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Contributed by Steve Schneider, President, CB Insurance

ImageEntrepreneurs invest their personal capital to start and build businesses. They write personal checks to make payroll, to fund equipment expenditures, and pay operating costs. They put their own money at risk in hopes of an acceptable return on their capital. Historically, investment risk taken by the successful entrepreneur has been rewarded by increased profits and a long-standing business venture. Those who opened businesses were lauded for their propensity and willingness to incur risk and for their commitment to community and growth.  

Not so much today. In this political season, entrepreneurs are painted as greedy or labeled as Wall Street “fat cats” In reality, most entrepreneurs across the USA are Main Streeters, like you and me. They sit across from friends and neighbors in local churches and restaurants. They get up each morning to work another day–to make a product or provide a service, train or manage staff, attempt to smartly grow a business, and to participate in and enrich a community. Each day across our country, entrepreneurs incur risk and employ others with no guaranty; only the hope of their own success.

On January 1, 2013, the financial success these entrepreneurs seek–the economic reward they pursue by putting personal capital at risk—will be severely diminished. Ordinary income tax rates for many small business owners in the highest tax bracket will increase by over 10%. A new 3.8% Medicare Tax (Obamacare) will be applied to certain investment income, such as dividends and interest income. Capital gains on investments will be taxed at a rate 30% higher than in 2012. Income derived from stock dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, rather than the current 15% tax rate – a whopping +400% increase for those in the highest tax bracket.  All this after the company itself has paid up to 35% of its income in corporate taxes. 

So what’s the big deal? Those doing well should “pay their fair share,” right? We can always debate whether tax rates of 40% income, 35% corporate, 23.8% capital gains, 40% dividend income, and 55% estate (death) are “fair.” The question today is: “Would you write a personal check to start a business, knowing that almost half of what you earn over time will go to the federal government in the form of taxes?”  Or stated another way, “Would you invest your own money to grow a business and employ more people and take more risk, knowing that upon the sale of your business the increased value derived from your investment and sweat equity will be substantially taxed, and, to add further insult, that upon your death more than half of the remaining value might also go to Washington, rather than to your heirs?” 

If you are curious why the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, why GDP growth is anemic, and why many of our best and brightest college graduates remain unemployed, you need only put yourself in the position of an entrepreneur and ask – “Would I write that check?”

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Contributed by guest blogger Chuck Kocher, Certified Diamond Master Coach, ActionCoach

Remember those days when business folks sealed deals through a handshake, and it was all about who you knew?  Yes, those were the good old days, and I’d like to tell you that they’re still here!

Even in today’s technology-driven, global business environment—where we’re more prone to catch up with our buddies or business partners via Twitter and Facebook—a wise business strategy is to build a network of close relationships to generate sales referrals and ultimately revenue for your company. I would estimate that 70 percent of my business is developed through my key strategic partners: people with whom I have developed strong personal and professional ties, who then provide warm referrals to people they know.

Another way to put this is to create a strategy around creating mutually beneficial relationships to drive your business—and theirs. Here are a few key tips to get you started:

–  Tip 1: Make this a priority in your business life. Schedule 4 to 5 strategic partner meetings every week to build upon relationships and develop revenue channels.

–  Tip  2: Take your time and be a giver. Don’t go into the first meeting making it all about you and what you need. Learn more about your potential partner, what their business needs are, and ways in which you can assist.

–  Tip 3: Set the table. In meeting number 2 or 3, let your partner know that a mutually productive business partnership is a goal of yours.

–  Tip 4: Give again. Once a partnership has been established, give referrals to him or her as often as possible.

–  Tip 5: Build upon your network. Now that the groundwork for exchange has been completed, ask for the names of your partner’s trusted advisors and then go about making those people or firms a part of your network.

–  Tip 6: Perform well. Once your strategic partner has referred you to one of their advisors, perform well so that your strategic partner has confidence to provide you with more opportunities.

In short, it’s important to think foremost about the people around you and the networks you want to develop to generate revenue and opportunities for your business. Yes, social media and advertising are important tools for business generation—but so is building strategic partners.

For more information on action coach Chuck Kocher, CLICK HERE.

Contributed by Jill Webb, Director of Business Development, Central Bancorp

ImageAs home to a growing defense industry and military presence, Colorado Springs has the honor to host a number of technical conferences each year that discuss the nation’s defense capabilities–present and future.

I had the pleasure this past week to attend one such gathering of minds at the Wide Area Sensing and Communications (WASC) Conference, which brought together some tremendous defense experts and officials including General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA; General William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command; Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia; and several other Department of Defense officials and industry experts.

These professionals from the commercial and military sectors were here in Colorado Springs to share the latest and greatest in communication and technology platforms that our military and government are using and developing to keep this country safe.

While most of what I saw seemed futuristic and unimaginable, the most interesting aspect of the conference, in my opinion, is that a lot of the technology showcased came from local small businesses right here in Colorado Springs, and they should be commended for their achievements in advancing defense technology.

