Thinking about working from home permanently? It may introduce new challenges while solving others

By James Cassel

As businesses consider safely reopening, companies have been awakened to the possibilities of working from home on a larger scale. Necessity is the mother of invention, but moving the workplace to a home office setting permanently may introduce new challenges while solving others.

I like to dine out. But even with some restaurants reopening, I’m not sure I’m ready to return to my favorite places. So, as I write, I am waiting for the local fish lady from Shore to Door Fish Market in Coconut Grove to deliver a fresh catch from the Keys. At dinner, my family and I may discuss when it’s right to depend less on her while also considering when it’s best to return to our traditional workplaces. Like our dinner, it’s not a decision to rush nor an easy one to make. We all want out.

We’ve learned we may need less real estate to keep business operations running. Depending on the type of company, a hybrid work model may be coming for some. Flex hours, common practice on the West Coast, can be used, with some expected to come into the office at certain times and other times working from home. But that is not an option for everyone. Just ask someone on a production line, driving a delivery vehicle, frontline medical workers, or many other essential employees.

As this tale of two cities approaches — with those who can shift easily to working from home doing so, and those who can’t continuing to brave the outside world — let’s consider what the new workplace may look like and if it’s right for your business.

There are numerous examples and studies showing increased productivity while working from home (the environment also does better). But, I am not sure I concur. Some companies like Box liked the change so much that they’re allowing employees to work-from-home until 2021. Twitter and Square are offering to make that option permanent. Shopify is even paying for work- from-home supplies. But will this really work? In 2017, IBM had many employees working from home but ultimately brought them back into the office. The same was true at Yahoo!

Remember, company teams were frozen in amber when the pandemic hit, with most hiring coming to a standstill. Company culture at these businesses was already established, but as time goes on, new personnel will need to be nurtured to understand company culture, something work-from-home may not be as well suited for. We may also become less tolerant of awkward moments with children, pets and unsuspecting relatives making unwanted, often comedic cameos on Zoom chats.

Networking and developing the relationships successful companies need to grow, survive and pivot is also hard to accomplish working from home. Being out and about helps. It also takes looking beyond productivity statistics to identify potential company leaders adept at the social interaction and teambuilding that leadership requires.

There’s a difference between the salesperson tasked with building and maintaining relationships with customers and clients, and the techie who can tackle a problem remotely. Plus, have you ever tried mentoring via a computer? Also, working from home, for some, can be isolating, causing negative mental health effects.

We don’t know for sure when a vaccine will be ready, if we can achieve herd immunity, whether our own antibodies can keep us safe, or for how long. It’s a waiting game. Right now, for many, working from home is not a choice. Take advantage of this time to find out what works best for your company. It is probably too soon to set a permanent policy, but tinkering with different workforce models may prove fruitful.

I love the fish lady’s offerings, but I love dining out, too. Maybe in the future, I will enjoy a little bit of both. But I haven’t made a decision yet on the right course moving forward, and when it comes to your business, neither should you.

James S. Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle- market companies. He may be reached via email at or via LinkedIn at

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Cash-strapped businesses hit with new infection-control costs

By Yamil Berard

Some pass along costs to consumers while others turn to insurers, government for help

Having a family history of glaucoma, Liz Coyle was quick to schedule a visit to her eye doctor once coronavirus restrictions were lifted on some Georgia businesses. Around the same time, she wanted to catch up on her oral health by scheduling a visit to the dentist.

At each check-up, she was pleasantly surprised by what she saw – employees in masks, disposable gloves and isolation gowns; examination rooms sterilized between patients; chairs in waiting rooms roped-off to ensure social distancing; pumps of hand sanitizer everywhere.

What shocked her: A $40 fee tacked on to her dental bill.

“At the end of the day, I was, OK, fine,” said Coyle, who is executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch. “But $40?”

It’s a new cost of doing business in the age of the coronavirus. As Georgia businesses attempt to recover from the financial shock of the pandemic and cover the skyrocketing prices of infection-control measures, consumers may be hit with additional fees or higher charges.

So far, the separate infection-control charges tend to be concentrated among health care providers.

On social media, metro area patients are reporting being billed for extra fees their insurance doesn’t cover following dental visits.

Nancy Jones, a health care consultant, says some of her clients — particularly specialists such as cardiologists, surgeons and physicians who serve patients with chronic illnesses – also have raised fees to compensate for the costs of personal protective equipment.

“If you’re going in before your scheduled surgery and you’re going in for a consult meeting with a general surgeon in his office to talk about the process, you may be seeing a surcharge fee for PPE,” said Jones, senior consultant with Atlanta-based JW Healthcare Consultants.

