Clay Cox, GA Representative for District 108, was our May luncheon speaker. You may recall Clay was a representative in 2004 - 2011. He gave up his position to run for Congress which he lost. Fast forward 6 years and he is back as a state representative as a "retread" rather than a "freshman". This gave him a unique prospective particularly when it came to the state budget. Georgia is required by state law to have a balanced budget. His previous stent covered the economically very difficult period of recession and the need to make painful cuts in the state budget. This time around the economy has much improved, the budget process was smooth. Our state budget came out to $25 Billion which puts Georgia at 49th in per capita spending, an indication of good stewardship. The #1 budget item was k-12 Education at 38%. Clay is on the Transportation, Energy, Communication and Juvenile Justice Committees. When asked about what is happening legislatively to help small business, he mentioned a couple of items where some are in place and others are in the draft process. These include tax incentives for hiring people receiving government aid, refurbishment rather than new build on low vacancy strip malls, etc. If you have questions or ideas related to legislation that will help small business, please contact Clay. Face time with state and local government officials reinforce the notion of how state laws and regulations impact us more on a day to day level them federal laws.
Speaker Brad Stevens of Entreholic spoke on “Using Innovative Strategies and Tools to Grow Your Business on a Budget”. This guy has so many great ideas and tools to help run, grow and market a business, it is like drinking from a fire hose to hear him speak.
Speakers David Will & Cara Sullivan shared information on the Parkview Cluster Foundation. The Foundation operates under the Gwinnett County Schools Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All contributions are tax deductible and are distributed to Parkview HS (30%), Trickum MS (30%) and 10% to each of the 4 feeder elementary schools. Operating expenses are covered at the county level, so all donations go to the schools. Teachers at the schools submit grants on projects for academic enhancement. Athletics are not covered under this organization.
Lobbyist Lindsey Scott. Lindsey works for Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgen as a Legislative Liaison. She helps keep legislators in check, lobbies for legislative issues impacting insurance and helps promote (or stop) specific legislation. She covered a number of interesting topics. Insurance Agents can get certified as health councilors and can charge a fee for this service in situations where there is no commission. "Surprise Billing" happens when you have an emergency visit to an out-of-network hospital or have a procedure at a network location but an out-of-network person participates and you get a bill. Instead of the consumer dealing with these type items, there is legislation that will let this be handled at the insurance level rather than placing the burden on the consumer.
The BAPS Mandir in Lilburn a Hindu place of worship. The word "Mandir" stands for "mind at peace". The property is large (30 acres) and open with an infinity pool and 4 buildings. The temple is constructed of hand carved pieces of varying types of stone which took artisans 18 months to prepare followed by 18 months of assembly on the property. The temple was dedicated in August 2007 and included 1.3 million hours of volunteer service in its construction. Some individuals left their jobs to devote their entire effort to this cause. There are no signs giving credit to individuals or companies for sponsorship.
State Senator (District 9) PK Martin's legislative duties focus on insurance, economic development and higher education. How insurance companies behave and how much health insurance costs are of concern at the state level. There is legislation related to provider directory accuracy. This is especially difficult in rural areas which often use "Rental Networks". Businesses that send workers out-of-state need to notify their agent, as states like Florida require a Florida workman's comp policy. Ask about work-based learning discounts (i.e, Drug-free workplace).
Officer Mike Johnson, Community Outreach Liaison for the Lilburn Police Department, gave a very informative and well attended presentation on ways to improve the safety of our businesses. Businesses can request a Security Survey for existing businesses or those in the planning stages. The survey will result in a 5 to 6 page report which will address problems and suggest plans for correction. He covered concepts such as the use of hostile vegetation (bushes with thorns), placement of female bathrooms, lighting quality, dumpster placement, walkability, sustainability, law code versus advice and loss prevention. A property owner (ie a strip mall owner) may be held responsible for crimes made easier from their negligence.
The take home message was that measuring AND understanding the traffic to your website is essential for making the best marketing decisions. Even big companies don't always do a good job with this even though they spend the big bucks. There are many free tools and a great place to start is Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics Academy. See more at turneyweb.com .
Nakia Sanford, LBA President, Primerica Rep and self-identified "Millennial" lead a discussion of smartphones and social media for business. Basically the meeting was a "safe space" for those of us past 40 to ask questions related to social media, such as the purpose of "#". The discussion focused on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LInkedin. She explained those accounts can be linked, but be carefully the posts are appropriate across platforms.
Art Wood who wears many hats including the one that started Fuse Networking explained the different strategies for business development including the advantages and disadvantages of each. "Closed networking" is a great way to build a sales team but had expenses and restrictions associated with it. You can "purchase" sales leads, but the final sales depends heavily on the bottom line and less on the personal relationship between the sales person and the purchaser. The effort can end up being more time intensive and risky lowering the ROI. Art particularly likes "open networking". He finds it to be cheaper, ends up with better clients and has a wider pool of individuals with which to get and give referrals. He encourages each person to audit how you are spending your networking time and evaluate if those efforts lead to the types of connections you want.
Chris McJunkin and Collin Berggreen of Advanced Benefit Solutions shared with us the concept of a PEO or Professional Employee Organization model for providing benefits to small and medium size businesses. Under a PEO model your business comes under the tax id of the benefits provider but the business retains operational independence. This gives your small business (typically 10+) access to Fortune 500 level benefits.
Rick Kent of Creative Insurance Solutions presented an excellent talk on "What's New in the Healthcare Exchanges". As a Federally Certified Agent, Rick is able to help individuals navigate the Healthcare Exchanges and select the best plan for their needs. As an agent, he can also bundle an exchange plan with add-ons that could save the client money over a higher level exchange plan.