Coming up on our episode today, we’re live with Tyler Clark from Prairie Benefit Solutions.
In today’s episode of The Secret Life of Entrepreneurs, we’re going to talk about employee benefit plans. And I know you’re gonna need a fresh cup of coffee for this conversation. But if you’re a local business owner, this is a very important conversation, new employees are looking to understand the benefits that they will receive. And if you’ve got employees who are younger, then these are super important issues to them. So benefit plans come in all shapes and sizes, and Taylor’s going to tell us the ins and outs and how to understand what we might want to consider as a business. But here’s the part that’s particularly important to me. It’s tailored to your business. So before I, you know, steal all of his thunder Tyler, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Thanks, Barb. It’s good to be here.
It’s an absolute pleasure. So start off, just tell us a little bit about yourself and pre benefits solutions.
But yeah, I worked for pre benefits where basically We help business owners set up employee benefit programs, we are a group benefit consultants that work with a variety of different insurance companies. But something that makes us a bit unique, is we have the exclusive advisors for the chambers of commerce group insurance plan here in your Regina and surrounding area. And maybe we’ll talk about that program later. And then we also do life and Disability Insurance planning. So we’re just, you know, great big hits at parties, right? We love insurance, you know, and specialize in insurance, so hopefully your audience doesn’t fall asleep on me.
Exactly. And you know, if nothing else, there’s probably a couple of tips they can get for their next game, a Trivial Pursuit in here. If Google’s on hand, okay, so let’s start there. So an Employee Benefit Plan versus a personal or private plan. So I could go to you and say, Hey, we want a business Employee Benefit Plan. And I can also buy private insurance from you. Did I understand correctly?
Sorry, the personal insurance would be life insurance and disability insurance. Okay. Um, yeah, so, not not quite, we don’t we don’t sell personal plans, like Blue Cross, GMS. That’s something you could get as an individual. Okay, but we just focus on that business market for the health and dental side of things.
Okay. And are all of the group plans that you do through that chamber plan? Or are there a variety of different plans that you support?
Yeah, the majority of our clients are through the chambers plan, but we do work with other carriers when it makes sense. So this the small and midsize Bart market, it really makes sense that that chambers program, it just has cost stability, and it provides a lot of value for what you get.
Okay, so let’s start there. Why as a local business owner, why would I want an employee benefit plan? Why can’t my employees just go get private plans? Or you know, why? Why do I want one?
That’s that’s really good question Barb. So there are a few answers to that. Let’s just stick to the kind of three that come to mind number one is you care about your employees right , they’re part of your family and you want to provide protection for them if something happens and not only protection for them, but their family as well.
So that’s what a benefit program provides is, you know, catastrophic coverage and ability to go for the just preventative maintenance type of things like your massage or dental that people probably wouldn’t go to until they had pain in their mouth or a significant back issue or, or that kind of thing. Right? So that just helps their Yeah, their health and well being.
Number two, it’s smart spending. So if you’re a business owner, and you’re looking to compensate your employees a little bit more than last year, well, your options are you could give them an additional salary bump in their salary. But when you do that, you’re paying into all the government benefits. You have your workers comp, your UI, your CPP, and then the employee is also getting taxed on their additional salary. Right. So that is an option. That’s fine. But Your other option is you could set up a Benefits Program.
You’re as an employer as a business owner, your component or your portion that you’re paying into it is a business, taxable business expense or tax deductible business expense. Okay, and then you don’t have to pay into the government programs like the CPP II, W CB, and then, yeah, the employee isn’t getting taxed as well.
Okay, so let’s take a step back. When we talk about an employee benefit plan, what do we most commonly see In a benefit plan.
Yeah, and you address it on the front end, Barb, you said there’s lots of different plans out there. So some of the common ones, especially for someone who’s maybe just setting up a plan to start just getting into it, you’d see, there’d be a life insurance benefit. And then health and dental.
