Congress should have a small business agenda

IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira had some thoughts on Congress’s agenda that appeared on the Hill’s Congress blog.

The fall season means many things to Americans: football, back-to-school and football. But this fall will also hold additional significance for millions of small business owners across the nation. All eyes will be on Congress as it returns to Washington for its fall legislative session and while most have come to expect partisan gamesmanship and gridlock from our elected leaders, there are three things they could agree on that would make a real difference for the working families and small businesses in every Congressional district around the country, particularly the more than 300 franchise business owners who are in Washington this week as part of the International Franchise Association’s annual fly-in.

The first thing Congress can do to help small business owners is reform the well-intended, but misguided and unworkable definition of a full-time employee in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced that it would delay the implementation of the ACA’s employer mandate and reporting requirements for a full year as they reexamined the potentially disastrous implications for small businesses. While that was a good first step, it did not alleviate the fundamental pain that small businesses feel with the law. The law requires employers with at least 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance to those working at least 30 hours a week – essentially redefining “full-time” from the traditional 40-hour workweek. If implemented as is, this requirement would have a tremendously adverse impact on the small business owners in the franchising industry, which includes restaurants, retailers, hotel and service-related industries.

You can read the full story over at the Hill’s Congress Blog.

Keeping Current With IFA’s SmartBrief

The first week of September saw summer wane, but not readers’ interest in news focused on industry leaders sharing their expansion strategies.  IFA’s SmartBrief, a three-times-a-week news bulletin, made sure of that.  These strategies included insights from Subway’s Co-Founder Fred DeLuca, CFE, on growing the business from its humble beginnings to Cinnabon Pres. Kat Cole’s three-prong plan for expansion.

Separated into such categories as franchise news, best practices, trends, news from IFA and policy & finance, readers – 28,000 plus strong – learned, for example, how IFA  and  the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative is educating current and former professional athletes to score in the world of franchising. Timely news articles, videos, op-eds and blogs enable SmartBrief readers to find out what their colleagues are doing and saying about important issues affecting their businesses.

And when it comes to news from IFA, leading the way was the announcement that AFC CEO Cheryl Bachelder will serve as a keynote speaker for the IFA Annual Convention that is themed “Driving Growth in Challenging Times.”  The availability of a new matchmaking portal for retailers/brokers looking for space and landlords/brokers with available space listings was another popular story during the week.

If you missed all that and the policy & finance article highlighting Firehouse Subs’ plan to handle Affordable Care Act regulation, don’t worry.  Get caught up and stay current.  Visit and select SmartBrief under “Resources” to sign up for this free resource today.

A required written notice by employers to employees addressing coverage options under the FLSA

In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as amended by section 1512 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all employers are required to provide a written notice to current employees no later than October 1, 2013. In addition, upon that date, employers will also have to provide this written notice to employees at the time of hire, from that date forward.

The written notice needs to include the following points:

  • Informing the employee of the Marketplace also referred to as the “Exchange”, including a description of services provided by the Marketplace and how the employee may contact the Marketplace to request assistance.
  • If the employer plan’s share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan is less than 60 percent of such costs, then the employee may be eligible for a premium tax credit if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace.
  • And that if the employee purchases this qualified health plan through the Marketplace, the employee may lose the employer contribution to any health benefits plan offered by the employer, and that all or a portion of such contribution may be excludable from income for Federal income tax purposes.

This notice is based on the FLSA definition of employee, which applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for interstate commerce, and for most firms, a test of $500,000 or more in annual dollar volume of business applies. Therefore, this notice should be sent to current employees regardless of the size of business and regardless of whether or not you provide health care insurance, or plan on being required to. At this time there is not a specific penalty for noncompliance, although there may be FLSA or PPACA general reporting compliance penalties that apply. It is not entirely clear at this time which may apply.

There are model notices provided by the federal government that you’re able to use, although you can do your own. If you’re an employer that offers a plan you can use this model, or if you’re an employer that does not offer a plan you can use this model. For additional help and information on this notice under the Fair Labor Standards Act, you can go here.

