About gmuske

Glenn Muske believes in rural, small businesses as the cornerstone of a strong economy. His current efforts, as his own boss, focuses on helping those business owner achieving success. Previously, he did this for North Dakota State University Extension Service and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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

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.

Small is Big in Business

Small Business WeekWe probably pass by several small businesses sometime during our day.

While we appreciate the business for the products and services it offers, I would guess that many of us do not think about what small businesses mean in economic terms. Typically, we think of the large companies as the major component of the U.S. economic engine. Or maybe you just haven’t thought about it at all.

This week, May 12-16, is Small Business Week in the U.S. It is a time to recognize these businesses and what they do for us.

Did you know that small businesses:

• Represent more than 98 percent of all business firms
• Employee about 50 percent of all U.S. workers
• Generate more than $12 trillion in receipts each year

These are powerful numbers that do not even take into account the technology they have created, along with new jobs and growth opportunities, and their status as an economic driver for a community.

Small-business owners not only provide dollars and jobs but often can be found supporting local improvement efforts, taking on a leadership role in civic and public organizations, and being available when a call for assistance comes in.

Besides being important to the larger economy, small businesses are a prime entity that supports the owner’s family and the families of his or her employees.

Finally, the small business represents an individual’s dream. Owning a business can mean using certain skills and abilities, the ability to generate income or the opportunity to take a good idea to market.

Given the importance of the small business, growing and maintaining its strength is a high priority. This means working to ensure a stream of new businesses constantly is entering the marketplace. New businesses mean more individuals are trying something they have wanted to do. It also means local revenue and more jobs.

So during Small Business Week, do two things: First, reflect on how the small business is supporting the local, state, national and international economies. Second, stop by and tell local small-business owners how much you appreciate what they are doing.