So in the health component, you’d have prescription drugs, and then paramedical services. So what that means is your massage Cairo acupuncture, there’s a list of different specialties there. And then medical emergency travel insurance, when you’re out of the country, you’re traveling, you’re covered for any medical emergency. So those are kind of the main pieces of a health plan. And then obviously, dental is fairly self explanatory.
Exactly. So then how does it get customized by business by employer by employee, whatever it is, how does it actually end up getting customized?
So I mean, there are other things that you can add onto a plan, there’s disability, short term disability, long term disability, critical illness, there’s employee assistance programs, that gives them access to counseling, there’s dependent life insurance. So there’s a lot of different things you can add.
But in the midst of a Benefits Program, you can actually also change the amount so let’s use the health benefit. For example, maybe it’s $300 per paramedical specialty, so you have 300 for massage, a separate 300 for acupuncture, well, you could bump that up to 500, do you want it to be covered at 100% or 80%? Were the the employees paying a portion of that. So there’s a lot of different things that you can determine, based on what you want to provide and your budget ultimately, okay.
So you know, even having this conversation, your head starts to swim a little bit, because this is totally your world, like you get this stuff. But how does a business owner then start to make the choices? Do they need to think about their budget upfront? Or do you typically put budget options in front of them? You know, do lots of employers structure it? So the employee pays a portion of the cost and they pay a portion of the cost? How does a small business owner actually get started? What’s kind of that first impetus?
Yeah, no, no kidding. And I know, for some people insurance is intimidating, right? Because maybe I don’t understand. And that’s totally fine, you really want to make sure you’re working with someone who specializes in the group benefits space. So here’s a stat for you. 50% of the plans that are sold each year are sold by an advisor that only will sell that plan in that year. So
Like one person only sells one plan in a year.
Yeah, so 50% of the sales in the marketplace in Canada will be sold by an advisor who’s a generalist, you know, they might do finance, insurance, and then benefit, they’ll sell one one Benefits Program kind of thing.
When you work with the benefits specialists, they’re going to, you know, obviously, they see a lot of different things in the marketplace, you know, they’ve seen a company like yours, they can give you some feedback here, you know, for your typical company, yours, your industry, this is what we’d recommend. And then yeah, we’d ask some questions. What is your budget? What, why? What made you reach out? And sometimes it’s like, I don’t know, I just want to explore Well, that’s okay, let’s educate you on some different options. And if you have no idea what you’re looking for, we will show you a few different options. And then we can always tailor it from there.
So do very many local business owners go to their employees and say, you know, we’d like to put this together, we’d like your feedback, before we go down the path, because what’s important to me as a business owner might be entirely different than what’s important to, you know, an employee who’s in their mid 20s. So do you see that kind of feedback? Or is it pretty much driven by what the employer sees as being valuable?
I would say a bit of both Barb. Like, I know, sometimes we’ll get into conversation with a business owner, and they don’t want to initiate a program. Like we find something that fits their budget for what they’re looking to provide, but they don’t want to initiate it unless they get the employees to go ahead with it.
So then we’ll go out and present and make sure they know what is available to them. And then other business owners are just, Hey, I know this is a value to them. I want to provide it, you know, and maybe the employee doesn’t have as much of a say, but they definitely appreciate it. I mean, if an employer comes in and says hey, I’m gonna provide a benefit program, most people are okay with that.
And so when an employer is looking at those benefit plans, do they often do they often come to you with a budget number then is that kind of what they’re thinking when they get started?
Most People are just wondering how much does it cost? You know, because it’s like, I’ve never looked into it, you know, what does this look like? So some, some might have a budget, maybe it’s more an internal thing, that they have an assumption. And then as we go through and kind of determine what they’re looking for, and once they see that number, it helps, you know, that confirm, okay, I can afford this, or, okay, that’s a little bit more than I was expecting, expecting, what can we do to kind of drop drop the price? Or maybe it’s, hey, I was expecting way more, let’s upgrade the benefits, right?