Instead of imposing separate surcharges to help cover additional PPE costs, other businesses, such as hair salons, have hiked prices.

Chris Clark, chief executive officer of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, told the AJC he wouldn’t be surprised to see more businesses consider price increases.

Merchants from big-box retailers and corporations to mom-and-pop shops have been hit with additional costs under the new infection-control standards. He doesn’t see fast food restaurants, mostly restricted by fixed price menus, as likely to adopt the fees. But a bowling alley might be able to convince customers to pay a little more.

“Most small businesses I’ve talked to haven’t had revenue for four months,’’ Clark said. “Now, they can reopen, but there are all these things that the government requires them to do.”

The balancing act

 As they weigh the benefits of charging more, businesses are walking a tight rope with consumers, said James Cassel, an investment banker who handles mergers and acquisitions for companies across a broad spectrum of industries.

“Businesses are faced with – do they believe they have the pricing power on the one side, or simply do they have the customer base that understands it and is willing to pay a little more,” said Cassel, who is co-founder of the Florida-based Cassel Salpeter & Co.

Healthcare providers are struggling with that question already. Dentists say they were hit hardest because they were among the first to shut down. Now, patient volumes are still low, but their costs have shot up.

“All dental offices have been hit hard with huge costs that were unexpected,” said Florida dentist Keith Hutchinson, who is charging an extra $10 per appointment to try to offset the $60,000 he spent in recent weeks on office partitions, PPE, filtration systems and sanitation supplies. Hutchinson said he sees dozens of Georgia retirees and seasonal residents at his five clinics in the Tampa Bay area.

State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, also a dentist, concurred that costs are becoming unmanageable for dentists. “Here’s the deal,’’ Hawkins said. “Our (shields) and masks do not last long. The burn rate is much faster on all this stuff, and the availability is still tough and that keeps prices very high.”

Still, Hawkins, whose son, Ben, is also a dentist, said their offices aren’t likely to charge fees. “I think most folks don’t like to see add-ons on their bills,’’ Hawkins said.

Dr. Andrew Reisman, a family care physician in Gainesville and the president of the Medical Association of Georgia, is sure his patients would be deterred. Many just can’t afford it.

“We are not charging for PPE,’’ Reisman said. “We probably should because it has been so expensive, but we don’t want to give patients yet another excuse not to come to the doctor’s office.”

Coyle said the fees will be a barrier to Georgians in critical need of essential services. “We are in the middle of a public health crisis,” she said, “it seems that we need to do more to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks.”

Teetering on insolvency

 Rather than pass along higher costs, some cash-strapped businesses are looking elsewhere for financial help. Healthcare providers pushed the federal government for additional relief payments, and last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would distribute up to $15 billion to those with heavy Medicaid patient loads. In addition, HHS mentioned it was working on an additional allocation for dentists but provided no details.

Meanwhile, some business groups are pursuing other strategies.

The American Dental Association, for example, is asking that insurers and other third-party payers alter their fees to help cover the increased infection- control costs.

Insurance companies are also being asked to help cover losses through their business interruption policies. Insurers, though, have largely rejected the claims because the policies often don’t outline provisions for pandemics.

Such disputes are winding up in court. Around the country, restaurants have sued insurers for pandemic-related losses. And last month, Hartford, the insurer for many of Georgia’s 33,000 dentists, was served with a putative class-action lawsuit for failure to cover pandemic-related businesses losses.

Marietta attorney Roy Barnes, the former governor representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he is likely to expand the suit to include other health care professionals who are teetering on insolvency because of the closures and the additional costs to meet infection-control standards.

“Here’s the deal. Our (shields) and masks do not last long. The burn rate is much faster on all this stuff, and the availability is still tough and that keeps prices very high.” —State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, who is also a dentist

 “There’s no question that this virus has affected a broad spectrum of businesses,” Barnes told the AJC.

Dr. Roy Johnson, the lead plaintiff in the suit, said he was lucky to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program under the federal relief package, which delivered $100,000 in loans to ensure that the 11-member staff at his Smyrna dental office remained employed.

However, healthcare providers with a heavy debt burden and significant overhead before the pandemic hit will be severely strained, he said. “It’s been very hard,” Johnson, who has practiced dentistry for more than four decades. “There are going to be some dentists who have a lot of trouble.”

Among them is Dr. Robert Lee, who said he is struggling to survive as the only dentist in nine counties in one of the poorest corners of southern Georgia. “Our fees are the lowest in the country,’’ Lee said. “And now they are being eaten up by PPE.”

