Wonder Where We Went??

Wonder where we went?

No, we didn’t stop writing the blog. We have simply expanded our efforts. In that effort we have started a new blog at Power of Business (powerofbusiness.net).

Power of Business focuses on the business owner. As stated, “the Power of Business will assist small, rural business owners network and learn from each other.”

The idea is to make connections. The idea is to support those connections with resources that can be consumed while drinking a cup of coffee. The idea is to broaden the networks of business owners.

So where did the blog go? Check out: Power of Business Blog

Power of Business

I was going to write about……

Not being the best blog writer – I have to admit, even though I promote blogging as a tool to reach a greater audience and something every small business owner needs to consider – this does not come easy for me!  I do see the value and I do have lots of topics I can write about but actually sitting down and writing is extremely difficult! 
I was going to write about Small Business Week – and how proud I am to live in a country where we can take our passions and ideas and turn them into something profitable and use our creativity to reach new targets and markets.  That is what this country and our communities are built on – the determination of folks like yourself to make a quality of life for you and your families that you are proud of!  No matter the time it takes – doing what one likes is the very best we can expect!
I was going to write about the awesome Entrepreneurs we interviewed in the Live Chats during Small Business Week as part of our way in celebrating the work and effort you all do to create an environment that is truly exciting.  If you have not had the chance to listen to the interviews – I challenge you to do so as the business owners words of wisdom and advise will prove to help you make wise decisions or to know that the decisions you made were the right ones!  You can view those ‘chats’ at https://www.youtube.com/user/powerofbusiness.
I was going to write about the importance of networking with other entrepreneurs and by learning from others you can be more successful.  You do not have to travel this journey of entrepreneurship by yourself and by reaching out to others and seeking advice – it will pay off in the end.  Most entrepreneurs have more stories to share than we can even imagine.  They are willing to share their successes and failures so you don’t have to suffer the consequences!
I was going to write about how excited I am to be part of a multi-state effort that has launched the Power of Business and out attempt to provide you with information that you can Learn – Share – Do!  I do believe ‘Power of Business’ can be the site where you can find useful information, where you can network with other entrepreneurs who are having concerns or questions just like yours, where you can engage in a conversation virtually even if you live in a remote location.
But we need your help – we need you to follow our blog, we need you to listen to the Friday 15 Live Chats, we need you to sign up for the newsletter and we need you to be part of the conversation!  All of this can be found at http://powerofbusiness.net
Thanks for helping entrepreneurs every where understand their role in the community and for making this country a great place to do live, do business and raise a family!

What the Affordable Care Act Means for Small Businesses

From Power of Business (powerofbusiness.net), an Extension initiative, and our eXtension community, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, welcome you to Small Business Week. Cooperative Extension supports small businesses and their development as a part of our land grant mission.

During the week, we are highlighting small businesses and the ways we partner and support this important economic sector. One such effort was, and continues, working with businesses to help them understand their responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act.

Guest Blogger: Chrystal Irons, Business Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most sweeping health-policy change since Medicare was established in 1965. Due to the tremendous controversy over the law, many business owners find it difficult to understand how the law will impact their business as they attempt to sort out the myths and misinformation.

How the ACA will affect your business depends largely on how large your workforce is.

The first step to understanding how the ACA will affect your business is to determine whether you are a large or small employer. A large employer has 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. A small employer has less than 50 FTEs.

When determining employer size you must add the number of full-time employees to the number of full time equivalent employees. For ACA purposes a full time employee is any employee working 30 or more hours per week or 130 hours in a given month. Full time equivalent employees are a combination of employees who are not full-time, but added together, are the equivalent of a full-time employee.

A business with no employees will fall under the individual mandate. Individuals must have health insurance coverage, an exception, or be subject to an individual shared responsibility payment.

Small employers, those with less than 50 full time equivalent employees are NOT required to offer health insurance to their employees. Those who choose to offer coverage will now have access to the new Health Insurance Marketplaces.

