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5 things that keep small business owners up at night, and how benefits brokers can help

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It’s no secret small business owners have a lot of responsibilities — hiring and retaining talent, paying the bills and acquiring new business rank toward the top. Juggling these responsibilities while keeping up with competition and complying with new healthcare reform laws can lead to some sleepless nights. 

Benefits brokers can play a strategic role in helping to address these concerns. By offering a comprehensive benefits plan, brokers can tackle these items that are top of mind with small business owners.  Here is a closer look at five top concerns for small businesses, and how benefits brokers can play a role in addressing each.  By helping to mitigate these concerns, a broker can become a trusted advisor to small business owners, which in turn will help grow their own business. 

Recruiting and retaining skilled talent

One of the most important concerns for any small business owner is recruiting and retaining skilled employees. A valued benefits package is important to employees and can also signal the strength and stability of a small business.

As evidence, MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study shows that concerns about health care reform, slow job growth and uncertainty in Washington have boosted the perceived value of employee benefits. The study found a significant rise in the number of employees who agree that the benefits they receive are an important factor in why they choose to join or stay with a company.

Small businesses today have a wide range of options available to offer a competitive benefits program that is both efficient and cost effective. But greater choice brings new challenges. Because of the number of options available, employers need help understanding which individual options and plan structures make the most sense for their employees and their organizations. 

As noted by David Mills, senior vice president and small market leader at MetLife, “A robust benefits plan can signal to current and potential employees that the business is stable, values its employees, and is aware of its employees’ needs.” 

Brokers can help small business owners understand which benefits best match the needs of the employees they are trying to attract and retain, and then help design a benefits program that is competitive in their industry, market and locale. 

“To create meaningful benefits packages, benefits advisors should invest time in understanding their clients’ needs and demographics,” says Mills.  “This allows advisors to recommend benefits packages that are customized to particular employee populations and to demonstrate to employees their unique needs are recognized and valid.” 

Controlling costs and cash flow

Cash flow is a common concern for small businesses. For them, knowing where to invest and where to make cutbacks can be challenging, and employee benefits must be considered. When asked about benefit objectives, 88 percent of employers report that cost control is a very important benefits objective, but retention continues to be an equally important objective for employers.

According to Mills, “For small businesses, it’s crucial to find the balance between affordability for the business and the employee while offering benefits that meet the needs of the employees.”  Employees are increasingly accepting the fact that they must assume more of the costs of their individual benefit offerings in order to have a comprehensive benefits program. In fact, MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study reveals that 61 percent of employees find this to be preferable to losing their benefits. Other employees, especially younger workers, view it as the price for access to benefits choice and variety.

Brokers can help small business owners design a benefits plan by providing a combination of cost-effective and comprehensive benefits. “It starts with really listening to employees’ needs to ensure that the right and valued benefit options are made available to them. A broker can help with this process by helping the employer solicit feedback from employees and then working to translate the feedback into the right benefits package,” explains Mills. Rather than cutting benefits, brokers can help small business employers explore ways to provide a range of benefits that also keep costs under control — such as through plan design options or cost sharing.

Growing the customer base

It’s important for small businesses to be positioned to sustain their businesses, and to expand if desired. New customer acquisition can take a lot of time and effort, so it’s helpful for small business owners to find ways to reduce the time that the organization spends elsewhere. Benefits administration is a key area for saving time, as long as it is executed smartly and effectively.

Small business owners need simplicity and streamlined management when it comes to benefits. While it may seem simple, things like seamless benefits implementation and billing can make a big impact.  

“It’s important for small business owners to find a broker that is responsive to their needs and who works with carriers that understand small businesses. Being surrounded by a top-notch team is a key piece to reducing the time a business owner has to spend managing and administering benefits themselves,” says MetLife’s Mills.

Brokers can help small business owners in two key ways: by being a resource for questions and issues; and by helping to find the benefits plan provider that will work most closely with them to ensure a smooth and successful relationship, from the initial quote through plan implementation.

Keeping up with the competition 

One way small businesses can combat the threat of competition is to build a strong and loyal customer base. To do so, the company must invest in its employees.

Consumers today increasingly take note of how a company treats its employees, and that has an influence on their decisions to support a business. MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study reveals that the percentage of employees that would recommend their company as a great place to work increased from 42 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2014.

“Benefits can often be a deciding factor when potential employees are weighing job offers, and can keep current employees happy where they are,” says Mills.  “Small businesses that provide their employees with comprehensive benefits packages can have a competitive edge when it comes to the job market.”

There’s a strong correlation between benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction. Employees that are satisfied with their benefit offerings are three times more likely to also report being satisfied with their jobs. This creates an opportunity for benefits brokers who can help small business clients who are looking for ways to boost employee satisfaction.

Complying with healthcare reform

The Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, and was recently reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. But many small business employers continue to have questions about how it affects them and what steps they must take to comply.

Helping small business owners better understand this complex regulation is a perfect way for brokers to add value to their client relationships. According to Mills, small business owners question how and when they will need to be compliant, and what being compliant means both from a regulatory perspective and to their business. “Brokers are a key resource for these answers,” says Mills. “A proactive review of a client’s benefits package can give the broker insight into what adjustments may need to be made to a client’s offerings and puts the broker in a consultative position.”  Brokers can count on MetLife’s small business specialists to help them build and recommend the right benefits solution for each small business client.

Learn more about MetLife’s small business-focused solutions at metlife.com/smallbusiness.