When it comes to running your small business, it always pays to think ahead. Planning for the approaching year not only enables you to anticipate any potential problems, but it also gives you the opportunity to set up the necessary solutions and infrastructures that will allow your business to continue running smoothly. So, how do you determine which aspects of your small business need to be addressed in advance? In episode #113, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks discuss what issues business owners have to focus on right now in order to be successful in the upcoming year.

Executive Summary

2:00—Today’s Topic: What Do Small Business Owners Need to Focus On Right Now to Be Prepared for 2019?

3:13—Because healthcare expenses will be rising in 2019, many small business owners have looked into creating HAS’s (Health Savings Accounts) that they can combine with a high deductible plan to help meet their employees’ health needs in a more cost efficient way.

6:09— Hybrid Plans or MERP’s (Managed Expensed Reimbursement Plans) can actually lower your group rates because they allow you to contribute to your employees’ health expenses at the lower level.

7:51—Healthcare Reimbursement Accounts enable you and your employees to invest in their health-related expenses pre-tax.

8:40—Association Healthcare Plans let business owners in the same industry or region band together as a buying group and purchase insurance plans at a lower price. Skinny Plans are another inexpensive insurance option that small business owners can purchase to provide their workers with basic health coverage.

10:10—Small business owners need to assess whether the workplace values outlined in their current handbook are progressive enough to attract talented job applicants. In today’s competitive labor market, issues such as competitive pay and clearly defined harassment and discrimination policies can be the deciding factor for many of your potential employees.

13:42—Don’t be afraid to have your accountant run a financial analysis of your business; due to recent changes in US tax laws, your current corporate structure may not be the most profitable one for your business.

16:05—Investing in the newest technology can have long term benefits for your business; CRM systems and HR Platforms can help boost productivity through improved communication while video technology can help solidify your brand.

23:01—Gene advises small business owners to use collaboration apps and software that have been specifically developed for small businesses rather than add-on apps, such as “Workplace,” which have been created as extension of social media accounts.

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Elizabeth: Welcome to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin. I’m here with Gene Marks, who is a small business owner, and small business expert. Which you always grumble about that title.

Gene: Feeling less and less of that all the time, but okay.

Elizabeth: So, Gene. You know that it’s late spring, early summer 2018 right now.

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: You’re aware of that?

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: Okay. We’re actually today going to be talking about 2019.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: How far ahead do you plan out for your business?

Gene: I have to say, it’s not just me. Elizabeth, so I … We have a lot of clients in our company. I speak a lot around the country. A lot of people read the stuff that I write. So I meet a lot of business owners during the course of the year. And I’ve probably given you this speech before, but the smartest people I meet are always thinking ahead.

Elizabeth: This is your tag line, Gene. You say this all the time.

Gene: I do. They’re always thinking ahead. And we’re here now in the middle of 2018, and I’m telling you that the best and most successful leaders I come across, they’re not thinking about 2018 anymore. They are looking ahead to 2019. It’s not like they’re ignoring what’s going on around them day-to-day, but trust me, they’re thinking of where they’re going to spend their money and where the troubles are going to be over the next two years.

So if you’re not thinking about 2019 now, you need to be. You need to be. There are too many people who rely on you to make the right decisions.

Elizabeth: So if you were either a new small business owner, or you haven’t started a small business yet, but you’re thinking of doing it in 2018 or you already have a small business and you just have not found the time to think about 2019-

Gene: You’ve got to take the time and do that.

Elizabeth: Today, Gene is going to outline exactly what every small business owner should be thinking about right now in 2018, your mid-year review … Thinking about for 2019, so you can have a successful year next year.

Gene: Let’s do it.

Elizabeth: We will be right back with Gene’s list after a word from our sponsor.

Our Sponsor

This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability and worker’s compensation insurance, check out The Hartford’s small business insurance at TheHartford.com.

QUESTION: How to Plan for a Successful 2019

Elizabeth: Okay. I think I’m going to be able to guess what one of the things is.

