Category Archives: Premier Advocate

Chris Allen, CPA: Premier Advocate Spotlight



Chris Allen, CPA

Wineberg, Solheim, Howell & Shain, P.C.

callen@wshscpa.com
(312) 372-0440

SBAC Member since 2016

 

 

 

Chris Allen has been an active participant in the SBAC since 2016. In addition to attending the SBAC Golf Outing and Advocacy Awards, Chris provided his expertise by speaking on tax reform panel during the April 2018 SBAC Small Business Conference.

Chris is with the tax department at Wineberg, Solheim, Howell & Shain, P.C., which focuses on providing a proactive approach to tax services. By keeping current on new tax laws and legislation, they are in a position to identify key tax planning opportunities that minimize both current and future tax liabilities. They provide individual and business clients with the taxation expertise and knowledge that they deserve throughout the year. The Wineberg, Solheim, Howell & Shain team are in contact with their clients throughout the year so they can properly plan for their tax situations before the end of the year and ensure the implementation of a tax strategy that aligns with both their short term and long term financial goals.

 

How technology integration can help your business flourish


How technology integration can help your business flourish
Contributed By: MXOtech, INC

Modern businesses rely on various technologies to keep their companies up and running. Today, most of them need an internet connection and multiple apps and software to help their staff get things done.

At first glance, all the different technologies you use may seem unrelated to one another — after all, the software your accounting department uses is different from what your research and development team has and so on. But all the technology in your company serves the same purpose: to help you achieve your goals. Technology integration is the process of aligning business and technology must be aligned so that business strategies can be successfully implemented. It means that systems and devices are able to work harmoniously with one another and share data back and forth.

Let’s talk about the benefits of technology integration to your business.

Better productivity and efficiency

Integrated technologies allow you to organize and share your business data across departments, drastically saving the time and energy needed to look up and verify information. Syncing your systems and sharing the same database means there’s no more need to (re-)enter data manually every time, minimizing the window for error.

Imagine how seamless everything will be when everyone has access to critical information like product prices. By allowing inter-department access to real-time information regarding rates, vendor managers, stock keepers, and accounting will be on the same page: they will know the current number of items in stock and whether there have been any price changes. In case a customer asks for a product price, the staff assigned to be the point of contact (customer service, salesperson) can immediately look up the necessary information without calling another department. Not only is this process more efficient, but it’s also more customer-oriented.

More effective communications

When devices are integrated, they share the same information and can “talk to each other” while working or analyzing information. Much in the same manner, people using these devices can also “talk to each other” in much quicker ways. They can collaborate on documents and spreadsheets virtually without having to meet face to face. What’s more, because team members can work together in real time, they can make quick and informed decisions which reduce turnaround time and ensure that projects are finished promptly.

Technology integration also empowers staff who work remotely. For example, someone working out of the office can send client notes to the business email as soon as the client meeting is over, again saving time.

Potential for growth

When small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) integrate their technology, they should see positive results such as improved communications, streamlined workflows, and higher customer satisfaction. Together, these changes can propel enterprises to grow in unprecedented ways.

But it doesn’t stop there. Integrated technology gives leaders better insights into their data by conveniently keeping relevant and related information in one place, so one can see patterns and discrepancies in data easily. They can also pinpoint the business’s bottlenecks and find opportunities for growth. Marketing teams who have access to sales figures and customer records, for instance, may be able to identify certain demographics or trends they can capitalize on.

MXOtech is a technology consulting company that delivers Managed IT Services, Custom Web Application Development and System Integrations. Started in 2005, and built on the core values of clarity, inspiration, trust and accountability, MXOtech works every day to help their clients use technology to grow their businesses.





Creating a Successful Internship Program: Tips from TandemHR


Ask An HR Expert: How Do I Create A Successful Internship Program?
Contributed By: The Tandem Family of Companies

An internship program is a big responsibility for both the organization and also the interns themselves. Here are three tips to create a successful internship program for both your company and potential interns.

Tip #1: Have an organizational agreement.

What is the purpose of your internship program? What objectives do you want to meet through the program? Where do you need them and for how long? What tasks are they going to do? You have to make sure that the organization agrees to this before you even consider bringing on an intern or an internship program.

You want to create a plan for your internship program. Without a plan, it will not be successful.

