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Howard County MD Business Law Blog

Health insurance companies battle over prescription drug costs

Thousands of Maryland residents rely on health insurance provided by Anthem and prescription drug coverage from Express Scripts, but they may not be aware that these two leading health care companies are embroiled in a contentious legal battle. The first shots were fired in March when Anthem sued Express Scripts for $15 billion, but the Missouri-based pharmacy benefit company fired back on April 19 by filing a lawsuit of its own.

The two companies are involved in a contract dispute over the cost of prescription drugs. Anthem's CEO says that he tried to negotiate a better deal for his company in January seeking savings of up to $3 billion a year. Anthem claims that it is entitled to a percentage of the savings earned by Express Script from negotiating more advantageous deals with drug makers.

Successful marketing for online businesses

Online business owners in Maryland may want to take a look at their marketing plan and determine what's working and what isn't working. Successful marketing can take time because it is about developing relationships. When creating a marketing plan, business owners should be realistic about their goals and intentional about what they can do to reach them.

A big part of online marketing is content creation, and every piece should be created for the purpose of reaching a specific goal. For example, a business owner may have goals like establishing an online audience of 20,000, acquiring four new clients every month or getting 50,000 page views per year. Each of these goals could be addressed with marketing actions like blogging regularly, posting on social media strategically and writing page content that is search engine optimized.

Health care tax credit for small businesses

Maryland small business owners might be unaware of a federal tax credit for some businesses that provide health insurance for their workers. It is available for businesses making less than $50,000 annually with less than 25 full-time employees.

The credit was established by the Affordable Care Act. Despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office estimates up to 4 million small businesses were eligible for the credit in 2014, fewer than 200,000 companies claimed it.

Accepting risk when starting a company

When starting a new business or developing a product, there are two significant issues that need to be overcome by Maryland entrepeneurs. The first issue is how much money a company can afford to spend on a product or service knowing that there is a higher likelihood of failure than success. However, the one product or service that is a success could possibly make enough money to overcome the other losses.

This means that it is imperative that an owner stays in business or keeps coming up with ideas long enough to come up with that one successful idea. Whether or not the owner is willing to stay in the game long enough is a mental issue more than a mathematical one. For most, this is the hardest problem to overcome and may be even harder if there are investors who may not have the same risk appetite that the owner does.

The importance of succession and development planning

Having a strong development and succession plan is important for Maryland businesses regardless of their sizes. When a supervisor or owner leaves a company, it is important to have talented people who can step into the needed roles so the business has continuity and doesn't end up failing.

Despite the importance of succession plans, only about 8 percent of businesses have these types of plans in place. Developing a succession and development plan doesn't have to be difficult, but it should include several key features. After the plan, establishing a development program for key staff that follows the plan can make unexpected transitions much smoother.

Tips for setting up and growing a small business

Maryland entrepreneurs who are starting new ventures should think about how they will deal with issues such as cash flow problems and social media promotion. Planning ahead to look at options for loans and credit addresses the first challenge. There are a number of small business loans available and programs to help small businesses. Loans and credit can also be used to invest toward growth such as hiring more employees or buying more equipment.

A social media presence is also important. This allows a business to communicate directly and more personally with customers. It also gives customers the opportunity to write reviews of the company.

Tips to help launch a successful business

Many hard-working individuals in Maryland believe they can start and operate a successful business. However, while entrepreneurship can be a wise career decision for many, it also comes with some common pitfalls that can often be avoided.

One common mistake many entrepreneurs make is to go into debt before the business is financially stable. Oftentimes, when a business begins, there are unforeseen expenses that occur. As a result, the owner will likely accrue severe penalties for failing to make timely principal and interest payments on a loan. Therefore, it is generally better for owners to wait until their business starts to grow and succeed prior to taking out a loan.

How to implement search engine optimization

According to a survey conducted in 2016, half of small businesses that have a web presence do not engage in search engine optimization. However, 60 percent of the companies surveyed said that they will engage in such a strategy by 2017 or later. While digital marketing can be a great way for Maryland companies to increase their visibility, it is important to do SEO correctly.

One potential roadblock keeping companies from engaging in this strategy is a lack of understanding as to what it entails. Therefore, businesses are urged to learn the basics of Internet marketing to reap the rewards from it. Some estimate that up to 80 percent of all online sessions start with a search, which means SEO can help increase the number of people who ultimately find a company's website. After learning the basics, it is often worthwhile to talk with a reputable company that has extensive knowledge of the process.

Importance of data protection in business planning

Most Maryland entrepreneurs probably know that writing a business plan is an important task. Planning should be a process that is ongoing even after a business is open, and owners should make certain that they have included planning for data protection.

In 2015, a security firm conducted a survey of small businesses. More than 60 percent of small business owners reported their companies had been victims of cyber attacks by criminals. Small businesses are very common targets for cyber criminals, underscoring the need for good data protection. Business owners should start by thinking about all of the different technological devices that are used by their company and employees because all could pose entry points for criminals. These include PDAs, cellphones, internal devices and customer and vendor emails.

Handling cash flow issues as a small business

Many Maryland small business owners struggle with cash flow issues. This can be a problem because a company might generate a good deal of business but be waiting on payment for its goods or services. In the meantime, bills come due and the business may be struggle with basic expenses regardless of the size of the future payout.

Sometimes, a business owner may be able to forgo a salary for a few months until things even out. However, sometimes the cash flow problem is severe enough that this is insufficient. Obtaining a bank loan may take too much time, or the business owner might not have good enough credit to get the loan approved.