Gene: Is that because we talked about this beforehand? I mean, really? You’re duping our listeners here?

Elizabeth: Well, I’m guessing that you’re going to talk about technology. But let’s save that til the end, because I think that’s the part that is actually fun and the other three-

Gene: Are not as fun-

Elizabeth: Not as fun, but necessary.

Gene: … but they’re reality. But they’re reality. So, listen. You have to decide where you’re going to be spending your money over the next year. So this is not a conversation about where the new markets are going to be, or where you should be selling to. That’s fun to talk about, and that might be a conversation for another podcast, but let’s talk about how you’re going to spend your money.

Elizabeth: So what’s number one?

Gene: Well, there are three big things that are going to be impacting your bank balance in the next year, and you have to prepare for it. Number one is health care expenses. Whether you’re just a start-up, but more likely if you’re an existing business with 2 employees, 10 employees, 50 employees, 100 employees … your health care expenses are going to be going up in 2019. In the Washington Post, where I do a lot of writing, some of my colleagues were writing about 30-90% premium increases on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. This is not a political conversation, so we’re not going to get into that. But I can tell you now that the mood in Washington, the current administration, the current Congress is they want to continue to do something about health care and they’re pushing the issue. So the current administration is taking some steps to allow more people to pull themselves out of the health care system, which is potentially putting more pressure on insurance companies to find buyers. They’re also loosening the strings as to the type of insurance people can buy. Again, that’s another conversation. The bottom line is that health care costs are getting pressure, and they’re going up.

So what do you do as a business owner? You have to plan for 2019.

Elizabeth: So what do you do? Are you saving money now?

Gene: There are three things that I recommend you do. Actually, four things.

Elizabeth: And just FYI, as always, we’re going to put these in the show notes, so don’t worry about pulling your car over and writing this down.

Gene: And, by the way, these four things come from … This is what business owners are doing now. This year. Now, we might have a totally different conversation two years from now, but I’m telling you this is what business owners are doing from the thousands that I speak to and work with throughout the year.

Number one. Most are sticking with high deductible plans. So if you’ve already got one of those, a bronze plan, a high deductible plan, you’re not alone. But make sure you get a health savings account in your business. They are exploding in popularity. They are extremely popular among my client base, and a health savings account when it’s combined with a high deductible plan allows you and your employees to put money away pre-tax, and then they can pull it out and pay for their higher deductibles and out of pockets, and certain drugs, prescription drugs. It’s a huge benefit to your employees. Big trend. People are getting HSAs. That’s number one.

Elizabeth: So I max mine out every year.

Gene: It’s like $3,500 a year you can put away. Yep.

Elizabeth: Because it’s triple tax free for your employees.

Gene: That’s right. And if you don’t max it out, by the way, it carries over into the next year. And by the way, the employees can put money in pre-tax. Employers, if they want, can also contribute to their employees accounts and a nice benefit to give.

Elizabeth: That’s a very nice … I guess we’d call it a fringe benefit.

Gene: It is.

Elizabeth: Contributing to your employees’ HSA. That makes you a much more attractive employer.

Gene: It really does. So HSAs. Talk to your benefits person about setting up an HSA. Very inexpensive to set up, so it’s something that you definitely want to consider. That’s number one.

Number two is: Talk to your benefits person about either hybrid plans or a MERP plan. Managed Expense Reimbursement Plan. What these plans are … They are growing, again, significantly in popularity. And what these plans are is that they combine a little bit of self-insurance and group insurance.

So here’s how it works, Elizabeth. You say to your employees, “Listen. For the first $200 in expenses, you give me the receipts, and I’ll reimburse you.” After $200, the group plan then kicks in. But because you take responsibility for expenses at the lower level, your group rates will be lower.

Most employers are kind of lazy. We just get the group plans for everybody, and then we’re paying for people that a lot of people don’t even use it. I mean, they’re healthy employees or whatever. This way, just pay for the people that are using it, up to a certain amount, and then you start buying the group insurance for everybody else and above, so that you’re covering any long term problems or catastrophic issues. So they’re called Hybrid or Level-Funded Plans, or MERP plans, and these’ll be in the show notes. Talk to your benefits person about those plans. Very, very popular. So that’s number two.

