The Apple, the Check Mark & Coffee: What they have to do with your business & why a PEO can actually help improve it

By: Shraga Jacobowitz

Okay, if I did my job correctly, you are right now scratching your head and are intrigued by the title of my article.  Because what do apples, check-marks and coffee have in common? And further, what in the world can these three things have to do with the business world, my business specifically and even more confounding, PEOs?

However, it’s really quite simple. These three seemingly unrelated items each represent three mega-corporations: Apple, Nike and Starbucks. One of the core things these three corporation hold in common is that these three companies distinguished themselves from the thousands of companies across the country by clearly establishing their company culture.

Think Apple, and you think simplicity, serviceability and quality. The Nike swoosh brings to mind athletic prowess and reaching for impossible goals. Similarly, Starbucks is synonymous with fantastic customer service and even better lattes.

Okay, you’re thinking, you’ve piqued our interest, but you still haven’t answered our more important question, “What do these companies have to do with my company and a partnership with a PEO?”

Again, the answer is simple. Creating your company culture is one of the key components of attracting faithful customers, (ask an Apple user to use an Android, a Nike enthusiast to wear any old sneaker or a Starbucks connoisseur to G-d forbid drink home brewed coffee and you’ll see what I’m talking about). But this culture is not just about retaining your customers. Having a strong company culture is almost as important to retaining your employees as it is to retaining your customers.

Back to our apple, check mark and coffee, all three of these corporations have excelled in retaining their employees, with Apple retaining about 81% of its worldwide employees. Nike was listed as one of the top 100 companies to work for with a mere 9% voluntary turnover rate.  Meanwhile, Starbucks has bucked the trend for quick serve restaurants, which usually has a 150-400% turnover rate, with an astounding 65% turnover rate, beating the industry average by 140%.

So, we know now that creating and maintaining a strong company culture can be the key to increased employee productivity across the board. This is because when there is a strong culture attached to your company, employees feel like they belong to something important, and they want to be part of making it better. In turn, your employees will love coming to work when they are part of something bigger than themselves. When employees feel like they fit into a company’s culture, they will develop deeper relationships with their colleagues, be more loyal to the company, and be more productive than ever.

Of course, employers benefit from a strong company culture, too. Having happy, productive employees who are giving their job their all, is one of the best things you can do for your company.  In fact, having a winning company culture cannot be overstated. According to a Bain & Company Survey America, 81% of 365 companies throughout Europe, Asia, and North America believe that a company lacking a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity.

But again, you’re probably asking yourself, “What in the world does all this have to do with PEOs?”

Elementary, my dear Watson (a change from my normal answer of “It’s simple”). Your company’s culture is the personality you infuse in your company. It defines your office environment, the way your employees feel about their work, and creates your company’s goals. It includes a range of elements, including company mission, values, ethics code, and expectations.  And because it fosters a great work environment it increases productivity across the board.

The importance of establishing and maintaining a strong company culture leads many business owners to question if partnering with a PEO or a current PEO partnership will affect their well-established company culture. It is normal to wonder if it’s possible to still maintain the mission, goals, attitude of their company, when their employees are now being dealt with by an outside party.

Worry not, business owners. As I stated in the title, partnering with the right PEO shouldn’t change anything about your company culture. Seems a little too good to be true? Are you having flashbacks to your last co-living arrangement that went south really quickly or your elementary school science project that you “co-worked” on, and thinking co-anything (whether co-living, co-working or co-employment) has to change everything?

Many business owners worry that partnering with a PEO or their existing PEO partnership will make employees feel disenfranchised or set aside or that they will not know who they are working for or what company goals they are working towards.

I repeat, if implemented correctly, joining a PEO or being part of a PEO should change NOTHING about your company’s culture. In fact, handing over all your HR duties to a PEO, allows you to focus more fully on developing and maintaining your company culture. In addition, by utilizing the services of a PEO, you’ll be better equipped at finding the right employees for your business that fit your company’s culture. A PEO can assist you with the tedious recruiting process, including interviewing candidates, resume-screening and performing background checks on prospective employees. A PEO can also help you create, implement and change company policy. And in doing so, PEOs enable you to create a team that personifies your company’s culture.