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How to Increase Your Small Business Market Share

By Joshua Stowers

Looking to increase your small business market share? Find out how to calculate and improve your share of the market.

Market share is the percentage of total sales in an industry generated by a business or product. If you have a large market share, your business is likely pretty successful. If you have a small market share, you may be looking for ways to increase it. To increase their market share, small businesses must implement a growth strategy, which often includes analyzing competitors, introducing more efficient products and services, and providing excellent customer service.

How do you calculate market share?

Knowing how you stack up against your competition is critical to running a successful business, and one of the ways to gain a clear picture of where you stand in your industry is to calculate your business’s market share.

Market share is the percentage of total sales within an industry that the sales of a particular business represents, said Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals.

“It’s calculated by dividing the total revenue a business makes per industry by the total revenue made within that defined industry,” Kelly told

For example, if your business reported its gross revenue of $2 million and the industry in which your business operates has a total gross revenue of $50 million, your market share would be 4%.

Company’s revenue ($2 million) / Entire market revenue ($50 million) = 0.04 (4% market share)

There are different types of small business accounting software that include digital marketing tools designed to help analyze your market share projection and provide up-to-date industry and market analysis.

What defines a business with small market share?

Businesses with small or low market share are usually defined as those that have small percentages of the total sales within their respective industries. Using a market share growth strategy, like the BCG matrix, can help your business gain insights on industry competition. The BCG matrix is a marketing strategy designed to support businesses with growth opportunities and long- term financial planning by evaluating its products and services.

“For small businesses, a small market share could easily be less than 1% or up to nearly half of the total revenue per industry, depending on the scope of the calculation and the number of competitors,” Kelly said. “This is because market share can be defined at different levels – global, national, statewide, countywide, or even within cities and neighborhoods.”

Kelly said businesses with small market share can be defined by their market leader because the competition depends on the industry as well. The shares of competitors may be higher in some industries and lower in others.

What is a good percentage of market share?

A good market share percentage depends on the product or service, business location, and industry competition. However, Robert Withers, founder of Natural Citizen, believes that businesses should aim to be No. 1 or 2 in a market.

“Uber Eats recently exited India because it did not think it could be first or second in that market,” he said. “Most consumers only keep a few choices at the top of their minds when considering a purchase of a good or service.”

By not being one of the top competitors, Withers said, businesses will find it difficult to be successful unless they factor another marketing strategy into maintaining a steady customer base.

While there are numerous key factors to consider when determining a good market share percentage, it ultimately depends on your industry and the products or services you sell, according to James Cassel, co-founder and chairman of Miami-based investment banking firm Cassel Salpeter & Co.

“In a very large market with no dominant player, a company with a 10% market share might have a good percentage of that market,” Cassel said. “However, if, for example, there’s a market where two players each have 40%- plus of the market, a third player with just 5% market share could be rather small and insignificant, or it may fill a void in the market and be very important to the market.”

How do small businesses increase market share?

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy reported that small businesses accounted for about 44% of all economic activity in the U.S. as of 2014. While this is a great overall contribution, it’s a drop of four percentage points from the previous 16 years.

So, how can small businesses stop this decline in market share? There are two basic ways to do it for your business, according to Cassel.

“One is by organically growing your business by increasing your marketing and sales budget or developing new and innovative products, which will help you build your customer base and sales,” he said. “Alternatively, you can increase your market share by buying a competitor.”

Whether you intend to grow your market share organically or by acquisition, you need to consider how customer perception affects a buyer’s decision and how a strong brand image can amount to considerable market share. Finding a balanced mix of proven marketing strategies and innovative approaches to capture your target market’s attention can attract customers to your business and encourage them to choose you over your competition.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you strategize how you will grow your market share:

  • Keep your revenue above the break-even point. Although it’s important to price your products or services competitively, you don’t want to lose money on each sale in your efforts to beat the competition
  • Identify your direct competitors and why they are successful in your industry. What are they doing better than you? Find out why your competitors’ customers choose their business over yours.
  • Improve your customer Look for ways to provide good customer service and personalize your communications with your customers.
  • Enhance your product and brand If your customers have been asking for improvements to your product or your brand image feels stale or outdated, it may be time to make some changes.

You can also increase your market share by competing in the market segments where your business’s strengths are more likely to be valued and where your major rivals are unlikely to compete.

Market segmentation is the formula of dividing your target market into approachable groups by creating subsets of a market based on characteristics such as age, income, personality or behavior. These segments can later be used to enhance products and target advertisements to various customers.

Generally, there are four categories of market segmentation: demographic, psychographic, behavioral and geographic. Here are some examples of each segment category.