Elizabeth: Okay. So do all small business owners have a benefits person to go to?

Gene: When we say about a benefits person … When you’re buying your health insurance as a small business, most of my clients work with some sort of a benefits consulting firm. So it’s not like an internal person, it’s not an HR person. It used to be the original part of the Affordable Care Act was trying to drive small businesses toward small business health care exchanges, like the personal exchanges. They haven’t been so popular. So most of my clients, they buy it from a benefits firm.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: That’s where they get their insurance from.

Elizabeth: Number three.

Gene: Number three. Health care reimbursement accounts. If you don’t have one in your company, consider setting one up. You can put money away, pre-tax. Your employees can put money away, pre-tax.

Elizabeth: I like that.

Gene: You take the money out, and they can buy insurance wherever they want to buy it. So they don’t want to get it from you, or if your plans aren’t that great, or maybe you don’t offer health insurance at all, but you want to give some type of an insurance … a health benefit. You say to your employees and prospective employees, “Listen. We have a health care reimbursement account and we contribute X dollars for every employee a year, and then we tell the employees you have the option to get what you want.”

Now before 2016, you were penalized for doing this. But in December of 2016, Congress passed a law that said no longer will other penalties for allowing employees to get their own. So health care reimbursement account is number three.

Elizabeth: Number four?

Gene: Number four is: Pay close attention to two things that were done by the Trump Administration just recently. They are now allowing, by the end of this year, something called association health care plans. And they are also allowing what’s called skinny plans.

Association plans, they’re basically allowing business small business owners to group together based on their industry, or their region, or other factors … create a buying group … and then buy lower cost insurance from insurance providers. Less benefits, they might not have certain essential health benefits. There’s pros and cons. I don’t want to get into it. But there are pros and cons to it.

The same thing with skinny plans. These are very low cost, good plans if you’re healthy. Not so good if you’re not so healthy.

Elizabeth: Or if you become ill while you’re on it.

Gene: Or if you become ill. These plans, again, they have their pluses and their minuses, but they will be allowed by … the Trump Administration’s going to allow you to do this. And certain states are already allowing this already. They’re not going to come after you if you do this.

And because of this, you as an employer might be a potential option for you. Okay? To supplement what you already have, or to replace what you already have … I’ll leave that up to you. But talk to your benefits person about association plans and what’s called skinny health plans, as well.

So health care costs. Gotta focus on them.

Elizabeth: So that’s the number one thing to focus on right now in order to be a successful small business owner in 2019: Health care expenses.

Gene: Correct.

Elizabeth: Number two.

Gene: Workplace issues.

Elizabeth: Now, that’s a big, generic term.

Gene: It’s a big thing and I get it, because the labor market is tight. The number one problem we all have is finding people, let alone good people.

One edge you can give yourself is if you have progressive workplace issues. In other words, you revisit your employee handbook. You want to make sure that you’ve got very good, competitive paid-time-off policies, because paid-time-off is a very valuable benefit nowadays.

You want to make sure that your policies for things like discrimination, harassment, have been updated and you’re clear about that, because people are very interested in those issues nowadays, as well.

Elizabeth: That’s a huge topic right now.

Gene: Huge topic.

In addition, you want to make sure that other policies for, say, drug use and drug testing, depending on the state that you’re in. Some employers are dropping it. Some are re-looking at it. All sorts of issues around it. But you have to be progressive about this stuff, because you’re searching for good people that are going to be asking you these kinds of questions.

The big takeaway with workplace issues is update your employee handbook and make sure that your workplace policies are current with the current times, and you’re not operating like you were 30 years ago.

Two final things when it comes to workplace issues. Keep an eye out. The Department of Labor is looking at increasing overtime rules this year. Which means you may have to be paying more people overtime in 2019. Keep an eye out, as well, on minimum wages. They’re going up around the country, as we all know, but the administration, the Trump Administration, supports anywhere between a $10-$11 an hour national minimum wage, as does the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Costa. So it could happen in 2019, and you want to prepare yourself for that.