Tip #2: While interns are generally assigned to a specific department and will naturally have tasks within those departments, it’s important they have exposure to your entire organization.

Build into your plan time for them to shadow other departments. Interns eventually leave and talk about your organization to their future employers. You want to make a good impression and expose them to all the areas of jurisdiction in your company. The goal is that by the end of the internship they have a full grasp of your business as a whole, so when they talk about your company they really understand and know what they’re speaking about.

Interns will make great marketers if done right. Sometimes, companies don’t invest the effort to truly engage and teach their interns. A common mistake is people hire interns just to file or answer the phones. They bring them in to fill in an area that is not something that’s going to be valuable to both the organization and the interns.

The key if you’re creating an internship program, is to make sure that the time the intern spends with you is valuable and that they actually learn through this process.

Tip #3: Another important component of a successful internship program is that the interns have a point person.

Someone who is designated for these interns if they have questions or concerns. This point person should have a good understanding of the full internship program and each individual’s objectives. As a result, this person should be a mentor to these interns throughout the program.

Danielle Ozer (dozer@BSGInfo.com) is the Executive Vice President of Brokerage Services at the Tandem Family of Companies. The Tandem Family of Companies consists of Tandem HR (HR outsourcing solutions), Benefits Solutions Group (benefits brokerage), Workplace Solutions (Employee Assistance Program) and Alliance Workplace Solutions (voluntary benefits). TFC has been providing custom HR solutions to businesses of all sizes since 1998.

SBAC Premier Advocates Day at the Ballpark


This week SBAC Premier Advocate Members enjoyed an EXCLUSIVE behind-the-scenes tour followed by a game at Guaranteed Rate Field. The tour was lead by Jonathan Reisdorf and included stops at the back office and on the field. Members were then treated to box seats with all the perks to watch the White Sox. While the score was not what we hoped, it was an awesome opportunity to connect with fellow small business leaders outside the office. A special thanks to the Chicago White Sox for hosting us and Andrew O’Connor and Brian Henciak with Team Merchant for making the day possible.

Interested in taking your SBAC membership to the next level?

As a Premier Advocate, you can expect all the great benefits of a regular SBAC membership plus:

  • Exclusive access to an updated Premier Advocate directory
  • Monthly email updates from SBAC staff and leadership
  • Monthly invitation-only events including great speakers, networking and the chance to go behind the scenes at locations throughout Chicagoland
  • The opportunity to produce original content and be highlighted on the SBAC News blog and social media platforms
  • Company name/logo/link inclusion in email newsletters to the full membership
  • Receive personalized SBAC drafted content to share with your customers and clients all the hard work you are doing for the small business community
  • Special name tags and recognition at all SBAC events

To learn more about the Premier Advocate program, contact Kim Brisky at kimberly@sbacil.org or 312-548-8608.

Department of Labor Releases Proposed Overtime Rule


DOL Proposes Increase to FLSA Exemption Threshold
Contributed by: Jason Tremblay, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor released its long-promised proposed rule raising the minimum salary threshold required for workers to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exemption threshold to $35,308 annually.  The new rule would apply to executive, professional, and administrative workers — also known as “white collar” exemptions.

The new threshold is an $11,648 increase from the current threshold of $23,660, but is about $12,000 lower than the approximately $47,000 salary threshold that the Obama administration proposed in 2016.  The Obama administration’s rule was enjoined in November 2016 by a Texas federal judge, and the Trump administration withdrew the government’s appeal which sought to enforce the rule.

The proposed rule includes two other significant provisions.  First, the proposed rule rejected the concept of automatic annual increases to the salary threshold.  Instead, in the proposal’s preamble, it suggests the salary threshold should be revisited every four years and welcomed public comment on the issue.  While there will likely be many comments arguing both for and against automatic increases, it is likely that some version of the final rule will include some form of a regular review of the salary threshold.

Second, the proposed rule increases the salary threshold for “highly compensated” employees from $100,000 to approximately $147,000.  Surprisingly, this was a $13,000 increase from what the Obama administration proposed in 2016.  If this provision of the proposed rule takes effect, employers who rely upon the “highly compensated” employee exemption, and who pay such employees less than $147,000, will need to revisit their exempt status.

