Are You in the Right Business for You?

Do you love going into your business every morning and spending time with your clients?

This may seem a strange question to ask. If you know your life purpose, you will find the answer comes easily. Your business will become your drug initially and maybe continue to be for a very long time. So, we aware of the sacrifices that you may have to make in being a business owner.

I often wonder if solo or micro business people really know if they are in the right business or not. I do believe that if you know your WHY (your purpose) you will know if you are in the right place for you and your growth. Being in business is not something that you can do half-heartedly. It needs to be something that you want so badly that you will do whatever to make it work.

All too often I meet with people and clients who really have not thought about their WHY or the Vision and Mission of their business. To get real clarity you need to firstly know your ‘why’ for your life and only then can you really be aware if the vision is correct for you and your future.

To be in business on your own you need to be an entrepreneur who has a dream to create something extraordinary. You have to be prepared to go to whatever lengths to make sure it happens, understanding that initially there may be no money, long hours and ups and downs. It takes COURAGE to be in your own business, especially in the early days.

Firstly, ask yourself why you are in business? What is your reason? It is because you love what it is or are you there purely to make money?Choosing the correct business is important. We are all different so there is no one size fits all. Ask yourself what type of business attracts you? If you understand who you are and where your innate gifts are you will find it easy to know the type of business that suits you best.

Are you a people person or someone who likes to be behind closed doors? Once you understand this part of your personality and what it is that you love to do, then, and only then, will you know who you need to put around you to support you to grow your vision.

Knowing the industry you wish to be part of is important as well as understanding the target/ customer market that suits your service or product. The demographics are important too, for example gender, age, background, knowledge etc. Having an idea of what you want in the way of size and of staffing or if you want to do it alone needs to be considered too.

Is your business to be a quick get in and get out type of business or a hobby type business? Do you know how much you want to earn? Have you considered an Exit plan for the future also? All important questions initially.

It is also a good idea to find out what your customers/clients want that they are not getting elsewhere. What can you create that will fill the need? How can you solve their problems? What is their greatest criticism of where the marketplace is letting them down or not meeting the demand?

Has your business come from a hobby or personal interest that has heart and mind in it? Or, is it what you have been trained to do and can’t think of anything else that would suit you? Do you love what you are doing now and is it what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is your business home-based or needing to have it’s own premises as it grows? What are you looking to create size-wise in the future? Are you considering an international, national or city business?

Is your business a service or product orientated business? This will make a difference into outlay too. A service business can be run as a home-based business without costly inventor, theft problems, product spoilage or premises.

The opportunities the internet gives us today to search, profile and gather information that will support one to create a good business is outstanding. There is so much support and knowledge that has no cost to it to work out how and what you want your business to look like. So do your research and be discerning with what you find out and learn. Find people who you can trust to discuss your ideas with who will help support you and your business to move forward.

We often have great ideas with a sound theory when in reality it just won’t or can’t work. It may be lacking skills or certain personality types, so make sure you reduce all the risk possible before you get too deep into your business creation. Make sure that you do your market research and that there are people out there wanting what you are creating! To own and run a business that will be successful takes an enormous effort. You must be willing to work the long hours, invest everything you have financially as well as physically in the dream to bring it to fruition. You need to commit and listen only to the people who you know are able to give good sound advice. Family and friends are often not the right people to do this as they will say what they can to protect you. Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Many people I come across are really the technician and are without the personality or management skills necessary to be successful long-term.

I have found that by self-understanding both personality and thinking wise you will make many less mistakes and be more successful. I then come to the question of what is SUCCESS to you as the business owner? This can vary dependent on what you want from your life, your experience, your contacts and how much you want to earn from your hard work.

Understanding your WHY for being in business in the first place is what will be the maker or breaker of your business in the long-run.

Enjoy the process and ASK for help and support whenever you can.

Getting Insurance To Pay For Preventive Health Under The ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that health insurance companies pay for preventive health visits. However, that term is somewhat deceptive, as consumers may feel they can visit the doctor for just a general checkup, talk about anything, and the visit will be paid 100% with no copay. In fact, some, and perhaps most, health insurance companies only cover the A and B recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. These recommendations cover such topics as providing counseling on smoking cessation, alcohol abuse, obesity, and tests for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes (for at risk patients), and some cancer screening physical exams. BUT if a patient mentions casually that he or she is feeling generally fatigued, the doctor could write down a diagnosis related to that fatigue and effectively transform the “wellness visit” into a “sick visit.” The same is true if the patient mentions occasional sleeplessness, upset stomach, stress, headaches, or any other medical condition. In order to get the “free preventive health” visit paid for 100%, the visit needs to be confined to a very narrow group of topics that most people will find vert constrained.