Elizabeth: And a lot of states already have raised it above that.

Gene: And cities. $15 an hour in New York and San Francisco, Seattle. So I don’t think we’ll see a $15 an hour nationally, but that impacts all of your employees. If you’ve got an employee who’s making $15 an hour now, and the national minimum wage is $7.25 … Think about that. The guy’s saying like, “Oh, I’m making twice the national minimum wage. I’m okay.” Now the national minimum wage goes up next year to $11 an hour. What’s that guy going to say? “I’m only making $4 more than the minimum wage? I deserve an increase.”

There’s an upward pressure on wages. And, again, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Elizabeth: Yeah. If they’re a good employee, and you’re able to make money off of them …

Gene: That’s great. My point is is that … This is a conversation about 2019, so I’m telling you things are going to happen next year. Okay? No crystal ball here. Health care expenses are going to be going up. Workplace issues are going to become more and more important. Minimum wages have a good chance of going up and overtime wages are going to be going up. You’ve got to prepare for that.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, if you don’t have an employee handbook, you are in luck. Or if you have an employee handbook, and you have not dusted that thing off in a couple of years, we have a guide to exactly how to create an employee handbook.

Gene: What a fantastic coincidence.

Elizabeth: And I will link to that. Actually, I don’t think Gene knew about that.

Gene: I didn’t know about that. I’m just kidding. I really didn’t know there was a guide from The Hartford. That’s great.

Elizabeth: It was written by our wonderful writer, Kelly. It’s super, super thorough. It’s not like the most exciting read in the world, but it’s an employee handbook. It outlines everything you need to do. So I will link to that in the show notes.

Gene: And if I could just give a shout out. If you’re using a payroll service, the big ones, like a Paychecks, they offer those services, too. So they’re going to-

Elizabeth: Great. So that was issue number two. If you want to be a successful small business owner in 2019, what do you need to be focusing on right now?

Number one is health care expenses.

Number two, workplace issues.

And number three.

Gene: Taxes.

Elizabeth: Oh, exciting.

Gene: I know. I’m really thrilling you guys, right? Well, listen. Taxes is your biggest expense, personally and professionally and you need to be addressing them now. Most of us aren’t seeing right now the benefits of tax reform, and maybe some of us won’t realize the benefits of tax reform. But my smartest clients right now are huddling with their accountants. It’s mid-year, 2018. They are looking at their corporate structure. Should they stay a pass-through entity, or should change into a corporation? Or, if they’re a corporation, should they change into a pass-through entity? Because the rates are changing. I’m not going to through the details of all the changes by tax reform-

Elizabeth: We should do that, though.

Gene: We should have a whole separate session on that and I think we should do that sooner rather than later. But I will say this much. There are big changes. And they will affect us both individually and professionally. And remember, this is just a mathematical exercise. None of my clients … Whenever people say they don’t know or they don’t think that tax reform is going to affect them, I know … ’cause I’m a CPA … they just don’t know. They haven’t run the numbers. They haven’t done the math. Right? It’s mid-year right now. Get together with your accountant, have your accountant run the numbers for 2018 and 2019 … You can make some estimates … under the different tax rate scenarios, to figure out whether you are in the right corporate structure to fully benefit from tax reform over the next couple years. Because if you have to change, it’s not going to happen overnight.

Elizabeth: Your accountant, I’m assuming, is expecting that phone call, right?

Gene: I don’t know. I have some accountants that … People in my profession, and I love them, and I’m proud to be a CPA-

Elizabeth: I was going to say, Gene is an accountant.

Gene: I am an accountant, and I am a CPA. Some people in my profession frustrate me, because they’re not as proactive as they should be. A lot of times your clients don’t know they should be asking these questions or doing this analysis. Sometimes they’re a little intimidated by asking their accountant.