With an approaching effective date for the employer and individual mandate, this is a required preliminary action that needs to be done. In addition to the general points that need be addressed within the letter, it must also be written in laymen’s terms, or a manner that is understood by the average employee, and be provided via first-class mail or electronically, given the intended employee typically has email access as part of their work situation.

Small Business, Big Ideas: CEO Steve Greenbaum on PostNet’s huge growth




When one thinks about what a model franchise system should look like, you don’t typically need to look much further than PostNet. Steve Greenbaum, co-founder and CEO, started the company in 1983 as a mailbox renting service and it has grown into a 700 unit franchising small business that is worth approximately $200 million dollars. The ability that Greenbaum has to maintain a brilliant business model while being 100 percent franchised is being looked upon by companies all over the world.

Since 1992, PostNet has been franchising all over the country and has now expanded internationally, with units in Colombia, Australia and Canada. “At PostNet, we have that combination of talent, people and process; we deliver a fantastic and consistent experience throughout our entire organization,” said Greenbaum.

PostNet’s success admittedly has a lot to do with their innovative ideas that changed the way small business owners operate. The opportunity for small business owners to go into PostNet locations and have meetings without renting retail space has allowed PostNet to take off. The service they provide is one of a kind, through producing images and marketing materials for small business owners. When asked about how PostNet helps small business owners, Greenbaum replied, “We provide small business with outsourced marketing services and give them a place that they can rely on to make their small business look big.”

To view the entire interview please click here.

IFA update on the Need for Congressional Action to Stop Patent Trolls



The effort to pass patent litigation reform was recently reignited and has rapidly picked up momentum over the first half of the year.  The debate this Congress has a distinctly different tone from the debate over the America Invents Act, though.  Rather than the traditional industry divide of “big tech vs. big PhRMA,” there has been a broad based, cross-industry call for patent litigation reform, as evidenced by a letter to Congressional leadership from 50 trade associations stating that something must be done now.

The Administration entered the patent debate earlier this summer with a comprehensive plan to address patent troll issues, including fee shifting and real party in interest provisions, that was well received by the tech industry.  Legislatively, several bills covering different parts of the debate have been introduced to date in the House and Senate.  Of particular interest to Intuit are S. 1013, the Patent Abuse Reduction Act, sponsored by Senator Cornyn (R-TX), and H.R. 2639, the Patent Litigation Reform Act of 2013, sponsored by Congressmen Jeffries (D-NY) and Farenthold (R-TX).  Both of these bills contain provisions that would address some of the systemic abuses in the current patent litigation system by: (1) requiring heightened pleading of patent infringement claims to provide greater transparency into the nature of the alleged infringement and ownership of the patent; (2) providing for staged and/or limited initial discovery; and (3) giving judges greater direction as to when they should shift fees.  The Chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees plan to introduce bills in September that will serve as vehicles for the comprehensive reform effort.  However, we expect that these bills will be different in their initial approach.  Namely, Chairman Leahy (D-VT) of the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely introduce a narrow bill that substantively will not address much more than when to stay end user/customer suits, but will amend his bill in committee to incorporate additional provisions.  Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) of the House Judiciary Committee will introduce a more comprehensive bill that will include heightened pleading, discovery, and fee shifting language at the outset and that will closely parallel Senator Cornyn’s legislation.

On the whole, there is a broad base of support for doing something on each of these issues in the larger comprehensive effort.  However, the question remains how much can be done given the specter of trial bar opposition to setting a precedent for other litigation reform efforts.  Currently, the prospects look very good for strong heightened pleading language and some form of staged discovery, pending the court’s consideration of certain motions.  The prospects for cost shifting provisions – both for discovery beyond established documents and upon resolution of a case – are murkier.  With regard to discovery shifting, there have been some concerns raised as to how to define “core documents” in a manner to provide judicial flexibility given evolving technologies.  With regard to potential “loser pays” language, the concerns are much more politically driven, based purely on concerns that it would discourage independent inventors and small business from defending their rights.

These and related issues will be some of the key issues discussed in hearings held on introduced and proposed legislation this fall.  The legislation, though, is not expected to move until during the 2014 work-period, given prioritization of other issues that Congress has to consider this fall, such as Syria, immigration, debt ceiling, and continued funding of the Federal government.  

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