  • Demographic: This is based on statistical data such as gender, education and income. This information is relatively easy for new businesses to find out about their target audience when prepping for launch.
  • Psychographic: This is based on attributes of your ideal customers, such as personality traits, values, interests, lifestyles, and opinions. You’ll need to conduct more in-depth research if you want to target customers based on this type of information.
  • Behavioral: This category refers to customer actions in terms of product usage and brand interaction. It primarily aims to target customers based on their purchasing behaviors.
  • Geographic: The geographic category is the simplest for businesses to identify, as groups may be segmented by ZIP code, city, distance from a certain location or type of area (such as climate or population density).

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Automating Home-Based Accounts Payable During COVID-19

By Mark Henricks
June 12, 2020

Automated accounts payable offers companies long- term benefits that extend to past the pandemic.

A few months ago, many companies were content with the analog approach to accounts payable (AP), having employees send paper invoices, manually process payments and deliver paper checks through the mail. However, as lockdowns forced businesses to migrate AP functions to employees’ homes, some businesses decided to automate AP services, discovering an additional suite of benefits that is likely to carry over even as more and more states emerge from lockdown and business begins in the next normal.

In addition to enabling employees to execute AP functions from virtually anywhere, automated AP can generate cost savings, faster turnaround, and improved accuracy in payment reporting. As more and more organizations look for ways to drive efficiencies and modernize, businesses that have yet to automate their AP services may want to consider doing so.

Automated Accounts Payable

For remote workers, the technological requirements for implementing modern automated accounts payable solutions are minimal. Virtually any desktop, laptop or tablet can be used by off-site employees to run the required software, most of which is cloud based. Some can be used with smartphones.

The main switch is to electronic payments — paper payments have become much less common.

“More and more businesses today don’t cut checks,” says James Cassel, co- founder of Miami-based investment banking firm Cassel Salpeter. “They’re paying with electronic transfer.”

In addition to businesses increasingly settling with vendors through automated clearinghouse (ACH) transfers and instant payment systems, card payments are also growing. In ordinary times, vendors like card payments because they receive payment instantly.

Today, many vendors simply don’t want paper checks at all. One reason is that no one is in their offices to receive them or visiting bank lockboxes to pick them up. As a result, there is little demand or need for employees to set up blank checks and check printers at home.

Businesses that are reluctant to abandon paper checks can instruct their banks to mail checks for them. The same goes for paper invoices. Businesses can ask vendors to email PDF-format copies or scanned images of printed documents. Smartphones can take photos of documents for the same purpose.

How to Start Automating Accounts Payable

Getting started with automated accounts payable starts with analyzing the payables workflow. Businesses can begin by tracking how invoices are currently being received and processed and who approves and initiates payments.

Part of this process is to set up the workflow that will be implemented in the automated solution. The workflow will describe a set of actions and a path that invoices and payments must follow from receipt to payment.

Next, the automated accounts payable software can be connected to the business’s existing accounting software. Accounts payable software can connect to many popular business accounting packages. This way, vendors are paid automatically on the due date and the payment information will flow instantly, automatically and directly to the accounting software.

That said, automated accounts payable solutions aren’t the only way to go. Accounting software can be configured to make automatic payments, and bank accounts can be set up to send repeating payments.

Ideally, whatever method is used will have the flexibility to stop or delay payments when needed. Flexibility can be especially important during a broad-scale business interruption like the one being experienced now.

Managing AP Automation

Managing accounts payable remotely can raise some issues, as well. For instance, businesses need to make sure payments leave an audit trail and that policies and practices conform to compliance requirements, Cassel says.

Alistair Bambridge, CEO of New York-based Bambridge Accountants, says maintaining communication between the various points in the payables chain may be challenging when people aren’t working in the same physical space.

Bambridge says his firm and his firm’s clients are turning to videoconferencing and messaging apps to stay in touch with team members.

Another consideration should be identifying an accounts payables solution with a view to the long game. That means one with integrated communication as well as tools for compliance and appropriate sign-offs. When employees are distributed, they can’t step into one another’s office to discuss a payment, for instance.

Those types of solutions are already available. Synaptic AP, for example, is a cloud-based solution that is compatible with Salesforce and other ERPs.

Synaptic AP clients can automate supplier payments via virtual card payments, automated reconciliation, and flexible payment options.

Ultimately, having employees remotely handle accounts payables is a technological and process challenge most businesses can handle. And no matter how businesses solve the accounts payable puzzle during the current crisis, it’s likely to have a lasting and ultimately positive impact.

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