So when you do have employee participation, like, you know, kind of conversation ahead of time, are all employees required to participate? Or does that depend on the plan, then.
It does depend on the plan depending on the size of the organization, we always recommend 100% participation, it’s just a lot easier to administer the plan that way. You know, I know, some carriers might say, or sorry, insurance companies might say, we can get up to 75% participation. So we need a mandatory 75%. But if you rate at that line, and then you hire somebody in the future, and they don’t want it, all of a sudden, your benefits program is no more. So a lot of times when people are poor, or employees are pushing back saying I don’t want access, I don’t want to be on a benefits plan, it’s because they have spousal coverage or coverage elsewhere.
And that’s totally fine, they can actually still participate in the program, they would just opt out of the health and dental because they can prove they have coverage elsewhere. So there’s still a participant, they just would opt out of the health and dental because they’re covered elsewhere, if that makes sense.
So I just want to think that through because if you opt out, your spouse has coverage. If you participate in two plans, then you you can actually claim to two plans as well, if I recall correctly, you had to claim based on the person whose birth date occurs first in the year, or something crazy like that, but you can actually claim to two plans, you just claim once and then claim a second time based on whatever is not reimbursed, right? Yes. So would employees opt out then because they’re having to, like pay part of the cost? Is that why they would opt out?
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or, you know, their spousal plan is really great. And there’s not a need for additional benefits. So they’re like, I don’t need it. Right.
Right. Yeah. And I guess, you know, if your spouse’s plan is like, 100%, everything, you know, it kind of starts to feel like what do we need that second plan for? Okay, no, that’s really interesting. So talk to me about the reasons that a business wouldn’t choose to have a benefit plan. And Can everyone participate? like are they automatically approved?
Okay, so let’s go on the second piece. How it typically works, again, different insurance companies are different. But typically, to get approved, you need a minimum of three participants. So let’s say a business owner, and two employees would be kind of the minimum to get coverage guaranteed without providing any medical information.
When it comes to the Chamber’s plan, which does make it a bit unique in the marketplace, we can get coverage for one person firm, so solo entrepreneur, or even a two person firm. So yeah, that’s the first question or second question, then you asked, Is there a reason why someone wouldn’t want a benefits program? Is that? Yeah, I mean, maybe it’s cost.
I know, sometimes it’s Yeah, everyone has spells, especially here in Regina, you know, you have a lot of government employees. So a lot of spouses will have coverage. So maybe you’re working in a business of three people. And you know, all three have spells Oh, coverage already, maybe there’s not as much of a need, you know, or a priority to get a benefits plan. So that would be two that come to mind.
Exactly. But do you hear from a lot of your business owners that when they’re recruiting new employees, they get that question about a benefit plan, no matter how big they are?
Yeah, I mean, we get a lot of people to reach out and initiate a benefits program because they lost a key employee because they went somewhere else with the benefits plan or they’re really having trouble hiring people because they don’t have a Benefits Program. So yeah, it’s proven that Employee Benefits Programs attract and retain your employees.
Yep. And so when you think about the plans and the variety, do you see changes on an industry by industry basis, or, you know, is it just really Dependent?
Yeah, I would say both like, one of the things we are seeing is, you know, as the younger generation comes in, they want more flexible spending. So there’s something called that health spending account, which is growing in more and more popularity so that basically, as a business owner, you can say, Okay, I’m allocating, let’s say, five $500, for this calendar year, and you can use it for any eligible health and dental claim.
So obviously, for the younger generation, they love that flexibility. Versus maybe you’re under a typical or traditional Benefits Program, you’re just okay, I only get $300 for a massage, but I want to spend 500. So that’s something that is coming more and more into the market.
