Federal Tax Reform in the Spotlight

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a plan to overhaul the tax code.  The full U.S. Senate is expected to consider tax reform legislation this week. The Senate version would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most individuals purchase health insurance, while the House legislation is silent on the issue.  Click here to see how the two tax packages differ.

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    Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) believe a thoughtful, balanced, and competitive tax environment is critical to the success of our economy and that any reforms made must be all-inclusive and benefit all sectors of the business community.  GCP members also understand having tools, like the New Market Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit, are crucial to advance economic development in Greater Cleveland.

    The final results are far from a finished product.  If the Senate passes a bill, the House and Senate are expected to go to a conference committee to reach a compromise. 

    The GCP will continue to represent our members’ interests throughout the debate and advocate for comprehensive federal tax and entitlement program reform.  

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    Next up: Feds Reach Small Business Contracting Goal

    Feds Reach Small Business Contracting Goal

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the federal government reached its annual small business contracting goal for the first time in eight years, equating to $83.1 billion of eligible contracting dollars.  Unfortunately, the feds did fall short in two prime contracting categories:  female owned small businesses and historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone). 

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the federal government reached its annual small business contracting goal for the first time in eight years, equating to $83.1 billion of eligible contracting dollars.  Unfortunately, the feds did fall short in two prime contracting categories:  female owned small businesses and historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone). Female owned small businesses received 4.32 % out of 5.00% and HUBZone received a 1.76% falling short of their 3.00% goal,  Three federal agencies did, however, receive an “A” grade from the SBA for meeting or surpassing their specific small business government contracting goal for the first time. For more information on how SBA scores federal agencies, please review the Small Business Procurement Scorecard

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    The SBA works with federal government agencies and aims to hold them accountable for providing small businesses the opportunities they need and deserve by setting prime and subcontracting goals in which agencies are expected to reach every two years.  Each agency has a different small business contracting goal and every two years, the SBA assesses and grades each agency based upon their specific goals.

    SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet applauded the progress made saying, “When we hit our small business procurement target, it’s a win. Small Businesses get the revenue they need to grow and create jobs, and the federal government gets the change to work with some of the most responsive, innovative and nimble companies in the U.S. while the economy grows."

    For more information on the results of the small business procurement scorecard results please visit our partners at the federal level, National Small Business Association (NSBA), weekly update.

    COSE applauds improvements made by the federal government that create further opportunities for small businesses and stimulate America’s economy; we encourage agencies to further support the backbone of America’s economy, small businesses.  

    2013 Procurement Scorecard Results

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    Next up: Fighting for the Needs of Small Business Owners: COSE’s Public Policy Agenda

    Fighting for the Needs of Small Business Owners: COSE’s Public Policy Agenda

    The COSE Public Policy Agenda is a guide for understanding which hot-button legislative issues impact small business owners, and what COSE is doing (with your help) to make positive change. Here’s what’s on the docket for 2015.

    Small business is the growth engine for our economy, but entrepreneurs can feel lost and unheard in legislative offices where policies that greatly impact their success are written. Meanwhile, keeping on top of the latest legislation is a challenge while running a business. At COSE, we get it.

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    As one of Ohio’s largest small business support organizations, COSE is uniquely positioned as a strong, unified voice that educates policymakers and helps them tackle the issues that impact your business every day. We’ve got a track record for success as the nonpartisan voice of small business.

    “From the very beginning of COSE’s history, the ability to mobilize small businesses and coalesce around the issues that are important to them, and get attention around those issues, has been core to what we do,” says Steve Millard, president and executive director, COSE.

     “We are a voice for small business owners, who are often forgotten in the day-to-day deliberations and discussions of policymakers,” Millard emphasizes. COSE develops a policy course of action every two years through a Public Policy Agenda that outlines hot-button legislative issues and organizes support and advocacy resources to ensure that small businesses are heard, and understood.

    “We are constantly monitoring what is going on at the state and federal levels,” Millard says. “When issues come up, we can offer testimony, bring small business owners in front of those elected officials and make sure policymakers get the information they need to make an informed decision.”