Similarly, the ACA calls for insurance companies to pay for preventive colonoscopy screenings for colon cancer. However, once again there is a catch. If the doctor finds any kind of problem during the colonoscopy and writes down a diagnosis code other than “routine preventive health screening,” the insurance company may not, and probably will not, pay for the colonoscopy directly. Instead, the costs would be applied to the annual deductible, which means most patients would get stuck paying for the cost of the screening.

This latter possibility frustrates the intention of the ACA. The law was written to encourage everyone – those at risk as well as those facing no known risk – to get checked. But if people go into the procedure expecting insurance to pay the cost, and then a week later receive a surprise letter indicating they are responsible for the $2,000 – $2,500 cost, it will give people a strong financial disincentive to getting tested.

As an attorney, I wonder how the law could get twisted around to this extent. The purpose of a colonoscopy is determined at the moment an appointment is made, not ex post facto during or after the colonoscopy. If the patient has no symptoms and is simply getting a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer because the patient has reached age 45 or 50 or 55, then that purpose or intent cannot be negated by subsequent findings of any condition. What if the doctor finds a minor noncancerous infection and notes that on the claim form? Will that diagnosis void the 100% payment for preventive service? If so, it gives patients a strong incentive to tell their GI doctors that they are only to note on the claim form “yes or no” in response to colon cancer and nothing else. Normally, we would want to encourage doctors to share all information with patients, and the patients would want that as well. But securing payment for preventive services requires the doctor code up the entire procedure as routine preventive screening.The question is how do consumers inform the government of the need for a special coding or otherwise provide guidance on preventive screening based on intent at time of service, not on subsequent findings? I could write my local congressman, but he is a newly elected conservative Republican who opposes health care and everything else proposed by Obama. If I wrote him on the need for clarification of preventive health visits, he would interpret that as a letter advising him to vote against health care reform at every opportunity. I doubt my two conservative Republican senators would be any different. They have stand pat reply letters on health care reform that they send to all constituents who write in regarding health care matters.

To my knowledge, there is no way to make effective suggestions to the Obama administration. Perhaps the only solution is to publicize the problem in articles and raise these issues in discussion forums

There is a clear and absolute need for government to get involved in the health care sector. You seem to forget how upset people were with the non-government, pure private sector-based health care system that left 49 million Americans uninsured. When those facts are mentioned to people abroad, they think of America as having a Third World type health care system. Few Japanese, Canadians, or Europeans would trade their existing health care coverage for what they perceive as the gross inequities in the US Health Care System.

The Affordable Care Act, I agree, completely fails to address the fundamental cost driver of health care. For example, it perpetuates and even exacerbates the tendency of consumers to purchase health services without any regard to price. Efficiency in private markets requires cost-conscious consumers; we don’t have that in health care.

I am glad the ACA was passed. It is a step in the right direction. As noted, there are problems with the ACA including the “preventive health visits” to the doctor, which are supposed to be covered 100% by insurance but may not be if any diagnostic code is entered on the claim form.

Congress is so polarized on health care that the only way to get changes is with a groundswell of popular support. I don’t think a letter writing campaign is the correct way to reform payment for the “preventive health visits.” If enough consumers advise their doctors that this particular visit is to be treated solely as a preventive health visit, and they will not pay for any service in the event the doctor’s office miscodes the visit with anything else, then the medical establishment will take notice and use its lobbying arm to make Congress aware of the problem.

COMMENT: Should there not be an agreement up front between both parties on what actions that will be taken if said item is found or said event should be seen or occur? Should their be a box on the pre-surgical form giving the patient the right to denying the doctor to take proper action (deemed by whom?) if they see a need to? Checking this box would save the patient the cost of the procedure, and give them time for a consult. If there is not a box to check, why isn’t there one?

There are two separate questions posed by the checkbox election for procedures. First, does a patient have a legal right to check such a box or instruct a physician/surgeon orally or in writing that he does not give consent for that procedure to be performed? The answer to that question is yes.

The second question is does it serve the economic interest of the patient to check that box? For the colonoscopy, in theory the patient would get his or her free preventive screening, but then be told the patient needs to schedule a second colonoscopy for removal of a suspicious polyp. In that case, the patient would eventually have to pay for a colonoscopy out of pocket (unless he had already met his yearly deductible), so there is no clear economic rationale for denying the physician the right to remove the polyp during the screening colonoscopy.

