Business Advice from some of our BX Benefit Partners with an introduction by Elizabeth Bovard Strong, Executive Vice President of the Builders Exchange of Michigan
The Builders Exchange of Michigan has helped to support the construction community in building and sustaining their businesses since 1885. We have seen our members through good times and challenging times, recessions, depressions and war. Throughout all of these times, we continue to be a source for our members. There is a reason that we are still here and growing strong. It is a commitment between us and our members.
As an association we have raised the bar and are not only keeping you updated on all the active and planning projects, we have connected our members with some great benefit partners who are a valuable resource to help your business stay viable and sustainable during this “new” normal. My hope is the following information will help you and your company get through any current challenges you might be facing and come through even stronger than before. The decisions you make now for your company will have an impact for years to come. This is a time for thoughtfulness and preparedness as we face this pandemic together.
Elizabeth Bovard Strong, Executive Vice President of the Builders Exchange of Michigan
While members are uncertain in the present, what can they do to continue planning for their futures?
Mark Satkoski, CFP®, AIF®, Midwest Capital Advisors: Midwest Capital Advisors assists households and organizations with financial planning and investment needs.During these challenging times, we would encourage individuals to take the following into consideration:
Staying invested is key. Someone who reacts to a crisis by exiting the market is just practicing a form of market timing. Ill-advised selling is unfortunate because you lock in losses, and must decide when to return to the market. Often this is done after the market has recovered and you miss out on quickest part of recovery.Following market downturns, returns have been significantly positive. The good news is that in every bear market (20% downturn or great) since 1928, markets have come back, and often have made sizable gains in the months immediately following a downturn. As of March 31st, 2020, the S&P 500 Index is more than 15% higher than the March 23rd low. The past is no guarantee of future results, but historically even the worst markets have been temporary dips in a general march higher for stocks.A financial plan is your road map. Volatile markets can promote anxiety and lead to irrational decision-making. A well-crafted, customized, and flexible financial plan created in partnership with a Certified Financial Planner can help you stay on track even during the most difficult of times. You’ll be better prepared to avoid the pitfalls, and better advised to take advantage of the opportunities that arise during these times.
What can member companies do financially to stay in business during this challenge?
MS: The CARES Act has provided several opportunities for businesses to relieve some of the financial burdens caused by this pandemic. For example, you are able to suspend employer matching contributions into the company retirement plan such as 401(k). Contact your plan administrator for assistance. Also, small businesses have the opportunity to apply for forgivable loans of up to $10 million to help with payroll, rent, utilities, and mortgage rent. Contact your lender and.or business advisor to learn more.
What can companies do to ensure they are in compliance with the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order?
Bruce Courtade, Rhoades McKee PC: The best thing everyone can do is to pay close attention to announcements from the offices of Michigan’s Governor (who issues the Executive Orders dealing with coronavirus), Attorney General (who is responsible for enforcing those Orders), the Michigan Legislature (which may enact new statuses if that becomes necessary), as well as anything that your local law enforcement issues. If that sounds overwhelming, we encourage you to visit Rhoades McKee’s “COVID-19 Legal Response Team” website, where Rhoades McKee attorneys provide links to the latest resources and analyses.
How can member companies protect themselves legally if changes occur to their current contracts?
BC: Exchange members should pull out their contracts and purchase orders now, before issues arise, to determine their rights and obligations relating to change and delays caused by circumstances beyond their control. Some contract contain “Act of God” or “force majeure” provisions: these should be read carefully as they will normally say what happens in times like this. And remember – the best time to contact your attorney is before you are contact by the other side’s attorney!
How can Beene Garter assist Builders Exchange of Michigan members during this time?
Ann Plummer, Beene Garter LLP: Our firm can notify you of funding resources. If you apply for a paycheck protection loan, we can help you estimate your loan forgiveness amount and provide certification services on how you used the funds when you apply for loan forgiveness. We also have streamlined service packages for our payroll and accounting outsourcing services, which provide essential payroll and accounting needs at a reduced price. Plus, we can help you understand the tax-related provisions in recently-passed legislation such as the Employer Retention Credit and claim those benefits. Overall, we’re committed to helping you make sense of all the available support and find ways to reduce the impacts of the coronavirus on your organization.
With many companies worried about covering payroll, what advice can you give them?
AP: Look for and apply for all the funding support you can. Start with the programs included in the CARES Act. The Act set aside funding for paycheck protection loans and economic injury disaster loans that you can use to support your payroll costs and other expenses. If you apply, you can get as much as $10 million and an advance of $10,000 in as little as three days. If you’re eligible for these loans, apply right away to secure that funding. Then, keep looking.