    The COSE Public Policy Agenda provides information and guidance to members and the small business community. Here are four key issues to watch this year, and how you to get involved in COSE advocacy.

    Reducing Personal Income Tax. In 2015, Gov. Kasich will continue pushing for a reduction in personal income tax, and this has a direct impact on small businesses that are not organized as a corporation. COSE is focused on ensuring that a tax reduction doesn’t result in other increases to replace the revenue, such as more fees for business filings.

    Addressing Workers’ Comp Liability. Employers must hold workers’ compensation insurance, but businesses that acquire property could inherit a surprising expense: the previous occupant’s workers’ comp ratings and liabilities. Unfortunately, most employers that get slapped with this expense don’t realize the workers’ comp liability exists on the property until they seal the deal — or start receiving the bills. “This is a financial challenge that gets very little attention, and usually by the time an employer figures it out, it’s too late,” Millard says.

    COSE wants policymakers to reform workers’ compensation successor liability policies to ensure that employers are not unfairly charged fees due to previous inhabitants’ workers’ comp activities.

    “First, this would reduce the cost of workers’ comp for that company, and also it would prevent employers from leaving storefronts empty where previous tenants have a bad workers’ comp history,” Millard says. Those empty storefronts become workers’ comp headstones because no employer wants to take on the liability.

    Focusing on Workforce Skills Training. “Skills and talent are going to be the biggest issues that small business owners face in 2015,” Millard says. COSE is dedicated to working with community stakeholders to create policies that encourage more incumbent worker training to help seal the skills gap. “Getting more small business owners involved with the state’s Ohio Means Jobs initiative so they can connect workers with job opportunities will be important,” he says.

    Supporting the Common Sense Initiative. The Common Sense Initiative (CSI) provides a regulatory framework for promoting economic development, improving responsiveness and transparency, easing compliance concerns and creating a predictable climate for businesses. The idea is to usher out regulations that discourage business, and create new policies that are relevant and business friendly.

    COSE is a strong voice for CSI, with two members serving on the CSI Small Business advisory board.

    “Regulation is the place where government action and small business operations come together and create problems, where you try to do something but you can’t because there is a regulation or rule that prevents it,” Millard explains. “Correcting these issues is an important area of focus for us.”

    Get Involved! Be heard. Join the advocacy movement and represent small business by participating in COSE initiatives. “We are so much more effective when members get involved, and there are lots of opportunities for business owners to make an impact,” Millard says. Find out more at cose.org/advocacy


    This story was originally published in the January/February 2015 issue of the COSE Update. 


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    Next up: Find Your Inner Sales Person

    Find Your Inner Sales Person

    Some people make it look so easy, don’t they? They can just waltz right up to a potential client, and then a few minutes later, there’s nothing potential about that client anymore: They’re a full-fledged customer. Think that’ll never be you? Well, we’re here to tell you there is a hidden sales person in all of us — and the resources below will help bring out that inner sales guru.

    Some people make it look so easy, don’t they? They can just waltz right up to a potential client, and then a few minutes later, there’s nothing potential about that client anymore: They’re a full-fledged customer.

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    Think that’ll never be you? Well, we’re here to tell you there is a hidden sales person in all of us — and the resources below will help bring out that inner sales guru.

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    Next up: Finding Money ($$) in Your Pocket

    Finding Money ($$) in Your Pocket

    We all jump with joy when we find that $20 bill lying on the sidewalk or in an old winter coat that's been in the back of the closet. But think about how an extra $2000 would make you feel. It would be pretty exciting, right? Well, you could be leaving at least that much on the table if you don’t take simple steps to reduce your energy use though no-to-low cost retrofit measures.

    We all jump with joy when we find that $20 bill lying on the sidewalk or in an old winter coat that's been in the back of the closet. But think about how an extra $2000 would make you feel. It would be pretty exciting, right? Well, you could be leaving at least that much on the table if you don’t take simple steps to reduce your energy use though no-to-low cost retrofit measures.