But we are using the much less common colonoscopy example. Instead, let’s return to preventive care with a primary care doctor. Should a patient have the right to check a box and say “I want this visit to cover routine preventive care and nothing more”? Certainly. There is way too much discretion afforded physicians to code up whatever they want on claim forms such that two physicians seeing the exact same patient might code up different procedures and diagnostics for the exact same preventive health screening visit.

When I expect to receive a “zero cost to me” preventive screening, I do not imply that I am willing to accept a “bait and switch” change of procedure and payment due to the doctor from me. The “zero cost to me” induces consumers to go to the office visit; it is actually paid for out of the profits earned by the health insurance firms to whom consumers pay monthly premiums. Consumers need to hold doctors financially accountable for their claim billing practices. If you are quoted a “zero price” for a visit, the doctor’s office better honor that price, or it amounts to fraud.

It is all too easy to find any little old thing to justify billing a patient for a sick visit instead of a wellness visit. However, it is up to the patient to prevent that kind of profiteering at his or her expense.

It would be wonderful if HHS would give carriers the proper code or specify that other diagnostic codes cannot negate the preventive screening code used for a wellness visit. That is not happening now. DHS has been bombarded with so many questions and suggestions for health care reform that the department has a fortress like mentality. So realistically, consumers cannot expect DHS to address the coding issue for preventive health screenings any time soon. That leaves the full burden to fall on each consumer to ensure the doctor’s billing practices match the patient’s expectations for a free preventive health office visit. I investigated the web site and discovered some inconsistencies. For example, the site purports to list the services covered under the “preventive health” coverage benefit, yet it omits the annual physical exam. Also, the site states that colorectal cancer screening are provided for people age 50 or older. However, I have been advised in writing that United Healthcare will cover preventive screening colonoscopies for people under age 50. In essence, that government web page is a good start to learn about preventive health care benefits, but a better source would be each consumer’s own health insurance carrier. For those with temporary insurance or who are without any insurance coverage, unfortunately, the preventive health benefit of the ACA will not have any practical consequence.

Where will the money come from for the preventive health screening visit to a primary care doctor as well as the screening colonoscopy? We have to look at different scenarios. If the patient indeed has preventive health screenings with no other medical diagnoses, then the patient will be charged $0 for these services, and they will be paid for by the insurance carrier. The insurance carrier will pay these costs out of its operating income or profits. There is simply no other source for payment. The government has not offered to pay the insurance companies for these services.

If the patient is hit with various medical diagnostic codes during these preventive health screenings, then he or she will pay his customary charge for the primary care doctor’s office visit and the contract-negotiated price for the diagnostic colonoscopy. In that scenario, the consumer will be paying most of these costs, although the visit to the primary doc may be limited up to any applicable copay amount.

It is not a big shock or surprise to say preventive health care is going to be borne by health insurance carriers. The extent to which these carriers can pass along costs to consumers through higher rates depends on the degree of competition in their markets. Ehealthinsurance.com advises me that for the vast majority of states, the insurance carriers have NOT been able to shift these costs onto consumers through higher rates. That may change in 2013 or 2014. However, the trend is clearly moving in the direction of more power for consumers, more options and carriers available to supply health insurance in their states, which means greater competition and lower prices.

Naming Your Business: 10 Simple Dos and Don’ts

Naming your business with an appropriate business name is the most significant step in starting a new business. A good product or service backed up with a smart name can quickly make your business the talk of the town.

Naming your business can sometimes become a complex process. There are choices to make and there is no single, exact solution.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help you create the right name for your business.

  1. Make your business name memorable and easy to remember. It should be short, easy to say and easy to spell.
  1. Stay away from unfamiliar words or tongue twisters. It is easy to make a mistake and forget this rule as you would want to create a business name that is unique and stands out in the crowd.
  1. The name should have a good tone and be flexible so that you can add new products or services without having to change the business name.
  1. While naming your business keep in mind that good business names have positive visualization, the name you choose should remind customers about something pleasurable.
  1. Create a name that expresses something related to your business. Use a word that is associated with something your customer will love. Find expressions and alternative words. Look for translations of the words and connotations such as animals, color, actions, people and plants.
  1. Attract your target market by creating a business name that generates a sense of security or romance or adventure or excitement. Imagine the people whom you want to serve and see if your name appeals to them.
  1. While naming your business use trendy names carefully as many trends become out dated quickly.
  1. Ask some of your friends to spell your potential business name. Many words have more than one spelling. Like the name Insightica, though it is unique enough the name can be spelled using site or sight. Let your business name go through a spelling test before you finalize.
  1. If your business requires a web presence, find out if the domain name is available. Register the name as soon as you finalize, even if you do not plan to create the website anytime soon.
  1. Before you finalize, check the meanings in a few different languages and make sure it is not unpleasant or distasteful. Also, spend some time to research if any other business is using it. Once you finalize, protect it by registering the name with your county or state office.

