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posted: 12/17/2012 6:00 AM

Holiday season a good time to connect with advisers

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Relatives and friends everywhere: It is, after all, the season, and I hope yours is a joyous is as tradition says it should be.

But in addition to grandkids and parents, neighbors and old college friends you'll see at the bowl game, there are a few other folks you should connect with this week -- or in the next week or two.

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One person is your health insurance rep. Happily, there is little most small businesses must do about health coverage this year other than plan; the big changes in the Affordable Care Act show up in 2014. Being ready, however, likely means opening a dialogue with your health insurance guy -- or gal.

Don't wait too long to have a serious conversation with your health insurance adviser. Include your HR manager, if you have one. Your budget, your number of employees, their budget and how the lower-cost insurance exchange program actually takes shape will be topics to discuss.

Talk to your employees, individually or in groups, about the changing insurance landscape; if your rep is any good, ask her, or him, to conduct a meeting with your people to explain the options and costs -- but do so only after you and your insurance adviser have made some preliminary plans.

Have breakfast with your company attorney -- and, if your lawyer isn't well-versed on employment issues, suggest that an employment attorney make it breakfast for three. Overtime issues seem to be growing. Immigration could be an issue in your workplace. Independent contractors almost always are a potential legal problem.

Enjoy a healthy breakfast, but make certain you are as aware as you should be about potential employment issues.

It's almost certainly too late if you didn't have a year-end tax talk with your CPA, but this still is a good time to make certain you have basic knowledge about what could happen to business (and personal) tax rates next year. In fact, your accounting firm may have some position papers or newsletters they can email to you.

You probably discussed financing at your year-end CPA meeting, but if loan needs or cash flow may be an issue next year, bring the subject up now. Many CPAs have better financial connections than businesses do.

Talk strategy with your marketing counsel. If you have a client or a marketplace situation that requires special attention, make certain your marketing adviser knows the details -- and that you together work out either a plan of attack or a good defense, whichever is appropriate.

Unless something is about to pop at your business, none of these conversations should be intense. The holiday season can be a good time for informal, relaxed conversations that provide the information you need for the new year.

After all, this is the feel-good season the rest of the year is about.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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