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    Each year, Ohio small businesses spend over $2 billion on energy-related expenses. That’s nearly $11,000 per business. As you may have already noticed, energy prices are on the rise, further increasing your monthly bills and annual expenses.

    Recently, COSE shared steps you can take to mitigate those rising costs. They include locking into a low-fixed rate option for your gas and electric and getting a no-cost energy assessment of your building. Though an energy assessment is an essential step, it’s only half of the solution.

    comprehensive energy assessment will both identify and provide recommendations that address the critical areas within a business where money is being thrown away. In many instances, these solutions are as simple as turning off lights and unplugging unused equipment. Some businesses may need to  replace older and more costly equipment. However, simply understanding the information will not lead to reduced expenses.  You need to take action.

    Many businesses avoid implementing recommended energy upgrades and continue to operate with inefficient equipment and lighting that cause energy waste and increase utility bills. When asked why, business owners often share that the cost of a retrofit/replacement is simply not affordable in the current economy; the ROI just isn’t as immediate as it needs to be to justify the cost. Also standing in the way are other working capital/capital expenditure priorities.  However, due to the increased rates in the electric market, today may actually be the most opportune time to invest in energy efficiency. 

    An increased cost of electricity means that for the next couple of years, retrofits performed now will have a reduced payback period. Rates have gone up on average of 50 percent for the average business, meaning that you'll see a return on your retrofit investment much quicker than you would in past years. 

    Don’t leave money on the table. An energy assessment is of no cost to you and these upgrades will enable you to put money back into your pockets in the years to come. If you are interested in any of the opportunities mentioned above or more tips to reduce energy costs, reach out to the COSE Energy team. Call the COSE Energy Line at 216.592.2205.

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    Next up: Flawless Communication Leads to Happy Clients

    Flawless Communication Leads to Happy Clients

    Communication is the lifeblood of any business/client relationship, and poor communication of any type is a surefire way to damage that connection. No matter what type of business you are in, healthy communication skills are key to keeping clients happy. William Beachy, president of GoMedia, a full-service web, logo and graphic design studio located in Cleveland understands the importance of quality engagement with clients. “We communicate with our clients on a daily basis, often through e-mail,” says Beachy. “It’s extremely important for us to make sure we are communicating effectively.” We asked Beachy to share some of his keys to superior client communications.

    Communication is the lifeblood of any business/client relationship, and poor communication of any type is a surefire way to damage that connection. No matter what type of business you are in, healthy communication skills are key to keeping clients happy.  

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    William Beachy, president of GoMedia, a full-service web, logo and graphic design studio, located in Cleveland understands the importance of quality engagement with clients. “We communicate with our clients on a daily basis, often through e-mail,” says Beachy. “It’s extremely important for us to make sure we are communicating effectively.” We asked Beachy to share some of his keys to superior client communications.

    Establish the details. Be sure to accurately gather project details and specifics, including deadlines, project scope and deliverables and payment terms. Although this seems elementary, many professional service providers don’t do a thorough enough job collecting all the details of a job. Err on the side of asking too many questions. 

    Manage expectations. Clients appreciate punctuality. Take the lead in setting a schedule and be sure to honor the deadlines – no excuses. When you hit your deadlines you’re as good as gold to your clients. If you make a schedule only to miss all the deadlines you’ve set, you’ll only punctuate your failures.

    Keep it professional. Today, instead of picking up the phone or scheduling an in-person meeting, client communication often takes place via a quick email. The convenience of this type of communication does not diminish the importance of keeping communications clear, professional and client-focused.

    Repost feedback. When responding to client feedback, include their original comments along with your responses to show them that you are listening and following direction.

    Over deliver. Along with delivering what you’ve promised, offer a little something extra.  It may be something as simple as advice or counsel at no extra charge. 

    Make them laugh, or at least smile. If you can make a client smile or laugh, you’ve absolutely endeared yourself to them.

    Say thank you often. We’re all busy, but don’t forget to take the time to let your clients know you appreciate their business. Nothing is more powerful than a well-timed and sincere thank you. 

    This article originally appeared in the June 29, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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