Naming your business in the right way will convey the expertise, value and exclusivity of the product or service you have developed, and above all, create the right marketing recall.

Although business naming can be a complex process, for new businesses it is essential to get it right. The name establishes the initial connect between the business and its consumers. The impression consumers get from the name will indeed affect how your business will perform in future.

What Defines a Serious Business Buyer?

Individuals who desire to purchase an established small business must be well prepared before the search process begins. Well managed, profitable and successful businesses are in short supply and very high demand. Business owners and business brokers alike have little patience and interest in wasting their valuable time with buyers who have not taken the appropriate steps to demonstrate that they are fully prepared to acquire a business.

How does a buyer define themselves as being a “serious” candidate and not a casual, curious, tire kicker? The goal of this article is to outline the steps that a business buyer should take in advance so that they can stand out and be recognized as a serious and credible buyer?

Let’s start with a few examples demonstrating who is NOT a serious candidate.

  • I want to buy a small business in the area but am not sure what type yet. Can you send me information on three of the businesses you have listed for sale – the industrial manufacturing business, the durable medical equipment company, and the online retailer?
  • I am still working at my current job but am contemplating leaving the firm and purchase a business within the next couple of years.
  • My background is entirely in the printing industry but I want to make a change and thought about buying a wholesale chemical products company.
  • I have a little money saved up but need to get a loan to purchase a business. I am not sure how much I would qualify for or how large a business I could afford.
  • I want to buy a business but will need the seller to finance the purchase. I will pay them back entirely out of the future cash flow of the company.

Preparing a business for sale takes considerable work on behalf of the business broker and seller. Just a few of the steps include valuing the business, preparing the Confidential Business Review (executive summary), and organizing all of the corporate, financial, and tax documents. For a buyer to be recognized as a serious candidate, they too have work that needs to be accomplished prior to being in a position to venture in the marketplace and begin assessing business opportunities.

So, what makes a buyer a serious candidate?

  1. Personal profile and resume

Construct a detailed personal profile and biography. Not only will the seller need to see this document but any bank requires this as well. A resume is just a starting place. The document should cover the following questions:

  • What is your education and work experience?
  • Who will be buying the business? Just you, you and your spouse, a partner, an investor?
  • Why you are interested in buying a business?
  • What is your investment criteria?
  • What transferrable skills do you possess that qualify you for managing the business?
  • How will you be financing the acquisition? If bank funding will be utilized, a prequalification letter should be included. How much money do you have for a down payment?
  • What is your timetable to complete the acquisition?
  • Who is your advisory team? Which attorney will be drafting the Asset Purchase Agreement and facilitating the closing? Do they have experience with business acquisitions?
  • What are the contingencies for the business acquisition? Do you have to leave a current job? Do you have to secure funding from a partner or a bank? Do you have to relocate and sell a house?

How will the buyer be funding the purchase?

Buyers should be knowledgeable about the size of business they are qualified to purchase. Will the buyer be utilizing personal funds for the transaction or will third party financing be used? Most acquisitions (without real estate) require 25% of the purchase price as a down payment. (Funds needed for closing costs and working capital are often provided as part of the loan package and can be financed.)

Buying and selling a small business requires a two way exchange of information. The buyer should be ready to disclose the amount they can invest and have a detailed plan on how they will finance the entire transaction. The idea that the seller is going to finance the sale is not a plan and this type of buyer will be quickly dismissed. Business brokers can be a great source for recommendations on which lenders are appropriate and likely to finance the business they represent.

The buyer should have a current personal financial statement prepared. If bank financing will be utilized, the buyer should be clear on their borrowing capacity and have a lender prequalification letter in hand (a banker can prepare this in a matter of hours). Don’t expect the broker or business seller to provide complete access to sensitive and confidential business documents without receiving assurances that the buyer has the appropriate resources to either purchase the business outright or obtain a business acquisition loan.

What industry experience or transferrable skills does the buyer have?