The small business marketplace is called the Small Business Health Options Program, or the SHOP. The Marketplace will give small employers and their employees access to health insurance plans that must include a package of essential health benefits, like coverage for doctor visits, preventive care, hospitalization and prescriptions.

SHOP is now open for small employers to apply via a paper application. There is no online registration available at this time. Businesses can contact local insurance agents or brokers who are licensed to do business with the SHOP.

Some small employers, those with 24 or fewer employees, may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Lawmakers included the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit in the health care law to make coverage more affordable.

To be eligible for the tax credit, the employer must have an average annual wage of $50,000 or less, and they must contribute at least 50% toward the employee-only insurance premium cost. The credit is on a sliding scale where the number of FTEs and the average annual wage limitations will separately reduce your credit.

Business owners are encouraged to work closely with their tax professional to take advantage of this opportunity.

Large employers, those with 50 or more full time equivalent employees, must provide health insurance for their full-time employees or pay a per month “employer shared responsibility payment” on their federal tax returns. The penalties will begin in 2015. The fee is based on whether or not the employer offered affordable health insurance to employees that provided minimum value.

It is time for small business owners to educate themselves about the law so they can make decisions in the best interest of their employees and their bottom line.

The University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers are available to help both individuals and small business owners obtain the education they need to make informed small business health care decisions.

Printed in the Joplin Chamber newsletter

How to Protect Your Valuable Business Ideas

From Power of Business (powerofbusiness.net), an Extension initiative, and our eXtension community, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, welcome to Small Business Week+. Extension supports small businesses and their development as a part of our land grant mission. For the next few days, we are highlighting small businesses and the ways we partner and support this important economic sector.

Guest Blogger: Richard Proffer, Business Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Intellectual property sign

Intellectual Property (CC) Traci Lawson, on Flickr

Every business has ideas it has developed to do things more efficiently. Or the business owner has come up with a way to produce his product in a manner his competitors cannot copy. Better yet, the owner has devised a variation on an existing product that makes it more durable in the marketplace. A business customer list is also an example. These ideas or innovations are important to a business’s success and allows them to gain competitive advantage over their competitors.

But how can an idea be protected? They first must be tangible and able to be seen, read, touched or in some other physical form. If a business owner has no way to protect these new ideas then the chances are they will never see the light of day. The rest of society will not benefit from these new opportunities. There are four legal ways to protect your idea: patent, copy right, trade secret and trademark.

The first one – patent – is the most common way. Here the inventor files a disclosure on the invention with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/) to review. This office is responsible for making sure the idea is able to patented. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant.

With a utility patent, you obtain protection on how a product is used and works.

The design patent then only pertains to the way the product looks.

Finally the plant patent is aimed to protect new species of plants that are bred. There are some types of plant creation that is not covered so make sure you check into the possibility if you invent some new types of plants.

The second type of protection is a copyright. These protection devices are also managed by the Federal Government at the Library of Congress (http://www.copyright.gov/). This method protects an author’s rights to original creative works. An interesting website on copyright is www.templetons.com where they have an article on the top ten myths of the topic.

Next, we have trade secrets which are handled entirely differently. They are not protected through Federal registration but through the legal system on all levels – federal, state and local laws. Some factors that determine if your idea is really a trade secret is:

1) How many people know it outside the business (hopefully none is the answer)
2) How many people, within the business, know the secret (hopefully few)
3) How is it be safeguarded
4) How important would it be to competitors
5) How much did it cost to create this idea

If a business wants to protect information, it should keep in mind the above five questions as those efforts will help a court realize you are serious about this idea. As you can see from the questions above, a trade secret deals with the operations of the business and not information dealing with payroll for example .

The final way to protect your idea is through a trademark. These protection techniques are registered at the state level (usually at your secretary of state office of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/). Here you are dealing with a recognizable sign, design, or expression that clearly identifies the product or service of a particular company. An easy example is the Coca-Cola trademark for Coke. Trademarks have their roots as far back as the Roman Empire where blacksmiths would mark their swords.

So even if you are a small business but have creative ideas, you can gain protection for your ideas.