The opportunity for public comment is important because it will allow for the DOL to consider the impact on employers during the prior period, as well as the impact moving forward before making any adjustment.

The DOL estimates that implementation of any final rule would begin in January 2020, giving employers ample time to adjust salaries upward or switch employees from salary to hourly.  While it is difficult to predict whether there will be any legal challenges to the proposed rule like in 2016, it is likely that any rule would survive such a challenge based on the current state of the economy, the more modest nature of the increase when compared with the Obama-era rule and the fact that, in coming up with the new salary threshold, the DOL used essentially the same methodology as it did in 2004 (when the salary threshold was last updated).  Additionally, the rule is closely in line with states and municipalities that have raised the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  The DOL estimates that the proposed rule would make one million more workers eligible for overtime pay.

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP is a full-service law firm that offers clients the national reach and sophisticated experience of a large firm and the local connections and value of a boutique firm. With one firm, clients get a macro view of the law with a micro focus on their unique legal needs. Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP represents recognizable names in corporate America, exciting start-ups and an array of closely held and privately held companies, as well as nonprofits, governmental and educational entities.

Top 5 Ways B2B Companies Can Slash Payment Processing Costs in 2019


Top 5 Ways B2B Companies Can Slash Payment Processing Costs in 2019
Contributed By: Andrew O’Connor, Team Merchant

If your business does business with other businesses, chances are payment processing makes up a much larger part of your annual expenses than you would like it to. The good news is that “the times, they are a changin”. There are a number of ways B2B companies can reduce or eliminate these payment processing costs altogether:

1. Level 3 Processing Can Slash Your Costs by over 25%

Interchange is the fixed cost for each card type issued by Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express and other credit cards for US merchants. It is regulated by the Federal Reserve, and changes every April and October. There are hundreds of different rates, based on the type of card and issuing banks. Visa, Mastercard and the other credit card companies publish these rates on their websites and every processor in the US, regardless of size, has these exact same fixed costs.

For B2B companies, Level 3 Interchange Optimization can slash those costs significantly, often times lowering the rate to below what a traditional consumer or rewards card would cost to accept. If you accept Business, Purchasing and/or Corporate cards and aren’t qualifying for Level 3, chances are you’re paying way too much in payment processing costs.

2. Large B2B Tickets = Large B2B Savings

Your Business just closed a HUGE deal with another business. Congratulations! Getting paid on a huge deal feels great, paying processing fees on one, not so much. With Level 3, merchants who are accepting payments higher than $7,500 are eligible for what is called “Large Ticket” discounts, depending on the card type and size of the transaction. Merchants can save between 25-75% of the total cost of the transaction by lowering the risk associated with these transactions. Best of all, there are solutions that can do this seamlessly on the back-end, with no additional work from you. Stop paying almost 3% on every credit card transaction and instead pay as little as 0.5% with Large Ticket Discounts.

3. Surcharging is Legal For Some Businesses 2019 (if you follow the rules…)

If you’ve ever thought (or screamed) “These fees are too high, why do we even take cards?”-  there is good news. Surcharging, also known as cash discounting is now legal. For B2B companies with slim margins, 2-3% can make all the difference. There are strict rules and regulations about who can and cannot surcharge, as well as signage, rates and notification of card brands that merchants need to follow.

4. It’s All About That ACH, ACH

ACH and other bank to bank transfers have come a long way and there are new solutions that make accepting ACH payments as simple as accepting credit cards. Moreover, if your business still accepts checks, ACH can dramatically increase your cash flow with a fraction of the costs to push paper between you and your customers. ACH fees are miniscule compared to Credit Cards and you can avoid the downsides of card acceptance like fraud and chargebacks.

5. Connecting Your Payment Processing Can Transform Your Business

The previous entries are all about reducing the cost of accepting cards. However, the overhead associated with reconciling these payments can often be more expensive than interchange rates. There are thousands of software solutions from accounting systems like Quickbooks and Xero to CRM and ERP solutions like Hubspot, Salesforce and Oracle, not to mention ticketing, analytics, HR, and other SAAS solutions that have helped bring many businesses into the 21st century.

The problem is these software systems don’t talk to one another, costing your business money and wasting time. If you find yourself having to do manual entry, reconciling multiple items or having to export/import data constantly, there are many new solutions that can help better connect your business ecosystem. If you’re thinking, “it would be nice if X could talk to Y” in 2019 chances are it can and probably should.