The following companies were at the conference along with their CEO’s, who shared their latest successes:

Navsys Corporation: Provides technical products and services in GPS hardware design, systems engineering, systems analysis, and software design

SkySentry: A national leader in the investigation and development of high altitude operations

Imprimis Inc: Supports government and private organizations in achieving operational excellence with the effective use of technology

Global Near Space Services: Designs and develops unmanned aerospace systems

Colorado Springs is known for its many great industries, outdoor offerings, and quality of life. Through the work of these industries and more, it has also become the second largest defense industry market in the United States. We should be proud of that accomplishment and celebrate these businesses who are making it happen!

For more information on the WASC Conference, CLICK HERE.


Contributed by Todd Morris, Vice President Commercial Division, CB Insurance

Whether you are a government contractor or small business owner, cyber security is becoming an increasingly complex topic—affecting not only the integrity of information technology systems, but the security of the information contained within. As we all know, when an organization—government or small business—experiences a security breach, there are long-term and possibly even permanent consequences.

As such, it’s wise for all businesses to take note of the recent amendments made to the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation (GSAR).  These amendments will affect contracts awarded after January 6, 2012 that provide the GSA with technology supplies, services, and systems with security requirements. The amended acquisition rules are meant to strengthen the security of services procured via prime- and sub-government contractors.

Contractors are now required to produce IT security plans within 30 days of the contract award, and they are required to submit written proof of IT security authorization within six months after the award—along with verification that their IT security plan remains valid annually.

According to the GSA, the requirements for submission of an IT plan will be in solicitations that, again, include information technology supplies, services, or systems in which the contractor will have physical or electronic access to government information that directly supports the mission of the GSA.

While these amendments to the GSAR place a new responsibility on government contractors to provide IT security plans, it is a necessary and appropriately cautious step in the right direction to securing sensitive information.

 Contact Todd Morris at 719.477.4275 for information on an upcoming cyber security seminar to be held at Bancorp Plaza at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

Contributed by Gary Markle, President, Central Bank & Trust

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently revamped their CAPLines program after engaging financial industry leaders in all 50 states to implement changes benefiting SBA lending partners—such as Central Bank & Trust—and small business owners.

According to the SBA revised guidelines, the new CapLines program gives small businesses more flexibility to finance the contracts, subcontracts, and purchase orders they compete for and win. “By addressing the short-term and cyclical working capital needs of small businesses, the revolving line of credit will help them manage their cash cycle, scale up, and create jobs,” the SBA explains.

From our perspective as an SBA lender, these revisions make this once-underutilized lending program more attractive and allow us to fund a borrower’s short-term working capital needs under the SBA guidelines. For businesses that are growing and have been awarded new contracts, banks now have the capacity to do revolving lines of credit up to $5 million utilizing their own credit parameters. This means business owners can work directly with a dedicated SBA lender and process their line of credit expeditiously.

Key benefits of the CAPLines program (which can be found at SBA.gov):

– Small businesses can pledge accounts receivable, inventory, contracts, and purchase orders to secure an SBA revolving line of credit.

–  The SBA will no longer require small business owners without buildings or equipment to use their personal assets as collateral to secure working capital.

–  Small business subcontractors can now obtain an SBA-guaranteed line of credit to finance their work on a contract with a federal prime contractor.

To understand the benefits and details of the CAPLines program, small business owners should work with a lender who knows the SBA policies, procedures, and systems to deliver and service this type of revolving credit. The small business owner should also know who they’re talking to, who’s processing the loan, and who’s making the decisions that potentially affect their future growth.

Contributed by Steve Schneider, President, CB Insurance

ImageSo the gifts are all opened, the holiday cookies are all gone, and you’re now anticipating a week of uninterrupted football bliss. Sounds good, huh?

There is only one thing that could make this better: An insurance review!

Now is a great time to take stock of new jewelry, gifts, and other trinkets that should be added to your insurance. And, take stock of older pieces of jewelry, art, or other collectibles that have appreciated in value over the years.

Those items valued at over $2,500 may require special coverage on your homeowner’s insurance. New “grown up” toys such as ATVs, motorcycles, and snow mobiles should be insured properly for damage to the equipment and liability arising from their use.

Finally, dig out your old homeowner policy and look to see that the replacement-cost values are correct. While the market value of your home could have dropped over the past few years, the cost to actually replace the home, should it be destroyed, has likely increased.

So, drop that turkey leg, grab a pencil and paper, and make a list of items to review with your insurance consultant.

The time spent now reviewing these items can save you countless hours and headaches in the future should the unthinkable occur.

Contributed by Charles Lamb, Director of Marketing, Central Bancorp

I’m new to Colorado Springs—a transplant from the Four Corners—and in my four short weeks exploring, living, and working in the downtown area, I’ve grown to love the local small business feel permeating the city.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with big box stores or national chains. Much of my ‘Black Friday’ shopping was spent standing in line in one. But, during the remainder of the holiday shopping season, I’ll commit to buying holiday cards, wine, coffee, bike parts, and groceries in as many locally owned shops as I can find.

It’s a great feeling to hand a wife and husband your debit card in their wine shop; sip on a latté in a coffee bar named after the area’s famous peak; get served a pastry from the daughter of the bakery’s owner; and bank where the teller knows your name—and you know hers. There is satisfaction in shopping local and knowing that your money will stay in town and have an impact here in Colorado Springs.

Please remember your neighborhood small business during the hectic holiday shopping season. Perhaps you’ll find the experience of buying local so enchanting—as I have—that it’ll become a shopping habit to continue year round.