So what is the SECRET to joining or being part of a PEO, without upsetting your current company culture?

It really is simple this time: KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN!

Honesty and transparency are crucial to good company culture, so if you’re considering partnering with a PEO, simply TALK to your employees about this decision. Simple, right?

This lesson can be learned from Zappos, another leader in maintaining a thriving company culture. One of Zappos’s ten core values is “Build open and honest relationships with communication.” Zappo’s founder, Tony Hsieh embodied this value when he announced Amazon’s $850 million acquisition of Zappos in an open letter to all Zappo’s employees in 2009, eliminating the normal panic that ensues when rumors of a corporate takeover begin to circulate.

Let your employees know of your decision to partner with a PEO and why you’ve made this decision. Explain to them the benefits to THEM in bringing the PEO on board, including better benefit packages, access to better health, dental and vision insurance plans, and a safer work environment. In addition, because PEO has access to technology that an average company cannot afford, your work process is made that much easier.

Be upfront about what the PEO will handle and what your company will handle. Most importantly, explain that while you and the PEO are now co-employers, your company is still the one leading your employees and therefore your company still holds the same values as before.  A PEO should align with your company’s existing infrastructure to provide complementary expertise– they should not be taking it over.

In fact, if the transition to joining a PEO is handled correctly, working with a PEO can actually improve your company’s culture. After all, happy employees is one of the key elements of having a strong company culture. With the new benefits and the streamlined responsibilities, employees will be glad to know that your company is still looking out for what’s best for them and the company. A PEO consultant/broker and the PEO you choose to partner with should be able to help you complete this transition seamlessly. Communication between your company and the PEO throughout the transition period and the partnership is essential to maintaining your company’s culture in this arrangement. In addition, because PEOs employ seasoned, certified HR professionals who have experience with various industries, these experts can also help in making shifts in company culture, when necessary. This expertise can prove invaluable when structuring, maintaining or changing your company’s culture, and as a partner of the PEO, it’s at your disposal.

So, take the advice of the apple, the check mark and the coffee, and build up your company culture for optimal customer and employee retention, but don’t let this goal stop you from taking advantage of all the benefits a PEO can offer your business. Now, all of a sudden, I’m in the mood of wasting endless hours on my iPhone, running a mile and getting a coffee simultaneously…. I can’t begin to imagine why.

Still not convinced bringing a PEO will not adversely affect your company’s culture?  Call ARC Consultants and let them help you partner with a PEO that aligns best with your company’s culture.

The IRS has given their stamp of approval to PEOs; What does that mean for your business?

By Shraga Jacobowitz

Earlier this month, the IRS released a new standard for PEOs — the ability to become a CPEO, or a Certified PEO. With the conferring of this new, coveted title on a handful of existing PEOs, the IRS has given their stamp of approval, acknowledging that these PEOs have met specific standards set forth by the US government. Ok, this is so HUGE, it’s worthy of being repeated – the IRS is giving their STAMP OF APPROVAL to PEOs!

Why am I so excited about this news? Well for one, having the IRS certify select PEOs lends the entire PEO industry credibility. By certifying PEOs the IRS is acknowledging that there is legitimacy to the PEO business model, and that this not some “back alley” concept that is skirting around the law to manage your business’ employee related tasks, obtaining competitive employee benefits, WC insurance and administer payroll taxes and compliance.  Instead, the IRS is essentially saying PEOs are a valid and reasonable method to obtain these items and services for your business. Something I’ve been saying all along, but it’s always nice to be backed up by one of the biggest government agencies in the USA.