How can BHS Insurance help Builders Exchange members stay sustainable during this time?
Spencer Olson, BHS Insurance: BHS Insurance continues to provide up to date, relevant and important information regarding COVID-19 to our clients and members of the community. Making smart, informed and calculated decisions is important as employers try to navigate an unknown future. We are working diligently to provide guidance and resources to help employers understand financial impacts of decisions related to insurance. We are here to help during this disruptive time period.
What is BHS doing to ensure health insurance policy-holders are covered?
SO: We continue to update our clients about how each health insurance company is handling extension of benefits during this unprecedented time. This includes employees who are furloughed, laid off or have their full time hours reduced. At the end of the day, our health insurance carrier partners are being extremely flexible. They are allowing employees to remain on benefits, they are waiving benefit waiting periods and they are providing coverage for COVID-19 testing/services at 100%. It is our goal to make sure our clients have the appropriate information to make informed decisions. At BHS, we continue to be fully operational and we are always here to help provide guidance and resources to our clients and members.
How can members continue to provide benefits to their employees who are laid off, furloughed or have a reduction in hours?
SO: Most insurance companies are allowing these employees to remain on benefits as long as premiums are continuing to be paid. The insurance companies are providing flexibility and extending benefits during this time.
How can members continue to pay their insurance premiums?
SO: Most insurance companies are extending their grace periods to alleviate the pressure of staying up to date on insurance premiums for an additional 30 or 60 days.
How is Lake Michigan Insurance Agency ensuring policy-holders are protected against loss?
Ken Jansen, Lake Michigan Insurance Agency: It is still business as usual for us (except we are working remotely.) We are still reviewing and evaluating the exposures that our member clients have to make sure that they are being addressed properly to protect their business in case of a loss.
Is there a way for members to reduce premiums if they are no longer working?
KJ: Yes. Business Insurance premiums are based on two factors. The first is gross annual sales. The second is payroll. By re-evaluating these numbers based on the situation our nation is in, you should be able to reduce your insurance costs. It is not in the members best interest to let their insurance lapse, as that may affect their experience modification factor and could impact what kind of jobs they can bid on.
With many working virtually, how can member companies utilizing one of the many video conferencing programs prevent cybersecurity risks?
Brian Young, Rehmann Group: Any tool, like video or phone conferencing software, must adhere to your organization’s technology practices. To limit potentially unsafe software, populate user devices only with approved programs and ensure these systems and video conferencing platforms remain up to date and patched to avoid compromise. It’s more important than ever to follow best practices. Zoom, WebEx and other common platforms generally recommend you use a password on all your meetings and use the randomly generated meeting ID for added session security. Meeting invites for remote sessions should always come from someone you know or have been in communication with. Many video conferencing platforms offer in-meeting collaboration areas for documents and other data for the meeting. Be very leery of passing control to an individual you cannot see on the screen or opening any content provided in that meeting. Those kinds of interactions should only occur in meetings you have verified the attendees, and you know and trust them. Lastly, many organizations should have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in place for how corporately-owned equipment is to be used. It is important to re-iterate these policies with employees and ensure they are aware of the liabilities and safeguards in place. By following these policies, it does reduce the risk associated with equipment misuse. You can find a sample AUP here.
How can Rehmann help members keep their businesses going during this time?
BY: In a down economy, cash is king, and we’re working with organizations to help them gain an understanding of their new cashflow norm, as well as helping to identify how they need pivot. With many companies going remote and embracing a Work from Home (WFH) strategy, cybersecurity is a growing concern. We’re helping companies enact WFH strategies and partnering with them to ensure IT environments are secure. We compiled our top recommendations business leaders should review as part of continuity planning to minimize the impact and disruption this virus has on businesses. We’ve gathered key areas of focus on protecting your valued workforce, focusing on essential technology, continuing operations and general business and individual considerations. Learn more here.
Can you provide clarity for contractors on their eligibility when applying to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?
BY: All businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible, but there are intricacies within the eligibility requirements to be aware of, especially where affiliation rules come into play. We developed a construction podcast addressing the industry that you can find here.
Need more information?
Spencer Olson, BHS Insurance Agency | 616.531.1900
Bruce Courtade, Rhoades McKee PC | 616.233.5152
Ken Jansen, Lake Michigan Insurance Agency | 616.234.6983
Brian Young, Rehmann Group | 616.301.6317
Ann Plummer, Beene Garter LLP | 616.235.5228
Mark Satkoski, CFP®, AIF®, Midwest Capital Advisors | 616.454.9600