If you’re a CPA listening, I’m telling you. Reach out to your clients and say to them, “Let’s go through this exercise together.” I got news for you. Charge them for a few hours of work. It’s extra billable time. I don’t know a single business owner or client that wouldn’t want to pay a couple hundred bucks to have this analysis done, even if the conclusion is, “You’re fine where you are right now,” at least you know. You gotta do it. It’s such a big issue.

Elizabeth: Okay. To recap. What you need to do to be a successful small business owner in 2019:

Number One: Health care expenses.

Number Two: Workplace issues.

Number three: Taxes.

And number four?

Gene: Technology. Finally.

Elizabeth: This is Gene’s favorite topic.

Gene: Finally. That is my favorite topic. And it is … There are a lot of technologies to invest in for the year. Remember … Whatever you invest in in 2018, particularly now, you’re not going to see the fruits of that investment until a year or two later. So don’t think that there’s immediate gratification. These things take some time to do. But, I’m going to push … I’m going to … We need to have another conversation … You can make a note of just sort of future technologies that will be affecting small businesses in the next two, three, four years.

But let’s just talk about something more immediate. Like stuff that really will impact your business over the next one to two years, ’cause we’re talking about 2019. So … listen, I know … Full disclosure. My company sells customer relationship management systems. It’s a $23 Billion market. It’s expected to grow 16% in 2018.

Elizabeth: And you captured, what? $20 Billion of that market?

Gene: I wish. But it is a … Everybody’s getting CRM systems. It is a very important thing to do. So do some research, into CRM technology. I think every business, regardless of size, should have a CRM system.

In addition, I’m a big fan of HR technology. If you have more than five employees, you should have an HR platform. There are a bunch of great ones out there. We’ve talked about them before on prior podcasts.

Elizabeth: And they’re very budget-friendly.

Gene: Very. Hundreds of dollars a year. Not like a budget breaker. Big payroll firms like ADP and Paychecks offer this stuff. Zenefits. Bamboo. There’s a bunch of great ones out there.

Elizabeth: And they’ll help you do your employee handbook.

Gene: So the handbook, but more importantly, the HR platforms I’ve seen have had a huge impact on productivity of your employees. Everybody just has it on their mobile device, and then they look at their vacation time, they put in sick hours, they look at their schedules, they can check their payroll records. I bet you might not be able to do all that here at The Hartford yet. And off of a mobile app. Right – I mean can you?

Elizabeth: Not from a mobile app, no.

Gene: Right. But I’m telling you. A lot of my clients are doing this stuff from a mobile app, and they’re a fraction of the size of The Hartford, and that’s ’cause you can do that as a small business. And there are these applications out there to help you. This way you don’t have to wait for people to update your insurance information or request a vacation or put in for a performance review. You don’t have to worry about all the paperwork and nonsense involved in that. They handle it, and then the system reminds everybody. It’s great.

Elizabeth: There are a lot of … I’m assuming … There’s some compliance law around what you need to keep, and what-

Gene: There is. Like OSHA regulations, for example. Safety issues. A lot of these systems can report safety issues, can report injuries. Again, performance reviews. A good place for both the employees and the employer can report evaluations or results of performance reviews in case there’s a parting of ways. These systems also give you the ability to report things like your employee handbook should have a procedure if there is sexual harassment in your office. It’s like the big issue this year. What is your procedure-

Elizabeth: This year.

Gene: Yeah. Well, it’s become a big issue, right? But my point is … you should have a … You can’t just have a policy saying, “We’re against sexual harassment.” You have to define what it is, and then say: Here’s what to do if you-

Elizabeth: Absolutely.

Gene: And you do that through your HR system.

Elizabeth: This HR technology … It’s not going to be something that’s going to make you money. It’s going to potentially save you money.

Gene: Correct. But isn’t that the same thing?

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Gene: It’s more productivity for your people.

Elizabeth: Alright. We’ve got CRM. We’ve got HR technology. Give us one more.