In addition, having the IRS’s stamp of approval also ensures that these CPEO’s are secure and trustworthy. In fact, to ensure this security for PEO clients, PEOs that wish to become certified, must go through the following processes:

  • Annual Financial Audits
  • Quarterly assertions and CPA confirmation regarding payment of all employment taxes.
  • A third party surety bond of a minimum $50,000 or for an amount equal to 5% of the federal employment tax liabilities for the prior year.
  • Background checks of PEO and controlling persons at the PEO
  • Present a client service agreement that meets certain IRS standards.

But that’s not all! Besides the newfound security CPEOs will bring to this industry, this news carries with it tax implications for those looking to join or switch PEOs midyear. In the past, a midyear transition often resulted in a restart on your payroll tax calculation. That’s because in the past the IRS didn’t recognize the PEO as a continuation of your current employment status, but rather that all your employees were now employed by another entity; the PEO.

CPEOs now have clear authority to collect and remit federal employment taxes (Social Security, Medicare, Federal Unemployment Taxes, etc.) for the worksite employees and to do so under the EIN of the CPEO. In addition, because the IRS now recognizes the CPEO as a successor employer, a business joining or switching to a PEO midyear will not have their FICA and FUTA wage bases reset. But before you run out to switch midyear, be aware that while this will affect your Federal taxes positively, it will have zero impact on how your state taxes are calculated, and therefore, the state tax implications of signing up for or switching your PEO must still be taken into account.

In added good news, being part of CPEO ensures that special tax credit programs designed for small business clients will still be awarded to clients of the CPEO.  This means that your small business will still be viewed as a small business, and will not be denied these tax credits just because you are part of a larger PEO organization.

However, the final cherry on this CPEO cake is that having PEOs certified by the IRS, can help to take some of the guesswork out of choosing a qualified PEO. I repeat can, not will, because while having certified PEOs may be helpful, it is important to realize that not necessarily  are they the end all in determining what is the best PEO for you.

Firstly, there are many factors in determining the best PEO, and not necessarily will a CPEO meet your specific business’ needs. Secondly, the PEO industry has had in place already for many years means of keeping tabs on PEOs, ensuring that PEO customers are completely protected and that PEOs are meeting the needs of clients. So even before this news was announced, businesses joining a PEO had other assurances that they were working with either an accredited or at least privately audited PEO.

In fact, the Employer Services Assurance Corporation (ESAC) has been doing exactly that since 1995! ESAC provides accreditation and financial assurance programs for the PEO industry. Their process verifies the PEOs’ ongoing financial solvency and compliance with government regulations and important industry standards. Even more so, ESAC gives more security through underlying surety bonds held on behalf of each ESAC accredited PEO, plus a $15 million excess bond covering all program participants.

But even those PEOs that are neither certified by the IRS nor accredited by ESAC, are often vetted or audited by third parties or privately owned by investment firms, and therefore can be just as reliable, if not more so than a CPEO or ESAC.

After all, becoming a CPEO is a voluntary choice made by the individual PEOs, not a mandatory obligation. Which means while being a CPEO says a lot about that PEO, i.e., there is a standard you must uphold to be certified, (according to the IRS website, “To become and remain certified under the CPEO program, CPEOs must meet tax status, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding and other requirements described in the statute and regulations”), it does not say anything about those organizations that are “just plain old simple” PEOs.

Which begs the question…

What really is the most important letter in this industry? The “C” or the “P”?  What is really more important to your business, the certification, i.e., the “C” or the professionalism, i.e., the “P”?

And even more so, what does the presence of CPEOs on the market mean to you? To your business? To the industry? To us as a PEO consulting firm?

But finally and most importantly, which option is really the best choice for you? A CPEO, PEO, ESAC, or some other combination of letters that we haven’t even heard of yet?

Well, I can’t give away all my secrets in one breath. Sorry, but for that answer you’ll just have to give us a call….after all having someone to help you navigate through the alphabet sea of PEOs, CPEOs, ESACs is exactly why using a PEO consultant is so important.

To find out if your PEO is the right fit for your business, or if you should sign up for a PEO, click here or contact one of the ARC Consultants today.

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