The optimal situation is when the prospective buyer has direct industry experience. This is especially pertinent when bank financing will be involved. Obviously, every business is different and each will have unique requirements for successful ownership. For some businesses, the buyer may be able to satisfy this requirement by having related practical work experience or transferrable skills. Certain businesses may require licenses, certifications, or a particular expertise to operate. If the buyer does not possess these it will be critical to confirm that there is a manager or key employee in place that has these qualifications. In other situations, the business may be very specialized and a buyer lacking a critical credential will be disqualified from obtaining bank funding. These issues should be discussed early in the process as the business broker will need to determine if you are managerially qualified to operate the business.

What is the type of business the buyer is seeking and why?

A serious buyer has developed a detailed and concise “investment criteria” for the business they seek to acquire. Several of investment criteria attributes will include the type of business, the industry, the geographic location, the size of business, and the price/value of the enterprise.

Serious buyers will focus on enterprises which are suited to their background and qualifications. A buyer who inquires about an industrial packaging distributer, a restaurant, and a custom millwork company will not be treated as a serious candidate. Having an investment criteria that relates only to “profitable businesses” or “those businesses which generate a minimum of $150,000 in cash flow” without regard to the business type, industry served, geographic location, and size is a clear red flag that the candidate has not put the proper time into honing their acquisition objective.

  1. Realistic expectations.

Successful entrepreneurs recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect company. Business ownership involves taking on some level of risk and acquiring a business is no different. Buyers who seek to purchase a business 100% free of any flaws will be searching for a very long time. There will be areas of improvement for every business and the buyer will have to make a decision as to which negative elements are acceptable and which ones are not. Buyers who are too risk adverse may just not be cut out for small business ownership and being an employee is a more suitable career objective.

Additionally, buyers often fail to realize that there is a limited supply of great businesses for sale… those that have year over year revenue growth, excellent profits, and bright prospects for continued advancement. Many of these businesses sell for the full listing price and for these types of successful businesses, buyers should be careful when submitting an offer less than 90% of what it is listed at. Most of the time there are a multiple buyers who are evaluating the business and those candidates who submit, either a low-ball offer or an offer with unrealistic terms attached, will be wasting the valuable time of all parties involved not to mention possibly burning a bridge with the business seller and eliminating themselves from consideration.

  1. Ability to react quickly

A serious buyer is well organized, has done their research, and knows what they want and what they can afford. They are decisive and capable of moving through the process in a timely and methodical fashion. If a partner, spouse, or investor will be involved in the acquisition, these individuals are consulted with in advance and are in agreement with the defined objectives. If advisors will be assisting in the evaluation, the advisors are aware of the acquisition search and are on standby for their assignment.

A serious buyer should have an understanding of how businesses are valued in addition to a comprehension of the typical steps in the acquisition process. They are prepared with a list of well thought and detailed questions designed with the objective of determining if the opportunity meets their investment criteria. A serious buyer recognizes that a quick no is far better than a slow no and they tackle those gating issues from the outset that would disqualify the business from being acquired. Once the opportunity is qualified a serious buyer is in a position to make a ‘realistic offer’ and provide a letter of intent or terms sheet. A professional support team has been identified for the drafting the Asset Purchase Agreement and facilitating the transaction closing. Lastly, a serious buyer will understand the due diligence process and already have their checklist in place. Funding for the acquisition has been planned and money for an earnest money deposit is liquid and available.

  1. Professional Communication

A serious buyer is honest, direct, and forthcoming. Now is not the time to be cagey, cute, or evasive. You want to convey at the earliest opportunity your investment criteria, time table, financial wherewithal and reasons for pursuing the acquisition. This type of communication will build a foundation of trust and honest dialog in the weeks ahead. One viable solution for a serious buyer is to retain a business broker to assist with the search and business qualification. This approach provides far better results than a haphazard approach of firing off requests for information on any business posted on-line that catches their fancy. The business-for-sale industry is not the real estate industry. There are no open houses. This is a highly confidential process where professionals are involved and retained to protect the sensitivity of the business for sale data. A buy-side broker is paid by the prospective buyer for the time, energy, and work that is generated on their behalf. They are compensated to produce results.

There is nothing worse than going through the myriad of steps in preparing a business for sale to find a buyer that is not properly prepared nor has gone through the logical thought, planning, and preparation steps for acquiring a business. We have outlined the information that a business broker and seller needs when qualifying a candidate as a serious buyer. In order to close a transaction all of this information is required so it best that the buyer come prepared with this data at the outset. Few parties in this arena, want to have their time wasted or patience tested. The bottom line is that when you find the right business you are in a position to act and make a realistic offer. Successful businesses are few and far between and often receive multiple offers. Why should the business broker and seller invest time in you?