Gene: Video technology is huge. 80% of the internet is video. The millennial generation which makes up blah dee dee blah dee dee blah. They consume videos as their main part of content, and I am seeing my clients … The more videos that they’re doing about their company case studies, interviews with customers, training … I have one client who like every month, he does a little eight minute spiel on the state of the industry. And then he looks back a couple months later, and he’s like, “Well, 200 people looked at that video.” Or whatever.

Elizabeth: What industry is he in?

Gene: He’s an architect. So he talks about the building and construction industry. You know, they do this stuff. And, okay, you’re not getting … You’re not Rihanna. It’s not like you’re going to get millions of views on your video. But you’ll get hundreds over time. And there’s two types of people who will be looking at this video. Your employees, prospective employees, and prospective customers. Because they want to know what you’re all about. Who they’re doing business with. And videos tell it all.

Elizabeth: That’s great. Okay. So I’m going to recap. I know I keep recapping, but-

Gene: We need to.

Elizabeth: … it’s a podcast, we need to keep recapping.

So the topic that Gene just went through today is what should small business owners be focused on right now, mid-year 2018, to have a successful 2019.

Number one: Health care expenses. And within that, his tips are: Make sure you have an HSA plan. Look at hybrid or level-funded plans called Managed Expense Reimbursement Plans.

Gene: Managed Expense Reimbursement Plans. There are slight differences between all of those, but there’re in the same sort of genre, category.

Elizabeth: Look into health care reimbursement accounts. And then, finally, look into association health care plans and/or skinny plans.

Gene: We need to have a conversation about that.

Elizabeth: We will. We will do that in another podcast.

Gene: Yep.

Elizabeth: But talk to your administrator about that.

Number two: Workplace issues. You’ve got to go through your employee handbook and update that. Make sure you have your PTO policies in there, your discrimination policies … how you’re going to handle that. And keep an eye on increasing overtime laws, and keep an eye on minimum wage laws.

For taxes, you want to call your accountant right now and pay him or her a couple hundred dollars to review your corporate structure with you to see if you’re going to benefit from the new tax changes.

And, finally, number four: Technology. You want to be investing in CRMs, HR technology, and video technology.

So Gene’s written a lot about CRM technology. We actually did an entire show about CRM. We should maybe do another one, just to update everyone. I’m going to put all those links in the show notes. Go to the show notes, review this list. Take a look at what you’re doing in your business. Talk to your accountant. Talk to you administrator. If you have an operations person, talk to them. Talk to your senior staff to figure out what you can do right now to be more successful in 2019.

And we’ll be right back with Gene’s word of brilliance.

WORD OF BRILLIANCE: Workplace

Elizabeth: Do you have your Word of Brilliance?

Gene: I do.

Elizabeth: Gene, what’s your Word of Brilliance?

Gene: My Word of Brilliance is workplace.

Elizabeth: Okay. That’s actually one word.

Gene: It is one word, actually. Do you know what workplace is? No, you do not, Elizabeth. You’re looking at me like, “What is he talking …”

Workplace is an application made by Facebook.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: And just recently Facebook announced some enhancements to Workplace which I think will affect most organizations. What Workplace does is it competes against Slack and Microsoft Teams and other collaboration type software. So a lot of companies … I don’t know what you do at The Hartford, but a lot of my clients if they want to chat or send instant messages or-

Elizabeth: We have a … We use a Skype program that’s for inter-chatting.

Gene: Okay. is it literally Skype or is it a Skype-type program.

Elizabeth: It’s Skype for business.

Gene: It’s Skype for business. Okay. Microsoft has taken that one step up and incorporated that into something called Microsoft Teams which is part of Microsoft Office, and you can have Skype and chats and emails and that’s just all in one collaboration type system. They’ve become enormously popular. Slack is another company … It’s a leader in that area.

Elizabeth: You love Slack.

Gene: Right. Slack’s great.

Elizabeth: You use Slack, right?

Gene: We do not. We use Microsoft Teams.

Elizabeth: Oh, you do? I thought you-

Gene: Microsoft Office. We’re a Microsoft partner, so we kind of eat the dog food. Slack is great. And there are other great ones that are out there. Facebook has seen that and they’re like, we want to get on this market, too, because it’s a giant market.