And we’re seeing it as a top up to the existing Benefits Program. So maybe you have that traditional structure, but you want to provide some additional flex spending, adding that on, and then some people, maybe their affordability for a traditional plan isn’t there, but they still want to provide something. That’s where that health spending account is. Yeah, gaining more and more popularity?
Exactly. And if I understand correctly with the health spending account, the employee can actually use it for anything that fits in that bucket. So whether it’s mental health services, physical health services, right, so there’s, there’s a ton of flexibility.
And from an age perspective, you’re right at 25, you might be interested in something completely different than you’re interested in 45. One of the things that we’ve really discovered through teaching the get found digital marketing program is we work directly with business owners and business structures are probably almost as varied as their health and benefit plans are.
So every business has a different structure from, you know, the owner is an employee or the owner just collects its dividend. Like there’s so much variety out there. So you talk about groups of three or more. And so if the owner is, does the owner have to be an employee? Like let’s just kind of think through? Who is eligible for some of these plans? And then, as you said, the chamber plan, you can have as few as one, but what is it? I guess, what does a business owner need to have in place to be able to even get started?
So I think you’re asking what is that eligibility that minimal eligible eligibility requirements. So when it comes to the majority of benefit programs, you have to be working a minimum of 20 hours per week, and you have to be receiving some kind of income from the business.
Now, as a business owner, you might say, Well, I don’t want to provide benefits to all my employees, you know, maybe you consider somebody to be part time who’s 20 hours a week? Well, that’s fine. It just has to be a minimum of 20 hours a week, and then whatever line you draw, where it’s this is my full time employees, right?
That’s where you would, you know, make that available to all of them. So yeah, for a business owner, maybe like you said, there’s lots of different structures out there, maybe it’s a business owner who’s, you know, has a different job, and they’re just almost like a silent partner, they wouldn’t be eligible for the benefits program, because they’re not working. Maybe that minimum 20 hours a week, maybe they’re not drawing an income, you know, there’s a few different things that come into play there.
But I think what you just said there is really important because, you know, you and I have had some conversations about our structure. And because we still have ownership collecting dividends, we would still be eligible for a plan. Yes. Right. And I think, for a lot of the funding and benefit programs that are out there, aside from health and dental, if the owner isn’t collecting a wage, then they’re not eligible.
So my guess is that because there are funding programs out there, where they’re not eligible, you know, as soon as you hear that, no, you can’t do something, you tend to apply it to everything else. And so I suspect there’s business owners out there who, you know, they’ve never even thought about it because they’re not eligible for a whole bunch of things.
And you know, just for example, you can’t contribute and shouldn’t take Can’t you don’t receive the benefit of contributing to an RRSP. If you’re collecting dividends, your seed CPP isn’t growing if you’re collecting dividends, so there’s a number of things like that where, you know, as the business owner, you kind of go, Okay, I guess the dividend is supposed to provide that benefit.
And that’s, you know, those are some business decisions that, you know, everyone kind of makes along the way, right. So where do you see this going? Like, are you seeing online competition? Do you find that most of your customers are, you know, once you’ve been able to build a relationship with a customer, they’re a customer for life? Where’s the industry going?
Yeah, I think with every industry things are shifting and changing. Yeah. And I’m curious to see where it goes. Like I said, I think that Flexible Spending will continue, like, people are looking for more flexibility. So I imagine the traditional insurance companies will continue to adapt and change things to make things more attractive.
But what we’re finding is Yeah, like, like you said, once people connect with us and become a customer, yeah, they’re staying with us. The only people that really leave are those who maybe go out of business, or maybe they sold their business and now transition into retirement. So yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, yeah, I guess it’s, it’s working, it’s creating that loyalty, that relationship? And, yeah, just, yeah, there’s not not a lot of changes going forward, once you’re in that, in that, having that relationship. And, and going from there. So.
