If we were to listen to what the mainstream press is telling us, many small business owners might not even get out of bed in the morning. Yes, our dollar is having a tough time, oil prices are lower than they have been for a long time, we have new governments provincially and federally, and people are losing their jobs at a rate Albertans haven’t seen in a very long time. Times are tough but the sky is not falling.
I talk to small business owners from all over Canada every day, and I am constantly intrigued and even outright surprised to hear from those who are adapting, changing and even growing in this tumultuous downturn. Granted, some of these entrepreneurs are making big changes and their business may look quite different from the way it did a year ago – but sometimes change is necessary.
For instance, a number of recent discussions have been with people who were laid off and have decided to start their own business. They have no group plan and many don’t want one because monthly premiums are not something they need while they get the business off the ground. However, they still need to see the dentist or purchase glasses or look after their family’s health care and a Health Spending Account offers more flexibility than any other option. For more information on these plans you can visit www.customcare.ca .
One thing that surprises me is how small business owners are more open to discussing their health and dental plan during tough economic times. A number of people I spoke with in the last few years told me flat out “Not interested in your Health Spending Account right now, we are busy, and an extra $20,000 (or $50,000 or $100,000) for our group plan is no big deal.” I guess when the bottom line is healthy and the forecast is strong, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to pay those monthly premiums and keep your employees covered for some medical and dental costs, regardless of how many of them actually use the coverage. However, the conversations I am having today are, without fail, going a little differently.
Just last week a local business owner and I did a review of their group plan. Simple math showed that they have been paying $1.80 in premiums to get a dollar worth of coverage. His comment was simply “That’s not good value, and in this economy we need to look at every expense we have. If we can offer a plan that allows our people to spend their health care dollars on what is important to them and save 30% or more, that makes a lot of sense – in any economy.” He told me that he has laid off 65% of the staff he had a year ago and made numerous changes to the way the business is run. Even things like the annual staff Christmas Party was impacted, with a gathering at his home taking the place of the big ballroom event at a downtown hotel last December. I have had similar conversations with dozens of small business owners in the last few months.
While every business is different, everybody is looking for ways to be more efficient right now. A little creativity, a little hard work, maybe a little luck and an open mind will all be useful as we weather this storm and do what we can to get our businesses, this economy and this province back on track.