So they have an application called Workplace. Workplace does the same thing that Slack does and that Teams do and all that. You can send messaging back and forth to each other and video messages and all that. The issue with Workplace is that it didn’t integrate with many other applications, and Slack and Teams and all these others, they integrate with Word, and Help Desk applications and CRMs and all sorts of things.

So just recently, Facebook announced a huge upgrade to their Workplace application. It’s going to integrate with hundreds of applications. It’s only like $3 a month a user, so it’s priced really, really good. And if you’re a Facebook fan, and you guys are using Facebook in your company for social media, they’re betting that if you’re already on it a lot, you’re going to use it as a collaboration as well, and you’ll pay for it.

Will people do that? Will people rely on Facebook as a workplace tool when most of the time, we’re just sort of kind of envisioning it as a social media fun kind of thing?

Elizabeth: I don’t know.

Gene: I don’t know, either. But it’s certainly an option that’s out there.

Elizabeth: Especially after the recent issues that Facebook has had. I don’t-

Gene: Funny that you say that. ‘Cause, yes. They are well aware of all the privacy concerns that people have had … The PR they’ve been getting. So they’ve been out front, saying, “No. Our client’s data will be as secure as,” and whatever. So they’re aware of that. The question is: Will they be able to grab a little bit of the market of businesses. Particularly small and medium size companies that want to use Facebook as a-

Elizabeth: I don’t know. If I was working someplace, and let’s say I was a new employee and they’re like, “Oh, we use Facebook Workplace and we need you to log into your Facebook account, your personal account, to use it.” I might feel a little uncomfortable about that.

Gene: Depends on the person.

Elizabeth: I mean, the only thing I’m posting on my Facebook account are pictures of dogs, but, I still would feel a little weird about that.

Gene: My take on all these types of applications is … Sometimes I feel these companies get a little too big and greedy. Like Facebook is awesome, and they’re a great social media service. There is so much more they could be doing to improve themselves on the social media side, that I don’t think they need to be spending time and money getting into the business application marketplace. It’s almost a little too of a grab. And so I don’t know if many people are going to embrace that or not.

Elizabeth: So-

Gene: I’d rather subscribe to a Slack or an Office or an application that’s really focused on business, and not sort of a side gig.

Elizabeth: Out of Slack or … and I’m sure you’re going to say this is an “It depends,” answer … Out of Slack or Microsoft, which one would you go with? I guess if you’re using Microsoft 365, then-

Gene: Yeah. I … First of all, caveat. My firm is a Microsoft partner, so maybe I am subjective, but I think it’s a no brainer to go with Microsoft Office. The business edition of Microsoft Office is $12.50 a month a user, and that includes Teams as well as all the other applications that you know, and probably a bunch that you’ve never heard of, as well. And you’re probably under-utilizing it.

For $12.50 a month per user, it is a full-blown platform to combine all of your business operations under. And what happens is that people themselves are not using Office the way that they should be. And that should be another conversation that we have in a future podcast is how to get the most out of Microsoft Office.

Now, if you’re a Google user, you’re yelling and screaming right now, because you love Google and you’re using Google’s Hangouts for your messaging and back and forth. And more power to you, and that’s great. Same thing if you’re a Slack lover, or if you like Box.net is another great one that’s out there. But you asked, and-

Elizabeth: Yeah. We want your opinion, Gene.

Gene: … I think Office to me is the way to go. And Microsoft is a different company than it was four or five years ago. They’re developing … It’s no longer Windows. They’re developing applications across all platforms and devices and they’re doing a great job.

Elizabeth: Okay. Alright. We will be back in a couple days with our next episode where we will be discussing a very exciting topic. And it’s about how, as a business owner, you give yourself a performance review. Because no one else is going to review you.

Gene: True. Oh, I know exactly what my performance review is. We’ll talk. It’s a very easy answer. It’s a very easy answer.

Elizabeth: Alright. We’ll talk to you in a couple days. Thanks for joining us today.

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