So you know, it’s funny, I think of it as changing banking. So if you decide to change your bank, like it’s a ton of work, right? Similar to, you know, changing your benefit plan, when you’ve got the benefit plan, and you’ve got the online access, and you’ve got all the pieces, it’s just so much work to try and make that change. Right. Okay, so So can
I speak to that for a second? Barb? Yeah, um, so that’s one of the things we are seeing in the industry is a lot like the big insurance companies out there. So you know, you can get a benefit from lots of different companies. And so it’s a really competitive market right now.
And there are a lot of these big companies that are just trying to buy business, so they’re giving significant discounts to get your business. So you might get five quotes, and there’s one that just seems Wow, that is so cheap, I’m going to go that way.
What happens is, you know, we’re not going to get too complicated for your audience. But your pricing is determined by how much the plan is used. So you know, in a year or two years, what you’re gonna see is no longer that discount, you’re gonna see that significant increase, and now all of a sudden, you’re no longer happy. And now you’re going through the process over and over and over again. Yeah.
So that is something that I am seeing in the industry, and maybe speaks to some of your previous questions. So that’s why it’s really important to ask, okay, how is this priced? What does this look like in a year? What does this look like in two years? You know, you don’t always want to take the lowest cost, because there’s a reason it is low. So Exactly. Yeah, I thought I just mentioned that based on what you just said there.
Yeah. And that’s a really fair point, which actually brings up one more question, and then we’re going to be at a time. But what has the COVID impact been has been COVID. Now included in benefit plans? What happens if I travel? I don’t know if that’s a 62nd. Question for your novel, what has the COVID impact been to two plans
For the coverage itself? So I’ll just speak to the Chamber’s plan, just because the majority of your audience will I imagine be small midsize business owners. It hasn’t changed at all. Our travel insurance hasn’t changed at all. It’s not COVID dependent, you know, if you get COVID if you’re in Mexico or whatever, doesn’t matter.
So it’s only if you’re not vaccinated, double Vax, none of that matters?
Nothing’s changed the whole entire time. So it’s so interesting. As things open up in our country, people are traveling more. We are getting calls from people double checking, because some people can’t believe that that hasn’t changed. So yeah, exactly. Yeah. So we’re thankful to partner with an insurance company? Yeah. takes care of people for sure.
Okay, no, that’s cool. So we are wrapped up. So tell people how they can start their journey. Learn more about you, but start to do the research. You know, like, what are they going to search on Google to learn more about employee benefit plans?
Sure. So I guess you can find us, you can find us or on our website, www dot pre benefits.ca. We are on Facebook to search up pre benefits there. Yeah, I think if you’re googling stuff, you just look for someone who you can tell does employee benefits all the time, that’s what they specialize in.
There’s not many of us that just do employee benefits. And I would just recommend going to someone who, you know, does it all the time and knows what they’re talking about?
Yeah, yeah, I agree. It’s kind of like our industry. If you’re gonna hire somebody to build a website, make sure that that’s what they do not website and sell employee benefits. You know, to put those two together. Okay, awesome. Thank you, Tyler.
We are already out of time. It’s amazing how quickly this time goes. So thank you for being here with me today. And sharing Little bit more about what a business owner might want to think about when they’re looking at employee benefit plans. Because unless your business is somehow tied to insurance, it’s a pretty uncomfortable topic. So thank you, Tyler.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Absolutely. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at BB at above the fold dot live, or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram page @abovethefold.ca. And just a reminder, you can even submit questions in advance of our live show on our Facebook page.
So I’m your host, Bob McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.
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Ever wonder what the benefits of providing a benefit plan to your employees are? How important is it to provide a benefits plan as a small business and how much will it cost?
The fact is benefits plans come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be tailored to suit each business and their current needs. It’s a hot topic and one that tends to be full of misinterpretations and assumptions, but we’re ready to dive in.
Join us with special guest Tyler Clark from Prairie Benefits Solutions as we navigate the murky waters of employee benefits plans and insurance coverage.
Connect with Tyler @ Prairie Benefits
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