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Stephanie Cohen, Scott Golden, Jack Cohen

FEBRUARY NEWS FROM GOLDEN & COHEN

Why Some Small Businesses Are Surviving the Recession

Thanks to being snowed in by the Blizzard of February 2010, we've had time to think back on our business and plan ahead for the rest of the year. Taking this long-term perspective is important for any small business, and it's something we have done since founding our firm in 1992.

In looking back, we realized that the root of our business was in doing what no one else wanted to do – working with small businesses to implement their health insurance plans. The competition was not intense, at least not initially, and it enabled us to build a substantial business servicing the under-served.

This turned out to be a very good business model for us, as no single client could impact our bottom line in a meaningful way. And it provided great stability — something that every business needs.

As we look around at other firms faltering in the current recession, we realize that other factors have also fed our success: we aggressively look for new clients, we advocate for all of our clients' rights, and we do not overspend.

Over the years we have also run "fire drills" to simulate what we would do if certain events occurred. And some tough decisions were made early in the game. We could have established a business that spent money on things that do not help our clients, such as a sexier office with a fancy DC address and other big ticket purchases – but we did not. As a result, we are profitable and continue to recalculate and position ourselves for success.

Being prepared, and running a lean and mean business, is our simple secret to success. It's also how we live our personal lives. And we take pride and joy in sharing those secrets with our colleagues and other small business owners.

Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Stephanie Cohen quoted in Friday's issue of The Washington Post

Check out page A4 in the Feb. 19 issue of The Washington Post, where reporters Alec MacGillis and Amy Goldstein interviewed Stephanie Cohen in their article entitled, "HHS secretary decries higher rates for health insurance."

They wrote, "The Obama administration stepped up its criticism Thursday of health insurers' efforts to raise their rates, an attempt to harness public aggravation with the industry and rebuild momentum for broad changes to the nation's health-care system. Separately, Washington area residents holding individual health insurance policies said they have received notices that their premiums are increasing by as much as 40 percent."

They quote Stephanie as saying she is also seeing rate increases, including some that are even larger than 40% for small-business policies. Read the entire article here.

More from Golden & Cohen

Scroll down to read the rest of our monthly newsletter where you'll find information on:

  • Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business. In the spirit of sharing business secrets and helping other small business owners, Stephanie has partnered with attorney Debbie Klis to launch a powerful new networking group, Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business. Learn more about that below.
  • You Gotta Laugh. We're also eager to share with you the chapters of our new book. In this issue you'll find chapter 3: You believe the cost of your policy is too high and the benefits too low.
  • Why Business Should Also Be Personal. This month's guest columnist, HR and recruiting expert Paige Rhodes, CEO of Rhodes & Weinstock, offers insights into why it's important to put a personal touch on your client relationships. We couldn't agree more.

From all of us at Golden & Cohen, here's to your good health!

Stephanie Cohen, CEO, stephanie@golden-cohen.com
Scott Golden, CFO, scott@golden-cohen.com
Jack Cohen, COO, jack@golden-cohen.com

Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business

 

Please join us on March 25 for the launch of Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business

Your hosts:

Stephanie Cohen, CEO, Golden & Cohen
stephanie@golden-cohen.com

Debbie Klis, partner, Shulman Rogers
dklis@shulmanrogers.com

Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business

It is our pleasure to announce a new networking group that we're launching in March called Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business. We'll be providing an exclusive mentoring and networking opportunity for business women in Montgomery County, MD, where they can share their advice, expertise and inspire others to make incredible strides in their careers and lives.

"Measures to optimize women's entrepreneurial and professional success, and to make it easier for them to do so, can take many forms," says co-host Debbie Klis. "We launched Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business to raise the visibility of existing female entrepreneurs and executives in our community by creating a dynamic networking and mentoring climate that is favorable to professional women and entrepreneurs alike. Access to mentoring and networking, the exchange of information and best practices, and the implementation of positive changes can increase the scale and profitability of women-run businesses in our community."

