists confirmed that both the host and smaller crystal were diamonds.

They named the double-diamond “Matryoshka” because its strange configuration is reminiscent of the popular Russian nesting dolls. The specimen, which weighs only 0.62 carats, was discovered in Yakutia at Alrosa’s Nyurba mining and processing division.

Matryoshka joins Alrosa’s ever-growing collection of diamond wonders. These include crystals that resemble a soccer ball, a Valentine heart, a skull and a fish.

Interestingly, some of Alrosa’s most unusually shaped diamonds have come to light at the most opportune times.

Credits: Diamond images courtesy of Alrosa Diamonds and via Alrosa/Instagram. Soccer ball image by Pumbaa80 (Self-published work by Pumbaa80) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.

For instance, an Alrosa discovery in July of 2018 had us wondering out loud if Mother Nature was a World Cup soccer fan. Just three days prior to the Russian national soccer team’s exciting quarterfinal match against Croatia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, Alrosa discovered a diamond that looks amazingly like a soccer ball.

In February of 2019, Alrosa revealed a 65.7-carat rough diamond that had an uncanny resemblance to a Valentine heart.

“Diamonds of a distinctive shape that resemble some object or symbol are extremely rare in nature,” Alrosa’s deputy CEO Evgeny Agureev said at the time. “Most rough diamonds are octahedron-shaped or do not have a particular shape at all. The appearance of a heart-shaped rough diamond, especially on the eve of Valentine’s Day, seems to be a symbolic gift of nature not only to our company, but also to all loving couples.”

Credits: Diamond images courtesy of Alrosa Diamonds and via Alrosa/Instagram.

Alrosa noted that a 24-carat, skull-shaped stone was unearthed prior to Halloween in 2018.

In August of 2019, the company posted to Instagram a photo of a rough stone resembling a fish. It had been discovered back in 2002, and was revisited to help promote the firm’s ecology efforts, which include releasing hundreds of thousands of fish into the rivers near its mining operation in Yakutia.

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