Cory Boyas

Personal & Business Development

Do You Need a Key-Employee Retention Program?

When is ignorance bliss?

Whether you are running a small business or a large corporation, chances are that the longevity of your business and your company’s financial success is dependent on one or more key employees. And when you have select employees that are so vital to your business, you are not taking necessary precautions if you are not taking steps to ensure that those employees will stay with your company and continue to be a positive force for your business.

Consider each of your executives and staff individually, and think in these terms – if they left the firm, would there be a negative impact because:

  • The employee has the ability to take clients when exiting?
  • The employee has an essential skill/license/credential that would shut off an income flow when exiting?
  • The employee has no non-compete agreement, and might not sign one if asked?
  • The employee has a vulnerable financial status (which could be improved with an appropriate plan in place)?
  • The employee has asked for a promotion, and was rejected?
  • There are one or two employees who have the essential skills necessary to run the business and are not replaceable?
  • A segment of the business has no trainees to replace key members, and the job market has no available replacements?
  • Your business does not have a cross-training program, and one or more employees are essential to its survival?

If you see a potential hazard to your company’s longevity, you should consider establishing an affordable retention program for your company. Along with providing incentives for your key employees to increase their loyalty, you also should give consideration to an appropriate benefits package that provides consistent, uniform benefits to help your employee retention efforts.

Be sure to look at all the options available to you as a business owner.

How to Keep Your Best Employees


A really good employee – one whose work ethic, skills, and personality are a great fit for your business – is hard to find. These days, it may be harder than ever; a recent national survey found that the percentage of business owners reporting they have jobs they are unable to fill (29 percent) is the highest it’s been since 2006.

As the owner of a small business, you don’t have limitless resources to bring in new talent, but you do have excellent options for keeping top performers happy. Consider the following guidelines:

Get the compensation right. Hard work can be rewarded in a lot of ways, but money and benefits are right up there. In fact, a recent national survey by global staffing firm, Robert Half, found that a quarter of companies reported losing employees in the past year to a job that paid more.

Your goal should be to provide a salary, based on parameters that you can explain to a key employee, so that he or she feels fairly compensated. So how do you get the range right? You can find United States salary data in a number
of places, including and Additional good sources for market rate salaries include other business owners in your area, owners of temp agencies, and your local or state chamber of commerce.

You might also consider providing an executive benefit plan, which can add life insurance, disability, or supplemental retirement benefits for a key employee.

Think past the paycheck. Owners of small businesses have the option to offer a number of cost-effective, but meaningful, perks that make a top employee feel valued. These can include taking him or her out to lunch, providing a gift certificate to a local restaurant, extra vacation days, or even a flexible schedule that allows working from home.

“Invest” in your good people. Let a valued staffer feel that his or her career can grow as the business does. “Where does the employee see himself or herself in three to five years? What areas of the business would he or she like to learn more about?” says E-Myth certified business coach, Jennifer Martin, of Zest Business Consulting in San Francisco. “Then, set them up for success.” Pay for work-related seminars, courses, or conferences; think of projects within other parts of the company that the employee can “stretch” for.

Create a positive employee culture. Big companies do this by creating elaborate statements and programs; owners of small businesses can achieve their ends by everyday actions:

  • Share your vision, goals, and expectations
  • Give every employee a chance to be respectfully heard
  • Check in frequently on how projects or tasks are going
  • Notice employee contributions and encourage others to do so
  • Have quarterly employee town hall meetings where everyone can discuss the business.

All these actions will foster a culture of camaraderie and pride. “One of the greatest incentives a business owner can provide is the chance to belong to a first-rate team, and an outstanding organization,” says business speaker and author Barry Maher. “One of my clients is the United States Army. Why do people perform so heroically in battle? Of course they love their country. But when you ask them about it, the answer you get is often the same one you get from championship sports teams: They did it for their teammates, because they didn’t want to let them down. And they felt like they were part of something special.”