Alison Asti

Our featured speaker: ALISON ASTI, General Counsel and Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority

In an industry where few women dare to tread, Alison L. Asti has made a lasting footprint in professional sports in Maryland. As General Counsel and Executive Director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, Alison helped keep the Orioles in Baltimore with the beautiful Camden Yards and assisted in bringing the NFL back to Baltimore.

She spent 17 years at the Maryland Stadium Authority, first as General Counsel and then was appointed as Executive Director in 2004. During her service there, she participated in the lobbying, financing, design and construction of over $1 billion in projects throughout the state. Her footprint can be seen in projects such as Comcast Center, Unitas Stadium, Ripken Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M & T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore and Ocean City convention centers, and the Hippodrome Theatre. Read more here.

Sunflower Bakery

Our featured non-profit organization: SUNFLOWER BAKERY

At each of our luncheons, we will also feature a guest speaker representing a local non-profit organization. In March, we are proud to honor Laurie Wexler, co-founder of Sunflower Bakery, a non-profit bakery in Montgomery County, MD.

"The mission of Sunflower Bakery is to prepare individuals with developmental and other disabilities through on-the-job training in the baking industry," Laurie explains. "The bakery currently employs seven trainees with eight volunteers on an ongoing basis. The only paid employee is a professional pastry chef who assists with mentorship." Learn more here.

Become a sponsor

As we build a strong network of inspirational entrepreneurs in the greater Montgomery County, MD, area, we are looking for women hoping to grow their network to sponsor our luncheons. If you are interested in learning more, send an email to stephanie@golden-cohen.com.

Don't hesitate! Sign up today to join us on March 25.

There are no membership fees required to participate in Maryland Women Ambassadors for Business.

The fee for the luncheon is only $45. So register today for the March 25 event by logging on here: womenambassadorsforbusiness.eventbrite.com.


Paige Rhodes, CEO, Rhodes & Weinstock

SHOULD BUSINESS BE PERSONAL? You Bet!

By Paige Rhodes, CEO
Rhodes & Weinstock

You've heard it said a thousand times: "This is business, not personal." That infamous mantra from "The Godfather" has always rankled me. Maybe it's because I'm a believer that if something matters to you, it has to be personal.

Sure, we all strive to increase our revenues and profits, but especially in this sluggish economy it's not always just about who sells the widget at a lower price. Business is about two people helping each other to solve a problem.

Another lesson I've learned from my 15 years in the recruiting business is that people do business with those they like and trust. So short of having a mafia boss to contend with, that requires a deft touch, a little creativity, and the desire to build long-lasting, personal relationships with your clients.

Here are a few tips on how you can master the art of getting personal in the professional realm.

Everyone loves a little chocolate

Remembering clients' birthdays, knowing about their families, listening to the people you work with and understanding their challenges are the essential ingredients to building a strong relationship.

But don't underestimate the power of a gift.

Having opened our company last spring, my business partner Jeff Weinstock and I knew the value of reaching out to our clients at Christmas time. We wanted to thank them for helping us get up and running – and we wanted them to know that we're available to help with their recruiting needs in 2010.

We made the decision to set aside three full days in December to personally deliver the holiday gifts to all 72 of our clients. It was definitely a commitment on our part. Not only did we work to find just the right gift – a personalized box of chocolates each client could share with the staff – but the logistics of finding the most efficient route to get to them all in Washington, DC traffic was a real challenge.

After the first two stops we knew we had made the right decision. At those offices, and each one thereafter, we were received so warmly and enthusiastically by our clients. And with each client visit, we found ourselves getting more excited about the next stop.

Was our gesture unexpected due to the economic climate and the fact that we are a start-up company with a modest budget? Were our clients pleasantly surprised by our visit because many of them had not yet needed our staffing expertise, yet there we were taking time out of our busy day to stop by and express our gratitude? Yes, I'm sure all of that was in play. But the bottom line is that they simply appreciated that we cared enough to show up and say happy holidays.

Return on investment

I know what you are asking yourself: In addition to generating some great PR, was there any real financial gain? Believe it or not, in several instances we got new business right there on the spot.

In fact, one of our favorite clients who works for a large law firm actually pulled our entire staff into her office so she could sit with us for 20 minutes and catch up. She's now giving us regular business simply because we took the time to show our human side and build our relationship.