Team Merchant provides a no obligation Discovery Analysis to B2B companies to help evaluate these areas and more (including PCI compliance and data security). Our partner company Paycove is a software solution that connects CRM, Invoicing, Quoting, Accounting systems and more. Team Merchant is dedicated to empowering merchants through transparent payment processing and education.

If Disaster Strikes, Do You Have a Backup Strategy for your Business?


How to plan a reliable backup strategy for your business
Contributed By: MXOtech, INC

In the event of security breaches or natural disasters that could disrupt your day-to-day operations, all small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) should have a reliable disaster and backup recovery plan (DRP). When disaster strikes, how can you ensure that business continues as usual?

  1. Backup speed

Backup speed refers to how quickly your system backs up or saves data. The first complete backup is expected to take a bit of time, because you’re migrating all your data, but subsequent backups shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. In fact, your backup should be barely noticeable by the end users. Look for solutions that don’t cause network slowness which will negatively affect user experience and productivity.

  1. Recovery Time

If something happens, how much time does it take to get your systems up and running again? Recovery time objective (RTO) is the ideal time by which systems should be restored after a catastrophe. The quicker your RTO is, the better, because losing time means losing money.

When you set your RTO, you also need to consider your recovery point objective (RPO), or the minimum data you need to restore so you can resume normal business operations. Usually, this means most critical apps or data. You don’t necessarily need to recover everything at once; you just have to retrieve the essential files or software first.

  1. Reliability

Reliability means your backup DRP will work every single time. The only way to ensure this is to have an infallible infrastructure that can support your strategic plan. SMBs might find that the cost of purchasing and maintaining their own high-quality hardware and software for backup and recovery can be high and require special expertise. In those cases, they can opt to partner with a reputable managed services provider (MSP) that specializes in business continuity.

  1. Simplicity

Your DRP should be easy to implement. If it’s too complicated, it will take longer to execute and leave more room for human error. An effective backup strategy is clear cut and easy to follow: all personnel involved can easily explain and act out their role in the plan.

  1. Cost efficiency

Here are some costs involved in rolling out a DRP:

  • File storage costs — the cost of buying hardware and software to house your data
  • Maintenance costs — the combined cost of maintaining and protecting your data
  • Upgrade costs — the cost of scaling up your storage and/or fortifying your security

If you’re asking, “Is it worth it?” then your plan isn’t cost effective. Apply the concept of tiered retention, or the system of keeping data based on their importance. You don’t need to store all your data forever: some data get outdated, and some data have negligible impact on your business. By choosing only the necessary data to replicate, encrypt, or archive, you can save on costs.

MXOtech is a technology consulting company that delivers Managed IT Services, Custom Web Application Development and System Integrations. Started in 2005, and built on the core values of clarity, inspiration, trust and accountability, MXOtech works every day to help their clients use technology to grow their businesses.

Right Way Signs Makes Chicago Tribune List of Amazing Murals


Congratulations to SBAC Member, Right Way Signs Chicago, for being recognized in the Chicago Tribune’s Amazing Chicagoland Wall Murals list. The highlighted work is a mural of Abraham Lincoln at the Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln Park.

According to a blog featured on the Right Way Signs website:

The hand painted mural of President Lincoln measured 8 stories high or 80′ tall by 40′ wide. The project started in November with an average temperature of 30 degrees and took 10 gallons of paint and 5 weeks to complete.

Check out their blog for more pictures of the process and finished product.

 

SBAC Member Double Good Featured on the Today Show!


ICYMI – Double Good, an SBAC Premier Advocate Member, was featured this week on the Today Show for a segment titled, Food for Thought.

According to a recap on the Double Good website

The segment featured some incredible non-profit organizations we work with, like Rhythm Works and The Transition Center; an interview with our buddy Izzy Paskowitz of Surfers Healing; and a shout out to the Benson Bruins Jr Football League, who sold more than $24,000 in their first Double Good fundraiser.

But more than anything, this segment was about you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who has ever fundraised with us or bought popcorn.

You are the reason we exist.

Congrats to Double Good for this awesome recognition! You can view the full segment here.