Exit Planning: 3 Realistic Steps to Get You Started


You know you should do it. You’ve been meaning to get to it. It would protect your family in the event of your death, help ensure a comfortable retirement, allow others to begin to prepare to take over the business, and much more.
But the fact is, you don’t have a clear succession or exit plan in mind.

In that regard, you’re in the same boat as the majority of owners of small businesses. In fact, 83 percent of business owners in a recent survey1 admitted they do not have an exit plan, or have not documented or communicated their plan. Owners say they are too young, not well enough established, or just plain too busy building their business to have one. Often, they feel that personal or economic circumstances may change so much in 15 or 20 years that there’s no way to make a practical exit plan now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not positioned to dive in to succession or exit planning, it may be most practical for you to begin by putting a toe in the water. Consider this advice on getting started from Jerry Mills, founder of B2B CFO and author of The Exit Strategy Handbook:

Get a life insurance policy, ASAP. This could cover all of the expenses your family would face, as well as future needs, such as college, and potential taxes that could be billed to the estate. A well-structured policy will protect your family and provide them with time to consider what to do about the business. So make life insurance coverage a number one priority.

Educate yourself. Exit planning is a very complicated subject. There are decisions to make about selling to a third party, transferring within a family, and so on. And while business owners are very intelligent about their own businesses, exit planning may not be their area of expertise.

Many business owners are probably going to roll their eyes and say, “Now I’ve got to read something else?” It’s worth any business owner’s time to find out how to fully realize the value of this significant asset. Knowledge is power. You can find any of a number of solid books on the topic, written by experienced professionals, on business bestseller lists.

Begin to create a team of trusted advisors. Don’t wait until you are actually facing a transaction to try to put together a team. By team I mean professionals such as a tax advisor (CPA), a transactional attorney, someone in a merger
and acquisition firm, a banker, a financial advisor. Take them out to lunch, host a dinner, or pick their brains in an informal way in the course of business. Ask questions – “I read this idea; what do you think?” It’s a way of enlarging your knowledge and, equally important, building relationships.

No business or owner fits into a cookie-cutter mold for succession or exit planning. By learning now about the terminology and mechanics of exiting a business, you’ll be well positioned to make good choices – and get good advice – when the time is right.

Make An Impact


Giving helps people feel good, but more importantly, it can help a charity do great things.

Do you wish you could do more for the charities you support? Life Insurance can allow you to make a substantial future gift by making small premium payments over time. It also reduces the impact the charitable gift has on your family’s inheritance.

There are different ways to provide a charitable gift.

  • You purchase a life insurance policy and designate the charity as the policy’s beneficiary. You pay the premiums and retain control of the policy. Upon your death, the charity receives the death benefit. Because you retain control and can make changes to the policy, there is no immediate tax deduction allowed for the premiums, however, your estate receives an estate tax deduction for the amount given to the charity.
  • You purchase a life insurance policy for the charity and name it as the owner and the beneficiary. If you choose to make cash gift to the charity in the amount of the premium payment, the deduction can be up to 50 percent of your Adjusted Gross income (AGI). If you pay premiums directly to the life insurance company, the deduction will be limited to 30 percent of your AGI. Since the charity is the owner, the death benefit will not be included in your estate.
  • You can gift an existing life insurance policy to charity. You would receive an income tax deduction for the gift of the policy and for any future premiums paid.

The Joy That Comes With Giving

Do more with less. Because the total premiums are generally less than the policy proceeds, you are able to make a substantial gift at a discount.

Preserve your estate. A gift of life insurance allows you to support a favorite charity without reducing the amount of your estate that will be left for your loved ones.

Provide an immediate gift. Life insurance proceeds are paid immediately and do not go through probate. This also allows your gift to be made privately and without public record, if you choose.

Receive favorable tax treatment. Depending on how you structure your charitable gift of life insurance, your estate can receive an estate tax deduction for the amount of the death benefit or you may receive an income tax deduction on the gift of the policy and the premiums paid.

Consider if charitable gifting using life insurance may be right for you. Your gift can help you leave a lasting legacy; and more importantly, it can have a significant impact on the charity that will benefit from your generosity.

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