Sure, we could have paid UPS or FedEx to deliver our holiday gifts for us. But the time we spent on-site getting to know our clients truly was priceless.

About Paige Rhodes, CEO, Rhodes & Weinstock

Prior to co-founding Rhodes & Weinstock in 2009, Paige Rhodes spent more than 15 years in staffing, human resources, and law firm management. She has an intricate knowledge of the temporary, temp-to-hire, and direct placement services, and also has years of experience working as a human resources manager at two large Washington, DC law firms.

That combination of in-house and outplacement recruiting experience gives Paige a unique understanding of the hiring needs and concerns of her clients, from large multinational corporations to small start-ups.

Click here to learn more about Rhodes & Weinstock: www.r-wgroup.com. Contact Paige at prhodes@r-wgroup.com.



 

Chapter 3 – YOU GOTTA LAUGH: Life in the Trenches of the Health Insurance Business

Stephanie Cohen, Scott Golden

A new book by Stephanie Cohen and Scott Golden
Coming: Fall 2010

This month's health insurance nightmare:

You believe the cost of your policy is too high and the benefits too low.

The situation: Sara Evans was recently referred to Golden & Cohen by her friend, Susan, who has been a client of ours for years. She heard we were great advocates for our clients and sticklers about explaining the policy to the customer before they spend a penny.

Sara wanted options because she was concerned that her current policy cost too much and covered too little. A case in point was a recent eye exam. She had to pay for the appointment because she hadn't yet met the $1000 deductible on her current policy.

The solution: We immediately knew that Sara did not understand the details of the policy she had purchased. It's not unusual, but can prove problematic. In fact, we recommend that all of our customers make a list of the medical services they will likely need throughout the year. Before buying anything, we tell them to read the fine print on the policy and ask questions until they are certain they understand what they are paying for –¬†and what will be an additional charge.

Here's why: The fine print on an insurance policy can be complex. The bottom line is that if you purchase a policy with a high deductible, there will be no coverage until the deductible is paid in full. Deductibles apply to all coverage if you purchase an HSA compatible plan – except for preventative services.

And realize this:

1. Deductibles can also apply to specific services such as lab work and hospitalization.

2. They also apply to services differently depending on whether they are in or out of network.

3. It's important to know that deductibles may be cumulative or shared, or based on the calendar year or contract year. Know how it works for the policy you purchase.

4. If the policy is a Health Savings Account (HSA) versus a high-deductible plan, you will be able to write off the amount placed in the HSA account up to the maximum allowable by the government. The minimum deductibles for HSA plans start at $1200 for a single and $2400 for a family.

5. Do note that there are many after-tax expenditures such as those that are included in the FSA Section 213 of the tax code, which can be written off that are not covered under an insurance policy, which is the advantage of an HSA.

If we were the Health Insurance Ambassadors

Before any new customer signs up for a policy, we'd make sure they were given a short primer course, at the expense of the health insurance company, ensuring that they understand the benefit package they are buying.

We would also have the insured initial a disclaimer stating what is covered, how the deductible works and what it applies to, and what the exposure is based on the out-of-pocket limits. That would alleviate the confusion.

The painful truth

The reality is that there is a cost to pay when you buy health insurance. Realize that you'll end up paying out-of-pocket either with a deductible or a premium. Nothing is free.

Note that if an employer, or a parent, is footing the bill for the premium, you will still be required to pay out-of-pocket costs when you visit a doctor or hospital.

If you are self-employed, and are paying both the premium and the deductible, be careful to analyze the cost of having a policy that includes a deductible plus out-of-pocket expenditures and premiums.

Send us your stories

Have you or a friend had trouble with your health insurance? Send your tales of woe to our newsletter editor, Hope Katz Gibbs of Inkandescent Public Relations and we'll address your problem in an upcoming chapter of the book.

Stay tuned for Chapter 4: Dad is still paying for his daughter's insurance – and no one is happy.

Newsletter by Inkandescent Public Relations
Writing by Hope Katz Gibbs, president & founder; Copyediting by Patricia Gray

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